Bible

The Owl

Faith in griefLate in the morning yesterday, while I was upstairs working on my computer, I heard my husband yelling from the dining room below.

“Kelly, come down here! You have to see this!” he exclaimed.

I hurriedly ran down the stairs to the sliding glass door where my husband was standing gazing out into the backyard. To my surprise, there was a very large owl perched on the fence that borders the northern side of our property. Enthralled by the beauty of the large bird, I stood at the door for a while trying to remember if I had ever seen an owl in person before. After mulling it over, I came to the conclusion that I had never seen an owl in its natural environment. I then thought back to the night before when Aiden, my adopted grandson, and I were watching TV in my room.

Hearing a strange noise and becoming frightened, Aiden anxiously asked, “What is that?!”

“I don’t know. It kind of sounds like an owl,” I replied.

“I think it is!” he agreed.

The owl sitting on my fence the following morning was proof that Aiden and I had been correct about our assessment of the strange noise the night before.

For quite some time now, I’ve been writing a book about my son TJ. The events of the owl sighting immediately reminded me of a story I wrote about in Chapter 15:

Many years prior to TJ’s heart surgery, I read a story about a Christian woman who loved cardinals. At the end of the woman’s life, a cardinal perched outside her window as she lay dying. The story encouraged the reader to choose an animal that is not commonly seen. In the future, whenever that animal crossed the reader’s path, it was a reminder that God was nearby. So, I chose an owl, and throughout my adult years, whenever I saw an owl, I was reminded that God was very near.

When I walked into the brain injury rehab facility, the first thing I saw was a picture of an owl. I felt God’s loving arms around me and was reassured that we were in the right place. We met with the staff upon our arrival and were directed to TJ’s new room. It was very small but provided him with everything he needed. Immediately after walking into his room, I noticed a calendar with a picture of China, but it was open to the wrong month. China was the trip destination TJ chose for his wish from Make-A-Wish. I once again felt the hand of God guiding us.

“Psalm 34:18 says, ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ I knew such things were not mere coincidences but rather felt they were strategically-placed love notes from God, reassuring me that I was not alone.

“Since TJ’s brain injury, I had a more intimate relationship with the Lord than I had ever known. I searched for signs of His presence daily. Several times after thinking of someone I hadn’t spoken to in a while, I would receive a text message from that person. I believed those incidents were God’s way of soothing a mother’s broken heart and reminding me of His abiding love for me.

The holiday season will always be a hard time of year for us. In 2017, TJ went into the hospital a couple of days after Thanksgiving and never came home. He died on February 27, 2018. The owl perched on my fence yesterday was a sign from God reminding me that I am loved and He is nearby during this difficult time. Today I am praising God for the extraordinary ways He shows love, grace, and mercy to His children.

Morning Cup of Sunshine

I awakened this morning while it was still dark outside and the house was quiet. I have always been an early riser. As I sauntered down the stairs, the old, well-known proverb “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” my son-in-law, Ben, quoted to me while we were on family vacation in Utah last summer floated through my mind. Ben had noticed my sleeping habits while we were on vacation and was thrilled to see that they resulted in a beautiful breakfast buffet awaiting him each morning.

Morning is the time when my thinking is the clearest and I can accomplish the most.  I look forward to the quiet moments in the morning that I get to spend with God praying and studying. It’s the time of day when I feel closest to Him.

Dealing with grief, morning cup of coffee

This morning, as per my usual routine, I headed straight for the kitchen to make the coffee. I pulled the Folgers Breakfast Blend out of the coffee cabinet, grabbed the Coffee Mate Snickers flavor from the refrigerator, and began filling the coffee pot with water. I love my morning coffee. It is oftentimes the first thing on my mind when I awaken in the morning and the last thing on my mind when I fall asleep at night.

As I sat at my kitchen table and drank my morning cup of sunshine, I began googling “Bible studies for special needs parents” in an attempt to find material we could study for the Moms’ Group that I lead. I stopped on one Bible study in particular titled “Held: Learning to Live in God’s Grip.” As I was reading, an unexpected wave of sadness swept over me and the tears started to fall that even my morning cup of sunshine couldn’t chase away. I had been slapped in the face with the reminder that I was no longer the mom of a child with special needs.

In the midst of my sorrow, I remembered the words spoken from one of the moms at a previous meeting: “This is temporary! This is temporary!” she exclaimed. A sentence with just three words, but for those of us who are suffering, what a profound sentence it is. I then embarked on a quest that morning to find Bible verses to comfort and remind me about the short-term nature of life’s pain and suffering. Below are the verses I found:

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

1 Peter 5:10
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Psalm 71:20
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.

Joel 2:25
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.

Revelation 21:1-5
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

After being encouraged by God’s promises, with materials spread across the table and my coffee cup in hand, I pondered life for awhile and thought how every single one of us on this earth suffers. Of course we hate it and try our best to avoid it, but, sadly, no one escapes it. People we love become sick, marriages fall apart, kids rebel and make bad choices, spouses lose their job or get hurt and become disabled. The list goes on and on.

“For the Christian living in this fallen world, what exactly is the purpose of suffering?” I asked myself.  “There has to be a reason God allows us to suffer.” After researching a little more, I came up with two purposes for suffering:  To bring glory to God and for our good.

We have a choice of how we respond to suffering.  If we choose to suffer well, we display to an unbelieving world that Christ is more valuable and magnificent than any sorrow or pain we might be experiencing.  Suffering well creates opportunities to point others to Christ.

Suffering also loosens our tight grip on this world that always falls short of meeting our expectations and turns our gaze toward heaven with the hope of all things made new. It motivates us to work for a cause greater than ourselves and increases our capacity of compassion for others. Suffering causes us to put our hope in Christ rather than in the temporal things of this life for which God then receives the glory.

We don’t have to suffer alone though. God comforts us during times of suffering. His presence alone gives us strength and rest to endure our trials.  Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Exodus 33:14, “And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” God’s Word is true and infallible, and if the Lord says He will be close to us during our times of suffering, then He will.  If the Almighty says He is with us while we walk through the valley, then He is, and if the Great I Am says His presence will go with us, then it will.

As we go about our days, may we always remember the wise words from the mom in Moms’ Group and remind ourselves often that suffering is temporary.  We have been given hope from God’s Word that one day we will be restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and death shall be no more.

We have an eternity of joy and contentment to look forward to, so go now, dear one, and suffer well.

Kelly Denham Author

While I'm Waiting Author Kelly Denham

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