Going Shopping

August 22, 2009

We are getting ready to head into the last few days of having Jason at home.   We had a wonderful time of fellowship and encouragement for him last night with family and a few close friends.  I am so thankful for my brothers, Laynes brothers, one of Jasons teachers and a close family friend who stepped in and took the time to offer Jason godly wisdom and advice as he begins this new phase in his life.  As I listened last night, I was amazed how the Lord used these men to say the things I know Layne would have said himself if he were here.

Jason was blessed throughout his life with the wonderful example of Layne and his Papa.   If he follows their example, heeds the wisdom offered by his uncles, teacher and friend and, most of all, daily seeks to follow and please the Lord I know God will greatly use him.  I am excited to see what the Lord is going to do in his life over the next few years.  I am also thankful for Bob Jones University, where he will be daily encouraged to follow the Lord with all his heart!

We are headed out today to hopefully complete the last phase of shopping needed to have  him ready for school.  I am looking forward to a day full of laughter and fellowship with my two children.  (Layne always placed such a high priority on family time! )  Please keep us in your prayers this week as we get Jason packed up in the first few days of the week and as we travel down to Greenville on Thursday morning.   I know the Lord will lead and guide him.  I know He will also give Krista and I the grace we need as we leave him at school and miss his daily presense in our lives.  He is such a faithful Savior!

“Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds, Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgements are a great deep: O Lord, thou preservest man and beast.  How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God!  therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.”   Psalm 36:5-7


The Lovingkindness of the Lord

August 10, 2009

Dear Friends,

I know it has been months since I published any updates.  The swirl of  end-of-school activities, preparing for Jason’s graduation, making vacation plans etc. occupied so much of my energy and time that I felt the need to step away from the blog for a while.  I have recently been encouraged by many friends to began to update again.  I was afraid that after so many months people had stopped looking at the blog but I now know that many of you still check it on a regular basis.  Thank you for your continued interest and concern about our needs and how the Lord is working in our lives.

Jason graduated from high school in May and is heading to Bob Jones University the end of this month.  I am so excited for him and eagerly wait to see what the Lord is going to do in his life.  My excitement for him is accompanied by a coming sense of loss.  It is always difficult, I am told, to send your first child to college.  For Krista and me, however, it will be even more difficult.  This will be another dramatic change for our family.  Another empty chair at the table.  While this loss is appropriate and good, it is still a loss.  We will miss him very much.  At the same time though I would not dream of holding him back.  I told Jason recently that Layne and I raised him to reach this point.  We raised him to let him go someday to serve the Lord with his life.  College is the first step in this journey.  I will be watching eagerly and prayerfully as the Lord molds him into the man He would have him to be.  Please pray for him as he faces this exciting but difficult step.

Pray also for Krista.  She recently returned from a trip to the Wilds with her heart encouraged and her committment to the Lord renewed. ( I am so thankful for the Wilds Christian Camp and the impact they have had each summer on the lives of both of my children. )  The Lord has given her a group of close friends in the youth group at my brother’s church.  They have all been such a blessing and encouragement to her.  She finds it so encouraging to be with them because they also love the Lord and want to live for Him.  What a wonderful thing it is to see a group of young people searching for ways to serve the Lord together, praying for one another and encouraging one another in the Lord.  They all gave their testimonies in a special service last Sunday after returning from the Wilds.  What an encouragement to hear them praise the Lord for the lessons He has taught them and ask for prayer concerning decisions and new committments they made.  Pray for them all as the school year starts and they seek to be a testimony to other young people.

Also, please pray for me as I begin a new school year.  As much as I have needed the rest and relaxation of summer from a physical perspective I know it will be good for me to get busy again.  I am excited to meet my new students and am praying the Lord will use me this year to plant the seed of the gospel in their hearts.  Teaching is such an amazing privilege!  Pray also as I continue with my pottery classes on Thursday nights.  The Lord has opened the door for me to meet so many new people.  Please pray that He will use me there to be a witness and testimony for Him.  Pray that I will take every opportunity He gives me to share my testimony and the gospel with these dear people.  What a blessing it would be so be able to lead some of these new friends to the Lord!

Finally, please continue to pray as our family seeks to move forward without Layne.  The summer has been difficult for all of us because we always had so much time together during the summer time.  We have missed Layne greatly every day.  Over the last few months we have been through Layne’s birthday, our first family vacation without him, our first wedding anniversary and our first cycle of lazy summer days without his fun-loving presence.  It has been difficult.  We have missed him deeply.  Layne always planned “vacation suprises” and fun family activities over the summer.  We have missed his laughter, leadership, companionship and care.  Most of all we have missed his love.   I know his love is not gone.  He is in heaven with the Lord loving us still.  But we miss the expressions of love that he always so faithfully gave us; the hugs, the support, the encouragement, the family jokes, the special trips, the teasing, the guidance…the list goes on and on.

In this loss though we are learning to depend more and more on the Lord.  I watch in amazement still has He tenderly comforts us and meets us in our grief.  He daily lifts our hearts, supports us and leads us.  The Lord is so faithfully meeting the deep needs of our hearts.  We miss Layne’s leadership and strength but we are finding the Lord is filling the void.  He is leading and strengthening us.  He is the only One who can.  Through it all He is giving us a deeper understanding of His amazing lovingkindness.  He is such a tender, compassionate Father and Friend!

“O praise the Lord all ye nations; praise Him, all ye people.  For His merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.  Praise ye the Lord.”  Psalm 117


“Don’t Give Up”

March 23, 2009

Once again it has been a while since I have written.  Life gets so busy sometimes.  I find myself bogged down and overwhelmed with trying to handle final medical bills, dealing with insurance companies and learning to budget and pay the bills like Layne did.  He was so good at all of these things but none of it is easy for me.  It seems like as soon as I handle one thing, something else is pressing in upon me.  All of this makes me miss Layne even more.  He always took such good care of our family.  He was so good with handling our finances.  I never had to worry about anything.  He also took care of home maintenance, car maintenance, planning vacations and a multitude of other things that had to be done to run a household.

He was the strong, loving leader of our home and  I miss his leadership so much.  It is so exhausting and hard to have to make all the decisions alone.  Every night my heart longs to sit down and talk to him, to tell him about my day, to share my fears, to feel the comfort of his support.  It is so difficult to go on alone.  He carried so much of the load.  How thankful I am for all the years I rested in his protective care.  He truly honored me as the “weaker vessel” and shouldered so many of the burdens.  Now I struggle with the weight of it all.  I must run to the Lord and lay it all at His feet or I am overwhelmed with discouragement.

Two Sunday’s ago I was completely exhausted (sleeping is often difficult), burdened and overwhelmed with doubt, fear and grief.  Discouragement had gripped my heart and I prayed the whole morning for the Lord to give me strength and lift my heavy heart.  We were running late, so instead of going back to the bedroom I grabbed Layne’s Bible from the livingroom table as I dashed out the door.  When I walked through the doors of our church the normal wave of emotion swept over me.  Memories of Layne are everywhere.  Our dreams and plans were all centered on serving the Lord together at Harvest.  I never dreamed I would be there alone.

“Lord, I miss Layne”, my heart cries out.  I walk pass his study and my heart breaks because his desk is empty now.  I sit in our beautiful building and look at walls he helped build, the lights he helped to hang, the chairs he rejoiced over when the Lord provided them.  His fingerprint is everywhere.  We start to sing and I find myself listening for his voice.  Layne had a beautiful voice.  I want to hear him sing again.  I want to hear him preach again.  The grief I feel at church is often so heavy.  Two Sunday’s ago, it seemed to be more than I could bear.

We finished the final congregational and Pastor Sasser stood up to preach.  As I picked up Layne’s Bible to look up the text the pages fell open to I Corinthian 15:57 & 58 and a note Layne had written in the margin months earlier.   He was sitting beside me in his wheelchair, weak and sick from battling the brain tumor but so thankful to be at church.  I don’t remember who was preaching that day, but he reached over, touched my arm, pointed to the verse, nodded and then wrote in his Bible.

Sitting in church two weeks ago, this verse and his note reached down and lifted my heavy heart.  Through my tears I read again,

“But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren,  be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

Underneath he had written the words, “Don’t give up!”

“Don’t give up, Sharon!” the Lord whispered to my heart.  “I took care of Layne and encouraged him.  I am taking care of you too.  You are not alone.  I am here.  Layne isn’t gone, he’s here with Me.  Trust me, Sharon, and don’t give up!


Being Molded by the Master

March 8, 2009

Jason turned 18 on February 25th.  I am amazed at how quickly time has flown!  It seems like just yesterday when he was a little boy.  His birthday was pleasant, but again bittersweet.  It was so difficult to celebrate this milestone without Layne.  Jason misses his dad so much right now.  He is a senior in high school this year.  As he prepares to go to college in the fall and prays about what the Lord’s will is for his life I know he so longs to talk to his dad!  He wants his dad’s advice and encouragement.  Again, moving forward without Layne is so incredibly difficult but Jason and Krista are learning what the Lord is teaching me.  He is near and He alone can fill the empty place in their hearts.  What a valuable lesson to learn at this point in their lives!

Jason is now legally considered to be a man.  Amazing how the law hinges that decision on something as insignificant as another birthday!  There are so many other qualities that prove this to be true!  Jason started becoming a man years ago when his “Papa” (Layne’s dad) was critically ill with cancer.  Near the end of his life it was so difficult to be in the room because his struggle was so great.  As difficult as it was, Jason would not leave his side.  We had gathered for Thanksgiving and Jason kept disappearing.  Every time we looked for him we would find him back in the room with Papa, holding his hand.  He told me, “Mom, when he opens his eyes I want him to know that I am here.”  As Layne and I saw his quiet strength we were both so proud of him and how he showed his love for his grandfather.

That growth continued throughout Layne’s illness.  Jason stepped up time and time again to shoulder more and more of the load at home.  As he watched his dad grow weaker, his determination to help grew stronger and stronger.  He set his own plans and even his senior year of high school aside to be there to help me care for his dad.  As Layne’s condition grew progressively worse he stayed right by my side to help me do all the difficult things required to care for him.  He never shrank from any task no matter how hard and heartrending.  Grown men would have struggled with what he faced so bravely to meet the needs of his dad.  His quiet strength and support during that time was such a comfort to me!

In just a few short months Jason will graduate from high school.  Then, much quicker than I would like, he will be leaving for college.  As I try to prepare my heart for his leaving home I face this change again with mixed feelings.  I look forward to seeing how the Lord will lead in his life.  I know the Lord has used this great trial to begin to mold and shape him into what He would desire him to be.  The Lord has given him a tender heart and a love and compassion for people.  He has given him quiet strength and determination to stand strong when trials come.  He has learned discernment from all the years he watched Layne and sat under his ministry.  He is still fun loving and boyish.  He still teases and gets unbelievably silly at times.  But the young man that is emerging under the skillful hands of the Master sculptor is such a joy to see!  He is so much like his dad!

When fall arrives and he leaves for college my heart will break with missing him, but I would never hold him back.  Our little boy is gone and a young man stands in his place.  We gave him to the Lord long ago.  As Layne and I watched him grow we rejoiced together over every milestone; his first steps, his first words, his first haircut, his first day of school, junior high school, teenager, driving a car…  As Jason reaches this milestone I cannot help but believe that we are rejoicing together again.  Layne saw what a fine young man Jason was becoming.  I think Layne knows how Jason is doing  now.  I know the Lord is vitally interested in what is happening in Jason’s life and I cannot help but believe He is sharing it with Layne.  If he could talk to Jason right now I think I know what he would say, “Live for the Lord, son.  Give him your heart and your life.  You may not understand it now, but His way is perfect.  Trust Him with your life.  The greatest thing you can do is serve  Him.  Someday, son, you will be here too.  Someday you will be in His presence and it will be worth it all!”

I will cry when he leaves but I look forward to watching the Lord unveil the plan He has for Jason’s life.  Please pray that he will seek the Lord with all his heart.  Please pray that God’s will will be accomplished in his life.  Please pray that he will continue to submit to God’s plan and allow himself to be molded into what the Master wants him to be.


Miraculous, Sustaining Grace

February 22, 2009

The last week or so has been very difficult for me.  The longer I go on without Layne the more I miss him.  People commonly make the mistake of believing that grief is the hardest initially.  This is far from the truth.  As the days, weeks and months pass and the depth of my loss slowly reveals itself, I miss him more and more.  Every task I must do alone that used to be done by his side compounds my grief.  The author of one book I read said that grief is not a wound that heals with time.  Grief is an amputation.  You learn to live with the loss, but you are never the same.  I think that is an accurate analogy.  I am so thankful that I have the Lord to bear me up and help me stand.

It is only in His strength that I can go on.  I told my brothers that the thing that is hard for people to understand is the relentlessness of the struggle.  By God’s grace I go to teach every day and Jason and Krista go to school.  We are able to smile and get through the day, but people don’t see the struggle.  Those smiles are often only possible after hours of struggle with agonizing grief.  This grief often robs us of sleep and the only answer is hours of weeping and praying for God to comfort our hearts.  I am so thankful for my loving Savior, Who carries me through this valley and gives me strength for each day.

I want to share another excert from the book A Tearful Celebration. This is from the chapter “Why Must I Hurt?”

“No matter what I think at the time, the trials I face are due directly to His love for me.  I appreciate what Charles Spurgeon said: ‘Into the central heat of the fire doth the Lord cast His saints, and mark you this, He casts them there because they are His own beloved and dearly loved people.’  If I cannot accept this profound truth, I can never stand unvanquished in grief or sing like Paul and Silas in the Philippian prison.  If I cannot submit to the superior wisdom of God’s ordination, then I can never grasp the purposes of pain, even the privileges of it.  God is concerned with making me strong; He’s not concerned with making me comfortable…

One of the distinguishing marks of my humanity is that I want God’s power more than His purpose.  I covet demonstrations of His power in my life, especially in the time of crisis.  I beg God for miraculous deliverance.  I cry for Him to spare me agony and grief.  When His wisdom reveals a purpose that threatens or destroys my comfort, then I struggle in anguish against His design.  In my prosperity it is easy to revel in the will of God, but in my adversity I chafe under His divine plan…

I must desire His purpose to be effected in my experience, regardless of the grief.  There is no victory in crisis until I learn to pray: ‘Yet not my will, but your be done.’

So I hurt.  God wants to work His purposes in my life.  If I need to be humbled, I may fall.  If He wants me to be more caring, I may hurt.  If I am in danger of pride, I may be given a thorn in the flesh.  If He marks me for true godliness, I may lift to my mouth a full, cup, bitter to the taste, but healthful to the soul.  Each crisis presents me with the opportunity for a stretching, growing, God-honoring act of resolute trust.

I have observed that God sometimes deems it necessary to remove from me the external signs of His blessing in order that the pressure of darkness might prompt me to a new level of trust in Him.  In God’s reckoning, to descend is the path to ascent, to suffer is to find freedom from suffering, to taste darkness is to approach eternal light, to become weak is to become strong.  Each agonizing moment is essential or God would not allow it.  To be counted worthy of suffering is to enter into an entirely new realm of spiritual experience.  My suffering is seen as instrumental, not accidental, to the purposes of a loving God…

The grave that buries my desires deepens my devotion.”

As I continue on through this valley of grief, I am driven by necessity to my knees every day.  The way is too dark to take one step without the light of His presence.  The weight is impossible to bear alone.  So He daily meets me beneath its heavy load and carries me.  This is His purpose in my pain.  I hurt so I can learn to depend on Him, and Him alone.

While Layne was sick I prayed every day for a miracle.  I wanted God to make him well; to amaze the doctors and the world around us with His miraculous healing power.  I did not get that miracle.  But every day that He carries me through I understand more and more that I am seeing a miracle after all, the miracle of His sustaining, amazing grace.


Special Prayer Needed

February 13, 2009

Dear Friends,

Please be much in prayer for Kent and Bridgett Eloe.  Kent has the same kind of brain tumor Layne had.  He was recently placed in hospice care and Bridgett’s last web entry confirms that Kent is very close to going Home to be with our Lord.  They have 3 precious little boys.  Please pray faithfully for this sweet family as they face the days ahead.  The Lord greatly used you all to comfort and encourage my heart.  He answered your prayers and continues to answer them with miraculous, sustaining grace.  Bridgett and her family need this same grace right now.  Please faithfully pray for them the same way you have faithfully prayed for me.  To learn more about this family so you can better pray, please visit their web site at http://www.eloefamily.com.   Thank you all!

(By the way, isn’t it amazing to belong to the family of God?  I am still humbled and awed that the Lord can knit our hearts so closely together, even if we have never met face to face.  There are no strangers in God’s family.  We all belong to Him!  What a blessing it will be to someday all be in heaven together! What a family reunion that will be!)

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”  II Cor. 1:4-5

Sharon


Grace that Never Fails

February 3, 2009

It has been a while since I have written because, quite frankly, the struggle has been intense lately.  It is very difficult sometimes to put such a personal journey through grief into words.  In the next few entries I would like to share some exerts from the book A Tearful Celebration by James Means.  (James Means is a pastor who lost his wife to cancer.)  This book was sent to me by a pastor friend of my brother Mike and has been a source of great encouragement to me.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with grief and loss.

Tonight I want to share a portion from the chapter titled “Has God Failed Me?”

“Has there ever been a true saint who has not struggled with the feeling that God was not treating him fairly? Surely such inner wrestling is one of life’s most inescapable trials.

Nowhere in the Bible could I find an absolute guarantee of pleasant circumstances.  Christian, like others, are subject to sickness, accident, and incalculable loss.  If I think God will always keep me comfortable, I am going to feel let down.  God will not always do it.  Christians are not exempt from trouble and bitter distress.

The true Christian teaching is: “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Peter wrote: “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (I Peter 4:12). I must refuse to be deluded into thinking that life here and now is the wonderful life.  The wonderful life is the one to come after this one is over…

I hurt, I sorrow, I agonize over the loss that has come into my life.  A precious life has been taken away.  I feel great grief and pain.  It sears my every waking hour and casts a puzzling, dreary shadow across my life’s journey.

As I come to grips with my grief, I reject the sentimentalized, sickly religion so popular today.  God’s comfort is not insulation from difficulty; it is spiritual fortification sufficient to enable me to stand firm, undefeated in the fiery trials of life.  God’s provision is not always green pastures and still waters.  Sometimes God leads into the valley of the shadow, but I may walk there with confidence, assured of the love and presence of God…

In my time of trouble, my understanding is not crucial.  It is my confidence in the person, the goodness, and the sovereignty of God that is the great, indispensable necessity.

God did not coddle the biblical saints with an unbroken stream of blessing.  Their lives, like ours today, were lived in the shadows and valleys of life’s tough journey of faith… They trusted God despite harsh circumstances.  They were steadfast in the face of crushing reality.  They hoped in God when all reason for hope was taken away.  Such tireless faith is to be our chief goal in life, for by it we glorify God, purchase a place of honor in His kingdom, and love as Christ loved.  We must cultivate this faith…

God has failed to do what I thought He should do, but I must not allow this event to result in any bitterness in me.  Instead, I must recognize that this major disappointment should drive me to stronger trust in God.  Life looks very different without the false security of an indulgent, over-protective God, but it is more real, honest, and challenging to my faith.  It offers greater opportunity to bear witness to a God of wisdom and superior grace.”

(pp. 23-27)

What a blessing to know that and experience the all sufficient grace of God!  I am blessed to have copies of many of Layne’s outlines and sermons.  I am reading and studying them as part of my devotional time.  I will close with a quote from him from a message he preached about grace

Many things in life will fail us.  Friendships will blossom and then die.  Health can be an elusive thing.  Riches and wealth will often remain just beyond the reach of your finger tips.  Those we love will pass from the scene leaving a void in our hearts hard to be filled.  However, there is one thing that every child of God possesses that can never fail, never end, never run out, never run dry and that will never be found to be insufficient, and that is the grace of God!  Yes, the road may be long and dreary, the days may be filled with difficulties and struggles, but rest assured that there will be grace sufficient for every need and every trial.  That is the promise of God and that is the hope of the saints!” Layne Daniel