Stories that Shine on an Awesome God

Archive for the ‘Grief’ Category

Food Distribution Centers

“They need help unloading a trailer of food.” The coordinator at the flood response crisis center handed me, my husband, and a local friend a work order. “It’s a church, or what used to be.” She shook her head of gray hair as she turned to the next group of volunteers.


Inside our truck, we followed her directions through an isolated river town in the heart of the West Virginia mountains. Flood cleanup had been going on for over a week. Soggy possessions piled along the streets next to homes that were now empty shells, filled, not with children’s laughter or a mother’s prayer, but with mud and mold.


Mounds of dirt and debris lined the sides of a strip mall’s parking lot. Outside the town’s only grocery store, shopping carts tangled with twisted metal shelving. The nearest food store was nearly an hour’s drive away.

Connected at the far end, the church shared the mall’s disaster, but this flood casualty was undeniably still a church. I have seen strip mall churches before, with their flat fronts blending into the mall’s length of bland architecture with perhaps a small sign above the door, but evidently, this church had never planned to hide. Its church-y facade with cupola and cross still proclaimed its identity. From the outside.

We parked the truck, asked how we could help, and walked through the doors.

Church – padded pews and stained glass windows. Songs of worship, words of praise. Prayers. A place of respite in a week of stress. A place for spirits to be fed with the Bread of Life.

But not this one. Not now. Not after the river had risen and with a roar, claimed its interior. Walls, ceiling, and floors, already stripped clean by volunteers, offered no such sanctuary.

Interior of WV Church

“We will use this pile of boards to keep the food up off the wet concrete,” the pastor instructed, seeming resigned to his tragedy.

We started hauling lumber to turn a church into a food distribution center, and, in the process, constructed a real life object lesson.

Church – Sometimes, no more than a social club where members jostle one another for position and recognition. Judgement without mercy. Pride. Politics. Splinter groups. Holy Spirit grieved. Pantry shelves devoid of the Bread of Life.

“I am weary of bearing them [your assemblies, festivals, and feasts]. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong. Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless. Plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:14-17

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is NOT a church. It is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. It is to keep oneself unspotted from the prideful, me-first mindset of the world.


I plunked my end of a board onto the concrete floor. I straightened my back. One American Christian church, gutted of its plush interior, had changed into a food distribution center.

Hopefully yours will too, but does it have to take a crisis?

“I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35-36

Soothing Oil

Entering my trashed apartment was like entering a mind diseased.

Your whole head is injured


Carpet blanketed in filth –

Kitchen sink smeared with a brown film –

Your whole heart afflicted.

Food rotting in the refrigerator –

Windows broken –

From the sole of your foot to the top of your head, there is no soundness.

Counters and cabinets strewn with debris –

Walls pot marked with myriad holes, screws, and nails –

Only wounds and welts and open sores.

Hundreds of decals placed for hallucinogenic affect.


Legal eviction had vacated the occupants, but not their mess. They had left that job for me.

I donned gloves and mask, scooped leftover items off the counters, and dumped decayed food from the refrigerator.

In less than six months, two people with diseased minds had turned a pristine, freshly painted, scrubbed and impeccably furnished apartment into a rat’s hole. They were two human beings caught in a trap of disrespect, dishonesty, and low living.

One glance at their mug shot and my son, quite snarkily, had commented, “How did you say ‘yes’ to that face?”

Not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil. (Isaiah 1: 5b- 6)

Eight heavy contractor bags later, I was down to the walls. Colored paper, butterflies, and flowers stuck to the sheet rock, the plaster clinging and tearing as I peeled. Bit by bit. Like the thoughts that dinged my brain with each decal ripped from the wall.

Disgust. Bitterness. Superiority. No soundness.

Human hands had pasted each item and pounded each nail into a scattering of holes my own hands would have to patch. My hands, created just like theirs. They were two fellow humans caught in a web. How had they become oppressed?

Caught in a web of its own, my heart was an open sore. I couldn’t clean up their heart or mind, but mine required soothing oil. I was willing.

Stop the meaningless religious rituals (Isaiah 1:7-15)

A prayer. A decision. Thoughts flowed: Compassion. Humility. Cleansing forgiveness. The good things of the land. Plenty of bandages and soothing oil.

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Come, let us settle the matter, says the Lord, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. (Isaiah. 1:17-19)

Every head, every heart has wounds and open sores. Yours. Mine. Be willing to be cleansed. Know the Holy Spirit’s soothing oil.

Womb of the Wind


Heartache abounds. Slow and insidious or sudden and gut-wrenching

While the wind roars its violence.

Depression debilitates. Dark cloud suffocating heart and joy.

While the wind moans in death.

Suppressed grief. Trickling tears inside the mind. Slipping, sliding, letting go.

While the wind grows silent.

Others, friends, and mothers pray, weep, and worry. Cling to the faith of their fathers

While they wait for the Wind

Hearing its sound. Not knowing, only petitioning its destination.

While the Wind blows where it pleases.

Down the pathway of their hope to the heart giving up, letting go.

While the Wind soars on its wings with new birth.

Unseen work. Left to the Creator to tell where it comes from and where it is going.

While the womb of the Wind molds a new creature.

“He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth – the Lord God Almighty is his name.” – Amos 4:13:

Pristine Presence

“Are the rooms clean?” I asked when I called for reservations. Well, I didn’t know. It was a center, a Family Reconciliation Center they called it, made available for the family and friends of those incarcerated while they came for prison visitation. I had never done this before, so how was I to know? It seemed like a logical question. “Yes, they’re clean and my husband can pick you up from the airport.” If Donna thought my question rude, she never let on. “He’s bald. Got a beard. I think he’s kinda cute. His name is Lee.” “I’m sure we’ll recognize him, and thank you, Donna. This is a huge help. ” image of Barbed wire fence The horseshoe bend of the river formed a natural moat for the sprawling state facilities below our wings. I counted three. A deep rock quarry in clear outline locked the remaining land mass from the rest of the world. Serious security. We circled, landed, and lost our omniscient view. Suitcase in tow, my husband and I left the terminal. A bald man with a beard approached us. I agreed. Through the eyes of love, he was kinda cute. Lee led us to a van that sported a large dent on its side and welcomed us on board. The precursory small talk lasted until he pulled out onto the street. His quiet and unassuming manner belied the misery of his story. He stopped the van at a clapboard house surrounded by a low metal fence and a lawn that was as tidy as a napkin covering a plate of communion wafers. image of Front Walk and Yard “There’s a support group going on in the front room, but just go on in.” Lee invited. “You won’t interrupt.”

Donna’s smile when she met us half-way to the kitchen illuminated the soft contours of her motherly face. She stretched out her arms and drew me into a hug that said, “I’m a woman whose been there and survived.” The light in her eyes kindled her abundant auburn hair.

image of Donna “Soup’s warm on the stove, but first let me show you your room,” she said. It was a guest house, actually—through the kitchen, out the side door, and next to a swing set for kids. The simplicity of the bedroom indicated that thriftiness was an art. The spotless bathroom indicated that someone understood the adage of cleanliness being next to Godliness. “The sheets are clean. But here are fresh ones for tomorrow.” Donna handed us neatly folded linens. “Just put them on in the morning and the bed will be ready for tomorrow night’s guests.” Back at the kitchen table, we devoured her luscious vegetable soup and macaroni salad. Lee, now silent, lingered beside his wife while she poured out her carbon copy story. A mother and a father filled our stomachs while their hearts still bled. image of the Kitchen A grown son. A motorcycle accident. A lost leg and adjoining pelvis. A life-long catheter. Despair. Spousal abandonment. Rage. Imprisonment. Special needs facility. Neglect. Abuse. Solitary confinement. Chains. Filth. Lack of food. Denied communication. A mother’s stubborn intervention. Prayers. Continued court hearings . . . . Lee and Donna talked on. Their misery mounted but their joy could not be suppressed. Only a survivor could understand such a paradox. They had been slammed with the plight of prisoners. They had ached with the pain of the parents. Then they had been given this Kingdom ministry, this Family Reconciliation Center, and their mourning had been turned into dancing. Image of Donna and Lee “God worked it out for us to be here.” Donna said. “We couldn’t imagine doing anything else. He’s given us a passion for others, right here near the prisons. To help others like ourselves. God is so awesome.” Praise fell from the lips of this red-headed mother from Ohio who had suffered a childhood of abuse. “I have never been so happy, so fulfilled in all my life.” Beamed Lee, the kinda cute man from West Virginia’s farm country who had survived his own struggles. image collage of DONNA AND LEE How does one thank such a host and hostess? How does one say an adequate goodbye? We could do little except join them in praising the God who works all things together for good. Then we finally said goodbye to a cottage pristine with the presence of Divinity.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” Psalms 30:11-12

Perhaps you have a story where God turned your mourning into dancing. Please share it by clicking here.

A God of Cats and Old Age and Teenage Boys

“Rosey can barely walk, Mom.” My sixteen year old son gently picked up his cat and carried her down the hall to her litter box.


“Yesterday she seemed slower, but you’re right. She’s definitely struggling. She’s old, Son. Older than you.”

We’ve known this day was coming. Sometime. In the future.

“Let’s move her food and box to your room so everything will be close and she won’t have to come down the hall. Tomorrow we’ll take her to the vet.”

The arm load of blankets that my man-boy gathered for Rosey’s new habitat included the baby blanket I had crocheted before he was born. The calico kitten had curled on one end while I worked on the other. She had been there to welcome her new master. As he grew, his bed was where she slept. His desk was where she lounged as a companion to his studies, an aid for his tactile learning.

His face grew grim as he hovered over his aged pet and grasped his new reality. I ached in a grief more for him than for her. Tears were catching up with us both.

“God, I sense you’re timing here. I want to see it clearer. Please show me. Is he ready for this?”

Memory took me back, a good twelve years back, when I had written the following words:

Most every parent longs to protect their children from the dangers of life. I am no exception. Isolation tempts me with its safety. I consider a deserted island or perhaps some kind of bubble suit where only good can get in and all the bad stays out. Of course I know that good outside boundaries are only part of the answer.

To be truly safe, my child needs to be bounded internally. He needs to equipped with internal strength to survive a crazy world. I have decided that there are two essential pieces of this equipment. One piece is Security, the other, Hope. My consistent, always available love helps equip my son with security. And when I tell him of Christ’s promise to return, of life after death, and elaborate on heaven, I equip him with hope.

However, he hasn’t lost so much as a pet to death, and being taken away from the world he knows to go to heaven might be a pretty scary thought. He has sorted through the possibilities, and, one day on a quiet ride home from town, he shared his solution:

“I know, Mommy. When Jesus comes we hold hands. Okay?”

“You want to hold hands when we go to heaven?”

“Mommy, Daddy, and me hold hands. Then we go togedder! Okay?”

I promised him we will all hold hands real tight when Jesus comes.

On another day a dog lay dead on the road. “Mommy, will Jesus make the dead doggie alive and take him to heaven?”

“Jesus promises to make a brand new earth where there will be lots and lots of doggies and kitties.”

I’ll take a leash for my kitty. Yeah, and one for Lassie too.”

“So now, God, my son is sixteen and his kitty, seventeen. He has lost much more than a pet in death, but is he ready for this? Is he equipped with that internal strength? Does he possess that essential equipment, Security and Hope? Is this for a deepening maturity? Another necessary step out of childhood?”

I watch my son carefully squirt the vet’s pain medication into his pet’s mouth and receive a fresh glimpse of a God who promises to carry us even to our old age. I know I can trust God’s timing. Next, a vision presses my thoughts. It’s resurrection morning. Christ has returned to leashed animals and eager humans holding hands, meeting him in the air.


 When you face pain or grief, try to consider how it has come to you at that point in your life. Are there others who are ready to gain a glimpse of God through your experience? Does your experience mark a spiritual turning point for you? Can you feel God sustaining you even through your darkest hours? He is there. Sometimes it is only through faith that we perceive him. Sometimes it is through simple things like old cats and the teenage boys who care for them.

“Listen to me, all who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”  Isaiah 46:3&4

If you have had an experience when you saw God through the simple things of life, please share that point of light with me. On the “Share Your God Story” page you can send me a brief telling that will be rewritten and approved by you. I look forward to sharing God through your eyes.


Five Years in God’s Palm



The red glow of Judie’s digital clock beside her bed read 1:00 AM. Thoughts tumbled around in her brain like shells in a rough surf. Keith’s rhythmic breathing told her he had finally drifted off. Only a few hours had passed since her husband had come home and made his announcement. Now, it seemed an eternity.

“Honey, I lost my job today.” His voice had held a tremor that his protective hug couldn’t hide. “Guess last year’s financial crash finally caught up to us. They can’t use an old guy whose heart won’t beat without a pacemaker.”

God, how will we survive? We can’t make it on just my job, even though I put in ten-hour days. We’ll lose everything we’ve worked for since we moved to South Georgia. Everything! Just wish I lived closer to Mom and Pop, like I used to. They have always been my stability and now their health is failing. My brothers and sister aren’t near them either, but with no money how can Keith and I even think about helping them?

Crawling out of bed, she headed to her computer. The warmth of her dog, Corgy, pressed against her legs. Picking up the ball of fur, she carried him to her desk where he snuggled on her lap.

Judie & clean Corgy“Keep us in your prayers,” she typed to her Facebook friends. “Keith lost his job today.”

She slipped quietly back under the covers, but she wasn’t quiet enough. Keith was awake.

“You know, Keith.” She snuggled into his arms. “I’ve got an idea. If we can’t sell our house, why don’t we try to rent it to keep from losing it? The only reason we moved here was for your job. Now that that is gone this might be a good time to relocate. Closer to Mom and Pop.”


A job and an economical place to live near her parents had not come easy. Nobody wanted to rent their house and Judie’s prediction came true. They lost everything. Living on Keith’s unemployment check and her company’s promise of a transfer for part-time work, they prepared to move to North Georgia.



Cardboard boxes cluttered the kitchen floor. Keith reached for the glasses on the highest shelf before handing them to his wife.

“Can’t believe this is our last week in southern Georgia.” The grin on her face as she took the glass from her husband said it all. She wrapped the glass in newspaper and carefully placed it in a box. Her smile disappeared. “Mom and Pop seem to be going downhill fast and I’m not dealing too well with all these changes, Keith. I know I was smiling just now, but it’s hard to smile at work. It’s getting harder and harder, not knowing what the future holds and all.”

“God’s never let us down, Judie. We know He’ll see us through.”

“You’re right.” She closed the box and opened up another one. “New life, here we come!”

She continued to pack silently, talking only to God: Thank You, Father, for the many blessings You have given us these last few months. Every need has been met. I know this move is the right thing.


Keith’s unemployment ended the same week that Judie was given a full time position. Thank you, God.  Thank you for giving me this chance, and Your timing is perfect!


Sugar smells of warm pecan pie permeated her mom’s roomy kitchen. The hum of familiar voices drifted from the living room. Pop, weak but seemingly well, told humorous stories to his adult grandchildren. Mom, instructed to rest awhile, smooched on her newest great-grandbaby. Judie’s daughter-in-law placed a heaping bowl of mashed potatoes on the serving counter.

Judie & Popjpg“No salt in these,” she said. “We’re cooking for Grandpa this year and everything’s homemade.”

Judie lifted a pan of savory dressing from the oven.

“This dressing sure brings back memories.”

Wes, her second oldest brother, glanced up from washing lettuce and smiled. “All those Thanksgivings in Arkansas. Right?”

“Yep. With grandma and grandpa. Sure miss those days. I miss Grandma’s candied sweet potatoes.”

“She could sure spread a feast.” He began cutting carrots into the salad.

“Now it’s us three making dinner.” Her daughter-in-law grinned and arched to relieve her back. “Or maybe I should say the four of us.” She rubbed her pregnant belly.

“Hey, sweetheart, in there!” Judie directed her voice in the belly’s direction. “Grow good for your grandma.”

Then she leaned over and gave Wes a snug, side hug. “I miss the food, but mainly I miss the people. Now we’re the grandparents! I love you, brother. Thanks for your help today. I love all my family. I wish today would last forever.


It was dark by the time Judie got home from work, kicked off her shoes, and sank into the recliner. Her dog, Corgy, lay motionless on his bed near her feet.

What a day! A promotion is nice, but it means I can’t let up. Can’t anyway, with Keith not able to work. Gotta keep going. Can’t lose my job. Gotta call Mom at the hospital and see how Pop is. See if there’s anything they need me to help do.

As she reached for her phone, Corgy opened his eyes and gave his tail a weak thump.

“Hey, Sweetie Bear. Don’t feel good do you?” She picked him from his bed and settled him in her lap. Getting very old aren’t we? You’ve always been my baby and now you’re sick and there’s no extra money for a vet. So, we’ll just stay here at home together and I’ll nurse you, best I can.”

Her dog let out a long sigh as Judie dialed the hospital’s number.

“It’s a very hard evening tonight.” She later updated her Facebook friends. “My dad is suffering and not doing well, and I think God may call him home soon, but when that happens, I know he will no longer be in pain, and when he wakes again, he will be looking in the face of Jesus.”

Her next update read: “My canine best friend is very sick too. I don’t know how to help Corgy except to keep him comfortable. He has been with me almost thirteen years, from the minute he was born, I knew he was my dog. I’m trying hard not to cry……………”

The next day all she shared was: “My Corgy is gone.”

Time and energy were at a premium. Closing her computer, she grabbed her purse and followed Keith out the door to the car. The decision had been made to bring Pop home to die. They were on their way to help get him settled. Today she would miss work. Even though her oldest brother and his wife were there and had been helping with Mom and conferring with Pop, she longed to be with him, longed to do what she could. Anything.

They helped move the hospital bed. Watched pain meds being given. Said good-bye to the hospice aids. When Wes’ car pulled in, Judie met him in the drive.

“Oh, Wes! He’s going so fast!” She threw her arms around her brother’s neck. His close, wordless hug was the comfort she sought.

“So how’s it going?” His moist eyes met hers. After discussing the day’s events, they entered a quiet house of waiting.

Later that night, Pop was resting on clean sheets. There was nothing more to be done. She would have loved to stay the night, but she wasn’t needed. It was time to go home.

“Pop,” Judie bent over and placed a kiss on his beloved, craggy face. “We’re going home, but we’ll be back. I love you, Pop. I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” he rasped. “Take care now.”

Wes walked her to the door. “Sis, I’ll call you if anything happens.” His hug warmed her as she walked out into the cold December night.

The next day she opened her computer and typed: “My dad passed quietly in his sleep this morning. I was so lucky to have him as my father. Pop, you sure did fight a good fight. I am hurting because you are gone, but joyful that you are at peace. It won’t be long before we all are together again. I love you so much Pop. We will take care of Mom for you.”

Pop's FuneralThe decision had been made for her mom to live with her sister in the Midwest.

“Mom, won’t ever live here again,” her oldest brother had informed her after the funeral. “She can’t live alone.”

Two days later, tears streamed down her face as she watched the car with its precious, petite, white-haired occupant disappear from sight.



It took time to get back to her Facebook friends, but when she did she wrote:

“I now know what true love is. It is letting go of someone you love very much for their sake.

How much my dad suffered hurt me worse than his death did. I am so glad he is now at peace.”

There came a day when the rush and surge of the past months’ trauma mounted until her dam of emotions finally burst. In the overflow, she once again shared with her friends: “I’m feeling the pain of losing Pop, my animals and Mom moving. On the other hand, I am also looking forward to a new grand baby, spring coming, and I’m happy at work. Next week Keith and I will be married 17 years. Every cloud has a silver lining.


“Whew, what a long day this has been.” Judie came through the door and slumped on a kitchen chair. “I don’t know what happened, but I am hurting so bad.”

“So sorry, honey.” Keith looked up from wiping the stove. “Maybe my home cooked meal will help you feel better.”

“Oh, Keith, what would I ever do without you? You spoil me.”

“Love spoiling you! You’ve just overdone it. Perhaps a good night’s rest will do the trick.”

It was noon the next day when she knew she was in serious trouble. Looking for inventory, down on her knees at work, she had to call for help to get up.

At home that evening she told Keith, “This feels like when I had that uterine mesh implanted years ago. I don’t know if I have the strength for this. Let’s pray for a miracle.”

“Yes, and then let’s get you to a doctor.”


After going from doctor to doctor, with little success, Judie decided she was not like fine wine, where older is better. “I am tired.” She told Keith. “I now know what it means to be ‘not as young as I used to be’ and I realize Pop was right. He always said, ‘Getting old is not for sissies.’”


Wes had spent the spring making repairs so their parent’s house could sell. Now it was fall. The house had not sold, and Judie was scheduled for surgery. One day after work, Keith met her at the door. “We’re moving!”


“Yes! Your Mom, your brothers and sister have offered us Mom and Pop’s house. It was their idea. We can live there free of charge except for doing the upkeep. It will save us money on rent. We won’t have to worry about a place to live. And my mom needs a place. We both know she does. The house is plenty big enough.”

“Keith, this is a wonderful idea! What an honor! Just to think, me the baby of my family, taking care of my parent’s home!”


Photograph of House


“It’s comforting to be here,” Judie told her Facebook friends the first weekend in her new home. Her son and family had just left after bringing lunch over. “It’s comforting to be surrounded by memories of my parents and family, sharing love and joy. Thank you again, Mom and family, for allowing me to make this my home. Thank you, God, for my family and friends.”

Four days later they rushed Keith to the hospital for a pacemaker replacement. Finding work for him now was out of the question.


Another Thanksgiving was coming around. A Thanksgiving without her parents. It had been almost a year. Judie pondered what she would do.

I might go to the cemetery and talk to Pop, pour my heart out, actually. But I know he can’t hear me now, just like I know God can. And I’ve learned God has a very good Ear.



Lily of the Valley sweetened the air as Judie wandered through her mother’s flower garden. Iris spears were already pushing their healthy way skyward. Late daffodils tossed their heads in the light breeze. Tears sprang to her eyes.

I’m too emotional. Maybe it’s better not to think so much. Oh, how I miss Mom! I wish she were here, but I know she is better off where she is. She is 82. How many more times will I see her? Here I am, in her home, surrounded by her flowers and plants and all she loves, but I can’t reach out and hug her. I can hear her voice on the phone and see her on Skype, but it’s not the same. Besides, Keith’s mom needs us now, but sometimes I find that difficult. Sometimes I want to be selfish, but I can accept things as they are. I am thankful I have a home that can be shared. I have friends all over the South. I have a family who loves me. I have a wonderful job. As long as I don’t think about it, I’m okay. But the ache in my heart is always there.



Judie again sat at her computer and shared with her friends. “I did go to the doctor yesterday. He refused to treat me. Said I had already had surgery for that repair and he wasn’t going to touch it. I lost a day of work and paid a $45 copay for that information. I made another appointment closer to home. Hopefully I can get some answers. This next doctor is one I have gone to before, and I hope she can help. If not, I will have to go out of network, I’m afraid. But I’m sure God has a plan. I’m not worried.


“My spirit is sad for my body today.” She typed. “I know that sounds strange, but I don’t see me and my body as being the same thing at all. My body is totally dependent on me. And my body apparently isn’t doing too well.

Judie after surgery

Judie after surgery

I am praying I have made the right decision, because it’s finally hitting me what I have to do. If I have counted correctly, this will be surgery number 23. I’ll hit 25 before this year is over.

I’m not really scared, well, not of pain, not of what ifs, but some decisions you make in life you can never change. Since the deal with the mesh, I find it very difficult to accept medical help. However, in this case, I seem not to have a choice. My body has been in pain for a very long time. I have to do what I can to take care of her.

God has been kind in providing all my needs. I pray for His continued healing and support. I pray for your support as well.”



During Judi’s last surgery the doctors had inserted hardware in her back. Now it was infected with MRSA bacteria. She was back home with an open incision. Keith prepared to change the dressing.

“Now turn over. Get comfy. I’ll just take this dressing off and clean you up.” Keith’s hands gently removed the bandage. He inhaled sharply.

“What? What’s wrong?”

It’s just, I can see the hardware in your backbone, but lie still. Let me finish.”

“Oh, Keith!” Judie buried her face in her pillow while her tears flowed.


Judie lay on the couch. Keith methodically moved the vacuum across the carpet. Satisfied with his job, he reached for the plug and silenced the vacuum’s drone.

“Come sit beside me, Honey. I’ve been watching you work. It’s been so hard on you, me being sick and you taking care of your mom too.”

“At least I know I’m needed.” He placed a kiss on her forehead. “And you can do light chores.”

“I don’t know how I would have made it through these months without you. In my darkest moments you have cared for me, held me when I’ve cried, put up with me when I’ve been frustrated. I love you so much. So very much.”

“We’ve been through some hard times, sure enough.” Keith agreed. “But God has never left us.”

Judie laced her arms around his neck and drew him close for a lingering kiss. Then with his face close to hers she searched his eyes. “You know, with money the way it is, I can’t buy you a Christmas gift this year. Will my undying love and gratitude be enough?”




Judie was back in the hospital. “I had another surgery this morning on my back.” She updated her friends. “Apparently I had a screw loose. For those of you who know me, that is probably not a surprise. But I mean this literally. The MRSA had infected one of the screws in my fusion causing it to loosen. My doctor took out both screws on the left side, cleaned up all the infection, and sewed everything back together. I am praying all goes well this time. Thank you so much for all your prayers and support. Please continue to pray for me as I fight this battle.



All did not go well. After still another surgery to completely remove the hardware in her back, Judie continues to fight her battle. When she shared the facts of this story with me for Penpoints of Light she wrote:

“For the last eight months I have been unable to work. Where would we be if God had not put us here in Mom and Pop’s home? Does God care about us? Absolutely. All our needs have been met, all our prayers answered. Yes, things have been difficult, but mine and hubby’s love has gotten stronger, as has our faith. I know I am surrounded by family and friends who lift me up and a God who holds me in the Palm of His Hand.

* * * * *

“God did not promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain,

but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.” — Unknown

We all have a choice.

To trust and praise God in the hard times

Or to turn our face away and curse him.

Whatever our choice, He has promised to never forsake us.

He will always walk with us.

It’s up to us to take His hand and experience His presence.

* * * * *

Have you ever wondered how a God of Love can let such hard things happen?

Take a bit of time and listen to “If God is so Good” by Herb Montgomery.

Story contributed by Judie Plumley and written by Merita Atherly Engen

Many thanks, Judie, for sharing the glimpse of God that you have gained in your hard times. Our prayers are with you and Keith and all of your family.




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