But sometimes, God smacks me upside the head with something (as we say in the south), and even I can't dismiss it as a coincidence or explain it away with logic.
Last Wednesday marked five years since our 17-year-old daughter, Hannah, went to Heaven after a year-long battle with brain cancer. For the past four years, the three of us have made that anniversary a family day, taking off work and school, traveling to her grave (approximately 90 minutes away), and going out to eat at one of Hannah's favorite restaurants.
This year was different. Brad was in Phoenix, traveling for work, and Bethany was at the U of A in Fayetteville, unable to skip class. So it was just me on that day.
I knew ahead of time that I would be alone of that day, and I knew I needed to have a plan. I decided that I would go to her grave and decorate it. Now that may not seem like much to you ... but that is something I've never been able to do. I've never been able to bring myself to shop for items to decorate my daughter's grave. It was just too painful ... I couldn't do it. But this year, I thought, "I can do this."
So Tuesday evening, I went to Hobby Lobby (my favorite store!) and did some shopping. I picked out some "spring-y" things that made me feel happy. And it was okay ... even kind of nice. I actually enjoyed the shopping process.
Wednesday morning dawned clear and cold. I got up, put my dog on her leash, and walked her out into the yard. It was a beautiful morning, and I had a profound feeling of peace as I thought about the day. As I looked around the yard, my eyes lit upon a landscaping archway we have in one of our flowerbeds. And out of nowhere, a thought popped into my head.
"I would like to have some wind chimes to hang from that archway. I think the sound of the wind blowing through them would remind me of Hannah."
I've never wanted wind chimes before. To be honest, I'm really not even a big fan of wind chimes. It was a completely random thought. But at that moment, I decided that I would look for some wind chimes to hang from that archway.
I came back in and gathered my things to take to the cemetery. On an impulse, I went into Hannah's room and picked up a decorative rock off her windowsill. It had the word JOY on it, along with a mosaic dragonfly. Since I was taking this giant step of decorating her grave, I wanted to include something with the word JOY on it. I really didn't want to "give up" this particular rock, because it was one of the first JOY items I purchased after Hannah's death, but I knew it was a good, durable item I could place on her grave that would withstand outdoor conditions ... so I somewhat reluctantly placed it in my car with the other items.
It was an uneventful drive to Briggsville, and I had probably the best visit to Hannah's grave I've ever had. I think I felt better having a "job" to do when I got there, and I got busy decorating as soon as I arrived. I worked quickly, since it was 32 degrees outside with a stiff north wind! I was pretty pleased with the results.
If you look in the lower right hand corner of the above picture, you can see the JOY rock I placed there.
I chose the bird to represent Bethany and her fiance', Brad Bird, who were unable to come themselves.
I came home after that, wrote my last blog post about the 14 Things, and prepared for that evening's While We're Waiting support group meeting. I knew it would be an emotional evening for me, considering the significance of the day, and indeed it was.
As our meeting came to a close, and we all prepared to leave, one of the sweet moms in our group discreetly handed me a gift bag, saying that she and her husband knew it was a special day for our family and that they had gotten us something. "It's not much," she said, almost a little sheepishly. I thanked her for it and told her I'd wait to open it until I got home. I had had enough public displays of emotion for one night!
I arrived home a little while later, and walked into a dark, lonely house. I flipped on a few lights, greeted my dog, and turned my attention to the little gift bag. I read the sweet card, which brought tears to my eyes, then lifted out the paper on top. Inside were two items, each one well wrapped in tissue paper. I picked up the first one and unwrapped it.
It was a set of wind chimes.
My mouth literally dropped open. One of my first thoughts that morning had been a wish for some wind chimes, and now, at the end of the day, here they were.
I almost forgot that there was still another item in that bag. Still shaking my head over those wind chimes, I reached in and pulled it out. It was a little heavier than the first item, and I had to unwrap several layers of tissue paper. I couldn't help but exclaim out loud when I saw what it was.
It was a rock.
A JOY rock to replace the one I had put on Hannah's grave that morning.
Y'all ... How does that even happen?
Only God can do that. Only God can know the deep desires of our heart ... the things that we cannot even articulate. He knows just what we need to encourage us, even when we don't know what that is ourselves. His timing could not be more perfect. And I am humbled and awed to be the recipient of one (actually two) of his wonderful gifts.
"Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear." Isaiah 65:24 (ESV)
To be continued on Thoughtful Thursday ...