Friday, November 26, 2010

A Common Destiny

My heart is heavy today. I almost don't want to blog, for fear I'll bring you, the reader, down. But this is a subject that everyone faces sooner or later, and maybe by the time you read the last line herein, some good will come your way. This, I pray, will be the case.

We received a call yesterday from a friend. Her husband passed away on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, from injuries sustained in a fall. Listening to her explain what happened between sobs, almost wailing with grief, brought back a flood of memories. May 19, 2007. . .

My husband comes in to the living room, sits down in his favorite chair, convulses, and within minutes -- dies. I try to save him, but I can't. I dial "911". I do what the voice on the other end of the line tells me to do. Jim's heart is still beating at that time. His breathing is shallow. "Keep his head up. Wait for the paramedics. They're on their way." What is taking them so long? He's dying!

When the EMT arrive, Jim has just expired. Two men lift him off the chair while two more push furniture out of the way. They lay him on the floor and rapidly begin working on his body. Ripping open his shirt. Listening for a heart beat and not finding one. Stabbing him with a needle. Placing paddles on his chest and then -- WHOMP! Jim's body responds in a weird kind of contortion. I want to scream at them to stop. You're hurting him! They try again. Listen for a heart beat. Nothing. Paddles and. . .

I can't watch. I literally turn away. This drama isn't what he would have wanted. We talked about it. Discussed it in detail. Oh, that stinking heart! We knew eventually it would give out. 

After ten minutes they find a pulse and put Jim on life support. Then they rush him to the hospital. The next 48 hours are filled with decisions, the last of which is removing the respirator. "There's no sign of brain activity," they tell me. No kidding. I saw him die in our living room. It would have taken a miracle for him to be restored. My God could do it. He just chose not to.

About the loss of her husband, our friend said she "can't live without him". I understand that. I know how that feels. A person you share every molecule of your being with suddenly is taken away and all you can think is "how am I ever going to go on without him." People come to offer sympathy, gift cards and Honey Baked ham. They want to help. And they do. They really do. But there's only so much they can give. Eventually they have to go away. They have their own family to care for. Their own spouse to love, cherish and hold. And boy, right now that's all they can think of doing. That's as it should be. One day they'll have their own spectacular loss to deal with. But not today. By the grace of God, not today.

Our friend said, "I know you know what this feels like." I sure do. It feels like hell. Sorry. But it does. There are nights when you're afraid you'll never stop crying. Days when you're mad. Some well meaning friend says, "Don't cry. He's in a better place." Well, yeah. I get that. Christians have the promise of eternal life. Forgive me, but this isn't about him. It's about me. He got to go home to Jesus and the celebration has begun. Meanwhile, I'm stuck here on earth without my husband, best friend, lover, cheerleader, confidante, and the one person who could make me laugh every day. I want to go home, too. It's not fair.

But who said life is fair? King Solomon, the wisest of the wise, wrote, "All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad,". You won't get any argument from me, Solomon. Bad things happen to good people. All the time. I've seen it.

But here's what someone even wiser than the wisest said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus said that. It's recorded in John 16:33. Oh, and if you look up that scripture you'll find He also said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace."

After Jim died, someone asked me if I was mad at God. Mad at God? No way. Absolutely not. But I was furious with Satan. See, the devil's the one who ushered in sin and death. Way back in Eden. It was his plan all along. If he couldn't destroy the Almighty, then he'd do the next best thing. Destroy His beloved children. Death wasn't God's idea. He created man and woman for immortality. Satan tried to wreck God's plan, but he underestimated God's power. He always does. God sent His son Jesus to conquer sin and death on the cross. His death, burial and resurrection dealt a mortal blow to Satan and hell. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace."

I prayed with our friend over the phone. Among other things I asked God to comfort her; help her; guide her; fulfill all her spiritual, emotional, physical and financial needs; bring people into her life who will encourage her; give her rest, and peace. Sweet peace.

There's a particular prayer that I prayed when Jim died. A request that God did not grant. Remember earlier I said I wanted to go home, too? I asked God to arrange transportation, but He had His own plan. Instead of taking me out of the painful situation I was in, He carried me through it. He gave me all the things I prayed for our friend yesterday, and so much more. I know the sweet, gentle Holy Spirit that comes to minister to a broken heart. I know that when I cried out in emotional pain so intense I thought I would pass out, He came and bore the pain for me so that I could go on breathing. Just as Jesus said, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever," John 14:16

Yesterday I caught a glimpse of God's plan and why I'm still here. Our friend needed to hear from someone who has come through what she is just now entering. She needed to know that there's someone else who understands the pain, disappointment and fear. She needed someone who would pray for her. She needed to know someone else got through it.

But maybe there's another reason why I'm still here. Maybe it's not just about our friend. Maybe there's someone reading this blog right now who's in the middle of something tragic. It's more than you can bare and you're thinking of giving up. Don't. Please don't. God can get you through whatever you're facing. He wants to help you. He wants to lead you through the dark valley to glorious light. He's there. Right there.

If you don't know God, I'd like to give you a place where you can learn more about Him.
The Gospel in Six Minutes

Thanks for hanging in here with me. I'm praying for you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Count Your Twofers (And Other Blessings)

I love twofers.  Those Buy One - Get One Free specials that come our way every so often. During the winter months in Estes Park, local restaurants offer "Buy One Entree, Get the Second Entree Free" deals. It almost makes me look forward to cold weather. 

Last week we received a twofer for Starbucks. 
"Celebrate the Season with a friend." I like that. My best friend is Dennis and vice versa, so we walked to the local Starbucks together and enjoyed our favorite cafe mochas. This time with a splash of peppermint. Nothing like living on the edge.

This being Thanksgiving week and all, I've been thinking about how God has blessed me, beginning with my twofer buddy. It wasn't that long ago (9 months and 9 days to be exact), that I lived alone. (Well, not completely alone. I did have Tillie the Wonder Dog. But that's a story for another day.) Now I have the joy of waking up every morning to my wonderful husband and looking at this beautiful view from our apartment.

I'm thankful for family. Dennis' kids and mine.

I thank God for the blessing of clean air and water. Some of which I can actually photograph, such as this picture of Fall River.

Of course I'm grateful for the wildlife all around me. Sometimes even in our own backyard -- literally.

We have the blessing of our beloved mountains. To me, this is God's splendor revealed.

I'm thankful that I have the freedom to write every day. 

And that I'm surrounded by my husband's lovely artwork.

I'm also thankful for those of you who take the time to read my blogs. Forgive the cliche, but Joyful Altitude and Mountain Manna Devotionals really are labors of love. I especially am thankful when you leave comments. They encourage me so much.

Finally, I'm most thankful for the love of my Savior, Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on Calvary. If it weren't for Him, I wouldn't be where I am today, and there would be no Joyful Altitude.

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place." 
2 Corinthians 2:14

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What If We Didn't What-If?

It snowed in Estes Park last night. 

What if it never stops?

Do you ever get the what-ifs?  You know what I'm talking about? Those nagging little -- and sometimes not so little -- negative thoughts that bombard you out of nowhere. 

What if someone rummages through my trash, finds that one piece of mail I forgot to shred and steals my identity?
What if I get lung cancer from the secondhand smoke I inhaled 30 years ago?
What if my mother-in-law refuses to come for Thanksgiving dinner?  Actually, that could be a positive thought. (Oh come on, I'm just kidding.)

The what-ifs come at you like a bulldog going after his favorite bone. And often the canine decides to dig for his skeletal treat in the middle of the night. So then you've got the what-if-this-what-iffing-keeps-me-from-ever-going-to-sleep what-if. Quite a conundrum. 

This whole what-if thing started yesterday when I met my good friend and writer pal Dena (she blogs at GodnMe) at Starbucks. We got to talking about life: parenting, marriage, aging and widowhood. Now widowhood is a subject I'm deeply familiar with, having lost my first husband 3 1/2 years ago to a massive heart attack. I didn't really think I'd marry again, but then I met Dennis. (Love has a funny way of changing your mind.) He's eleven years older than me and that's where the what-ifs come in. Statistically, wives outlive their husbands. I've already played the statistics game and lost. What if it happens again? Ouch.

I know from experience, that left unchecked the what-ifs can mushroom into full-fledged worry. Apparently a lot of people struggle with worry, judging by the popularity of the 
Worry is a Robber devotional I wrote on my Mountain Manna website. I'll wager their worry started with a what-if.

So what's my point? Just this. God's given me another wonderful partner in Dennis. Every time I indulge in the what-if something happens to him what-if, I miss the joy of being with my beloved husband right here, right now. But what if I don't what-if?  More Joyful Altitude.

"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." 
Matthew 6:34 (The Message)