Grateful for Chains?

Philippians 1:12-14 NIV

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

Sitting in my hotel room, alone in Montana, this morning, Sunday, June 25, 2017, while waiting for Gary to arrive, I was contemplating working on my book, but just can’t seem to get my brain or my spirit around it. Doubting if I should even finish this book or just focus on other things and people in life, I struggle to think then pray.

Jesus, would you please direct me and show me how you want me to spend my time this morning?

Receiving word, very early today, that the sister of Taylor’s high school girlfriend was killed in a car wreck, leaving two small daughters, I wasn’t sure I could write. Tragedy hits again in the wake of the loss of my friends, Travis and Debbie, all within one month. Overwhelming chains weighing on my friends’ families.

Praying. Phone calls with just love and mourning together. Text messages of love. More tears for all.

Knowing I just need Jesus, I open my Bible, and can’t see to read, so missing a few sermons from church, I log on to my church’s website sermon audio files and try to pick one I missed. If I can’t read the Word of God, I can listen to it. Wanting to choose the most recent, instead logic (God) tells me I should pick the first one I missed, even though the title, Gospel Chains didn’t sound interesting or pertinent, since I’m not in prison. (Yes, I am dense sometimes).

Listening to Rodd Ritchie speak on our chains in life and how God uses painful situations to share his love with the world, I begin to reflect on my circumstances and was strengthened in my resolve to write to encourage others who have gone through the same things I have. While I am at peace with losing a child, and learning to have peace with a hurting grieving family, I spend tons of time in doubt about my purpose in all this pain.

Why my story; so many others have gone through the same thing? I’m not a trained journalist! Do I have what it takes? Why do I want to share this story? Are my motives right? Am I sufficiently pointing people to God? Why am I doubting Christ in me?

So, as I’m listening to this sermon, encouraging strength returns as I hear of other stories of pain where God has used tragedies to share his love – Dr. Kim from South Korea, Paul in prison, among others, friends and family my pastor knows. These people didn’t plan to share their stories elaborately, nor was it them who caused the seeds of their stories to grow in the hearts of others. They just loved and shared – period!

Each time, someone loses a loved one, my heart breaks again for them with the same pain I felt when Taylor died. While it can exhaust me at times, it is not a bad pain, but a blessing of love that I know only comes from God as his compassion must pour out of my heart into theirs. God, personally, and many others poured this same love and hope into me to prepare me for loss as I grew up and others after Taylor went to heaven, so it is a totally natural thing to pass it onto others.

Listening to this sermon, I reflected on my hope shared in the current losses of others and I also realized, how God did this again with someone who wasn’t currently hurting. Last night, I walked into the hotel restaurant alone. While I am pretty comfortable eating alone with my phone, it is usually an awkward situation for many, especially those watching us who dine solo, thankful it is not them. Another lone woman cautiously asked me if I’d like to join her. Always up for an adventure, I thanked her and moved to her table as others in the restaurant smiled watching a stranger showing kindness towards me.

We shared our vastly polar reasons for being in Montana; me attending a motorcycle club convention with my husband and she, a keynote speaker at a convention. As we talked, I could see she was an intelligent highly educated veterinary professor with logical analyses of life. I didn’t sense we shared the same faith or interests, yet we found interesting conversation as I listened, fascinated with her line of work. She calmly, yet passionately explained how her job works, caring for students working with large and small animals at her university. We discussed all my last five crazy dogs, their temperaments and maladies with humor and laughter. My potentially lonely evening turned into a fun learning experience for me with a new friend, despite our differences.

Near the end of our meal, we exhausted the animal world and moved on to our families which always leads to the passing of our son. When giving a picture our beloved children, I brought Taylor up lightly but she asked for a bit more information. Within about five minutes, I shared Taylor’s passion and hope, thus my hope and some of the good that has come out of our loss. Surprisingly, this seemingly emotionally guarded woman teared up. I was touched by her compassion, but felt I needed to stop talking about me. After a bit of silence, I asked about her family. She shared and then it was time to part ways.

Who knows how much of a seed of hope for now or in the future will take root in this woman’s life from my brief story. Throughout my life, others shared their hope in the midst of their chains and thus gave me hope, courage and strength when I needed it most. So, today, my confidence was strengthened that sharing love and hope from the chains of life with this woman, I planted a seed of hope in God in her life. God is the one who will make it grow, I just share God’s story in my life.

So, what chains in life are holding you down? Have you found purpose in your pain in sharing with others? It doesn’t have to be written in a book. Like this morning, just crying with a friend who lost her granddaughter. Like last night just mentioning a short story of hope from your life with a random stranger. For my precious friends in deep loss right now, don’t try to process what you need to do, just rest in Jesus and he will open doors for you to share as you walk this journey.

That voiced, onto writing a book about hope to share with others. I won’t worry about it being well done today, my editor and God will help with that. All this from asking Jesus to direct my day. He is so faithful…

 

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Mothers’ Day Prayer for My Children

Praying Scripture Over My Children

I have learned over the 30 years of parenting that praying for my children, especially as adult children, accomplishes more in their lives than lecturing them. My prayers have not been just for salvation during their lives but for abundant life in Jesus on earth. I believe in the power of intentional prayers and have seen many answers from praying scripture over my kids.

Two friends have asked me to share my Armor of God prayer I began to pray over our kids weekly this year. So for my wonderful children, Shawn, Angie, Josie, Drew, Bethany, Michelle, Paul and their new little one. I’m praying this for you all, thankful this Mother’s Day for each of you.

I’ve included Ephesians 3:16-21 which I’ve prayed since their early teen years and had etched on the back our family bench over our graves next to Taylor’s.

Ephesians 6:10-17 NIV (Italics mine).

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 

Lord I pray my children (name them) will always recognize and take hold of your strength and mighty power in their lives. I pray they will put on your full armor to stand against the enemy and his minions.

I pray they will see who is the real enemy, (not those in their conflict), and use this armor as you meant it to be used. I ask that you remind them to trust you with all you have equipped them to fight these battles. Help them know that most battles are won standing still in defense, with your armor, praying while you fight the battles for them.

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, 

 I ask that you remind them to stand firmly with truth in front of their eyes and that your truth is not clouded by deception, desires and the world. I pray your truth will be highlighted with your glory in their eyes so there is no doubt of your reality.

with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 

I ask that you remind them of your righteousness given to them from the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and that they walk as ones right with you, in honor as a child of the One True King.

15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 

Lord, help them to walk in your shoes ready to share the gospel of peace with everyone they meet. Whether it is in word or actions, may all those they meet sense your love and ask from where their peace comes.

16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

As the enemy attacks and seeks to destroy and bring doubt in the trials of life, help them lift up their shields of faith with eternal unseen eyes that will eliminate these flaming arrows, knowing you will win the war with them.

17 Take the helmet of salvation 

Please let them be ever confident in the gift of eternal life which they have accepted from you. Let them always be conscious of this amazing gift and walk in the light that comes from your resurrection power.

and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 I ask that they desire your Word and that the truth taken from your Word throughout their lives will be on the tips of their tongues as they use it in battle and share it in love with others to be able to give an answer to those that ask from where their hope comes.

Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV

Finally, Lord,

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches you strengthen my children with power through your Spirit in their inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith. And I pray that they, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that they may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

Putting on My Eyes of Faith Rather than My Eyes of Fear

slide1After hearing teaching from someone, I take in God’s truths deeper when I can process them through writing or re-communicate them through art. I planned to create this scripture picture on Sunday after Josh’s sermon and his point to put on eyes of faith rather than fear. For some reason, didn’t feel led to do it then. My meditations would have probably been life giving and would have most likely looked the same in this picture. However, since Monday, there have been things in my life, not to mention the news, that make this scripture and line of thought even more meaningful and healing in my meditations now.

Four years ago, I lost my voice from a paralyzed vocal cord, never thinking I would ever speak or sing again. I even jumped the gun and left my job, “retiring” thinking my teaching days were over.  Monday the same problems began again in my voice from over working them. To protect my re-calling to teach, I felt the Lord ask me to back off singing in choir at church, my favorite and most natural way to serve and worship God. I have been through this before and have a healthy plan for caring for my voice but, nevertheless, grief with fear creeps in.

Will I ever get my full voice back again? Will I be able to keep teaching? Can I sit in church without crying because I can’t sing? Who am I without my voice?

I asked those questions for a year back in 2012. At first, my “eyes of fear” gripped me and I wasn’t able to see God’s purpose in losing the most treasured talent He had given me. When I intentionally trusted Him, put on my “eyes of faith” and thanked him for what I had, the light dawned on His purpose – to draw me closer to Him.

God eventually restored my voice, despite a continued paralyzed vocal cord, but during my “somewhat” time of silence, God taught me to be still and listen for a deeper healing that I needed from Him. Again, this year, He has tried to help me be silent and listen to His voice and to those around me. (Exodus 14:14 and Zephaniah 3:17). With God, I tend to do more talking than listening and with people, I tend to want to put in the last word of knowledge and have an answer for everyone’s problems.

My time of silence four years ago, taught me that resting in him is my greatest calling and was a light in the darkness of what I felt I was losing. Again, life has become so busy for me that my brain has not been able to settle long enough to hear His voice. My chattering has increased again. Time to re-set!

As I have pondered silence again, this seemingly dark vocal issue is another gift of light that draws me closer to my Creator. I know the worst could happen, I may struggle the rest of my life with my voice or lose it completely. However, I also know I am not my voice, I am a child of God. “Eyes of faith” and His voice are what I need.

As of now, I rejoice that, carefully, I can still teach and help the next generation worship and appreciate music. Yesterday, at our school Veteran’s Day program, I was unable to sing. Because I stepped back, my students rose up and sang the best I have ever heart them sing. Christ shined through them as I hung back. The best and greatest hope I have is that I will be able to sing in eternity forever, without strained vocal muscles.

If you are struggling in fear, whether personal or global, be encouraged! Get rid of “eyes of fear” and put on your “eyes of faith” to see The Light, God’s Son, God with Us, who will not let us drown in the darkness of our fears our trials.

Silence in The Divine Romance

zephaniah-3-17-candle

My life has been a habitual journey of looking for God in everything.
Listening for his loud exclamations of adoration towards me and searching for gifts of obvious truth for my life in his Word, creation, in small and large miracles, have been the highlights of my life. His acts of revelation are how he romances us drawing us closer to himself and to remind us he is still here. The footprints of his love are everywhere to be found if we only keep our eyes and ears open, anticipating his next act of love.

When our son died, this habit was the tool that gave me strength to survive. God frequently revealed his love to me in special ways from the hummingbird, never seen before, at the cemetery which hovered over Taylor’s casket, looked at us all then flew over us, to dreams that comforted my heart, gave me hope and spoke to me clearly what God wanted to change in my heart. I began to expect constant clear signs of love from him, especially this summer as I had planned to finish my book about my life journey and God’s hand in our grief.

However, this past June started another season of God’s silence. Voicing my concern about this, my boss, Shelly, reminded me that God often says the most in his sweet whispers. I was asking for fireworks and needed to patiently wait for sweet candlelight. This started a deep season of listening and I did hear his whisper as he directed my plans for finishing a book, instead, towards grieving the loss of my mom and stepdad, spending time with friends and family plus harvesting an abundance of fruit in our back yard, which in itself is a text book of God’s wisdom! School started the week after we returned from my mom’s memorial. Back to a more rigorous teaching schedule, I’ve struggled with God’s apparent continued silence.

Guilt began to set in because I was REALLY getting tired of his silence at the same time wondering if I was doing something wrong as I felt so dry in my walk.  It was hard dealing with remorse for wanting more from the Creator of the Universe. While I forced myself to read my Bible each day, it was difficult to trust not knowing if God was going to say anything that would give me a spark of inspiration.

Reading the Psalms encouraged and reminded me that David too cried out to God, his Rock, to not be silent.

Psalm 28:1 (NIV)
To you, Lord, I call;
you are my Rock,
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who go down to the pit.

Psalm 83:1 (ESV)
O God, do not keep silence;
do not hold your peace or be still, O God!

Here was the man after God’s heart telling him to not be still! It made me laugh but at the same time gave me boldness to humbly continue to ask God to help me hear his words of love and guidance. In his sweet faithful patience, he did again, quietly.

My Lord gently surprised me one day around our wedding anniversary. After Taylor’s death, as I’ve said before, Gary and I began our journey of grief pretty much separately. He was unable to show his love well to me while drowning in grief. I was unable to show my love adequately to him as his weight of grief was too heavy for me to carry. Yet there was one constant thing we both knew for sure, we loved each other. Many times the best we could do was to sit on our porch swing and silently look at the stars or watch a movie together.

It’s been an up and down journey the last few years, but over the last few months, the Lord whispered to me to spend more time with Gary, rather than in writing. He quietly encouraged to me to trust Gary’s love and more purposefully show my love to him with his love languages, quality time and physical touch. I began to, once again, look for ways to spend time with him. If he asked me to go on an errand with him, even if it wasn’t convenient, I went. God reminded me to stop and rub Gary’s tense shoulders, even if I was feeling weak that day. Purposefully making him meals that he loved, even if they weren’t on my health-kick diet, became a habit again. I wrote him a letter and made  a video of our lives that affirmed his love and his pain which touched his heart deeper than I expected. That special peace in our marriage again began to grow.

On our 33rd Anniversary in September, Gary started to respond like the man I married and there was a spark of life in him as we celebrated the best anniversary since Taylor had gone to Heaven. He romanced me in the ways he knew I loved, a sweet card with words of encouragement, suggestions to go out to dinner and planning our next getaway. That comfortable long-life love began to show itself in our relationship even though it had been dormant off and on for three years. It wasn’t fireworks, but definitely sparklers coming alive again in our marriage.

As I meditated on this last week and looked into Gary’s eyes, I felt tears of awe as I realized he was unintentionally reminding me, through our love, that God does not always romance us with wine and roses every day either, yet his comforting love is always present and faithful.

Zephaniah 3: 17 is a verse that has fascinated me the last few years as I get energized hearing the words,

“he will rejoice over you with gladness” and
“he will exult over you with loud singing.”

It’s amazing how I missed the phrase between these two,

“he will quiet you by his love”.

God quietly revealed to me, through my husband, that he is not a boring lover. He wants to share times of silence with us just looking at the stars, gentle times of reminding us in whispers of his love in our quiet times, as well as delighting over us with shouts of his adoration and revelations of plans for our lives.

If the Divine Romance was always fireworks and loud surprises, we would miss the quiet and silent moments that fuel us with peace and deep confidence that our Lord’s love is solid whether he is shouting, speaking softly over us or loving us in silence.

Fully Living After Loss

 

Fully Live signature jpgSince our son Taylor’s Heaven-going journey, three years ago, I have had people frequently comment on my strength, often adding they would never make it through my journey. This statement tends to always make me uncomfortable because, while I want to appreciate the affirmation of what Christ is doing through me, I know I’m not strong. I tell them it’s all Jesus, but recently I asked the Lord to help me break this down simply to help them not live in fear of loss.

It’s actually very simple. I do nothing but decide, when I wake up, that I will trust my Creator and Savior. In every moment, I know I must intentionally keep my eyes on the hope of Heaven, remember my feet are on Earth, respecting my grief. It’s crucial I trust in two things. First I trust in Jesus’ power of His forgiveness for my sins and my son’s sins given at the cross. Second, to really live in joy, it’s imperative that I trust the power of His resurrection which provides an abundant life here and hope of eternity for all who believe. I like how my pastor put it so well last week, I must live my life in “Light of the Resurrection”. Recognizing this I have no fear of death or of living a life here without my son. As Paul put it so perfectly, “For me to live is Christ. To die is gain.”

Those who know me well, know there are many days I am not looking strong as I neglect my intentional plan and fear can grip me, especially fear for challenges my family members may be facing, especially my earth-bound children. Spending quiet time with God is the powering root to my trust and peace. Without it, I’m a pitifully weak basket case!

The Easter season after Taylor died, Bethany’s boyfriend died. I was agonizing in prayer over her pain, and the Holy Spirit very clearly spoke to my heart, “Carla, why can you so fully trust me to hold Taylor in Heaven, but you can’t seem to trust me with your children on Earth?”

I remember those words frequently as I pray for our three earth-bound children, but in order to not respond like a freaking-out crazy mom, I must intentionally believe each day that He meant what He said and will take care of my family on Earth. Fortunately, when I fail in this, He pats me on the back and says, “Let’s try this again…” So patient, is my Jesus.

On this third anniversary of our precious son’s passing, I am happy to say the routine of trust gets easier from my growing love for my Savior out of necessity of clinging to Him. I truly could not do this life without Him.

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Tribute to My Stepdad, John M Clark

John Vivian 2 toy

John 16:33 (ESV) I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

This past month has been a roller coaster of emotions. Taylor’s wife remarried, bringing us joy as she married a good friend of Taylor’s, then my step-dad, who was friend, mentor, father and grandfather to us, suddenly turned ill. Bethany and I eagerly made a trip up to be with him when he died, returned home to work for a week, then returned to Washington for his memorial service.  Through all these emotions, I am reminded again that Jesus is always there holding our hand through the ups and downs of life.  A few people have asked me to share my tribute I shared at the memorial. I actually only shared about a third of this as the rest of our family brought out most of these points for me. We all agreed, he is and was a wonderful man, reflecting Jesus.

My Tribute to Jesus in John M Clark

I first met my step dad, John, when Gary and I went with my mom and Matt to the Kent Nazarene Family Camp in 1984 on Whidbey Island. Gary and I were drawn to his infectious humor and obviously hospitable heart. Despite his recent loss of his wife and physical challenges from having polio, his trust in Jesus, his purpose for his life, and joy were evident. We began to see Jesus in him as we spent the whole weekend playing Rook. Eventually, my mom joined us at the Rook table towards the end of the weekend.

On the ferry ride heading back home, John, and his two children, Garren and Candi, were on the same boat. I hate to admit it, as we sailed back to the mainland, I stalked them, following them around the boat finally introducing myself to the the kids. Headed back to our car, I told Gary, “I never thought I’d want my mom to re-marry but if she did, I’d hope it’s someone like John.”

Within two months, they were dating, and they were married the next March. Then began my journey to see Jesus in a deep way in John’s life.

I saw Jesus as …
He loved and cared for my mom, and helped her update her clothing style while he was at it.
He made Carolyn, Matt and I his real kids. Loving us as his own, but still respecting our dad as our dad.
He carefully planned the most meaningful Christmas presents for all of us children, with the most precious being our Christmas village they spent a few years adding to.
He mentored me in teaching with love and logic before Teaching with Love and Logic was ever written.
He modeled perseverance and said, “Anyone can do anything or tolerate anything for 3 days”.
He rarely complained about his health problems until later in life as he longed for Heaven.
Each visit moved through a couple of years of playing Rook, then graduated up to playing Mexican Train Dominoes including the kids as they got older.
It was then I saw Jesus very clearly in our lives as we all forgave John multiple times for cheating and denying it!
He adored each of his grandchildren and let them ride his scooter or wheelchair. It was a sad day when you were too big to ride on the back of his chair.
He kissed his grand kids’ fat baby cheeks and prayed for them and all of us each day.
He and Mom never fail to call all of us on our birthdays and sing Happy Birthday to us.
I saw Jesus in a profound way as
He, my mom, my Dad and his wife, Mary Lou, put God first and us kids next in their lives.

The love of Jesus was most evident and so beautifully lived out as…
He and my dad took my young teen brothers, Garren and Matt, together to Promise Keepers.
He and all my parents and Garren drove in his van together, across the state to Matt’s college graduation.
He drove my mom out to Maryland and joined my dad and Mary Lou living with my sister for a about three weeks to help Carolyn as she delivered her third baby in three and a half years and graduated with her PhD. All the parents lived in the same house and shared the duties and worked with joy to support our sister.
He and all our parents came together for almost all our life events up until two years ago when their health began to decline.
He consistently prayed for my Dad and Mary Lou and visa versa when they developed struggling health problems. As one of my dad’s (I can’t remember which one) said it so well, “We have to get along in Heaven, we just decided to get a head start”.

This honorable behavior doesn’t happen with out the Spirit of Christ’s supernatural love living in families like ours. Dad and Mary Lou are here today. John, Mom, Dad and Mary Lou, we are blessed to have had you all as incredible models of Christ’s forgiveness and love. Thank you for loving all of us and each other so well.

There were many other ways I saw Jesus in Dad Clark’s life, but most clearly I saw Jesus in his last 4 days of his life.
He went beyond his conviction to persevere through anything for three days and chose to live another 4 ½ days awake with a respirator so we could get there to say goodbye. This was an especially precious gift from God as most people on ventilators cannot live outside a coma because of the extreme discomfort.
He still welcomed old friends and family into his ICU unit with an open heart, despite his pain.
He still had his sense of humor and used those amazing eyebrows to let us know what he was thinking even though for the first time in his life his chatty tongue was restricted.
His love and compassion flowed in tears as I asked him to hug Taylor and tell him that I miss him and love him.
He treated his nurses with hospitality, not demanding anything.

As there became less of John Clark physically, Jesus became more evident than I’ve ever seen in a life.
During a prayer time we had with one of the chaplains, he nodded his head with tears and hummed an amen as I prayed for his grandchildren that he loves so much and hated to leave.
My mom prayed without normal speech problems and I saw how her faith has not wavered in all this.
He became agitated and I remembered that when our son, Taylor died, I found Psalms were so comforting to my broken heart. I asked John if he wanted me to read the Psalms, and he quickly nodded.

I began with Psalm 1. As I read him the 23rd Psalm, when I got to the part “He leads me beside still waters”, he sighed a breath of pleasure. He then used hand gestures to have me read it again. I think I must have read that Psalm at least 10 times over the two days I was with him.

The hospital staff saw Jesus too. The doctor and nurse exclaimed over John’s spunk and kind heart and the love that poured into our dad’s room from the many people who visited him. They were also amazed at the love that poured out as we all were unified in the health plans for him because we had no fear. Other rooms were quiet or had fighting. Our room had laughter, singing and scripture mixed with tears. We had confident hope that our dad modeled for us. His hope of Heaven and seeing him again erased all fear from his and our hearts and we knew he would soon be sitting at the feet of Jesus and seeing Taylor and other loved ones he had missed for years. The hospital staff said most families are arguing during this stage of life and death. Garren shared with them that it’s because of our hope and confidence in Jesus that all five of us kids were unified.

In the last couple hours of his life, I was realizing how hard it was for him to live and how hard it was to die even with the most peace-filled medical measures. We experienced a beautiful sacred time that only came from worshipping Jesus as we shared scripture and songs and watched his countenance calm. Especially beautiful was listening to his granddaughters, Kaitlyn and Bethany, hold his hands and read scripture, sharing songs, and speaking peace over their grandpa trusting the Solid Rock of a God Whom their grandpa trusted.

As his last peaceful half hour passed, he opened his eyes and looked at me. I had an incredibly desperate urge to save him and keep him from the labor of dying. However, as there was almost nothing left of the physical John, I knew I couldn’t do anything to help him, only Jesus could, so the only words that could come out of my mouth, were to whisper to God asking him to wrap his arms around this precious man and fill him with peace.

Carolyn began singing, the rest of us joined as we could. This worship laced with sobs became a path to Heaven that our dad peacefully floated on through the veil to his Savior. Through our amazing Creator, we are labored into this world, and through Him we labor out of this world if we trust Him. After all I have gone through in the last two years and now this another sad time with our family, I have become even more convinced that in the end only my faithful Jesus can bring complete real peace.

Dad Clark knew he was an imperfect human living on an imperfect earth who needed his Savior’s sacrifice on the cross. He was confident that this Savior who died for him, was the only thing that would bring him peace and give him a new body in Heaven that could walk and breathe well. We are certain our son, Taylor, was standing behind Jesus and had a snow board and surf board all ready for him after John embraced Jesus.

Before I end, I want to publicly and deeply thank Garren and Katy, Candi and Paul, JP, Kaitlyn, David, Jordyn, and Emily, I have seen Jesus as you have cared for our parents so they could stay in their home and how you are all so lovingly supporting our mom and caring for her now when Matt, Carolyn and I are so far away. With the support of Garren and Candi and Paul, Katy has felt God distinctly call her to be our mom’s caregiver. This loving sacrifice is truly a priceless gift to her and our whole family.

To everyone who has loved and prayed for us, we have all seen Jesus as he has used each of you to show your love and support and hold us up in prayer. Thank you for loving our family so well.

Thirty-Two Years of Marriage – Not an Easy Job But Worth It!

Our Wedding Day, September 24, 1983

Our Wedding Day, September 24, 1983

I can’t let this day pass without praising God for 32 years of marriage to this amazing man. He has given me so much, most importantly, 4 beautiful children and grace. Through good and bad, I am more in love with Gary than I ever thought I could be, but a year ago, I was scared.

Divorce – NOT!

When we got married, we agreed the word “divorce” was never allowed in our vocabulary and we have stuck with that promise. We both knew marriage would not be easy but we knew we loved God enough to trust Him to take us through anything as long as we kept our eyes on Jesus. I remember as I said my vows, I drew a line in the sand of my heart and said to my Saviour, “This is it. This is the one I love and  I’m committing to. Thank you for giving me a loving devoted man.”

Joy and Sorrow – Grieving Differences

In the first 22 years, there was more joy than sorrow. Beautiful memories raising our children, wonderful friends, and growing in Jesus. The last 10 have been different and have made us realize we need God more than ever to keep our marriage together. Through each trial, we grieved differently and learned to grieve alone but still committing to keeping our eyes on God. I won’t share the whole story now, (that’s coming in my book), but a year ago, I didn’t know if our marriage would ever be happy again. It was never a thought of divorce but wondering if we would just have to resign ourselves to being sad forever. We found ourselves on different paths moving towards Jesus, wondering if we would ever be on the same path again. I was the bouncy, “let’s see the joy” member of the grieving marriage, always looking for purpose in our pain. I wanted Gary to pick up his bootstraps and find joy. He wasn’t ready for that and  I am tearfully ashamed to admit, I was impatient and not very understanding or consoling.

Undeserved Comfort

Suddenly, this summer, through different experiences, I swam through a deeper grief, more than I had since Taylor had died. It was my husband’s example of grief and his beautiful undeserved sacrificial comfort in my grief that restored a deep bond that I had forgotten existed between us. His unconditional comfort, despite the fact that I had not given him much consolation through the first two years year of our deepest grief, softened my spirit and heart as I floated down this surprising path of grief that God was taking me on.

Love Languages

As I allowed myself to fall into my husband’s arms and not try to be the strong one, a different kind of peace settled into my heart. I felt protected and cherished and began to desire to meet Gary’s loved languages – quality time and acts of service. I helped in the yard and ran errands with him, making time for him even if it might not be the most convenient time for me. My added daily summer duties became scooping poop and vacuuming the pool, chores I had despised in the past and now found comfort doing! He said these simple acts were a major blessing for him and he didn’t realize it but that blessing turned around and made me feel more loved than I had felt in many years by him.

Communication

We then began to communicate with each other and really listen to each other’s heart. We have always been a pretty decent communicating family, but this went to a whole new level. For you who know me, listening is not my dominant position. Talking is my default! I began to really listen to how Gary was feeling and ask questions to get a clearer picture of his heart. I was able to better affirm his feelings and he with mine.

New Love and Peace

Our anniversary is on the eve of Taylor’s birthday in three days and Gary’s in five days. Yes, we are dealing with sadness at a time that used to be a week of celebration. We are celebrating in a new way now rejoicing in the comfortable love and peace that is in our hearts after God has restored our hearts to a new love, deeper than we knew was possible.

Cropped Gary and Carla at McGinnis Wedding

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