Tag Archives: Easter

I Will Follow

2012-07-03_06-51-01_376Easter has always been a time filled with memories for me.  My dad, who died of a brain tumor at the age of 37, passed away during Holy Week thirty-five years ago. IMG_8961 I was twelve at the time, and remember vividly how dad had hoped to celebrate Easter in heaven that year.  God granted him this desire and goodness knows, all heaven rejoiced as another believer was called home to the fold.  Every year in this season, I am drawn backward in time to his celebration of life, with strains of “Praise to the Lord the Almighty” playing through my head as I vividly see our family walking to the front of the church where the casket holding my dad’s body was waiting.  I see myself in my new Easter dress a whole day early, and I wish I could recollect who sewed it for me, because my mom had been busy making funeral plans.

Unable to stop myself, I go further back to 1976, sitting in my Shawn Cassidy postered room, as my mom and dad told me that dad had a brain tumor.

I remembered that I laughed.

I was all of nine and had no idea how to handle that kind of news.

IMG_8963I have a mixture of garbled memories from the time of his illness…him choking on his food when I was home alone with him, the hospital bed moved into the piano room, mascara running down my Aunt Ruth’s face when dad would have such severe headaches that he couldn’t sit up…a small glimpse at some of the tough ones when you deal with cancer.  Cancer sucks the life right out of you and wreaks havoc on those near and dear.

But, thankfully, shining even more vividly are peaceful moments from the last days.  When a bible was placed in his hands, Dad, who had lost his sight because of the tumor, would “read” Scripture to us as eloquently as if truly seeing the words.  The power of God’s word, memorized, sprung forth and made an eternal impression on me.  I was able to see how biblical truth, stored and treasured in my dad’s heart, poured out to comfort and overflow into our lives.

When I discovered your words, I devoured them.
    They are my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
    O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.  Jeremiah 15:16 (NLT)

Later, after weeks of being unable to talk due to the tumor progression, miraculously, Dad was able to speak the Lord’s Prayer with us during family devotion time.  Furthermore, he raised his hands and pronounced the blessing on his family:

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NLT)

He died that night.  The knock on the door, the whispered “daddy’s gone”, the long look at the still body but absolutely certain you can still see his chest moving, the coroner arriving despite the late hour, burned into memory.

The funeral was held the day before Easter – but Sunday was coming.

I’d like to say that my faith had never wavered, that I had never gone astray.  I’d like to say that the impact my dad and mom had on my life was instilled so deep that I never once questioned the love of Christ.  Dad was death #2 in a list of six in seven years.  I was going to get awfully good at this grief thing…and I figured out auto-pilot pretty quickly.IMG_8041

But, thankfully, Sunday was coming.  In fact, Sunday came and stayed.  It was there day in and day out.  Sometimes I saw glimpses of it, sometimes I was overwhelmed by it.  I heard it in my Uncle Kenny singing “Jesus Loves Me” loud and strong at my six year old cousin Heidi’s funeral, just a month after my daddy died.  Years later, at Heidi’s brother Matt’s funeral, Uncle Kenny is behind me in the church, singing hymns with passion and conviction that can only come from a faith tested, but refined.

A few weeks ago, in Montana, we’re in church the Sunday morning before Steve’s memorial service, and I’m singing with the hope that can only come from a God who loves us. Overwhelmed, I stop.  Brad leans over and whispers, “You thinking of Uncle Kenny?”

Oh, to keep singing when the storm is rolling in.

Sundays are here to stay.  Because of this, we can sing with abandon, with hope, and with purpose.  Because the Sunday of all Sundays, where memories rest heavy, points us to the empty tomb and the cross.

As Brad shared with the AAI community at the Easter assembly just last week:

Because of Easter, the cross is transformed from an ugly symbol of
pain, suffering, 
and death into a
beautiful promise of victory, hope, and celebration.

We cling because we know where we place our trust.  We place our trust in the one who has risen from the dead, who has conquered sin and death, and who has left us with the Holy Spirit alive and in us until he comes again.

3-5 What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this
Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead,
we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for,
including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!
God is keeping careful watch over us and the future.
The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up
with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold
put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith
put through this suffering comes out proved genuine.
When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that
God will have on display as evidence of his victory.

8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him,
yet you trust him—with laughter and singing.
Because you kept on believing,you’ll get what you’re
looking forward to: total salvation. 1 Peter 1:3-9 (MSG)

This Easter, I know it to be true.  This past Sunday, as we sang “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Maher to close the service, I look over to my dear husband, who just weeks ago lost his brother, and his hand is outstretched in praise and adoration to the One who holds our future.

Once again, Easter is further etched in my mind as hope and joy despite circumstances.

Through the calm and through the storm, we know and trust the power of the empty grave. And, because of this power, we will continue to follow Him, obedient to His call, wherever it leads – all while singing like Uncle Kenny, because we know our future is safe and secure in the arms of Christ.

When the sea is calm and all is right
When I feel Your favor flood my life
Even in the good, I’ll follow You
Even in the good, I’ll follow You

When the boat is tossed upon the waves
When I wonder if You’ll keep me safe
Even in the storms, I’ll follow You
Even in the storms, I’ll follow You

I believe everything that You say You are
I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart
In the good things and in the hardest part
I believe and I will follow You
I believe and I will follow You

When I see the wicked prospering
When I feel I have no voice to sing
Even in the want, I’ll follow You
Even in the want, I’ll follow You

When I find myself so far from home
And You lead me somewhere I don’t wanna go
Even in my death, I’ll follow You
Even in my death, I’ll follow You

When I come to end this race I’ve run
And I receive the prize that Christ has won
I will be with You in Paradise
I will be with You in Paradise

© 2013 Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing / HBC Worship Music / Jingram Music (ASCAP) / Sony/ATV Tree Publishing / Harvest Worship Songs / Ingram Designee (BMI) All rights on behalf of Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing, HBC Worship Music, Jingram Music, Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, Harvest Worship Songs and Ingram Designee administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

Blessed to be His and praying that you are as well,

Sarah

Special words

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.

Martha and me

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.

IMG_8417

 

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.”

Lake cross

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