Friday, October 29, 2010

But What About All Those Promises?

     After his wife, Joy, died from cancer, C.S. Lewis wrote a classic work on grief entitled A Grief Observed, which flowed from the journaling of his grief. I sense that this blog may at times be an expression of my grief similar to that (although not nearly so well written or thought out as his, of course).
     Having said that, I just couldn't bring myself to write anything at all until now. The shroud of grief does strange things to us, and one effect for me, at least, is that it has paralyzed my motivation. And at least up to this point, it has also kept me at times from wanting to go to the painful places (which we should not approach except as God leads anyway). But I will try to approach one of those places today.
     One of the things I wrestled most with after Jettie died was the confusion I felt because of all the clear promises of healing that Jettie and I (and many others) sensed were ours for Jettie. Did God change His mind or just plain old "fib" to us? Did we hear God so poorly that we missed the obvious warnings that death was coming instead of life? I am convinced now that the answer to these questions is absolutely not! God did promise to heal. Because He always wants to heal, what else could we expect Him to say (Jesus healed all who came to Him)? So even when God knows we aren't yet in a place of faith to "move the mountains of sickness" He will promise to move them.
     Furthermore, it has become clear to me that God, like any good parent, always urges us to reach beyond where He knows we will get. We who are parents know how this works. From a very early age we are encouraging our kids to reach beyond their capacity. For example, when they start to walk, we deliberately get farther away than they can walk, knowing they will fall yet saying, "Come on, you can make it!" So when God's people face mountains of opposition, even if He knows that this time the mountain won't move, He will still say, "Come on, you can trust me for this one!"
     One of my favorite examples of this is where Jesus invites Peter to walk on water, knowing very well that Peter would sink and need rescuing. Instead of saying to Peter, "You can't make it, you will sink when you are about halfway here," He said, "Come!" then rescued Peter in the midst of Peter's failure of faith. It seems to me that this is what has happened in our case. Even though God knew that our trust level wasn't at the place of being able to fully receive His power to heal, He urged us on, ready to catch us and redeem the situation when we fell. Jettie is certainly better off by far, and even in the indescribable pain of those of us left behind, God's presence is doing remarkable things.
     But does this leave me in a place where I feel like a failure? It did at first, of course, and will again, I am sure, but Papa has quickly moved in to correct any notion that I am responsible for the impossible (that's His realm). Instead, in the safety of His constant, constant, constant loving embrace He invites me to get to know Him better than ever so that next time trust will reach higher than before.
     And so I grieve, O how I grieve! And it hurts beyond my ability to describe (Jettie and I had a remarkably good marriage, and she was my best and most treasured friend while she was here). But in my grief, through the massive confusion, I hear the invitation to know Him ringing in my heart louder than ever before. What else can I do, then, than pursue Him through the pain?

Holding more tightly to His promises than ever,

Tom, one of Abba's children

Saturday, October 16, 2010

You Are the Most Amazing Woman!

This is the tribute I shared at Jettie's two memorial services...I think it speaks for itself.


You Are The Most Amazing Woman!
I can’t believe you are gone, beating me to heaven by what I trust is many years! But I know you are now more alive than you ever were here on earth, and so I write this tribute to you in the present tense. “You are” seems far more appropriate when I talk about you now than “you were.” And yes, we all know how uncomfortable you would be with any attention being drawn to you, so let me assure you that we know that it is your pure and childlike trust in Jesus that we see most of all. It is the Lord Jesus whom you love with delicate passion who ultimately receives honor for who you are, my beloved! But I cannot help but remember at this time how truly remarkable a person you are. And in this moment it seems fitting to let others see you through the lens of our many years together.
You are, beloved Jettie, the most amazing woman! In over 41 years of marriage I very rarely saw you angry, at me, or anyone else. You have a patience and a gentleness and a level of self-control that is as rare as a 200 carat diamond. You were thoughtful and grateful throughout this 14 month battle, even in those terrible last days in the hospice center when the enemy stripped you of dignity and of that which was so precious to you: your ability to serve others. We never heard you complain, even as life was being stolen from you. I never heard you complain throughout the entire 14 months. Instead we saw you rally yourself, even at the very end, to be sure that we knew you loved us, and we heard you say “Please” and “Thank you” for everything and “I love you, too” until you could speak no more. And even then your eyes communicated love and gratitude, and concern for us.
You are the most amazing woman! Throughout our 41 years of life together you constantly took thoughtfulness to increasingly higher levels. Indeed, just about everything I know about thoughtfulness I learned from you.
You are the most amazing woman! During our many years together hospitality flowed from you like a river of welcome, embracing all who came within the sphere of your love and care. You defined hospitality to us in the highest of terms, and I will always remember the sheer joy I saw in you as you cooked, cleaned, planned and prepared to bless folks with God’s embrace through your hospitality!
You are the most amazing woman! Serving was your primary love language, and only you of all people would have been concerned about serving us even while you were fighting for your life! Of all the things the enemy stole from you over these past few months, your serving was perhaps the most devastating to you, and to us as we watched. Yet you continued to serve, working when anyone else would have stayed at home, doing as many of your usual tasks as your ravaged body would allow. Never have I seen anyone, beloved Jettie, who epitomized the foot-washing heart of Jesus better than you. Yet it was our great privilege to at last be able to serve you in small ways over these past few months. Few husbands have had the privilege of caring for and serving their brides like I was able to. Few children get to experience the joy of giving back to their mom like our sons and daughters-in-law we able to. Yes, at least for a few brief moments we were finally able to return a tiny sliver of the care you have poured out on us and others for so many years. And be assured, my beloved, that your example of serving will urge us on to live as servants to the end of our time here on earth.
You are the most amazing woman! Your careful attention to detail blessed everyone around you during your time here with us. Excellence is so natural to you that once something was committed into your care, no one needed to have a second thought about it being done well. This carefulness extended to every area of your life and to everything you did. I marveled often at your persistence as you balanced the check book to the penny. Your carefulness made others around you look really good! When you were beside me, whether at LIFE, in the various churches we served or in the West Texas district you always managed to make things work with excellence. No surprise then, that you will be forever known in the Midland Foursquare Church as “Wonder Woman”!
You are the most amazing woman! Many people aspire to humility. You seem to have been born with it! While others would struggle with not being “up front” and the need to be noticed by others, you chose just the opposite. You are the quintessential “behind-the-scenes” person, my beloved, and there is a remarkable genuineness to your humility. Even during these past dark months, when I would say to you over and over, “I am so proud of you,” you would be puzzled by my praise—amazing!
You are the most amazing woman! I don’t know of anyone who defines “quietly passionate” better than you. Everything about you is gentle and quiet, but that doesn’t mean that you lack passion. During your time on earth your quiet passion was perhaps seen most obviously in your loving worship of your beloved Jesus, but you also brought a “fiery stillness” to your relationships with others, your love for our sons and grandchildren and even to our intimate times as husband and wife. You remain an example to the many who are quiet by nature, my dear Bride, demonstrating that passion doesn’t have to be loud or showy to be fierce!
You are the most amazing woman! Being a friend was so natural to you and something you did with great loyalty and selflessness. Your moving to Heaven leaves me without my dearest and closest friend. How many other husbands can really say that, I wonder? And you brought that selfless friendship to others here on earth as well. You make friends slowly, but once the friendship is established there’s never a doubt that you are “friends forever.” I can only imagine what it was like for you to step into Heaven and embrace your Friend, Jesus. And by now I am sure you have moved on to greet the many friends who preceded you into the Eternal Kingdom. And I can’t help wondering how many new friends you will make in the eons ahead! And each of them will find what we have found here on earth: you are an amazingly kind, gentle and caring friend!
You are the most amazing woman, Jettie, and our lives are also forever marked by your gentle strength. Throughout this recent terrible/wonderful journey we saw everyone around us marvel at your strength. The journey has been punctuated with medical personnel saying, “I have never seen…”–always in reference to your strength of will, your endurance and ability to persist against all odds. But you can rest now, dear Jettie, and surrender your strength to the One who makes you strong!
You are the most amazing woman! It goes without saying, at least for those who know you well, that you are one of the most loving persons anyone will ever encounter. And in the past few months those of us who find you so easy to love got to return just a small portion of the love that you lavished on us. We love you, babe, and will never stop loving you as one who loves us so well, loves us so like Papa God loves us.
Rest well in Papa’s embrace, honey. I will see you in the morning, but until then I will tell as many as I can, to the glory of the Lord Jesus, that I know the most amazing woman!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Home at last

For those who may read this blog but not see my Facebook page, just a note to let you know that Jettie went peacefully into the arms of her beloved Jesus this past Saturday night around 8:45 p.m. Like her life, her departure was quiet, gentle and peaceful.

When the pain is less, I will write a tribute to my bride who is (she still lives) one of the most remarkable people I have ever met, the epitome of quiet strength and gracious servanthood that marks the best of God's followers.

Your prayers for us as a family are welcome.

Tom, one of Abba's children

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Waiting

Dear friends who read this blog. There was no post last week and I doubt that I could post anything coherent this week either. As I write this my wife has been in hospice care (in-patient) since one week ago Wednesday.

We find ourselves waiting...not for an end but for Jesus and the beginning He wants to bring. We welcome your prayers as we surrender our beloved wife, mommy and grammy into His eternal care. We know to be fully present with Jesus is "better by far."

I will probably post many reflections about all of this some day, but not now, of course.

Waiting for Him who loves us most.

Tom, one of Abba's little boys