Tuesday, May 6, 2014

It is Well with My Soul

I've been quietly singing this hymn to myself today. What a wide spectrum of emotions I have felt. I wanted to share my heart so that you could know just what a perplexing state I'm in. I hope this can meet you in your place of uncertainty as well.

My uncle has petitioned for and today gained guardianship over my grandmother. That means, he gets to make all the decisions. I don't know if this is good or bad. I've been in such a state of confusion over it and concern for how this would play out. He gets to decide where she lives, her finances, and decisions on her health. Oh, yeah, and who gets to see her. This is not part of a normal guardianship request but something he threw in just so he can have complete control over everything.

Ever just pray that God responds with whatever He knows to be best? For me this has been one of those times. I have always wanted to remain neutral in this situation, yet I want what is best for my grandmother. So instead of a specific answer, I just prayed to God that He would respond, that He would take control and take the concern from me. I know going forward I will need to rely on this prayer process more as my uncle's authority begins to take over.

In the midst of all this today, I also had to face the death of my friend head on. I not only couldn't call her for her assistance with this (and this is totally something I would have been in close contact with her about) but I also had to step foot into the place where we would always meet, her work. Not once, but twice today. God give me strength.

I'm sure everyone thought I was upset about what was happening with my grandmother. I was really nervous but not 'upset,' per say. I knew he was going to get the guardianship. There's no one else to try to take over. But I couldn't help myself from looking past all the people and not see my friend standing there to greet the people in line. I felt like I was in a fog. People were talking and I couldn't make eye contact. All I could do is stare and wonder why it had to be her.

Later on this afternoon I went back to this place to meet with some of her previous co-workers. They are putting together this great fundraiser for her children and I wanted to see if I could somehow help. Now not only was I standing at the counter where I'd meet her but I was talking about her as if she is gone. Because she is. Reality really sucks the air out of you sometimes. The meeting did not go exactly how I expected. I left feeling hopeful to be able to help somehow but overwhelmed and feeling that I shouldn't have volunteered myself.

I initially chose to help because the need was there. Because she was my friend. We were close. She taught me to drive. Helped me save for prom. She helped me get housing assistance when my mom died. Found me my first doctor who would take me inexpensively without insurance. Brought me into my first full time job. I mean, I've known her half of my life. She was that person. The one who helped me with the things people don't know how to help out with. She liked to boss me around and I liked to let her. It was so refreshing to have someone step in and take control and just tell me what to do. Especially coming from a background that lacked all of these things. She would be laughing to hear me admit this and I can hear her saying, "I told you!"

I emailed and offered to help with the event knowing that I didn't feel prompted to do so. I did pray about it but felt I couldn't get a straight answer. I chalked it up to the fact that I was still grieving. So despite not being prompted by God to move, I did so anyways. I know that I am comforted most when I am helping or giving to others. Yet, after I walked out this afternoon from meeting her friends she worked with, I felt slightly overwhelmed. I feel like I have offered to give too much of myself when I still feel unsure that I am emotionally ready to handle it. I did it because I thought it was so amazing that someone would put together such a great event in honor of my friend. There are bands playing, raffles, food, face painting - the whole nine yards. Just amazing. The money raised will benefit her children. It is such a good cause, why wouldn't I volunteer?

I left there and felt I needed to stop in and see if her husband was working. We have never been close in the way she and I were but I've known him just as long. I haven't spoke to him since the night of her wake. I stopped at his work knowing that if he was there God was going to need to tell me what to say. He was there and as I expected, he is still very much hurting. I said what I hope brought comfort and he shared some things that gave me a deeper insight to what he is living. I feel like my words were inadequate to offer any sort of hope or relief.

How do you look at your friend's husband and promise that it will get easier? We don't want easier. We want our life back but it will never be. How can I offer the light at the end of the tunnel when I have no idea what it will look like or when it will come? I know that only time can help and that stinks because time is just as painful as the loss itself. It's the same way with the situation in my family. I know that right now things aren't going to be better. They won't be for a while. I know right now I need to wait for time to settle the dirt that is being kicked up. It feels like right now everything is in unsettled water. So we have to focus on the days we know we will have an answer about this job or living situation. We focus on the appointments to get us through and the short term possibilities for further healing.

I told you that I've been singing the lyrics from "It Is Well with My Soul" by Horatio Spafford. A friend shared this song with me one day when I was having a particularly tough time. This hymn has continued to be a blessing for me in moments such as this. I had researched the story behind the hymn in order to understand the weight of Spafford's words. This man lost his only son to Scarlet Fever and then lost his finances in the Great Chicago Fire. He had a trip to Europe with his wife and daughters planned but he had to stay behind to deal with business matters due to the fire. While they were out in the middle of the Atlantic ocean they were struck by another vessel and the boat sank. His four daughters died and only his wife survived. This man lost almost everything he loved. When Horatio (I'll refer to him by his first name because when we share pain like this don't we deserve to be on a first name basis?) was travelling to meet his wife in Europe and passed by where his daughters died, it is said that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write these words.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, 
When sorrows like sea billows roll; 
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, 
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I remember the very first time I heard this and was reading the lyrics I couldn't understand why he would say "When peace, like a river, attendeth my way...it is well with my soul." My first reaction was, "no kidding?" But then I realized the third line in the verse which says "Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say...it is well with my soul." We can't just be content with life when things are going our way. We do not get to pick and choose when we think God is on our side. We must believe that He is always on our side and that no matter how gut wrenching the pain is, God will always be there for us. This life is temporary, but there's a place that comes after this that promises no more tears, sadness, sorrow, or heartache. 

What does it mean if something is well with our soul? Well, our soul is defined as the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life. To me, it is our innermost being. What we feel deep down in our core. It's where our values and worth reside. So for something to be well with our soul means that in our deepest parts of ourselves, do we believe that God is faithful? Do we believe that He is good and will work all things together for good? Do we believe that the suffering of this present day cannot be compared to the joy that is coming? 

It forces us to take a step out of our darkness long enough to see that things are slowly but surely falling into place. That life is not moving on without us, but developing forward for us. Today I choose to believe, for what it is worth, that our pain has a purpose. It may never make sense on this side of our journey but hopefully one day it will. If we can see and believe this is true, then we too can sing that it is well with our soul.



  1. My heart feels heavy for you today friend! As I was reading your post, I kept thinking about these two books that have meant so much to me when I was going through difficult times and processing grief and suffering and looking for the redemption in the pain. At some point, check out the book Heaven and If God is Good, both by Randy Alcorn. They are so amazing and so biblically packed. The first book is, of course, all about Heaven but he approaches these truths of scripture like none other. The second book is a lot more heavy because it is all about what God does with suffering and evil, but I basically underlined the entire thing when I read it and still go back and look at it all the time. Just some amazing resources that have left a big impact on my heart. Praying for you!

    1. So I realized last night I never replied to you and I wanted to make sure I did! My phone doesn't make it easy for some reason, so I can only do it through my computer.

      Thank you for these book recommendations! I think I might start a list called "Kelly's List" and all the books you recommend will get added there. I can't wait to check these out.

      You're amazing, friend! Thank you!!