Chris Klicka's Journal
Written February 15, 2011 10:10pm
GOD IS THE ALL-WISE AUTHOR OF OUR LIFE STORY…
Dear praying friends,
This is my last entry on CaringBridge and being the day after Valentine’s Day I thought it would be fitting to end this blog by sharing a letter my dear Chris wrote to me back when he was a senior at Grove City College. My two oldest daughters just discovered the letter in some old papers of mine and thought I might like to read it again.
I am thankful they found it, for in the letter Chris shared the faith and trust in the Lord I so loved in him. Despite some struggles he was experiencing at the time, not knowing what his future would be or what he would do after graduating from college, like the psalmist he faithfully acknowledged God’s sovereign goodness and his own need for and dependency on Christ. Looking back, I believe it was our mutual reliance on the Lord and God’s mercy and sustaining grace that bound us strongly as one for the more than 25 years God gave us together.
A SNAPSHOT OF CHRIS’S CHARACTER
As I read over Chris’s letter I was struck at how Chris leaned on Christ even way back in his early 20s, and I marveled at how God was unfailing with him, giving Chris all the grace he would need for all the seasons of his life, including his 15 years with MS and his call to go home in 2009. This letter is reflective of the man God made in Chris.
Forgive my depressed attitude but since I have been back at school I have been struggling with a lot of burdens. The only way I will be relieved is to bring them all before the Lord and depend on His strength alone – not my own.
I know He is in total control of my life, yet I occasionally become overly concerned about the future. I begin to realize my great inabilities and wonder why the Lord even bothers with me. I wonder if I’ll ever get into law school. I wonder if I’ll be able to see you anymore after this semester. I wonder how I am going to handle the pressures of The Collegian (Grove City College’s campus newspaper, of which Chris was editor his senior year) without misrepresenting God’s truths. I wonder who is going to run the paper next year.
I know it is wrong for me to worry because much how much more will the Lord, who takes care of the sparrows take care of me? I know all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I should not have a worry in the world. My Father in heaven will take care of me.
Yet, lately, I have been frustrated. Everybody is asking me what I’m going to do after I graduate. Others ask me what you and I are going to do. Everybody is asking me to try to heal the division and misunderstanding among Christians on campus by trying to talk to the religion professors and writing articles for the newspaper.
But I don’t know what I’m going to do when I graduate. I don’t know what you and I are going to do. And it seems I don’t have time to help work toward resolving conflicts on campus. It is hard enough to put the paper out each week. Yet, I have to do what I can with what time I do have.
Oh Tracy, I am talking in circles. The Lord is sovereign. My faith and trust is in Him. I only ask that you help me remember this truth so I will not get frustrated over the uncertainty of the future. The Lord will enable me to overcome all obstacles – I must learn to take one day at a time.
Please pray for me.
I love you in His love,
A FRIGHTENING DREAM
About 10 years ago I was attending the HEAV state homeschool convention in Richmond, Virginia with my oldest daughter Bethany who was helping with the children’s program. As a young girl she had always been my wonderful mom’s helper and I thought besides having a wonderful opportunity to serve others she and I would have some special time together, so I brought just her with me. I wasn’t speaking that year so I had absolutely no pressure and just really enjoyed my time down there (sometimes it’s a blessing to just be an ordinary mom soaking up encouragement and ideas like a sponge, and HEAV is one of my very favorite conventions to just attend!)
In the middle of that first night in our hotel room, however, I was awakened by a horrible dream. For the whole of our marriage I can count perhaps on one hand the number of times I have remembered a dream, yet this one was so vividly etched in my mind, I can recall every detail as though I woke up from it just this morning.
In my dream Chris and I were walking hand in hand down a pine-needle-covered path through a expansive and fragrant pine forest with a canopy so high it allowed lots of sunshine to pour through. Quiet and peaceful, we were thoroughly enjoying our walk, when interrupting the stillness grew the sound of a fast moving wild animal drawing nearer from behind us on the path.
Coming to a screeching halt (like a character on a Saturday morning cartoon show) was this loud, boastful cheetah who completely ignored me but started talking to Chris. “I’ll challenge you to a race,” to which Chris replied to my amazement, “Well, sure!”
I remember thinking in my dream, “What on earth is he doing?” (Wives, you’ve probably never thought that about some crazy venture your husband has undertaken!) I didn’t have a moment though, to even form a reply when the cheetah took off, in only a few moments clearly way ahead of Chris, yet Chris still raced after him at Olympic speed.
Ahead down the path I could see the cheetah round a bend and continue on, making its way back as if on an oval racetrack, and then it disappeared. Chris was even further behind at this point, but remained undaunted and continued running as fast as he could. As he approached the same bend the cheetah had just taken, however, Chris’s speed was so great he couldn’t make the turn, and he ran straight off the path crashing through some hedges bordering the pathway. What he couldn’t see was that on the other side of the bushes was the edge of a cliff which Chris dashed straight off and was gone forever.
That was the point at which I woke up, sobbing out loud and yelling, “No, no, dear God, no!” I was covered in sweat and shaking, but immediately tried to calm down and quiet myself so I wouldn’t wake Bethany sleeping in the bed next to me. Asking the Lord for mercy and to be with Chris and the children back home, I lay back down to go to sleep, which thankfully I immediately did.
GOD’S UNMISTAKABLE VOICE
Moments after falling asleep, however, I started to have the exact same dream all over again! This had never happened before, and has never happened since. The difference between the first dream and the second dream, though, was that this time I knew what was going to happen.
As I heard Chris reply to the cheetah, “Well, sure,” I immediately grabbed his shirt with all the strength I had in me and yelled, “Noooo!!!!” I refused to let go of him and can still feel the power of my grasp on his shirt sleeve. It was at that moment I woke up a second time.
Needless to say, I was again sweating and shaky, and knew without a doubt the Lord was trying to tell me something. “Father God, show me what this dream means. I know it is from You, and you mean to tell me something important through this dream. I’m all ears and only want Your will to be done.”
I had no idea how to interpret the dream. I did have some dear friends though, faithful prayer warriors for us who were actually at the convention that weekend so I sought out some quiet time alone with them to share my dream. They agreed it was from the Lord but didn’t know what the He meant by it. After referring me to a good friend of theirs who has the gift of interpreting dreams I emailed her telling her everything I’ve shared here.
I didn’t hear back from this woman for some weeks, but when I did she told me that while she didn’t know what the dream meant, she felt the dream was for me and not for Chris. Not knowing what else to do, I told the Lord, like Samuel in the Old Testament did, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
It was more than two long years before the Lord showed me the meaning of the dream. In 2006 I seem to recall observing a significant turning point in Chris’s health. MS can affect just about any part of your body, including your mind. Chris had always had an amazing memory for detail and did up until the last months of his life, but about two years after I had my dream I remember Chris started really struggling with serious discouragement and bouts of depression that just hung over him like a cloud.
It was in the early stages of this that the Lord brought back to mind the dream and showed me why He gave it to me. I could sense He was saying to me, “I want you to be there with him when he is tempted to discouragement, when he wants to run like that cheetah but can’t. I want you to grab on to his shirt sleeve and speak my Words to him so that he doesn’t dash off a cliff in despair. This is My call for you as his wife and helpmeet.”
“Lord, I know You will be with me, but how can I possibly do this?” I cried. “I will be with you, and I will help you and be your strength. He is safe in My hands and you are safe in My hands.”
And so with God’s moment-by-moment help and power, and through sunshine and tears, God kept His promise to be with us, and helped me and all the children to come alongside Daddy with the Word, and prayer, and hugs, and kisses and help.
We didn’t always feel strong; in fact, more often than not, we felt weak just like Chris, but God was strong and that’s all that really mattered, as we pressed deeper and deeper into Jesus’ bosom until the day came when Chris could run like the cheetah into Jesus’ arms.
BACK TO THE “FUTURE”
I’m now in a place by myself where I could every so often literally echo Chris’s words in his letter to me so many years ago, “I know He is in total control of my life, yet I occasionally become overly concerned about the future. I begin to realize my great inabilities and wonder why the Lord even bothers with me.”
But then I read on in the letter and reflect on Chris’s confidence in God, “The Lord is sovereign. My faith and trust is in Him.” I sometimes long for someone to be here for me like I tried to be for him, to help me remember the truths of God’s Word as a hedge against discouragement, but I know with great certainty that, “The Lord will enable me to overcome all obstacles – I must learn to take one day at a time.”
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~II Corinthians 12:8b-10
With gratefulness for the power of the Cross, and for you,
Written February 5, 2011 4:38pm
THIS CARINGBRIDGE JOURNAL COMING TO AN END SOON...
Dear praying friends,
I've been writing articles in preparation for convention speaking this year, and so thought I would share one of my articles with you. As always, whatever I write about seems to be the very area where God wants to work in my heart. I would be grateful for your prayers that I would trust the Lord for His work in my heart and in the hearts of my children for our good and His glory. I know I need to preach the gospel to myself once again!
I would also like to invite you to check out my blog, www.TracyKlicka.com. If you want to get notification on blog entries, you can sign up for them, just like here on CaringBridge. This CaringBridge journal will only be active for a couple more weeks, with February 14 being my last entry. I am grateful for CaringBridge.org, and even more, I am grateful for all the dear friends who prayed for Chris the last weeks of his life, and have continued to pray for our family. Thank you so very much! The Lord strengthen, equip and use you for His glory!
THE HIDDEN POWER OF GOD IN PARENTING
Every now and then I pull out an old photo album of our family, just for the laughs I get at seeing again some of the antics of our kids when they were little. From their experiments in the kitchen where my young girls would often seem to get more of what they were trying to bake on themselves than in the oven, to their elaborate productions complete with costumes, props and dramatic voices, I love seeing their smiling, giggly faces and remembering their laughter.
Those days seem so long ago now. In the midst of raising five teens and having launched, but certainly not let go of two adult children, I sometimes miss the busy, boisterous, creative days of my young children and their smaller, more easily manageable challenges!
There is a beautiful discovery awaiting every parent, however, when their children reach the young adult years. It’s called growing up. I’m not talking about our kids growing into adult bodies; rather, I’m referring to our children growing in maturity and wisdom and fruitfulness for the Lord.
God has given us a gift during the years our kids are transitioning from children to adults. There is a tremendous amount of amazing development going on in our young people during this time, but it often is masked by the questions, doubts and struggles our children have along the way to adulthood.
The Example of Bamboo
I love the story of the farmer and the Chinese bamboo tree, for it accurately reflects what the teen years are often like. When a farmer plants a bamboo tree in the ground, though he waters and fertilizes it for a year, he sees absolutely no growth. The second year he does the same and he sees…no growth. The third year is spent doing the same. Again, no growth. At this point, I’m wondering how the first bamboo farmer kept going (!) for once again, in the fourth year, though there is the same faithful watering and fertilizing…there is alas, no visible growth.
This last adjective is important to notice—for several years the farmer sees no visible growth. This is where as parents so many of us can relate. We invest in our children’s hearts, giving them the Word of God, praying with and for them, seeking to bring the truth of the gospel into their lives. Then we wait with longing to see spiritual fruit and genuine faith come forth from their hearts. And for many of us, what we see is similar to what that bamboo farmer sees—a tiny, little stub of a bamboo shoot, certainly not reflective of what we’ve been pouring into our children for so many years!
What the bamboo farmer doesn’t see all those years he’s tending the bamboo is that the tree has been growing an extensive and powerful root system that finally, during its fifth year, will support an incredible growth spurt of as much as three feet a day! In just a few months’ time, that bamboo tree will grow 80-90 feet!
I confess that often in parenting my teenage children I’ve been tempted to anxiety and fear when a child questioned my authority, methods or direction. I’ve gotten discouraged when I’ve heard words that clearly were not indicative of faith in their hearts.
In addition, at times I myself have given in to anger and frustration, wanting to somehow mold my children into obedience and faithfulness. Parenting alone can be especially challenging, and I so miss Chris’s patient, faith-infused input as the spiritual head of our home.
Does the Farmer Make the Bamboo Grow?
God gives us solid wisdom in His Word that He is the one who guides, protects, and works in hearts, mine as well as my children’s! One very meaningful verse as I seek to nurture and train my children in the Lord is found in Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Knowing God is the one at work in our children’s hearts, and knowing that He can be trusted with the nurturing and shepherding of our children’s souls give parents great hope.
We can have certainty that, although we may not see a consistent season of fruitfulness in our children’s young adult lives, God can be trusted with their hearts. Does this mean, however, that as parents we just sit back and do nothing during our children’s teen years because God is at work? Never!
Just before this verse in Philippians 2 Paul instructs believers, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence, but much more in my absence work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12-13)
There is a beautiful balance between our faithfulness and God’s work. Just as in the Christian life we are to seek after God with all our hearts and ground ourselves in His Word that we might grow in godliness, God wants us to be busy as parents, teaching and training—studying our children, praying with and for them, giving them the wisdom and power of the Scriptures, and listening to their dreams and fears and frustrations and struggles—all with our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Our young people are often up and down moment by moment, and can sway widely in their desires and goals. Some of our children have God clearly in their viewfinder yet still need lots of direction; others seem to be chasing castles in the sky without a thought for their Creator. When we fix our eyes only on our children’s words and behavior, it can be like seeing just the little stub of the bamboo tree above ground.
Two Ways of Looking at the Bamboo
Looking at that little bamboo stub year one, two, three and even four, we might be seriously tempted to laugh and say, “You’re trying to tell me that is a bamboo tree? I’m just not buying it!” Likewise, looking at our children and seeing nothing but a little stub of Godwardness (I know, I made up that word!) may stir up unbelief in our hearts, as I know it has me, and cause us to weep for our children’s souls. We can give in to hopelessness or self-condemnation when we don’t see a tall, strong bamboo tree in our children.
Seeing spiritual growth in our children, however, can be just as much of a stumbling block as not seeing fruit. Our response as parents to seeing or not seeing maturity and spiritual fruitfulness in our children can either be one of pride and false confidence, or utter despair and condemnation. Neither of these is what the Lord wants for us.
When we see spiritual growth in our children we may somehow think we are the ones responsible for that fruit. Philippians 2:13 is a strong reminder, however, that it is God, and Him alone who works in us and our children not just to do good, but also to even desire to do good. Look at that bamboo; ultimately, we as parent farmers do not make it grow. God does. This is both humbling and comforting.
On the other hand, when our children seem to be in a state of spiritual stagnation, or worse, when they look like their hearts are being drawn away from the Lord, this is also the time to remember the bamboo plant. While there is no guarantee that their hearts are growing in the right direction, when we’re not seeing visible growth it may nevertheless, be an indication that God is still indeed at work in their hearts, though His power may be hidden from us for a season. This is also comforting and a reason for hope.
God wants us to look with eyes of faith, parents. He is the one who works in hearts; He delights to show Himself strong toward those who diligently seek Him with all their hearts (II Chronicles 16:9)—what is to keep us, as parents, from running after the Lord?
Our Father loves to magnify Himself in our eyes. We can cry out to God for Him to be at work in our children hearts, drawing them to Himself in faith, trust and surrender. This kind of prayer and our dependence on the Lord, even as we “work” to reach them for Christ is very God-glorifying!
After years of crying out to God on behalf of my children for Him to be their first, best and truest love, I am seeing strong shoots of faith in their lives. With trust in a great God who loves to see His children grow, we can anticipate God’s marvelous work of root building in our children that will, by His grace lead to hopefully, an explosion of spiritual growth just like that bamboo tree.
Grateful for the gospel and the power of God,
Written January 27, 2011 2:15pm
FOR THOSE WHO'VE EXPERIENCED DEATH...
I've been hearing about a lot of deaths lately--an elderly woman in a friend's church; the father of longtime friends of ours in New England; a fellow momblogger's friend whose mother-in-law died in a car crash and whose husband was the policeman on the scene of his own mother's accident.
No matter who it is that dies, or how and when it happens, death is just plain ugly. As eternal beings created in God's image, we were made to live forever. Yet death can never be avoided, not indefinitely anyway. As Chris used to say when sharing the gospel in the back of a taxi with the driver, or on a plane next to a fellow passenger (notice how he used opportunities to bring life to captive audiences?), "You know, statistics reveal that 10 out of 10 people die."
While this might bring a smile to some faces, those walking through the death of a loved one are faced with the deepest pain we can experience. There is no escaping it, but there is a way to grieve with hope.
Chris so loved the Lord and our family too, with him. Knowing that Jesus Christ died in our place for our sins so that we might have life doesn't remove the necessity of death, but it does give us such great hope for this next, our eternal life with our great Savior!
I got to attend Josh Harris' church Covenant Life last Sunday with Megan and our kids (even Ben & Bethany joined us). It was so good for us to be there that particular Sunday. They had just lost two of their parishioners earlier that week (one, a godly dad about Chris's age, who contracted Lou Gehrig's disease just a year and a half ago, and the other, a young godly woman of 19 who had an unexpected brain hemorrhage just a month ago).
In addition, Josh and his wife Shannon just lost her sister-in-law a week ago, so death is so very fresh and real to Josh. His sermon in light of these deaths and his own mother Sono's death last July was a powerful testimony to Christ's triumph over sin and death. You could tell Josh was quite overcome by all the loss (visibly puffy eyes, sorry Josh, and voice breaking at times), but his message rang out boldly affirming the truths of Scripture. Everyone will die, but Jesus has come to save us from the second and eternal death!
This message is well worth listening to, so I've included the link. Come, all who mourn yet hope in God.