Beautiful Words. Beautiful Hope!

“He is not here. He is risen.” What beautiful, beautiful words!! The words that are the foundation of my faith. Without Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, there would be no hope. No hope of forgiveness. No hope of redemption. No hope of eternal life. No hope of Heaven. NO HOPE! Without the truth of these beautiful words, my life would be without meaning. I would have no reason to keep going day, after day, after day. No reason to trudge through the heartache and pain of this life.

I’ll admit that on several occasions since Greg’s death, I have not felt like keeping on keeping on. Sometimes I feel like all is hopeless. I’ve had one of my children say to me, “I feel like everything is pointless now.” I have also felt this way. “Nothing even matters anymore.” But, I remind my children and myself that there IS a point…..we DO still have a purpose. In fact, our purpose has not changed…..to live a life that brings glory to God. And because of the words, “He is not here. He is risen,” we do have hope! Hope of forgiveness. Hope of redemption. Hope of eternal life. Hope of Heaven. And it’s not just a hope like, “I hope I win the lottery.” But it’s a sure hope, a certain hope, a hope that doesn’t fail or disappoint!

Easter Sunday is a day that is all about hope. A day about renewal. A day about new beginnings. A day about new life! This year, Easter Sunday is also the six month mark of the day that Greg left our earthly family and entered into the presence of our Heavenly Father. What a bittersweet day this is for me. Bitter because of the heartache and the void that I still feel every single day. But sweet, because I am reminded that on the day Jesus rose from the dead….death was defeated! Death was conquered! Jesus is bigger, stronger, more powerful than even death! And because of this, death is not the end of Greg’s story either. Or mine. Or Katie’s. Or Emilie’s. Or Jacob’s. Because we each have accepted the Hope that His death and resurrection has provided. Because of Him, we will all die, but it won’t be the end for us. Really it’s just the beginning of a great and glorious never-ending life with our Jesus! This life….it’s temporary, but Greg is more alive today than he’s ever been!!

I am thankful for the Lord’s mercy in having the six month anniversary of Greg’s death fall on Easter Sunday. Just a gentle reminder that He knows my heart and His mercies are new every day. Because of what we remember and celebrate on Easter Sunday, my Hope is renewed. My Hope is certain. My Hope is sure. “He is not here. He is risen!” Beautiful words, indeed!

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

Love Is Not Always Pretty, But It Is Always Beautiful!

Good Friday…..it’s always seemed like sort of an ironic name for the day that we celebrate today. The day that Jesus was crucified. The day that He was mocked and humiliated. The day that He was killed. Really…..we call that day good??? And if that were all that had happened on that day, there would have been nothing good about it. The sadness, the pain, the cruelty, the ugliness, the violence, the suffering, the blood, the agony, the gore, the tears….nothing good about that day. It was not pretty.

BUT, that’s not all that day was about. That day represents freedom, grace, mercy, healing, redemption and LOVE! Jesus willingly went to the cross. He willingly took my sin upon Himself. He willingly took the spikes in His hands and feet, and the spear in His side to pay the debt that I owed, but that I could never, ever pay. He literally gave His very life for me! He made the way for me to have direct access to Almighty God! He willingly gave His life so that I could have a life that never ends….eternal life! And that is love! And it is beautiful!!

I pray today that you would reflect on that “Good Friday” from so many years ago. The day Jesus gave His life for YOU! I pray that you don’t just think about that ultimate gift and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I pray that if you have not already accepted that gift, that freedom, that mercy, that grace, that promise of eternal life, that you would do it today. Don’t say, “No.” Don’t say, “I don’t need it.” Don’t say, “I’m a good person.” Don’t say, “I think I’ll go to heaven.” Don’t throw that precious, invaluable gift back into the face of the Giver and say, “I don’t have time for that.”

I promise you that if I had not accepted this gift as a teenage girl, I would not have been able to make it through these last few months of my life. If I did not have His promises to claim and cling to every day, I would be an emotional wreck. If I did not know that Greg had also accepted this gift and made Jesus the Lord of His life, my life would be nothing but turmoil right now. It is unbelievably hard to lose a spouse. But to lose a spouse and not have the assurance that they are in heaven or even worse…to KNOW that they are not in heaven because they rejected the gift of Jesus, that would be pure hell. Praise God that Greg accepted that gift, I know where he is today and I WILL see him again! And that is beautiful!!

This is a song that was one of Greg’s favorites. It was sung at his funeral. I hope it speaks to your heart about the beauty of His great love for us! Love is not always pretty, but it is always beautiful!!!

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

What Mercy! What Grace! What A Savior!!

Warning: This is a long post, but I promise you will be blessed if you read it all the way through!!

I have been so excited to share this post with you guys! I have just been waiting until I felt the time was right. Well, I think there could be no more appropriate time than this week….Holy Week. The week that we reflect on what Jesus did for us. That “Good Friday” when He willingly took on our sin, our wrongdoing and paid the debt that we owed by going to the cross. He was innocent, guiltless..yet He willingly paid the price. What mercy! What grace!

A couple of months ago, our family experienced that type of mercy and grace. It was such a beautiful, real-life picture to us of what Jesus did for us, albeit on a much smaller scale. On a wet, rainy afternoon in February, Emilie was driving to work. There was a car in front of her and a school bus in front of that car. The school bus stopped, the car in front of Emilie stopped, but Emilie did not stop quickly enough and ran into the back of the car in front of her. The man that was driving the car (I’ll refer to him as Mr. B) came back to check on Emilie and both of the vehicles. Praise the Lord that neither Mr. or Mrs. B was injured, and neither was Emilie. The damage to Emilie’s vehicle was fairly significant, but the damage to Mr. B’s car was thankfully, minimal. Mr. B saw that Emilie worked at Chick-fil-A (she was in uniform). He stated that he was taking his wife to a doctor’s appointment and that after the appointment, he would come by the store to talk to Emilie. He left for the appointment and Emilie drove on in to work. She called me from the parking lot to let me know what was going on. I told her that when the man came to talk to her that she should give him my phone number so that we could decide what needed to be done.

From the moment I got Emilie’s phone call, I began praying. First I thanked God that no one had been injured. I thanked Him that the school bus had not been involved. I thanked Him that the police had not been called; Emilie most certainly would have been ticketed. Then I began to pray about the phone call that I would soon be getting. I prayed that the Lord would be merciful and that the man that called would be kind and easy to talk to. I just didn’t think that my heart could take some irate person calling and screaming at me. I asked God, “Why did this have to happen when Greg isn’t here?” “Why so soon after his death, when my emotional state is so fragile?” “Why can’t Greg be here to handle this? He would know what to say. He would know what to do.” “Why this?” “Why now?” “Why me????”

Mr. B came by the store to meet with Emilie that evening. He asked her if her Dad was coming up to look at the cars. She told him that her Dad had passed away three months earlier. She gave him my phone number and later that evening Mr. B called me.

The Lord was gracious and Mr. B was very kind on the phone. We talked about the accident and he told me that he was planning to take his car in for an estimate and would bring it by the house in the next day or so. He also told me that he realized that he knew about our family and what we had been going through over the last several months. It turns out that his daughter and her family go to the same church as us and are friends of ours! She had mentioned to Mr. and Mrs. B what was going on with Greg and they had been praying for our family…..how cool it that!!

In a day or so, Mr. B stopped by our house to bring a copy of the estimate for the repairs to his car. The whole time I was standing outside talking to him, I just kept saying to myself, “What would Greg do? How would he handle this? Should I just agree to pay it? Should I ask for a second estimate for comparison. Should I file it with my insurance company?” Keep in mind, I know NOTHING about cars and what would be a reasonable cost for repairs. I asked Mr. B if he would be willing to get a second estimate for comparison. He really didn’t want to do that, as he had had work done in the past by this particular shop and really trusted their work, but he offered to pay half the cost himself. I told him that in no way did we expect for him to pay for any of it. We were responsible for the damage, and we would take care of it. I asked him if I could take some time to talk it over with my Dad and decide whether or not we would file with insurance. He said that would be fine and I told him that I would call him the next day with my decision.

After talking things over with Emilie and my Dad, we decided that it would be best just to pay for the damages and not file it with insurance. I called Mr. B to let him know our decision and to see if Emilie and I could drop a check by his home later that day. After I said this to Mr. B, this is the conversation that followed:

Mr. B: Well, I’ve been thinking about this and you know, you’re a widow now.
Me: Yes sir.
Mr. B: Well, the Bible tells me that as believers we are supposed to treat widows and orphans differently…we’re supposed to take care of them.
Me: Yes sir.
Mr. B: I believe that the Lord is telling me that I should just take care of all this myself.
Me: No sir! It wasn’t your fault, you shouldn’t have to pay anything. We accept full responsibility and we want to make it right.
Mr. B: I know that, but I really feel like this is what the Lord is telling me to do. And I know that I will be blessed for doing what he tells me to do.
Me: (I was sobbing at the point!) That is so very kind of you. Are you sure, I feel so bad about you having to pay for something that wasn’t your fault.
Mr. B: I’m sure. Y’all have been through a lot lately, so just let me take care of this.

After more tears and more thankyou’s, we hung up the phone. I just stood there stunned! I couldn’t believe that this man who had done nothing wrong, was willing to pay the debt for the wrong that we had done! He was willing to take complete responsibility! Do you see the grace and mercy that I’m talking about??? We certainly didn’t deserve this type of grace…we were at fault, for goodness sakes!

Isn’t that a beautiful picture of what Christ did for us?? We are sinners, separated from God and deserving of death. But Jesus…innocent, guiltless…willingly and lovingly took our sins, our wrongs upon Himself. If Mr. B hadn’t offered to pay our debt, Emilie and I could have paid Mr. B for the damage that we caused. We could have made things right. But our sin debt..we could NEVER pay that, we could NEVER make it right on our own. Jesus went to the cross on our behalf to pay that debt that we could never pay, and to make a way for us to have eternal life! Oh, what a Savior!!

The story doesn’t end here though. Emilie and I wrote letters to Mr. and Mrs. B to thank them once again for their kindness towards us. I closed my letter by telling them that I would be praying for them and asking the Lord to bless them for being such a blessing to us. About a week or so later, I received a voice mail from Mr. B. He asked me to call him back because he wanted to tell me something that he thought I should know. I must be honest and say that I was a little nervous about calling him back…had he changed his mind? Had he or his wife sustained an injury that was just now coming to light? I made the call and was MORE than pleasantly surprised. Mr. B first thanked me for the letters and said that he knew that they were sincere and heart-felt. Then he told me that he had received a call the day before telling him that he had just received an “unexpected windfall” on one of his investments! The amount?….four times the amount that he had to pay to get his car repaired!! And he said to me, “So you don’t need to worry about me having to pay for my car. I got it paid for plus some!” Through tears, I said, “Mr. B, that’s what I was praying for you…that you would be blessed for being such a blessing to us!” He said, “I know you were, that’s why I thought you should know about this.”

What mercy! What grace! What a Savior!!!!

And because of that mercy, that grace, that Savior, we will continue…….

Trusting His Plan

5 Things Your Friends In Crisis Wish You Knew (from another blog)

sandra:

This is a post from my blog exactly one year ago today. I think I can appreciate it even more today.

Originally posted on Trusting His Plan:

This is a great post that I read today at bostern.com .  I thought it was so good and wanted to share it with you!

Sandra

5 Things Your Friends in Crisis Wish you Knew

Let me start by saying: I certainly do not speak for everyone in crisis. There are a million different kinds of people and a million different kinds of battle. I’ve tried to stick to things I’ve heard many times from many people, but this list reflects my two years in the trenches more than anything else.

 1. Sometimes your life is hard to look at. I will try to attend your daughter’s wedding and I will be so happy for her. But I will look away when her father walks her down the aisle and I will leave before the daddy-daughter dance. These things are too much for me. I’m not mad; I’m just…

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Bring On The Rain!!

Today as I sat having my quiet time with the Lord, the rain was pounding down on my home. It was a hard, heavy rain that seemed like it would never end. I’ve been thinking about that rain all day, and have been reminded of two very different types of “rain”, both of which I have experienced in the last few months.

The first is the “bad” rain. The rain that comes with wind, thunder and lightning, flooding, and devastation. The rain that seems never-ending; relentless. Boy have I experienced this over the last couple of years. First the dreaded words: cancer….metastatic melanoma. Then having to share that news with our children and the rest of our family. The “rain” had started. Then began the onslaught of tests, scans, appointments, phone calls, research, etc. Then the prognosis….poor. That “rain” was getting heavier. Then the treatment options…..only one option and the success rate slim to none at best. More research, more phone calls, more calling out to God, more decisions that had to be made. Then we make the first of many, many trips to Houston to seek treatment. Another surgery, some more tests and things seem good…the “rain” seems to be letting up a little. We think we can even see the sun beginning to shine again. All seems calm for about a year, then the bottom falls out. The melanoma has spread. More tests, more scans, more appointments, more trips to Houston…..more “rain.” It just seems relentless….oral chemo, open heart surgery, biochemo, horrible side effects, poor appetite, raging fevers, increased weakness, night sweats, unbearable pain, nausea, vomiting, endless appointments, way too much time away from our kids….rain, wind, thunder, lightning. It’s scary. I’m having a hard time remaining upright. More bad news…the melanoma continues to invade his body. I feel like I’m in a whirlwind. I feel helpless. My heart breaks…..I am constantly crying out to the Lord. The “stormiest” day of my life comes when my kids and I have to say goodbye to the husband and Dad that we love. I feel as if I’m drowning in all the “rain.” I can’t make sense of anything. I feel beaten and battered and worn down. I can’t see because of the “rain.” I can’t hear because of the thunder of all that’s going on around me. I feel like I am going to collapse under the weight of it all.

“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” ~Matthew 7:25

But God…….He has sustained me. My “house” IS still standing! It may be a little wobbly and it may look a bit tattered, but it is STILL standing! Praise God that He is my foundation, and because of that, I am still STANDING! That doesn’t mean that I’m not a little worse for the wear. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a lot of repairs (healing) left to do, but it does mean that God keeps His promises, and my house IS STILL STANDING! He is faithful and He is good!

The other type of “rain” that I was reminded of today is the sweet, gentle, welcomed rains. The rains that bring refreshment to a dry and parched land. The Lord continually sends these little “rains” into my life. They come to me through His blessings and His people. They come in the form of cards, and meals and phone calls. They come in the form of prayers and gifts and hugs. They come in the form of legal help and smiles and yard work. They come in the form of financial advice and weekend get-aways with friends and help with my cars. They come in the form of Godly men spending time with my son and neighbors offering to help with whatever I might need and family members always checking on me to be sure I’m okay. The rains often come in the form of a needed word of encouragement from God’s word, or a blessing or circumstance in my life that can come only from His hand….no other explanations! How very thankful I am for these times of refreshing! These showers of blessing! Just like the old hymn:

There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.

Refrain:
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

There shall be showers of blessing;
Send them upon us, O Lord;
Grant to us now a refreshing,
Come, and now honor Thy Word.

There shall be showers of blessing:
Oh, that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!

There shall be showers of blessing,
If we but trust and obey;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
If we let God have His way.

In the midst of chaos, in the midst of destruction…..if we look hard enough we can see and feel the smallest drops of mercy. And if we focus on these drops of mercy and not the chaos that is all about us, soon we will notice that the drops are getting more and more, and bigger and bigger, and soon we are drenched in the sweet showers of His blessing!

I know that in my life, I will experience more storms and more destruction. I will also experience more drops of mercy and more showers of blessing. Whether it be one or the other….I say, “Bring on the rain!” My God will sustain me through the storms and my God will generously heap showers of blessing upon me. Because my God loves me, He is with me and He is for me!

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

Step By Step

I am a step by step kind of person. When I’m driving from point A to point B, I don’t want to see a map….just give me the step by step of how to get there. The main reason for this is that I’m not really too good at reading maps. Mostly, they just confuse me. I have a terrible sense of direction. Very rarely can I tell you if I’m going north, south, east or west. And don’t even get me started about I-285! I NEVER know what direction I need to be going on that interstate! (Please tell me I’m not the only one who has problems with 285!) There have been many times that I’m driving and find that I have no idea where I’m at. I remember one time I was going somewhere and found myself totally lost. I was alone and beginning to get a little nervous. I called Greg and when he answered the phone, the first words out of my mouth were, “Where am I??” Of course he said, “How am I supposed to know where you are?” Then he patiently tried to help me figure out where the heck I was! It was no easy task for a couple of reasons. One, I was in a very rural area and my phone kept losing service. And two, I couldn’t really give him any information about where I was. Nothing like “I’m eight miles off the interstate” or “I just went through the town of so and so.” That’s another one of my problems; I’m not very observant when I’m driving. The best I could give him was, “I just passed a Dollar General.” That wasn’t quite enough for him to pinpoint my location! Finally, we decided it was best for me to go back to the Dollar General and see if someone in there could help me get to where I was trying to go.

I went into the store and asked for directions. A customer in line said that he was going the route that I needed to take for a short way and that I could follow him. So, I got back in my car and followed this stranger for a couple of miles, until he pulled into the parking lot of a liquor store. Not sure if I’m too trusting, too naive or just plain stupid, but I followed him into the parking lot. He showed me the way to go from there and I was on my way, eventually making it safely to my destination (albeit, a bit late!).

Not long after this incident, Greg bought me a GPS! Emilie and I named the GPS “Hope”, as in I hope she gets us to where we are trying to go! I feel so much more secure and confident when Hope is in my car with me. Even if she has to “recalculate” twenty times in one trip because I miss a turn, I always know that eventually Hope will get me home. I don’t ever look at the “big picture” on the GPS. The whole map thing just overwhelms me! Too much information at one time. Just tell me every time I need to turn…that I can handle!

Our lives are like a long road trip…sometimes the road is smooth with beautiful scenery, sometimes the road is bumpy and uncomfortable, sometimes the view outside our window is dark and ugly, sometimes it’s raining so badly that we can’t see and we have to pull off the road for a bit until the storm passes, sometimes we enjoy the trip with those we love, sometimes we travel alone and the trip is scary and lonely. I am so thankful that on this road trip called life I have a GPS to travel with me. I have Hope to navigate the confusing, frustrating, stormy and lonely roads with me. But unlike my physical GPS that Emilie and I named Hope, this Hope is a sure thing. Not an “I hope she gets us to where we are trying to go” kind of hope. But a Hope that is the very essence of security and confidence. A Hope that says, “I know the plans I have for you.” A Hope that says, “All things work together for good for those that love God and are called according to His purpose.” A Hope that says, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” A Hope that says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”

I have been on the stretch of road where I am travelling with the one I love and the scenery is beautiful. How I long to travel that road again! But, the road I now travel is bumpy and uncomfortable and lonely and scary and not very pretty. But to get to the destination that my GPS, my Hope, has planned and purposed for me, this is the road that I must take. I could try to take shortcuts and rebel against the road in front of me. But who knows where I would end up, if I did that? (Another Dollar General or liquor store parking lot, maybe!) Instead I will choose to travel the path set before me. That doesn’t mean that I have to like it, the same way I don’t like driving in the rain. That doesn’t mean that I won’t have to pull off to the side of the road for a few minutes because I’m crying so hard that I can’t see what’s in front of me. That doesn’t mean that I won’t sometimes be unsure of what’s coming around the next curve in the road. But, it does mean that as long as I keep my eyes and ears on my GPS, my “Hope” that I WILL arrive at my destination. I WILL fulfill the purpose that my Hope has planned for me since before the beginning of time.

When I feel lost and like I don’t know where I am, it’s okay if I “call” the Lord and say, “Where am I??” He always knows where I am AND where I’m going! He goes before me, so He knows what’s ahead of me. Who better to be my navigator? I can’t look at the big picture; it’s just too overwhelming for me. Instead I will keep my eyes and my ears on my Hope and follow His directions…..step by step.

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

Dear 16 Year Old Me

I may have posted this before, but I saw it again today and I think it’s important enough to share once more! One of the girls in the video passed away today at the age of 26 because of ocular melanoma (melanoma that started in her eye). Melanoma is NOT “just skin cancer”!! Share this information with those you love.

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