There are all types of anniversaries. Some sweet and some not-so-sweet. Think about it. Weddings. Milestones. Birthdays. They warm our hearts at the memory of them.

But there are also those anniversaries we dread, the ones that creep up on us and bring fresh tears to our eyes each time we land on that unforgettable date on the calendar. Usually it’s an anniversary of something (usually someone) we’ve lost.

My family is coming up on one of those hard days this week. On August 4th of last year, my husband’s mom passed away. She’d spent months in the hospital, deteriorating before our eyes. A dark cloud hung over us all last summer. Her health wasn’t improving. Time seemed to freeze. Life got stuck in a cycle of hospital visits, long calls with countless doctors, and trying to find answers which never came. At least not in the way we expected.

But something incredible also happened. Something that even now brings tears to my eyes. God never abandoned us. And more than that, He showed us His love in unexpected ways over and over again.

I’ve thought back on one of those particular moments so often in this last year. His grace etched it in my heart until I had no choice but to write it down. For Him. For me. And perhaps, for you. Maybe you’re going through your own wilderness season and need this reminder like I did.

The week before my mother-in-law passed away, my husband and I sat on our front porch on a quiet summer evening. Everything outside was peaceful, but the turmoil in our hearts was anything but calm. We’d struggled to find help for his mom for months. No one knew what was wrong and she wasn’t getting any better. We were out of options and running out of time.

Our two year old daughter played on the porch, blissfully unaware of the discouragement we felt. She had no idea what her grandma was facing or what we would face in the following days.

While we sat there, we got a phone call. The decision had been made. His mom would be coming home on hospice. We had known that this would be coming, but still the sadness and surrender overwhelmed us. I held my husband’s hand and we prayed.

“Lord, please wrap your arms around my husband. May He feel your love around him right now,” I prayed. We knew God was the only one who could lift our hurt.

What we didn’t expect was the hands He chose to show us His love.

Literally seconds after we finished praying, huddled there together on the porch steps, unexpected hands wrapped around my husband from behind us.

Small hands — with a divinely guided purpose.

I took this picture right after she hugged him

Our little girl had stopped playing and rushed over to wrap her arms around her daddy.

The love of a daughter fueled by the love of a Father. Our Heavenly Father.

A laugh burst from my heart with tears in my eyes. You know the kind? “Look, honey,” I pointed at my husband. “He already answered our prayer. That’s Him loving on you right now. Do you see that?”

In that moment, our sweet girl became His hands and feet.

We weren’t alone in our grief. The Lord saw us there – the defeat on our shoulders, the discouragement in our hearts. And poured the promise of his life and love back into us. I’ll never forget the strange joy that overcame us in that moment of surrender and acceptance.

Some hard goodbyes still came a few days later, but God held our hand and stayed true to His word. He never left us and never will.

Are you facing your own season of defeat or discouragement right now, dear friend? May you know that our God in Heaven hears your cries. Don’t miss His hands at work in your life. They may just wrap around you in a way you least expect!