Surely Shirley

I still can picture her. A tiny little frame with perfectly colored and curled hair, ninety plus years of age saying, "You won't forget my name: Shirley. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Dad's aunt Shirley from Hull, Iowa, using her name and her years of wisdom to testify to the faithfulness of Jesus.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6
For whatever reason, I woke in the middle of the night saying that verse, picturing her face over and over again. I didn't know really know Shirley. Who really gets to know their dad's aunts? She's in heaven now, but I bet her life wasn't always a bundle of roses. I bet she faced rough times in her marriage, finances, parenting, community and church. Drought, job loss, death... Yet in the last days of her life, she testified to God's goodness and mercy all the days of her life.
This inspires me. Overall, God's given me a good life: a husband I can't wait to wrap my arms around at the end of every work day, three healthy daughters who are learning what it means to walk with Jesus, way more house than I need, a garden I can get my hands dirty in, time to express my heart in words, friends that pray for me, parents and siblings that accept me. But then there's the tough stuff: babies I didn't get to hold, years of disconnection and disappointment in marriage, the willfully disobedient toddler years, the hormonal roller-coaster tween years, moving from close friends, burying my eleven-year old nephew, changing families... These things I'd like to forget; in which I hardly see goodness and mercy.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Psalm 23:1-3
God loving leads us through all of it. He provides rest, refreshment and restoration as we need. He doesn't make a wrong turn. All the circumstances of our life refine us and bring Him glory. ALL the days of our life, not just the good ones. He uses those rough days we'd like to forget to shape us more like Jesus. We must accept these realities that we can not change. Maybe He knows we couldn't learn to be like Jesus, couldn't get truth through our thick-skulls if there weren't hardships. In the hardship, He reveals Himself to us so we can mirror Him. Even in those ugly times, He's still leading perfectly and gives gifts of goodness & mercy that follow us around like little chicks following their mother.
Every time I go to the grocery store with all three golden heads, I feel this phenomena. I can't get rid of them. Seriously, they're 12, 11 and 8, but they follow me, nearly stepping on my heels. And while this can be infuriating, suffocating and feel like leeches, I've never lost them in a large store and that's a good thing! Just like a baby chick won't leave their momma, neither will God's inherent goodness and mercy leave those He leads. Granted sometimes for a while, that goodness and mercy might be disguised, in the most tiny form (barely a bud), or seem a nuisance, but goodness and mercy are present. God promises they are present all the days of our lives.
Whether you're in the middle of the good, lush green grasses or you think your surroundings look like desert, choose to trust God's leading you and His plan and purpose is for goodness and mercy to be nipping at your heels, even if you don't quite yet understand.

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