One of the difficult parts of our transition from Pennsylvania to Tennessee was the reality that we would not often be able to visit the gravesite of our twin daughters. While we had the assurance that Amanda and Catherine are in heaven, we also recognized that the many undisturbed moments of graveside reflection in the serene beauty of Wintergreen Gorge afforded us time to process our emotions. Time there, in some strange way, also allowed us to assess how we were doing on the journey of grief. And much like an Old Testament altar identified a place of a significant encounter with God, our teddy-bear-engraved stone marked a place where we experienced the very present help of the upholding grace of God.
Our consolation came in the gracious and sacrificial gift of a dear friend who committed to caring for the cemetery plot in our absence. Over the 22 years of her visits to clear grassy overgrowth and to clean the stone, she discovered that she was not the only one who had placed flowers on the twin's grave. Those gestures were so comforting to us and served as a precious reminder that our girls were in the fond remembrance of others. Early on, it seemed to happen frequently. But as the years passed and life moved on, this practice most understandably faded.
Over the last few years, however, our dear friend and caretaker would mention now and then that someone had placed flowers on the grave. This, indeed, was a joyful mystery. And, it continued up until just a few days ago when we received a text from our daughter, recounting a Facebook message exchange she recently had.
After asking us if we could recall this particular person's name, our daughter wrote. "She was visiting the grave of her twin boys at Wintergreen Gorge Cemetery and looked in the search info online. She saw your names and said that you all wrote an extremely caring letter after the loss of their twins about 29 years ago. She also said that she and her husband have been putting flowers on Amanda and Catherine’s grave for about six years now." [shared with her permission].
Pam and I were stunned. Both by this revelation and by the word of exhortation that then came forth from our daughter. Continuing her text, she wrote, [again, shared with her permission], "As I read her story over Facebook messenger, I was reminded of Psalm 126:5. 'Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.' I wanted to remind you guys that the Lord is still making beauty in the grief that you all journey through - that the care and generous love of the Father that you both extended to this couple has been impacting them for 29 years."
Humbled by God's grace, trying to read the rest of the text with tear-blurred vision, the Comforter continued to minister to us. "I’m just sensing that perhaps there is an invitation to be reminded of the truth that He is always in the business of redeeming and renewing… To be reminded, that indeed, He is El Roi - the God Who sees. I think this encounter is just a reminder that He never lost sight of your story - of your journey. He has always been the God who sees - that He has always been working on your behalf as Comforter, as Keeper, as Guide, and as Perfect Peace."
I sobbed. My mind was swirling with gratitude and awe as God once again reassured me, that Amanda and Catherine are indeed, still remembered, that God is still redeeming the pain, and that joy can still be reaped as we rest in El Roi.
Be encouraged, precious one. I believe that if God can do that in our lives, how much more has He, and will He, perform wonders in yours. Know this, beloved, after all that has happened, God has never lost sight of your journey. He is still El Roi, moving on your behalf. Still comforting, still keeping, and still guiding. He is the God of the Process and can still create beauty out of the ashes of devastating loss. Cling to the promise. "Those who walk the fields to sow, casting their seed in tears, will one day tread those same long rows, amazed by what's appeared" [Psalm 126:5 VOICE].
May the declaration of Pete Carlson and Paula Carpenter be yours today as you remember, redeem, and reap. "Still you are the faithful Father, timeless in your loving plan. Still you are the place of shelter in this lost and barren land. Still you are the God of Heaven, forever's in your hand. You revealed yourself to be the great I AM... and still you are."
And now, may the "Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort" come alongside you to comfort you in every suffering so that you can come alongside those who are in any painful trial and bring them this same cascading comfort that God has poured out upon you. [2 Corinthians 1:3-5 TPT]. Amen.
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