It’s Been a Year~~ Miss you Christopher Ryan Smith.

It was around this time last year that we learned that our beloved Christopher Ryan Smith had his life brutally ended by an evil, greedy individual.  The hearts of our family and hundreds of his friends were shattered.  We experienced despair, grief, and many questions for God.

As I wrote in previous blogs ( Christopher, Aug. 2011, We said Goodbye for Now, Oct. 2011, and the Uniqueness of Grief, 2011)  losing Christopher is the deepest grief I have ever experienced in my life. Ever.  Through this grief I have learned a great deal.

I have learned that God remains faithful in the darkness of night when questions flood my heart. I have learned that I don’t understand all the ways of God; but that my role is to trust Him even in the midst of deep sadness and unanswered questions.

I am reminded of Christopher in a song, a picture, facial features of a stranger, a smell or even a memory that sweeps across my heart at random and inconvenient times. Thoughts of my precious nephew are simply a heartbeat away.

I now have a very eternal perspective; one foot on earth, one foot anxious to be in Heaven.  I hold a short list of offenses recognizing that life is short and uncertain. I filter my calendar to be sure that I spend time with precious friends and family; never assuming I will get the chance “tomorrow”.

I will never have the perspective that Christopher was taken from us and that all the lessons are “worth it”. NO, I would rather have the chance to make memories, laugh, and discuss the mysteries of the world with that precious young man.

But–God is faithful to give us small opportunities to find “beauty for ashes” in the midst of great grief.

It’s been quite a year.

Perhaps you, too, have gone through grief points this past year. I pray you find, as I have, that God is very very near to the brokenhearted. May you find “beauty for ashes” as you navigate that sadness’s you have faced.

Breathe.

“LIFE” happens to everyone

As a young girl in a strict thinking church denomination I can remember hearing of the illnesses or challenges in the lives of people in our church.  Conversations involving these folks would inevitably be followed with questions like, “I wonder what God is teaching them”, “they must have sin in their life” or “satan is really attacking them.”    Now, It isn’t my place to say whether those statements had any truth in those situations, yet as I watched my life and the lives of so many others I am much more reticent to attach those thoughts to someones life challenge.

I have seen hurtful and unkind people soar, while kind, giving people face challenge.  I have seen careless people experience financial blessing while frugal friends have faced financial loss.  I have seen folks who have a passion to have a large family experience pregnancy disappointments while others who are irresponsible with the children they already have appear to have a seamless time having more children.  I have watched people who focus on their physical health; making good choices in both food and exercise, face cancer or heart disease while others without concern for their health live to be 99!

“LIFE” happens to everyone.

We all face challenges in this life~ we have all looked toward heaven in wonderment asking God “but Why Lord? “.  Those who would be honest might speak of feeling abandoned by God, over-looked somehow, or perhaps have even questioned whether God exists at all.

As I interact with so many precious people on a regular basis I hear heart wrenching stories of loss and challenge. I remember last year when my nephew was so brutally taken from us all…I spent weeks crying out to God and asking “Why?”.  However, I am learning more and more that God never promised that we would be untouched by the challenges in this life.  He never expressed that an unchallenged life is proof that we belong to Him, nor that a challenged life is proof of His abandonment.

I address this simply to set the “plumb line” straight again. The Word says we will face trials and challenges, we will not always be in favor with people, we have bodies that may not be in perfect health in this life….BUT…………..

John 16:33 says; “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Romans 14 says ” Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

Hebrews 13:5 says ” I will never leave you OR forsake you.”

Just those few verses alert me to the fact that He knew our questions would come; He is not surprised when we don’t understand the challenges we are facing. Yet, I imagine in those times that His compassion is over-flowing on our behalf.

As I again reflect back on those questions that often overshadow our judgement of one another as we watch each other navigate perilous waters; let’s be grace filled and slow to judge the circumstances as a “sin issue” or a “teaching opportunity ” for God.

Because….as we all know….”LIFE” happens to everyone.

If today “LIFE” is happening to you~ then I wish you His strength and grace today.