Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Longing for Heaven

       I have got to start writing night, that is. I get on the computer and start looking at this and that, reading other people's blogs and suddenly it's 1 a.m.! I'm sure no one else does this....
     And of course, this is the week we're "getting back on schedule" (a common phrase used by homeschooling families approximately every 3 months). With the house tore up, school happened pretty sporadically this past month. I figured out early on in this journey not to beat myself up about schooling. We'll catch it up over summer. BUT, I was REALLY serious about this being the week to get back on track. The best laid plans.....
     We've had some pretty rough times this past month. I find it almost unbelievable how we're able to keep going forward with life. It's such a God thing. Tonight I was watching Jesus of Nazareth. If you've ever seen it, you'll agree the actor playing Jesus was one of the best TV Jesus' ever.  As I listened to his words, quoted from scripture, my heart just ached to be with Him. Such compassion, such love, such justice, such perfection. We are born with a sense of eternity in us and when we become Christians, that  longing only deepens.           I've always carried somewhat of a loneliness within my spirit, I think all of us do. But, since Jess has been gone, the loneliness is so much deeper. I long for her, I long for heaven, I long for the Creator of heaven.       
     I realize how much we were not created to be on this fallen planet. We were created to be with Him, in all that wonder we are never satisfied here... it's not our home.
I put this quote on my Facebook. It's from C.S. Lewis:
"There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often than not I find myself wondering whether in our hearts of hearts, we have ever desired anything is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want. It is the inconsolable longing" C.S. Lewis
     My prayer continues to be, knowing that my days are numbered (as are all of ours), help me to make the best of each one. Help me spend my time doing things that have eternal value. The distance between this world and that one is not so very far. I don't forget that as much as I used to.
     Tomorrow I'm hanging with Lee Penley. I've mentioned her on Caringbridge several times. She has been dealing with cancer for over 3 years and the reports coming in are not good. She and Jess were very close, sharing in the bond of suffering, unfortunately. Lee is another amazing woman; fighting this fight with faith and prayers, raising a family, always thinking of others, never complaining. Our time together is very special to me. We talk about Jess a lot, cancer, faith, families, life, death. It is another circumstance where the distance between this world and that one is very small. You just can't talk about what's going on in this life (with her), without talking about the one to come. It can be a painful place, but oddly, a comforting one as well. 
Lee is also going to let me do some writing for her, tell her story a bit. That is a real honor. 
     Well the necessities of living on this planet are calling out to me....and I must respond. 
    There's a lot I had wanted to say about this week, this very special Easter week, but perhaps I've said it. It is always a good thing to think about our eternal destination, the price that was paid for us to get there and how short the distance really is. Let's just remember that there are a lot of people out there who need to be shown the way. Bring someone to church this week, bring someone to Jesus and remember to live with eternity in your heart.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Here Comes the Spring

My goal is to not let more than 3 days go by without writing.....not so successful at that yet if you notice the dates! But I have had a different kind of therapy this week. It's called, "let's reorganize and makeover the entire house"...which has actually been going on since January. And it really is a type of therapy. Out with the old, the worn out, some of the things tied to painful memories. In with the new or different, fresh paint, fresh colors, a new beginning. The ironic thing is, this is the kind of thing Jessica loved. She would have been full of ideas for us! But her good taste has rubbed off on us a little, I hope. For instance, Jessica would not keep anything in her house that she didn't like. I thought that was so cool. She would rather have no furniture than ugly furniture. Me, on the other hand....if I could get it cheap and it met a need, well, I'd take it! But we are now adapting Jess's philosophy. Although, out of practicality, we have not yet arrived at having only things we love in our house, but we're getting there slowly. :)
Doing all this has been a huge undertaking, but a really necessary one. I wrote on my Facebook status that "it's been a long winter and we're ready to embrace the spring". It feels like a prophetic word from the Lord to us. Our "winter" began 3 months before Jessica left us, when we had the sense she would be leaving. We've had a long 6 months of  winter. Even our house seemed to be stuck in it. But now we are beginning to climb out of it, very slowly. It even feels like the grief is lifting a bit for some of us....As these scriptures say, and they are some of the ones I cling to......there is a spring

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.Psalm 126:5

.....I will turn their mourning into gladness Jeremiah 31:13
....weeping may remain for a night, 
 but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

It also feels like the Lord has purpose in all this that we need to move forward into these next few months. The good thing is, I know that anytime we are stepping into new and different areas of life, He is always merciful to move us gently! And in that purpose, I am even believing for some joyful blessings too. Those scriptures sure imply some good stuff is coming. And referring to seasons again, after the spring there is summer. I have always lived in a season mentality. That's what gets me through the tough ones. Winter has to end sometime!  

Recently someone told me that there is such a thing as a "spirit of grief". Meaning that if we are not careful(daily giving all our emotions to the Lord, staying in the word, etc.) grief can take a hold of us in deep and unhealthy ways, giving the enemy victory and keeping us from moving on in what the Lord has. And I believe that is what causes people to divorce, feel suicidal, etc.after a huge loss.
It breaks my heart to see people bound in grief. Although, there are times I see why it might be easier to just lie there and hurt. But that hurts the people around us. It hurts the Lord and ultimately hurts ourselves. All we can do is keep praying for them. 

In our family, I see the Lord's faithfulness to us. I am amazed at the resilience of our younger kids, the strength Mark has, the laughter and love between our girls. I do worry about Cory, I am sure I will until he's strong again. But today the Lord brought a beautiful word....Psalm 139:7-10
"Where can I go from your Spirit? 
 Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there
if I make my bed in the depths,  you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, 
 if I settle on the far side of the sea,

 even there your hand will guide me,
 your right hand will hold me fast.

The assurance that Christ is with us no matter how dark it gets, that wonderful people are praying, well, I have no doubt that will keep the spirit of grief off my family...and allow the spring to come in all it's fullness.... in Jesus name! 

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Hope Foundation

What a bittersweet weekend this turned out to be, truly the perfect word. Our church had it's annual Devoted Conference and they are always amazing. Worldwide speakers come and it's just a powerful time. But, of course, last year was when we received our gift from the Hope Foundation (a ministry of our church), the cruise. And Jessica was with me.

Going to church in general has been kind of hard for me. A few weeks ago, I couldn't even stay through the entire worship, as my emotions just overtook me, especially when we sang Yahweh. But I figured out it's not just the songs or the worship anointing. It's the building itself. So much of Jess's journey took place in that building. Subconsciously, she's around every corner, or some memory related to her sickness and passing. The cool thing is that our church also meets across town, closer to us, in a theater. One church, two locations is how they define it. So, we went there week before last and it was really right. Kind of a fresh start, but with our same wonderful team of leaders.

Then came time for the conference. Every part of my flesh did NOT want to go. I knew it would bring up lots of memories. But I felt strongly the Lord wanting me to go. And you know, He really poured into my spirit. All of the speakers spoke very strong words....getting into our purpose and destiny, counting the cost, choosing joy, being the lioness' that we are called to be, etc. Really took me out of myself and looking back toward the bigger picture. That's kind of the battle with grief, I think. Keeping your eyes on the eternal......
I was even blessed to meet Lisa Bevere. She's the husband of John, who I wrote about in last blog. All of their books will challenge you like none I've read... (Bait of Satan, Breaking Intimidation, Under Cover, Driven by Eternity,-I'm reading now-, to name a few....and Lisa's....Fight Like a Girl, Kissed the Girls and Made them Cry, Nurture....). Just fyi! Anyways, John and Lisa started the Pearl Alliance, which is one of the ministries we listed as giving donations to in lieu of flowers. They fight human trafficking and have a home for girls in Cambodia. Jessica left some money to that ministry and I was able to look at picture's on Lisa's phone of the actual beds her money purchased. Truly awesome!!!

But finally, on the last night, they did the Hope Foundation for this year. I thought I was prepared......It was wonderful how they blessed some women in need, truly awesome. And they also gave money to A21, which is another human trafficking ministry. But Jessica kept coming up. First in one pastors talk on giving. She shared on Jessica's generosity and giving spirit. She was one of the pastors there when Jess went to heaven. And at the end of the night, they sang a song and showed clips of all the women who had been blessed previously, ending in pictures of Jessica and some with all of us on the cruise.....and the words "In Loving Memory of Jessica Jean Snead".....

I have those same pictures. But the music, the large screen, her beautiful face smiling at us....the great memories that rushed in of that, overwhelming. She seemed more beautiful than I remember. I can't imagine her being more beautiful in heaven, but I bet she is. A friend of mine saw a vision of her in heaven during worship. Saw her in her perfection, laughing and singing. I imagine it, but it's not the same.

In the book "The Shack", he talks about the great sadness. I totally get that. It's so deep, it's deeper than deep, reaching into your soul. And you know inside that it will never, ever totally go away until heaven. That's the kind of emotions that came at me that night. And do every couple weeks, with smaller moments in between. I can push it aside most of the time. I can make choices that help. Like choosing joy, choosing life, receiving daily grace and love from my Saviour. Those are the ways I will get through this year. And believing that next year will be easier. Whether it's the Devoted Conference, her birthday, or the hundreds of reminders of her all around me, I'm looking forward to the day when I can be aware of  them and have a little smile.....without all the tears. That's my HOPE.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

An Extraordinary Life

I was listening to John Bevere on Life Today tonight. He has a new book out called "Extraordinary", talking about how we as Christians should be living extraordinary lives. I think it's going to be a great read! Paul and the apostles lived such extraordinary lives that people tried to worship them! And sure, we have our Christian "celebrities" today, leaders that have made huge strides in reaching the nations for Christ, but what about us regular folks? Can't we be extraordinary, too?

 I think Jessica was extraordinary. Of course as my daughter, but beyond that. The more I look back and see the choices she made early in her life (not without her mistakes)  and the lifestyle she insisted on living, the more I say, "wow"! She always wanted to take the higher ground, the road less traveled, and didn't seem to think that was unusual. But, as I look around me and watch this generation, I see how unusual it was. We are blessed to be part of a church that is challenging this generation to take the higher ground, but it isn't easy and can take years to desire that standard.

Early on Jessica desired a walk that included purity. She went to conferences, read books and listened to music that encouraged it, like Rebecca St. James. And even when she went through her season of trying to fit in, to be cool with her community college friends, she never got comfortable there. She'd talk to me on the phone and tell me how empty all that was. Her dream was simple; marriage and a family, and then some kind of ministry that would do amazing things. And even though she and Cory had some rough times in the beginning, (as do many young marrieds:)), they held tight with plans and dreams that they both shared....dreams of changing the world. I know the enemy hated those talks and plans and often tried to come between them. Cory would be the first to tell you that Jessica was the one who kept wanting more and more, more Jesus, more pure living, more adventures in Him. And that made him love her all the more, because she saw him through those same eyes. She believed in his potential and helped him believe in himself. They didn't hook up their TV the first year of marriage. I thought that was cool. They didn't watch R rated movies, didn't buy secular books, in fact, most of the books in their house were Christian. Jess wanted nice things, but was never really materialistic. Even her clothes passion was met with sales and thrift stores! And it's not because any of those things are terrible in themselves, it's just the way she wanted to live to guard her heart and mind. And yet, she kept life fun and interesting. No boring Christianity for her!

That girl had so many plans of what she would do when she was healed. The ideal life to Jessica would've been the two of them becoming missionaries overseas. Followed up by volunteering at the Children's Hospital, designing notecards to raise money for human trafficking, helping women who needed fashion input to get jobs, adopting orphans.... I could go on and on. Her heart was always bigger than her finances or free time! Even cancer couldn't quench that. As I've written before, she just wanted to do good in the midst of it all.

I have wondered, as I look back, why people are so touched by her story and her life. To me, she was just Jessica, full of life and love, anxious and scared sometimes,  an ordinary girl. But obviously, there was something that made people stop and take notice. An ordinary girl living her life in an extraordinary way perhaps?
Perhaps. And perhaps people are watching us, too. Perhaps they are saying, I love how that person is living their life, so full of life and love. I wonder why they are like that?
And then again, maybe the hard times of life have sucked the extraordinary out of us. I hope not. I hope that doesn't happen to me. In fact, I'm claiming right now, an extraordinary life. From this day forth, I'm going to look at ways to make my life a little more extraordinary. To be ex·traor·di·nar·y  adj.:

1. Beyond what is ordinary or usual:
2. Highly exceptional; remarkable: 
3. Employed or used for a special service, function, or occasion:
And I would add:
4. To be like Jesus, the perfect example.

This is our time to be more like Him, live like He did. Live in such a way that people take notice. Step out from our ordinary lives a bit.....just like a precious 23 year-old girl, who thought her life was very ordinary and has proved she was much more than that!