We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Alive in Christ Forever

They all came.

Children, siblings, grandchildren, nieces and nephews came to Northeastern Pennsylvania from as far away as Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Michigan. They came to say goodbye. I’ll always remember the day we gathered under a blue August sky to say our final farewells to my mom. With the pastor’s closing prayer, we filed by, one by one, carefully placing a flower on her casket. In the still and almost reverent moments that followed, someone began to sing. Soon, we all joined in.     

   Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!
   I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

   When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
   We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.
                           (John Newton, 1725-1807)

Tears slipped down my cheeks as the familiar melody drifted up to heaven. Here on a quiet hillside stood a family. A family bound by grief. A family united in hope. That day’s memory of the family I love and to whom I belong has a hallowed place in my heart. I have drawn on this remembrance for strength many times over the last months.

Then they all returned home. But they didn’t forget. 

One day my sister called. In the course of our conversation, she said, “I’ve been thinking. Mom is in heaven because of the resurrection of Jesus.” What a wonderful truth! I found myself thinking about another funeral, one Jesus attended when He proclaimed Himself the resurrection and the life. Not long after, He proved it. With the empty tomb, Christ conquered death forever (I Corinthians 15).

The Easter season holds a special significance for me this year. The resurrection of Jesus means eternal life for my mom, and someday for me. And for all those who have placed their complete trust in Christ who died so they could live. I think of my sister’s words each time my dad and I visit the quiet hillside cemetery, where I picture my family singing “Amazing Grace.” And where Mom’s tombstone reads, “Alive in Christ Forever.” 

May this Easter season breathe hope into our hearts. He is risen! And that makes all the difference for us – both now and for eternity.

I am the resurrection and the life.
 He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.
John 11:25, 26

Saturday, April 12, 2014

All the Way Home

When's the last time you wondered if you would make it home safely? Not long ago, after visiting my dad at the hospital, the distance between me and my family at home stretched out much longer than usual. Here's the story:

As I stepped outside the hospital entrance, unexpected sleet rained down, making the sidewalks slushy and slick. All I could think was, "I have to get home." I gingerly inched my way to my car, managed to open the door, and plopped into the seat. Still shivering, I turned the key, eyed the creeping traffic, and pulled onto the road. How many miles home? Maybe ten? "Oh, Lord, please help me," I prayed.

I'm the kind of person who tends to break up an overwhelming job or project into manageable pieces. I have memories of helping our daughters with school projects and piano pieces this way. We would divide the task up and do one part or measure at a time. Pretty soon, they'd be finished.

All the way home that Sunday night, as sleet pelted the windshield, I found myself setting small goals. Just get to the next traffic light, then to the next. On the highway, I joined the slow-moving traffic moving from one exit to the next, to the next, I thanked God for every safe milestone. At last, I pulled into the driveway, hit the garage door opener, glided to a stop, and breathed a sigh of relief. Finally home!

Sometimes, life's a little like my white-knuckled drive home. We feel afraid and uncertain, wishing for better circumstances and safer conditions. We didn't ask for this unexpected situation. But God promises His presence one "light," one "exit," one day, one hour at a time. We don't need to focus on the whole journey, just the bit that's before us . . . all the way to our heavenly home.




Saturday, April 5, 2014

Remembered With Grace . . .

Saturday, April 5, 2003 . . .


Sudden fog,
like a white curtain dropped without mercy,
     mingles with smoke,
     screaming sirens,
     and angels lifting vacationers
     from cars, now charred and twisted.

The future hangs shrouded
     in the thick, woolly air . . .

I lay under a blanket dazed and damaged.
God's gaze penetrates the dense whiteness.
He remembers me with grace.

Five hours from home, we helplessly stared into the eerie whiteness on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I felt a sudden rush of adrenaline as we barely tapped what must have been a car ahead of us. If this is all we hit, we'll  be okay, I thought. I turned around to check on five-year-old Elisabeth. At that moment, a crushing impact from behind convulsed us back and forth like rag dolls. Elisabeth's legs flew up. My husband clutched his sides in agony.

Oblivious to the fire, explosions, screams, and scraping metal piercing the murky mist around us, I heard only one message beat like a drum in my mind: "We have to get out of the car, out of the car, out . . ."

Somehow, in the ensuing chaos of the twenty-plus vehicle pile-up, helicopters life-flighted the four of us to three different hospitals. Thankfully, the girls were discharged with minimal injuries. With a broken neck and shattered vertebra, I faced two major surgeries. Barry's life became a flickering candle in the dark of a coma.

Eleven years have passed since that fateful day. Eleven years since those daunting days of whispered what-ifs, victories and set-backs, prayers and tears. Today, we remember eleven years of God's daily faithfulness along with the wonderful love and care of family, friends, and even people we didn't know.
 
God remembered us with grace . . . a grace that is sufficient on the darkest of days.


(Taken from Chapter Two of my forthcoming book, Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story.)