Beauty from Ashes. “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” Isaiah 61:3
“Gloom despair and agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and agony on me.” You’re singing it, I know. It’s okay. How many watched Hee Haw on Saturday night? Roy Clark and Buck Owens made those lyrics such a comedic moment.
Despair and chaos. They are such good friends. They both cause a loss of hope. I think you will agree our country is experiencing such despair and chaos.
Six months ago chaos envaded our home on many levels. In October of 2021, I found myself in the middle of a battle with good and evil. I posted on Facebook asking for prayer for the Erwin family. I was screaming inside, but knew the quickest outlet for my frustration was a plea for prayer. Only my husband, close family, and two best friends knew what was happening in our household. I had begun having more headaches, panic attacks, and anxiety induced heart arrhythmia.
DESPAIR AND CHAOS
- While Jay and I were on vacation in Wisconsin in October, Collin called to say that he was moving out that weekend. This was the weekend we were returning from vacation. While this is the natural process your grown child should take, the selfish mother in me knew that I would be alone when Jay went to work. The loneliness began to overtake me and flood my soul with thought of losing two boys. Yes, that sounds a little crazy, but if you have sent a child off to college, you understand.
- Jay had his regular visit at West Clinic right after Collin moved out. The cancer hole (that’s what I call it) on the side of his neck had stopped moving in the direction of closing. Instead, the hole was getting a tad bigger. Even though his CT scan did not show the presence of cancer, Dr. Tauer was concerned about the changes. Dr. Tauer asked for Jay to have an MRI before his appointment to see his surgeon, Dr. Fleming. It has only been in the last few weeks that Dr. Tauer called Jay to tell him they did not see anything suspicious on the MRI, but he still wanted him to get Dr. Fleming’s opinion. Jay saw Dr. Fleming in December and he told him the only way to know before having surgery to close the hole is to do a biopsy.
- Without going into a lot of personal detail (names have been changed to protect the innocent, haha), I began to see the direction of my 23-year career at Burch, Porter & Johnson go in a different direction. Joe was doing much better at practicing to retire, and I felt the parts of our well-oiled machine begin to rust. Things around me at the office began to fall apart and I did not understand the changes. I craved support from a firm that had walked with my family through many difficult times. Satan was having a field day with my emotions causing havoc on my body.
THE DAWN OF HOPE
As many say, you can’t make this stuff up. On Saturday (the day after my visit to the internist about my heart-who wanted me to see a cardiologist), I received a friend request on Facebook from Steve McDaniel. Steve is an outstanding estate planning attorney I have known for over 30 years (before going to BPJ) and a friend of Joe’s. Without hesitation, I accepted his request and told myself I would check with him on Monday. I actually mentioned it to Jay that night and thought – “That sure was out of the blue.”
Monday morning (Nov. 8) the following email exchange occurred between the two of us:
Me: “You sent me a legit friend request – right? I wanted to make sure it was you.”
Steve: “Yes, it was me.”
Me: “I’m glad! I might be calling you soon!”
Steve: “Not that you are looking, but we have a paralegal who retires December 10 and has not been replaced.”
Me: “Oh my goodness. We need to talk.”
Steve had no idea the circumstances in my life. He only knew, as everyone else did, that Joe had retired and the direction of my career was not clear. That is how I felt after much upheaval among the ranks. As the email progressed, it turned into an immediate plea for Steve to take me into his firm. I did it without a second thought. Things were moving fast, like within hours. The partners met Monday evening and Steve sent me a confirmation text that one of the attorneys would be sending me an email. Salary…increased. Paid time off…increased. I was in shock, but not questioning God’s movement.
Within two weeks, God opened a door, shoved me through, and closed the chapter of my life at Burch, Porter & Johnson. I can honestly say that even though I knew it was what God had intended for me, the decision to turn in my resignation was difficult. God covered me with an overwhelming peace. December 1, 2021, I began a huge, new chapter as a paralegal at Williams McDaniel and God loudly closed the door at Burch, Porter & Johnson. I honestly could not have walked down that path of decision making without my husband, family, and my besties (Becky and Andrea).
As the months have gone by, Jay and I have watched Collin mature into a responsible young man. I no longer wake early in the morning worrying if he will wake to his own alarm. My baby, all grown up. As I said at Christmas, it has been a joy to slowly see a smile return to his face and hear the laughter when he joins us for dinner once a week. He knows this house will always be his home as we watch him fly.
Today (Friday), Jay will have his pre-op bloodwork for surgery on Thursday, January 20. Dr. Fleming decided that Jay needs to have a biopsy done by surgical procedure because the area he wishes to access is close to his carotid artery. I would not be human if I did not admit that I worry. History causes us both anxiety. Jay has come to the point of wanting the wound closed. This will be a complicated surgery and we both know that there cannot be evidence of cancer. We are praying for a clean report to pursue this avenue. After 10 years of surgeries, biopsies, chemotherapy, and radiation, it’s time. (BUT! Dr. Tauer did tell Jay that if cancer ever returns after the surgery involving a plastic surgeon, he will be able to resume chemo.)
Ten years. It was ten years ago the cancer in Jay’s neck began to surface. It has been 25 years since his first melanoma surgery (December 1995). Ten years ago we also began a journey no parent wants to travel. It is hard to fathom it has been 10 years since we were told Trey had cancer. As I have said many times, for this mother, it was yesterday and he is still 15. If people do not understand that grief will always be a part of our lives, I’m okay…you move on and I’ll move on. I have gained friends through my LimeLife family that have also walked this journey and new friends in my workplace that knew our story before I walked in the door. God provides and preserves.
As despair and chaos unexpectedly collided over that last six months, I have struggled to maintain the hope I have in my Jesus, and find the beauty in my circumstances. In my daily devotion this week, God spoke to me so clearly. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Ps. 42:5
January 12 – From A Shelter From the Storm
“It is difficult to remain hopeful when you are depressed and everything you do seems to fail. You can, however, fight this situation.
*Believe that God is greater than your circumstances and any problems that are weighing you down. Accept the victory in His holy name. “In all things we are more than conquerors.” Rom. 8:37
*Lay your problems before the Father in earnest and specific prayer.
*Believe steadfastly that God can and will achieve something glorious through this dark period in your life. “And we know that all things work together for good for those that love the Lord.” Rom. 8:28 (One of my favs)
*Make a conscious effort to turn your eyes away from yourself to see the world in need. God has a purpose in all things.
God is still on the throne and still in control.”
If I read this devotion six months ago, it would not have spoken to my heart to help me remember the need I have to continually and totally depend on the Lord. Period. The beauty is in God’s timing. The recent turmoil brought me back around to a point of dependence and trust.
If you are or have ever been in a place where you feel the chaos of this world is overtaking you or swallowing you whole, remember that there is beauty in the suffering. One thing I vividly remember after Trey’s funeral on July 7, 2012, is the rain that started to fall at the graveside service. I said to myself, “It is July and 90 degrees! Why is it starting to rain!” When we returned to the church, it was still raining. Courtney Jordan (Dahlsten) and Karson Jones (Iberg) convinced Jay to step outside the Faith Building doors and stand in the rain. What did God provide? A beautiful rainbow. A reminder of His promise He is always near.
He is always near during the chaos to majestically show His beauty.
Covid. God is still near.
Cancer. God is still near.
Job change. God is still near.
Job doubts and difficulties. God is still near.
Your baby growing up. God is still near.
10 year, heart-wrenching anniversaries. God is absolutely still near.
Till the end of time. God is still near.