Two weeks ago, I woke up with two parents. Today I woke up an orphan.

Orphan. What image does that word paint in your mind?

Growing up in a family that watched and participated in musicals, my first thought is Annie, with her curly red hair and freckles trapped in an orphanage waiting for parents who are never coming back. My next thought is Oliver, asking for more gruel and being kicked out on his ear to fend for himself and learn to “pick a pocket or two.”

I’ve never really thought about an orphan being an adult. But it’s true… now I am now an orphan.

IMG_5144Many people, at a loss for words, sought to comfort me by reminding me that God has a special heart for orphans. Having grown up in church, I know that “pure and undefiled religion” is to care for orphans and widows.

With the loss of my father, I was reminded of the many times in scripture that God promises to be the Father to the Fatherless. These thoughts comforted me as I began to grieve the loss of dad in such a surprising and tragic way on March 29th.

Sunday I was listening to a pastor explain that his grandfather died when his father was young and, as a result, his father was very absent. Yet, when my father endured the same tragedy, he leveraged that pain to develop a heart for those without parents. I have been inundated the last two weeks with examples of how he filled the role of father for many fatherless boys.

I made the decision this weekend that I would take my father’s path.  I decided that I would allow this tragedy to shape me for the better and to equip me for the ministry that God has planned for my future.

IMG_5101The loss of mom on Tuesday was devastating and for a moment I was without words (an uncommon state for me, for sure). Once the wave of shock rolled over me and the pain began to set in, I immediately resolved that my commitment to see God bring beauty from this pain was even more important.

My parents were amazing.  They loved and served with everything that they had until their last moments on earth. My father passed driving the bus full of seniors returning from their annual choir retreat. My mother was working on details for the annual Seder up until she went to sleep. Both of them were a gift to this world and wanted nothing more than to leave the world better than they found it.

To have them gone so suddenly and so tragically, I believe God must have a plan to redeem their deaths just as He redeemed my father’s fatherlessness.

The last 48 hours so many people have told me they are amazed by my strength… but I don’t feel strong. I feel hurt and confused. I feel a bit lost and unsure. Mostly, I feel a childlike curiosity.

It’s like watching an artist as a young child.  I see the black strokes that have been made on the canvas and I can look around the studio and see all the beautiful works of art the artist has already finished. With wonder and curiosity, I look at the marred canvas in front of him and ask “how will these dark strokes become something beautiful?”

I have walked with God through many good days and bad days and He has never left me alone or abandoned me. The most painful and confusing events in my life have always been used for my good. His character is unchanged, although my circumstances seem uncertain, and I can walk in confidence because I have been here before.

Annie is eventually adopted by Daddy Warbucks and Oliver is adopted by Mr. Brownlow. While I don’t have a rich man looking to adopt me and redeem my future, I do have the richest Father in the world, one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He has promised that he will make all things work for good for those who trust Him.

We all face pain in life.  We can choose to let that pain make us victims and live selfish, irresponsible lives. Or we can choose to search for the hand of God coming in to redeem our pain and turn it into something beautiful. I choose the latter and I am excited to see what big things God has planned to redeem this tragic and painful situation for my good and His glory.



17 thoughts on “Orphan

  1. Melanie Ohlenbusch

    Hours are an amazing young woman. I will continue to pray for you and your siblings for peace. God bless you all❤️


  2. Cindy Blue

    My heart aches for you and your siblings..but is then healed after reading your words that reflect HIS WORDS..I want to follow your blog and the lives of you, Cassie , Matt and Russell


  3. tanpan85

    In such a tragic time, you remain so faithful♡♡ I am in awe of you and hope you know and understand whatyour words have done for a lot of us. I cannot imagine the pain that you and your siblings have endured. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the world!


  4. Jen Congdon

    You are right…. God will bring beauty from these ashes! Your parents live on in you and what a beautiful legacy of God’s love and grace has been passed on to you and your siblings. May the prayers of so many and the ministry of the Holy Spirit be your ever present comfort. You are loved! Praying for you!


  5. My mother’s heart tells me both your father and mother would be so very proud of you. Perhaps they have heard your words and smile – Christian parents have “no greater joy” than hearing that their children are walking in the truth. Continue to abide in Christ… abide in His love… abide in His words. And when you can no longer hold on to Him, He will be holding on to you (and your siblings), for He who promised is faithful. Thank God, for as you know, it is not our performance that counts, but Jesus’s. Praying deep heart prayers for all who love and miss your parents.


  6. Your story reminds me of the verse in 2 Corinthians, “…for when I am weak, then I am strong.” You feel weak, but by His Power, you are strong. What an amazing testimony that He is no doubt already using for His glory. I’m so sorry for the hurt that you and your siblings have to endure until being reunited with your parents, but as you know, God’s promises are true. May He comfort you and heal your broken hearts by the power of His Spirit as you continue to press into His Love. Know that I and so many others are praying for you daily.


  7. Ruth Close Medley

    Jen, what beautiful well written words. Thank you for sharing. I will continue to pray for you Jen, Matt, Russell, and Cassie. My heart hurts and is burdened for each of you. One thing I am sure of is God has a wonderful plan for each of you and will continue to provide comfort and peace. Love In Christ, Ruth Close Medley


  8. Deborah

    I am so sorry. Your parents were strong people, especially in their faith. I feel like she was suffering without your father more than she showed, as she tried to be strong for everyone else.


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