Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Hope of Heaven

A note that one of the nurses or volunteers from
the comfort care home wrote to my grandma
I have been so hesitant to write this post. Partially because it feels too big. Too many feels (that word is for you, Carrie!!). But then I came across this picture when I was going through kid pictures tonight and I knew I had to write it.

On February 3, on her 87th birthday, my sweet Grandmother went to Heaven.

She left this earth and her frail body and came face to face with the One who created her, who knit her together in her mama's womb, who loves her and calls her by name. Face to face with Jesus. Could there be a greater birthday gift than that? Could you ask for a better birthday celebration than that?

Ryan came home from work that day and after he hugged me something fierce he looked me in the eyes and said, "Grandma would always say, 'God has your birth date and the day you die written down. Only He knows.'" I love that hers were the same day.

So many of you have reached out to me. I've received cards and facebook messages and hugs and meals and emails and I am incredibly grateful. So incredibly grateful. And humbled. And so I need you to really hear this next part- I'm ok. I am. Your words, your love have made my heart smile in this difficult season but this is the part I need you to hear- the hope of Heaven changes everything.

We are given but a few short moments in this life. And whatever day we die I imagine it will seem all too soon- maybe for us, but definitely for those that love us. 

And as I walked beside my grandmother her last six weeks she taught me something- loving well matters. 

Grandma (laughing) and Aunt Sue on Christmas Eve

She could have made the last six weeks about her. She could have been entitled and no one would have blinked. She could have lamented and cried out how unfair cancer is. But she didn't. Do you know what she did do? She looked people in the eyes- her doctors, her nurses, the volunteers at the comfort care home, and she thanked them. And she wouldn't let their hand go until they looked her in the eye back and said, "You're welcome."

She loved until the end. 

Frail and tiny in her bed, when the cancer became too much to bear and she was on pain meds that made her sleep most of the time, she woke up while I sat beside her and told me how special I was to her, grabbed my hand, told me she loved me and I saved her. I told her that I loved her back and that she saved me. And in her frail, sweet voice she said, "Well, then I guess we're even."

That was the last interaction I had with her before she went to Heaven. My heart floods with gratitude that God so graciously gave me that moment with her. I will ponder that in my heart and treasure it every day I walk this side of Heaven, until I meet Jesus face to face and then get to hug my Grandma.

We're all living for something. 

Some of us, we're even chasing something. It's easy to live for ourselves. It's easy to chase the next best thing. More money, a better car, a nicer, bigger house. The best school district for our kids, trendy clothes, an organic lifestyle. Whatever it is, let me share with you something else I learned these last few months. Those things don't matter. Dust in the wind.  Because when you are faced with suffering and loss none of that would have changed a single, stinkin' thing. Not one.

But Jesus, Jesus changes everything.

Hope in the midst of loss. Joy in the midst of pain. Comfort in the midst of grieving. Life and peace during a season of death. Only God can do that. Stop chasing, sweet one. And rest, knowing that the God of the universe is bigger than whatever valley you may be walking through. He is bigger than your biggest hurt and so incredibly sweet. May the sweetness of God cover you. He is tender. And His heart towards you is good.

Romans 8:16-18
16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. 18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.

2 Corinthians 1:5
For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tears and Hope

I walked into the comfort care home yesterday amid the normal hustle and bustle that precedes any wedding. My Aunt and her fiance were getting married and we made the drive from Buffalo to be there. There were more people than usual in the home and my in-laws made the drive with us so my father-in-law could take pictures of the wedding while my mother-in-law helped take care of the boys.

As I took off my shiny, pink coat and hung it in the closet my cousin Heather caught my eye from the half bath across from the foyer. I could see her blue eyes were red from crying and tears welled as she said, "DeeDee, it's bad today." Thoughts whirled through my mind as my expectations and my reality collided.

I walked back to my grandma's room. She laid in her bed, thin and frail. I walked over, took her hand and kissed her cheek. She couldn't get out of bed. My aunt dressed for the wedding in Grandma's room while I sat next to her bed. All I could think was how tiny she looked. And how incredibly hard this road is. I wrestled through wanting to fall to pieces and wanting to have it all together. I landed somewhere in the middle, where tears fell silently while every muscle in my body tightened.

She was in pain yesterday but didn't want to tell anyone to be a burden. And she didn't want to go in the living room for the wedding because she was so worried she would be the center of attention and not my aunt. The sweet nurse calmed her and they gave her an Ativan.  In the end she was wheeled out for the ceremony even though she slept through it all.

My grandmother has never sat on the sidelines of life. While she was never one for the direct spotlight she was always the one making a new friend, talking with people, telling stories and laughing. But there she sat at her daughter's wedding, asleep in the chair. I can still feel the knot in my chest as I occasionally glanced back at her during the ceremony.  This beautiful woman who loved me so, who rocked me to sleep as a little one, who calmed my fears and spoke peace to the fear I often felt every time my mom walked out the door when I was little, asleep in this chair that made her look even smaller. I wanted to crawl into her lap and stroke her hair and whisper truth about Heaven. I wanted to sing the songs she used to sing to me and if love were a blanket I would have swaddled her in it yesterday.

But all I could do was sit and watch. And pray. And praise. Because, yes, this road is hard. It's taking everything out of me and stirring up fears and wounds and sadness. But my hope is in Heaven. The hope is in Heaven. Every single day. Fifteen years ago my grandma put her hope and faith in Jesus and trusted Him as her Lord and Savior. Her hope is in Heaven. As a result there is peace for her now and there will be peace when Jesus calls her to Heaven.

Everyone left to go to the reception and I stayed back with my family. I wept at her bedside as she slept and snored and I was grateful for the sound of her repeated breath. I knelt by her bedside and found myself, a midst the sobbing, praying Psalm 73:26, the same verse I prayed while I was exhausted in childbirth with Hudson. It has wrapped itself around my heart and in these moments when I am weary it is what comes out with my breath. "Though my heart and my flesh may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

The truth is, my heart and my flesh will one day fail. It's not where my hope lies. My bank account could dry up tomorrow. And all the money in the world wouldn't heal my grandmother. My hope does not lie there. If I were good enough, and how could anyone ever measure that, it could not save her. My hope is not there. No. My hope is in God.

A woman named Laura, who I had the privilege of knowing, loved Jesus with every fiber of her being. She battled cancer and went home to be with Jesus 3 years ago. Before she went to Heaven she penned these words and they have been forever burned on my heart.

"God is good.
He remains on His throne.
He awaits me in Heaven.
In these things I rely and trust. They have not changed.
And there is hope- hope in today and hope in tomorrow."

I don't know if Grandma has one day or three days or ten. And again, I don't put my hope in how many days she will have this side of Heaven. My hope lies in the truth that because she loves Jesus she will walk with Him in Heaven. Her body will not be frail. Her hearing will be restored and her faith will be sight.  And when I am tempted to forget that, when the immense loss starts to block my view of who God is and the hope I have in Him I find myself humming these lyrics-

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see
And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well
Bridge x3

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

(Listen here: It is Well (Bethel Music))

I don't know what road you are walking today. My guess is that we all know suffering better than we'd like to. And if you have never put your hope and faith in Jesus then, sweet one, I encourage you to take a look at who He is. Because even in those moments when I struggle to believe it does not negate who He is. The wind and the waves still know His name. His identity does not waver through my, your, our unbelief. He is God. He remains on His throne. And there is hope. 

Praise God for hope. Praise God for the gift of His Son, Jesus. Amen!