On February 10th, I had the privilege of hearing my friends Karen Peck and New River minister at Taylor Church in Sanderson, Florida.  While the lyrics of the songs were a blessing and the music seeped deep within the innermost parts of my soul, there was one thing that stood out like a skyscraper in the midst of a sea of single story homes.  During the altar service, Karen spoke specifically of people who may feel bogged down with the worries and the cares of life.  She said that the service may be providing an escape from all of that worry.  As I stood there, I realized that this was likely true for the majority of people in the room.  And I knew that it was especially meant for me.  All week, I had been carrying a ton of bricks on my shoulders and just as I thought I would crack under the pressure, God reminded me once more that He always knows what I need.  And sometimes, I just need an escape.

February 7th, just three days before, should have been the day that my dad and I celebrated a very special occasion.  I should have been busily wrapping gifts, writing a special card, and decorating a beautiful birthday cake for my sweet Mama.  She would have been 57 years old.  Now, nearly five years ago since she passed away, I wonder why God chose to take her at the young age of 52.  She died of a heart attack while we were watching The Waltons in our camper.  We were on vacation, our camper parked directly across from a waterfall, surrounded by the beauty and splendor of the Great Smoky Mountains.  One minute, life seemed like a dream.  And the next, reality gave way to a nightmare.
There were no goodbyes.  I cannot recall what I said to her last or what she said to me.  We pleaded for her not to leave us, and later stood by as the paramedic mouthed the words, “I’m sorry.”  While the disturbing nightmares have subsided, I still vividly recall the moment my dad and I sat beside my mom that night and tearfully sang, “Living by Faith.”  In the deepest, darkest moment of our lives, when no hope seemed to be found, we clung on to the words of this beloved hymn:
Living by faith in Jesus above,
Trusting, confiding in His great love;
From all harm safe in His sheltering arm,
I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.

Sitting in our camper that night, I must be honest and say that having faith was nearly impossible.  The emergency lights flashing outside may have disappeared, but they had taken my Mama with them.  And she would not be riding home with us on the journey back to Florida.  The following week was a traumatizing blur of preparations for the funeral.  I had always looked forward to the day that my mom would help me select a wedding dress, but instead, I was selecting a dress for her that I would never see her wear again.
I miss my Mama more than anyone or anything I have ever lost.  I have three siblings, three grandparents, four great-grandparents, one parent, and many aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends in Heaven.  But losing my Mama was the most devastating experience of my entire life.  My mom, dad, and I were truly like the Three Musketeers.  We were always together, enjoying life together.   Now my dad and I continue to enjoy life together, whether we are at home or abroad.  I am forever grateful for the close father-daughter bond that my dad and I share.  Together, we continue living by faith, with the knowledge that God has a perfect plan for our lives.  While we may not always understand the twists and turns we encounter on this journey called life, we can rest assured that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 KJV). 
While some days like my mom’s birthday and Mother’s Day are especially difficult, there are numerous days that are free from worry and free from the stress of this world.  Whether it is a word spoken or song sung at church, a smile or hug from a beloved friend, or a stress-free vacation with my dad, I find that God provides sweet escapes precisely when and where I need them.  I can tell you from experience that these are the moments in life that our faith is completely restored.  These are the times when we have a fullness of joy and hope abounds.  By putting our trust in Jesus Christ, we will find that the awesome days we experience in life will ultimately spill over into the not-so-easy days, providing a perpetual light in the darkness, hope when we’re hopeless, and an escape when we feel there is no way out.
As I write this blog, my heart hurts as I relive the sorrow of that tragic night in North Carolina.  Tears threaten to well up in my eyes and blur my vision as I type.  Yet I am speaking from my heart with the hope that I can encourage someone who is looking for an escape from the worry.  I want you to know that there is a way out.  I Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) says, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  No matter what you are facing, whether it is the death of a loved one or any other burden that you carry, God is faithful.  He will never give you more than you can bear.  Do not give up.  Even in the midst of the darkest night of your life, I can personally tell you that there is hope, even when life seems hopeless.  There is sunshine awaiting you.  Because at that very moment when it seems there is no way out, God will provide an escape.
In Christ’s Love,