Sometimes the days are full of everything that we do not imagine will happen in the zeal of planning and preparing for our tomorrows. Human beings tend to do that, especially in January. We plot, plan, procure, and peruse the latest ‘new’ idea in organization or change-making helps. And as long as we are in control of the change, we feel good about it.
Sometimes change comes when you least expect it. Life altering change that you didn’t plan for.
This is where faith makes its mark upon your soul, and it is here that you look deep for the peace within. In the midst, in the flurry of the fog, you look close enough to find that hope is the four letter word LOVE coupled with another four letter word LIFE in an imperative statement of truth.
When we learn to LOVE the LIFE we are being called to embrace we can invest ourselves in the changes that alter our destiny knowing that His Sovereign Grace has already provided for the detour.
I haven’t been writing here as much as I had planned. I was not fully engaged in the January restructure so many of my “have-it-together” friends have the ability to participate in. I told myself I was going to give myself a bit of grace and learn to walk slowly through the new year and the new chance to begin again. The plans were etched on paper, the ideas where flowing, and I was excited about changes to my tomorrow; the things I wanted to say here, the opportunities to pen words that matter and to be fully present more with my kids as we tackle this journey of learning classically.
They say planning does that, you know? Allows you to be able to be more aware of your time so you can do more of what is important. For me, though, the schedule was often more of an unfair task-master, which I hadn’t fully l learned how to appropriate. It wasn’t my best of friends, at times, because I didn’t know how to flow with the benefit of grace.
Then One Word brings so much with it…
I still have the post sitting here… half-written, the one that talks about my word for the year. A hard word, a good word, a word of promise… a word I have already felt the significance of. How could I know that this word God impressed on my heart would ask so much so soon?
My Word for 2016 came with some wrestling. It emerged after a pretty intense discussion about what a good word should be. It always happens that way with me. The pretty faith-filled words that I want to collect with all the strong bold scriptures that make me want to proclaim victory hit my journal page. And then when I finally pause long enough, (interpret be quiet), the whisper is heard. I will write about it more another day, but its relevancy on the rest of today’s words is heavy, because providence always amazes me and reminds me of His continual care.
Yep. That’s it. And when it was softly impressed upon my soul, I knew the indentation it made was going to require a lot from me in 2016. I knew that I would have to let go of some weighty things, some close and difficult things, things that would hurt. I knew, also, that there would be a blessing with the releasing. There would be a chance to stand with hands opened to His blessing, rather than clenched in the holding on. I had no idea we’d have to release one blessing so soon.
Five days into the new year, we lost a man whose influence in my life ran deep. For 22 years I had the privilege to bear the same name as he, but the story starts a few years earlier for me when I began dating his son. I always called him, ‘Grandpa Richard’, even then. My husband was the youngest of 3 boys and I was, of course, intimidated to meet them all. Something about him, early on, connected with me; if he liked you then … well… you were in his tribe of people. He was not one to cloak his words behind frippery or flattery. He told it like it is, usually, he let you know exactly what he thought. I didn’t mind his openness, most of the time. When he spoke, I was usually careful to listen.
It is easy as the years go by to miss the important moments. It is easy to take advantage of the time we are given. If we aren’t careful, regret sometimes will steal the beauty that is given in the history of our telling. Even now, we are watching those internal movie reels in the memories of moments we shared with him, and it is bittersweet.
We are still processing a new normal without the patriarch who gathered his own close in his living. Yet deeply grateful for the time we had.
The week after he passed away was spent too fast. Planning memorials is a spiraling dizzy experience. I think that we walked in automation, at times, doing what needed to be done. Yet, there was a precious gift that this time provided: opportunities to listen to everyone’s stories, working together to support my Mother-in-Law, and comfort one another in our journey to saying goodbye.
I had the chance to share a few words at his service. It was an honor to speak about him and share God’s Word with our friends and family alongside my sister-in-law who delivered a beautiful eulogy capturing perfectly his personality and reminding us to laugh. Richard was honored by his grandchildren’s gifts of music and devotion as they solemnly stood sentinel in respect of his life. It really was a beautiful service, in honor of a dear man who will be missed.
Grace, in constancy, will feed our souls enough, to bring the healing release, for every trial and loss that breaks your heart.
Matthew Henry said, “It is by a constancy of the means of grace that the soul is fed.” Because of grace, those who hope and wait in the LORD can always lie down in green pastures and expect to be comforted by God. There was always an assurance that Richard would be there for us as we journeyed through life, and a promise that no matter what our circumstance were, he would be there to walk us through it.
While the words I shared that day couldn’t fully convey the depth of my heart, they were just a glimpse of the man who took seriously his role as the head of his family. The 23rd Psalm was an obvious source of encouragement during those first few days, and ultimately became the one of the scriptures read the day of the funeral.
This psalm is a song of comfort which delights in the goodness and provision of God in all the phases of our journey. This goodness which was extended to and for the sheep by the Good Shepherd.
As I studied these verses, in light of the circumstances, I read a quote about this Psalm by a Bible scholar named Bernhard Anderson that made me think of how much my father-in-law was like a shepherd to those he loved and cared for.
“No single psalm has expressed more powerfully man’s prayer of confidence ‘out of the depths’ to God whose purpose alone gives meaning to the span of life, from womb to tomb.”
The more I considered the purpose that a span of life holds, I realized for Richard, meaning was defined by his purpose…to take care of his own.
The purpose of the Good Shepherd is to care for, sometimes rescue, and ultimately provide for His sheep in whatever way is possible. The heart of a father is like a shepherd, and Richard had a father’s heart. Like a good shepherd, he did his best to care and provide for those He loved and in this, I think, his cup was overflowing and mercy and goodness followed him through his journey.
The shepherd was diligent to work hard, to look out for the very ones he was given care of. Leading, guiding, and directing them was as natural as breathing. In the hard times and in the joyful times together, the sheep followed his voice. As I thought of how much Richard loved his family, I saw how serving them as he did gave him purpose. It gave him joy to see them succeed. He worked hard to provide for them. It gave him peace to know they were safe.
His heart had softened a great deal this last year and he was more open to grace. Some of our last conversations were about God’s grace and forgiveness and love, and his concern for his kids. Even in his final days, he was shepherding his own and reminding us how much he cared. As we continue to chart the memories of our hearts, we are also grateful for the life he lived. He will always be missed and never be forgotten.
In loving memory of a dearly loved Father.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul; he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his names sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and they staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: though anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.