Consider the Lilly
Andy Landis explains how two sisters let God use their pain to reach out to others, “Sometimes when our hearts are hurting, God speaks to us when we cannot utter a word…” reads the back of the CD cover titled Heartaches Take Time. Sister Robin Wilton Jones and Sharon Wilton Atack know this experientially. They decided to let others know it, too, when they put together a unique heartfelt collection of songs. “God got us through a terrible time and now we want to help others. We want to help them heal,” You, too, can find hope through faith.
by Andy Landis
Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not: and I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
– Luke 12:27 KJV
“Sometimes when our hearts are hurting, God speaks to us when we cannot utter a word…” reads the back of the CD cover titled Heartaches Take Time. Sister Robin Wilton Jones and Sharon Wilton Atack know this experientially. They decided to let others know it, too, when they put together a unique heartfelt collection of songs. “God got us through a terrible time and now we want to help others. We want to help them heal,” Sharon, the elder of the two sisters from Richmond, Virginia, told me as I spoke with her over the phone. Her voice is exuberant and rhythmic with a gentle southern accent.
Sharon told me that, in March of 1997, Robin and she lost their father only weeks before Sharon’s daughter got married. They were still grieving when Vicki Huber, Robin’s best friend since grade school, was stricken with colon cancer. Vicki had lost her husband, Dennis, to brain cancer only months before in June of 1998. Vicki’s mother-in-law died soon thereafter and her father passed away, too. Needless to say, Vicki was particularly weary when she received her diagnosis. Robin took care of her but felt that her friendship wasn’t enough to address all of Vicki’s suffering. Being a music lover, Robin began collecting songs she felt would help Vicki survive.
Then, in December of 2001, Sharon and her husband unexpectedly separated after 31 years of marriage. Suddenly, all three women were in what seemed to be, at the time, an insurmountable amount of pain. Robin and Sharon combed through their CDs, listened to hymns and researched catalogues to find just the right songs to comfort and encourage not only Vicki but also themselves.
At night, when the women would go their separate ways, Robin or Sharon would mention that the songs were soothing them. “Wouldn’t it be great if these songs could be the arms that would hold us when everyone goes home?” Robin asked one evening. “Because when the house is empty, and we’re all alone, that’s when we need a comforting embrace the most.”
The sister called their Pastor, Terry M. Sharpe, from Western Hanover Church in Montpelier, Virginia, and asked him to pray about such a musical project. Pastor Sharpe did more than that–he joined in the effort providing spiritual guidance and sustaining prayers.
One day, Robin heard a song written by Mike Shiflett, the lead vocalist at the same church, that he had written many years earlier called Heartaches Take Time. “There was a knowing that this song needed to be included and we knew it would be the name of the CD, too. We just knew it,” Sharon said.
“The project progressed from maybe five or six songs to 16 songs!” Sharon says, laughing. That’s when the sisters knew they needed a place from where they could sell the CD and other items specific to grief. They wanted a corner in a neighborhood where people could find healing. They found a cozy spot in Lakeside, a sleepy little village just a dozen minutes outside the city of Richmond. “We wanted people to feel hugged and comforted, to feel understood and heard,” said Sharon with a warm lilt in her voice.
While the CD was still being recorded in December of 2003, the store named Consider the Lilly opened its doors to those in grief. The store was filled with encouraging gifts and signs, music and cards, books and fragrances, all catering to those in need of a comforting touch.
Soon thereafter, while Mike Shiflett was in the studio recording a song written by Rich Mullins called Hold Me Jesus, Vicki Huber received the word that she had breast cancer. “That night, while Mike was singing,” Sharon explained, “we felt a deep passion and power in Mike’s voice. This was real emotion and we all knew we needed the hope found in these songs more than ever.”
In December of 2004, the project was finished. Sharon created the artwork on the front cover with insight. Pastor Sharpe reads encouraging words at the end of the CD. Mike Shiflett writes and performs with grace. Vicki Huber, who is in remission, promotes the project with passion. And the sisters spill out their hearts filled with encouragement–for Vicki, for themselves, for us.
“My joy is back,” said Sharon, her enthusiasm audible. “It came back when the CD was done. God’s using my pain to help others and that makes me really happy.”
There’s a store where we can go when we are grieving, whether it is on foot or online, to get items that will comfort us and those whom we love. There’s also a CD for us when we feel a loss so deep that we can’t sleep, see another encouraging card, or read another information book. But there is more for us here, too. There’s a story. A story of hope. A story of recovery. A tale of enduring friendship.
And isn’t that really, I mean really, what we all need these days?
Yes, heartaches do take time. But friendship, prayers and music make the time go by with a sweeter sound. A softer cut. A gentler healing. The sort of healing found when we “consider the lilly”.