I had the privilege of growing up in a large extended family (on both sides!), with plenty of same-age cousins to hang out with, and play childhood games like Seven Steps Around the House, and Colored Eggs. My aunts and uncles were stable figures in our lives when my dad was fighting cancer,as both sides of the family would step in, often taking us into their homes and letting us, for instance, “work” on the farm while dad was getting chemo and radiation treatments. Through losing grandparents, uncles, cousins, and my father, all in a short time frame, my childhood memories are wrapped up in an intertwining of joy and sorrow as my extended family experienced life and death together. Some fought and clawed our way to understanding and peace while others provided a firm foundation of faith that we could look to and know that, someday, God would give us enough answers to move forward with a strength and a faith that was refined by the fires we had been through.
When you walk through grief with people, you have a respect for them that goes beyond words. They are a part of your soul, as you know they understand and feel deeply with you. You are connected in a way that bonds you for life. In a nutshell, the opinions and thoughts of the people closest to you matter the most. Now, throw in a curve ball like moving to Ecuador…
This path of moving to Ecuador was so bathed in prayer and confirmation that Brad and I had a peace about God’s leading like none we had ever experienced in our life. We knew the risks, but knew God had a plan. Our only choice was obedience to his calling. To take a quote from Kisses from Katie:
People often ask if I think my life is dangerous, if I am afraid. I am much more afraid of remaining comfortable…But I am living in the midst of the uncertainty and risk, amid things that can and do bring physical destruction, because I am running from things that can destroy my soul: complacency, comfort, and ignorance. I am much more terrified of living a comfortable life in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than I am of any illness or tragedy. – Katie Davis, pg XIX
Brad and I had reached this point in the decision to move and be more intentional about having God as the primary focus of our life, and the life of our family. When faced with the uncertainty of our future, we knew our stability was in eternal things, not in those of earthly fortune. While nothing we were doing made sense from an earthly standard, it was God’s call on our lives to “get mobile” and leave behind the worldly possessions that were tying us down and keeping us from the best of things.
We were now getting closer to leaving for Ecuador. Tessa and I were at our family reunion on my mom’s side, a wonderful event that is held every year. I knew this would be the last time I would see these precious cousins, aunts, and uncles, for months and maybe years to come. I knew they would be coming with me in spirit, because I know they would be some of the strongest pillars of faith who would be covering us with prayer. But, it was also one of the few times that I would be able to sit face to face and tell these special people why we were walking this path. Why we were walking away from life as we knew it. Why we were leaving FAMILY. These were people who mattered to me. People who probably wondered what the heck we were doing, but were going to support us anyway. People who loved us deep and wide.
So far in this process, I was able to guard my heart. But, as I stepped up to my Uncle Steve for the last goodbye, and he enveloped me into a giant hug, he said something to me that will forever be a balm for my soul:
“Your dad would be so proud of you.”
My eyes overflowed with tears and I think I may have managed a “thank you”. All I know is, for the next two hours as I drove home, I cherished and pondered those words. I didn’t realize how much I had needed to hear that precious thought. Uncle Steve was an instrument of God that day, confirming yet again how God works mightily when we need it most through the people around us. That simple sentence showed me the importance of a father’s love and acceptance, even when someone is 40+ years old. It showed that, even though I had a void in my life from losing my father at the tender age of twelve, I am surrounded with people who love and accept me, and they have stood in the gap. God is faithful through the years. He always provides exactly what we need because he loves us with a depth we cannot even begin to understand.
As I write this, it is Easter Saturday. I have been reflecting on the unbelievable sacrifice Jesus Christ has made for me. It is beyond my scope of comprehension, and I truly don’t think I will ever grasp the amazingness of it all. But, I do know that I am eternally grateful and I want him to use me for his glory. My desire continues to have him guide our life and we pray we can be ambassadors for Him through all we do and say.
And, I pray, as he welcomes me into heaven someday, and envelopes me in a giant hug, he will say something that will forever be a balm for my soul:
“Your Father is so proud of you.”
You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures. Psalm 16:11 HCSB