About Us

This blog began as as an account of Andrea's and my journey though breast cancer and her eventual death. My intention was to chronicle our experiences from sickness to physical healing but God revealed His plan was beyond the mere physical. I have continued to experience healing in my life and now God has opened a door to a new chapter in my life. This journey has not ended but has transformed into a new normal and the hope of a new beginning

My monthly updates, which grew into this blog, reached an Air Force pilot's wife in Jan 2007 who had lost her husband two months prior. Her name is Ginger and her husband's name was Troy. Through this tragic bond developed a friendship. And now, through marriage, God has merged all of our journies to healing. This blog is a compilation of these four lives; two sadly taken and two left behind. In this common grief God has given Ginger and I a desire to journal our experiences as therapy for our pain and a source of encouragement to others who face life's most enormous challenges

Andrea was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in Aug 2003 while we were stationed in Anchorage Alaska. After 6 months of chemo and radiation we moved to Washington DC. In June 2005 we moved again to Seymour Johnson AFB in NC. Two weeks later Andrea was told the pain in her hip was breast cancer that had spread to her bones. Two weeks later we were told the cancer was also in her liver and lungs. July 5th 2005 Andrea began chemo treatment. On Dec 17th 2007 Andrea lost her fight with cancer but won her place in eternity.

Troy was a loving father of 5 children, and like Andrea was a
faithful servant of Christ. Troy was an F-16 pilot who volunteered to serve in Iraq. He deployed in Sept 2006. One day during his tour there he was tasked to provide close air support to a special operations unit who had come under overwhelming enemy fire. In an attempt to limit civilian causalities Troy made two low level passes employing the gun from his F-16. After a successful first pass Troy attempted a second pass to ensure the safety of the American soldiers. It was during this pass that Troy's F-16 impacted the ground. On Nov 27th 2006, Troy lost the fight in Iraq and that day won his place in eternity.

This blog is about our experiences, what God has taught us and most importantly about God's faithfulness. It is about dealing with life with cancer and life after cancer. It is about dealing with the sudden tragic loss of a spouse. It is about death and life and the deep grieving and growing process we are going through. It is about our victories and our struggles. But always it is about God's unfailing love for us.

We write this blog to tell you what the Lord has placed on our hearts or simply our feelings at the moment in hopes that this helps you understand what we are going through as well as give you encouragement as you face trials in your own life.

Some writings will be from Jim, some will be from Ginger, some from both of us. Some are writings that express Andrea and Troy's faith and impact during their short lives on this earth.

With thankfulness to Christ,
Jim and Ginger




Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Joseph


I am pretty sure I never actually finished a blog in the year 2013.  I started this one last week with the hopes of at least getting one in before the New Year was upon us.  But like most things in life, good intentions must count for something.  So I guess instead of being the only blog of 2013, it is the first blog of 2014!  Happy New Year!  Jim and I have been working pretty hard on our book instead of the blog lately.  Writing blogs are fairly easy and cathartic.  However, writing an entire book is a serious labor of love. Blogs do seem to morph into chapters so maybe this one will make the cut.  Regardless I did not want to neglect jotting down some signigicant moments the Lord has been merciful enough to let me witness over the last month of 2013.  Like the wise men, I have been given three gifts during the season of our Lord’s birth.

As you know from reading past blogs, we have prayed continually for the 7 years since Troy was killed and taken by Iraqi insurgents that his body would one day be recovered.  For the first couple of months, I felt that any moment I might get another knock at my front door with news of his recovery.  As the months turned into years, I never gave up hope.  When the war in Iraq ended and our troops were all sent home, the hopeful light grew dim as I weighed the odds and knew without American military access the search woud be far more difficult.  Then in the early winter of 2012 we learned the Air Force might not ever resume recovery missions because in the “accounting” system of the Department of Missing Persons, Troy was considered body accounted for (due to the small of amount of his undeniable fatal DNA found at the crash site).  So his family and I would enter another battle, one to give him the status of continued recovery efforts.  The battle was swift but victorious.  We won.  But I knew it was ultimately the Lord that bestowed us the favor, because He knew how much it mattered to us.  For the almost two years since that action was overturned, I have remained hopeful but realistically always knew that finding Troy’s remains was akin to finding a needle in a haystack.  A grain of sand at the beach. 

But our God specializes in the minutest of details, the one in a billion, the David in a room full of Goliaths.  By the outpouring of His mercy, on the morning of November 22,, 2013, just one month ago and almost 7 years to the day of his November 27th crash, we received notification that a small portion of Troy’s remains had been found in Iraq and turned into the U.S. embassy via the country of Jordan.  As I sat and listened to what was being told to me, I felt myself struggling to listen because I could scarcely take it all in.  Even if it was only some small foot bones, it was nothing short of a miracle to have them returned to us.  The Lord held out His mighty hand to me, opened His palm and there I saw that glistening grain of sand.  My first gift.

Because of classified details I was not told the journey those tiny bones made to get from where they were to the U.S.  But I have no doubt there were a million miracles along the way - God working IN and THROUGH people to achieve majestic moments.  As I wept, all I could feel was thankfulness.  I knew in my heart God always heard my prayers for Troy to be found but what a gift to see it in the physical world, too.
There is so much that could be said about the inner workings of the Holy Spirit in mine and the kids lives that has happened over the last 7 years.  Our book will hopefully tell a more complete story of all God has done.

My focus has always been that because I know Biblical truths about death and eternity I must remember that Troy, all of who he was – his very soul- went to be with Jesus the moment his plane hit the ground and he instantly died.  I have always explained it to the kids that what makes up who we are is on the inside, the heart and soul.  Which as a Christian, belongs to and is the indwelling of Christ.  Therefore, what is left is just what we see on the outside, the shell, the covering, what makes up the body.  And bodies weren’t made to last or withstand death but souls live forever.  And souls that belong to Jesus live forever in heaven.  Maybe that is oversimplifying but I don’t think so.

So, as I have striven to avoid the snares of tortured entanglement which can so easily come if my focus shifts to the fact that Troy’s casket has lied virtually empty, because his body was taken by insurgents and only a small amount of DNA was found in his jet.  Seven years ago, we buried less than 1% of him.  It can drive me crazy and make me angry and want to throw things when I think of the injustices that happened to him after he died.  But, if I go down that road then Satan wins.  And by the grace of God, I WiLL NOT let Satan win.  I have always said I will fight for him to be found.  I will never stop praying for it.  Hoping for it.  Longing for it.  But that I still must trust the Lord and accept whatever His will was, regardless if that meant we got him back or not.

I can’t even begin to explain what washed over me as the Mortuary Affairs officer proceeded to describe to me what was recently found.  Not just foot bones but toe bones.  And not just toe bones but the bones underneath the toenails.  Seven years prior the only bone fragments found were of Troy’s skull.  Now, let me stop to say I am not morbidly giving details to keep you intrigued and certainly would never share anything private that would distract from God’s message.  I am giving you details because the Lord’s ways are magnificient and so extremely personal that I want you to be encouraged in your own journey.  We serve a God who knows the numbers of hair of your head, keeps your tears in a bottle and has your name written on the palm of His hand.  But back to our story, upon close examination, those skull fragments that were left behind back in 2006 were from the very top of his skull.  Just over a month ago, we were informed more were found.  Foot bones, specifically toenail bones.  I saw clearly what the Lord had given us with this tiny percentage of bones; the top of Troy’s head and the tip of his foot.  I began to quietly cry over the phone as the Mortuary Affairs officer soaked in what he had just told me.  I then gathered myself and told him thank you and that the Lord had just given me such a gift.  The spiritual significance of what was left behind.  That God always had Troy, from the top of his head to the tip of his toes.  He had never forsaken him.  He had never forsaken me.  He reminded me not to worry that He is leaving something unattended, that He loves me and He is indeed the blessed Controller.  My second gift.

Jim and I met for the first time on Christmas Day 2007.  As I have mentioned before, we didn’t intend to meet ON Christmas Day, it just happened that way.  But it makes us smile deep down because without even realizing it, we were given the most incredible gift that year; a chance at a new life.  Through the years, Jim and I have taken turns being one another’s rock to stand on, a place to land in times of deep sorrowful grief.  There have miraculously been only a couple handfuls of times that we were both hurting so much that we couldn’t be there for one another.  But even in those times, the Lord sustained us. 

Jim, being a compassionate man and fighter pilot himself, has always grieved with us over Troy’s crash, the circumstances around it and the hole that was left behind in our lives.  He understood what Troy was doing on his mission that day, why he was doing it and suddenly found himself taking care of Troy’s wife and children.  When Jim first mentioned marriage to me, I told him, “Don’t marry me because you feel sorry for me.  Marry me because you love me.”  He said he was marrying me not only because he loved me but because that is what God called him to do.  Sometimes I joked that that made me feel like I was a third-world mission calling and that didn’t sound very romantic.  But, actually, it was the ultimate romance.  God loving all of us enough to send His only Son into this harsh and desperate world.  Jesus loving all of us enough to die a merciless and tortured death to save us from ourselves.  Me loving Jesus enough to trust that that same love for me on the Cross hadn’t stopped the day my earthly world did.  Jim loving the Lord enough to trust Him even though Andrea’s life ended far too soon.  Jim trusting the Lord to equip him to father not only his two boys but five new children he had never met and love another man’s wife til death do us both part.  And, then me, rejoicing that God would send us another man to step in and “take the stick” over from Troy and continue to keep us on course as a family.  I have a wall plaque that reads “Every Love Story is Beautiful, Ours is My Favorite”.  True words.

Over the years I have watched Jim honor Troy many many times over.  Whether it be in how much he continues to seek ways to fill our home and the kids hearts with the knowledge of who their Dad in heaven was.  To how he has supported the many tributes across this nation to Troy.  To supporting me as I travel and speak for the Folds of Honor Foundation so our family can help other fallen families, etc.  Jim often says he knows Troy so well without ever having met him.  I feel the same way about Andrea.  And I think in part it is because we have both come from such similar places; loving and losing someone til it hurts.  The same void, though one where the manner of death was different but the loss was equal.  And also, I think it is because we both strive to know really who each others’ spouses were.  By knowing Troy better, Jim understands me more.  And vice versa.

Since I met Jim, every time he hears the National Anthem played he has prayed for Troy’s remains to be found and brought back to us.  When he was active duty, that happened everyday at 5:00 pm on loudspeakers broadcast all of the bases where he was stationed.  So, as you can imagine, as I was told the news of Troy’s partial recovery, his heart was overwhelmed as well.  As soon as the tears stopped flowing and we walked out of the general’s office, Jim began helping me make plans for Troy’s service.  He diligently and swiftly helped me put together the Arlington service in three weeks.  So many other people helped me 7 years ago with Troy’s services and I was in such a fog anyway that I had no idea what all was involved in planning a funeral.  I had an even deeper appreciation for all of my friends who stepped in and took care of things to honor Troy on those memorial and funeral days. 

But, this time, it was up to me and Jim and the kids, much older now and able to be involved, to decide how could we celebrate this miraculous recovery and the man Troy was.  Jim made lots of phone calls, logistically planned our trip, meticulously made professional-grade programs, offered loving insight and wisdom and finacially spent whatever it took to make his service and reception a solemn yet joyful occasion.  He understood that the service was a chance for the children to fully comprehend what their Daddy being buried in Arlington National Cemetery means.  Only Boston remembered the first service.  Greyson was just 6 years old and his memories were primarily of the large memorial service in Phoenix.  Bella attended but was only 3 years old and the twins, being 9 months didn’t go to Arlington at all.  So, in a way, this was the first time they buried their father.  And on such a significant day, too, December 11th, 2013, exactly 7 years after buryng his first remains.  God’s hand was evident in using His favorite Biblical reference to the number 7; the number of completion.  God moved the wintry East Coast storm to allow all of us to be there.  The crisp December air was marked by sunshine , melting snow, red and white roses, bagpipes and testimonies from the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Troy’s mentor and former commander General Rand and the chaplain in Iraq who loved Troy’s legacy of service… It was all such a touching day but the most poignant was the kids being able to mark another milestone on their individual journeys to healing - That was sacred to me and to Jim. 

The children all decided they wanted to say something at Troy’s service this time.  So to help them decide what specific thing they wanted to talk about, on small pieces of paper I wrote down many of Troy’s characteristics.  Not things he liked to do but ways he was.  Things like: strong leader, determined, cared about others, funny, loving, etc… and I laid them out on the coffee table and they selected which ones they thought they were like.  Their stories began from there.  They were all beautiful.  And so accurately described the similarities and connection they will have always have with their father.  Jim said he would like to introduce the kids at the service and wondered if it would be appropriate for him to say something in honor of Troy.  I told him of course it would be, if he felt that is what the Lord wanted him to do.  Until Jim got up at the service I didn’t really know exactly what he was going to say beyond leading the children to the front of the crowd at the gravesite.  But now I will never forget it.

Jim briefly talked about his unique role in standing in the gap for Troy but never trying to replace Troy as the children’s father.  And that he had recently found an old email Troy had sent me from his deployment in Iraq.  It was written just weeks before he died.  Then Jim said he knew Troy’s words were what he was meant to read on this very momentous day; what we all needed to be reminded of most. 

Here is an excerpt from the email dated October 5, 2006 sent to me from Troy.  He was referring to the personnel he was deployed with and the time he spent volunteering at the Balad AFB hospital:

“… They have this strong sense of pride just to be able to serve our great nation.  It especially hits home when you visit the hospital and realized the real sacrifices made by our soldiers… I tell you not one person who walks through the hospital takes anything for granted anymore.  Whenever I go there I have to continually say a prayer to remind myself that I serve a sovereign God who is in control of Everything (sidenote:  I find it interesting that this is the ONLY word Troy capitalized in this sentence) and is ever faithful.  He is in control and is impacting/touching so many lives for His cause, even in the face of such tragedy/sorrow.  That reassurance comes from the good news stories that are generated each and every day at that facility by the men and women who serve outstandingly there.  That reassurance does not come from the Blessed (my sidenote: again another interesting choice of capitalization) life He has given me, because I truly understand that can all end in an instant.  I’ve truly realized that His sovereignty and power, rather my true belief in it, should have nothing to do with, and doesn’t have anything to do with the Blessed life he has given me.  It comes from His word, His Promise, His Son’s Blood – Faith, my dear.  Faith, regardless of what happens to me, to you, to our children.  Faith in the face of tragedy.  I am so thankful I, we as a family, have Him to lean on.  Many here do not.  For many, the hospital is a place that shakes their Faith (my sidenote: hmmm – capital letter again)… hard to understand at first, til you see it first hand.  I am comforted to know that regardless of the outcome, God IS (my sidenote: all caps!) in control.”  I believe Troy capitalized the things the Lord told him to emphasize to me for the tragedy that was about to befall us; That God is in control of Everything, that I am not Blessed because of what or who I have but because I have Jesus, that Faith is all that matters and that God IS in control no matter what happens.  For all the times, I have wanted to and will wish I could just talk things over with Troy, this is what he would tell me.  No matter the circumstance or situation.  What a treasure.

After Jim finished reading Troy’s words, he turned and proudly saluted Troy’s small casket of remains.  There wasn’t a dry eye.  It was a stunningly beautiful moment of God’s provision and the grace He has bestowed upon Jim to fill some pretty big shoes.  And do it so well, I might add.  Troy’s powerful legacy does not cast a shadow on Jim’s.  Their shadows equally stand tall, merging into one great covering for our household. 

Along with 125 dear people, one of my mother’s friends attended Troy’s burial on this December 11th.  Actually she may have been at his first burial, too, come to think of it.  Anyway, last week, after the service and just a few days before Christmas, she sent my mom an email.  In it, she said she had just come from their church service where the pastor emphasized the story of Joseph and his unique calling to become Mary’s husband and Christ’s earthly father.  She said she was struck with the thought that my Jim was a modern-day Joseph.  As I read the short note, tears welled up in my eyes.  Why hadn’t I ever thought of that?  Joseph loved Mary and committed to her his heart and his devotion even though his family was looking very different than what he himself had already planned.  So much alike, Mary’s Joseph and my Jim… And yes, Jim’s full name is James Joseph Ravella.  Wow.  In every way, a true Biblical servant’s name.
 My third gift. 

Psalms 8:3-5:

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?”

I have lost so much but how could I not be thankful.  Lord, let me remember in 2014 that You are ever mindful of me.  And that is the greatest gift of all.






Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This week Ginger had to go in for a "small" surgery to fix some issues caused by giving birth to 5 kids, one who was 9+lbs and then there was the twins.  Maybe its just a reminder that the kids need to bring it big this Mothers Day!

So on Tuesday Ginger and I got up very early...0445 and headed out to the hospital...Brooke Army Medical Center otherwise known as BAMC, or the hospital where Andrea passed away.  I prepared myself for my return to BAMC but it is a 1 million 480 thousand square foot facility that has been remodeled and built on to the tune of $600M since Andrea was there so I figured I would not even recognize the place. Which turned out to be true at first but when I went to get Ginger's prescription filled they told me to go to the ER pharmacy 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

ID Please



Piggybacking on Jim’s wonderfully written blog “God, do you validate?”  I wanted to share my similar yet different validation journey.   The news reporter from USA Today, Dennis, also asked me the same question, “What was the moral?  What did you learn?”  I found it hard to answer that with one simple statement.  Jim will attest that I find most things hard to answer with one statement.  I believe men invented the term TMI (too much information) to categorize how we girls like to go “on and on” and give all the details to what they have no need for.  Jim taught me what a BLUF was (Bottom Line Up Front).  I had never heard that before.  He explained that sometimes he just needs to hear the point up front and then he can ask details after.  I enjoy taking the meandering route and word walking all the way to the take-the-yellow-brick-road- see–the-wizard-of–Oz-path-approach to story telling.  I have tried it Jim’s way but probably still don’t adhere to it as a general practice.  Ha.  Thus why I am still lingering on this subject in the first place.  Ah, the beauty in the differences of men vs. women….

My journey with Jesus through the death of Troy has been anything but simple.  So there isn’t exactly a simple way to answer the before-mentioned question of what did I learn?  But in honor of Jim I will begin with a BLUF:  I learned that without Christ being my own personal Savior and without believing the Bible as the absolute authority on who my God actually is, I never would have come out of the darkness alive.  Literally?  Well, I doubt that.  I have told others the honest truth ; for quite some time after Troy died, I HAD NO DESIRE TO LIVE ANYMORE.  I know some of my family and friends were aghast a bit by that statement but truly there is a difference between wanting the earth to swallow you up whole and wanting to take your own life.  I NEVER would have killed myself.  I knew that would not please the Lord and the last thing in the world my kids needed was to lose their only remaining parent.  But I hope by me being honest enough to make that statement that I can help others be real with themselves and with God (He knows it all anyway remember?) to seek spiritual and often medical help.  And honestly, to remind those that might see my life, our lives now, and think “Oh, that Ginger (and Jim), they couldn’t possibly know what I am going through.  Look at how happy she is, how happy they are” that, trust me, I carved my initials on the bottom of the bottomless pit.  I figured at 36 years old I probably had 40-50 more years to live and the thought of feeling like I felt for 40 more years was enough to make me crater when I was alone with my thoughts.

There are numerous patriarchs of the Bible, David and Job just to name a few, who felt exactly the same way I did and God still considers them heroes of faith in Hebrews 11.  So even when I wondered if I was losing my mind, I remembered God still did a major work in their hearts and they went on to be true examples of saints.

So, I found my struggle was to not not live but to not live as the walking dead.  Not live empty, purpose-less, or bitter.  I didn’t want to even want to settle for being apathetic or eternally grumpy.  I didn’t want to be separated from God but I couldn’t help feeling like He simply did not hold up His end of the deal.  By no means had Troy and I “arrived” spiritually or any other way.  But we were faithful to each other, serving God, giving 110% to raising our children in a loving Christ-centered home where the Truth was lived and taught.  We had led a life group.  I was helping with women’s Bible Studies and women’s ministry at church.  Troy was single-handedly developing a new Welcome Ministry at church.  Not to mention he was a stand-up, strong Christian fighter pilot refusing to submit to some of that world’s worldliness.  We were doing ALL that and all we were asking from the Lord was a little safety for Troy in Iraq and strength for me to hold the Phoenix fort down for 4 months.  We even met together with a group of Christian friends right before he deployed and together as a church congregation and laid hands on Troy begging God for His protection.  My point:  “We did our part, God, so You go ahead and do Yours.”

All this to give you the background of me feeling God had just let Satan pull the rug out from under our lives on the fateful November day.  Sooooo, I rode the rollercoaster of my emotions that maybe God wasn’t such a loving Father after all mixed with the Truth of Scriptures which all told me otherwise.  Each day that I walked through grief, anger and suffering of monumental proportions, I couldn’t help but see that EVEN STILL in the darkness I had to trust Him.  His Hope was my only way out of the long dark tunnel.  I saw Him everywhere as He provided for us.  And literally I can honestly say once I truly “felt” the Lord so close behind me that His breath was on my neck.  It may sound crazy and I don’t think I even journaled about it at the time but I can picture it right now vividly.  I was in my bedroom, maybe a few months after Troy died, lying on the floor crying my eyes out.  That from your gut crying that makes the world stand still and leaves you breathless with despair.  I remember the feel of the carpet on my face and between my fingers.  I remember wanting to dig my fingernails deeper into the carpet, below the level of the floor because I wanted to physically be in the depths of the emotional pit I was in.  And then in this wave of well, the Presence of Jesus, I felt Him on my back weeping just as hard as I was.  To this day, I still get teary-eyed and a knot in my throat as I remember thinking, “He has compassion.  He does care about me, the kids, all this scrambled mess, this Grand Canyon-sized hole in my heart.  This is actually hurting Him too.”  Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in the church and had been a Christian since I was 9 years old and I knew Christ was the compassionate type but never until that day did I feel His tender loving care for me so tangibly I could feel it all the way through my broken soul.

Nehemiah 9:28  “…and when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.”

Nehemiah 9:17  “…But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.  Therefore you did not desert them…”

James 5:11  “…the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”

My first description of those many many months of agony after our loss would be to say God and I did this dance of “trust Him, fear Him, follow Him, yell at Him, fall into Him….” But in hind sight, really He was just standing still rock solid, listening to my cries of grief, collecting my tears of loneliness and holding me up so I could have the strength to do the hard work of grieving with the goal of healing and still be a mom to all my little ones.  At times I honestly thought I danced alone.  But He was endlessly pointing me in the right direction like a good dance partner always does.  Nope, Ginger, don’t lean to far that way you will get hurt or hurt someone else.  Nope, Ginger, don’t get ahead of Me, let Me lead you so you don’t make a monumental mistake that you will always regret.  Nope, Ginger, this or that is going to spin you around but I will not let you or your children go. 

Psalm 73:21 -24  “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.  Yet I am always with you; You hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel and afterward You will take me into glory.”

May sound crazy to you but there were days I just lifted my right hand in the air to reach for His and held on to that promise that He was unseen but holding mine too.  I knew Christ had been to that same point I was at in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He was crucified.

Matthew 26:37-38  “He (Jesus) took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (James and John) along with Him, and He began to be sorrowful and troubled.  The He said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” 

The Greek term that was used in the ancient writings was “perilypos” meaning “grieved all around, intensely sad; a sorrow so deep it almost kills.”  Well, there in the Word, Jesus knew about what I was going through.  He dreaded what He was about to face but in His trust of God He said:

Matthew 26:39  “Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, ‘ My Father, if it possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as You will.” 

So, back to me feeling like God broke our little “contract”.  Well, I didn’t feel like the kids and I got what we deserved to say the least.  So, I buried my head in the Bible to study more so I could know Him better so I could get to the bottom of why none of this added up.  Equation:  Godly Christian Husband and Father obeying and serving God+ Godly Christian Wife and Mother obeying and serving God + Precious Growing Family full of Innocent Children who Love Jesus already and not to 
mention who ALL have a long life ahead of them minus the worst nightmare imaginable = God loves us as Himself and works all things together for good?  I thought, well God’s definition of “good” must be way different than every other person in the world.  Indeed, it is.

My prayerful studies, everyone I knew praying for us and all the wise friends, family and followers of Christ that sacrificed to pour into all kept leading me back to this same conclusion:  God is good.  God loves us.  God is to be trusted.  God’s plans are not always ours but He is sovereign.  God is merciful to save us.  God does heal. God is listening.  God is real.  And finally, that even though God was the one I wanted to blame and wanted to push away in my anger, He was the very One I couldn’t go through the fiery furnace without.

We prayed for safety.  Jim and his family prayed for healing.  Our prayers were heard but not answered in the way we wanted.  Can we change God’s mind if we pray hard enough or believe more?  Well, I have read a lot about that topic and know we all have a slightly different take on that.  But I think my spiritual hero, Beth Moore, put it best when she said “God does indeed hear our prayers and reserves the right to relent if the change does not compromise an eternal necessity.”

Though I still do not understand it, I believe that Troy and Andrea dying so young and in the way that they did was of “eternal necessity”.  Even in understanding that, I still felt a little like God had targeted my sweet little family with a giant bulls-eye for His purposes and glory which made me feel “good” but still like “Lord, couldn’t you have chosen someone else?”

Over the years there have been so many ways the Lord has proven Himself faithful to us that I couldn’t begin to recount them all here and now.  Tiny miracles.  Gigantic miracles.  Clear protection and direction when I needed it most.  He didn’t need to prove Himself trustworthy to me, He is the God of the Universe after all.  But, still He did….

Fast forward some years to last fall.  I took Beth Moore’s study “David, Seeking a Heart Like His”.   I felt I already had a personal relationship with David just through reading the Psalms he wrote.  I remember sitting next to the boys by their bed, just days after Troy died, and asking them “What do you think David and Daddy are talking about right now in Heaven?”  Those two heroes I knew had some stories to swap.  I can’t say I related to the hero stories of David in the Bible but I can certainly say I related to the desperate stories David of the Bible.  I learned so much more about him through studying with Beth (I like to call her Beth like we are fast friends because she did personally pray for me, write to me and sent me a book after Troy died.  Long story how that happened but ever since I have just feel a connection to her, much like thousands of women all of this country I am sure do. She has an amazing way of being all of our best friend!) 

I couldn’t possibly go over all of what I learned.  But again, so many things about God and the ways He validates Himself to us were the same ways He validated Himself to David (mind you before Jesus walked the earth and the Holy Spirit came to indwell in us – which made things a whole lot more complicated for David than us).

David had highs and lows.  Actually David had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  He was a passionate man who loved the Lord with his whole heart but struggled with pride and selfishness.  Much like I always have… hmmm.

The fallen world and man’s sins are often what let us down the most.  Not God.  Man can leave you (by choice, by betrayal, by death) which leaves a void that truly that “man” was never intended to fill.  We are created with a God-sized hole in hearts that we fill with both good things (loving godly husbands, happy healthy kids, security) or bad things but either way only God can truly fill it. 

David was promised he would be king but found himself living off scraps and hiding in caves from his enemies who persecuted and pursued him relentlessly.  Until it was just he and God alone against the world.  (Been there!)  It’s a painful place to get to but it’s a beautiful place to stay as Beth put it.   I lost all my identity in this world – as an Air Force pilot’s wife, as half of the term “parents”, as Troy’s love.  But Troy couldn’t be my god.  He was a great guy but he simply couldn’t be my god.  Wasn’t supposed to be.  I never really thought of him that way until he was gone and then it struck me that I was only who I was because I was his other half.  All I wanted to do was run away from the fact that I was no longer Mrs. Troy GiIbert, wife and I was Mrs. Troy Gilbert, widow.  I jotted in my notes during this recent Bible study on David that Beth said, “We can’t run from life and find refuge in God instantly.  TRUSTING God is what you do on the pavement – it’s the path – to get you to that refuge.”  Like my good friend Marlo told me, (Marlo was a widow too at one point) she said you can’t wait till you feel better before you get up and start walking, you just start walking and the feeling that you want to live will come later.  Beth says, “We can’t just trust our feelings.  We must entrust our feelings to God!”  I learned time and again over the course of these last five years, that I cannot always trust my feelings because they can come and go with the wind.

Beth said the goal of crying out to God is to come to a place of rest and trust (in Him) not just crying for the sake of crying.  He won’t fill our hearts if our hearts are already full of bitterness, turmoil and rage… And the clever observation that right in the middle of WRESTLE is the word REST.  Wow that hit home!

That was a determination I had to pray about daily.  I wanted to keep my heart open and empty so God could fill up with the righteous things, with wholeness and healing and the ability to forgive and to love again.  Believe me there were days I could almost see Satan trying to fill it with the poison of doubt, anger and bitterness.  He kicks us when we’re down.  That’s pretty much his MO.

Like Jim said and like I am still learning, this life is not about getting what we want but getting what we need, which is ultimately doing a work in us to make us more Christ-like until we see Him face-to-face.  That goes totally against what we call the “prosperity gospel” that God will just give us everything we want if we believe enough or pray enough or are good enough Christians.  Sometimes He simply says “no, my child.”  And what we do with that pretty much holds the key to what the rest of our days on this earth are like.  Believe I have not gotten to the place where I am excited about pain but I am a believer that through it (just like childbirth) He can give you a treasure to hold close to your heart afterwards.  I am thankful that I got all the earthly treasures I did (security, friends and most of all Jim) but I also received the confidence to know that God had validated His love for me on the Cross by sacrificing His precious and only Son.  He had already given me what He loved most to prove that He loved me too.  To quote Beth, “We’re going to win, but victory is going to take blood, sweat and tears – His blood, our sweat and tears from both of us.”

I am still trying to come to the place where I can shift my thinking from wanting what I want to wanting what God wants, when what God wants from me might hurt.  That is where the crisis of faith comes.  The rubber meets the road.  I owe the Lord way more than He ever owes me.  That was a process that took me a lot longer than I think it ever took Jim or Andrea.  I guess that’s why they intrigued, inspired and encouraged me so much.

All this comes down to, after all the suffering and the pain, I can tell you I still believe God is good and as the Natalie Grant song says : “I know what it is to be held.”  God’s showed me His ID through His Word and He validated it as “authentic” when He proved Himself faithful and held me through it all.  He was my anchor.  He didn’t give me what I sought but He let me see Him in a way I never could have imagined.

How God Introduced Us



Ginger and I have been asked many times to tell the story of how we met. I decided to find the original emails we exchanged and post them in a blog. It began in Jan 2007 when Andrea went into the ICU for the first time. That night I wrote an email to my friends updating them on how Andrea and I were doing. It was a very difficult night, when for the first time I thought I was going to loose her. That email was forwarded to Ginger between mutual friends and Ginger responded to my email through a friend, Terri Otto and asked if she could contact Andrea and I. Sadly, in Jan 2010 Terri was killed after being hit by a truck while jogging. She always has a special place in our family, a Godly woman and mother, she prayed for Andrea and God used her to introduce Ginger to our life.

Ginger told me long after we met that she, most graciously received hundreds of emails, calls and letters during those first months after Troy's death. They meant the world to her but she was simply too physically and emotionally drained to respond to many of them. Also, deep down, she felt that, though thankful for their kindness, few really understood the level of deep pain and hurting that racked her soul. She remembers seeing this forwarded email late at night and immediately felt drawn to this unknown couple. Ginger was going through a period of being very angry at the God she had always loved whole-heartedly. Yet as she read the words I wrote that night, she saw a couple that had suffered for a long time but did so without the expected anger or disappointment in God. It made her curious about our journey. Andrea would get out of the ICU soon afterwards and Ginger continued to correspond with Andrea and I about once a month over the next 9 months. When Andrea was sick, I would read her Ginger's emails and Andrea will tell me what to write. I have Andrea's prayer journal that list Ginger's name. It is a very special connection between my two wives.

Andrea went back into the ICU in Nov 07 but this time she when she never came home to the boys and I, she went to her real Home with Christ. It would not be until 25 Dec 2007 that I would meet Ginger, the hurting widow at the other end of this email trail.



Below is the email I sent on Jan 3 2007 followed by Ginger's email she wrote back on Jan 6 2007.



It is 2:00 am and I just got back from the hospital. Like everything about cancer we are not the drivers of events, at times it seems we don't even control our time. 48 hrs ago Andrea was a little short of breath when we went for a walk, 24 hrs ago Andrea was out of breath walking in the house and today (Tuesday) we woke up to take Nic to the airport and Andrea needed oxygen, right now I sit in our house alone and Andrea is in ICU on a ventilator. It looked very similar to 2 months ago when Andrea cancer had gotten worse. I assumed when Andrea went in for treatment this Thursday we would start a new chemo. But when we got home from the airport Andrea was so short of breath that even with oxygen she was unable get a normal breath, so I called her doctor.

He had us go do the CT scan at 7pm and based on the results had Andrea check into the hospital. Off we went to back to the hospital and the 7th floor, the oncology floor. A place I had been once before for Andrea's transfusion, and a place I did not want to ever go back to. There is not much good when you have to go to the 7th floor. But after meeting her doctor in the hospital and describing the events of the past 2 days he became more concerned. It was just happening too fast. So he recommended Andrea go to ICU and be put on a ventilator. The reason is Andrea was having so much trouble getting oxygen and it was taking so much effort that she could face some serious complications.

So off we went to ICU, Andrea being wheeled in her bed and me following behind. In ICU there was a flurry of activity with wires and hoses and people all around my wife. I could just stand in the corner and watch as the machines displaying Andrea's vital sign sprung to life, with a lot color displays showing data and beeping. The doctor came in and explained the procedure, why it was necessary, and how it would be done. Then we were left alone to discuss it. In a matter of 5 hrs we went from our house to the ICU. Now surrounded by displays showing Andrea's heartbeat and any other data you would want to know about her, we sat, separated from the nurse's station by the curtain now closed for our privacy. We prayed and decided that it was best to go with the procedure. It meant 3-10 days of Andrea being put "asleep".

Once we gave the okay, the activity resumed, with blood draws, needles and bags. We stayed together and read Psalm 91 together. I read it and Andrea repeated the verses with what little breath she had. It was a reminder of why this was necessary. I anointed her with oil and it was time for me to go to the waiting room. In a quick 40 minutes I got the call it was done and I could go see her before having to leave for the night.

Walking back into the room seeing her asleep with the hose in her mouth, the rhythm of the ventilator in the back ground the room was suddenly very different. When I left Andrea was smiling, looking at me with her beautiful blue eyes. When I returned she was laying limp her life seemingly replaced by the machines all around her. I was able to talk to her and her nodded but did not open her eyes. It was 1:30 and I had to go. No spending the night in ICU. I walked back to the car and drove home to an empty house. And I thought what just happened today?

I admit it was hard to walk into the house. I called a close friend to talk. Now I'm still up at 5 am writing. I'm not ready to go to bed alone. Thank you for allowing me to work this out in my mind. I have thought a lot about the seriousness of today. Heck I have thought about it many times in the past 18 months. Cancer is so relentless in it's pursuit. It is always there. We just etch out what normal life we can around the constant reminder of cancer. We cherish the days where we don't think about cancer, every day we don't have to sit in a doctor's office, every time we can laugh about something silly, or plan something in the future. Those times are precious but really we have found no matter where we are or what has happened, God has sustained us. Just as His word says he will. The doctor called me over to explain how serious this was, that even though her tumors looked better in her CT scan this was no a simple step we were taking. I said, " We have been facing the constant threat of death for 18 months and I know God is in control right now, we are at peace and we are trusting God to heal her." Today I listened to a sermon about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I may have mentioned this before how they are told to bow down to the golden statue or be thrown into the furnace. I love their response:

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."


I agree, God is able, He will, but even if He does not rescue us we will not bow down to the idol. I won't, by the strength of God, give up on all I believe, nor get mad because I don't understand why. God is still God no matter how these events transpire. Circumstances don’t define my faith or my God. God is unchanging. He is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. Being a Christian does not mean we are given a guarantee of a trial free life or pain free life. In contrast it means we will face trials and pain. Our guarantee is He will never leave us nor forsake us. We do not face trails alone. And through our faith we glorify our creator and our savior who gave us another guarantee…that we will live for eternity with Him. So as we get ever closer to the edge of this furnace, and has we begin to feel the heat from the fire we know the flames do not control our destiny. And we rest under the shadow of the almighty.

In Christ, Jim

Below are the emails from Ginger and Terri

Begin forwarded message:

From: Terri Otto

Date: January 6, 2007 11:30:37 AM CST

To: Jim and Andrea Ravella

Subject: Friend of Jenn Gordon's

Jim - I just received this email. A friend of mine is very good friends with the family and she forwarded Ginger your email about Andrea. Ginger would like to email you and I hope you don't mind but I gave her the go ahead. I am sure that you heard abut her husband dying in Iraq. Anyway, she is struggling and I know that she was encouraged by yours and Andrea's faith. You will be hearing from her soon I am sure.

Love you guys and am sooooooo happy to hear of Andrea's recovery and good humor!! Like you say "small but mighty!"

Terri



Begin forwarded message:

From: TROY GILBERT

Date: January 6, 2007 11:30:37 AM CST

To: Terri Otto

Subject: Friend of Jenn Gordon's

Terri

My name is Ginger Gilbert. I am a good friend of Jenn Gordon's. She forwarded me an email from Jim about his wife and their faith and it touched me. I don't know them or you at all. My husband was Troy and he was the F16 pilot who was killed in Iraq on Nov. 27th. I am a believer. I love the Lord but I am struggling. I am left with 5 small children and the reality is starting to sink in. I really needed the spiritual encouragement he enclosed in his email and wanted to email he and his wife if possible. Totally different situations but still pain is pain. If you think it would be okay could you send me his email address? Thanks so much.

Ginger

Thursday, January 19, 2012

God, do you validate?


 
To validate, to give legal force or official confirmation to; declare legally valid.

I know it has been a while since Ginger and I have written.  I guess that is a sign our life is getting back to "normal."  So busy you don't have time to write!  However, this past week a reporter from USA Today interviewed Ginger and I for an article about our family.  During the interview he asked me "What was the one thing you learned during your trial?"   I thought about his question a lot since then and at church this past Sunday this blog came to me.

I think we all have a desire to know what we believe is true; we all want to have our faith validated.  But I think we keep this need buried deep in our subconscious for fear it is true, that maybe just maybe what we believe is wrong.  I think Christians also have this fear, what if God does not exist, what if Christ was just a man?  So we seek validation of our faith.  Normally we find our validation in life’s blessings.  It seems logical we validate God when we get what we want.  I’m not saying God does not bless us, far from that.  I count my blessings everyday when I see Ginger and the kids. What I’m saying is if the only way you validate God is when life is going good then you will miss a chance to truly know God.

I guess when life’s trials come your way you can get mad at God, you can feel cheated by God, you can feel forgotten by God, you can be left in a state of confusion as you try to connect the dots of what you expected God to do and what is happening.  I guess having gone through 4 years and 4 months of cancer with Andrea I learned God could not be defined by what was happening.  I could not have prayed harder, believed more, wanted something more then I wanted Andrea to be healed.  I always imagined he great testimony when she was healed.  Oh how God was going to use her after He healed her.  But time and time again our prayers went unanswered.  Unanswered in how we wanted them answered.  So it came down to this, was God true? Was He real or was I going to throw away all I had professed when life was going the way I wanted?  Or was he bigger then my circumstances?  Was Christ’s death about more then getting what I wanted?  What was His purpose in my life?  When I opened my mind to a truly sovereign God I found validation of my God in the strangest of places, the ICU, as I watched helplessly as my wife laid her life her life down.  She had the greatest faith I had ever witnessed; yet she did not doubt when cancer’s gripped proved too tight.

For me it was the trial that eroded everything in my life that I had trusted in until one day it was just God and I sitting at a table.  It was if He was looking into my eyes and asking me “Well Jim, what now, with all of life’s distraction removed, do you believe, do you still trust me?

You see there was a certain amount of faith I had placed in doctors and medicine.  They offered confidence with all their education.  Why do you think they hang their diploma on the wall?  It is always behind the doctor’s chair.  I think that is so you can see it when he tells you your wife has cancer.  Then there are all the machines of our advanced 21st century society.  MRIs. CT scans, tests after test that reveled the enemy to us.  But in the end that is all they could do, show me what we were fighting where the cancer was.  So close I could touch it on the screen, yet it was defiant to the end.  All man’s knowledge failed us in stopping that black spot on the x-ray from taking my wife.  But the one thing cancer never took was Andrea’s faith in God and I witnessed what it meant to believe. To believe because it is true, independent of our desires, and independent of our expectations He is truth.  He is sovereign.

In the end God did not let me down, He reveled Himself to me. I just had to be willing to see Him thru my greatest fear, losing my wife.  It was a process for me to get to that point, but when I did, I knew.  God was validated and Andrea left me the greatest gift she could have given, an example of unwavering faith. I knew I was not alone at the  loneliest time of my life.

At 1225 on Dec 17th 2007 I told the doctors it was time to remove Andrea from the ventilator.  I remember every detail of that day, I remember calling friends and family, I remember the fear in my son’s eyes, I remember my struggle of giving up on my wife. I had been by her side every step of this fight, her advocate at every doctor’s visit.  I held her when she hurt. I cleaned up her vomit when the chemo took it toll.  I shaved her head when her hair fell out.  I prayed with her every night, and through many nights when she could not sleep.  And now I had to let her go and I remember that moment.  But as I think back I also remember the doctors and nurses left us alone in the end, just me and my two boys in the room.  No longer did the monitors display all the data about Andrea.  All that technology that once was a testament to man’s ability suddenly were blank, and I’m sure to the ICU staff we seemed so alone.  But I knew different, I knew God was with us as He welcomed His daughter home. I was not alone, I given up on placing my hope in man, doctors and machines. God had been validated in my life not by what I saw or by getting what I wanted but by the opposite, by letting go of all I wanted.  Then I saw His love for me in ways I could have never seen or felt if I only looked for God in a blessing. 

My question to you is this; Where is your hope?  Where is your faith?  Is it only in what you have or what you get?  Where do you seek validation?  I offer this thought don’t forget to look in your trials because you might be surprised what you find when you allow yourself to let go of what you want and allow God to meet you in your pain.  Trust me I understand how dark the night can be and how lonely life can feel when you lose it all. I have been in that storm you are facing and I did not wait for it to end to find God, strangely I found him in the mist of the storm.  When the waves were crashing over me and I was struggling for every breath struggling to make it.  Not to the next month or the next day but at times hoping to make it to the next minute.  He is there with you, His words are truth, and His promises are real.

There was a time I was so exhausted from struggling against what was happening in my life until one day I had no more strength in me and that is when God said, "Finally you are ready to listen." This is what I wrote that day, a day in the middle of the storm a time when I had no idea which way was up, where I was going or how I was getting there.  It was dark and I was lost in my pain. 
No voice is as loud as one spoken in total silence
No light is as bright as one shown in total darkness. 

My prayer is that those who are in total darkness and total silence is you will hear His whisper and see His light.  It may be faint and dim but I promise He is there and you will find validation of God in place you never thought possible.  

In Christ,
Jim

Friday, December 2, 2011

Life as I know it

Tomorrow a good friend of mine is getting married, he lost his wife and tomorrow he begins a transistion in his life.  I'm so happy for him and his new wife who also lost her husband.

It is hard to explain the depth of loss when you lose your spose. It seems obvious to understand what it means but it far deeper, far more then even  I can unerstand.  All I know is the bond I have with my friend is inexplainable.  It is born from a shared loss that words cannot nor need to explain.  We just know we just understand. 

But we also understand the joy of living again, and the how to love again, to be happy again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Holes in the Floor of Heaven



I run across sweet folks all the time that tell me they check our blog and we don’t ever write on it anymore.  Many reasons why the blog is empty these days.  I guess the main one is life is full. 

As I type this I am on a plane leaving one speaking engagement and headed to the next.  What an odd-fellow I sometimes feel as I use my American Express Business card, meet people in unfamiliar circles and travel across the country sharing God’s story of Troy’s life and my re-birth.  A little funny at times because after my couple of days of being the gal about town, I go back to making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,  scrubbing toilets  and doing some Barbie’s hair for the umpteenth time.

Life is unpredictable.  We have moved back to San Antonio and it’s GOOD to be a Texan again.  Though it was with many tears that we looked at the Florida panhandle in our rearview mirrors.  I loved our humble town, the sweet friends we made there and the awe-inspiring beauty of white sand beaches and azure water. 

My life compass, though, seems to always point me back to Texas. 

We’ve only been back a few weeks but they have been busy ones.  Not only was our family’s early separation (Jim returned to TX for work 6 weeks before the kids and I) driving our quick-turn move after the kids finished school in FL but we had a wedding to attend.

And not just any old wedding, I might add.  But another wedding birthed straight from the depths of suffering into the radiant light of the Master’s plan.

We have written blogs about Brad and Sarah Sullivan.  Our earthly friendship with sweet Sarah was short.  But Brad and Chloe have remained a constant on our family’s prayer request.  The Lord, in His infinite mercies, brought Jenifer Wims not only into Brad’s life but into ours as well.  Jenny and Brad married on Memorial Day in San Antonio and we were rejoicing for them both.  Jenny lost her first husband to cancer just months before Brad lost Sarah.  Jenny and her two children, like me and mine, were the ones left behind, missing a devoted husband and father.

As I watched them standing under the shady oak trees by the meandering river profess their love and commitment to one another, my heart stirred.  My heart wept.  In joy. In thankfulness.  In rememberance.  Just three years ago, that was Jim and I. 

Life comes full circle. 

……And life’s fullness is just now letting me finish this blog I started at the beginning of the summer!  It’s August now and almost time for the kids to return to school.  I can’t bring myself to say it feels any closer to fall, though, since the gauge in my car continually says it’s over 100 degrees.  Ah, the Texas heat and this year’s drought.  It feels like a curse from Heaven but I hear it’s just El Nina.

Again another way God will delight us with Heaven; perfect weather all the time.  I bought the girls a book this summer about Heaven.  Someone in our house always seems to be bringing the topic of Heaven up.  We have had many animated conversations discussing the wonder of it.  Are there spiral staircases?  Are animals there?  Will we all wear white robes?

One thing I often wonder about is this; can the saints up there ever get a glimpse of down here?  Most of the time I would guess no.  Even with their now-eternal perspective, I just can’t imagine what delight would come from viewing what a painful mess this earthly painting must look like.  Yet, there are days that I just can’t imagine them NOT getting to see.  Greyson walking into a church camp this summer where he knew no one and walking out a week later chosen by the staff as Camper of the Week.  He displayed discipleship, leadership, love, courage… All the things Troy had worked diligently to grow from planted seeds those first 6 years of Greyson’s life with his Dad.  Boston and Greyson blessedly choosing to be baptized this summer,  Jim’s arms holding them as he immersed them in the waters and Troy’s mom and dad there in the first pew.  Days like those.  Holes in the floor of Heaven?  There are moments I sure hope there are.

This morning I finished a book I began back in Florida.  “One Thousand Gifts” is the title.  A mom of 6 kids, a farmer’s wife, a woman seeking the face of God in the everyday mundane was challenged to write down one thousand things she was thankful for.  In the process, her perspective was changed and real joy was found.  The crosses she carried were different than mine.  Early sexual abuse and death of a little sister among them, but she reminds me to offer thanks, even when it’s hard.

Psalm 50:23  “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God”.

I don’t think the Lord would call it a sacrifice it He knew, at times, it wasn’t going to be easy to be thankful.  The author, Ann Voskamp, writes:  “The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God- even the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion- this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all the sin that estranges us to Him”. 

Not salvation from hell.  We have that the moment we enter into real relationship with Christ.  But salvation from partaking of the bitter cup that sits on the table of suffering before us.  Salvation from letting that daily drink replace our daily manna and turn us into empty, angry shells of who we were.  It’s easier to do that, the giving in to the unforgiving hurt, than it is to work out the scarring knots of a broken and bruised heart so you can still have the capacity to wholly live and love again.

I met with some other widows at Focus on the Family this summer.  Face to face.  Heart to heart.  There is so much pain etched across the faces of these beautiful women.  It’s so familiar to me.  We talked about thankfulness.  Not FOR what had happened in our lives, but IN it all.  To find something in each day to be thankful for, with the hopes that through that act of recognition, we could see God is still good.  We could remember that He knows loss too.  God watched His Son suffer, so that our struggles and pain in this life would only be a short walk into a journey of eternal peace .  And just maybe, too, that our life here can be full even after it’s emptied out.

Romans 8:32  “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” 

A challenge that even on days such as these, that 31 brave Navy Seals would lose their lives at the hands of evil, that their loved ones receive that familiar knock on the door…. That my new friend, Kelley (a Navy Seal widow herself just over a year ago) would now have to carry her friends and sit by more gravesides.  On days where there is nothing we can come up with to be thankful for, we can always be thankful for Christ’s Cross.

I reminded the ladies, and myself, that feeling like God is absent and feeling like there is no hope are just that –feelings - and feelings can lie.  I can remember those many days of lying on the floor of my closet, with my heart broken and my cries to Him seeming to fall of deaf ears.  I am thankful for the perspective now.  The way I can look back and know that outside of my closet walls, Jesus was there working in my house, providing others to parent my kids, healing and paving the way for joy to enter into our lives again.  Down the road, upstream from those long and weary days and now, into my daily “new normal” life.  I am not a patient thing when it comes to waiting.  And it takes years to gain perspective.

One of my favorite things I read in this book of “One Thousand Things” was what she wrote about this very subject.  She writes “In time, years, dust settles.  In memory, ages, God emerges.  Then when we look back, we see God’s back.  Wasn’t that too His way with Moses?”

Exodus 33:22-23  “When My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.  Then I will remove My hand and you will see My back.”

Ann writes on, “Is that it?  When it gets dark, it’s only because God has tucked me in a cleft of the rock and covered me, protected, with His hand?  In the pitch, I feel like I’m falling, sense the bridge giving way, God long absent.  In the dark, the bridge and my world shakes, cracking dreams.  But maybe this is true in reality: It is in the dark that God is passing by.  The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by.  God is in the tremors.  Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by.  In the blackest, god is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will.  Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ IS most present to us, I-beam supporting in earthquake.  Then He will remove His hand.  Then we will look. Then we look back and see His back.  God reveals Himself in rearview mirrors.  And I’ve an inkling that there are times we need to drive a long, long distance before we can look back and see God’s back in the rearview mirror.”

I wish I would have written that but I sure am glad I, at least, read it.   I know there are so many who are waiting; waiting for healing, waiting for an answer, waiting for the loneliness to end and the pain to subside.  Waiting to see God’s back. 

This is such an everyday choice.  The choosing to see in the dark that God is still love and that above all the gloomy rain clouds, the sun is still shining above it all.   The Son is still shining above it all.  And just maybe the Son lets a little sun shine through the holes in the floor of Heaven and Troy sees his children, by God’s mercy, thriving and living and laughing and loving and being little lights at church camp and coming up out of the baptismal in Jim’s arms and trying to trust Him no matter what.  Lord, please help me to trust You, no matter what.

Words from Laura Story’s “Blessings”:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
.  Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
.  We pray for healing, for prosperity.  
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering.  

All the while, You hear each spoken need
.  Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

.  Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
  What if Your healing comes through tears
?  What if a thousand sleepless nights 
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

  What if trials of this life 
Are Your mercies in disguise?

  We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
.  We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
.  We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
.  As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

.  And all the while You hear each desperate plea
.  And long that we'd have faith to believe

.  Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
.  What if Your healing comes through tears?
  What if a thousand sleepless nights 
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

  And what if trials of this life 
Are Your mercies in disguise

?  When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
. We know the pain reminds this heart

That this is not, this is not our home
.  It's not our home

.  Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
.  What if Your healing comes through tears?
  And what if a thousand sleepless nights
  Are what it takes to know You’re near?

  What if my greatest disappointments
 Or the achings of this life
  Is the revealing of a greater thirst
  This world can’t satisfy?

  And what if trials of this life
  The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
  Are Your mercies in disguise?