Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Day Like No Other

Five years ago today was just another laid back summer day for me. I was just a mom of a teenager, going through our regular routine. My husband got up and went to work just like he always does. My daughter and I slept in a little longer than usual. We were going to be babysitting my nephew that day and had plans to take him to the skate park. I had no idea that this day would change my world forever. It started out like any other day and ended like no other.

After going to the skate park, getting the oil changed in the van and making a quick stop at the grocery store, we went home. She was so excited because for the first time in months, she had plans to do something with a friend. Three months earlier we had moved 2,000 miles away from the only home she had ever known. At 15, she was trying heroically to adjust to a completely different culture and desperately to make friends in this new place. She finally met the girl next door and they had plans to hang out and go out to eat. We had our reservations about sending our daughter with such a young driver, but we wanted so much for her to make some connections in our new town.

At approximately 5:00 p.m., the car my daughter was riding in was heading west preparing for a left-hand turn. It entered an intersection where eastbound traffic actually disappears for a split second just before it rises up into the intersection. Her side of the little car took the brunt of the oncoming car which had probably been traveling at least 55 miles per hour. She was killed almost instantly.

We never got to say goodbye. We didn't have an opportunity to pray for her recovery. She was gone before we even knew there had been an accident. I had no idea when I hugged her at 3:00 that afternoon that it would be the last hug we would share in this life. I thought there would be lots more hugs. Everyday kinds of hugs, birthday hugs, graduation hugs, off to college hugs, wedding day hugs, and new baby hugs.

I remember once when she was about 14 years old, she had been at church camp. I had really missed her that week, and when she got home, she came around the corner into my office. I remember the feeling as my heart leapt. I jumped up out of my chair and hugged her. For now I can only remember that feeling and cherish it. But I look forward to feeling it again some day. When I enter heaven and I come around the corner, I envision my heart leaping again the instant I see her. We will hug like never before.

But then, I like to imagine her saying, "Mom, come on. You're gonna love this!" Then she'll lead me around another corner. I'll be greeted by my parents and grandparents and friends who have gone on before me. The reunion will great. But then she'll lead me through a giant door and there He will be. My heart will leap even higher when I see him. I believe there will be an instant recognition like seeing an old friend only more intense. My memory from eternity past will be jogged. He'll call me by name. Not Cindy, but the name that only He knows. The name that He gave me before I was born. And I will fall at His feet, filled with awe. And I will know that this life will never end. Never again will I be separated from my daughter. Never again will I be separated from my parents. Never again will I be separated from Him. Now that will be a day like no other! And that is my unswerving hope.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Wait Continues

Today marked a huge milestone in this process of waiting that I have been going through for almost a year. I have prayed for much longer than that, over 2 1/2 years, for God to take care of this situation. He has not done it in the way that I would have preferred. But I believe now, more than ever, that He really is in control and that that is a good thing! There have been times when I wasn't so sure God being in control was a good thing. It certainly did not feel good at the time.

I received some news almost three years ago that made me tremble. I was so fearful of what the future would hold. Since that time, I have been through days of faith and days of fear. I have thrown myself at his feet and I have shaken my fist in his face. I have cried tears of love and submission to him and I've shouted in anger and pain at him. I've asked him to hurry up and I've asked him to wait. I have proclaimed, "Your will, God, not mine!" But I have become furious with him for not bringing about my will.

But who would know what my will is! It changes with every wave of emotion. I have begged him for a second chance and I've begged him to send someone else to do this thing that I may have to do. (So far, he has sent no one, so I am left to believe that I will be the one to do it.) God is so gracious. I am so thankful that my psychotic prayers don't phase him. My fits of anger and grief don't change his mind. He is on a steady course, accomplishing his intended goal and he knows I'll eventually find myself where he wants me.

So, with this one milestone complete, I am back to waiting. My future is still uncertain--to me. It exists only in the heart and mind of God right now. But it will be revealed and it will be good. It will almost certainly not be pain- and grief-free and it will not always be easy and clear, but it will be good.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Is there anything harder than waiting? I'm sure there is, but when you're waiting it feels so difficult. I am waiting. I've been waiting for almost a year for something very important. My life has been in limbo for months. I can't plan anything major because I'm not sure how a certain situation is going to turn out. I have an expected result, but I have no guarantee that I will get it.

We are so used to instant gratification. We expect that if we do "a," the result will be "b," and will be immediate. After all, we live in America. We have high speed Internet, microwaves and fast food. We Americans are not used to waiting. We know what we want and we go after it with gusto.

But waiting is such good exercise for the soul. It requires trust. Waiting and trust go hand in hand. That's another tough one for us Americans. We are individualists--self sufficient. We don't need anyone's help, right? That's how the West was won--by people who knew what they wanted and who had the true grit to do whatever it took to get it. They left family and friends and the comforts of civilization, knowing that they would likely never see them again.

I hate to wait and it's hard for me to trust. I know what I want and what I think is best for my situation and my first instinct is to do whatever it takes to make it happen. But I have a situation that is so far out of my control. I cannot make my expected result happen. I'm dependent on "the system" to make it happen. And "the system" is not very trustworthy. That's why I have to continually remind myself the "the system" is not the ultimate authority. God is. The system falls under Him. Ultimately, it's Him I need to trust and He is trustworthy.

In my chronological Bible this morning, I read about the fall of Jericho. God made the Israelites wait. He had them march around the city for six days before they were allowed to do anything. I wonder if some of them didn't feel foolish going out each morning and marching around the city each day, blowing trumpets. But the end result was so worth it! The city of Jericho was defeated with ease.

But then Achan blew it. God had told the Israelites not to keep any of the plunder for themselves. But Achan did, and he buried it in his tent, thinking no one would know. But God knew. And because of Achan's sin, the Israelites were beaten back in a battle with Ai that should have been an easy victory. Joshua didn't understand and he cried out to God. He was gut level honest with God, and God answered him. God revealed the sin and was pretty merciless in removing it from the people. He had the Israelites stone Achan, his entire family, livestock and all! Then they burned it all up and covered it with stones. Yikes! Thank you Jesus, for the grace and mercy that You brought to us!

Once the sin was removed from the people of Israel, they were instructed by God to go back to Ai. Again, Joshua had to wait. He spent the night with the people while part of his army went around to the other side of the city to set up an ambush. The plan was executed like clockwork, and the Israelites swiftly defeated the city. This time, though, God allowed them to keep the plunder for themselves. If only Achan would have waited for God's timing instead of taking what he wanted when he wanted it. He could have legally had all the plunder he wanted, but instead, he and his entire family and all his possessions lay under a pile of rubble.

OK, OK! I get the message! I don't want to end up under a pile of rubble! I will continue to wait... and trust. I will do my best to keep my relationship with God vibrant, staying in constant communication with Him so that I'll know what my next step should be. And I will wait... and trust.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Promise of Life

This morning, as I read in my Chronological Bible, I came across a verse Deuteronomy 30. "The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and all your soul and live"

I underlined that because I am trusting God to circumcise our hearts - to purify us - to cut away all the excess baggage and junk that gets in the way of us truly loving Him and living. Not only in me, but also in my descendants--my son and my granddaughter. But these two are not my only descendants. I have another one, my daughter, who didn't live. She died. Does that mean this promise wasn't fulfilled? Oh, no. In fact, I believe that my daughter is the only one of us who is truly experiencing life right now. We may have physical life, but she is experiencing spiritual life in the presence of Jesus! That's something that we have not yet seen. I thought about all that for a moment then moved on to Shane Stanford's book, "When God Disappears."

I finished the chapter on Lazarus being raised from the dead. Stanford first talks about the promise of Jesus in John 16:33. Here Jesus promises that in this world we will have trouble. What kind of promise is that?! Well, maybe it's not a promise, but as Stanford says, it's an honest statement. It's a fact. The promise comes next, "But take heart, for I have overcome the world." There's no promise to make our problems go away or that life will be easy. Just that we can take heart because Jesus has overcome the world.

Then Stanford starts in on a message that, given my scripture reading this morning, gets my attention. He says that God, "has made a way for us to 'take heart' and begin to truly live." Apparently, God is trying to get a message across to me today about life--true life.

I love how Stanford finishes this chapter. It's so good, I don't want to paraphrase...

"God loved us and decided that we were worth dying for. God, in Jesus, came into the muck to become like us, not only to rectify the cosmic gulf between Him and us, but to restore the brokenness in and between people. In doing so, God called us out of tombs in which we sealed ourselves, unwrapped us from our doubt and sin and misery and set us free.

"But, friend, it is still up to us to come forth and be willing to be alive again. We have to stop living like those walking around dead and start walking like a dead person who has been raised from the tomb."

Wow, that's how I want to live! Not held down by junk like self protection, self preservation and self absorption. I don't want to be held back by sin and doubt and misery. I want to remember every day that I am a dead person who has been raised from the tomb! I want to look forward to experiencing life some day in the presence of Jesus. That eternal life that my daughter has already entered. But I don't want to waste the days that I have here on earth. My job is not complete here and as long as I have breath, it will not be complete. So, Lord, let me remember that I am not just here to exist, I am not just here to survive, I am here to live, really live! And to share that life with everyone who comes across my path.

As I read the end of Stanford's chapter, I wanted to note the Deuteronomy 30 passage, but the verses are not all noted in my Chronological Bible. I looked it up in my regular Bible so I could get the correct verse. Apparently this is not the first time God has spoken to me about this subject. In my regular Bible, the exact same verse was already underlined.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Relationships--Who Needs Them?

Have you ever felt like God has disappeared? I know I have. That's why I was drawn to this great little book by Shane Stanford called, "When God Disappears." Each chapter focuses on an encounter in the life of Jesus. The chapter I'm reading today has hit me particularly hard. It's the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. I've read that story a million times, but Shane Stanford brings out a whole new perspective. He suggests that the miracle, the raising of Lazarus is not the main point of this passage. In fact, he says, "Lazarus being raised from the dead may not even be in the top three reasons to take note of what happens here." Wow. So what is the point of this encounter?

Stanford zeros in on relationships. Here's what really got my attention in this chapter. "Jesus always goes to the heart of what we dread in this world. We dread being alone, so we make friends. We dread being hurt, so we don't make friends. We dread feeling betrayed, so we don't let our real selves show. We dread loss, so we choose not to love." Oh, how I relate to that! I am a people person, an extreme extrovert. I love being with people. But I have also been hurt. I have experienced major loss--mainly in the death of my 15-year-old daughter. I am also a sinful human being and I don't always treat people well. Sometimes it feels like it would be easier if I just didn't get involved in other peoples' lives.

Even though it is sometimes tempting to withdraw, to isolate myself, I can't. I need people in my life. But I get hurt. People I love die. I blow it in my relationships. So if I can't withdraw, my next tendency is to stay very shallow. Sometimes the shallow life is a great place to be! I used to just bounce my way obliviously through life, happy as a clam, dealing with nothing that threatened to burst my little bubble. But eventually, despite my attempts to avoid it, my bubble got obliterated. I had no choice but to deal with my "stuff." It felt like God had disappeared, and I had to dig really deep to find Him again. I can still tend to live on the shallow side of life, but I have learned that I can't stay there. I have to take the time to dig deep.

As I said in one of my earlier posts, motherhood has potential for the greatest joy we'll ever experience. It also has the potential to hand us pain so deep that we may think we can't survive it. I'm thinking all our relationships offer those two potentials as well. So just because they could cause pain, should we avoid them? Should we choose to keep them shallow and never reveal our true selves?

I offer a resounding NO! Shane Stanford would join in as well. He has experienced great disappointments and pain in his life, but would he choose to never have lived it? No. What about Jesus? Did he experience hurt, loss and disappointment in His relationships? Ha! Have you read the gospels lately? If so, you know He did. But out of all the ways he could have saved the world, He CHOSE to come and live in relationship with us. He CHOSE to make himself vulnerable.

So, even though I may get hurt--no, I will get hurt. Even though I will hurt someone else. Even though I will experience loss, I choose to live in relationship. I choose to let my real self be known. I choose to love.