Press On

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It’s like that feeling you get when you leave your house and you just know you forgot something. Often on our car ride to school in the morning, I will mentally go through each room in the house and visualize what I may have forgotten. Did I lock the door? Did I forget to turn off the straightener? Did I put the dog in her crate? Once I realize what it is, I can either turn around and go back for it, or most common, call my father-in-law to see if he can shut something off. But my mind can’t move on with the day until I take care of what I left behind.

So that’s where I’m at with 2016. I have heard countless people say it was a terrible year. Even the media is dubbing this one of the worst years ever. Everyone has their reasons for hating the past 12 months, and most people are thrilled to say their goodbyes, and yet, strangely, I don’t want to leave it behind.

Common sense would say good riddance, but my heart feels like I’m leaving something behind. What lived in 2016 will never live in this new year, or any new year, from now on.

I remember the year after my dad died. It was time for me to purchase a new car and it ended up becoming an unexpectedly, emotional, experience. I had to sell my truck, a vehicle that my dad had driven in and I had to buy a new car, one that he would never be able to approve. I had to move forward, but sometimes it feels less like a move and more like a push, doesn’t it?

A push into a new year. One that will bring blessings and, most likely, some pain.  One that has countless opportunities for growth, change and promise. One that will hold a few firsts, but mostly seconds. And one that will never be known by my Grace.

Philippians 3:14 says “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me, heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

The word “press” in that scripture is an action word. The action is not an easy one. We don’t slip toward the goal, we don’t ease over the finish line, we press on. Some days we may feel pushed and some days will be easier than others, but we must press on.

The clock will read 12:00 AM, January 1, 2017 in less than 12 hours, whether I’m ready or not. My last 12 months have been filled with constant change, but I will press on toward the unchanging One. My peace rests in knowing that what I left behind in 2016 is safe and secure in the arms of our Father, the same arms that wait to catch me as I cross the finish line.

Happy New Year friends….thank you for your prayers, support and love these past months. God has sustained us, even during the many deep valleys, and we know that the people that God has strategically placed in our lives, to walk this path with us, have been vital to our journey.

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Press On

Marble Hope

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It took much longer than I had anticipated. We sat down with the funeral director over 10 months ago picking out the shape, the color, what the words would say, which picture would be etched in the marble. Then spring blossomed and bloomed, the summer breezed through, and the fall left its color. The few times I would visit, the only marker was a small plastic plaque with just a name and two dates. One date carrying with it one of my greatest memories, the other date, my worst fears realized.

They told us it would take a while. They said the type of stone we chose would have to be shipped in from overseas, but I needed it to happen, and I can’t even explain why.

So on Tuesday, this past week, we got the call. The area had been shoveled out from the recent snow storm, and the stone was set in place.

I was hoping that it would give me peace, a sense of completion, I guess, and it did, sorta.

I waited until Wednesday to see it. The black marble heart is visible from the road. It stands out like my beautiful Grace did. The words, etched in the stone, Love God, Love Others, were the very words she lived by. And the picture, taken in the summer of 2015, reflects the joy that poured out of her on a daily basis.

It’s perfect. It’s beautiful. It’s exactly what I had hoped it would be…

But, it’s cold. It’s marble. It’s a stone and the emotion that overwhelmed me was not peace.

A sense of finality rushed over me. The last piece to this tragic puzzle had been put in its place. I have nothing left to accomplish for my girl. It’s done. Now memories become my task. Making sure I don’t forget her voice, her walk, the way her nose would bead with sweat.

And oddly enough, while I knelt in the snow, with my fingertips numb from the frozen stone and my forehead pressed against her picture, my thoughts settled on Christmas, at least why we celebrate this season.   

Death entered this world through the fall of a man, but death is not the end because of the birth of a man. God desired eternity with us and so we celebrate Jesus. Isn’t that really what we rejoice in?

The fact that even in grief, there is hope. Even in tragedy, there can be peace. Even in the middle of a cemetery, surrounded by empty, soulless tombs, the promise of eternity can cause a flame that will burn at the hearts of man, melting away the ice of death.

I found myself hoping again. It’s always there. Sometimes the hope can be strong and thick, sometimes, it just barely flickers, but it’s always there.

Hope for a future home. Hope that my arms will hold my Grace again. Hope that death holds no victory.

Hope…wrapped up and laying in a manger.   

Marble Hope

Who Is God?

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Yes, I believe God still heals. I believe He completely restores health, at times. I have seen it happen. I have known, first hand, people who have gone back to the doctor after already receiving the dreaded diagnosis, only to hear, “we don’t know how this happened, it’s just gone.”

I have also fervently prayed for a miracle, believing a healing would come, only to sit at the edge of a bed, holding the callous hands of the first man I ever loved, as he slipped into eternity.

I also believe God saves and delivers, at times. My dad was in a head-on collision when I was a little girl. Both vehicles were going highway speed, my dad was not wearing his seatbelt, and to everyone’s amazement, he walked away, with nothing more than a few scratches. When he got home, he relayed the story to us, and we sat in wonder as he said, “I saw nothing, but I felt someone strong, pushing on my chest and keeping me in my seat.”

And, as you all know, at times, that’s not always the story. As I sat next to my first born in that hospital, looking at her silent face, with the only visible injury being on her forehead, I asked God why? Where was her rescue?

The questions will always be asked, the answers may never come, but none of the doubt or blame pointed at God, changes who He is and what His intention is for His children.

Faith will always be based on who we understand God to be, not on the situation we are facing. If we seek to understand the why of everything that happens here, I really think, we could drive ourselves mad.  There will always be death, there were always be abuse, there will always be injustice, because there will always be a fallen nature, sin will always be present, during our time here. However, who is God? Is He a loving God who seeks a relationship with His children, or a God whose character changes depending on what situation you are in?

God doesn’t change, ever. He is the same loving God that rescued the Israelites from slavery. He is the same loving God that walked in the furnace with the three Hebrews. He is the same loving God that created a way for us to be saved, by grace, through faith in His only Son. And He is the same loving God that held my heart, as it broke so many months ago.

Ask your questions.

Stand and shake your fist at Him in anger, He can handle it.

When all is said and done, remember He hasn’t changed, your circumstances may have, but He remains the same.

Charles Spurgeon once said “It’s not the strength of your faith that saves you, but the strength of Him upon whom you rely.”

Allow Him to be your strength today, tomorrow, the rest of this year. He handles your pain with the same loving care that He handles your joy. Trust Him today with both.

Who Is God?