"...And carries them close to His Heart."

Nine years ago today was my daddy's funeral, in the midst of the elaborate sets used in the Christmas musical the previous night.

Daddy died the night of Dress Rehearsal. That was Thursday.  The optimal day for the funeral was on Monday.  Bro. Phil, Lyndel, and Mr. Danny had one concern: there was no way they could get the sets down in time for a Monday funeral after the Sunday night performance.  We looked at each other and said almost in unison, "It's okay.  He would have loved that.  He loved the choir and musicals so much.  It will be perfect."  They agreed.

The choir he had loved so much stood in the midst of the Christmas sets and sang a simple but amazing arrangement of one of his favorite hymns, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.  It's one of those memories I cherish dearly.

There are many of those memories.  I've shared several here before (see link above).  One of  those cherished memories is Isaiah 40:11.

I was very much a Daddy's girl, and I struggled hard from the Sunday morning in the hospital that we realized that the current "sickness"...a second round of cancer on top of already complicated health issues...would be, short of a true miracle, a "sickness unto death".

The week Daddy died, we knew the end was near, and I sat on the end of his bed one night and cried as we together realized his fight and the pain that accompanied it were almost over.  Afterward, I emailed a few friends who had been faithful prayer warriors and burden bearers throughout Daddy's illness, sharing my heartache at the thought of what was to come.

My friend Jodie replied with this verse:

He tends His flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
    He gently leads those that have young.
~Isaiah 40:11

Neither of us had any idea what an impact that verse would have on my life from that day forward. I clung to it throughout the days of Daddy's death and funeral. I clung to it during the 18 months of intense grieving that followed.  I clung to it during the trauma our family experienced just as we were beginning to feel that we had settled in to a "new normal" and the devastating weeks, months, and years afterward.  I clung to it again when we received a most unwelcome medical diagnosis for one of our children almost two years ago.

I've also shared it many, many times with others going through painful times.  I've prayed it for many over the years...that they would feel God holding them close to His heart, as a shepherd cradles a baby lamb.

In the days following Daddy's death, Jodie went on a "sheep hunt", searching out reminders of that verse to encourage me during those hard days: a beautiful lamb card, a calendar, and my favorite - an Isaiah 40:11 refrigerator magnet.

Today the kids and I made our annual trip to Hobby Lobby for everyone to pick a new ornament for the year.  We were late getting there this year, and the selection wasn't nearly as good as it would have been earlier in the season; however, everyone finally managed to find the "perfect" ornament.

As the kids picked out their ornaments and we all worked together to find the right one for Billy, I saw several that were cute or pretty or interesting, but none that jumped out at me as my ornament for the year.  Just as I was about to give up, though, I saw it...a simple little sheep.

The kids clamored to see what I had picked.  I think they were a bit surprised.  "It's for my verse - Isaiah 40:11," I explained, the one Mrs. Jodie sent me before Papaw died...the one about God holding us close to His heart like a shepherd holds a baby lamb."

I had thought about the date earlier in the week, but today had been so crazy that I didn't remember it was the anniversary of Daddy's funeral until I was looking at the pictures I took after we decorated the tree this evening.

"What a perfect 'standing stone'," I thought, "a reminder of His faithfulness and care always." 

I'm so thankful for that faithfulness and care.  I'm thankful that He carries us close to His heart as the shepherd carries the baby lamb.  I'm thankful for the truth of His Word, which is always living and relevant.  I'm thankful for friends who listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to encourage and remind me of His Word at just the right times.  I'm thankful for God's perfect timing, and for standing stones of remembrance.

What verse has God used to encourage you in dark days?  What "standing stones" remind you of His faithfulness? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!  


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