Monday, March 4, 2013

New Life: Enduring, Persistent, Relentless

I'm going to be sharing this story tomorrow night with a large group of ladies at our church in the form of an interview. I'm feeling butterflies and I think about it. I'm a better writer than speaker... not sure I'm great at either, but I feel like God has given me a message that I can't keep to myself. So, I'd like to try it on you all. Here goes...

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how your Christian Journey.
I grew up in a Christian home, but it was one where being a Christian meant going to church every Sunday and being good—or at least looking good. As I became a wife and a mom, I worked very hard at making sure everyone thought my life was perfect. And, for the most part, it was good. Then I came across a book by Kay Arthur, called As Silver Refined. It opened up a whole new perspective for me. In the book, she talks about disappointments being God appointments, about how God refines us through difficulties. In the beginning, she tells the story of an ancient silver smith and the process he goes through in refining silver, and she compares that with how God refines us…

The silversmith starts with an ugly piece of ore that has been taken from the ground. First, he has to smash the ore with a hammer. Once he has crushed the ore, he puts it in a crucible and builds a fire. Now the fire must be very, very hot, but not too hot. He puts the crucible in the fire, but the silver is very precious, so he never leaves its side. He carefully watches as the metal melts and the impurities rise to the top. He skims the impurities off the top then allows the crucible to cool. But he is not finished. Again, he builds up his fire. It must be very hot--hot enough to melt the precious metal in the crucible, but not too hot. Again, the impurities rise to the top and he skims them off. He goes through this process several times. He finally know his work is complete when he looks into the crucible of silver... and sees his own reflection.

That is what God is doing with us... refining us as silver.

I didn’t realize until later what a divine appointment reading that book was for me. God was preparing me for some really tough times in life.

Our theme tonight is new life.  What symbolizes new life for you?
We have a little Prairie Fire Crab Apple tree on our property. It has become a symbol of new life… persistent, enduring, relentless new life. It is a story of redemption.

Why is this tree so special?
This tree was given to us almost 9 years ago by my nephew’s baseball team. Our older daughter had been to many of their baseball games.

Tell us a little bit about your daughter. 
She was a happy-go-lucky, bubbly, silly 15-year-old. We lived out West and she loved to spend much of her summers with our family here in the Midwest. She often went to my nephew’s baseball games. She got to know those boys, and they were all great friends. In March, 2004, we moved back to the Midwest, and that transition was difficult for my daughter. My priority for the next three years was to get her through that transition and through high school. But just three months later, we got the call no parent ever wants to receive. There had been an accident. Our beautiful, vibrant daughter had been killed instantly…  That little Prairie Fire tree had been given to us in her memory. We planted it between two giant rocks on our property and I turned the whole area into a prayer garden.

You have told me before that there were days following the accident that were difficult to even get out of bed. I am sure creating your prayer garden gave you something physically to do.  What else did God give you to help you move forward.
We were preparing to go back out West to do a memorial service at our church there—for her friends. I was thinking and praying about what I would say to them. They were really struggling with their faith and I wanted to be authentic with them. I didn't want to spout scripture and I didn’t want them to think that I thought my daughter was perfect. That made me think of the scripture in 1 Corinthians where Paul says, “when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child” I knew that the friend they knew talked like a 15-year-old, thought like a 15-year-old, and reasoned like a 15-year-old. But she was not that 15-year-old anymore. I looked the scripture up in the Message Bible, and suddenly, God was speaking directly to me! Not to my daughter's friends. He gave me a word to hang on to that has gotten me through on days when I didn’t feel like going on. The words jumped off the page at me and brought healing to my devastated heart.

1 Corinthians 13:12-13

The Message (MSG)
12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

 For my daughter, the weather has cleared and the sun shines bright! She sees it all--as clearly as God sees her. She knows Him directly just as He knows her. But for us, we're still squinting in the fog and peering through the mist. We don't understand. And until we do, we have three things to do: trust steadily, hope unswervingly and love extravagantly. [hence, the name of this blog!]

As you were holding on to that hope and moving forward, tell us what happened to your beautiful tree. 
In the fall 2008, a huge windstorm blew through and snapped our little Prairie Fire tree off at its base. It was the saddest day we had experienced since the event that brought us the tree in the first place. I thought, “How can you be so mean, God?” The one living symbol we had of our daughter’s life had been ripped from the ground just as she had been ripped from our arms. It was so painful to see it lying rootless on the ground, so my husband built a fire. We held each other and cried as we watched that broken little tree go up in flames.

As you were working through that pain with God, you had another chapter of life that was developing. Tell us about that.
The 12 months following the day our little tree was broken are like a blur in my memory. Our granddaughter, who my son named her after his sister, who he loved so much, was a year old. Things with her parents were not going well, and she was in a foster home. I thought, “God, how can my granddaughter be in a foster home?!” I made 10 trips to Arizona in 12 months. We were trying to get custody of her and bring her to live with us, but being so far away and having state agencies involved made it difficult. I was full of grief and even anger toward God. We were at the mercy of the system, but isn’t the system at the mercy of God? Couldn’t he move us through the red tape and bureaucracy to get our granddaughter home? How could He let her sit there in a foster home when she could be here with us? And, by the way, couldn’t He have spared our little tree?! What would have been so hard about that for the God of the universe?

How did God show his tenderness through all of this? 
God is so full of grace and mercy. In my grief and rage, I felt His presence… even more so than usual. I vented my anger at Him in one breath and plead for his forgiveness in the next. And I believe He understood and loved me through it. So did my friends. God was gracious enough to put several people in my life who watched me struggle and squirm… who heard me rant and rave… Who were sometimes even targets of my anger. But they also understood and loved me through it.

I remember that year, as you struggled with anger and doubt but then God began sprout those seeds of hope again.
In the spring of 2009, I went out to work on my prayer garden, and to my delight, I saw several little shoots coming up from the roots of my little Prairie Fire! I carefully cultivated the soil around it. I watched it and cared for it as best I knew how. Eventually, one shoot stood out among the rest, so I pruned the rest off and watched all summer as that one shoot continued to grow and eventually became a whole new tree! Then in the late summer of 2009, we made one more trip out West and brought our beautiful little girl home with us! She has brought so much life to our too-quiet empty nest… sometimes more than we can handle!

You have been on quite a journey with God.  From this experience, what would be your message to all of us?
Whether your life is going well, or you’re going through a difficult trial, be authentic with God. Even if you are angry with Him, confess that to Him. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Seek Him with everything you’ve got. He’ll give you something to hold on to. He gave me 1 Corinthians 13:12-13. He may not give you the same verse, but He’ll give you something. He may not give you a tree that tells the story of persistent, relentless life, but he’ll give you something.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I would love to hear from you! Let me know what you think and how I can pray for you. Most of us are carrying some pretty heavy baggage and the good news is, you don't have to carry it alone! You can lay it at the feet of Jesus, and sometimes we need help just letting go of our baggage and not picking it up again. We're in this together!