Finding faith and strength in a bittersweet 59th year of life

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This is being written in the last few hours of me being fiftysomething.

 

By the time most of you read this on Tuesday, I’ll have crossed over to 60. Saying goodbye to my 59th year is going to be bittersweet. It was the most heartbreaking, breathtaking and faith-making year of my existence. The changes were many and not because of a midlife crisis. It was more because of watching God work in incredible ways.


God worked through personal tragedy in our family and taught us faith in remarkable ways as we went through that painful journey. My sweet sister-in-law died at the age of 61 in August after four months of battling grueling pain with a brain tumor. It showed us in very real ways how we are not promised tomorrow.


My brother, a seasoned pastor in Florida, was the picture of faith through it all. We drew strength from him and his wife even as they were going through the life storms that rocked their lives like a hurricane. God never failed him, not for a second, not during the storms and not even in his wife’s homegoing. Not ever. God was there, holding him up, steadying him, loving him. I witnessed it and it was powerful. He was in pure agony and is still “grieving well,” to borrow a phrase my wife gave him as she remembered something a friend once said to her. He’s sorrowful, but not bitter. His faith never wavered, not once.


I watched and learned as my brother walked through this valley of death and he came out of it stronger on the other end. How else do you explain that but that we serve a good, good Father? My brother never asked why, not publicly and not privately. His blogs touched hearts and showed the importance of faith not only to his congregation, but to the world, thanks to social media.


Her funeral was breathtakingly executed from beginning to end. I’ve never sat through anything quite so moving. It wouldn’t have been a surprise if we had been raptured.


It was about the same time that we first heard of my sister-in-law’s sorrowful situation in April that our first grandchild was born, a baby boy named Brooks, who became a light in our lives. He has brought pure joy with every giggle and breath, every snot bubble and pooh-pooh, every photo snapped, every hour of every day. You want a life-changing moment? Become a grandparent.


During this same 59th year, my 90-year-old mother has been living with us as she battles breast cancer. My wife’s caregiving of her has been, well, breathtaking. It was back in February that my wife, a Christian school teacher for 37 years, decided this would be her last year.


We talked about it as a couple and decided that’s what God was telling us to do even if math said no. She had no state pension since she taught at a Christian school. We decided that if God was telling her to retire, then He was going to provide for the difference in pay and her insurance.


Then along came Kentucky Today – God was about to take care of our own pension crisis - and an offer for me to step out of a newspaper where I’d worked for 42 years to join them as managing editor on this digital newspaper adventure. It was no coincidence. It was God working in our lives. Our faith was being rewarded with a job that is more calling than work. He has long been preparing me for “such a time as this.”


Also during my 59th year, the faith-based ministry that for the last five years has been a passion in my life, has blossomed beyond our belief. It’s grown so much that we needed the namesake of the Amy For Africa mission to become a fulltime paid employee. She stepped away in faith from her job as a registered nurse, where her income was more than half of her family’s income, to take on the role for decidedly less money. But guess what? Amy For Africa is doing just fine with around 200 souls coming to know Jesus during this, my 59th year, in the Jinja area of Uganda where we operate a Christian school.


So goodbye to Year 59 and hello to Year 60! Let’s see if you can measure up.


___

 

Mark Maynard, managing editor of Kentucky Today, can be reached at mark.maynard@kentuckytoday.com

 

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Vicki Delk Stewart

Our God is a good and faithful God. Keep following His lead.

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Wednesday, October 18

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