Finding God In... GRIEF

“There is nothing left we can do; Hospice is the only option left.” Those words still rattle within my soul to this day. This past March those were the words spoken to me over the phone in regards to my dad. Let me paint the whole picture of this time period; my sister was in surgery having a 20-pound tumor removed from her uterus, my nine-year-old son was just released from the hospital after seven days, and I was emotionally and physically worn out. My dad had been diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) a little over a year ago, and things had progressed. In a matter of days, his MDS had turned to Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), and there was no turning back. At this moment God was the only one I could turn to while attempting to navigate which direction I needed to go.  

With a clear direction after heavy prayer, I knew exactly what I needed to do, head to Boston from Arkansas. The night I arrived he was in the hospital receiving his 5th unit of blood. I sat there, reached for his hand as I watched the blood drip drop by drop down the plastic tube knowing this was the only possible lifeline my dad had left. As the blood dripped, so did my tears. In this very moment, I felt a firm God nudge. I wasn’t there to just be with my dad; I was there to help him know Jesus and help him know that this was not “goodbye,” but rather “see you later.” My dad went to church as a child, but he and my mom did not raise my sister and me in the church at all. They saw the Christian faith as a checklist and not a relational entity. It was only eight years ago that I gained my relationship with Jesus, and my dad never wanted to hear any part of my faith story.

 

As I pressed in and enlisted prayers and advice from my Christian friends, one message stood out to me above the rest, “embrace this time, not just in the blessing with your dad, but seeing the veil as close as possible on this side of Heaven.” Let me be honest here, at that moment, I had no clue what she was telling me, but I went with it anyway.

 

During this time it felt like everything in the world was at a standstill. I would sit, chat, and care for my dad. We had a lot of uphill battles on this journey including finding the right Hospice group to meet his needs and what his doctor wanted for him. We went through five Hospice groups before finding a group that was meant to care for our family. There were no coincidences through this Hospice journey, just God’s fingerprints constantly around showing He was in control. It was almost as if God laid out a breadcrumb trail for us to follow to show us the path that would take us closer to Him along this road.

 

Within the first two days, the aide came to care for my dad’s basic hygiene needs. She was only a fill-in, and the regular one would be back in on Monday. My dad hit it off so well with her, and let's say this was not a comfortable area for my dad to listen to anyone. He was listening, they were laughing, and a connection had been immediately formed. To this day I am convinced she was an angel sent by God. She would talk Jesus and share amazing Christian songs with him. Little did we know at the time that she had even come back to work much sooner than she had planned after unexpectedly losing her 29-year-old brother just two weeks prior. In Massachusetts, this is not common to find someone so passionate and open about their Christian faith, but Liz, the aide, only spoke the truth, and my dad absorbed it. Then step in the Chaplain that not only was the Chaplain for this Hospice group but he happened to be the same man that had built a rapport with my dad at the hospital after all his stays. Between the three of us and the Lord, my dad came to know Jesus in his last days and it was such a beautiful sight. We have no doubt that my dad went right into the arms of Jesus on April 18, 2018.

 

Each step leading up to his journey to Heaven seemed to have a snapshot of, “only God” moments. My computer was completely shut down on one of these days, and loudly it began to play, “Christ alone; cornerstone, weak made strong, in the Savior’s love, through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of all.” (Shane and Shane, Cornerstone) Moments like these were constant; it was as if Jesus Himself was sitting in the room where my dad spent his last days, just adding love and joy to such a tough journey.

 

I miss my dad, more than I can even put into words. He was a rock in my life, and I don’t know how to do every day without him. But as I did get to live right next to the veil as my friend had shared with me, I wouldn’t have changed a single moment for anything. I have so many more stories I could share about the amazing love God graced us with through this time, but if I added them all, you might be reading this for at least an hour. So instead of you reading my post for the next few hours, I am going to share what I feel the most important words He has called me to share through this experience is; even in the rock bottom hard, open your heart and eyes to all the possibilities that could wrap around you. The sounds, the sights, the smells, the feel, the tastes of all things are so different when Christ is entirely residing in the moment, and we allow our world to stand still. Embrace the hard and know that He will shine a magnificent light when we allow ourselves not just be broken but to be His.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heaven's Front Porch

Jonah, my 3-year old and I have a game we like to play. We try to outdo each other in the love department. Usually our conversations go something to the effect of- Me: Jonah I love you to the moon.

Him: I love you to the stars!

Me: Well I love you to the sun!

Him: Well I love YOU to the (fill-in-the-blank)

I adore seeing how his mind works as he tries to out-big me with the size of his love, hearing how 'far' he perceives 'far away' really is. Our love goes to some interesting places, lately he's been stuck on the front porch for some reason. He has been ending our exclamations of love with "I love you to the front porch." It tickled me the first time and God-only-knows how that particular location ended up in the universe of possible destinations. But it did, and I am grateful.

Today he moved just a <bit> off the map though. Same general theme, but he traveled further. Today he ended with "Mom, I love you to the front porch of Heaven!"

Huh. What an interesting idea... the front porch of heaven.

He got me wondering if such a place exists, where it is, and what must happen there. Why did he choose such a particular location to end his love? I'm sure, being 3 years old, there wasn't too much thought put into it. But this mama sure is thinking about it- and because you get to partake in the misc musings of my brain- I wanted to work out on paper (or more specifically in a blog) the possibilities.

Front porches- where people enter a house, where company comes to visit, where the door is opened by the owner to guests. Where packages are placed, welcoming signs for the seasons are erected, cheerful wreaths celebrating holidays are displayed. The place where the doorbell is, the mat to wipe your feet, the lock that keeps out unwanted visitors. Front porches used to be the gathering place in the evenings, a place to watch the world go by and rock the evening away in a porch swing or rocking chair. We turn the porch light on to welcome people, allowing them to see the door even in the dark.

Ah- I'm beginning to see a picture. Are you?

Yes, indeed. Most of us do what we can to make our front porch's as welcoming as possible. We want them to be cheerful, well-lit, amicable, safe, and give the impression of hospitality. We want people to visit, to feel included and like family. We brighten the doorposts and put silly ringtones on the doorbell.

We want the porch to encourage people to ENTER IN to our homes.

Sigh.... having imagined all this, if the point of porches here on earth serves this purpose, then how much moreso would the front porch of heaven? I can only dream that God would have it adorned with the comfiest rocking chairs, the cheeriest wreaths, maybe some great angelic lighting to set a heavenly ambiance. He would have the best, most conversational, and warm hosts sitting around, ushering us up towards the door, handing us a cool glass of heavenly ambrosia as we walk by. I can see the golden stepping stones up to the stair-rails now- the huge front door, beautiful carved... in short, the most inviting, welcoming, heart-warming place you can imagine.

Because God wants us to ENTER IN to His House.

So where is this heavenly place? Does it exist? Just now writing this, I think it does. Only it's not where we think it would be- it is, however, where it should be. Where it needs to be...

The front porch of Heaven is right here on earth.

Dear ones, fellow Believers, we are His front porch! We are called to welcome people in, to draw them to heaven, to invite them over, to help usher them to the door. Though we are not responsible for their actual entry (their salvation), we are on the hook for providing that crucial entry area. The Church, it's members are the railings, the stepping stones, the friendship lanterns, the rocking chairs, the doorbells, the porch sweepers, the ambrosia pourers, the seasonal wreath-makers... just name it! How we treat people, what our witness is, how we proclaim God, how we share the Gospel- is that not all just the invitation to heaven? Are we not the very front porch of the Kingdom? Still on the outside, but right.on.the.cusp. of being inside.

Brothers and sisters, we are the front porch of heaven. Here, right now, where we are, doing what we're doing is either welcoming people closer to that door, or pushing them away. Not unlike the dark, rundown houses with "Beware of Dog" signs posted everywhere, broken porch slats, and burnt out lights with broken glass, the places that no one would feel comfortable going up to in broad daylight much less at night- so we, as the front porch of heaven, can eternally alter people's perception of the house of and character of God. The way we allow His porch to be displayed tells other's much about His nature and the way His House (heaven) is. More often than not the front porch gives a good indication of the state of the inside of the house.

So I guess the point of this blog just became how are we doing (both corporately and individually) with heaven's front porch? What is the impression we're giving of this house called heaven? How's your front porch light shining? Is the bulb working, does the glass need shined? What about the state of the door? Locked? Ajar? What about the welcome mat- what does it say about you? Is effectively engaging people on to the porch, sitting them in rockers and bringing some sweet tea?

More pointed, drawing this full circle as Jonah's proclamations echo in my mind, "Mom I love you to heaven's front porch!"

Can you love someone to heaven's front porch? Will you?

Can you bring them up and help usher them in? Will you be that welcoming and homecoming presence in their lives?

Who do you need to pull onto heaven's front porch today?

 

Matthew 5: 14-16 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl, instead they put it on a stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.