Presence is the Best Present

No one prepared me for the anticipation of my adult children coming home. Giddy is the best word to describe how I felt during December.

Giddy that my oldest, newlywed daughter and her husband were headed our way for six whole days! Cell phones and facetime are wonderful, but they can’t compare to real live hugs and laughter.

Giddy that our other two girls would be on break from college. All four of our children nestled under our home’s roof.

Everyone home for Christmas.

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All month, I could have jumped up and down like a four year old. I refrained, but I was jumping up and down with giddy delight on the inside.

Christmas has never been so anticipated.

Presence is all I wanted for Christmas. Simply the joy of their presence.  My son and I have adjusted to being the only two at home, but life is better with all of us together.

There is more fun, more life, more joy, more love, more laughter when this house is full.

Full house=full heart.
(well, sometimes…)

Actually, there is a little hitch with presence. For it to be truly wonderful, presence needs to be accompanied by peace.

Because the truth is that sometimes presence is less than wonderful if it brings with it tension or angst or misunderstanding or other confusing emotions.

When that happens, presence isn’t easy or enjoyable. I have had Christmases when presence wasn’t a present. Instead, I felt torn between wanting to be together, even though we felt disconnected, and wanting it to all be over and done with.

But this year, all signs pointed to a forecast of peace in our midst- peace in our relationships together, deeper peace with our story as survivors of great grief.

Peace settled over us, and it was truly wonderful and treasured. I didn’t take it for granted.

Peace and presence are what Christmas is all about: rejoicing in the peace we can have with God because of the presence of Jesus Christ.

Recently, our pastor reminded us that Jesus isn’t just the hero who came to save us from certain doom. The kind we see in movies who swoops in at the last minute to rescue, and then zooms off to his next mission- leaving us alone to pick up the pieces and patch up life.

No, Jesus is the Hero who fully loves us by saving and staying. He saves us from the hopelessness of sin and death, then stays in relationship with us forever. That is why He gave us the Holy Spirit, so He could be with you and with me and with all of those who trust and believe in Him around this world.

He is with us: comforting and counseling and guiding and reminding us of how to live our new identities as children of God. He is with us through His Spirit, even though we can’t see Him.

And He will never, ever leave.
He does messy, even when it happens at holidays.
He does tears and failure and fears.
He lavishes grace when this broken world breaks us too.
He stays through the thick and the thin and the loneliness.
He leads when you don’t know what to do next.
He keeps you going when your strength ebbs.
He isn’t deterred by our lack of peace or patience or obedience.
He keeps mercy and grace and love flowing through our lives.
His peace takes root and starts to grow and overflow.
All the while, He is cultivating beauty that makes it obvious that
He is steadily at work in our heart, mind, and soul.

We aren’t leaving Him behind in a manger as we go into the new year. He goes with you into all the joys, challenges, sorrows, temptations, and successes the new year will hold.

My children will return to the places they now call their own homes- a house in the midwest, a dorm on a campus, an apartment in a city. And my son and I will stay here. But Jesus is with my family in all our places and with you in yours.

The beauty is that He goes AND He stays. He goes with them. He stays with me.

His presence is the best present. Forever and ever. Peace and presence are here to stay.

Happy 2017 my reading friends…
Maria

PS more words are coming your way in this new year! : )

When You Need Some Holiday Comfort

 

The approaching holidays are a mixed bag of emotions. They are an intersection of excitement (time with my kids! and extended family!) and sorrow ( I have to do the holidays without John again?).  It is simply bittersweet.

Some of you know exactly what I mean.

Because time may heal, but it doesn’t forget. I know how wonderful it was to experience the holidays with John- with our family intact. I want him to be here to hug our college daughters when they walk in the front door and to welcome our faraway newlywed couple when they come home for the holidays.

I can’t help but truly, deeply miss him.

This will be our fifth holiday season without John, and over the years I have learned to expect a tidal rise of emotions somewhere in late November. Pre-holiday sorrow is real.

I am never sure what will trigger it, but I can sense it building. My edges feel frayed. Tears are dangerously close to spilling over. It is tempting to ignore it. Stuff it. Get busier.

Yet, I have learned to listen because my soul is telling me I need a time out.

Ignoring it doesn’t work. In fact, it makes it worse. My soul can be like a crying toddler. Quiet at first, but increasingly louder, more demanding, and strident when ignored.

However, if I make time to be real with myself about my tender emotions and I give myself some time and space to acknowledge it, God allows something amazing to happen. I can honestly embrace the sense of loss this season brings and then move forward into the holidays with the settled peace only He can give me.

Time for simple acknowledgement is what I need.

Like that crying toddler who just needed a big hug and a kiss on the forehead to be steadied again. Who needed to be told, “I bet that does hurt. Let’s look at it. Wow! Let me give you a hug.”

Courage comes because He reassures me once again that He is with me. He is walking every part of this unexpected journey with me. Leading the way.

And, it is okay if I sometimes need to just stop in my tracks, sit on the ground and say, “By the way, I really don’t like this.”

He isn’t surprised. He listens. He reminds me what is true as I pour through His word looking for the places that speak to my heart.  

And, then I begin to feel better. Steadier. The heaviness begins to fade.

Strengthened, I know I can carry my part of it- the part I have to carry for now (but not for always. not forever)- because He is the best company for wherever love takes me.

And, then, we begin walking forward again into these holiday times and my heart is lighter. And my smile is real. And before I know it we are doing it! We are walking on the holiday’s troubled waters, and I feel joyful and peaceful because He is with me and I know it.

Together we can do another set of holidays.

So, to all of you who are looking at the next six weeks and feeling pressure build because of the people you are missing or the situations that just won’t get better. I would tenderly say: don’t ignore it.

Talk to God about your heavy heart and mind and soul. He has truly offered to bear your burdens, any and all. Stop on your life’s path (find silence-go for a walk, sit quietly in your car, lock yourself in your bathroom with a Bible) and let Him speak to you where you are: True words. Burden easing words. Love speaking over you words.

Open your Bible- Psalms is right in the middle. Right where we need it. Easy to find and full of real, raw emotion and comfort and hope-growing truth.  (see my PS)

Then, your heart will be strengthened and steadied for these holidays because the truth of His love and the truth of His presence will have settled in your hearts. New streams of thanksgiving and joy will flow, even when it seemed impossible.

Because He steadies my heart,
Maria

PS Here is where my journey through Psalms took me yesterday…

“Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
For I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me,
Therefore, I will remember you.” -Psalm 42:5

I hit pause with this passage for a long, quiet while…giving my heart time to read (not just my eyes and mind) until I was getting real with the passage and it could resonate.

It gives two direct pieces of advice for these times when my soul is downcast and disturbed: put your hope in God (not in anything or anyone else) and remember God (who He is and how I have seen His presence in my life).  

As I spent time taking these two pieces of advice to heart, praise came. Praise that He had refreshed my heart and given me true perspective. Praise that He can redeem my broken heart and life. Praise that He loves me here and now and forever.

May His word and Spirit meet you too.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” -Romans 15:13

 

Strength One Step At A Time

In March 0f 2012, my life as a widow was just beginning. With four children to continue raising, I was stunned with the realities of parenting alone, keeping a household running, making business decisions, and comforting our children in their loss.

Life needed more from me than I had to give. Everywhere I looked there were issues to resolve, questions to answer, love to give, and areas that needed my leadership. And, I wasn’t in a place of personal strength. I was weak, wounded, shocked. 

One morning, two weeks into my unexpected (& unwanted) new life,  I received a text from my husband’s sister just when I needed it most:

Love you and praying for continued strength.
‘Go in the strength you have been given.’

What strength? I didn’t feel like I had any. How could I possibly have an endless stream of strength for the days and years ahead? Not me, especially the brokenhearted me. The mountains ahead of me looked impassable and impossible.

Yet, hope whispered to me from the verse she had quoted from the book of Judges. I opened my Bible to read more. I was surprised to find a man I could identify with.

In Judges 6, Gideon is a desperate and devastated man. So is his country. Israel has been defeated. No food. No housing. Utter disruption and ruin surround them, and they cry out to God for help. God responds by sending an angel with a rescue plan to Gideon.

“The Lord is with you, mighty warrior,” the Angel boldly announces to Gideon, who isn’t looking very heroic at the moment. Not at all mighty. Not like a warrior. He is furtively trying to thresh wheat in a wine press out of sight of their enemies. 

Gideon replies, “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?”

My head nodded. I immediately identified with Gideon. Someone in the Bible was asking a question I was asking about my own life: “Look at these ruins around me! Why, Lord? Why?”

The angel’s response felt familiar. He doesn’t give Gideon an answer. He simply responds with a command: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Why is a question we ask when we are looking backward.  Instead, the Angel’s response focuses Gideon on the future. He gave him a call to move forward, regardless of the ruins surrounding him. A call to action:  “Go in the strength you have.”

Gideon isn’t convinced. He knows he isn’t the man for this huge job. He responds with another objection: “But, Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family.”

The Angel encourages him:“I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

The source of Gideon’s strength is revealed: he would have strength that God would supply.

As the chapter unfolds, Gideon tests and questions God repeatedly. Patiently, God proves to Gideon over and over again that there is no mistake. He is called to this new role and God will equip him for it.

I was stunned to find that I identified with a man from thousands of years ago. His questions resonated deeply within my own heart: “If God is with us, why has all this happened? How can I do this hard assignment you are calling me to?”

Even in the initial weeks as a new widow, there was no doubt about my assignment and calling: take care of our family. The harder part has been figuring out how to do that without getting completely, utterly overwhelmed.

Like Gideon, I am all too aware of my weaknesses and lack of ability for many parts of this job, but they aren’t obstacles to God.

Gideon was given the same fuel that I am promised:  God is with us. It isn’t about the strength we have, it is about the strength He will give. 

My weakness did not fill me with hope for our future. In fact, at that point in our journey, if I thought about all the work set before me in the years ahead, I was simply stunned and overwhelmed. But reading this passage gave me confidence that God would supply me with strength for what He had given me to do. It was a game changer.

God helped me realize I couldn’t measure my ability to do this job by how I felt. My feelings were emotional responses but not indicators of ability. Feeling weak and overwhelmed didn’t mean I wouldn’t have strength as I needed it.  I just needed to trust that He wasn’t surprised I was a widow. He knew I had four children to love and raise, and He would strengthen me for what each day would bring.

Since then, the key has been to stay in the day, not looking ahead to tomorrow’s mountains yet to climb.  I keep waking up each day and doing what comes next in the strength God supplies. For each moment. Each breath.

Some of you may also face challenges today, with more on the horizon. Don’t measure your challenges by your strength, but by God’s strengthening. He is all-in with you and will lead you forward from “strength to strength.”

In Gideon’s story, I found hope for my unfolding story. When the challenges of life loom large, “go in the strength you have been given” continues to whisper courage and truth into my heart. Frequently, it helps me put one foot in front of the other.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you…they go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:7

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13
You can too. He’s got us.
~Maria
PS Thanks for the text, Stephanie.

 

 

 

Brokenness Doesn’t Define You

I wake up every day surrounded by broken pieces of a life I used to know. It isn’t a novelty. After four years, I am familiar with this unexpected life that greets me each day.

I am not alone. If you’re an adult, you know brokenness- maybe in yourself or in someone you love. I hope it isn’t the first thing you are aware of each day.

But it might be.

The reality is that childhood’s broken toys give way to an adult life where the stakes are higher. Broken things are the least of our worries. Instead, we encounter a world full of broken dreams, hearts, bodies, and relationships.

As I have recently wrestled with my own brokenness, the Lord showed me something beautiful and hopeful and transforming: my brokenness does not define me. 

I will say it again, just for you: your brokenness does not define you. 

Our brokenness can only have as much power over us as we give it.

It is a demanding tyrant. We can feel hopeless and helpless as we survey the pieces. There is no way back to the life we had before. It all seems impossible, or at least impossibly complicated. Depression, anxiety, anger, shame, self-absorption all clamor to flood in.

Sadly, our brokenness can often distance us from the One who can help us. The One who loves us in the midst of our broken, ruined lives. The One whose body was broken so we could be made whole.

Nothing is beyond His ability to heal, restore, or transform. We see God’s love for us poignantly at work through Jesus’s life of ministry to broken people. Never did Jesus say someone’s brokenness exceeded His ability to help and heal. There were no lost causes.

God is bigger than whatever is broken in your life. When Jesus gave His life for ours, He covered all the brokenness this world could ever generate.

When He enters our lives, He trades us: beauty for the ashes, joy for the sorrow, praise for the despair. He tells us that He alone defines us. Our identity is as His deeply loved child.

Several years ago, shortly after John had died, my children went to a camp for kids who had lost a close family member. Many of the activities were designed to work them through different aspects of grief. One day they were each given a terra cotta pot and told to go outside and hurl it onto the pavement.

Shattered shards of pottery surrounded them. I watched them from a distance. It is how our lives felt: whole one minute, shattered the next.

They were given bags to carefully gather the pieces. Then, they were told to write on each piece something they loved about the person they had lost. Next, it was time to try to glue the pots back together. It was painstaking. Nothing fit right.

But, hours later they were done. The haphazard shapes didn’t resemble the previous pots. Yet, each pot was transformed when the lights were out because candles had been nestled within them.

In fact, they were beautiful. They shimmered forth more light than ever before because the cracks, the broken places, were the very spots where the light could shine.

It was a holy moment when the room was filled with their glow. Brokenness transformed.

As a widow, I can feel like I will always be broken and diminished by my loss. It is tempting to believe my life will always have less joy, less fullness, less purpose, less meaning, less peace. I can feel resigned to a second-rate, broken life and future.

But, it isn’t true, and I am beginning to deeply believe it. His grace and abundance is big enough for even this. For even you and your story.  Our circumstances don’t exempt His promises.

They don’t get to have that much power.

Jesus Christ promises us true fullness of life. His love for us brings peace and hope and purpose and joy. He fills us with love to share and kindnesses to give and praises to proclaim and people to bless with the overflowing love He has given us.

Brokenness is not the end, nor the final word. Instead, in the gentle hands of God’s redemptive love, it can be the beginning of a new kind of beautiful.

believing more beauty & joy are yet to come,
because His love wins,
Mariaimg_0242

 

When Joy Seems Impossible: A Wedding Surprise

The summer of 2016 is now in the Carroll family record book:
2 graduations,
1 wedding,
3 wedding showers,
1 girl’s month long journey to Bolivia,
4 birthdays,
2 vacations,
3 girls packed and moved to 3 different places
and the grand finale: my son’s baptism!
All of this was just within our little family of five (now six with my new son-in-law!)

Our parents 50th wedding anniversaries were bookends to this amazing collection: one in April, one this past weekend.

So if you’ve been wondering where I have been, now you know. I have been living faster than I could write.

It was stunning to have so many of life’s poignant moments condensed into such a short time. It was also challenging to have one event after another where John’s absence was so conspicuous. Missing him became a familiar, frequent emotion again.

The moment with the greatest heart tug was obvious: at my oldest daughter’s wedding. Not having him here to walk our daughter down the aisle was a hard reality to accept. Like most families, John and our girls had talked about that moment since the girls were little. He took his future responsibility seriously, and the girls knew they’d have his strong arm to lean on in the midst of their joyful days.

We all knew there was no way around it. That moment in the ceremony would be teary. Full of if-onlys. We hoped that we’d get all of our tears out at the dress rehearsal.

But, we underestimated God’s ability to bring grace even to the hardest places. Those hopeless places we think are impossible for Him to touch with wonder and surprise and grace.

Shortly after being engaged, our daughter asked her almost 15 year old brother to take his dad’s place. He agreed, even though it was a little intimidating to be in the spotlight. Walking a gorgeous young woman in a beautiful, white gown with 250 people watching you is a big job, even if she is your sister.

Finally, the day arrived for the wedding, which was held in the garden of an historic home. The moment had come for them to walk down the aisle.  The two of them paused at the back of the garden, to allow the music to begin and the guests to stand.

At that moment an unexpected mishap occurred! The haircomb holding her veil slipped out, and her veil became unattached! As she walked forward, it floated to the ground!

Just a second before all of the guests turned to look in her direction, I turned first and saw the wedding coordinator roll up the veil and quickly hold his hands behind his back- a very professional, smooth move!

Stunned, I looked at my daughter; she was keeping her composure. “Oh well,” I thought,”there is nothing I can do about it now. We’ll just put it back on for the photos.”

As my daughter gracefully walked by my aisle, she gave me an ever so slight shake of her head. The expression in her eyes told me,”Don’t worry about it.”

She and her brother reached the front of the ceremony site and stood side by side as our pastor welcomed everyone and prayed. Then, it was my turn to come forward and stand beside her so that I could answer the question: “Who gives this woman away?”

As I walked up beside her, she turned to me and quietly asked,”Mom, will you please put on my veil?”

All at once, I knew we were in the midst of a holy moment. More precious than I had ever expected to have in this moment, on this day. Peace and confidence settled over me. I knew I was being given a gift.

Calmly, purposefully, I turned and walked down the aisle to retrieve the veil from the wedding coordinator, who still stood at the back of the garden with it behind his back. With it gently in hand, I walked back and tucked the veil’s comb into the back of her hair. Then, I took my time getting the veil arranged over her gown, alongside her face and each of her shoulders. I savored the moments.

I knew those were my last official moments as her momma. And they were beautiful.

For twenty two years John and I had loved and raised and prepared her for life. Now she was ready. I truly felt like I was putting the finishing touches on those twenty two years as I arranged her veil…presenting her to her new husband and to the Lord.

And, then I stood by her side. Her radiant smile of thanks was her confident goodbye to me.

“Who gives this woman to be married?” I heard our pastor ask.

“I do, and her father, John, would be delighted.” I said loud enough for all to hear.

And, then a kiss on the cheek and twenty-two years of being her momma were over. My job was done.

I sat down. Amazed. Stunned. What had just happened? The moment I had dreaded most, we had dreaded most, didn’t happen. The veil distracted us all and instead, I had been given one of the most precious, meaningful moments of my life. Truly, I will treasure it forever.

Grace. Unanticipated, glorious, abundant grace. The Lord surprised us beyond anything we could have imagined!

I keep on learning this lesson in this unexpected journey. His grace will meet me and will meet you every. single. time. Don’t fret. Just trust that those things in the future you dread, those moments you aren’t sure you will be able to get through, know that you can trust Him to meet you there.

The past four and a half years have been full of moments I wasn’t sure I could do alone. This summer they came in droves. And, every time, He surprised me with strength I didn’t know I could have; joy that I didn’t know would find me; peace that was bigger than my problem.

“I will turn their mourning into joy; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13

As we planned my daughter’s wedding, my hope was that joy would take the day. It did. That evening, my heart was too full of joy for tears to surface. Instead, we danced the night away under a summer sky.

With God all things are possible, even joy.
Maria

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A Fire Hydrant of Joy

I am on a wild ride right now! Within two months we are celebrating my oldest daughter’s college graduation and wedding, my third daughter’s high school graduation, two graduation parties, two of my girls’ birthdays, a few wedding showers, and a final family-of-five trip. Then, we are sending my second daughter to Bolivia for a month, and waving goodbye to the newlyweds as they head to the midwest (the day after they get back from their honeymoon).

All of this in exactly two months.

It is like trying to drink from a fire hydrant of joy! So many joys to savor in such a short time.

People ask me how I am doing it. Here’s the short answer: not alone.

Earlier in the spring I could feel my stress-level rising as I saw the calendar looming. Over the last four years I have learned to pay attention to the feeling.

It is my yield sign.

Nothing good happens if I ignore the stress and stubbornly plow forward.

Slow down. Go somewhere quiet. Unburden it all to the Lord. That is how I’ve learned to respond when life begins to overwhelm me.

A Jesus Calling devotional sums it up well: “When you start to feel anxious about something, relinquish the situation to Me. Back off a bit, redirecting your focus to Me. I will either take care of the problem Myself or show you how to handle it. In this world you will have problems, but you need not lose sight of Me.” (June 7)

So, on that early spring morning two months ago, I did just that. It has become a familiar response now that I don’t have John to absorb my stress overflow.

It has also become a place where I expect to hear from the Lord.

And I did.

As I poured out my looming list of demands, I truly sensed the Lord telling me I didn’t have to do it all. He clearly brought to my mind two areas where I simply needed to ask for help during this crazy season.

Two areas that I was stubbornly digging in my frugal heels: my yard and my house.

I am the only one who can cut our yard in the spring due to my kids’ allergies. And, consistently keeping our house clean falls to me. My teens aren’t reliable help at the end of the school year when demands on their time are high.

Later that morning, I talked to a dear friend who reiterated the Lord’s leading. She said, “Maria, when you wake up the day after the wedding, how are you going to think back over the past two months? Will you have regrets of how you spent your time?”

Tears began to puddle. These are my last two months with my oldest daughter. These are the last two months with all four of my children here. Time with them is golden. And finite.

She also pointed out that my stress level sets the tone in our home. Anything I can do to anticipate the stress and lower it is important for all of us. Setting yourself up for the best chance of things going well is a realistic way to live life.

Such. true. words. My reality: John isn’t here to naturally step in and carry the stress load with me. It is on my shoulders as the only parent. And, it isn’t just his actual physical help with the chores of life.

It is much deeper. Marriage brings stability and strength. You know you aren’t alone. You are in the midst of all of life’s storms and sunny days together. You might be wet and shivering, but you are holding hands as you face the gale.

John isn’t here to hold my hand. He isn’t here to process this season of saying goodbye to our daughter. I want him here for her, and our other children, and for my new son-in-law.

But, I also really want him here for me.

We raised her together for nearly 18 years. I’ve raised her alone for four. We’ve held her close since that little bundle was placed in our arms. Give her away?  I’ve been fully committed to holding her tight.

John & I should be working through this season together. Laughing. List making. Reviewing plans. Remembering her growing up years. Smiling. Celebrating.

Wiping each other’s tears.

Yes, I have friends. Close siblings. I even have my parents. They are all wonderful and supportive. But it isn’t the same.

After four years without John in my life, I have been amazed to experience the Lord stepping into the void John left. He is my strength and comfort and company every day. And it is beautiful.

It is different, but it is truly good and very real.

However, I can still get cocky. I can still be tempted to think I can do it all.

On that spring day, I held up my white flag of surrender.

I am so thankful I did.

For these few months I have help with my yard and house. As any woman knows, knowing your house will be cleaned (all at one time) is a tremendous blessing. Ditto to the harvesting of my crop of waving grass.

It encourages my heart to know that actual real help is headed our way. Those are days where something predictable and orderly happens around here, and those two parts of life get checked off the list. It blesses me.

And, I smile because the Lord was right. I did need help. I didn’t have to do it all.

In our culture it is counter-intuitive to pause and truly surrender, but I hope my story encourages you to turn to the One who knows you best and loves you most. Surrender will be sweet.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy.” Psalm 28:7

there are greater, never-ending joys yet to come…
with love, Maria

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter is My Every Day

Death isn’t theoretical for me. It isn’t the thing that “might happen one day…” A possible reality off in the mists of the future. It is in my bed. On my pillow. Everyday. 

The man I lived with every day for nearly 23 years- skin to skin and heart to heart and dream to dream with- is gone. He literally ran straight forward, smack dab into death. And life. All in a few moments on a wooded path.

So, death and I stare each other down every day. I don’t have a choice. There is no avoidance technique big enough to hide it. John has died.

And, every morning, I accept it. Again. Do you want to know the real reason I wake up in our empty bed and face death and find peace?

It isn’t a theory. or an idea. or a comforting religious belief.

It isn’t a technique or a mantra or a transforming app.

It is a person. His name is Jesus Christ. He did for John and for me what no one in all of history has ever done: Jesus said he would face death for us and defeat it. No other person has ever made that claim and lived to tell about it.

Jesus did, and so He has earned my wholehearted faith and trust and confident hope because He died and He lives.

 “Jesus who rescued us from certain doom”1 Thessalonians 1:10 (MSG)

I don’t worry and wonder, “Was John good enough? Did he live a life that earned him eternity?” These questions don’t plague me.

Jesus earned eternity for John. and for me. and for our kids. and for you. He lived the perfect life none of us could ever accomplish, and He let his perfect life be sacrificed for our sake.

He didn’t die on the cross for himself. He died on the cross for us. His death is a gift that He has given to each of us. His life makes us part of God’s family, and like all children, we look up to our Father and want to be like Him. John lived wanting to please His Heavenly Father.

When I wake up in the morning, death is real but its hold is temporary. What I am most aware of is my settled peace and confidence that Jesus is real. His Spirit is with me, and I am reassured that John is safe.

John and I are now living both sides of faith in Christ. Lives that neither of us had ever experienced before March 8. We have both experienced death’s spectrum: on earth and in heaven.

We will have a lot to talk about one day. I hope we get to. Or maybe God’s eternal plan will be so amazing we won’t want to rehash all that has happened. I can only speculate. and wonder. and dream.

We are both living; sustained by Christ’s power and presence.

All I know is what four years have tried and tested in my life: I have faced death and Jesus Christ met me on that night and He hasn’t let me go. His hope and presence and peace and strength and tenderness and reassurance woo me every morning.

Every day is Easter.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” Hebrews 6:19