12/27/12

loose ends ...

In the weeks leading up to 12/21/12, there was “buzz” about the Mayan
calendar predicting the end of the world. People made jokes, people
planned parties, people thought about what they would do if it really
was their last day to live. People did what they could to tie up
their “loose ends” just in case tomorrow didn’t come . . . but it did.

According to the Bible, in Matthew 24:36 & Mark 13:32, “But about that
day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,
but only the Father.”

I was not fearful on December 21 because I didn’t believe the Mayan
predictions, but I also wasn’t fearful because whether December 21 or
any other day is my last day to live, I know where I am going! Even
though I rest in that knowledge, it made me stop and think, do I live
as if each breath could be my last? I know, that for me, the answer
to that question, sadly, is no, I do not live as if each moment could
be my last. How DIFFERENT would my life be, would all of our lives
be, if we lived each day as if it were December 20, and we KNEW that
it would all end on December 21? Would we be kinder? Would we give
more? Would we love more? Would the “unimportant” have any
importance (the messy kitchen, the undone laundry, the not taken out
garbage, the sharp word that wounded us years ago that we just can’t
forgive someone for, the unkind deed we did to someone, the pain we
inflicted upon others, or had inflicted upon us . . . )? Would we
make sure to give that hug, that smile, that word of encouragement?
Would we mend those relationships that need mending? Would we say
that “I’m sorry” that needs saying? Would we make sure that our
“loose ends” were tied up so we could leave this world in peace? More
importantly, would we make sure those “loose ends” were tied up so
when we stand before the Lord, we can hear Him say those beautiful
words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”? Would that not be much
better than having to first answer why I snapped at my girls about
dirty dishes, why I complained about the garbage not being taken to
the dumpster, why I was worried about if the living room floor was
vacuumed. More importantly, wouldn’t it be better than explaining why
I didn’t “love well”, why I held on to old hurts and let them build
walls of resentment, why I let the “unimportant” become important?
Why I had an unforgiving spirit, caring more to “lick my wounds” than
to “forgive and forget”?

I am KEENLY aware that life is fleeting, and that any moment can be
our last moment. I have lived the lyrics of the song that states, “We
are all just one phone call (or in our case, police visit) from our
knees”. I know that “about the day or hour no one knows”. I believe
that taken in context, that scripture refers to Jesus’ return,
however, I also believe that it is very true of each and every one of
our lives. No matter how much of a control freak we might be (and I’m
more than guilty of that “title”), when it is our “time to go, it is
our time to go” and over that, I will have to relinquish ALL control.
My life, EVERY SINGLE BREATH is out of my control. God controls my
destiny – not me – no matter how much I WANT to be in control . . .
nobody knows the day or the hour – that the Lord will return, OR that
He will call me (or any of us) home.

I’m SURE that when Rickey left home on the morning of November 5,
2011, he left home with EVERY INTENTION of returning home in a few
hours to continue on with our plans for the day, our plans for the
rest of the weekend, our plans for the rest of our lives – after all
hunting season was just 10 short days away – and that was always a
HIGHLIGHT of his year. I believe that he had every intention of
“coming home” that day, not ultimately “going home”. Yet, God’s story
for Rickey was that he would go to his “forever” home that day. As
Taya said, he woke up in PARADISE. Was he ready? Yes. Did he plan
to go, that day, that moment? I don’t think so. Were his loose ends
“tied up”? Pretty much. Had he known/had we known, would November 4
have been different? I’m sure. I will always be thankful that he
came to my side of the bed and kissed me on the cheek as he left the
house that morning. I will always be thankful that minutes before his
fall, we talked on the phone, ending the call with “Love you, bye”. I
will always be thankful that we had no “loose ends” in that area. We
didn’t have a silly unsettled argument hanging between us. The girls
had said goodnight, I love you, to Daddy the night before. Those
“loose ends” were taken care of. Are there other things that Rickey
would have done differently? I’m sure of it. He would have called
the big kids & grand babies. He would have called his Daddy & Mama
(but I’m so glad he had gone to their house for a visit just a few
nights before). He would have called his siblings, his friends . . .
many “would have’s” . . . but he didn’t know. We didn’t know. We
don’t know. The Mayans didn’t predict the end of the world any more
than any of us can predict then end of our lives.

Last week, as I was wheeled into surgery, I wasn’t fearful. I knew
without a doubt Who was in control. I knew that He controlled the day
ahead of me. I knew I would either wake up in the recovery room, or
in Paradise. Did I tie up all of my “loose ends” before surgery? No.
Maybe I should have. Thankfully, I was given more time to live and to
love and to learn to let the unimportant stay unimportant while
learning to focus on the important! Interestingly enough, as we
discussed “Advanced Directives” before surgery and I told Tessa that
she was my #2 person on the list – if Rick couldn’t be there to speak
for me – she would have to. She told me that if it came down to it,
she’d pull the plug . . . “Well, I wouldn’t actually “pull” it, but
I’d tell them to”! Which goes along with my wishes, but also lets me
know that my girls do have a firm grasp on the reality of life . . .
and death, and the certainty of what awaits us when death greets us.
As the song says, “No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the
power of Christ in me! From life's first cry, to final breath, Jesus
commands my destiny! No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever
pluck me from His hand! 'Till He returns, or calls me home, here in
the power of Christ I'll stand!” Death is fearful to those of us left
behind, but if the person who dies is a believer in Jesus Christ and
His FREE gift of salvation through His death on the cross, there is
absolutely no fear. We can know that Jesus commands our destiny and
no power of hell, no scheme of man will take us from His tender,
loving hand.

So, my challenge is to try to make each moment count. As we have
celebrated another CHRISTmas season and the birth of the REASON for
our hope for eternity and as we enter into yet another New Year . . .
let’s make each moment count – for eternity!

I recently read a devotional that reminded me to REMEMBER that God is
ALWAYS in control. In the good, in the bad, in the terrible . . . HE
IS THERE . . . He does control each and every moment of each and every
day. He controls the number of breaths we will take on this earth.
He, not the Mayans or Harold Camping or anyone else KNOWS the day and
the hour of Christ’s return just as we don’t know when we will take
our last breath here on earth. The devotional read, in part:

“When joy surrounds. When sorrow clobbers. When all's right in our
world. When the bottom drops out. When we feel loved and cherished.
When we feel abandoned and alone, let's remember... They (the saints
of old) remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was
their Redeemer. (Psalm 78:35) Dear Lord, Your love and Your grace
never fail. Please help me remember this today and always. Thank You.
In Jesus' Name, Amen.”

I know that I will never have all my “loose ends” tied up, but I will
strive to live each day to the fullest . . . living, laughing, loving
. . . enjoying the life and the blessings that, despite tragedy
striking, God has continued to bless me with. I will embrace when joy
surrounds, I will cling tightly when sorrow clobbers, I will praise
Him when all’s right in my world and I will continue to praise when
the bottom drops out. I will thank Him when I feel loved and
cherished and I will turn to him for comfort when I feel abandoned and
alone . . . for He is my Rock and my Redeemer and His love and grace
will NEVER fail me!

12/4/12

...insight...




Over the past {almost} 13 months, I’ve had the opportunity to talk
with lots of people . . .

I’ve been able to “live outside of” my own memories of November 5, and
to hear their memories of that day.  It’s been very insightful to me
to be able to have these conversations.

I think so often when we are thrust into the middle of any type of
“crisis” situation, it is so easy to reflect only upon ourselves and
the way we were affected, and we forget the broad reaching effect of
the “event”.

I’ve been able to talk to some of those people who are/were closest to
Rickey and me and to hear where they were, what they were doing, when
they got the news that Rickey had gone to Heaven . . . sometimes I
forget – I know “my” story so well, but Rickey touched so many, many
lives, that everyone who knew him has a story as to “how” they learned
of his accident.  It reminds me how much he was, and I am loved when
people share with me.

There are MANY of these stories I could share – from my Pastor’s wife
and my assistant Pastor’s wife.  From the family whose house Rickey
was at (and that’s an AMAZING story!) to the funeral director . . . and on and on . . . 
so many stories that though difficult to hear and share, each one healing
in its own way.

One of the families who has endured the pain with me is my best
friend, Donna’s family.  Not only has Donna walked the road of
grieving with me, but she has walked it with her husband, Jim as well.
 Rickey and Jim worked together – for over 10 years.  They were like
brothers.  They often spent more time with each other than they did
with us (Donna & myself!).  They worked, they talked hunting, they
talked life, they played cards, they laughed . . . they were GOOD
friends!  So when Rickey died, Donna grieved, and Donna supported not
only me, but also Jim . . . she is the sister I never had.  This past
Sunday, Donna & I went on the annual “Ladies Shopping Trip” with our
church.  As we took the exit ramp for our first stop, she said “Here
is my PTSD spot”. . . . She then recalled to me, the moment she took
the phone call about Rickey’s accident, as she and another friend were
headed for a fun day of shopping, that instead ended up in the
hospital E.R.  Memories both of us wish we didn’t have – yet a chance
to talk – lovingly about Rickey.  And about Heaven.  And about how
awesome it must be to be there.  About how God IS in control – ALL THE
TIME, even when it doesn’t seem like it to us.

I’m reading again through my “Jesus Calling” devotional.  The one my
sweet sister-in-law gave me last year – right after Rickey died.  It’s
different reading the daily devotionals this year than it was last
year.  When I read them this year, I am reminded of where my
“strength” last year came from!  Here are “excerpts” from some of the
readings over the past weeks and my thoughts as I re-read them this
year:

“Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity.  That is why I have
instructed you to give thanks for everything . . . there is an element
of mystery in this transaction:  You give Me thanks (regardless of
your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances)
. . this is a spiritual act of obedience – at times, blind obedience.”
Give thanks in EVERYTHING . . . that was commanded to me.  Not to
understand everything.  Not to like everything.  But, to give thanks .
. . in EVERYTHING . . . so each day, I determined to find the things
that I was thankful for.  And, in doing so, some of the sting was
taken out of this adversity.  As time moved forward, there were more
things and new things to be thankful for each day!  I CHOSE to give
thanks – REGARDLESS of my feelings, and God did give JOY – REGARDLESS
of circumstance – and trust me, it WAS blind obedience – especially
those first few months!  And in that obedience, God restored me –
daily – and brought new blessings to my life!

“A thankful mind-set does not entail a denial of reality with its
plethora of problems. Instead, it rejoices in Me, your Savior in the
midst of trials and tribulations . . . I am your refuge and strength,
an ever-present and well-proved help in trouble.”
I like this one – even more as I re-read it this year.  It is an
acknowledgement that there are problems we will face – a PLETHORA of
them, but to CHOOSE to rejoice in our Lord & Savior in the MIDST of
them provides us with our refuge and strength. HE will be (is, most
definitely) our ever present help in trouble!

“Come to Me, and rest in My Peace.  My Face is shining upon you, in
rays of Peace transcending understanding . . . as you lean on me in
trusting dependence, you feel peaceful and complete.”
I know that I often over the past year + have used the phrase “peace
that passes understanding” and I know that it is in part because early
on, I read this devotional.  Again, I chose to draw near (come) to the
Lord, to rest in His peace.  And I did find a peace that transcended
understanding.  And, I find it much easier now, to “fall back” on that
ability to lean on Him, waiting for that PEACE that only he can offer!

“You must remember that you reside in a fallen world, where blessings
and sorrows intermingle freely . . . how precious are My children who
remember to thank Me at all times . . . they can walk through the
darkest days with Joy in their hearts because they know that the Light
of My Presence is still shining on them.”
Oh, this one spoke to me as I re-read it this year . . . you reside in
a fallen world – where blessings and sorrows intermingle freely . . .
sometimes at the same time.  I know that in times of deepest sorrow
and grief many people turn from God or question God.  Again, I’m
thankful for all of the prayer warriors who I know were standing in
the gap for me and praying for me, giving me the strength to trust in
God fully.  To thank Him AT ALL TIMES.  I was able to walk through the
darkest of dark days and still have a measure of joy in my heart.  My
heart was broken, my life and dreams shattered in a single moment,
yet, I never took my eyes off of the one who “gives and takes away” .
. . “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the
Lord be praised” Job 1:21.  Again, I see no call for me to understand,
or even like what has been “taken” from me, but that the name of the
Lord is STILL to be praised – in ALL things.  Not an easy task, yet
infinitely rewarding if the command is heeded.

“Remember that you are en route to Heaven, and let your problems fade
in the Light of eternity.”
This one is a “biggie”.  I am just a visitor here on earth.  My time
on earth is short.  Even if I life to be 100, my time on earth is
short.  Any problems that existed in Rickey’s life on November 5, any
worries about health or wealth, relationships or anything, faded
INSTANTLY in the Light of Eternity – as will mine, as will yours.  Any
problems that we face here on earth are fleeting.  Our response to the
trials that come our way truly can “make us or break us”.  I’m so
thankful that I had the prayers of God’s people, the love of friends
and family, the knowledge the Rickey left this earth fully loving all
of us, and fully ready to meet the Lord for eternity.  I’m thankful
that I was able to trust God fully in the midst of, despite, the
nightmare that became my reality on November 5, 2011.  I’m thankful
that He is a God of restoration – that in Him, my earthly problems
WILL fade in the Light of eternity.

As I reflect, and remember these days last year, my heart is filled
with wonder.  What a “terrible” time of year to have to grieve . . .
Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, “New” Year’s . . . . yet, what a
wonderful time of the year to grieve – Holidays that give hope . . .
hope of HOME.  Birthdays – the reminder that God has seen us through
another year of our life – and the reminder to make each year, each
month, each week, each day, count for ETERNITY!  Thanksgiving – a time
to remember ALL that we still have to be thankful for – primarily the
promise of our eternal home in Heaven where we WILL be reunited with
Rickey some day.  Christmas – the time when we remember the greatest
gift ever given – the reason for the hope of that eternal home in
Heaven.  New Year’s – a time to reflect on the past – good and bad –
and to look with hope and expectation for what the Lord has in store
for us in the coming year.  Knowing that HE has been with us every
step of the way – and He’s not going to leave us now!

Last  year, Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s were quite
empty.  I remember VERY WELL feeling “deserted” on New Year’s because
the girls went to a Youth Group party and I was home ALL ALONE.
Having a pity party that nobody had “remembered” me.  I was angry at
everyone – their lives had moved forward and mine seemed to be
standing still, and I felt like I was standing still – all alone.
Now, I KNOW that is not true, and I know that I was in the midst of a
full blown pity-party at that moment, but it was hard to see the good
in anything at that time!

If only . . . . If only I could have “seen into the future” . . .
well, not really, I wouldn’t really want to be able to do that, but my
thoughts behind that statement are that “if only” I could have seen
what God had in store for me in 2012 . . . .  If only I could have
seen where He was leading me in the year to come – the blessings He
had in store for me!

“If only” I had known . . . . THEN, I could have then rested quietly
on New Year’s Eve – even as I sat home alone.  I could have sat
quietly in HIS presence.  But, in reality, I SHOULD have rested
quietly.  I SHOULD have sat quietly.  I SHOULD have trusted that His
ways are higher, and mightier than mine.  I SHOULD have been resting
in that “Peace that passes understanding”.  Someday, I’ll learn.  But,
it will never be perfect.  I will always want to have “control”.  I’ll
always want to “know” what’s in store.  I’ll always want to know
“why”.  Until I arrive in Heaven, I’ll never fully arrive!  I’ll still
have those struggles – but with God’s help, they will become less of a
ruling force in my life!

My “If only’s” turned into much more than I would have ever imagined –
so even if I’d been told on New Year’s Eve 2011 what 2012 held for me,
I’d have not believed it.  I would not believed that God would
continue His restoration in my life.  I would not have believed that
He would allow the girls and me to make not one but 2 trips to visit
family down south.  I’d have not believed that I’d leave the job I
thought I loved and TOTALLY step out in faith in taking a job with
less hours/less benefits/less pay (to read about that click HERE).

I’d have not believed that He would bring someone new into my life.
Someone who loves me unconditionally.  Someone who reminds me DAILY of
WHAT is important.  Someone who cherishes with me, the memory of
Rickey (from the stories I tell, the pictures I share, the reflections
of Daddy in the girls).  Someone who is not afraid to keep me in line
when I start to make the unimportant important.   Someone who loves
the girls and treasures who they are – who they were shaped to be by
the influence and loving guidance of their Daddy.  Someone who loves
God and desires to serve Him alongside me . . . . Someone who I
believe God gave to me . . . because He {God} loves me THAT much!
We had a “whirlwind courtship” which shocked/surprised many people
(including, I believe ourselves), yet, daily, I am reminded of the
reasons Rick is in my life.  

I’ve heard the “good, the bad and the
ugly” from people.  I’ve written and re-written some thoughts here,
and deleted all of them – regarding the “bad and the ugly” . . . I
will instead focus on the “good”.  I’m not trying to “sugar coat”
things by not “focusing” on the “bad or the ugly”, I’m just, again,
CHOOSING to “remember that you reside in a fallen world, where
blessings and sorrows intermingle freely “ in this case, “blessings”
being the love that God has blessed me with through Rick and the
support of friends & family and the “sorrows” being those who have not
extended their support, love and understanding.  I will strive to
understand that they have their reasons, and that even in these
situations, the Lord is in control.   The well wishes and love that we
have received from most - the “blessings” far outweigh the negative -
the “sorrows”.  So, I will CHOOSE to focus on the “good” that we are
blessed with each and every day.

To “copy” the thoughts of another “widow” friend I have, I NEVER
wanted for my kids to have a step-parent (divorce was not an option in
my marriage).  I NEVER wanted for my kids and I to have different last
names . . . there are so many “I NEVER’s” that I could go on and on,
but I think you get the picture.  I also NEVER dreamed that November
5th’s nightmare would become my reality.  I NEVER dreamed that I would
be a widow at 45 years old.  I NEVER dreamed that God would bring
someone else into my life.  

. . . . Do you notice a “theme” here? 
“I” NEVER.   Hhmmm . . . . but, it’s not all about “me” is it?  It’s about
God.  It’s about God and His plan for my life.  A plan I don’t always
understand.  A story He has written for me.   His plan, His story, His
will, His way.  A plan that I have to CHOOSE to trust.  A story that I
have to believe He has control of.  Circumstances that only He knows.
A life to live – according to His plan, because, I have read the end
of the book.  I do know the end of the story.  And until that end
comes to my story, until the last chapter is finished, and I cross
over to eternity in Heaven, I will continue to live and laugh and
love.  I will always love Rickey and honor his memory, he will always be
a part of who I am.  I will also always be thankful that God has given
me love again.  I will be thankful that I know that I can trust Him
for all of my tomorrows – however many of them there may be.  I will
be thankful . . . in all things and in spite of all things.  I will be
thankful for the “insight” that I have gained through my life
experiences.  I will continue to pray that God will use me through
these experiences to bless others.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are your ways My ways.  As
the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways and thoughts
higher than yours . . . “  Isaiah 55:8-9 ~ Jesus Calling

“You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is
fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  
Psalm 16:11