Evenings off

Originally Posted on August 26, 2011 


Thursday evenings have become my recuperation evening. Mom and dad Spence have been taking the kids on those nights, and I take the opportunity to get out and do something other than be a parent. The past several times out have included afternoons spent with the inimitable Right Reverend Benjamin James Jacob Aldous, who is an ordained priest in the Anglican Communion and a rather genial guy.

Ben is a proper pastor. He asks questions to find out what is going on in order to know how to encourage and pray for you. But Ben has also been one of my closest friends for nearly 13 years now. It is incredibly wonderful to have someone I have known so well for so very long here during this incredibly difficult patch of my life. He and his lovely wife Sharon and two darling little girls had been living in Cambodia up until the end of 2009. I can hardly believe how God orchestrated this.

But it’s not only him. My dear friend Shaun Gannon only moved back from the UK with his darling wife Emma in January. The pair of them rented the cottage behind our house for a few months, and wonderful memories were made, good times had by all and sundry. The kids have indelible memories of the fun they had at their little flat out back. Seanie still calls it Big Shaun’s house.

But there’s more. One of my dearest friends, Chris Steyn, returned late last year from Israel. He has walked with me closely during this time, coming to the house every few days to hang out, to talk, to let me cry.

Three of my closest friends, one living in Asia, the other in the UK and another still in Israel all came back in time to be here for me when this happened. I know they didn’t come back here because of that reason. They came for work, because they missed it here, etc. But God has brought them here just in the nick of time for me. What would I do without these three guys?

Janie’s friends have continued to check on me this whole time, and so many of you who read, reply on here and shoot me Facebook messages over and over, every day.

God is sending a message, I guess.

This month there was supposed to be a massive financial shortfall because I only work about half of last month. Instead, over $3000 were given to me and the kids by different people and churches.

Yeah, God is sending me a message. Am I hearing it?

Little by little, it gets easier to understand that mysterious verse “in all things give thanks…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) One version says “in all circumstances give thanks to God.” So, don’t give thanks for all things, but in all things (circumstances), be grateful. The second part of that verse states that this is God’s will for us.

Much of the time I ask God “what am I supposed to do now?” This is a question borne out of extreme pain and sorrow. How am I supposed to live, to carry on without the love of my life? What do I do with my life now?

Be thankful. Huh?!

Yeah, in the end, that’s part of the secret of life. I can be really bitter about this. In fact, none of you would argue with me on that one. “Phil is full of bitterness and rage because his wife died when she was young, and he had to struggle raising two kids, in debt and loneliness.”

Kinda hard to argue with that kind of scenario…

But I’m not in debt, other than my debt to you people and to God. I have received abundantly more than what we need to survive on a monthly basis this last month. We are beyond flush. In fact, I bought a fridge today. I great big awesome fridge for aaaaaall those frozen meals! There’s money to spare this month. Next month might be different. But God won’t be any different than he is now or has ever been next month.

The apostle Paul in in his letter to the church in Philippi wrote that he had learned to be content no matter the circumstances (Philippians 4:11). A line or two later he says that it was, in fact, a secret that he learned (4:12). It’s a secret because our natural state is to complain, to gripe, to be sour and angry at how much our lives suck.

Imagine a heavily wooded mountainside, kind of like the slopes of one of those dormant volcanoes in Central America. Now, let’s say a meteor slams into the side of the mountain. All the trees on the hill, all the streams, everything living within a ten mile radius is vaporized in an instant. The verdant, lush panorama is now black, smoldering, ashen. You can see for miles and miles in every direction, and all you see is destruction.

But you remember what it was like. You remember the birds, the warmth of the air, the humidity causing your clothes to cling to your body. Everything in every direction hummed with life, from birds to insects to jaguars in the trees. Now all that is left is blackness, ruin and death.

This is the same scenario for someone who has lost someone very close to them, such as a spouse, sibling, parent or best friend. All I have left of Janie is what I remember of the landscape of our life together.

And I regret nothing of it. We had our trials, our fights and difficulties. But I regret nothing of my life with her, other than I could have been better to her, but I just thought she’d always be there. That’s what you do.

So when I pray with the kids at night, I say “thank you Jesus for the years we had with mommy.” I try to say it every night. They don’t understand yet. I hope one day we can talk about the significance of saying a thing like that.

I am grateful for every day I spent with Janie. I am grateful for our two gorgeous children. I am grateful for my wonderful mom and dad Spence, for my sisters Andi and Philippa. I thank God for my mom and dad Jones, for my brothers Randy and Tomas. I thank God for Ben, for Shaun, for Chris, my three amigos out here who have walked a dark road with me.

I am thankful that you are reading this post. Thank you.

I have not learned Paul’s secret to be grateful and content in every circumstance. Gratitude and contentment aren’t the same thing, but they are in the same family. Perhaps they’re married, or twins, or something like that. One accompanies the other, like grief follows death, like halitosis follows garlic. One will guide you to the next.

So as I learn to give thanks, and mean it, in every circumstance, I will learn the secret of contentment. Life isn’t always fair. Life isn’t even good much of the time. But Gd is. I believe that.

I know in my “about” section I stated I didn’t want to be heavy-handed on all the religious stuff. I’m trying to not be that way. What I can say, though, is that without God’s concern, love and care, I’d be dead now in all likelihood. Yes, Janie died. God could have healed her. He didn’t. I still don’t know what to think about that one. But I can’t deny the good things God is doing every day for me, from friends like you to financial gifts to my church and my big family.

Life isn’t always good. God, however, is. I cling to that like moss to a cliff wall.

This post went up late. Today kind of got away from me… I started this last night, and here is is 7:30pm here in Durban, and it’s still not up! Oh well, it’s Friday now. Tomorrow I will go to the farmer’s market. If you’re local, hope to see you there. If you’re not, just move out here. It’s a good country with lots of room, and the food’s really good.

Love to all. God bless. Enjoy the weekend, and we’ll chat again Monday.


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