Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Be the Body of Christ

The past two weeks have been intense, sad, and overwhelming, with a little bit of crazy thrown in for good measure.  On Friday the 24th, our friend Norma went to be with Jesus.  As I prepare to share at her memorial service this Thursday, I've been reflecting how when you walk with someone through their darkest moments, it creates an inseparable bond.  Because I was there when she received her diagnosis and held her as she wept, I felt a strong responsibility to help care for this woman who had no family locally. I was not the only one who helped care for her though; our entire church stepped forward. To be honest, never before have I witnessed the Body of Christ rise up like they did with her and operate exactly how Jesus wanted us to.

From the woman who handled all of Norma's financial affairs, to the many who prayed unceasingly, to the man who looked into hospice options, to the woman who rubbed her feet while she lay in the hospital bed....it was a beautiful sight to behold.  From the friend who braided Norma's hair as she lay helpless, to the people who came and sang her songs, each was using a spiritual gift.  From the person who wrote up the prayer request, to the volunteers who sorted through her belongings - each person played an indispensable role.

There was also an entire group of people ministering to me personally - those who knew the situation I was in - the grief I was carrying.  From my friend who babysat the boys and fed them dinner so I could say one last goodbye, to all the girls who left me text messages and voicemails saying they were praying for me - God was ministering to me.  From the text my sister sent when she didn't even know I was in tears crying at the beach, God was using people all around me.  My husband, who watched the kids so I could be free to minister to Norma - he was an instrument God used, too.

You see, we are not meant to walk alone - we are meant to be a part of the Body.  You have a part to play - and each part is just as important as the rest.  You may read this and long to see this worked out in your own life, in your own church. It will, but it must begin with you.

In the past 2 weeks I had the honor of speaking at two different MOPS groups, and I tell you, I was so scatter-brained and overwhelmed that I was tempted to cancel both of them.  In both situations I teared up on the way thinking, "How can I do this when I can't even think straight?" I was exhausted, spent, and sad, yet God chose to use me in my weakest moments. Each of those ladies I met on those mornings also played a role. They encouraged me without even knowing what I had been up against.  I didn't tell them anything about it; yet they took time to smile, to hug, to make me feel welcome. They had a role to play too.

You are a part of the Body of Christ, so be sure to do your part, whatever it might be, because it is just as important as someone else's role.  You know, you may be playing a role in ministering to someone else and you may not even know it.  That girl in front of you at Target? Maybe your smile was the one thing she needed to see.  Because maybe, just maybe, she just found out that her friend died.  Go and be the Body of Christ.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Today she went to be with Jesus.  Her diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer was confirmed to her only 7 days ago.  She was already in her final days.  In the past week, I was able to draw even closer to a woman I respected and loved.  In the past week we had two deep, personal conversations about faith, relationships, hope, and love.  In the past week she shared with me that she didn't want to fight this fight against her body; she just wanted to go home to be with the Lord.  God granted her heart's desire.  She had a rough week, a painful week, but now it is over and she is with Him.

This morning I felt a strong desire to go be with her, to go and say goodbye.  When I arrived, her breathing was labored and heavy.  I spoke to her, and her eyes met mine.  I held her hand.  After about an hour, I left (at 11:30am).  At 3:30 I received the call that she had passed.  I rushed to the hospital, longing to say goodbye just one last time.  That is when I learned how she died today.  Surrounded by 3 loving friends, a CD of soft worship music was playing.  The friends anointed her head with oil and prayed for her, then read Psalm 23.  They whispered in her ear, "We love you, you can go home."  Within a few minutes, she took her last breath.

God's grace and love was with her; His presence was strong.  We rejoice that her suffering has ended and she is being reunited with her earthly father and her heavenly Father today.

After I told my boys what happened, Jaden said, "But I wanted to give her a valentine!" Then he followed with "I liked Norma."

Micah asked a lot of questions about cancer, death and heaven.  He got scared and said he doesn't want to die, and he doesn't want to go to heaven.  It's an overwhelming topic for a 6 year old; it'll take some time.

When we arrived home, we received more devastating news from a family member and from another friend.  Grief is heavy in our home this week.  We attended a funeral just 2 weeks ago of someone else we knew.  Now we are planning another.

God is present, and I'm thankful for His comfort and peace.  I'm thankful for our two boys who give us reasons to smile each day, hug us and love on us when we are sad.  I'm so grateful for our church family, who came together and operated exactly as the Body of Christ should.  God is here, He is near, and I am so thankful.

Friday, February 17, 2012

In the Waiting Room

"They think I might have cancer," she said softly.  "Will you go with me when I find out?"

How could I say no?  This woman, although she is 20 years my senior, is my friend. There was no place I'd rather be, than holding her hand when she would hear the results of her many tests. "It would be my honor," I replied, humbled that she would ask me to be there with her.

As a ministry leader and pastor's wife, it is not uncommon for me to be in hospitals; in fact, it has become familiar territory.  But today was different.  This wasn't some stranger I was visiting; this was my friend. This was my son's Sunday School teacher.

So today we went, along with another friend from church.  We crowded into the small room, the 3 of us and the doctor, as he explained the results.  "It is colon cancer," he said, "Stage 4."  "It has spread."

Tears were shed. Questions were asked. We waited...and waited...and waited...until she was admitted to the hospital.

And, like many things in life, we sit in the unknown.  We sit in the waiting room of life, wondering what will happen.  We trust in our God, that His ways are not our ways, and we wait on Him.

Yet we see Him at work, even in the waiting room. As we sat for 3 hours in the hallway, she lying on a gurney and me resting in her wheelchair, I remembered something.  In my purse was a copy of "Jesus Calling," a book I felt led to give to her. I had pulled the ribbon bookmark to February 16th, because I felt that particular day would really minister to her.  She took one look and smiled.  You see, last weekend, her other friend gave her the book as well.  The first day she had opened to and read was February 16th.  This is what it said:

Thank Me for the conditions that are requiring you to be still.  Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again.  Some of the greatest works in My kingdom have been done from sick beds and prison cells.  Instead of resenting the limitations of a weakened body, search for My way in the midst of these very circumstances.  Limitations can be liberating when your strongest desire is living close to me.

You see, even in the waiting room, God is at work.  We may not understand His ways, or His plan, but we can take comfort in the fact that, at the very least, He is there.

Whatever waiting room you are in, remember that He is with you, waiting with you.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Week Like No Other

You know you've had a hard week when...

-Your printer toner explodes all over your favorite pair of jeans
-Said printer is broken, and you have to use a friend's printer approximately 10 times
-Printer needs to be taken to a repair shop or it can never be used again
-You have to call your old dentist to fix a cracked crown, find out it's really not under warranty, but they'll give you a deal for $375.
-You also find out you need another $900 worth of work on your teeth.
-You discover that when your hard drive crashed, you lost 5 years worth of files and photos (only to find them after 2 days of crying about it).
-You get mad at your husband for said "hard drive crash" event, then have to apologize since he was the one who found all of your missing files.
-You go to your job and mess up pretty bad, making your boss irritated
-You have to take care of 2 sick kids (one with a 103.4 fever), and then you contract the never-ending cough that seems to strike only when you are trying to sleep.

And then...

-A friend ends up in the hospital
-Another friend dies

Yep, that was my week, alright.  Honestly, though, I felt God's presence very strong with me through this week's events.  When someone you know passes away, it puts everything in perspective. You realize that you shouldn't get upset about the little things in life.  You also realize that the most important "things" in your life are the people you love, and you need to cherish every moment with them. You realize that sometimes you get upset about stupid things, and it is important to slow down and remember what really matters.

The person who died was a former boss of mine (a professor), as well as my master's thesis advisor in college. He was also a former pastor at our church- the one who got Martin the job as Associate Pastor of Youth and Worship. He was the father to two kids in our youth group, and we had regular events at his house.  We went camping with the church (and his family), and he was there when we all found out that a teenager in our church died in a tragic accident. He counseled, encouraged, and challenged everyone he was around.  The last few years he had moved and we were not in regular contact with him. However, he made an indelible mark on my life.

During the time I worked for him, he would always refer to me as "his" secretary.  Although I worked for 15 professors, he felt that I did more work for him than anyone, and so he gave everyone the impression that I worked for him alone :)  He would invite me into his office and we would talk about theology, life, ministry, and family.  One time I told him a dream I had, and he proceeded to interpret it in a "Daniel" way, and gave me such insight into my life that I felt changed afterwards!

Craig Rusch could often be seen in the middle of controversy, but it was because he was passionate about justice, and passionate about the people he cared about.

Unfortunately he passed away suddenly from pneumonia-type symptoms while on a business trip, doing what he loved - consulting with organizations on how to reach younger generations.

You can read more about his life here.  Tomorrow is his memorial service, where Martin and I will sing "It is Well with my Soul."  Today I shopped for the reception afterwards.  I am overseeing that part of the service, and it was an odd feeling to be in Costco, shopping for the memorial service of a man I used to know so well. I used to plan Anthropology receptions for him when I worked as his Administrative Assistant. Today I just did what I always used to do for him. It was a little therapeutic for me, as I thought about him and processed his life and death.

Today, hold the ones you love a little closer.  Remember that if you've had a bad week, those little annoyances are so small compared to eternity, and we need to love well the ones God has blessed us with.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Valentine's Day Appetizer- YUM!

I recently joined a fun group called the "So Cal Lady Bloggers," and this week we are having a Romantic Progressive Dinner, just in time for Valentine's Day.  Each person in the blog hop has a great recipe to share with you.

If you would like some yummy recipes to whip up for your loved one this Valentine's Day, you have come to the right place.

I was assigned an appetizer dish, and I found an easy but fantastic twist on traditional bruschetta.

Strawberry Bruschetta
24 slices French baguette
1 Tbls. butter, softened
2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
1/4 cup white sugar, or as needed

Directions: Preheat your oven's broiler. Spread a thin layer of butter on each baguette slice. Arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Place bread under broiler for 1-2 minutes, until lightly toasted.  Spoon some chopped strawberries onto each slice, then sprinkle sugar over the strawberries.  Place back in broiler for 3-5 minutes, until sugar is carmelized.  Serve immediately.

The best part of this recipe is that not only is it extremely easy and inexpensive, but it is beautiful and presents well.  You can also use less sugar if you'd prefer. Some might want to experiment with using Splenda or another alternative sugar, but I'm not sure how that would fare under the broiler.  Also, if you do not have baguettes available, try Triscuits.

Next up in the blog hop is another great appetizer, hosted by Jeanne at The Jolly Tomato. She will be sharing the recipe for Bruschetta Hearts.

You can visit all of the other amazing recipes in this blog hop by visiting the So Cal Lady Blogger's Page.

Thanks for stopping by!