A Life of Significance

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Pam and I have never been given to much sentimentality.  We didn’t make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day or even our anniversary.  Not that we didn’t value our marriage, just the opposite.  Artificial days set aside to focus on the blessing of our relationship were unnecessary.  We celebrated our friendship every day.  There was never a doubt of our devotion to each other, we never even joked about divorce.  The blessing of the security each of us enjoyed through our commitment to each other and God made special days seem shallow and contrived.

That being said, today would have been our 28th anniversary.  As it turns out, today was the 4th time I marked this day without her.  Most people consider these special days as extra hard.  To be completely honest, the grieving process is different for everyone.  For me, random days are excruciatingly painful, seemingly for no particular reason.  Today was a day that I celebrated in my heart for her and what she was experiencing today.  I also celebrated her as I spent the day at the Iowa State Fair with my daughters, enjoying the amazing women Pam raised them to be.  It was a good day.

Now I don’t want you to think I have moved on, Pam is in the rearview mirror and the grieving is over.  Oh no, not at all.  The struggle isn’t only in missing her being here, it is missing what she contributed.  Pam led a life of incredible significance for so many.  There is scarcely a week that goes by that I don’t have a tearful conversation with someone that misses Pam because they loved her and need her help.  People grew to rely on Pam’s wisdom and Godly advice.  There were two events just this week that Pam would have been able to uniquely address.  There is nobody available to speak into these two situations like Pam could.  We feel the weight of her absence in our family too.  She was such a strong, wise, godly woman.  She was so good and confident at so many aspects of our home that we didn’t even think about them.  Now we are constantly faced with challenges that she handled with ease.  She was also a rock of godly counsel.  She would bring biblical truth to the issues of life.  There is some encouragement though, that is that her advice continues to echo in my mind clearly even to this day.  I’m sure many of you feel her absence as well both in her loving friendship and her wise counsel.  She was truly a special lady.

Today I thank God for the blessing of Pam Butler, for all that she meant to so many, especially her family, children and me.  I love Pam more than words will ever communicate.  My heart still skips when I see her picture or hear her voice in a video.  What a privilege to be her husband for almost 25 years.  We were so close, we knew each other so well that most of the time words weren’t necessary.  As Pam said, we were peanut butter and jelly.  While I desperately miss her, I also enjoy the benefits of her life well lived.  Pam lived a life of great significance in the lives of so many for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.  Her example is a constant reminder and challenge to me to make the most of the days I have because our time here is so short.

An Amazing Mom

Pam and kids

There are a lot of sentimental posts today thanking moms for being the best!  While it is not a competition, I would like to share why Pam was, and in many ways, continues to be the most amazing mom I have ever seen.  The question of what kind of mother would Pam be for my kids was the farthest thing from my mind when I first met here.  It shouldn’t have been.  We decided to wait 5 years to start having kids so that we could get to know each other better and build a foundation.  Then one day the test came back positive, we were parents.

Molli was the first one to come along.  With all of the excitement of the first child coupled with Molli being an easy baby, everything seemed pretty normal.  But I took for granted what was happening even in those first hours.  Molli had jaundice and couldn’t come home from the hospital.  I will never forget the arguments Pam had with the nursing staff.  Eventually they made an accommodation for Pam to stay in the nursing station area and sleep in a chair.  Pam was NOT leaving the hospital without her baby.  Pam had a mothering instinct that was powerfully strong.

Before Pam was ever pregnant we decided that we would live a life style that could be supported on my income alone even though she earned more in carpet sales than I was making at the time.  We wanted her to be home with the kids.

From the first days at home, Pam would play with Molli, talk to her, rock her to sleep, let her cry herself to sleep when that’s what was best for Molli.  Pam would read the Bible to her and sing her songs.  There was never a doubt how much mommy loved Molli.  Mothering seemed to come naturally for Pam.

Fast forward, two more kids, Houston and Aimee.  Crazy life, chaos, struggles & change, and yet through it all was this amazing mom.  As the kids grew, they knew they couldn’t get away with anything, she asked the most direct and uncomfortable questions you can think of, and don’t think about trying to lie.  She was always talking about the Bible and God.  Pam would lay in bed with them at night and talk to them about their lives and laugh and cry and sing.  She entered into their world in a very special way.  When she threw a birthday party, it was planned from a kid’s point of view.  She always sought to understand what the kids were thinking and feeling so she could approach them from where they were.  Our home was filled with Christian music and Veggie Tales.  She taught them truth and lived Jesus in front of them.

Pam was the most joyful person, genuinely joyful person most of us have ever encountered.  Her joy flowed out of a heart of gratefulness to God for her salvation and childlike faith in God’s sovereignty.  Because of the genuineness and strength of her faith she was happy and joyful even when life wasn’t.  That was the world our kids grew up in.  It seemed normal to have a fun, happy, joyful, silly mom.  It seemed normal to have gratefulness deep in your soul.  It seemed normal to accept both the good and the bad and turn and praise Jesus.

Pam left her babies a little over three years ago, but she will never really leave her babies.  Most of us worry about the bad traits in our parents coming out in us.  I get to see Pam coming out in my kids every day, it might be a look or a mannerism or a laugh.  I love it when that happens.  What a tremendous example of a Godly mother and woman Pam was.  Even in the end she was mothering her kids through the most unthinkable hardship, saying goodbye.  Because of her childlike faith and unshakeable trust, she led them through those months and laughed and joked to the end.  She made sure that they knew Jesus and they would be together again.  Pam’s kids are happy, joyful, they love Jesus and they put up with me.  That is why I can say with confidence that Pam was and is the most amazing example of a Godly mother I have ever seen.  I miss her terribly everyday but am unfathomably grateful to God for the gift of Pam and for her legacy, Molli, Houston and Aimee.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road

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March 3, 2013 – March 3, 2016.  Three very long years that have flown by at unbelievable speed.  Even after all this time there are still times that it doesn’t seem possible that she is really gone.  Pam was so much more than my wife and my best friend, she was an integral part of who I was/am.  She continues to be.  Every day, as I process the events of life, both positive and negative, her influence is ever-present.  Her perspective was so different from mine.  Pam operated more from an emotional base as I live primarily in the logical world.  She helped me understand people with a depth and sensitivity that continues to benefit me even today as I interact with people.  This is just one example of how I relied on her daily.  That is one of the practical struggles of her absence, I so respected her and her opinions.  Pam never went to college but had more intuition and clarity of the human condition than anyone I know.  I depended on her, and in most cases, deferred to her assessments and that served us well.  That level of discernment continues to resonate in my mind as I work with people today.  I miss her so.

Pam made me laugh, sometimes to tears.  She taught me how to laugh at myself which came to life this week.  I was in deep thought about what was going on that day as I was driving to the Post Office.  Without paying attention I drove… to the bank drive-thru.  The girl at the bank greeted me, “Hi, Tom”, at which point I realized I wasn’t at the post office.  I confessed to the teller that I meant to go to the Post Office and she smiled as I drove off.  Immediately upon realizing what I had just done, Pam’s voice was in my head saying, “Really????” and then as if audibly I heard her laugh the way she had laughed at herself so many times.  And I laughed with a lump in my throat.

Most importantly Pam challenged me spiritually.  Her faith was unshakeable with the absolute trust of child’s dependence on a parent.  She never doubted, never, not once in the over 25 years I was with her.  She relied on me for biblical interpretation and she showed me what it looked like to live it out fearlessly.  She was fearless.  She loved the book of Joshua and quoted Joshua 1:9 often.

Joshua 1:9  “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

This is where the rubber meets the road isn’t it.  I was so completely in love with Pam, as human relationships go, she was everything to me.  I loved her, laughed with her, trusted and needed her.  We encouraged and challenged each other.  Together we grew up into adulthood molding every aspect of who we were along the way.  There were so many private, intimate moments, inside jokes… so fun.  We had become one flesh in the way God intended.  In Pam’s words, “It was sweet.”

Three years ago this morning, she left this world and theology was faced with devastation.  That is where the rubber meets the road.  Would my faith just be rhetoric or would it prove to be real.  There were two main questions.  First, did I really believe in the core of my soul that Pam was in the presence of The Almighty God of the universe through the righteousness of Christ and secondly, did I believe that God’s grace, mercy and peace were available and sufficient for me.  I am happy to say that the answer to the first question was unequivocally yes.  There was not a doubt for even a second.  My faith was bolstered by Pam’s faith as she approached the end.  She completely accepted this as from God and was ready to go.  She knew we would see each other again soon.  The answer to the second question is a little more complicated.  It is not that I ever doubted, I just had no idea what to expect.  This was uncharted ground for me.  How do you have peace when you can hardly breathe from the sorrow?  Is it a contradiction to hurt and grieve and long for my sweetheart and be at peace at the same time.  Is it possible?  What do I do, how do I think, most importantly, how do I honor God?  I had no answers for this.  The good news is that God did not expect for me to have any answers.  God let me know through His word and through the Holy Spirit that He loved me more than I can understand and He knew everything I was experiencing.  He also promised never to leave me and He delivered.

You see, the loss of my beautiful, awesome, funny, loving, sweet wife is not about her or about me.  It is all about God.  He is good, He is great and we through Jesus Christ get to spend eternity with Him.  Pam just beat us there.  We do not grieve as those with no hope.  God is faithful and true.  Even if I should receive nothing but evil for the rest of my days I will praise the wonderful name of God.  The blessing of living for and serving God are far superior to anything this life has to offer, including an awesome marriage to a smoking hot wife.  Pam would 100% agree with that (especially the smoking hot wife part)! 

Pam loved to sing worship songs and we would laugh and laugh as she would often sing the wrong words but always with love in her heart.  I have burned in my memory one of the last Sundays she was able to go to church, we were singing “10,000 Reasons”.  I looked over at her and her eyes were closed, her face tilted toward heaven and her hands were in the air.  She was singing with all the passion her cancer racked 90 pound body could muster.  The tear running down her cheek said it all, she loves Jesus.  We have been singing a song in church recently that I know she would like.  It is by Hillsong called “O Praise The Name Of The Lord Our God”.   Take a listen, there’s a little surprise toward the end.

You can tell by the passion in Pam’s voice how much she loves Jesus.  More than anything she wants all of her friends to know the hope, joy and peace that is only found in Jesus.  Without Jesus there is no hope.

As I listen to this song I can’t help but think about the verse that says,

And I will rise among the saints,
My gaze transfixed on Jesus’ face

On this morning 3 years ago, I saw Pam’s shoulders go up and then down for the last time.  I sat there on the edge of the bed gazing at her beautiful face while at the same moment her gaze was transfixed on Jesus face.

I celebrate the gift that Pam was to all of us and I celebrate her life now.  I miss her terribly but God’s hope and peace are more than sufficient for me.

 

 

 

A Truly Good Wife

img20150813_19113542Proverbs 31:10-12 says, “A truly good wife is the most precious treasure a man can find!  Her husband depends on her, and she never lets him down.  She is good to him every day of her life.”  27 years ago today Pam became my wife.  She was in every respect the most precious treasure I will ever have.  I depended on her and she never let me down.  She was more than good to me everyday day she was my wife.  The last words to cross her lips were, “I love you, Honey”.  I loved Pam more and more each day.  Not only did I love her with every fiber of my being, I respected her more than anyone I know and I trusted her completely.  Exodus 20 instructs men not to covet your neighbor’s wife, I can honestly say I never have, not once.  I was always so happy and proud to be Pam’s husband.  I wanted everyone to know she was my wife.  I miss her every minute of every day while at the same time, I’m thankful to God that she is experiencing pure joy.  As hard as it is, today I celebrate the years we had together and I wanted to share a few pictures with you.  This was the happiest day of my life and yet I had no idea of the enormity of the blessing God gave to me that day.  I hope these pictures bring a smile to your face and happy memories of Pam to your mind. 

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Dichotomous Thomas

The Butlers  Fall 2012 (102 of 114)

Dichotomous = exhibiting or characterized by dichotomy.

Dichotomy = a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities or ideas.

 

Yes, I am aware that it rhymes with hippopotamus. It was just the word that best describes my life over the last month. As I have said before, the reason for writing this blog is to chronicle this new experience called grief that I am living. Up to the day that Pam died, I had never known what grief was. For sure there had been hurt, pain, sadness and disappointment…but not grief. This is totally uncharted territory for me. That is why I am continually caught off guard by each twist and turn of this journey. This past month has been particularly eventful, filled with true happiness that produced crushing sorrow, hence the dichotomy.  I will highlight two events that stand out as stark examples of this contradiction.

 

   The Butlers  Fall 2012 (79 of 114)AIT Grad

First was Houston’s graduation from AIT (Advanced Individual Training). Houston entered the Army National Guard last summer, graduated from Basic Training in October and went straight to AIT. Words can’t express how proud I am of all that Houston has accomplished including earning the second highest GPA in his class. Houston is developing into the man Pam and I hoped that he would. The graduation ceremony was the point at which the dichotomy appeared. I was so happy to celebrate Houston. Real happiness. As happy as I was, there was a nagging sense that Houston is only getting a small shadow of the party he would have received had his mom been there. She had a special way to encourage, challenge and affirm her son in a way nobody else could. She would have brought a level of enthusiasm to his graduation that wasn’t there. She would have hugged him around the neck until he begged her to stop. She would not have been able to prevent the tears of joy from running down her face and communicating to Houston her heart of love for him. The reality of her absence was crushing.

Proud happy papa – crushing sadness, same event = the dichotomy.

 

 

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The second event was a round of golf. Pam was my favorite golf partner and honestly better than me. She had a sweet, fluid swing and loved the game. Truth be told, she was even known to do cartwheels on greens after a made putt. This month I had the opportunity to play the Naples National course with a group of guys that Pam and I were in connection group with 15 years ago. On top of that, I had a caddy. I’ve never had a caddy before and Paul, my caddy was amazing. He gave strategic advice, perfectly read every green and gave me helpful hints that actually helped. Most importantly, we laughed. I mean to tell you I can’t remember that last time I had as much fun as I did that afternoon with Paul. The round took FOREVER to play and ended too soon. It was an incredible day, beautiful weather, great friends, world class course and laughs all day. What a treat. So where is the dichotomy here? Well…I could barely speak a good portion of the afternoon. My heart was in my throat and tears in my eyes. It seemed the more fun I was having, the more laughs, the more unexplained great shots…the higher the high produced an equal and opposite emotion. I was not sitting around thinking about Pam, it was an involuntary emotional reaction almost as if to say, “It would be more fun with Pam”. The truth is that the most fun experiences of my life were fun because I shared them with Pam.

Great fun with close friends – palpable loneliness, same event = the dichotomy.

 

So what’s the point? The point is that even after 2 years, it’s really hard. Yet God is faithful. Most people who love me want this struggle to pass from me because they hate to see me hurting. I get that. The truth is that God is teaching me more about Himself now than at any point in my life. The pain is crushing but I will not be crushed. Not because of my strength but because of God’s faithfulness. He promised in I Corinthians 10 that “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.”

 

The struggle with grief is so hard because the gift of my relationship with Pam was so huge. God blessed me in an incredible way with Pam and is blessing me today in countless ways. When I think about how hard my grief is, I am reminded that His grief was so much harder. Jesus was betrayed by his own, falsely accused and separated from God the Father as He took on the sins of the world. Jesus completely understands what I’m going through and He cares. Please don’t feel sorry for me. God is really doing a work in my life and He can be trusted.

I remember like it was yesterday Pam and I pleading with God the same prayer that Jesus prayed in the garden, “If it be possible allow this cup to pass from Me, Yet not as I will, but as You will.”  The reason for this blog is to get the word out that God is good and He is bigger than anything you are facing!

The Reality of One Flesh

April 3 2015

This month begins the third year without Pam and it’s still hard to believe she’s not here.  I used to post the dates on the blog 3.3.13 – 4.3.15. I stopped marking the time because it’s not really about the amount of time, it about the fact that she is not here today. To understand why it is so hard after two years you have to understand the concept of “One Flesh”.  Jesus said in Matthew 19:5,6

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

Pam and I really didn’t fully know what that meant when we said “I Do”, but slowly over time as we pursued God together it started to happen.  The first few years were tough, I wanted to golf, she wanted to lay in the sun, I wanted cars, she wanted clothes.  There were a lot of tears (from Pam) and a lot of confusion (me).  In the beginning marriage was adding something to my life to make me happy, a spouse.  Over time we came to know and appreciate each other more and more.  We also came to realize that our relationship was a gift from God and He had a plan for our marriage.  We talked continually about God’s design for marriage.  Many times it sounded like, “God said you had to…”  We had a long way to go, but we kept growing in our relationship with God and each other.  We were really starting to get it in the years before Pam passed.  She would think about my needs nearly as much as hers and vice versa.  For me when we would go to bed, I would be exhausted but knew that Pam LOVED to have her back lightly scratched, she called it tickling.  That was her favorite, falling asleep getting her back tickled.  At first it was a sacrifice but over time it became a joy.  Anything I could do to make her feel loved and cherished brought me great happiness.  Making her happy became more of a priority to me than making myself happy.  I loved to surprise her, treat her, serve her and help her.  She did the same for me in ways I can’t even explain.  She knew me so well that she would do so many small things nobody else would even notice but that meant so much to me.  And of course she loved to feed me and she was hands down the best cook I have ever known.  One thing that came to mind tonight as I was walking out of a restaurant after having dinner with Molli as I was walking to my car.  While I was walking I was thinking about all the things I need to not forget and just then I realized my mouth was hanging open.  Pam would always catch me when that would happen and gently put her hand under my chin and lift up while smiling and kindly saying, “shut your mouth”.  I had to smile.

We certainly were not perfect but our lives were really our life.  Every aspect of our lives were one.  She was devoted to me and I to her.  We had so much fun in the safety of a marriage built on complete trust and openness.  Our happiness was found in loving and serving each other as we sought God together.  I loved her with every fiber of my being and she submitted to my leadership and showed me more respect than I earned.  Not because I was a great leader but because that’s what God’s word said.  There wasn’t mine and hers, it was ours.  From the beginning we treated money that way too.  At different points Pam would make more money than me or I would make more than her.  It never mattered where the money came from, it went into our account, we were one.

“One Flesh” isn’t just about knowing each other well enough to be able to finish each other’s sentences, though Pam could do that.  As for me, if you knew Pam, there was no way to guess what was going to come out of her mouth, not even me.  “One Flesh” is so much more, so much deeper, so much sweeter.  So as I was holding her hand, watching her take her final breaths, I was trying to imagine what she was about to experience as heaven opened to her and her Savior welcomed her home with pure joy.  At that moment I celebrated in my heart for her envisioning her with arms lifted high squealing with excitement while at the same time I was being crushed with sorrow and sadness.

I miss her not just for what she did for me, not just for the happiness I found in serving her but because she was part of me.  Because of that she is still a huge part of my life and always will be.  We were “one Flesh” and in Pam’s words, “It was God’s plan for us to have these 25 years and it was sweet”.  So please understand that I am celebrating for her while also grieving her loss.  I have been blessed beyond measure to have shared those 25 years with her.

 

Time Flies

Pam Through The Years

Well it’s finally here.  I have been watching it approach for some time and now it’s March 3rd again.  For the past few weeks I have been thinking back in disbelief that two years have passed.  The residual impacts of her love and influence have continued with us.  Because the relationships we had with her were so genuine and sincere there was nothing left undone when she left us.  We have benefited from the warmth of the memories that continue to make us better people.  She was, in so many respects, an extraordinary person.  There was so much depth to her even though it was presented in a very inviting and welcoming personality that nobody could resist.  Everyone that knew her considered Pam to be their friend and in most cases their best friend.  At the front of that line was me, I adored her.  From the first date September 12, 1987 to today, I consider myself the most blessed man I know because of her.  For two years I have tried to explain with words all that I love about Pam and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.  So… at this two year milestone I know I am not alone in my thoughts and feelings about Pam.  The reality is that as time passes memory fades.  That is one of the most difficult aspects of grief.  In an effort to paint as full a picture of who Pam was for her grandbabies, if and when they arrive, I would ask for everyone that knew and loved Pam to share what she meant to you and a story.  There is a link at the top of her blog called “Pam”isms.  Please take a minute to help us tell her story.  It can be something small and silly or profound and life changing.  Sunday I was at church alone.  As we were singing, I started singing the wrong words and, no kidding, I looked next to me, there was an empty chair, and started laughing because Pam was famous for singing the wrong words and we would laugh and laugh.  She was great at laughing at her own mistakes, she never took herself too seriously.  Pam also was well known for tangling with language from time to time.  What story or stories have remained vivid in your mind.  Lets really celebrate Pam today, after all, she is celebrating!  I look forward to reading your memories.

February, A Significant Month

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February has been a special month on my calendar ever since I met Pam.  Her birthday is February 21.  As February arrived this year I was taken back to February 2013.  That month began with Pam fully engaged in work and managing her pain with pretty strong medicine but on the surface everything was running pretty much as normal.  It is interesting, comforting and, not surprisingly, sad for me to look back at my communication with Pam at that time by reading through text conversations and old emails.  It is like stepping back in time.  It also reminds me that we had no idea at the beginning of February how near she was to the end.  The texts at the beginning of the month were more about work appointments and real estate logistics.  As the month went along the interactions gradually changed.  They became less about work, although, she was still helping me with work up until the last text just hours before she left.

I can say honestly that I have never struggled with the “why” question and neither did Pam.  Looking back at the way she passed, it ended so fast, it was all such a blur.  My best friend, the most significant human relationship of my life, my sweetheart was gone.  In the aftermath, I was left with a different question.  What?  Not what did she die from but rather, “What just happened?”  From the time we learned that she was sick we spent all of our time and energy trying to determine if there was any way to save her life and seeking out the best treatments to prolong her time here and provide her with as much relief from the pain as possible.  And then at 9:00 that Sunday morning it was over.  Shocking.  It was just shocking.  There I sat looking at her knowing it was over.  “What just happened?”  More importantly, “What happens now?”  Those are the questions I have been wrestling with since that day.

The purpose of this blog is to share with you my experience of learning to live after devastating loss.  I don’t have an outline and the story isn’t finished yet.  Each month is an entry from the midst of the storm.  So I am just chronicling the journey so you can walk with me as I experience the faithfulness of Jesus, the truth of God’s Word and the comfort of God’s Spirit.  More than anything Pam and I want everyone to know Jesus.  When people say things like, “I don’t know how I would get through this without my faith”, you may have thought it was just a cliché.  I am detailing the struggles, hurt, pain as well as the peace, calm and healing not because it makes me feel better or because I like to talk about myself.  As hard as it is, this is an opportunity to reveal in a real way what a relationship with the creator God of the universe looks like.  Not that I’m perfect but that He is.

So why after two years are these memories all filling my mind?  Why haven’t I moved on?  There has been plenty of time to heal and put things to rest, right?  We are so busy in our lives that when we encounter pain or sorrow we distract, deny and medicate to try to get relief.  What I am here to say is don’t do that.  It is in the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death that I have experienced the true ministry of God and closeness with Jesus unlike any other time in my life.  I want to follow Him out of the darkness.  When I refer to the darkness I am talking about the question “What now?”  The rest of my life without Pam seems really dark.  He will lead me where He wants me to go and I have no desire to run ahead.  He gave Pam to me in the first place, He can be trusted.  I am still mourning, still missing Pam every day in countless ways.  She truly was ALL THAT.  And yet, even after losing her, I am content.  I am content in Jesus and His plan.  He is enough, I don’t need anything else.

Counting It All Joy

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This picture was taken at a birthday party thrown for Pam just two weeks before she passed. We had no idea the end was so near. At that point she was still talking about business and handling details. It’s still shocking to look back at how fast the end came. Last month I wrote about how hard it still is, the sadness and disappointment, the longing for her companionship. Many of those closest to me reached out privately with concerns and wondering if there are some practical things I can do to avoid some of the pain. I understand the desire to see those we love get relief from pain after all, I am a guy and guys want to fix things. One practical thought might be to take all over Pam’s stuff out of my closet so I don’t have that daily visual reminder of her absence. What I have come to learn is that what I need is not a palliative solution for the sorrow but to follow God’s plan explained in James 1:2-4

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the
testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you
may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

Rather than focusing on the aching of my heart, the focus has to be God’s enduring faithfulness to walk through the trial with me, never leaving me alone. Remember Psalm 23

1. The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
2. He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3. He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.
4. Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.
5. You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
as long as I live.

I am still not completely comfortable talking about the spiritual benefits from this tragedy. The reality, though, is that James 1 is true. There are aspects of maturity/completeness that can only be obtained through adversity. The joy that James speaks of is obviously not a joy about trial. Trials are not joyous; they are awful, difficult and just plain stinky. It is ludicrous to think you should be joyful for such agony, “Yeah, my beautiful wife and best friend has cancer!” You should, however, be thankful for what happens when you find yourself in a trial. The first thing that both Pam and I experienced was a comforting from the Holy Spirit bearing witness with our spirits that we are His children.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children

The next blessing is related to the first, the affirming of our faith by the endurance produced by the trial that is testing our faith. The first blessing was an active ministry of the Holy Spirit moving in and calming our spirits, the second was confirmation of our faith as the result of the trial testing our faith and the result was endurance. You have known people that claim to have faith and yet when trials come on them they crumble and their faith disappears. I can look at the endurance I have seen in my life as a blessing that is the result of my faith in Christ. Finally, the benefit that results from enduring this trial with God is a more complete faith, stronger, deeper and lacking nothing.
Because of this, my focus is not to relieve the pain. My focus is on enduring the trial with God ever present with me secure in the promise that the trial is going to produce a more mature faith in me that is complete, lacking nothing.
I am not through this trial yet but I will tell you that the endurance that has been produced as a result of this testing to this point has brought me to a closer deeper relationship with God than I have ever known and as Pam would say, “that’s sweet”.

I count it all joy that God does not leave us alone in our time of need.
I count it all joy that God can understand fully what I am experiencing.
I count it all joy that the result of this trail is a more Christ-like faith
I count it all joy that my sweetheart is perfectly complete, lacking nothing and I will see her again.