a guest post from Grace

“I am Grace. And I will do my best.”

That was how Grace introduced herself from the stage at Will’s memorial service. I can still hear her soft, strong voice; I can still see her firm stance and steady smile. She wore a dress with a flower print that day and I loved her for it. I love her for many things – for the way her decisions are full of purpose and her words are carefully chosen, for her patience with all of us who are grieving someone we loved while she is grieving her own self… because she is the only one who loved Will as her own body.

I am humbled to post her words here and honored that she shared them. She, like Christina, insists that she is not a writer. But if either wrote a book, I would be the first in line to buy. I am learning about truth and honesty from them both.

As I drove down the country road toward the town of Davis, CA and away from the home my husband and I had just moved into, I grew more anxious about my first counseling session. I felt ill-prepared. Having never gone to a counselor before I realized that maybe I should have prepared goals or thought more about what questions I might have or come up with a succinct way of describing what ‘my situation’ is.

When I parked, I flipped quickly through the few pages I had journaled since Will died (I don’t journal… I think maybe my last journal entry was from junior high) to see if I had put down any thoughts I should share during my hour session. I sat anxiously in the waiting room until the clock read 3 and a kind-faced woman came out and introduced herself to me. The moment I sat down on the couch a blend of tears and snot began its descent down my face.

I never quite know the source of these outbursts any more… this one I tried to explain to her was, yes, due in part to anguish, but also because the task of relating who I was, who Will was, and who we became together seemed an insurmountable task. I hate that interview question, “Please tell me a little about yourself.” What do you say, how can you convey all the nuances of yourself to someone in words? How do you know what is relevant? And how do you not come across as prideful? When she inevitably asked me that question, I gave her the bullet points of my life….

“To start with, I’m an introvert. I was born in California to Christ loving parents, I have one older brother, we moved to Iowa when I was in elementary school, my mom died in a car accident when I was 15, I was an incredibly shy and self-conscious teenager, I enjoyed sports and especially running, I met Will the summer after high school when I was a counselor at a Christian summer camp where he was the director, we dated long-distance for 4 years while I went to school at UC Davis, we got married after I graduated college, my grandma passed away from cancer just a month ago, and Will and I had been married almost 3 years when he died in a car accident driving home after a late night at work.”

But what I couldn’t convey…. what I couldn’t say because the thunder of sobs was closing in…. was who I became because of Will. I couldn’t express that it was because of Will that I, that we, became more fully the people God intended us to be. I couldn’t express that without him I don’t know who I am or what life is supposed to be…. and that I’m not ready for a life that is not the one Will and I had planned together. The life that now includes chickens and a big community garden on the property where we just recently decided to rent a tiny house, the life where we were going to build a home and have little curly-haired children with big Nichols-thighs, the life where we were going to continue to love and serve God and one another.

I’ve been trying to sort out the mess in my head. And let me just say, I don’t typically have the patience for this kind of introspective stuff. It’s like my head contains shelves that, in the earthquake of loss, memories and emotions got tipped off and are now intermingling on the dusty floor. Sorting and sifting through the wreckage and reconciling God’s truths to my heart is HARD. And through reading and praying and journaling and thinking aloud to my counselor God has faithfully shown me that He is present, even now as I’m working to sort through the pieces that don’t make sense.

One of the truths about God that I’m wrestling with is that God is sovereign. Tim Keller describes it well in his book called Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering when he says, “But the Bible depicts history as 100% under God’s purposeful direction, and yet filled with human beings who are 100% responsible for their behavior—at once.” So God offers comfort in the truth that He is in control.

To be honest, that is a truth I am on my knees praying for and at the same time can’t bear to accept. It is a truth that says ‘Will’s death was not an accident because I knew the number of his days.’ Guilt has consumed me the past weeks knowing that if I were less selfish I would have insisted to Will that he stay in Reno at a hotel to get some sleep before driving home or that I should have insisted to Will that he call me so I could help keep him awake while he drove. But knowing that God knew the number of Will’s days offers freedom from that guilt. The truth of God’s sovereignty also says ‘I intended you to experience the loss of your love and to live life as a widow.’ This is something I’m not quite ready to be ok with. I know that I’m not the same person. Though I’m not ready to know this new person, this widow, quite yet. I’m not ready to say goodbye to the person I was with Will, because he was the best part of me.

The last part of the truth about God’s sovereignty, the one that is most important, is that God had determined that Jesus would die on the cross to offer redemption for our sins. And because I know and believe this truth I know one day I will depart to be in Heaven where I will be face to face with Jesus and in perfect community with William and all the other Christ-believers who will have gone before me, experiencing ultimate joy and fulfillment. Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven has been so good to read and has brought so much peace. Up until now, I’ve always just considered Heaven to be preferable to Hell and left it at that. But wow…. I feel that finally I am understanding Paul when he tells the Philippians that he desires to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far (Philippians 1:23).

Will, the morning after he proposed to me and before he had to hop back on a plane to Iowa, wrote me a note on my computer than I recently rediscovered. And the last line is one that I’m holding onto each moment. He said,

“Know that I love you, and although parting is always very painful, when we see each other once again it will be all the sweeter.”

This ‘parting’ has been very painful and the road ahead will be difficult, but I will choose to continue to ask God for the endurance to run the race set before me (Hebrews 12:1) with my eyes fixed on the goal, Heaven.

Find all the writings on grief at this link and join with us as we mourn in hope.

heaven’s my home, anyhow

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
(Philippians 3:20-21 ESV)

I used to think heaven was a far-off, mysteriously cloudy place with a full orchestra on loop. I understood my “heavenly citizenship” to mean I had a ticket to get into some gloriously holy, underwhelming theme park where all the rides would be safe and all the fun would be clean.

Man, was I ever wrong.

No, I don’t believe that heaven is full of unholy and unsafe rollercoasters with unruly people. Rather, I realized that my knowledge of heaven was incomplete because I believed an incomplete description. It’s hard work to find out what the Bible says about heaven, true. But, it’s work that allows us to live like the Gospel is invaluable. What we think about heaven and eternity completely informs what we think about today, what we think about life, and what we think about the message of the Gospel.

When we share the Gospel like this, “Believe in Jesus because otherwise you’ll go to hell!” we are not doing justice to the message. If you were a sought-after artist, it would be like telling someone you would paint a masterpiece and then only covering a corner of the canvas with paint. Is it a part of what will be the bigger masterpiece? Yes. But would someone admire that little corner of the masterpiece as he would the whole? No. They would call it incomplete (actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if the art community would seize the unfinished and project meaning anyway). I would call it incomplete.

And this is what I think we do with heaven. It’s that place somewhere that I’ll be someday because I believe that Jesus died for my sins, according to the Scriptures – because I believe that Jesus took on all the messes that ever were and ever will be and stood in the place of their consequence. But, why?

Because of Christ’s work on the cross, we are brought into right relationship. This is what eternity is about. This is what heaven is about: right relationship that I do not deserve. And it’s not as mysterious as we’ve been content to think. A more robust view of heaven and eternity means a life blooming with gratitude and joy. When we have eyes to see God’s plans for heaven, we have a heart to reach out and pull others in to gaze at the wild beauty.

Randy Alcorn says, “If you lack a passion for heaven, I can almost guarantee it’s because you have a deficient and distorted theology of heaven (or you’re making choices that conflict with heaven’s agenda). An accurate and biblically energized view of heaven will bring a new spiritual passion to your life.”

Heaven is not an escape from this earth. It’s not where we will finally run where no evil can find us. Heaven is God’s idea of complete restoration – a peace between God and man and all of creation that hasn’t happened since the Garden of Eden. This gives perspective to our momentary troubles, but it also brings a passion to live absolutely abandoned for God’s purposes.

This song, “Heaven’s My Home” is another among the many that focus on a distant land, another home, a forever refuge. Featured in the film, “Secret Life of Bees,” this song captures some of the reasons why we hope for something beyond right now. The brokenness we see and feel in this world is unsettling. That little piece of eternity set in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) is uncomfortable thinking this is all there is. But, I hope we are not content with simple descriptions of harps and clouds and mystery. I hope we dive into the Word and trust that the Lord knows best what eternity is made of… and that He might want us to know a thing or two.

Sam & Ruby Live- “Heaven’s My Home” from sammy b on Vimeo.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy