by Barbara LaTondresse

Do you like mysteries or puzzles? For me—if the mystery is a novel, especially if it’s by a fellow COTC member, it’s fabulous! If the puzzle is a crossword or jigsaw, it’s a welcome challenge! But even if you don’t like mystery novels or jigsaw puzzles we all rejoice with a resolved plot or with the last pieces in place—no unanswered questions or missing parts.

Unfortunately life isn’t always that neatly packaged, is it? We get thrown a curveball. Then what?

Our Lenten Soup Suppers this year will focus on the theme Refiner’s Fire: An Honest Look into the Hope of Christ found in SufferingThis topic is not an academic one for me.  I’m experiencing this vista up close and personal.  In the last three years I’ve received unwelcome gifts accompanying Parkinson’s disease. I’ve had significant falls resulting in several broken ribs and am at this moment nursing a compression fracture back to health.  At one point I lost most of the vision in my right eye, and have endured many painful or sleepless nights. I have trouble walking and the use of my left hand is limited.   On top of these things, my husband’s international work this past year has required him to be gone several times for as long as six weeks and, just lately, I lost my job.

Yet in the midst of the pain and perplexities we, as believers, are invited to share the broken pieces, the unanswered questions, the nagging doubts, and the messy realities with each other and our Lord, not just because misery loves company, though it surely does—but also to acknowledge and point to the encouragement and redemption of suffering as we see the resurrection beyond the cross in Christ’s life and, hopefully, in our own as well.

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As I write this today in the midst of this ‘messy reality’ of a mysterious puzzle, I am thankful and hopeful. I’m thankful for the myriads of ways friends and family are showering me with prayers, meals, unexpected visits, and notes of encouragement. I’m thankful for this dear church family and awesome staff and especially for the intense prayers for healing and grace which are being said on my behalf. I’m thankful for a dear husband who at this moment is passing his international obligations on to others so that he can be home with me. I’m thankful for our wonderful children and spouses who have sacrificed time and again to help me out.

I’m also hopeful. Daily reminders from God’s Word and hymns I know by heart bless me as the Holy Spirit brings them to mind.  I’m hopeful as I see signs that the current meds are working.  I’m hopeful as I see how these trials are refining me and my family and my friends. I’m also hopeful that as I experience the gifts of Christ’s joy and peace this suffering will yield its own unique redemption stories.

During our Lenten Soup Suppers this year we will be focusing on the theme Refiner’s Fire: An Honest Look into the Hope of Christ found in Suffering.  Come to share soup and bread with your church family, after which there will be separate ministry times for adults and children. Click here for more info.