"…for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." (Proverbs 8:11)
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14 Months

I let the dog out this morning and looked up at the waning stars. The day was still quiet, but dawn was fast approaching. Another milestone. 

“I never would have imagined,” I said out loud to no one. A brief sense of defeat washed over me as I watched our Jack Russell go about her routine. She turned toward the door, ready for a treat. And I counted my blessings. 

Today marks 14 months since Craig crossed over to a world we cannot see. Rather than mourn, I reflected on what God has done. In 14 months, I have been to Nicaragua and Guatemala, to Florida and Oregon and Kentucky. I have celebrated family gatherings in the summer and the fall, eaten pizza on the beach, and discovered the beauty of Lake Michigan. I have helped a long-time friend get back on her feet while I learned to walk again myself, hosted small group meetings in my home, and sponsored a table in Craig’s honor at a benefit dinner. I have stayed engaged in Women’s Bible Study, prison ministry, and the Rotary Club, and soaked up buckets of love and support from friends old and new in each of those realms. I have reconnected with former classmates and coworkers, prayed over the sick, painted the bedroom, and celebrated Passover. 

I have cried more in 14 months than in the 14 years prior. But those tears watered the roots of my faith. Losing my earthly husband spurred a deeper intimacy with my Creator and a hunger for His Word. And as I have pressed into Him, I have experienced His boundless love in surprising new ways. He whispers to my heart, shows me special signs, and sweetly demonstrates His care through all of those who continue to rally around me when I fear I’ve been forgotten. 

Yesterday, I received a letter from an inmate whom I met through prison ministry. His name is Hezekiah, and he is 85 years old. I admired the beautiful cursive penmanship as I read his words of encouragement. “Since your husband Craig has been summoned by the Lord to another area of glory, the Lord has challenged me to check on you,” he wrote. He reminded me that some days may feel more burdensome than others, but God will never leave me or forsake me. The joy of the Lord is my strength. 

Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember those in prison, as if you were their fellow prisoner.” How could my heart not leap at his note? This precious man, who has spent decades behind bars, knew the danger of being bound by grief and self-pity, and he remembered me. HE remembered ME. 

I still count the days, but I also count my blessings. I have walked 14 months without my husband, but I had 14 years of marriage with him. I am so grateful for the adventures and laughter and lessons we learned. If it weren’t for Craig, I never would have met Hezekiah or all the other brothers in Christ behind bars, or all my friends at Rotary, or everyone I know through Quest and Fellowship of the Sword, or even our neighbors next door. Craig had an unwavering passion for people and lived to love others. Today, I will honor him by doing the same.

© 2019 Leslie J. Thompson. All rights reserved.

…a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance…
ECCLESIASTES 3:4

September 6, 2019   No Comments

Firewater

Recently, I traveled with my sweet friends Alan and Lori Caplin to Lexington, Kentucky. I have never been to Kentucky and quickly learned that Lexington is known for two things: horses and bourbon. The weather was magnificent during our stay, and I captured snapshots of the scenery in my mind. Over three days and three nights, we explored our surroundings, enjoyed fellowship with newfound friends, and prayed over those battling infirmities of the body and heart. By far, the most memorable part of our trip, however, was a visit to the distillery.

Lexington is home to more than a dozen distilleries and breweries, and travelers come from far and wide to sample their wares. Ironically, none of the three of us drink (save for a glass of wine on a special occasion, perhaps), so the tour guide’s continual efforts to have us taste various beers and spirits fell flat. The move of God, however, did not.

We learned on the tour that Kentucky is the perfect environment for making bourbon, because of the distinct seasons—they have very hot summers, and very cold winters—and because of the water. You see, Lexington sits on a bed of limestone, and the water takes on special properties as it flows through the rock. Then it is mixed with grain and distilled, continually exposed to the fire to be purified so that the resulting product tastes like fire itself.

…for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:4b NIV

During the distilling, the tour guide explained, the liquid that evaporates off is called “the angels’ share.” I envisioned the sweat of our brow rising to heaven with our prayers as we are tried by fire. Throughout the process, the master distiller also continually tests the spirits. You do not want the head (which is pure alcohol, like moonshine), our guide noted, and you do not want the tail (which is cloudy and tastes bitter). The master distiller is looking for the heart. What they call “the sweet stuff.”

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
1 PETER 4:12

When distilling is done, the process still is not finished. The refined alcohol is poured into oak barrels (which themselves have been charred by flames), and aged for at least four years, until it is mature and ready to drink. During the aging process, the product already has great value. It turns into whiskey, which many enjoy. But only when it has aged sufficiently—only when it is fully mature—does it become fine bourbon, a product of even greater worth.

As we were leaving Kentucky, Alan popped into a shop at the airport and blessed me with a last-minute gift: a baseball cap emblazoned with the brand-name Maker’s Mark. The three of us immediately knew the meaning. He has set His seal of ownership upon me. I am His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for me to do. The Lord Almighty is His name, and I pray that wherever I may travel, all can see that I bear my Maker’s Mark.

For your Maker is your husband—the LORD Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.
ISAIAH 54:5

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:21-22‬ ‭NIV

July 27, 2019   1 Comment