Only by God’s Grace…

Yesterday was a rough day. I went to my uncle’s funeral. My aunt lost her sister and husband in the space of less than a month. My heart breaks for her and my cousins.

I start to thinking about the age-old question, “Why does God allow suffering?” But I think we have it backwards when we ask that question. See, the consequence of sin is death. The reason that bad things happen in this world is our own doing. We truly live in a sinful and fallen world, far from what God intended for us. God has provided a way for us to be forgiven, but there are still the consequences of our sin to contend with. That’s a rather humbling thought for me. I can’t honestly ask God why He would allow bad things to happen to me, or why He allows the death of loved ones, because it’s just the natural consequence of sin.

At the same time, this also brings home the significance of living in a place with no sin. I have a better grasp of how truly wonderful being finally free of my sinful nature will be. The thing that causes all of the death, pain and suffering here on Earth, will not even exist in Heaven. I will live in a holy place, in the very presence of the Holy One. That truly is humbling. I’m amazed all over again that God would care enough for one such as I, to go through everything He did to secure my salvation. Absolutely incomprehensible. Who among man could ever begin to comprehend the grace of God? Certainly not I.

Joni Ericson Tada once said that the thing she most looked forward to was not a new body, but a new heart. I am beginning to understand that statement. I too long for a new heart, one free of sin. I strive and struggle against my own sinful heart daily, and I am ashamed to admit how often my flesh wins the struggle. It truly is only by the work of God in me that there is anything good in my life.

I’ve seen a t-shirt with the caption, “I am the wretch the song refers to.” It references the line in Amazing Grace, “Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound! That saved a wretch like me.” That line is gaining a deeper meaning for me as I grow.

Too often we hear about the importance of self-esteem. However, I think it is better for us to take a realistic look at ourselves and realize how great the work of grace is in us. That’s the sort of thing Mom would have said. Reminding me that it is only by God’s grace…

Frail Humans

“Frail humans we are, fumbling with the eternal.”

I read that in a book a few nights ago. Something about that one sentence stood out from all of the other words on the page. Funny where we find words from God. I found this in a novel of all places. Of course, God also used a candy wrapper to speak to me once, but that’s a story for another day.

We are frail. Earthly life is so small, fleeting, just a vapor.

Yet, some small part of us is eternal. Our soul is made for eternity. That’s quite a thought.

This frail body is so rooted in linear time, in our Earthly existence, that we can’t grasp even the concepts of eternity. It’s an endless mystery to us, one we stumble over.

As I Corinthians 13:12 explains, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” When this frail flesh is left behind, my perception will finally be clear. I will see everything in light of eternity.

That’s how Mom sees it now. None of the pain, none of the hurt, none of the sadness, none of the grief. Everything finally in perspective. Viewing the tapestry as a whole, rather than just one or two stitches.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” Hebrews 12:1-3

Christ lived for a short time on Earth, but He had the eternal perspective in mind. Shall we follow His example? Live with the eternal in mind.

Pecan Kringle

From time to time, a white priority mail box will show up. Inside are the most wonderful, absolutely delicious pastry that you could imagine. It’s called a kringle. They are made at the Danish bakeries in Racine, Wisconsin. Aaron’s grandparents mail us some on occasion. Every time a white box that size shows up in our mailbox, I am VERY excited! Whenever on arrived, I would usually call Mom and tell her what had just arrived. Once I told her that one of them was pecan, well, she would say, “I’ll be right down!” She would stop in and have some pecan kringle and a cup of her favorite coffee.

We got a white box in the mail just last week. I’ve been happily munching away on them and some of our friends have been introduced to this very tasty treat as well!

I opened the last kringle today. It was the pecan one. It seemed strange not to have Mom sitting there with a cup of coffee waiting for a piece.

I keep thinking of things that I want to tell her. Every time one of the kids says something funny I reach for the phone to call her up, and then I remember. I really, really miss her. I miss her even more than I could have guessed. God is still faithful, though. He still gives me the grace and strength to keep going, even when the hurt is more than I can bear.

I imagine the reason why I miss her so much, is because she loved me so much. I guess that’s why there is a little hole in so many people’s lives right now. They all miss her that much because she loved them that much. That’s what happens when we love people the way that God tells us to. That kind of love, it’s an amazing thing. It’s the kind of love that touches everyone in a profound way. That’s what God can do through someone who yields their heart to Him. She did, she really did. That’s why she was the kind of person she was. That’s what God does with yielded hearts.

Heaven

Do you ever think of Heaven? I do. I’ve always longed for Heaven. With each day that goes by, I long for my true home even more.

“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.”

I long for the day when I’ll lay down every struggle, every burden that is synonymous with our life in this fallen world. I long for a new heart. Not having to constantly struggle against my own sinful nature; that will be a burden that I’ll be glad to lay down. I long to live peacefully for all of eternity in the place that my God and Savior has made for me. From my perspective, it will likely be quite some time before I enter into the dwelling place of my LORD, but from the perspective of eternity, it will be very soon. Such a short time we live here. It seems like it will go on forever, but thankfully, it does not. My husband has said that death is really a great blessing that God has given to us. Can you imagine living as a sinner in a fallen world for all of eternity? God showed His great love for us by granting that we live here only a short time. God has shown great love for us in many ways, and continues to show it to me even now.

We observed the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper at Mom’s family memorial on Saturday. I’d never seen that done at any funeral or memorial before, but how fitting it is! I found great comfort in the reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and what it means for us.

Saturday evening, after the kids were in bed and I was resting on the couch, the phone rang. It was just after eight and my first thought was, “Oh, that must be Mom.” If the phone rang in the evening, it was quite often my Mom, calling to check on one of the kids if she knew they were sick, or calling about any of a dozen little things. Moments like that are sad, but they are also comforting in a way. I miss her desperately, but I’m glad that I’m surrounded by so many beautiful memories.

Sunrise

Sleep was not on the agenda last night. Not much of it anyway.

I watched the sunrise this morning. Standing in the dining room, golden light spilled through the windows. It was beautiful. It was bittersweet. Mom loved the sunrise. A few minutes later, the sun slipped behind the clouds and it was dark again. The last few days have been like the sunrise this morning. Filled with moments of beautiful memories of Mom… And filled with moments when it hurts to even breathe. I was reminded of another song that Mom loved this morning.

“Then came the morning, night turned into day;

The stone was rolled away, hope rose with the dawn.

Then came the morning, shadows vanished before the sun,

Death had lost and life had won, for morning had come.”

I have hope. Some moments I hang on to that hope by a tenuous thread, but it’s still there. I have hope for the same reason that Mom would if the situation had been reversed, because of my faith. Mom was a woman of incredible faith. I pray that someday I’ll have even half the faith she had, but for now, my tiny mustard seed of faith is enough. I survive moment by moment, only by the grace of God. Mom would remind me that God told us “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 2:9) She was right, His grace is enough, and when the next moment without her seems like more than I can bear, God will grant me more grace, and I’ll take another breath.

My All’s Grace List

Ann over at The Holy Experience, http://www.aholyexperience.com/ , has a list of 1000 gifts that has been ongoing for some time. Perhaps this is the perfect time to start my own.

My son sitting in my lap while I type…

The memory of Mom putting up the curtains in my kitchen because, “you have to have curtains up in your home”…

The amazing people who are loving us through this time…

Hugging Gram and Gramp last night…

Munchkin asking for a picture of Grammy for her dresser…

The love of God…

Pictures of Mom holding her grandchildren…

The smell of unleavened bread baking in my kitchen…

The cold snow, painting the world white…

Because He Lives

A friend brought us supper last night, and she also brought one of her kids’ books for me to read to my children. It’s titled God Gave Us Heaven. It’s a wonderful book for explaining the concept of heaven to kids. Arynne and I read it this morning. I cried through part of it, but she didn’t mind. Afterwards we talked a bit about heaven and Jesus. I told her that Jesus had said that He was going to prepare a place for us in heaven, and we read John 14.

John 14

1Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

4And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

5Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

6Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

7If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

8Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

9Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?

10Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

11Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.

12Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

13And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

15If ye love me, keep my commandments.

16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

18I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

19Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.

20At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.

21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

22Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?

23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

24He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.

25These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.

26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

27Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

28Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

29And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.

30Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.

31But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.

What a wonderful chapter of scripture. I cannot tell you the comfort it brought me to read it to Arynne. Jesus was right. The peace he gives us is not of this world. It does not depend on circumstances. It comes straight from the God of all comfort, from the Prince of Peace Himself. Because He lives, we live. Because He lives, Mom is more alive now than ever. Make no mistake, this in no way diminishes the grief I have, but the Comforter that He sent will be with me forever.

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” 1 Thessalonians 4:12-13 NIV

Please understand, my heart is truly breaking. I have no idea what to do, now that Mom is gone. I can still hardly believe it’s true. And there is one terrible hole in our lives right now. If I did not have this reassurance from God, the despair would be crushing, and I would not be able to bear it. I will grieve, for a very, very long time. But I will not grieve like one with no hope. The Source of that hope is the only reason I am able to face another day right now. “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.”

Come Soon…

My mom is gone. I can still hardly believe that it’s true. I never would have guessed yesterday morning when we visited with her that it was for the last time. You always know in the back of your mind that you will likely outlive your parents, but it’s still a shock when it actually happens.

I’m not sorry for her though. I will miss her every day for the rest of my life, and I would never want to get to the point where I didn’t miss her. But I envy her in a way. She’s with her Savior. She is with the One she followed faithfully and loved with all of her heart. I take great comfort in that knowledge, but I still miss her.

I woke up this morning and looked out the kitchen window. The world went on like it was any other day. I couldn’t help thinking that it shouldn’t have. It isn’t any other day. This was the first day without Mom, how could the world just keep going on like nothing had happened? Reaching into my kitchen cupboard, I found a tin of the coffee Mom always liked. I don’t drink it, but I kept it for her whenever she was here for a visit. I took the tin off the shelf and just held it for a minute, and then I put it back. I don’t know how long it will stay there, but for now, I just want to leave Mom’s coffee in my kitchen.

I’m finding reminders of her everywhere. As much as I cry, it also comforts me to have reminders of her all around. I’ve saved the birthday candles from the cake we shared on her 54th birthday just last week. We only had eight candles, and we were joking that it was one candle for every decade. I remember laughing with her over that. Having her here for supper on her birthday was a spontaneous idea, but I’m really glad that it occurred to me. We had so much fun having dinner together and playing cards until late that night.

I started knitting a sweater for myself. I’m using the last yarn that Mom gave me for it. I’m also still knitting on a lace scarf that I’d started for her. It’s done in alpaca and silk because she was allergic to wool. I considered setting it aside unfinished, but perhaps finishing it will be good for me.

Explaining things to Munchkin has been hard. She misses Grammy, but I’m just not sure how much of it has really sunk in yet. I was her age when my Grandpa died. I think that will help me better know how to help her right now. She was as close to her Grammy as I was to my Grandpa. She will miss her terribly, but she will retain so many wonderful memories that will make her smile throughout the years. She told her dad last night when we got home that she needed a picture of Grammy to put on her dresser. I had to smile while I cried because for many years I had a picture of Grandpa on my dresser too.

Mr. Q will probably have some memory of her, but Camo won’t. Still, we will tell him about his Grammy and how very much she loved all of them. She will still be a wonderful example to them through our memories of her.

When my great-grandmother was dying, her last words were some that have always stuck with me through the years. “God never makes mistakes, and His timing is always perfect.” I think Mom would have said the same thing to me. She was so much like her grandmother in many ways. They were both godly women, women of faith. I don’t know anyone who met either of them, and did not love them.

I like to think that she is meeting the three children she never held here on Earth and holding them now. Then, I think she will find my two babies, Alex and Terry, and hold them too. Someday soon, I’ll see them all, and never, ever, have to say goodbye. I keep echoing the sentiments of John at the end of Revelation, come soon Lord Jesus, come soon.