Friday, September 28, 2012

We belong to the Lord

If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. 
So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:8

After the first fog of grief lifted, one of things that I thought about most when Becky died was my own mortality.  I was almost 34 when she died so maybe that is the age when people often start thinking about the possibility of death.  I don't know.  What I do know is that Becky dying made me feel old.  Sounds strange, I know.  Maybe it is because it was my first real taste of death.  I mean, you expect grandparents to die.  Sisters are supposed to grow old with you.

I've been thinking about my mortality again lately.  I have been having this pain in my side.  I've been to the doctor about it a lot.  I've been poked and prodded.  I've had gallons of blood drawn.  My doctor doesn't see anything wrong, he doesn't know why I'm having pain.  So he ordered a CT Scan.  For some reason, scheduling the CT Scan was the moment I thought something might be truly wrong.  Something about big machinery and the ability to see inside my body, I guess.

Anyway, I've been thinking about it.  What if there is something major wrong?  What if my kids have to learn about things like cancer and chemotherapy?  What if it is something else, something chronic and disabling?  How would these things change who I am and what I am called to be?

I am not usually a worst-case-scenario kind of girl.  In fact, I generally believe everything will be perfect.  I expect the best in every situation...probably because I've so rarely been faced with actual worst cases.  Waiting for the results of this test, I realized: there is no worst case.  The price has already been paid for my worst case scenario.  Jesus died so that I would be spared the worst case penalty.

Everything else is just the life that He chooses to give me.  So, if I live, I live for the Lord.  If I die, I die for the Lord.   No matter what happens, it is all for the Lord.

When I think about things like this I think about the "what ifs".  You know: what would my husband do; what would my kids do; what would happen to the house/the bills/the laundry.  These are silly things to think about.  If I got sick or died, my husband would survive.  My children would go one living.  Decisions would be made, for sure, difficult decisions.  Who knows how it would all work out.  But that is not worth worrying about.  More than ever I understand Jesus' instructions in Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I recently read a quote: "Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy."  That is the truth.  Worrying will not change tomorrow.  I do not know what will happen tomorrow.  But I can be present today, be joyful today, love the life I have today.  And that is what I am going to do.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In an instant: Becky's story

     My sister died almost two years ago.  I'm afraid this will be a recurring theme here so you should probably hear the story.  My little sister, Becky, 32 years old.  Wife to Jacob.  Mother to Amity (who turned 10 three days after the accident) and Dara (8).  Becky was a lover of Jesus.  She was a runner.  She was a reader.  She was 4 months away from finishing her Doctor of Pharmacy.  She was smart as a whip, goofy and had the quickest sense of humor I've ever known.  Missing her is like an ache that will never go away.

     That year, 2010, we celebrated Christmas at my house.  I live about halfway between Spokane, Washington (where Becky and her family lived) and Corvallis, Oregon (where my parents and other sister live).  So, in the spirit of meeting in the middle, we all converged on my house.  Thankfully our house is fairly large but, with 7 adults and 4 kids, we were pretty crowded.  It was a great kind of crowded though.  We ate, laughed, played cards, goofed around and celebrated together.

     On Sunday, December 26, everyone headed back to their homes.  Becky had to start a new rotation for her Pharmacy degree the next day.  She was so excited about it and about nearing the end of this program that she had worked so hard on.  Wednesday, December 29 was a wintry, cold day.  Ice storms were forecasted so Becky packed a bag in case she decided it was too dangerous to drive home that evening.  Late that afternoon Becky decided it would be safe to drive home if she left her rotation a little early.  So she headed home.  Approximately 10 miles from her home, Becky hit a patch of ice and her car slid into the path of an oncoming truck.  She died on impact.

     There are so many things in this story that beg the question: "what if."

What if we hadn't gotten together right before that?  What a gift that was!

What if she hadn't gone to work that morning?

What if she had decided to stay in town rather than drive home?

What if the pickup hit her car in a slightly different spot?

What if, what if, what if?

Here is one thing I have learned in all of this:  everything can change in an instant. What does that mean?  It means I need to treasure every second, to live life with the understanding that this moment could be my last.  It wouldn't be a bad thing; I am fully prepared to die.  In fact, my own death is actually less of a fear for me than the death of another loved one.  I know my own death will only be a celebration for me, entering into the presence of my Lord.   And Becky experienced that celebration when she died.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground and worshiped, and said, "Naked I came out of my mother's womb, and naked I shall return thither.  The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."  In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.  Job 1:20-22

Job is not a role model most people would choose.  It's too frightening to pick him, to ask God to make you more like him.  What if God sends you challenges like Job's to help you develop character?  No thank you.

Job is a man for whom everything has gone right.   Right at the beginning of the book he is described as being "blameless and upright", he "feared God and shunned evil."  He had a large family and was prosperous.  People respected him.  He was worried about his children but, overall, his life was pretty good.

Then Satan gets up to his wily ways and God allows him to make Job's life difficult.  In a fairly short period of time, Job's experiences significant, devastating financial losses and his children are all killed.  Now, Satan is betting that Job will turn his back on God because of these tragic events.  But what does Job say?  "Blessed be the name of the Lord."  He acknowledges that he came into this world with nothing, that he will leave this world with nothing and that everything he has in the mean time is a gift from God.

My favorite part?  "In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly."

This is where Job is my role model.  Many times have I taken God's gifts for granted and when they are taken away from me, I lash out in anger, grieving God with my sin and my lack of faith in Him.

It's hard to talk about participating in the sufferings of Christ.  No matter how difficult my circumstances have been, there is no comparison to the suffering that Jesus joyfully experienced, all for me.  My suffering is but a hangnail compared to His.

But there is something precious about suffering.  My suffering causes me to seek Him more fully, to be more open to His prompting and work in my life.  This does not always happen right away.  Sometimes I run from Him, run from truly experiencing the pain.  But ultimately He draws me to Him, loving me through the most difficult times.

This past weekend I attended a wedding. I know that's not what you expected to read.  Here I've been talking about suffering and now I bring up a wedding.  But this weekend's wedding was the most painful I've ever attended.

You see, this weekend my sister's husband got remarried. It wasn't so long ago, just 14 short years, that I watched him promise to love my sister until death parted them.  And he honored that promise.  He loved her beautifully until, and even after, the cold winter day when she lost her life.  I couldn't love him more for the way that he loved her.  And I am so happy that he has found this new love and happiness.  I am happy for him.  I am happy for my nieces.  It even makes me proud of my sister, because her husband's desire to love and commit this second time shows me that she loved him well.  So, yes, it was a joyful wedding.

But, oh, how painful as well.  Underneath my smiles were tears.  Tears for all we have lost.  Grief for the grandchildren my sister will never hold, grandchildren that will be loved by this new wife.  Sadness for all the plans we made and never accomplished.  I missed my sister.  I miss her every day.   Even on her husband's wedding day.

And then God whispered to my heart.  Daughter, do you see how I am grieved when you choose a different way?  When you ignore the plans I have for you in favor of your own imperfect way?

That is suffering.

I am reminded of the words of the Psalmist:

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. Psalm 42:1

I long for you, God.  Not my sister.  Not another day.  Not my own desires.  I long for you.

Deer in our yard.  We counted 16 that evening.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Still giving thought

I kind of forgot all about this blog.  I had good intentions when I started it.  I just went back and read the entries I had posted and they seemed pretty good.  So, where have I been?

Busy, I guess.  Too busy to write things down.

Or maybe too scared.

When I read these posts I am instantly transported to a time when life seemed much easier.  It is easier for me to write and "give thought to my steps" when things seem to be going smoothly.  

Things don't always go smoothly.  And God has been using the last couple of years to teach me about that.  And about trusting Him through the hard times.

You see, almost two years ago my 32 year old sister was killed in car accident.  I can still hear the phone calls, like it happened yesterday.  I can still see my dad's completely crushed face when we picked him up at the airport.  I can still feel my precious nieces when they held on to me the next morning.

Sometimes life sucks.  Sometimes people die way too early.  Sometimes lives are shattered.  But, still, God is faithful.  I remember that.  And it helps.

So, I am going to revive this blog.  I will share things that I've learned in the last couple of years.  I'll share things I'm still learning.  I'm still giving thought to my steps.  You'll see.