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The Extremes of Life - April 2012

Many of us would prefer a life that is not subject to extremes, yet some of us cannot avoid extremes, even if we try. When I was 5 my father was diagnosed with leukemia.

This was one of life’s extremes that everyone in my family would have changed at the time if we were able. After a tenacious fight with the disease he passed away when I was 10, again another extreme in life that I gladly would have traded at that point in time.

Psalm 126: 5-6 says, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”

To so many, this seems backwards. How can tears result in joy? I am here to say it is true. As Christians
we are not guaranteed a pain-free journey, but we are promised and given many tools with which to
navigate the pain we endure through our faith. What an amazing gift – a Father who walks with us
during these times with peace, patience, grace, and mercy. He makes good of the tears, grief, anger,
and despair we endure as humans in this world.

This makes me think of the song "Blessings" by Laura Story, which I love. From the first time I heard it, this song has spoken directly to my heart:

“’Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops, What if Your healing comes through tears? . . .
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”

Everyone experiences pain in life and obviously everyone’s pain is different. Over the years, I have
seen much pity in the faces of others when I tell them that my father died when I was 10. I always try
to explain the blessing my father’s illness and death was in the greater landscape of my life. I had a
relationship with my father and memories as a family that were so rich. I had more in 10 short years
with my father than most people have in 50, 60, 70 years with their parents. This is not what should be
pitied. It should be celebrated. I pity those who never live in the extremes of life – they miss so much
richness.

Pain for me has been like rain in my life and joy has been like sunshine. My garden is much healthier
and more vibrant with the extreme pain and subsequently the extreme joy I have experienced. Think
about how much more appreciative you are of the sun when it has rained for a week straight or how
refreshing a steady rain is when everything is brown, dried and dying. The extremes truly make life
richer. God really does make good of all situations, but I think His blessings are greatest when the
situation presents an extreme. My life would not be nearly as rich or as blessed if I had not endured
my father’s illness and death. It seems very twisted, but it really was a gift. I look at life differently and see
each day as a gift to be cherished from the Father above.

It took me many years to see and understand God’s greater plan for me and my life, and much of it
continues to unfold as time goes on. As I look back, there was joy and laughter amongst the grief and pain. There are so many things that have happened in my life because my dad passed away that it is hard for me to image life without it. I guess that is God’s way of helping me heal through tears. It is bittersweet, because I still would love for my husband and children to meet my father; however, I never would have met my husband if my father had not died.

God gave me such awesome gifts -- 10 priceless years with my father and my amazing husband.  I
believe neither would be the gifts they are without the pain of illness and death.

Proverbs 14:13 tells us that “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.”

There are still days that my heart aches even if I am laughing because I miss my dad beyond belief. I
do feel that I was cheated out of some experiences, but God has blessed each of those situations in
ways I never could have imagined. Again, it is in the extremes of life that God creates the most incredible
blessings. Think of a mountain top without the valley below. The reward of making it through the valley
and up the side of the mountain would not be breath-taking if not for the extremes of the valleys and the peaks.