My brother, Doug, arrived at my house the day before Thanksgiving. This was the first time seeing him since our dad’s funeral. Doug was already having a funky week, with most of his family unable to be there for the holiday. He kept sighing deeply every few minutes, generating an overall melancholy disposition. Things had changed and we were trying to find the strength to accept the change. Doug’s way… deep sighs. My way… keep busy, keep moving.
Dad had been gone for a little over a month and I had spent a lot of time reflecting on the season of grief we had just walked through. I found myself telling people how much God had been with us through it all. At one point I stopped and thought, “Is that true?”
Has there really been a lot of miracles in the hard journey?
Is this a Christian cliché or had I actually seen God in all of it?”
Recently I was reading in Genesis where a woman named Hagar was desperate, running away from the hardships of life. The angel of the Lord finds her near a spring in the desert (Genesis 16:7) and after a powerful exchange of blessing and hope, Hagar replies with these words:
“You are the God who sees me… I have now seen the One who sees me.”
I KNOW God sees me… saw me… through the last months of life with my dad, but could I honestly say to God… I see YOU?
Could I chronicle this journey of faith as a way of recognizing the Lord’s presence with me and my family?
Could I identify the springs in the wilderness— the refreshing places in time of loss and sadness?
I took some time and just began to write down all my jumbled thoughts… focusing on the last five days of my dad’s life and the following few days leading up to his memorial service. I then put them in chronological order and came up with 33 SPECIFIC ways I could see God in it.
33 ways of ME telling God… I see YOU!
I see YOU, Jesus, in the midst of the difficulties of life!
One of the first things I wrote down was having long stretches of time with my brother. Doug was able to be in town for 9 days. We haven’t spent that much time together in decades! On the last day of my dad’s life, Olivia was going to camp, and I was to drop her off then head back home to pack a suitcase to stay at dad’s the remainder of the week. I felt this urgency to just get to my dad’s house and figure out how to get my stuff later.
I arrived at 9:30 and was shocked to see how close dad was to leaving this world. It was a substantial difference from the night before. Doug and I chatted for a few moments, and then he was about to go upstairs and get some work done. Before he walked away, dad’s breathing changed. We stood on either side of his bed, just the two of us, as he took his last breath. As hard as that was, I was SO grateful to be there.
At the memorial service, we had a few moments of ‘open mic’ where anyone could share a favorite memory. One of my cousins from out of state came forward, weeping, sharing how he always felt seen by ‘Uncle Jack.’ The next person echoed the same theme… feeling seen and noticed by Jack.
The whole service was special, full of little miracles from having most of our family there, beautiful music, stories, Scripture— everything beautifully coordinating.
A week after the memorial, I was speaking at a ladies’ retreat. I shared the journey of seeing God in all that my family had just walked through. It was a wonderful time of processing my thoughts, intentionally taking the time to say to God, “I see YOU.”
The retreat was at a beautiful home in the mountains, next to a lake.
As I spoke, I could look out the windows at the water, reminded that God had provided for me… a ‘spring in the wilderness.’
Here I was, days after celebrating my dad’s life, able to share about him and ALL that God had done… next to a lake with women who love Jesus.
I would encourage you to take time to notice how God is with you in the midst of your most painful trial. Focus on what Jesus has done for you, rather than what he hasn’t.
Ask him to show you.
Track the journey and let God surprise you with his presence.
I’m continuing to do this in all the areas I feel lost, not sure what God is up to. One of my kids is currently struggling with some hard things, and I’ve started a page in my journal titled ‘Expect a Miracle.’ Yesterday I wrote these words: “God. I don’t understand all that is going on, BUT… I trust you AND I’m looking for you in all of it.” Underneath those words I’ve listed four ways I see God in it… so far. And, across the top and down the side margin I wrote in highlighter… ‘God. I see YOU.’
I’m sure Doug will have more times of sighing deeply, and I’ll have times of bustling about to keep my thoughts from overtaking me. But… in the midst of it all, there will definitely be moments of me whispering up to God, “I KNOW you see me, and, guess what… I want to tell you, God… I see YOU.
Genesis 16:7 The Angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert.
Genesis 16:13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
Psalm 84:6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca (Tears) they made it a place of springs… They go from strength to strength.