Straight from a Blessed Heart
By Lisa Elliott

I held my newest infant grandson in my arms. He breathed deeply and slept soundly as he nestled in close to my heart. Not a care in the world. And, absolutely oblivious to all the emotions that were running rampant in my heart right beneath where he laid his tiny head. 

My husband was preaching his final sermon as a lead pastor before retiring. So, I took in every thought he expressed and collected all the memories attached. I wanted to soak it all up. Every morsel. Every memory. Every millisecond of what it all represented.  Four decades' worth of pastoral ministry. 

As I listened to my husband's heartfelt message I absorbed the love of those who surrounded me. And, I reflected on the personal encounters that had already taken place and basked in the words they blessed me with. 

Earlier that morning, I had taken to heart the words of encouragement from a close and longtime friend, whose husband had retired from pastoral ministry a year earlier. Here's what she said, "Wow. It’s hard to believe this day has arrived. Soak in all the beauty, the moments of seeing God change destinies and hearts. Acknowledge the hard, the horrible, the unthinkable. It’s part of what has made you who you are. Think about the time passing. It seems surreal but is a reminder that our days are long but the journey is short. And a million other things. It is a hard road at times full of ups and downs (as your book, A Ministry Survival Guide so clearly points out) but mostly I hope you remember the love. Focus on the love. The love from the many people you’ve met, some even for an instant, that have brought encouragement, laughter, tears, prayers, personal sacrifice, and support at just the right times. The love that I know has been going out to all of those around you for forty years (!!) and how you have been the hands and feet of Jesus even when going through personal hardships that they were unaware of. But…..soak in all the love from God himself who has been a consistent and faithful father, co-leader, guide, comforter, and friend and acknowledge that at the end of this part of the journey, you would not have been able to stand were it not for his grace."

So, that's exactly what I did. I made sure to heed my friend's counsel and determined to feel all the feels, in whatever form they took, as the morning unfolded. I just didn't expect the feelings to begin the moment I stepped into the church building. I was immediately overcome with emotion upon my arrival when I caught a glimpse of an array of orange balloons displayed throughout the church foyer, subtly acknowledging the absence of our son, Ben. Orange symbolizing leukemia, the disease from which he died. Then came a warm, tender, and teary hug from the woman who had carefully arranged the balloons, along with all the other beautiful personal touches she had thoughtfully displayed to express her attention to the details of our lives. She had prayerfully held my heart throughout our entire ministry at this, our final church, even amid her own personal challenges. Not a gift I take lightly.

She, along with our church administrator, also my heart's prayerful caregiver, had rallied a few of our biggest cheerleaders to ensure we were celebrated well. This included the rest of the church staff and their spouses as well as our three living adult children. 

My kids' tribute, alone, was worth the price of admission. Tears of joy and sadness mingled together and wrapped a beautiful tapestry around my heart as I pondered the depth of their words.

With every face that I saw of family and friends seated around the church sanctuary, some travelling great distances to celebrate us, I allowed the Lord to transport my heart to all the places of ministry that each one represented. That involved five churches, GriefShare participants, our grieving parent's ministry, neighbours, and even a camp where my husband and I ministered for a week every summer over the course of twenty-five years. 

One unexpected emotion overtook me when my husband's faithful ministry assistant, also my good friend, presented me with a stunningly vibrant arrangement of flowers and spoke life-giving words over me. She said, "Over forty years ago you released your husband to minister to the masses. Today we are releasing him back to you." Did she even realize the eternal impact of her words, being poured out over my heart as if spoken by God, Himself.

Blessed. Simply and utterly blessed.

My soul was filled to overflowing. I immersed myself fully in every moment and allowed God's richest blessings to wash over me. Tears effortlessly fell from my eyes and shamelessly slid down my cheeks with every cherished hello and lingering hug. I rejoiced in God's fresh new mercies with hope for my tomorrows as I reflected on and relished in His faithfulness displayed throughout my life.

"I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing" (Ezekiel 34:26, NIV).

About this Contributor:

Lisa Elliott

Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple, Dancing in the Rain, and A Ministry Survival Guide. She’s also a writer for Just Between Us Magazine, theStory, and Good Ground. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (three on earth, one in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, ON, Canada.

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