This is the first of six planned guest posts by blogging friends of mine on Love Embraced: A Journey in and through Suffering, a book I will be releasing on Mother’s Day (8 May 2016). Each of the guest bloggers reflect on one quote from #LoveEmbraced that spoke to them the most. Today, Wendy Simpson joins us from Widow’s Manna, a blog where she shares her journey of grief and faith through prose, poetry and original, inspirational artwork (all images, including the meme, in this post have been created by Wendy). I first got to know Wendy, when she commented on my new blog in October 2015 and I now count her as one of my most treasured friends. Welcome, Wendy and thank you so much for all your love and support.
I first met Anna while blogging. I was battling my way through the “Valley of the shadow of death,” seeking a sense of meaning and hope. It soon became apparent that she was a kindred sister and it seemed like I’d known her forever as we began to share with each other. Anna’s journey and mine had deep similarities, we’d both had to say goodbye to a significant family member, Anna her dear mum and me my beloved husband. Both, brave, valiant soldiers ravaged by cancer’s cruel shadow and now healed in Jesus’ loving arms.
I began reading her book Love Embraced: A Journey in and through Suffering and this struck me deeply (Chapter 14):
Now when I look back on the path God led me down up to this point, I see a path mirroring Psalm 23. First, He made me lay down in green pastures, by drawing me into deep rest, physical exhaustion from repressing powerful emotions… Then He led me beside quiet waters to refresh my soul, building up my trusting Him through feeding me with His word of truth and then He, slowly, but surely, allowed me to step into the valley of the shadow of death…
Everything else suddenly became inconsequential, as I looked death and utter brokenness in the eye. And it is in that moment, in which I had come to the very ends of myself…”
I am blessed to share why this means so much to my own journey in the valley.
Psalm 23 has always had a special spot in my heart. But it was not until my beloved husband was diagnosed with cancer that I understood what it was to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
I echo Anna’s heart as I think of the times God allowed me to be “physically depleted of all my strength.” I had no choice but to curl up and lay in His green pastures. Both my husband and I knew this sweet rest in the midst of agony. Jesus took us to the still waters. As my husband’s life ebbed away, His soul was constantly refreshed, so much so, that his love for Jesus flowed over us all. His zest for life renewed daily, and our souls revived in the middle of painful chaos. He lived the promises of God with vivid passion for His word. As Anna states, there was a “building up of my trust in him through feeding me with His word of truth.”
Chris, Wendy’s husband, praying (created by Wendy Simpson)
The valley, with all its shadows and threats of death, were no match for the hope of glory and the goodness of Christ in our hearts. God held us together. And when my beloved husband took his last breath here, death was overcome in powerful victory. Just as it is stated in Anna’s book, “Even death and a body and mind ravaged by the evil hold of cancer have NO power over the might of our POWERFUL Lord and Savior.”
When my husband walked into Jesus’ arms, I was left to walk the rest of this valley in utter darkness. I was reaching out for something familiar, one hand on my four daughters and the other in front of me. Praying always that I’d lead them safely through this hard place. I lost myself in their care for a time… more darkness. Finally, I fell down in despair. My face and hands hitting familiar ground. What was this? Soft sweet grass? My face was drenched in tears. Though still very dark, my hands ran through those blades of grass I knew so well. Memories flooding my soul of when my beloved husband and I were there together, and then warmth touched me, it was the hand of my first love, Jesus. He grasped my hand lifted me up and led me to the banks of still waters. Those parched banks now filled with a thousand tears from my mourning heart.
Anna reminded me of the “great cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 12. Oh how that comforts in the dark corners of this valley walk. I was not alone in my petitions for peace and renewed hope. Jesus carried every plea to His Father, and so do the ones who love Jesus, both the ones beside me today and those who’ve gone before me to the glory of heaven.
It is my honor and pleasure to share how precious Jesus is to me! It is also a great privilege to share how deeply I have been “embraced” by Anna’s heart and love for Jesus. As it is recorded so tenderly and passionately in her precious book.
Anna, thank you for the great honor of sharing here.
Wendy (sister in grief and in hope)
For more information about Love Embraced, head on over to the author’s Facebook Page. Anna’s dear friend Emily Stephenson is also promoting the book with beautiful handmade jewelry, inspired by #LoveEmbraced. Below is an example of what you can find at The Wildflower Heart: