My childhood church on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, where my father has served as pastor twice throughout his career, is the place where I began my life as a Christian and was baptized as a child. Thanks to modern technology, I can virtually attend my childhood church, even though I live five hours away. Kyle Keese, the current interim pastor, in his sermon on January 9 , 2022 (I’ve linked it at the bottom of this post), shared his story of a conversation with two friends who were attending a reunion church service. One of the friends revealed that he had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and the other friend encouraged him to blog the journey. To share the story as a gift and blessing– to learn something about who he was, but more importantly, to learn more about who God was and how his faith sustained him in the midst of the pain.
I’d been late tuning in to the service, but as I began listening, How Firm a Foundation was the hymn being sung by the congregation. These words sung at my mother’s funeral were a nudge to lift my listening ears and open my mind and heart to hear the message that I needed to hear: share the story of a firm foundation and the difference it makes.
For a couple of years now, my prayer has been to find opportunities to share my family’s journey through a daughter’s addiction. I hadn’t anticipated another daughter on the road to recovery as I prayed, but as a mother who prays for my children’s health and safety daily, I could only rejoice as she came clean with her need for help – with her readiness to do the work she knows it will take. I thought of the conversation between these men, and the way our own family experience could be a gift to bless others with encouragement along the way.
My father, just last week, expressed his own desire to share our story so that others who are traveling through the back-alley-darkness of a family member’s addiction will realize that they are not alone – that there is hope – that it takes tough love and ceaseless prayer and unflappable faith when these shadows fall across our paths.
He shared that he’d once set his planned sermon aside and, led by the Holy Spirit in a different direction that day, spoken candidly to the congregation about our pain and our faith – and our blessings – in the midst of the road that we traveled. He spoke of the people who came alongside us, angelic friends, with resources and guidance to shed light on us even as we didn’t yet know all that we didn’t know. And as people left the service that day, he realized through the many similar stories shared with him that we have a responsibility to share because others have a need to hear how God uses our trials to shine His glory and pours out blessings along the way.
“I’ve never been one to set the sermon aside and tarry off course. But I felt led, so I did, and I understood as I stood at the door when people were leaving that the story needed to be shared – because so many people are struggling and need to hear that they are not alone – that there is hope,” he reflected.
My prayer remains to keep a steadfast faith, to listen and obey, and to allow the lyrics of my mother’s favorite hymn – the last notes of music to ever fall on her ears – to carry forth as a light in a dark, painful world – to share the message that others need to hear:
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.
“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not harm thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.” (-Author unknown except by letter K-)
Link to the Service Here: https://www.facebook.com/194473930691739/videos/639611707493592/