Over the last five months, we have gone through a very difficult time in our family. In fact, it has been perhaps the most trying time of our whole marriage. Since Deb found her brother deceased on June 4 with her mother upstairs on the floor, we have gone through a very stressful time that included caring for Deb’s mom as she was first placed in one nursing home and then we were able to get her moved to Parker at Landing Lane. We were then there to walk with her through the process of hospice care and finally her passing into the Lord’s presence on October 25. I’m thankful that although Deb was not able to go to the nursing home, due to a severe cold, I was able to go and have prayer over Ruth’s body and at least to have some closure and say “see you later” to her.
In the midst of all of these difficulties, I find great reasons to give God thanks for His kindness and care. I love what Psalm 100 says when we read, “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations,” (Ps.100:3-5 NIV). I’m very thankful for the preplanned vacations that we had the opportunity to experience during this five-month trial. I’m grateful and thankful to God for our visit to Timberlake in Michigan in July to be with our children and grandchildren there. I’m especially thankful for the amazing time to celebrate Ethan’s high school graduation in Maui in August. This truly was one of our best vacations we ever had. A lot of things have changed in Ethan’s life since then, but whatever has happened in his life we know that we made an incredible memory for him as we honored him for his high school graduation. I’m also thankful and grateful to God for our time away in September at Virginia Beach. This was a very relaxing and refreshing time in the midst of all the painful things that were happening, not only in our lives but also in the lives of other church family members and friends. These vacations acted as buffers during a very difficult and stressful time. I believe that taking time off is a biblical imperative. Some people don’t value taking time off and don’t take vacations themselves, but I am very grateful to God for these preplanned activities that gave us a lifeline to deal with all the things that we had to deal with in our family and in ministry.
I am amazed and thankful for the amazing kindness of the NDC church family in responding to the challenge of Yvonne Nelson to “bless our pastor”. Her words of encouragement to the church family to honor us were a blessing to us and the response of the church family has been overwhelming in its kindness and magnitude. The Scripture says, “The elders who are direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching”, (1 Tim.5:17 NIV). I feel doubly honored by your kindness and care at a critical point of need in my life. In fact, the financial gifts that have been given have more than covered the deposit for our now-planned Viking River cruise in June 2023. You will remember that Deb and I tried to go away to celebrate our 40th anniversary on a Viking River cruise in June 2020, which was quickly canceled by the pandemic. We now feel abundantly blessed in order to once again plan to make this special trip for our anniversary.
I am very thankful for the privilege that God has given me of ministering to other church families during their time of loss. Having the privilege to say, “see you later” to John Sutlic, Ruth Lane and Joan Easterling is a privilege that I am grateful to God for. I see the incredible hand of God in all these things and give Him thanks for His excellence and loving care in the midst of our losses. I’m reminded of Jeremiah’s words when he looked around and saw the destruction of Jerusalem and as he’s pouring out his heart to God in brokenness, he reminds himself and all of us when he writes, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him,” (Lam.3:22-24 NIV). As we enter this week of Thanksgiving let us do so in celebration of the great things that God continues to put before us even in the midst of our brokenness. Let us remember that we serve the Lord Jesus Christ who has promised “never to leave us or forsake us”, and has invited us to come to Him with all of our burdens and needs. Are you following Jesus’s instruction when he invites us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (Matt.11:28-30 NIV). When we cast our cares upon the Lord Jesus Christ, we have another reason for a great Thanksgiving. May you find many great reasons to bless and give thanks to our wonderful Savior and God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rejoicing in the Savior,
Pastor Rich Sivo