Monday, August 2, 2010

Memorial Box Monday: From Sorrow to Joy

I have been wrestling about posting this story for quite some time.  I’ve started it and deleted it, I’ve thought about what to include and what to leave out.  So many reasons for not writing, but in the end, I am writing this Memorial Box Monday story because someone needs to read it.

One of last week’s MBM stories was written for me.  I am sure of that. The timing, the subject, the context... the whole thing.  So I am going to trust that God has a reason for making sure that at 1:30am I finally got his instruction after months of my saying not yet.

My Memorial Box Monday story is about God’s incredible gift of joy that comes after sorrow.  It is also about God’s grace and mercy.  It is also about trusting God’s plan when you can’t see it for yourself.

To begin, let me take you back to the spring of 1999.  Doug and I had been married for about six months and knew that God had called him back into a full-time pastorate.  Doug had spent the last year teaching at the same high school where I was teaching,  (He had to do that so he could meet me and marry me!)  but teaching was not Doug’s passion. So we started looking at churches.

The first Sunday of May 1999 found us at a little church in the middle of North Carolina.  Doug preached and we decided that it was a good fit. We sold our home in Texas and moved the first weekend of June.

Fast forward to May 4, 2000. Maddie was born.  All was good, but we were a young family all on our own and needed to be closer to family.  We began to consider moving back to Texas.   Over the next couple of months we found out that Doug was a good commodity.  We had lots of churches interested in us. However, there was one that stood out.

That church was in Weimar, Texas.  When Doug told me the story of the church, I groaned and said, that’s where we are going. And we did go there.  And it was wonderful and difficult all at that same time.

For you see, on the first weekend of May of 1999, the pastor of the church in Weimar, Skip and his wife Karen, were found murdered in the parsonage next door to the church.  They were victims of serial killer Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, the Railroad Killer. This tiny town was devastated.  While Doug was preaching for the first time in North Carolina, our future friends were finding their beloved pastor murdered.

We didn’t know about it at the time.

One the first anniversary of Skip and Karen’s death, Maddie was born.

As Doug began talking with the church it was clear to us that this just might be our next pastorate.  It was hard to imagine moving and beginning a ministry with a group of people so grief stricken, but we chose to.  God chose us.

We began our ministry in Weimar the first Sunday of 2001. It was a difficult time, but very hopeful as well.  Maddie was just beginning to walk and having her with us built a bridge between the sorrow and the joy. 

Yes, we lived in the parsonage.

Maddie turned one on the second anniversary of Skip and Karen’s death.  We invited the church to celebrate her 1st birthday with us.  Doug grilled hotdogs and we had about 50 people come over to our backyard party.  As I look back at pictures, I am once again amazed that the very men who found the bodies of Skip and Karen just two years before where there celebrating Maddie’s birthday.  Joy from Sorrow.  Sorrow to Joy.

In the end, we stayed in Weimar just under two years.  Maddie made a life-long connection with an older couple in the church and we were able to walk a difficult stretch of the road with a wonderful group of people.  I wish we could have stayed in  longer, but we left because Doug’s dad was in bad health and I would not trade Maddie’s short time with her Grandpa for anything. 

As we saw lived out by the people of Weimar, to everything there is a season.  And from Sorrow there can be Joy.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
1 There is a time for everything,
       and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
       a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
       a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
       a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
       a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
       a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
       a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate, 
       a time for war and a time for peace.


  1. Joy out of sorrow is such a miracle, and you lived it with that church. You were definitely an instrument of healing for those people.

  2. we friend, you posted that for me. thanks :)

  3. A beautiful story of God's goodness after such tragedy! Thanks so much for sharing it.

    God Bless,

  4. What a beautiful story and I'm so glad that Maddie (as well as you and Doug) could be a source of healing for that church.