Since I wrote my last blog, so much has changed. I am a year older, a first time home owner, but most of all I suffered the loss of my grandfather. All this has happened within a weeks’ time period. As I type about this week I ask that you be in prayer for me. There are so many moving parts in my life right now. The worst feeling for me in the world is to feel so unstable with the weight of so much constantly looming over you. “But God…” I love when Paul says that in the Bible. I often smile when I see it and even say it to myself. To me when I read, “But God…” it indicates that no matter what happened before, God is rectifying everything. And it will be good. No matter what you or I feel.
When I got the call about my grandfather on June 28, 2016, it was so out of the blue. I feel this is happening all the time to me. I feel like the Lord is taking a lot of people around me home. In a selfish way I said to the Lord, “Can I please catch a break? Please?” My grandfather’s passing reminded me of February 2007 when I found myself receiving news that my father had gone on to be with the Lord.
Growing up my mother married a very special man who took care of me as his own. I would never call him my step-father because to me, it is offensive. In my family we never use those titles. You are sister, brother, mother, father, aunt, cousin, or uncle. My father was hands down the best father. He taught me everything: How to cook, how to drive, how to change a tire, to be faithful, to work hard, to serve, and how to be “good for nothing.” Now my father wasn’t going around and teaching his daughter to be what “good for nothing” normally means. Rather he taught me to be good and never expect anything in return. Never serve and do it from a place of expecting praise or for a fee. He was simply amazing. I am forever thankful to the Lord, because although my biological father was never in the picture until 5 years ago, our heavenly Father didn’t let me miss out on a thing. I don’t take that for granted. The Lord has truly had His hand in my entire life.
After the death of my father in 2007, it seemed as though our family all separated. For years I felt like all of a sudden we didn’t see anyone but twice a year. That was it, and I was so mad. I was offended, hurt, and felt like I was being rejected because I wasn’t blood. I took everything personally, and I spoke so poorly on this matter given any opportunity. I had so much anger from words being exchanged about money and family. It went from getting cards every year just to say something like “Merry Christmas” to only my little sister being acknowledged. For me, nothing would come anymore. If my father were here, that would not have happened. They treated me so differently, I felt. It was insulting at times. I thought it was on purpose, but it was a very ugly time in our lives. Funny, when we would see each other no one spoke about such things. We would act like nothing was wrong. It was like family members were a distant memory of good times but also a very present painful reminder.
This drew lines in the sand so to speak. My sister and I were hurt by the change we saw unfold right in front of us. My grandfather was a quiet man as it was, but he seemed to not care about us. When his son died, one would think that he would be even more diligent about his relationship with his only two granddaughters on his side of the family. He had remarried many years ago, and everyone over there thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. This was even more upsetting for many years. He seemed to be such a good grandfather to everyone but us. We couldn’t understand the problem. And we will never know what the main issue was all these years. But that is not the point of this letter to you all. I have something greater to share about what God did.
By 2016, a lot hadn’t changed, but I did notice some things over the years. Last year on my birthday he brought a cake over. For a few hours he ate, talked, and laughed with my husband and me. I was like a giddy girl; I couldn’t believe he was standing in my living room. I didn’t even know he had my phone number. Wow! God knew. He knew that this day would come, and this would be a moment I would look on for years to come. In his own way, my grandfather was trying to mend things. They weren’t these extravagant gestures, but it was something. Needless to say, I still wasn’t in a place where I could look past it all. I wrote prayers in my Thistlebend studies many times for the Lord to rid me of my bitterness towards him in particular. But, I hadn’t been intentionally killing my flesh on the matter either. Let’s just say, I knew I needed to be fixed in this area. I just wasn’t a willing vessel. Weird how that works.
So when June 28, 2016 came, I wasn’t ready to let go. I said to the Lord, “We had so much more to do, God. What is your plan here for us, Lord?” and for days I tossed, turned, cried, repeat. I became anxious at every moment, because in the days to come there would be people that I would see and that had blatantly ignored me since the death of my father. I didn’t know how to behave, I was distant, and thought that all I needed to do was shelter my little sister from any hurt she may experience. At one point I was introduced as the “adopted daughter” of my grandfather’s son. So I thought that I should be shielded, and really I was just hoping they would spell my name right in the programs (if my name was in them at all). I was nervous because I didn’t want to be left out, but I was grieving for my family at the same time. The family was becoming smaller, and there would be no way to go back and change anything. I couldn’t go back and right the wrongs. I couldn’t reach out anymore and be intentional with my grandfather. This made it so much harder. I couldn’t go back in time.
“But God…” All I kept seeing that week was the power of God’s grace and mercy. For the first time I said, “God take over.” I didn’t want to move without Him anymore at this point in this area of my life. His grace and mercy was the only thing I knew would shelter me and give me strength. I have learned that in this ministry time and time again. Even when you don’t feel like you want God to move, you confess that too. You have an advocate in heaven. His name is Jesus Christ. And no matter what situation you may be in in your life, He wants you to believe and trust in Him. He has left you with a Helper here on earth too, to lead, guide, and be a reminder of His promise (John 14:12-21; John 14:26; please read).
When the time came, I was over at my grandfather’s house. Something truly sweet from the Lord was shown to me. We walked up to my grandfather’s office and everywhere I turned there were pictures of my sister and me, and some of just me. I stopped and cried. I thanked God because at that moment I was so taken aback by the fact that he thought of us. He saw our face more than once a day. My grandfather cared. For me to see that he kept pictures from 1993 and move them around from place to place in perfect condition, showed that he cared about us. He took the time to make sure nothing happened to them. Their house was brand new and in his office was just a desk, a few wall hangings, and our pictures. Those were one of the first things my grandfather put up. And I could not contain my emotions about it. I said, “Wow, he thought of us!” My grandmother said, “Yes, Honey, he loved you all so much.” At that point it didn’t matter what happened in the past. All that didn’t matter. This was a blessing to my aching spirit. I felt confident in the room. With what she said I decided to speak at his service. And below are the words I spoke to a few hundred people to celebrate the life of a man who above all else was saved and had a relationship with God. That is truly the most important legacy any man can leave with his family. No matter what.
Today, I wanted to share a few thoughts that have been on my mind since the day “Paw Paw” was called home. I wanted to share these thoughts because everyone else has or will do an amazing job eloquently expressing what I wish I could say about my grandfather. Today, I wanted to speak directly to my family. To my grandma, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and our spouses [I named each one directly]. In February 2007 I stood before you at the age of 15 and read a poem, “God Doesn’t Make Mistakes.” Now in 2016 at 25 years of age, I share the exact same message with you. But this time, I say it with confidence, I say it with a firmer sense of understanding, and a deeper appreciation. This time I wanted this to be a message of hope and a reminder of what the important thing about our “Paw Paw” was.
You see, he had faith. His faith in Christ Jesus grounded him, kept him, cradled him, and carried him. This same exact faith is always [aware that God has] a plan for our lives. And in this plan we often feel our faith tested, tried, and stretched to its maximum. This plan for our lives never looks like what we humans think it should. It never is composed of all the pieces we think it should be. But this plan was created by the very same God who molded the universe, and strategically placed every star in the sky. I think we forget how big of a deal this is. When you feel that strong breeze on your face or look into the night to see the moon perfectly suspended in sky, I want you to remember that the same air you are breathing in this very moment was given to you by the same God who orchestrated this very plan. The same plan that you and I try to fashion to our own liking all the time.
What if I told you that you were supposed to simply trust this plan?! Surely we can trust the plan of the One who knows every hair on our head, and every thought before we even think it. For some of us trusting is hard. We have been hurt many times, and we feel like, “Lord, why?” What if I told you that from this trust is a hope in His plan for you? If you truly believe in Him, He has already worked this out for your good. Just read Romans 8:18-39, where this plan is talked about. That passage also says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).
There is a plan for us all. And I know that from these ashes, there will rise something truly beautiful. He will one day get the glory. We may not see it now. We will hurt sometimes. It be so uncomfortable. We will have sleepless nights. We will have this flesh until we are called home. We will often forget what we have been promised in the Word of God. There will be many days when we doubt Him. There will be days when we will rely on our own strength. There will be many times when we catch ourselves questioning the One who stitched every fiber of our being together.
But hang in there! We will love one another unconditionally through this. We will encourage one another. We will be there to remind each other that the same Jesus who died on the cross is the same Jesus who rose from the grave and gave us direct access to that strength. So give yourself a break, lean in to this, and rest in this strength. Trust in His plan, be renewed in your mind with the hope that Christ gave on the cross, and have faith.
This is what “Paw Paw” believed. And THIS will live on forever in eternity. This is what I need you to remember him for.
All for His Glory