It's been awhile since I wrote my last post. That post on was on July 2; a few days later, on July 9, my world was rocked hard by the death of my son, Joel. As I have emerged from the shadows of the valley of death, I have seen God walk me through my fears, through the evil surrounding me, and prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies (Psalm 23). Here now, as we come upon the feast of Thanksgiving, I am reminded of how much I have to be grateful for, in spite of this year’s losses.
In the past year I have lost my father-in-law, who I loved very much. Then I lost two dear friends in January, one to cancer and the other to suicide. Then just as the year seemed to take an upswing--crash--my son committed suicide. We were very close. Our family was tightly knit, so then how did I not see it coming? Why didn't he talk to us? I will never be able to answer those questions . . . and so goes more loss.
Yet, this I know, I still have an amazing family. I love my children! I love my mom, step-dad, mother-in-law, brothers-in-law, etc. They are the best of family. Just weeks before Joel died my oldest daughter got married to a great guy. I really love him. He takes good care of her, and he loves our family. His family is also a great blessing, and they have been very supportive. Also we have another grandchild on the way. But above all else, I have a loving wife who I get to share this life with.
I also have many, many friends who have stood by me in the most devastating moment of my life. They did not run away, but instead, ran to my side. Some of them came from great distances to uplift and care for us. Some of them live here in town, and they are still helping me day-by-day. They listen. They don't try to solve my hurt (they cannot); they don't try to say something meaningful (neither should you); they just sit and listen, and then they pray for me. They invite us to dinner. They do little things to remind us we are loved.
I have enjoyed some very special times with my friends and family. I have enjoyed the pleasant weather of Florida. I have been to the mountains of North Carolina and twice driven from coast to coast this year. I have been to my hometown, El Paso, Texas, to eat tacos and hug friends. I have been on a sailboat in the Pacific Ocean and fished quiet lakes in Florida. I turned 50 this year, and I am in good health, enough to run a few 5k races. I have a beautiful home; I enjoy exotic foods, and I can even afford to buy some. I have transportation, AC, and I can go on, and on, and on.
This Sunday I am beginning a series of messages on A Grateful Heart. Just writing about this makes my heart lighter. I’m excited. Just sharing these thoughts breaks through the cloud of darkness and ushers in the light of hope. I am grateful!
The best part of it all? God has never let me down. Some are surprised that I can say that. They are thinking about my son's suicide. Joel was an amazing young man. I loved his sense of humor; I miss his hugs. I enjoyed some very special times with him. I also lived through a few of his bad decisions, and he lived through some of mine. When I made them, and he suffered, I asked him for forgiveness. He gave it to me. Likewise, I had to forgive my son many times over. I always taught my kids they have to own their “stuff,” their decisions and actions It's not someone else's fault when they do wrong, and, it is not God's fault. It certainly wasn’t God’s fault that Joel made a bad decision that cost him his life. I cannot be disappointed with God over Joel's decision. So I say again, God has never let me down, not even in my second darkest hour. (My darkest hour was when I was lost in sin and without hope.)
Every day, I am so grateful God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to rescue me in my darkest hour, and that he comforts me in every dark hour since.