It has been nine years this month since Joel came under investigation for his crime.  Nine Years—nearly a decade of grief and growth, sorrow and joy, despair and hope, loss and beauty.  Lawyers, court dates, confessions, sentencing, jail, prison, half way house, prison visits, moves, rehabilitation programs, family reunions, adjustments, counseling, probation—all mixed in with rearing children, working, serving, missions, travel, relationship building, chronic illness, and a million other facets of life. It’s been an unpredictable, impossibly difficult, unbelievably packed nine years!

“I feel like our life is just a movement from one difficulty to another,” I admitted  to an old friend. I don’t say that to be pessimistic. I struggle with putting those feelings into words—I want to be honest about the difficulties in life, while still acknowledging God’s active presence and grace at work in us.  Over these   years, God has taught me that when I acknowledge the hurt, laying it out before him, I open the door for His goodness to be exposed. I have come to see His beauty in new places and new ways. So I find that naming my pain, calling the long road we’ve traveled arduous is a milestone for me. His grace at work in us is made evident when we acknowledge our own neediness and grief.  

For me, acknowledging the difficulties, the grief our family has experienced as well as the stress of Joel’s present physical pain, is a part of offering my God a sacrifice of praise—the sacrifice that truly honors him. A sacrifice means it costs something. Praising God in the middle of trials is costly. Praise expresses a hope from a Source outside of myself.  And so I give thanks to God for these past nine years. I praise Him for the evidence of His love in the midst of grief. Because as I reflect over these past years,  it’ s not the difficulties I see the most. It’s actually His faithfulness. It’s the hope that comes from knowing a God who gives joy in the mourning. It’s the expectation of “his goodness in the land of the living.” It’s anticipation we have for His ultimate glory because he is the one who “redeems our lives from destruction.” It’s the joy of the Lord as my strength!

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