Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Remembering the Past and Celebrating Today

May of last year (2013)

My friends ask me how this month is going for me as I remember what we were doing one year ago.  Reading my journal from last May caused some mixed emotions.  It brought back to mind the questions, the difficulties, the exhaustion.  It also reminded me of the unquestionable presence of Jesus.  He was so near Christina and all of us, really.  He let us experience the process of one of His sheep moving into His presence forever.  Each day was another glimpse into forever.  We saw the joy on Christina’s face as she talked about and to Jesus.  We saw light in her mostly blind eyes as she saw and heard angels.  We loved hearing about her new dwelling place with Jesus.  We loved the messages He whispered in her ears.  It is not easy to describe watching someone you love so dearly, move from life on earth to life with Jesus.  There was an awakening deep in Christina that overshadowed the fading of her earthly body. 

Sometimes I shake my head in disbelief as I remember watching Christina take her last breath.  As an isolated incident, it seems too much to bear.  But as a part of the whole journey, it was a necessary moment.  Leaving her earthly body behind—well, it was time.  And it was just a moment.  The rest of the picture is her wide awake spirit, her unhesitant heart, her absolute assurance of heaven, and her total surrender of all earthly cares.

Today, my thoughts may start with a dying body but they quickly move to a very present Savior and a daughter free from exhaustion, from pain, and every other known and unknown struggle she faced.  I feel deep relief for her.  I applaud her well-lived life.  I sing her favorite worship songs and sometimes I think she is singing along with me in that beautiful eternity just beyond the curtain.

Today I also celebrate the day that we are given right now.  There is a beautiful joyful child that reminds me every day of his beautiful, joyful mother.  Isaiah is full of life.  
He has named me Jo Jo and named my Doug, Bampa.  He loves discovery.  He loves to talk.  He loves to play.  He loves the ocean.  He loves cars.  He loves trucks.  He loves to thank Jesus for his food.  He loves to watch his mom on video singing, “King Jesus is All”.  He is our reminder that our lives did not end when Christina breathed her last breath on earth.  When I rock Isaiah to sleep, I am doing it for Christina.  When I teach him something new, I am doing it in honor of her. Every minute with Isaiah is a precious reminder of the value of our days.  

What a beautiful life. 

Thank you, Jesus.  

You are amazing.

Bampa and Jo Jo and Isaiah

Monday, May 5, 2014

Happy Mother's Day--a Bit Early

Last week, in Port Angeles, we were enjoying a rare heat wave. (70 degrees is a heat wave in Port Angeles). As I was working on getting my flower pots planted,  I looked down at my shoes and wished I had something more appropriate for the garden.  And then I remembered, I have Christina's white garden shoes in my front closet.  I ran inside, put them on, and felt very blessed to be wearing those shoes--for the first time.

That got me started--thinking about Christina.  Thinking about the coming Mother's Day.  Remembering last Mother's Day.  

Last year, I spent most of Mother's Day in a darkened room sitting on Christina's bed.  Light was troubling to her fading eyes so we kept the shades down and lights low.  She woke up sick and in pain.  I stayed with her.  She did not know it was Mother's Day and I wasn't about to tell her.  There was no need for her to carry even a little guilt that I was tending to her on Mother's Day or that she was not caring for Isaiah on Mother's Day.  She never came out of her room that day.  As I look back, I feel a bit sad that her only Mother's Day on this earth was one she never celebrated.

 In the afternoon, a friend brought over a feast for our family to enjoy.  I was very humbled that she had spent her Mother's Day working in her kitchen to make our Mother's Day special.  She just said she loved to cook and it was no problem.

At some point that day, I walked through the cemetery near our house.  I wrote in my journal,  "wasn't as hard as I thought it would be".  I also wrote, "Christina's earthly cares are very dim.  She still wants to pray and engage about Jesus but the everyday details of life are hard for her to put together.  Her balance is way off and she is very weak.  This is not easy but God cares about Christina more than I do.  He is guarding her and carrying her."

A day later I wrote, "My job is to surrender all.  Lord, if this process takes a year, I will do it.  I am here for the long haul.  Enough of thinking days or weeks.  I give it all to you.  It's all yours.  Thank you for the work you are doing.  The long process of letting go.  Your grace is sufficient.  Your power is perfected in my weakness."

As I look at my journal from a year ago, I remember the difficulty of not knowing what each day would bring.  I remember saying that there is no definition until the end.  No one knows the last walk, or the last conversation, or the last prayer until it is all over.  My heart goes out to all people who are in the middle of the undefined time.  It is very, very difficult to live in the moment.  It is exhausting.  I remember wondering if I could manage one more week or even one more day.  And yet, somehow, God sustains through it all.

Psalm 30:10-12
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help."
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.  O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

 The Lord has been my help and thanking Him brings deep peace and powerful perspective to my life.

I am thankful for gardening shoes that remind me of Christina.

I am thankful for Isaiah's "help" as I planted flower pots (on the condition that his John Deere tractor was moved outside.)

I am thankful for Isaiah--his joy--his love of learning--his sense of humor.  

I am thankful for tulips that were her favorite flower.  Every tulip reminds me of her.

I am thankful for the beauty of this world.

I am thankful for the little slips of paper in two jars.  Long ago gifts from Christina.  Thirty in each jar.  They say, "I love you because..."  Sixty different reasons she loved me. I look at one nearly every day.

I am thankful for the wonderful young women that I shared a little bit of life with this past week--a gift straight from heaven.

I am thankful for future opportunities to work with women in faraway countries--to declare God's glory among the nations.

I am thankful for a husband to cry and laugh with and for a son who shares his joys and sorrows and his music with me.

I am thankful for all of the encouraging people that surround at just the right times.

And most of all, I am thankful that Jesus makes this life worth it all.