Grace will lead

Grace is the bridge that leads us over depths of despair and danger. Natural Bridge, Virginia, July 2005

Grace is the bridge that upholds us as we encounter depths of despair and danger.
Natural Bridge, Virginia, July 2005

“Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.”John Newton

Two weeks ago today, I was able to worship with our church family for the first time in a month.  Because Matt still had fluid on his lungs and was not allowed to go (per doctor’s orders), Jeff stayed with him and I went alone.  But once I got there, I was not alone.  I sat between two of my Christian sisters who have been providing me with unfailing emotional support for years.

That morning, as we sang the lovely words quoted above, of course I thought of my own family and all we have been through for the past 18 months.  But more than that, I thought of the remarkable women sitting on either side of me, singing these words they have lived out before my eyes.

One of these sisters endured the unfaithfulness of a spouse who left her for her erstwhile best friend, and as if that were not enough, their son was later shot through the head, miraculously surviving extensive damage, although he now is blind for life.   The other sister cared for her son through years of muscular dystrophy, before he died in his late twenties.

Here’s the amazing part: both these women did far more than survive these heartbreaks.  They are two of the most consistently cheerful, positive and faith-filled people I know.  Both of them tell me it took years of struggle and bitterness to get where they now are.  When I thank them for providing me with such an inspiring example of fortitude, both tell me that only the grace of God can explain it.

As an aside, my friend’s son who now lives with blindness is one of the most jovial people you will ever meet.  He never fails to spread joy, faith and hope with his public and private comments to his brothers and sisters at church services.

With such examples in my life, how can I NOT feel blessed and upheld?

Look around you – I feel certain you, too, have such sources of strength in your world.  Seek out these people.  Embrace them, watch them,  witness the lessons they teach — usually without a word — as they continue on a life journey fraught with dangers, toils and snares.

Grace will lead us home, and we will not get there alone.  We are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” to inspire us as we face obstacles and challenges.  Let’s be part of that group spreading hope and faith as we survive, and even thrive, throughout whatever we may be facing.

One year ago today:

Daylight in the mind

20 Comments

  1. As always a beautiful post Julia. xo

    • Thank you so much M! I really appreciate your steadfast encouragement. ❤

  2. True, Julia. If we look around we will soon realize we have no right to complain. Your life and strength have always surprised me. I wonder how you manage to stay so balanced. I am really grateful for what I have – a normal life, which is a just dream for many. Some day I may long for a day like this. So I try to savour every moment.
    That bridge looks so beautiful!

    • Bindu, that natural bridge is gorgeous; one of prettiest such wonders I’ve ever seen. As for how I stay balanced, the short answer is “I don’t.” 😀 I have times of fear, anger, doubt, or all of the above and more. This blog is one of many things I do to try to center myself and remind myself to be grateful; as you say, what we have is just a dream for so many. Also – a most somber truth – “Some day I may long for a day like this.” Thanks for sharing these thoughts with us. Hope you have a wonderful week!

  3. crm1944

    Julia, I’ve been reading your posts first thing daily since Becky shared one with me a few months ago.This one touched me deeply. In ministry over these past years I have found the most cheerful people are often the ones who have suffered the most. Your comments about your Christian sisters affirm the truth. Blessings to you, Jeff and Matt. Chuck

    • Hi Chuck, thanks so much for commenting here. I didn’t even realize Becky read my blog. Jeff, Matt and I are fortunate to be surrounded each Sunday (at least on the Sundays we are able to make it to church, which have been too few recently) with people who understand that living joyfully no matter what is a gift. The concept of “rejoice always” is, in and of itself, a kind of victory and a fitting beginning for eternal bliss. I wish I could manage it as easily and consistently as some people seem to, but of course, we often don’t see the struggles these people are enduring. Thanks again for being here, it is great to hear from you!

  4. Rene

    What a great reminder to me, as I drag my feet about going to church this morning. I struggle with not wanting to face my church family, but I know that I’m certainly not the only one who struggles. Thank you Julia. And what an awesome photo too!

    • Rene, thanks so much for your kind words and encouragement. I appreciate your honesty. I think most all of us can identify with how you feel; there are so many times when it’s just easier to withdraw and not face anyone. And I think it’s OK to withdraw sometimes, in fact even necessary, but also it’s important to come back too. Thanks so much for being here and sharing with us!

  5. raynard

    Julia as I just read your blog , the song that came to mind, “Mother said there will be days like this”( for me it’s “never a dull moment”.. I was just talking to a young lady in church and she commented”we need you older people that went though and experienced things”. As one pastor I know once said”about going through tests it’s like being”baked, bbqed, fried and burnt.. when we deny that we are going through trials, tests and ruff and challenging times, you are not sharing some well needed encouragement with others who cause use it.. be blessed ..

    • That’s true Raynard! I appreciate it when people are willing to share their stories with others. It’s so important to know that people can make it through all kinds of things and still survive. I got permission from both my friends before publishing today’s blog post, because I didn’t want to invade anyone’s privacy (and people who know them will obviously know who I am talking about), but they are both very generous and didn’t mind my telling about their trials. In so many ways life has gotten easier over the past generations, but still no one is without hard times of one kind or another. It’s such a universal human experience that we really do need to keep each other going. Thanks for being here!

  6. There is an excerpt from a poem written by Washington Gladden, titled: “Ultima Veritas,” that I referred to at the opening of my book about my life experience with Polio, “The Little Red Chair.” I believe it is appropriate regarding your post today.

    “in the darkest night of the year,
    when the stars have all gone out,
    Courage is better than fear,
    Faith is truer than doubt;

    There is a common bond among those who suffer. Although each trial is unique, the challenging symptoms are identical. And therein we find a shared comforting compassion.

    Pax Cristi,
    Alan

    • Alan, thanks for sharing that verse. I will look up the poem so I can read the whole thing. I have found that the people I feel closest to now are the ones who have been through real difficulties. As you say, the details may differ but there is an innate understanding and sensitivity there that enables them to provide heartfelt support and not just words or easy answers. Also we can learn so much from the example of others who endure. Since Matt was born I always felt a closeness to Jeff’s grandmother who lost three of her five children to illness (one as an infant, one as a young child and one as an adult) before she died. Her quiet faith was a strong example that will stay with me.

  7. Amy

    Hello my dear. Glad you were able to be in York county for a bit. All is well here and I am ever surrounded by those who love the Lord with all their hearts and continue to inspire me. I pray I am setting that example for someone too. Talk with you soon.

    • Amy, you are setting an example all the time for me and many others. I am so happy you have a wonderful church family and other friends and family who inspire you, of course I am a bit biased since I know some of them 😀 and find them inspiring myself! Hope we can get together soon.

  8. Sheila

    Julia, this post has much inspiration to absorb and the comments reflect that, too. Life does present various obstacles that are made easier when shared by caring friends. How often we say,”I couldn’t have done it without you!” and know the grace of God played such a part.
    I thank you everyday for the joy you bring to my life. 🙂 Blessings my friend.

    • Thank you Sheila! I always enjoy hearing from you and your comments are always a comfort, but especially so tonight. No special reason, just because. ❤ You bring joy to my life every day too, and I am so glad you are here! I hope you have a wonderful week.

  9. Julia, thank you for your inspiring picture and blog. You’re blessed to have such supporting friends. the Lord sends just people we need in our lives.
    Blessings…

    • Thank you Merry! I do feel very lucky to have such supportive people in our lives…including the ones here! Thanks so much for being one of them!

  10. LB

    Such a great post, Julia! Surrounding yourself with positive, yes, and reaching out to others who are struggling even more helps us to keep things in perspective.
    I’m so glad you had such a lovely morning with two dear sister friends. You deserve those sweet moments!

    • Thanks LB! I appreciate encouragement from those who truly know what it means to survive and thrive. We really can keep each other strong by sharing our stories and reminding each other to keep on keeping on.

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