I attended the Women of Faith conference last weekend. I hadn't planned on attending because I knew there was no way we could swing it with our budget. However, I was completely stunned when a friend showed up at my door the night before the conference with an unexpected gift, a ticket to the Women of Faith conference. Yet, even with the gift of a free ticket, there was still an estimated $150 in hotel cost, transportation, and food. But God is good. My hotel, transportation, and lunch were taken care of, as well. God made a way where there was no way.
I had wanted to go for several reasons. One reason being the theme of this year's conference. It was titled, "From Survival to Revival." A second reason for wanting to go was having Kay Warren in the line up for scheduled speakers. My mom's group had read Kay's book “Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough.” Kay is also a grief mom, having lost her adult son to suicide 18 months ago. I knew she would likely be speaking on something I would relate to. Lastly, Matthew West and Natalie Grant, as well as Anita Renfroe, were the entertainment. (I wasn't disappointed!)
Each of the speakers talked about the struggle of faith in difficult times, overcoming life's hurdles, what happens when life doesn't go the way we plan, and how to find hope again. They each shared their story, and each individual story was filled with chapters of their lives that were stained with loss, heartache, and grief. They were chapters that they, at one point, didn't want included in the story of their lives. Oh, how I could relate! How I wish I could erase this “chapter” (the death of my son, the last three years) from my story.
But what I recognized in all of these brave speakers was the same message I heard right after Matt died (and continue to hear). You are loved. God loves us so very much. There is nothing, nothing, in our lives that He doesn't use for good. Now, this doesn't mean the circumstances are good. They most certainly are not good. But God will use those horrible circumstances for good. He wastes nothing. Not even our sorrow. And what I realized, in listening to the Women of Faith speakers, was that, without these chapters we would miss how great, how sufficient, and how near is our God.
You see, God is the author of our story. We simply think we are the one holding the pen, but in reality, it is HE who dips us, His pen, into the black ink of life's trials and temptations. And it is us, His pen, who determine whether we will pour forth a flowing script, testifying of His faithfulness and love in our lives or spill out an unintelligible blot upon the page of this short life. The chapters are not what we would have chosen, but we are held in the hand of the Author who poured out His life for us, an author who purposes good out of bad, beauty from ashes, and life from death.
I left the conference a bit down, honestly. But I also left secure. Secure in knowing that this chapter, this chapter of child loss, is not the final chapter. The story of my life doesn't end with grief. It ends with joy. Joy in being held. Held in the grace of God. Held in His presence. Held by His love.