So many people have made the comment that I am "strong" and they marvel at "my strength". In truth, this "strength" that I have is not me. Its something deeper than me. Something further than me. Its something that sustains me and can sustain you. This strength I walk in daily and find my comfort and peace was pre-ordained at this very moment for me. This strength that I have needed was prepared for me well in advance."For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord "plans to prosper you and to not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future..." Jeremiah 29:11I wanted to share the story of how gracious and good God is to me. Well before Shannon died, God prepared my heart for the very moment of Shannon's passing. There are things about the time before he died that will really show the greatness and mercy of God. There are ten things that God revealed to me about Shannon dying...things revealed years ago, things revealed not so long ago...each thing though bore a lesson for me to learn and brought a comfort to me in a time where most people crumble under the grief.
1. The Mantle. Years ago I came to the realization that God was passing the Mantle of Keith Green on to me. Keith Green has always been one of my favorite musicians. The first song I ever learned on the piano was a Keith Green song. When I was a senior I did a report on Keith Green's amazing life and untimely death. I had settled it in my heart that God was passing on the passion and talent of Keith Green to me. I had commented this to Shannon quite often and made the observation that Shannon's music was similar to Keith Green's in his chord structure, lyrics, spirit, etc. Shannon had said to me that he felt that when God said that the mantle was being passed to me, that it was really our union and ministry. Keith Green was at the height of his ministry and success when he died at 29.
2. The Revelation. When we got married God revealed to me that Shannon and I would only have 7 years. I never shared this with Shannon, because Shannon was so convinced that we would be together for 50 years or more. But each time Shannon would get sick, my heart would be reminded of the revelation that God revealed to me. He let me begin the preparations in my heart for losing the love of my life.
3. The Example. One of my favorite books is "Through the Gates of Splendor" by Elisabeth Elliot. I actually got the opportunity to meet Elisabeth Elliot years ago and did not know the full depths of the amazing woman of God I was meeting. I read her book after I met her. She lost her husband, and her book bears witness to her devotion to God and how she handled her life afterwards. I have had Elisabeth Elliot listed as my hero on my myspace page for years.
4. The Mirror Image. One of my favorite books of all time is "Maggie-Now" by Betty Smith. In a nutshell, Maggie-Now marries a man, they can't have a baby and eventually he dies. The books is written so beautifully that you feel like you are a part of the story. I have read this book probably a dozen times...I came to the realization that I was so similar to Maggie-Now a few weeks.
5. The Preparation. Its no secret. On April 17th of this year we would've been trying to get pregnant for 3 very long years. I am the type of person when you go through some major life issue, I read every book I can put my hands on and do as much research as humanly possible. I had read in several places that dealing with infertility was similar to working through the grief process. So for almost 3 years, I have learned the grief process and put into practice recognizing the signs and how to call them as they are and deal with them. Every single month, I went through this process. I was mentally building up the ability to handle traumatic situations and to see God through the situations. Now that I look back I thank God that we did not have a child. God knew that I couldn't handle being a single mother. He also gave us 4 1/2 beautiful years of an awesome marriage.
6. The Feeling. 3 weeks before Shannon died, I had this random, eerie internal conversation where I said to myself "I hope Shannon doesn't die" Then I talked myself through what I would do if he ever died. I think the movie "PS I Love You" or "Catch and Release" triggered this conversation in my head. I didn't think much of it at the time and just brushed it off. God let me start to think about the what-ifs...
7. The Contentment. On New Years Eve I made the public proclamation that in 2008 I would content in WHATEVER happened. I put that into practice and started leaning more on God and focusing less on the whole baby issue. Shannon and I began a merging of our souls, where we truly became one person. Our individual goals become our common goals. Our thoughts were centered on Christ and Each other. Our relationship had gone to an amazing new level.
8. The Peace. The day before Shannon left for Virginia, he stood in the kitchen exclaiming to me that he was in the best place he had ever been in his life. He said he was doing better mentally, physically (even using the phrase "that stomach stuff is way behind me now"), and spiritually. He said that for the first time in a very long time he was walking with God. When you lose someone you love, there's always that uneasiness about where they "go'. I had no question in my head about it. I knew that God had been preparing Shannon for his final departure. That god had arranged people in his path to encourage him and spiritually lift him up. He lived the last 2 months of his life with intense integrity, indescribable peace, and unstoppable faith.
9. The Promise. Years ago we went on a Sunday School trip to the mountains where a pastor spoke over me. I wrote down what he said. It never made sense until Shannon died. I'm only going to put bits and pieces of it, but you can totally get the picture..."...you shall see my power and my anointing flow through you...I have set you on this path and it is my desire to lead you and guide you into the fullness of my will for your life...follow my peace, follow my peace, and I shall lead and guide you in the things that still lie ahead. For you too this is a day of restoration. That which you've seen to consider lost, I still hold. Those things that have been trampled over and seem gone forever are still able in me...look for those things to be restored...so do not give up or give out, For I pour in today so that you may pour out"
10. The Future. God has spoken in my heart things about my future. Things that only He and I know. But He has given me a promise and a hope of what is to come.I stand amazed at the steps that God has ordered during this situation. God gave me 10 confirmations that this whole situation, as dire as it may appear...is completely in His hands. I see myself sitting in his hands...surrounded by His ten fingers... I sit in the palm of His hands, surrounded by his peace...He gave me these ten things to comfort and bring me hope about my future and my destiny. He gave me these promises and warnings and feelings so that I could prepare my heart for this event in my life. This event that drives people to the point of death and despair, this even that leaves people broken and lost forever...God has given me a supernatural peace and an insane faith to take what seems to a bad situation and has shown me that no matter what I do, what I feel, where I go...God is in control and everything is going to be okay.Most people take 12-18 months to really start healing from a traumatic situation like this. I thank God that I can say I am walking in that healing and my faith is being perfected through this. So I leave one final thought...right before the Sunday school trip, God lead me to a series of verses that revealed a huge message for me...for anyone really...
He IS our peace.
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life...Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding...And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus...Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all...I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances, I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation...Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances...Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet so that you may not be disabled, but rather healed...Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you...I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone O Lord, make me dwell in safety"