Thursday, October 31, 2013

Temporary Insanity

The pendulum seems to swing full force in my life. Either I am huddled up in the fetal position under the covers, or the throttle is set at full bore and we all go along for the ride. I prefer full bore. I prefer having too many things to do for the Kingdom with a chaos of people surrounding me while doing it.

Lately that hasn't been the case. It's been quiet. And lonely. Grief seems to have a power of its own to close you in to a painful shell of yourself. After a while you get exhausted by trying to figure out what to do with the outside world of well meaning people who don't know what to do with you, either. There are the handful of brave ones who don't skirt the subject of your dead son, but most are skittish.

It's a strange place, wondering if you should venture in to deeper waters or stay on the shallows talking about the weather. Mostly it's the weather. Which brings the barrage of "why don't they say anything, why don't I say anything, fine I'll hole myself up in my house and never come out again."

Whoosh goes the pendulum.

Holed up in my house on purpose is where I've found myself lately. And that's okay. The kids are getting cabin fever already in October, but I've cocooned myself into a little quilting world and would be happy to not emerge until the snow melts next Spring. Lucky for them Aunt Traci came and whisked them away to the outside world for a day of swimming earlier in the week. I stayed home. And told myself I wouldn't cry. But it didn't work very well. If I could just let it all come out maybe I'd get on with life. But I'm so tired of crying and I can't seem to conjure up much joy lately.

"Sometimes it's just hard," were Traci's wise words. "There doesn't have to be an excuse. It's just hard." And lately it's just been hard.

Hard to go to friend's houses where other Aunts mistakenly use Trent's name. I don't mind. I mind the tiptoeing around us more. But then it's hard when somebody does talk about Trent. Hard to fathom that kind of love. Hard to believe that's what it is supposed to really be like; that other people carry this burden with me and all these whispers of the enemy aren't true. Hard to hear that people don't know how to help their children grieve. And even wonder at the concept that they should. Hard to hear that a young man was bawling into his pillow the night his friend died and that his dad sat on the couch next to him and watched a movie. Hard to hear someone be amazed at how strong you were only to know how truly weak you are.

Our weakness portrays our dependency for God. I keep trying to remind myself of that. Keep trying to force what is reality to overrule what I only thought was reality. It's been a losing game lately. Until God answered my never ending prayer to remind me again of the reality of eternity. Remind me to stay awake. Remind me that this is not a game we're all playing.

That reminder was through another child's death. Through another way that God used Trent's story for His glory. Another battle fought through folded hands and tears poured out over a girl and her family that we never knew. Prayers of a husband so tender that I am both convicted and ashamed at my own brutal heart. Tears wept because their day probably started out naively just like our day had over two years ago, and now they are in the midst of preparing for a funeral. Tears because we know what that feels like and know what is ahead of them. Know the ache that never leaves even when it feels like everyone else has.

Tears because we long for them to not walk the walk alone but to fight, brawl, battle and conquer over all to know the goodness of God in every detail of the rest of their lives until they, too, meet God face to face. Tears because these precious ones have gone before us and know what we only long to know. Tears because we know these are the easy days for them. Tears because we are so humbled by God saving our son by His Son and allowing us to share in their sorrow even if they never know it. God knows it. God hears. God cares.

So I dig deeper into the material cupboard. I look for more to do. I busy my restless hands as I wait for eternity to begin. Because it's either that or crawl back under the covers.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Trent's Story

On Friday February 18, 2011, God did the unthinkable in our life: He chose to take our 12-year-old son, Trent, home to heaven in a skiing accident.
It is only considered “the unthinkable” because our plans are not God’s plans, and our ways are not God’s ways.

Before Trent was born we had entrusted the Lord with his life and had asked Him, above all else, to bring salvation to our son. Our greatest desire was that he would be used in a mighty way for God’s glory, and that God would let him dwell in heaven for eternity.

God answered our prayers that Friday in a mightier way than we could have imagined, and we have been rejoicing in His good works and His mercies ever since.

Trent was a boy who truly lived. From the very beginning he did what he loved and enjoyed to the full the gifts and skills that God had given him. In his short life he saw much of this world, traveling as far as India, the Bahamas, Bass Pro Shop in Missouri where he explored his favorite destination on his golden birthday, as well as many family camping trips. God instilled a love of hunting and fishing in Trent, and a joy of the great outdoors. Since he was little all he wanted was to turn 12 to be able to go deer hunting. During his 12th year God allowed him to shoot two deer. Trent loved to pick on his siblings Alexis, Cole, Grace, and Micah, to protect his mother, to snuggle with his father, and to be with his friends, especially his best friends: Thomas and Samuel. He tried everything that interested him, even carving his own long bow and succeeding in taxidermy. In his short years he lived life to the fullest.

But as we are all destined to, Trent also died. On Friday, February 18, 2011, we said goodbye to our son as he left for a skiing trip with his friends, not knowing that he would never be coming back home. God says that He knows the number of our days, that He has created each one, and that He will do what He pleases (Psalm 115:3; Job14:5).

God’s standards to enter His kingdom are high: He expects perfection. Trent was not perfect, not even close. God graciously provided His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, as the atonement for our sinfulness and requires that we simply believe and acknowledge Him for it.

For most of his life Trent struggled with his own sinfulness before God. He knew that he was not right before God, and nothing he could do would ever make up for the sins he had committed to make him worthy to enter heaven. In the spring of 2010, God graciously chose to bring salvation to Trent through repentance and the saving grace of Christ Jesus. Trent’s life was transformed and we enjoyed the young fruit in his life as we watched God work.

It was with great peace and much rejoicing, then, that we as his family have sent him off before us and accepted God’s perfect plan for Trent’s life. Our longing is that God would be glorified in what He has done to wake up many to the realization that we are not guaranteed any number of years in this world (Psalm 39:4-5).

On Friday morning we had our son; on Friday afternoon he was gone.

What we have asked so many people since the accident is: “What if it had been you? Where would you be right now?”

We diligently raised Trent up to know his sinful state and taught him what the Word of God says because we know the implications of denying Christ now, and God was gracious to answer our prayers and to save him. Scripture says that the gospel will go forth with much sorrow and heartache. Please let Trent’s short life be a wake-up call to you. We are rejoicing in the sorrow because we know where our son is and that we will one day be with him again for eternity because of our own salvation.

God's mercies are new every day and His peace does surpass all understanding (Lamentations 3:22-23; Philippians 4:6-7). God has been so gracious to us by blessing us first of all with His peace in His perfect plan. The family and friends who have surrounded us and have lifted us up in prayer are amazing and another testimony to God’s goodness.

It is with great rejoicing that we release our son, Trent, age 12, to our Heavenly Father. Dance before your King, my son.

The Romans road to salvation:
Romans 3:23; 3:10-18; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9; 10:13; 5:1; 8:1; 8:38-39

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Making the Connection

There is something powerful about sharing God's word. Think I'm kidding? Go share the gospel. Hold out that glorious promise of Jesus to forgive sinners, offer hope to the hopeless, hand out Scriptural truth like it was candy at a Fourth of July parade. See what happens when you live like heaven is a reality and this life really is a mist. I guarantee you two things: God will uphold you as He refines you through His designated fire and Satan will use every wily trick to defeat you. The enemy knows our weaknesses better than we do. He'll attempt to fool us with the same schemes over and over again. And we'll fall for it nearly every time.

I should see the connection already, but things come slower these days. I have begun to realize that my impatient ways are not God's ways and I try to wait for His timing and leading to act. I'm not sure how to justify that I know when it is His timing, but it all works out to happen exactly when He wants for so many unknown reasons that we may never know.

And then, when the time comes to reach out with the truth, so do the attacks. The defeat. The mornings of crying over socks and preferring bauling in bed rather than rejoicing for a son in heaven. Just as I get to the verge of considering minutely that God could have done things differently (dare I whisper better?) the Holy Spirit reigns my thoughts back to the words of Scripture. Somehow I force my feet to the floor lest I wallow all day in my pity party. I cry before I get to the door. Cry as I walk past the boy's bedroom. Cry as I start the coffee pot, all the while sinking deeper into despair with every step. Such a low that hasn't been felt for quite a while. It slams me: hurt, hurt, hurt. I turn in to it rather than clinging to the words of truth. I start to believe it rather than believing the promises of a Sovereign God.

I read about Richard Baxter (author of The Saint's Everlasting Rest) the other day that he believed like a Calvinist but lived like an Armenian. Meaning, he lived believing that God was sovereign and all powerful, but lived like his salvation (and the salvation of those around him) depended solely on his efforts. One of my weak spots is doubt. What if God isn't real? What if Heaven isn't real? What if eternity isn't real?

But, as I consider my son and the truths of the Bible, I turn it around and ask: What if it is? What if God is sovereign but somehow my salvation and the salvation of those He brings into my life does depend on my efforts? What if that accounting of my life really happens? What if the ones who have been given more (more truth, more access to Scripture, more opening of the eyes, more awakening of the soul, more passion, more knowledge) will be held to a higher standard? What if my ignoring and my apathy really have serious consequences in somebody else's eternity?

What if...

So I bolster through the morning. I finally quit my griping. I finally bend my knees and my heart in prayer, focus my eyes on God's word, and commit my life for the thousandth time to His ways and His plans. Then I dig out a card and ask for words to write to a mother whose twelve year old son died in an accident one short month ago. I try not to let my own tears fall on the page as I force myself to realize why I have this ministry in the first place. Why I am privileged to know what she is going through. Why my heart breaks so deeply for a woman I've never met. Why it matters so much if she starts out the hard process of grieving her son with praising her Savior. I package up two books along with prayers and search for an address, reading the details of her son's death again through my internet search. How morbid it feels to look up children's obituaries and hunt down their living parent's addresses.

Then I click on my emails and find that somebody in Indonesia is requesting a book. Indonesia. I dig into the box for another and tell Trent, "We're going to Indonesia. God's taking you to Indonesia." My prayers for my son's life to be used in a mighty way are going to Indonesia. Alexis gets worried over her mother talking to her dead brother, she may be the one who finally ends up committing me to that insane asylum. It's okay, Lex, I know he can't answer me.

But ... Indonesia.

Can you fathom the ways of God? Would you have ever thought we could bring the gospel to Indonesia? So I tuck in an extra couple of copies. As the dust of the rejoicing over God's work starts to settle another request for books pops up from a sweet Grandmother who wonders about printing her own story. The humbling begins and I catch a glimpse of eternity when the glory to come is going to be incomparable to these temporary trials. I begin to realize that God does know what He's doing and His plans are more glorious than I could ever imagine and that I really don't want to face Him knowing that I fussed about every little thing that He did.

And then the light bulb goes off: this always happens when God uses the story of Trent's life for his glory. Defeat, whining, doubt then a tiny revealing of His work to encourage me of little faith. So I wrap up the books, say another prayer, and vow to myself that I'll see it coming a bit quicker next time rather than going through the same pathetic motions of fussing and doubting God's good plans.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Saint's Everlasting Rest

It's weird having your picture taken. It's weird to look at pictures of yourself. It's weird to post pictures of yourself on your own blog. As a camera fanatic, I am much more comfortable with the gadget in my hands rather than pointed at my face. But, like I keep telling the children, you'll need some photos for my funeral one day. I'm doing my best to ensure that there are shots without the double chin or sagging arms. Use this one, kiddos. Somebody blow it up and put it right on top of my casket. Let it be what you remember of me. May it be what I strive to live like before you, rather than the sulky mother that I've been.

Don't think I'm going suicidal, I'm not. I've just been reading a book by a man who has been in heaven for over three hundred years. (Three hundred years. Just let that concept sink in for three seconds.) He shares about his longing for that eternal rest, his desire to know God perfectly, spirit to spirit. He thought he was going to die so figured he should start thinking about such things. Turns out he didn't pass as quickly as he figured and ended up writing more than just his own funeral sermon but a four volume essay on heaven and the saints' desire to be there. Every turn of the page brings tears. Then conviction. Then that deep sighing that has been present for so long. That unsatisfied longing for God.

He writes:

"Can any soul that hath made God his portion, and chosen him for his only happiness and rest, find rest in so vast a distance from him?"

The universal longing of a Christian's soul to be in God's presence struck me last night at the supper table. Poor Rob, he gets all of my out-of-the-blue, unsorted, confusing blurps, "God revealed the same thing to Richard Baxter as He has been revealing to us: the longing for God's presence when He will dwell with His people." A foreign concept to the world, one only fools would believe in and bank on. If that's the case, then call me the biggest fool of all because I'm waiting for the good stuff, folks. I'm setting my sights on Heaven. I'm waiting impatiently for it and this book isn't helping.

Richard Baxter, The Saints' Everlasting Rest. It's good stuff.