26 March, 2020

Surprise in the mail at just the right time

In recent months I have mentioned a friend going through a rough time. I have her permission to tell you an amazing story from this month.

She is part of a trio of friends we call RAW. We've been friends for many years, but only in the last 18 months have formed this group and keep in almost daily contact via Messenger (they both live in south-east Queensland). Not long after we decided to be more intentional about staying in touch with one another we each encountered significant difficulties, including: our family who were told we couldn't return to Japan at that time and my friend's 12 y.o. son was diagnosed with brain cancer.

In mid-January this year, just after his 13th birthday, he transitioned into palliative care. We've been walking with her (virtually, in my case) through this horrid, yet incredible journey.

On the morning of March 4 she wrote to us that she'd been reciting to herself out loud in a car journey on her own: "He's dying, he's dying" to try to grasp the reality of it all. That really hit hard for me. She and I both have over 20 years of parenting under our belts and we've always seen our kids recover from illnesses, but it clearly wasn't going to happen (aside from divine intervention) at that point, and that was hard to get our heads around.

That same day I drove into the mountains with a van full of ladies for a two-night retreat. I fear that they wondered if I'd be able to cope with the two-hour drive, as I was a bit undone when I picked them all up.

That evening at the retreat I was able to spend time in prayer about this situation with a missionary colleague. She is no stranger to watching loved ones die and we poured out our hearts together (with no lack of tears on my part). 

Later I wandered over to the area where a small jewellery stall was set up. This is no ordinary jewellery. It is the outworking of a ministry called Nozomi Project. (I wrote about it a couple of years ago here—this link included a TED talk video by the founder.) "Nozomi" means hope in Japanese and it is a project set up "to bring sustainable income, community, dignity and hope" to women who suffered great loss in the 2011 triple disaster. That disaster claimed, that in a matter of minutes, the lives of around 16,000 people and destroyed or damaged over a million buildings, leaving hundreds of thousands displaced. The jewellery features broken pieces of pottery left in the wake of the tsunami and other up-cycled pottery.

Their tag line is "beauty in brokenness" and fitted the situation with my friend so well that I thought it would be fitting to buy her a present.

I tucked the earrings away in my bag to deal with later and got on with that retreat, and then the writers' retreat that followed straight on afterwards. I got home from those four nights so exhausted that it took a week to recover, meanwhile the earrings sat in a pile waiting to be dealt with. I asked my other RAW friend what she thought I should do: send the earrings as a surprise, or let her know they were coming. Her response was: 
"Surprises are always nice...I'd go with that...We can pray that they arrive just when she needs a nice surprise in the mail...God can arrange it."
On March 16, more than ten days after I'd bought them, I finally got to the post office and mailed them.

On Monday this week (23rd) my friend's son died. Great sadness as well as great relief. He testified to his strong faith in God until he could talk no longer. A great joy and challenge to all who watched this journey.

On Tuesday, while our family were camping, I received a strange photo from the friend who had suggested we pray for God's timing. It was of our friend opening a small parcel. On closer inspection, I saw it was about the size of the parcel I'd sent eight days earlier.

And yes, not only had the beautiful earrings arrive a day after my friend's son died, but our mutual RAW friend was present to witness it and tell her the whole story.

We cried tears of joy "together". She wrote:
"A gift that kindles a flame of joy for all of us in dark times . . . just wish I could give you a real hug to express it! . . . I love the symbolism of a God using fragments to further his story of gracious blessing to us in our frailty."
When I asked permission to tell the story here, she wrote: 
"Sure. Go for it. Whatever you think needs to be told to give glory to the Great Orchestrator."
So, trusting him in the small things, and the big things. This was such an encouragement to the three of us. It amazed me that I, who couldn't be there to hug and help my friend through her struggles (I only was able to be with her once during those 16-months), could even be somewhat "physically" present and an encouragement. I know that our prayers have helped and encouraged her, but this miracle of God's timing was an extra special blessing to us all. And another memorial stone to look back on when we doubt God's care for us.


Helen James said...

Thank you Wendy for sharing this story! Yes God’s timing is perfect. I was with our friend last night and I saw her earrings and thought to myself how beautiful they were and I was going to say something but we got distracted and if forgot to mention them so didn’t get to hear the story! There surely is beauty in brokenness!

Catherine said...

Wonderful story Wendy. God is good.