Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Never Been This Way Before!

On December 5, 1989 my grandmother went to heaven. She was 95 ½ years old. She lived a wonderful life but that’s a story for another day (and a wonderful story it is, I might add!)!  There were lots of us who came to gather at my parents’ home on their mountaintop in North Carolina as my grandmother had four children and 16 grandchildren. My mother had six children and 21 grandchildren (though all 21 had not been born in 1989). It was a family time! We celebrated life and the life to come! We sang The Hallelujah Chorus at the memorial service, and it was all good!
August 25, 1990 was a different kind of day entirely. It was the day my brother Ed went to heaven. It was startling and unexpected and out-of-time and sequence! It was the kind of life experience that jars one to the marrow of the bones! He was the kind of guy who charged out of the birth canal and never looked back! More or less all the same people plus a few showed up this time, but it wasn’t the same – not the same at all! Many things were the same like family. We sang The Hallelujah Chorus once again at the end of the memorial service. This time there was a Marine general and a whole planeload of Marines from Camp LeJeune, NC. There was a 21-gun salute over the flag-draped coffin. And there was a lot more life to pick up on the other side and just go on!

Last night one of my sisters sent an email telling how much blessing God has poured out on her family moving them from despair to hope!
This past year we have prayed and struggled to hope, trust, rest, walk forward in the God who IS and you have been there with us. God never deserted us although we wondered. He provided every day's needs even when we couldn't see it. And He encouraged us through His Word and His people of whom you are each a very precious part. Thank you for praying, caring, reaching out. ………….

As I received her email I was just finishing the Children’s Page I write every week to go along with my husband’s sermon for A Restoration Church, Pittsburgh. I shared what I had written with my sibs because it just fit. The sermon today was on Joshua 3 especially vs. 3-4: When you see the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.

So, like we do, we began an exchange of emails and love each weighing in to love and encourage each other. If you want the link to the children’s page, it is:  http://restorationheart.blogspot.com/2014/02/2-feet-6-feet-many-many-many-feet.html
Then, this morning (Sunday) another sister who is also a pastor’s wife very uncharacteristically weighed in. She would have responded later, but for her to take the time on Sunday morning was significant. This is what she wrote (in part):

I must be crazy to spend the time on a Sunday morning to email, but I just have to respond to this. You're amazing, AA, in all that you get into a children's page! What a blessing!  Joshua 3:3-4 have been memorial stones to me ever since Ed died. I was reading through Joshua right after that, and these verses just jumped off the page at me. I was reading the NIV at the time, so those are the words that are special:  When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it.  THEN you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.
As I'm sure was true for each of you, I felt completely untethered by Ed's death and struggled to find my footing again - not doubting God at all, but not knowing what to do with the grief in my heart. Josh. 3:3-4 were and are memorial stones to remind me that whenever I feel confused and lost, if I will just keep my eyes on the Lord and trust Him to lead me through the waters, He has promised to show me the way, even though I have never been this way before and have no idea how to navigate it. I also clung to Psalm 139:16, "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." That was my answer whenever someone would say to me, "It's so sad that his life was cut short." I was very sure that his life had not been cut short by one minute, but that he had lived very fully the life that God had counted out for him before he was ever conceived. That was very comforting, but his death just took all of us completely by surprise because God had certainly not let us know ahead of time how many days had been counted out!

Never been this way before! Yep, that’s about the size of that day – August 25, 1990 – and many days since! It was surprising and, then again, not so much to discover today that we all floundered trying to find our way in a way we’d never been before. Whoa! This was not the same as the previous December’s loss. This was another level of loss! We had never been this way before!  We all have struggled over the years with the adjustments Ed’s death brought to our family and particularly to his wife and children. And, the bottom line for all of us came to be that although we had never been this way before the One who had was walking with us every step of the way!

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