Surrendering the Pen

One of the most rewarding yet frustrating parts of teaching Kindergarten is walking my students through the writing process.  In the beginning of the year, the children simply draw pictures to tell their stories, as most of them don’t have the phonetic skills to sound words out and write them down.  But as the year goes on, they begin to label, then write beginning sounds, stretch words out, learn and use high frequency words, and put all those things together to create sentences.  By the end of the school year, my little Kinders can write several sentences about their chosen topic.  It is truly a wonder to behold!  But the process of getting there?  Well….let’s just say there are days when digging my eyeballs out with my bare hands would be less painful.

The other day, one of my sweet boys sat with a blank piece of paper in front of him for the entire writing time.  I checked in on him periodically to offer suggestions of stories he may want to share, but all he would quietly say was, “I just don’t know what to write.” I’ve started to figure out that this little cutie is a bit of a perfectionist.  He didn’t just want to slop anything down on the paper.  He wanted it to be exactly the right thing.

I like to imagine God as the author of my story (although, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m merely a character in HIS story).  But unlike the uncertainty of a new writer, God already has every detail of my life planned out.  He doesn’t just sit wondering what to write.  He is purposeful.  Timely.  All-knowing.  He wants my life to be exactly the right thing.

It’s an interesting notion to think of your life as a story, isn’t it?  If you’re anything like me, there are good chapters, boring chapters, exciting chapters, and sad ones, too.  And then there are those chapter that you desperately wish you could just tear out of the book, because they weren’t supposed to be there in the first place.

Or were they?

Perhaps this is one of the greatest dichotomies of faith to make sense of…we believe that God has written some wonderful chapters for our lives, but then we question if He really did author the completely tragic ones, too.  And if so, why did those have to be a part of our story and not someone else’s?  Nearly a year later, my mind often revisits the chapter called, “The Day Joe Went Home to Jesus”.  I don’t know why the Author allowed my sweet boy’s death to be written into my story.  But He did.  And there’s no rewriting that chapter. No edits can be made.  When I reread it, the outcome remains the same.

Over a year ago, when Joe was going through some very difficult issues, he’d often come to me for counsel and advice.  I told him I knew deep down God was writing an amazing story for his life.  And that one day, all of it would make sense.  That God was going to take the bad parts he was walking through and use it for his good and God’s glory someday.  Thinking back on those conversations are tough….maybe because it didn’t go the way I had planned it in my head.  But God was still the author of Joe’s story.  Not me. And so I trust that God saw some bigger purpose for my son’s life through his death.

Which reminds me of another story.  Of a Son’s death with not just a big purpose.  But the greatest purpose.  It was a purpose that was birthed from the moment sin entered the world.  And it was fulfilled the second that Son – Jesus – breathed His last.  It was the chapter that God knew had to be written, if we had any shred of hope to spend eternity with Him.  And as awful as that chapter is to read or even imagine, it is the single most life-altering chapter for all humanity.  I am forever indebted to the Author, because it means my son’s story continues in heaven and that one day I will get to share how God did indeed use his story for good.

There’s been a part of my story I’ve been trying to write for a while.  At times the pages are blank, just staring back at me.  And while I have allowed God to pick up the pen to start the chapter, I find myself taking it out of His hands and trying to finish it myself. But God has so gently whispered to my heart to let go, to surrender that control, and let Him make something beautiful out of what He’s purposed.

So….where are you in your story?

Is your life going well and everything you dreamed it would be?  Surrender the pen.

Are you waiting for God to move in an area of your life because things aren’t going according to your timetable?  Surrender the pen.

Have the trials of this world made you hopeless and weary and you aren’t sure how you will make it through another day?  Surrender the pen.

Because God has been writing the most incredible stories since the beginning of time. Some were miraculous, like Moses’ story.  Some were tragic, like Job’s.  Some were unbelievable like Jonah’s.  But they all had God as the Author.  And not only did He write those stories.  He was the Hero.  Every. Single. Time.

I don’t know how my story – or yours –  will turn out.  The process of letting it unfold may be painful at times.   But I do know that regardless of the chapter – good, bad, or ugly – God will forever be the Author and the Hero of my story.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.  ~ Proverbs 19:21

 

 

 

Giant Baby Steps

It’s been a favorite pastime of my daughter and mine to go to stores and try on crazy shoes we’d never really consider (or could afford) buying.  You know the ones – four-inch spiky gold heels, strappy blue-leather wedges, furry neon pink ballet slippers.  As far as we’re concerned, the wilder, the better. We never actually buy any of these – but we love to laugh at just the sight of each other in shoes we’d really never have any occassion to wear.  We’ve been doing this since my daughter was about five, when her little feet wouldn’t even come close to fitting my size.  It didn’t matter, though…she’d still be in the same aisle as me, trying on the same size shoe I would and having a grand old time clomping around.

The other day, after we finished our annual school supply shopping trip, we decided to reward ourselves with a visit to the clearance aisles of DSW.  However, this time as we began to try on shoes, I realized with a twinge of sadness that now my daughter actually does belong in the same shoe aisle as I do.  (She’s just a fraction of an inch away from reaching my shoe size.) As Ella grabbed a pair of multi-colored sequin heels to shove on her feet, she asked if I remembered the time that she nearly twisted her ankle in a tall pair of shoes while she was running.

“Hmmm….I don’t remember.  When was that?”  I asked

“It was when we were picking up Joe from youth group,”  she replied.

And as I casually carried on the conversation as if it were completely natural, I nearly wanted to cry tears of joy right there in the size 7.5 clearance aisle.  You see, that was the second time in over ten months that I’ve heard my daughter speak her brother’s name out loud.

One giant baby step.

Upon returning home from our shopping adventures, I suggested to Ella that she keep her school supplies on Joe’s bed, so that our dog wouldn’t get into the new items and ruin them.  She hesitated (as she rarely goes into her brother’s room), but then thought about it and went into his room to set the bags down.

Two giant baby steps.

Later that evening, I decided to go into Joe’s room and clean out his drawer of leftover school supplies.  After a few minutes of tossing old pencils, markers, and dried-up glue sticks into a trash bag, Ella wandered in and announced she was going to get her supplies all ready.  She proceeded to plop herself down right in the middle of Joe’s floor and begin the organization process.  As we both sat in that room – me tossing out the old, and her opening up the new – I couldn’t help but praise God for this very moment.  We were both spending time in a room that has been so difficult to even step foot in for nearly a year.

Three giant baby steps.  In one day. 

And if she could do three giant baby steps in one day, then I decided I could take a few myself.

The next morning, I went into Joe’s room and did things I never thought I’d be able to do.  I dusted furniture.  I took down the 2016 wall calendar that was still open to September. I moved a couple of things around.  Put books back on the shelf.  Neatly organized the shoes that had been tossed in the closet.  And the big one:  I washed the glass that had been sitting next to my son’s computer since the last day he drank from it.  It was time. And as difficult as it was, I told myself that doing so wouldn’t erase any memory of my sweet boy from my mind.  It wouldn’t change how much I loved him – or still love him.

There’s still more to do in his room.  Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow.  And maybe I won’t.  I’ve learned in grief to have low expectations and high levels of grace.  (Trust me – not easy for a type-A, task-oriented girl like me.)  I might set a goal and have every intention of making it happen, but not be able to do it when the time comes.  And I’m learning that that’s OK.  God is teaching me that my list, my agenda, and my plans may not be His own.

What about you?  You may not be grieving the loss of a child, but are you allowing yourself grace when it comes to your expectations for your life?  Maybe life didn’t turn out at all how you thought it would.  Maybe you’re beating yourself up for not accomplishing more in your life.  Maybe you’re really good at playing the game of “If I had just done this instead….”  Oh friend, do not fall into that pit!  Do not think for a second, that anything that has happened to you is wasted.  God is using it ALL for His glory.  It is ALL part of His ultimate good for those who love Him!  He has positioned you right where He wants you.  And He is ready for you to take those steps – however big or small – to His outstretched arms.

For my daughter, it was in the clearance shoe aisle this week.  For me, it was picking up that dirty glass and walking it to the dishwasher.  To most, it might seem insignificant. But to us, it was taking giant baby steps of healing towards our Father, who stood ready to pull us into His loving embrace.

Image result for psalms 37 23-24

 

 

 

 

To Infinity…and Beyond

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
    the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    human beings that you should care for them?

~Psalm 8:3-4

I recently visited ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration to watch a 3D, live-narrated program entitled “To the Edge of the Universe and Everything in Between”. Unbeknownst to me, this school at ASU is a leading center for space discoveries and study.  Who knew, right?  Plus, the theater was overly air-conditioned, which was another determining factor to attend.  (Hey, it’s how we survive the brutal desert heat of summer.)

The majority of the program was to impress upon us the sheer vastness of space. It began by showing the planet Earth, then zoomed out to show the hundreds of satellites that revolve around our floating home, and continued to pan out to the solar system, the exoplanets, the Milky Way galaxy, the multitude of galaxies, and beyond.  Like waaaaay beyond.  To something called “cosmic background radiation”.  What’s fascinating is that new information and depth to the universe are constantly being discovered.  The edge of the universe is continually being redefined.  My mind was truly blown away by what the latest technology has discovered about the seemingly limitlessness of space.

But perhaps what’s even MORE mind-boggling to me is that there is not one shred of information, not one piece of technology, not one single image brought to our eyes that is new to God.  He knows it all.  Every galaxy, every star, everything in the entire cosmos is no mystery to the Creator.  Yet, while my mind could not even begin to comprehend the vastness of space, I began to wonder if the edge of the universe is as infinite as the love of God.

Just as the show was about to wrap up, the narrator told us to sit back and enjoy as we “zoomed back in” through everything we just saw to the planet Earth.  Once again, I was awestruck….but this time not at the vastness of God, but at His intimacy.  To go from the edge of 45 billion light years away, to our rotating home of green and blue….let’s just say it makes one feel pretty small in the grand scheme of things. And yet, God knows every detail of each one of us, down to our very cells.

The night before my son went to be with Jesus, I watched as he and his friend stood in an open field and stared up at the sky.  In curiosity, I wandered over to them to see what they were looking at.  The absolute blackness of the sky illuminated millions of stars in our view – something we don’t often see because of living in a large city.  We commented on how vast space must be…and how amazing God was to have created each star with just a word.  Joe was so blown away by the sight of the stars, he took out his phone in an attempt to photograph it.  I was not aware at that precise moment that the night vision camera recorded the final photograph I would be in with my precious boy.

But in that moment…God knew.  

He knew what the next day would hold and how it would change our lives forever. There was no mystery to the Creator of the stars that one of His beloved creations was going home soon.

That truth is one of the hardest to come to terms with, and yet, is one of the most comforting lessons a grieving mother learns.  To know that every day of my child’s life was ordained from beginning to end, and that there was no single thing I could have done to change the course of how it ended….it truly does bring comfort to my overwhelmed heart of grief.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book

before one of them came to be.”

~Psalm 139:16

My grief is constantly being redefined.  But my God is not.  God is who He was, who He is, and who He will be forever.  The circumstances of my life do not change God’s character. Nor will they ever.  It is ME who is constantly discovering the depths of His love and the infiniteness of His grace.  And now I am the one who stands amazed, looking up at the heavens, blown away by what God has done and continues to do in, through and for me.

My friend, I don’t know what kind of valleys you have walked through or are walking through right now.  Whether you saw it coming or you didn’t, be assured that NONE of it was or is a mystery to God.  His knowledge of this vast universe is certainly wise enough to know every detail of your life.  His intimate love for you can fill the very depths of your broken heart as He has done for mine.  His grace goes to infinity.  And beyond anything we could imagine.

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  

~Ephesians 3:14-19

 

 

 

Jesus is My Pool Boy

When people ask how we desert folks survive the intense summer heat, my response is always the same:  air conditioning and a swimming pool.  I’m not sure how anyone survived 100+ temperatures before these things were invented.  Not everyone is blessed enough to have their own backyard pool here in Phoenix.  But when we were looking for a rental home three years ago, my kids took one look at the pool and diving board and knew THIS was the place to live.  And they were right.

Now, before any of you non-pool owners get any ideas about how we just walk out the door when we feel like it and jump into the cool water, let me stop you right there.  Not only were we fortunate enough to have a pool in our backyard, but we also had a palm tree near the pool.  A really TALL king palm tree.  Sounds pretty scenic…unless you know that king palms send out these long green shoots at the end of May.  And those shoots open up and blossom with little white flowers.  And those little white flowers fall at the slightest of breezes. And it takes WEEKS for all those little white flowers to fall.

What does that have to do with swimming you ask?  Nothing, I suppose, as long as you don’t mind floating around in a pool full of little white petals, dead bees and itty bitty pieces of palm tree debris.  I find the whole scenario rather disgusting, which is why at the first sign of those nasty green shoots, I immediately call my landscaper to come trim my nearly 30-ft. palm tree.  Problem solved, right?  Well, yes….except that the neighbor’s king palm tree sits directly over the wall just to the southwest of my pool. And they could care less about all those shoots and flowers and debris that make their way into my pool.  So, therein lies the real problem: every time we want to swim, I have to spend more than a half-hour skimming all the debris from a tree that isn’t even mine.  (Pity party for one, please.)

It’s a back-breaking task that takes extreme patience, perseverance, and a great deal of strength, too. (And I did mention that it’s over 100 degrees most of the summer here, right?) I cannot go out to the pool and expect to be done cleaning in a matter of minutes.  I know it will be a long, arduous process.  I can skim over a certain area of the pool over and over and over again…just to return to the same spot and find it still a mess. Sometimes as I feel I’m nearing the end, a big gust of wind comes up to extend my cleaning time.  There are moments I have to set the long pole down and take a break. But I don’t quit.  I keep going.  Because I know in the end, I get to sink into that cool, refreshing water and relax.

In those quiet moments as I silently skim the mess from the pool, God has been speaking to my heart about this incredibly difficult journey I’ve been on in my life and how much it is like this process of skimming.  There is no doubt that my days are filled with so much debris and mess.  Broken relationships.  Loneliness.  Grief.  Financial worry.  Anxiety. Fear of the future.  The burdens of others I love.  And just when I think some area of my life is “fixed” and clean, I come back to it over and over and over again, to find out what a mess it continues to be.

Do you identify with this as well?  How many times do you find yourself asking God, “When will this be solved?”  or “How much longer do I have to keep dealing with this?”  Somedays I just want to quit, don’t you?  I just want to put down that heavy metal skimming pole and walk away from all of life’s battles.

As much as I detest cleaning that pool, I have come this conclusion:  I have gained considerable strength (and a decent tan) from those half-hour upper-body workouts. (Hmmmm….perhaps I should consider skimming my pool in the non-swimming months as well.)  If I only had a few measly leaves in my pool, my gain of strength would be quite minimal.  When I stand and survey the mess before I begin, I can’t help but think,  “Why couldn’t there just be a few leaves?  Why couldn’t the neighbor just trim his tree?  Why is today another windy day?”  But as I get to work, it hits me:  The fact that so much mess blows into my pool on a daily basis, which is seemingly frustrating, is the very reason I am stronger.

So many of my life’s messes I did not choose.  And I know you didn’t either, sweet friend. How many times do you survey the mess and ask God those hard questions:  “Why did my marriage have to end?  Why did my loved one have to die?  Why did I have to be the one to get cancer?   Why do I have to struggle with finances?  Why did this happen to ME???”

Most likely, we will never know the answers to these questions on this side of heaven. But I do know this:  it is those VERY messes that grow a deep faith in us, strengthen us beyond anything we think we could endure and empower us to live a life pointed to Christ.

It is the debris of our lives that God uses for His glory and His purposes. 

And the absolute beauty of this truth, is that no longer do we bear the burden of holding onto that skimming pole all by ourselves.  You see, we have the most amazing, strong, faithful, loving, sacrificing pool boy, who takes the pole from our hands and says, “Dear child….you are not alone. I’ve got this mess under control.  Let me help you.”

Make no mistake.  There are days I don’t think I have the strength to keep dragging that net around and around the pool.  But as I am weary, Jesus comes alongside me with His strength as He so faithfully promises to do.  And He reminds me of why I keep going, moving forward, continually skimming those itty bitty pieces of junk. Because there is hope and complete assurance that when all the mess of this life is over, I’m going to put my feet into the refreshing waters of eternity.  And it will be SO. INCREDIBLY. WORTH IT.

Image result for isaiah 40 31

 

 

Prayer Changes Things…Part II

On September 6th of this past year, I walked into my house to once again be confronted by the sign that hung over the kitchen sink.   As I looked at those words, I didn’t feel anger.  Or peace.  Or sadness.  Or strength.  I felt numb.  Everything was just as we had left it nearly 48 hours ago.  Which somehow made the pain even more unbearable. Seemingly normal….and yet, nothing would ever be normal again.

My mind couldn’t stop playing the horrific scene that had occurred just the day before. Prayer was an integral part of that day, in ways I cannot even recount.  As I tried to save my son after the accident, every breath I took was a prayer.  When the paramedics took over, I fell to my knees and begged God to spare Joe’s life.  The mom in me wanted to do something, anything….instead of watch the scene that was unfolding before my eyes.  I desperately asked one of the paramedics what I could do to help.  He turned to me, looked at me square in the eye, and exclaimed one word:

“PRAY!”

I immediately knelt at my son’s feet in the back of the ambulance and poured out the most earnest prayers I have ever prayed in my entire life.  Every exhale was a prayer for my son to live.  For God to be his breath.  For a miracle to happen.   For time to rewind just an hour. But as the minutes passed, I began to run out of words.  And hope.  My mind raced with thoughts of what Joe’s life would become….what my life would become….if he lived.  Would he be in a coma? Would he ever be the same child I knew? Suddenly,  my prayers stopped being about what I wanted and became prayers of complete surrender to the will and sovereignty of God. He loved my son a million times more than I did.  He alone knew the future.  The answers.  The plan.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before He knew He would die, His prayer was one of utmost surrender as well.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”   And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.  ~ Luke 22:42, 44

If I could have sweat blood on that horrific September 5th, I would have done it.  I don’t know about you, but have there ever been times in your life when you have had to completely surrender a situation to God because the circumstances were so totally out of your control?  If you have, you know as well as I do, that placing that situation in God’s hands is an act of full surrender and trust.  We tend to only do this in the “big things” in life, but isn’t that what we should do in all our circumstances?  Surrender daily our own will to our loving Father, who knows better than we do about what will hurt us or bless us?

In the Scripture above, you may have noticed verse 43 is purposely missing.  It reads:

An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.

You see, as everything was being done that was humanly possible to save my son’s life, one of the EMT’s came over to me and asked if he could pray with me.  He put his arm around me and began to pray.  To be honest, I don’t remember any part of his prayer. But it wasn’t the words that mattered in that moment.  It was about God wrapping His arms around me to bring comfort to a mother about to lose her only son.   That one prayer multiplied in a matter of days into hundreds, maybe even thousands of people across the country praying for me and my family.

For those of you who have prayed for me and with me in this journey….YOU are God’s angels sent to strengthen me.  There is never a day that goes by that the power of God’s strength, through prayer, doesn’t hold me up and keep me going.   Every day I wake up, I pray,  “God.  Give me strength just for today.”  And miraculously he does.

I’ve prayed all kind of prayers in the last few months.  Some full of pain.  Some full of anger.  Guilt.  Peace.  Acceptance.  Questions.  Grief.   And while my prayers change on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, this one truth has stayed on my heart:  God has never changed. He still listens, still invites, still answers.  He still strengthens His people through the power of prayer, as He did for His own Son.

And that, my friends, changes EVERYTHING.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

~Hebrews 13:8

 

 

In the Same Boat

One of my favorite things to do in college had really nothing to do with college itself, but rather with one of the over 10,000 lakes in the state of Minnesota. To me, there was nothing more peaceful than walking the perimeter of my beloved Como Lake.  It didn’t matter the season….I simply found the presence of the water to have a calming effect on my very hectic life.  It was also a chance to escape the big city life and commune with nature.

It’s ironic then, I suppose, that I currently live in a desert, where walking by water either means being near a canal or passing by the neighbors’ yard when the sprinklers happen to be on. But today, I had a chance to walk around a lake in Sugarland, Texas – an opportunity I was not about to pass up. I enjoyed observing things I don’t get to see in the desert:  snowy-white herons posing like statues near the water’s edge, large blue dragonflies buzzing about the trail, and a scattering of ducks sunning themselves on the grassy bank. As I crossed over the bridge to the opposite side of the lake, my eyes caught sight of a small, lone turtle. I stopped and watched him for a few moments.  Poor turtle.  All alone and attempting to paddle against the natural current. Not really getting anywhere. He could use a buddy, I thought. “I feel your pain little guy,” I said aloud as I continued to walk over the bridge.

Being single is OK.  Sometimes.  But it’s not exactly where I thought I would be in my life at this point.  And truthfully, it’s not where I want to be permanently. I didn’t plan on being divorced or choose it, like most toilet-on-the-sidewalk moments.  But life has definitely taught me that you don’t always get to chose what happens to you.

I continued on the trail, thinking about that little turtle and hoping to find another turtle, this time with a companion. You know, as a sign of hope from God for the future?  I never did see what I was looking for. Only because God had something even better for me to see.

Out of the corner of my eye, they came into view: a pair of rowers, gliding silently through the water. Every perfectly synchronized motion looked effortless, but I could see quite a bit of strength and teamwork went into that scene.  And they were going against the current. Together. In the same boat.

I’m not going to lie. Part of me felt jealous watching that scene. Because that’s what I want. Not literally, of course.  Lord knows me rowing an actual boat would be rather disastrous. But I do want someone to choose to come alongside of me, climb in the boat and be my rowing partner through life.

I stared at those rowers for a bit, as they easily made a turn and gracefully went under the arches of the next bridge.  “I want someone in my boat, God,” I whispered under my breath.

And as God often does, He speaks truth into my life through music. Through my Pandora station. Right into the earbuds in my ears. Because this is what I heard so clearly God speaking to my heart:

“From the need to be understood, from the need to be accepted, from the fear of being lonely, deliver me, O God.  And I shall not want. When I taste your goodness, I shall not want.”

 

Oh, how I forget the goodness of God all too easily! There is nothing to want, because God provides all I need for this day. And the next. And the next.

There is no doubt in my mind that not I’m alone in this boat called life.  God is in the boat with me, guiding me around every bend. I have dear friends who row their boats beside mine to encourage me. And while that is a huge blessing, God knows my heart aches for something more. SomeONE more. Someone who will be my best friend. Someone who looks at my broken heart and still chooses to love me. Someone who is honest and faithful. Someone who is passionate about his relationship with Christ.  And someone who knows that Christ needs to be the center of our lives.  I can make all the lists I want, but God knows my heart more intimately than even I do. He knows who is best. His plan is always better than the ones I have for myself.

And I trust Him to find my boat companion.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” 

~ Psalm 37:4

Frosties, Fries, & Best Friends

Today was a Frosty and French fry kind of day.  Let me explain:

I grew up in one of those small Nebraska farming towns.  You know, the ones where there’s just a handful of stoplights and Friday and Saturday nights meant one thing to high schoolers: cruisin’ the strip in your beat-up car with a bunch of friends. Yep, those were the days.  My best friend Lori had a boat-sized olive green Buick which could have been a substitute for some type of military tank, I’m quite sure.  Me, on the other hand…I had a little rusty-orange ’81 Chevy Citation.

As you can guess, entertainment was hard to come by in our town.  Wal-Mart closed by 9 p.m. and the movie theater was out of business.  The bowling alley had league bowling on weekend nights, so cruising was about all there was to do.  (And there were most likely parties to go to and drink, but we weren’t cool enough to be invited to those. Which was ok with us.) Now, you might think that driving around in a big loop repeatedly was less-than-exciting, but let me tell you, the thrill of pulling up to a stoplight to see who would be in the car next to you, executing a Chinese fire drill at a red light, and blasting music from the car stereo was all the fun my friends and I needed.  Once things got monotonous and slowed down later, we’d head out towards the interstate for our favorite late night snack:  a chocolate Frosty and French fries.  Sometimes there would be a big group of us.  And sometimes it was just Lori and me.  But it didn’t matter…Wendy’s was just our hangout.

June 4th marks the eighth anniversary of the end of Lori’s battle with lupus.  But more significantly, it marks her entrance into Heaven.  And that’s why today was a Frosty and French fry day.

Because I refuse to forget.

I refuse to keep all those fun crazy memories inside we had.  Like how we used to rate people’s shoes during church when they went up for communion.  And how we used to try see how many letters of the alphabet we could say while we burped.  (Lori was the champion…she made it to P.)  And how we had code names from old movies for everyone in our class so we could write notes about them and no one would know who we were talking about.  I used to think that all those memories died when Lori did.  But I’m starting to realize that they only die if I stop telling them.  So I keep telling them.  I refuse to stop telling stories about her to her children and mine.  And anyone else who will listen.  I want them to know who she was.

Lori was FUNNY.  She was quick-witted.  She was intelligent.  She was wise.  She was kind-hearted. She was practical.  She was ambitious beyond anyone I’ve ever known. She was confident.  She was fearless.  She was generous.  She was beautiful.

Following Lori’s funeral and burial in our hometown, the church hosted a luncheon reception in the church basement.  Her nearly two-and-a-half-year-old daughter became restless and cranky after being around so many people.  For some reason, she chose me to hold her and take her to walk around and calm down.  We soon found ourselves inside the church itself.  The same church her mom and I sat through many chapel services as little girls in school.  The same church we were confirmed in.  Sang in the choir in.  Got married at.  And now here I was in a very surreal moment, holding her precious baby girl after her funeral.

I remember her daughter being particularly drawn to the statue of Jesus that stood front and center above the altar.  She pointed up with one of her chubby little fingers and looked at me quizzically with big blue eyes, as if she wanted to know who that was and I had the answer.  “Jesus.  That’s Jesus.”  She said nothing, but seemed content with my reply.  She listened as I told her how much Jesus loved her.  How much He loved her mama.  And how He would watch over her until they would see each other again.

Eight years later, I find that sometimes I’m as expectant as that little two-year-old pointing up at Jesus.  I’ve quietly listened as people have told me how much Jesus loves me.  How much He loved Joe.  And how we will see each other again.   Those words have become my anchor.  My peace.

Last year, as the kids and I sat at Wendy’s eating Frosties and fries, I told them stories I could remember about my best friend.  There was a pause in the conversation, until Joe smiled and said, “Man.  I can’t wait to see her in heaven.”

Nine months ago, his wait was over.

For those of us still waiting to see those we love and miss dearly, let me share the words that came on the radio the very day Lori died.

 

 

There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail.
There’s an anchor for my soul,
I can say “It is well”.
Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed.
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead!
And I will rise when He calls my name.
No more sorrow, no more pain.
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God, fall on my knees
And rise.

By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also.

~ 1 Corinthians 6:14