Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Most Amazing Truth: God With Us even in grieving!

Note: This post, written a few years ago, recalls some of the reasons I wrote SWALLOWED BY LIFE.

By Ada Brownell

“I’m sleeping in the kitchen!”
Sure enough, we brought in a full-size mattress from the shed and our 5-year-old grandson, Justin, awakened on the kitchen floor, his blond hair tossled, eyes wide in amazement.

His parents arrived at our house late at night and Justin had been asleep. Now he looked into the living room at the folded out hide-a-bed and lumps of people still snoozing in sleeping bags on our mobile home floor. People still snored in our two bedrooms, too. But Justin and Granny wanted to be up and at it.

I hugged my grandson, and joy filled my heart. Like birds going south for the winter, all of our family came home for Christmas
All of us except Carolyn. This would be our first Christmas without her.  Losing her sucked so many things from our family. Her presence always added love, fun, joy and laughter.

Her step-son, Rob, and husband, Michael, lounged on the hide-a-bed, coming awake now. They flew in from California to where we lived in Colorado.

Gary and Janice drove from New Mexico. Jaron, Gwen and Jeanette came from Missouri and Oklahoma where they attended college.

Eyes popped open and soon the mobile home, our temporary residence while we built a new two-story house, rocked with conversation and activity. Extra beds disappeared, coffee and breakfast brought new life.

The smell of Christmas turkey soon filled the place.

The busy day ended with all of us in the living room, most on the floor, some with Bibles, discussing the past year.

Going on with life hadn’t been easy after Carolyn’s death. I didn’t have much time to grieve because I needed to go back to work as soon as I arrived home from San Jose after the funeral.

  When I’d made the plane reservations weeks before, I’d hoped to be with Carolyn while she recuperated from chemotherapy. Since it was December, I’d already used my vacation, but a kind boss allowed me to borrow vacation from the next year.

I didn’t tell the family about the hard times as we sat there nearly 12 months later, enjoying one another. Yet, I couldn’t forget the first day back at work when I met a friend and she asked me about Carolyn.

“She’s so talented,” she said. “Where does she live?  Is she married?”

Trying to keep control, I told her Carolyn passed away. I didn’t fall apart until on my way to my car. My breath came in gasps and the agony of my sorrow burst from me.

I didn’t share with our children that Christmas night how only a month or so previously my husband kept playing a recording of Sandi Patti singing the song, “It is Well with My Soul.” Carolyn shared with me how much that song meant to her after she had the awful diagnosis.  my husband played the recording, I started crying. I began weeping on Friday night and tears ran down my face all Saturday and continued on Sunday.

We were on our way to church and I told my husband, “I can’t go in there.  I can’t stop crying.”
I cried most of the day on Sunday.  It had been nearly a year, and I couldn’t stop weeping.
Now as we sat dry eyed on the floor with family, Jaron told about God’s comfort. He never mentioned that he lost the last year of his four-year academic scholarship because when he studied, he’d find himself staring off in space thinking about Carolyn. He didn’t even realize he’d sat there an hour or two, supposed to be hitting the books. He missed the required grade-point average by just a few points, but it was too much. The scholarship was yanked.

All of us were affected by God’s faithfulness in our grief, but Carolyn’s stepson, Rob and our youngest daughter, Jeanette, had the greatest testimonies. God drew them close to Himself—and did the work almost simultaneously in them at the time of Carolyn’s death.

As we sat together, Carolyn’s husband, Michael, shared how God brought a number of people in California to salvation through Carolyn life, testimony and death.

Beyond that, Michael now was the youth pastor at his church, and the Lord walked beside him in his life as a single parent.

“God is really working in the lives of youth in our church,” Michael shared, his eyes sparkling with enthusiasm.

One by one, we talked about God’s faithfulness, even in our hours of sorrow.

We read the Christmas story.

“Away in a Manger,” we sang for our little Justin and his sister, Melissa. I think “Jingle Bells” slipped in somewhere.

Most of us shared a scripture, a tradition we started the night Carolyn died when Rob and Jeanette read us encouraging verses from God’s word from a list provided by my brother.

That year I began underlining every scripture in the New Testament about eternal life. I saw death is the reason for Christmas. God warned Adam and Eve if they disobeyed and ate from the forbidden tree, they would die.

“You won’t die,” Satan, who took on the body of a snake, said.

Soon Adam and Eve experienced the agony of losing a child when Cain killed Abel. But right after sin entered the world, God promised a Redeemer who will cleanse us and give us immortality—if we by faith accepted His Gift..

One scripture that means a lot to me is Matthew 4:11 where Matthew told how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy written centuries before Jesus came, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned….For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God Everlasting Father, Prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:2, 6).
Another special passage is Matthew 1:22-24: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

            God with us. That is what one by one we told one another in our family as we sat together that Christmas night. God---the creator of the universe always stuck near us.

I don’t know if our little Justin, now a man and a college graduate, remembers that night, but one day when he was still a little boy he noticed a verse written on brass, which decorated a table.
“I memorized that verse,” he said, and quoted John 14:1-3KJ, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare and place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also.”

We hadn’t received a miracle of healing we desired with Carolyn, but we experienced God never leaving or forsaking us, giving us peace when the storm of grief struck, challenging us to live closer to Him.

“Joy to the World,” says it all. Joy, joy, joy because there is hope beyond death. God gave a Gift I’d rather have than diamonds, gold, a beautiful home, or anything money can buy. I’d rather have God with us than anything.

©Ada Brownell