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,