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Mandolins, Trust and Music

March 1, 2012

The past few days leading into yesterday have probably been some of the hardest so far for me personally. I am not sure why, but this milestone struck me in a new and real way. Essentially it is the realization that she is not coming back. I am told that this is very normal, and grief often comes out in surprise.

Coupled with the six month anniversary of Sydney’s death was the news that our friend Amy Patwa’s cancer had spread. Our church held a prayer meeting last night where we cried out to God for mercy on this family. It hurts me so much to see them go through what we have gone through and struggle with all of the realities and pain of the situation.

However, I’ve used the phrase “touches of grace” and I wanted to share three special touches of grace that occurred to me yesterday where God demonstrated his lovingkindness and compassion amidst my sadness.

Mandolin Rain

I recently read my friend Settle Monroe’s blogpost about joy being restored in her tragedy “drip by drip.” She wrote, “I thought it would be different, this business of God restoring joy to my life. I thought He would deliver it in a package. I’d run to the door as the brown truck pulled away to find a sparkling present labeled ‘Joy for Settle’. ‘It’s here!  It’s here!’ I would squeal as I ripped through the cardboard… But today I’m not so sure.  Today I’m wondering if perhaps the return of joy looks more like water dripping down from a broken faucet.” (Settle’s Blog)

Well, Settle, ironically enough, joy for me yesterday was delivered to my door in a big brown cardboard box by a big brown truck. I was sitting on the porch when it arrived. I immediately noticed the return address from Birmingham, Alabama and the messy, slanted, all-caps handwriting of my dear friend from childhood, Jamie Gregory. Although I haven’t seen his handwriting in probably 10 or 15 years, our history from childhood is so deep that that I recognized it instantly.

Jamie is always getting into something new, so I was intrigued as to what he had sent me. As Mary Haven and I swept away the layers of styrofoam peanuts, I recognized the small instrument case in the form of a …. seriously… a mandolin!?!? Jamie and I both treasure music and frequently share new finds. Although he is not a musician, he knows that I have always loved playing guitar and creating music. I looked inside and realize that this instrument is very nice. I’m thinking, “I don’t play mandolin, but okay!?!”

I wanted to share some excerpts from his accompanying letter: “I know it’s odd and doesn’t make sense but I’m sending it anyway. For a while I wasn’t going to send because it seems so silly. I can see you thinking, ‘People sure don’t know what to do with me. So much so that I’m getting mandolins in the mail. I don’t worry about you but I pray for you and I love you.”

And later. “I chose the mandolin but have a Plan B and C if that isn’t a fit for you or you have one. Plan C makes me laugh so hard, it may become Plan B. Anyway, the goal is for you to have something fun to mess around with.”

The crazy thing is that God’s timing to paint a smile across my face just happened to coincide with one of the toughest days of grief I have dealt with. Jamie wasn’t thinking of the six month anniversary, he was just loving a friend well. And through this, God was looking out for me.

Trust Me

This is the lesson I keep coming back to again and again. God is saying, “I am enough, I am all you need. Can you let go of everything else and hold on to me?” The question posed seems louder on days like yesterday. Alongside this question is the gentle reminder of His goodness and His love for me. The words that opened my eyes this morning are from the Streams in the Desert devotion book.

“He will not only deliver you, but in doing so will impart a lesson that you will never forget. And in the days to come, you will return to the truth of it through singing. You will be unable to thank God enough for doing exactly what He has done.”

Farther Along

I was given this song Tuesday night by a new friend. I have a Sydney-like obsession with it. Seriously, I can’t stop listening to it. Do yourself a favor and download it, listen closely and link to these lyrics. The chorus is as follows:

Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand this, all by and by

-Josh Garrels

From → Stories

  1. Angela Shipley Risk permalink

    Farther Along is one of our FAVORITE songs – Not to mention a great bluegrass tune – Your mandolin would fit right in.

    Please let me know if you’d ever like to sit in with our little bluegrass group in Charlotte – We play old gospel hymns and have a great mandolin player who would love to teach you a few things!

    Your posts always bring me, joy, sadness and thanksgiving everytime I read them. You have no idea what a blessing your writings are to us.

  2. Janine Medlin permalink

    Hey Todd, I love this! I know you will have fun learning it. When Stephen first took up mandolin, he mastered it an about a week. When I expressed my astonishment, he looked at me, dead serious and said, “It’s really not hard… it’s just like playing guitar, only upside down.” Like he fully expected that anyone could do it. I tried to be straight-faced in my “Oh really…”, but it didn’t last long. It’s funny when God so clearly plops a gift or talent like that in your lap, it’s easy to think anyone can do it. I think that’s the best way, cause then we can’t think we did it on our own.
    I bet Stephen would love to play some upside down guitar with you.
    Thanks, as always, for sharing.

  3. sharon cooke permalink

    Oh my, I think of Jamie so often with great affection. I instantly saw his handwriting when you wrote of it. So glad to know he still spreads light and joy and that you have him in your life!

  4. todd, your words are wonderful and so helpful to those grieving in countless and varied stories of life this side of heaven. thank you for sharing. i particularly loved this post. after my friend died in a car accident, i decided it was time to play an instrument and chose the mandolin. after searching for a little while and finding one to rent, the gentleman told me when he could meet to give it to me… and the date was exactly one year anniversary of my friend’s passing. the Lord does love to remind us He is with us. your words today helped to remind me of this Ebenezer, how the “Lord has helped.” playing music brought me much healing and joy- pray it does to you as well.

  5. Susan Hight permalink

    I have been praying for your family as I have read your loving posts regarding Sydney and your family. I would appreciate your taking a look at a friend of mine’s daughter’s caring bridge site. Aimee Norman lives in Charlotte. She is in the final stages of colon cancer. She will leave behind a loving husband, 2 daughters (in high school), parents and siblings and numerous friends. I received an update notice from both of you today. Please take a moment and check it out and pray as to the direction that God wants you to take with it. Thank you so much. I appreciate so much your writings and your faith.

  6. hennie Gregory permalink

    Todd….this made my heart so happy….two old friends living far from each other ..yet so close in spirit ….love the part about Jamies hand writing! I love you….mama hennie

  7. lena cook permalink

  8. Elly permalink

    Brad Paisley does a beautiful rendition of “Farther Along.”

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