Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Stolen by Caroline Klug

I love reading novels that leave me with something. A nugget, something to ponder, something that causes a change within me. This is just what happened when I read, Stolen, by Caroline Klug. 

Maybe what I love most is that this isn't just a thriller. It isn't just a read for leisure. It's one of those exceptional novels that is weaved together with an important message given to us through an allegory. This thriller connects us to these penned words through the verses that come from Colossians 1:13-14 "For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins." 

The writing is strong and poignant with a message of hope. When darkness lies all around us, when we feel lost and worthless, He is there to show us His light and make a way for our escape from the darkness into His grace and freedom. 

Each chapter travels from past to present that leaves the reader with a constant twist. I have to share that the first few chapters were difficult for me to read. It wasn't the writing. Klug's writing is exceptional. She draws in the reader with such descriptiveness that you can only imagine yourself in the position of the character facing their circumstances and choices. It too was the truth in her penned words. The deep and utter brokenness that moved me. Klug's writing is so descriptive that it brought me to feel the desperation in the characters. Their hearts are open for us to see. Their fear becomes our fear. The terror they feel isn't something made up, but is something very real for thousands each and every day. Stolen brings the reader to look outside their own backyard into the world around us that is very real, but can easily be missed if we are not paying attention outside of ourselves. 

With Klug's allegory it makes this novel so much more. It brings a message of redemption. We find within these pages characters that believed lies told to them. In fact they believed so much in those lies that they became those lies told. Their choices no longer right and wrong, but what the lie has developed within them. Very much to the degree of just living, taking a breath and trying to survive. This soon is life and they can't imagine a anything different. 

Something else that I love about this novel is that when the main character changes her name she does so that no one will know the her real name, who she is or where she came from. The name she goes by is Star. For me, whether or not the author meant this to be huge, it was very poignant for me.  Star may have been trying to remain hidden from the world, unknown to everyone around her, but to God, to her Savior, she was a star, one that He knew before, in her present, and would know her future. Whether or not she realized it at the time, she may have not known Him, but He certainly knew Star.

Those lies changed Star. She didn't begin her life as Star but with another name. One that she had forgotten. As the lies became her new life her past faded from memory. She wasn't necessarily trying to forget who she was. She wanted to run away to something better, but one choice led to another and soon her choices were no longer her own. She now became owned by another.  

We see characters being held captive. Chains holding them in a darkness. Sex-trafficking is real and it is all around us. It is in our small towns and big cities. Klug brings to light a message that we try to ignore. I applaud her for writing with a purpose. This is one of those novels in which our time invested leaves us with more than we ever expected. At least that's how it was for me. Now more than ever we learn of sex trafficking and the horrors of these girls being kidnapped, now at ages of seven and nine, into a world where nightmares are now reality. 

This is one of those novels that will stay with you. At least it has for me. I seen a review that said something along the lines that as a reader she found it hard to understand the characters choices because she wouldn't have made the same. We tend to think this way when something seems near impossible to us, don't we? We simply can't imagine. Brokenness and lies bring the soul to be held captive into believing we are worthless and useless. We find ourselves in positions we never imagined possible, but there we are and now our next step seems immovable. But then there is love, grace, and mercy. A hand reaching out. Truth seeks us. His hand guides us. There in the midst of our impossible becomes possible through Him.

There's another aspect I loved. A character that isn't seen a great deal within the pages, but his character is so powerful for me. Star's father. This runaway thinks she's forgotten. The lies have told her no one wants her. Her unworthiness has made her an outcast. She's told lies that her father doesn't want her. Never wants to see her again. But what I love is that he never gave up searching. His love remained. A love that was unconditional. He is there with open arms. A father of grace. For me, this was a clear example of our heavenly Father's unconditional love. He's there. Never leaving us.

If we listen to Satan, if we listen to his lies we will soon be believing that we are just as he says. Unloved and unwanted. It is a daily struggle for so many. This is one reason Star never tried to escape her capture. He said he was trying to protect her. Trying to keep her safe away from those who didn't want her and would never believe her. She is no longer running away, but running toward her father. Oh, this picture of grace and redemption stirs my soul. I love that moment she realizes the lies that held her still and remembers the truths within her brings freedom. They may have been buried, covered with deceit, but never absent, always remaining to be brought to light.

We are given a glimpse at this new life. Our main character no longer goes by Star, but her given name. The one that speaks truth of who she really is. As we turn the last page we witness this hope as her new life begins. This is one novel where everything has meaning. A story with a purpose. She is ready and willing to share her story, to touch hearts of others. She is now living with a new outlook. She was saved. Her father waiting with open arms. She wants to live out that same hope to others who are hurting and in need. She wants others to know their worth and that amazing grace she received. 

If you're searching for something different, something more than just a good read, I encourage you to grab a copy of, Stolen. It will take you on a journey to places unexpected and hearts unknown to a place of peace and renewal.


This novel was a gift from the Caroline Klug for sharing my review with you. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Never A Stranger Does He Meet

Jericho was about to have Jesus come and walk among the people. The gossip was a buzz. Could it really be? The streets began to crowd with people. Some with anticipation others with curiosity. Zacchaeus hears of this news and wants to see who this Jesus is. 

Do we wait in anticipation for Jesus? Do we wake expecting to see His glory? Zacchaeus is curious and pondering this Jesus. Wait, is He approaching? He can't see. Oh, if only the people would give room for him to witness this King of kings. He doesn't want to miss out. Could Zacchaeus be expecting Jesus to be all he has heard about? He surely isn't giving up on getting a glimpse of Him. He runs ahead and with his short legs climbs a sycamore tree. 

Zacchaeus sees Jesus, but did he expect Jesus to see him atop that tree? Jesus looks up. Their eyes meet and Jesus calls to him.  Can you imagine this moment? Did Zacchaeus look around puzzled as if to say, "Me? Are you speaking to me?" He was just wanting to see Jesus, but here Jesus looks up to him and calls him by name. Oh, my friends, a stranger has Jesus never met. It stirs my heart to ponder all that Zacchaeus must be feeling. This time was planned in advance by a Savior who all along was preparing the heart of  Zacchaeus.

"Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. but when they saw it, they all complained, saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner." Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:1-10

I love how Scripture shares with us that Jesus knew his name. It makes their meeting intimate even in the midst of a crowd. Zacchaeus climbs down from the tree and there is Jesus waiting. What a glorious sight to ponder. Not a chance meeting at all, but one that was planned for this sinner to meet his Savior face to face.

Zacchaeus had everything monetary. He was a wealthy man. Even though he had everything, was there something missing? I love that Zacchaeus was curious and wanting to see the Savior. He wasn't worried about what others thought. I mean as he climbed the tree what were others thinking of him? Zacchaeus was about to find out those around him would judge and point fingers, but he was in the presence of the One who would change his life forever. No one else mattered at the moment. The Savior was calling. Zacchaeus answered the call.

Can you imagine Jesus wanting to come to your house and stay the night? Zacchaeus was a tax collector. A schemer who deceived others to make his wealth. A sinner in need of forgiveness and grace. A home that needed the presence of Jesus. It mattered not to Jesus that Zacchaeus was a sinner. Jesus was welcomed and Zacchaeus was hospitable.

A short man in a tall tree. What does this say to me? Jesus always makes a way. He provides a vision. He prepares the way. Nothing can keep us from our Savior when He is calling. There is no distance He will not cross. The crowd too deep. Jesus makes way for a tree top. He will always give room for us to see if only we are willing.

But get this. Zacchaeus wasn't the only tax collector who he asked to follow Him. In Scripture we also meet Matthew. As Jesus was walking He passed by the tax collector's office. Again, not a chance meeting. Jesus sees Matthew through the window and calls him out. He speaks and says, "Follow Me" {Matthew 9:9-13}. Jesus goes to the home of Matthew and sits with many tax collectors and sinners. Once again the people didn't understand why Jesus and His disciples would be within their company. Jesus explains, but just today many didn't care to understand at all, but those with willing hearts were ready to accept. Don't you just love how Jesus steps out and makes way for us? Don't you love that Jesus isn't afraid of sinners?

"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:17

People didn't understand why Jesus would dine with a sinner. I believe many of us today wonder the same. How often do we dine with sinners? How often to do we invite them into our home? When was the last time we invited the Savior in to dine with us? We tend to leave Jesus out and we cast aside the sinners. I'm just being real here. In church I was taught to surround myself with only Christians. We were taught to not have relationships with sinners, with those not saved. I look back and see that my life was empty of people who didn't know Jesus as their Savior. How was I to share Jesus with the world if the world wasn't invited into my life to witness Him in my own?

Like Zacchaeus and Matthew there's a world out there filled with people searching for more. For something to fill the emptiness. Jesus provides a sycamore for every sinner. Just like Zacchaeus, Jesus made a way for me. He had set in motion long ago our meeting. He planned and then hoped in patience for when that day came I would be anticipating His call. I came as a sinner. He met me as my Savior.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God has passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." {Romans 3:23-26}

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Courage As Trials Keep Coming

Are you right now, today, facing a trial? It seems they come at us from every direction. Right? I mean all we want to do is share coffee with a friend and before we leave the house the phone rings with news that knocks us to our knees. When I take a look around I see so many going through different trials. All facing different seasons in their life. It seems just as one leaves another is waiting.

I have friends who are going through trials. My best friend is still grieving, five years now, the death of her son. Does it ever end? Does it get better or do you learn to live with the pain? Trials seem to gather in clusters and attack just when we think all is calm. In that calmness if we are not cautious we can live in fear of the next one to come. Been there? I know I have been. I lay awake at night thinking of what's coming next. Oh, to live in that fear is not good for us. It isn't living without faith or needing more faith. I have tired of hearing people say, "You need more faith." More faith? It isn't that I don't have faith. It's learning to trust and to be obedient to our Lord. Our walk is such a vast array of growth. It happens throughout our walk, but at different intervals. 

Trials. They come in all different sizes and shapes. They come in all areas of our life. Always when we least expect them. But, really now, are we really ever in a place where we are expecting them? I mean we don't we wake to the sun is shining through our window and speak the words, "Okay, world, whatcha got for me today? Another trial? Send it on its way. I'm ready for a new one." 

But can we prepare? Here in Missouri we have tornadoes. They can come out of nowhere and put fear in the strongest of us. But we have lived here long enough that we can prepare for those storms. We designate areas to find shelter and safety. We gather candles and blankets. We make sure we have the things we need for a power outage. Do we know when it's going to hit? Sometimes the weather can forewarn us, but in the middle of the darkness many have no idea until they hear that roar. But we have done everything we know to do to prepare. 

"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed> We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies." 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

It breaks my heart to see people hurting in such ways. It can cause us to question everything. We attend church. We read His Word. We serve. We try to make wise decisions. I mean we work hard and love big. Why? After awhile you just aren't sure if you can take another day, another trial, another falter in your steps. We start blaming ourselves. Blaming God. Right? But with the grace of God, with the strength of our Lord, and with a faith that cannot be moved, He will guide us through each one, give light so we can see, and give wisdom for us to know. For the One who gave His hand to make the universe, there is nothing too big for Him to face, and with Him on our side, what do we have to fear? 

Friends, let us learn to lay them down, all of our burdens. Let the tears fall. Open our heart that has been holding it all in, and allow Jesus to take the heaviness we have carried for so long. Allow Him to fill it with us with peace and joy knowing that He is there. There are times we can feel so alone. Like no one else understands. No one knows the depth of our pain. We walk it alone. We live in denial and do everything we can to escape the pain. 

I am learning to trust Him when I don't understand. Sometimes we cannot understand what simply makes no sense at all. So somewhere in there we learn to trust. To know that we know our God is in control of every aspect of our lives. I have learned to open my hands to Him, giving Him everything I have and everything I am. It can be a battle, right? We open our hands to Him, but a few hours pass and we are trying to take it all back. We figure we can fix things, control things, manipulate things to work out how we think it should be. Friends, it's so much bigger than us. He has walked our past, He lives in our today, and He is already in our tomorrow. Why not trust Him? 

In James 1:2-4 it says; "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." I know it is hard when we are facing a trial to have joy. For me is was a struggle to think it was possible, but the Lord brought me through each day with His love, with His grace and it was His strength that helped me to get out of bed, to smile again, to laugh again. Let us know what hope really is. Hope is believing in God when things make no sense at all, when the end is not in sight, knowing He has a purpose and plan and I am in His hands and there are no better hands to be in. Let us experience all He has for us. It is through that experience that we will see our Lord make things possible that we thought impossible. 

"Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see." Hebrews 11:1

I didn't always turn to Christ when my trials came. I thought I could handle it all on my own, but He quickly showed me when I humble myself, when I understand that in my weakness He will fill me with His strength. It is such a mighty strength to overcome what we cannot see an end to. See, He is there and He is going to move in me, He is going to show me something through this trial. We don't alway see what He is doing at first, sometimes it takes years before He shows us, but He is also working in others. 

Our lives all intertwine with one another, for we are His children. When one is touched by a tragedy, a trial, there are many in the picture that we cannot see but God places them there right when we need them. In His perfect time when too need us. For what we are going through there are also others feeling the same pain, and as we learn from our trials, we can show others the grace of God and what happens when we place our faith in Him with all we have. 

"So, we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." 2 Corinthians 5:18

Trials are outward circumstances, sufferings, and troubles encountered by all believers. Just because we are believers in Christ doesn't mean we will have lives without trials. It is through those trials, if we are seeking Jesus, that we really see His actions in our lives. The time will come where it is evident that He has been at work in us, around us, and through us. As we go through trials God is refining us just as the refining of gold brings out the real beauty. He is molding us for something far greater. If we lose ourselves in the trial we are missing out on what He wants us to gain. 

In the midst of our trials look for the beauty. Where is our focus? Is it encapsulated by the circumstance? For us, this is usually where our thoughts travel. We get stuck here in the midst of the ugly. But, what happens if we focus on Him? What happens when we realize our circumstances change moment to moment. God is always moving. He is always making a way. We may not understand. We may not see clearly in what the future can be. But HE can! In His holiness there is nothing that comes from Him that is not holy. Look up and know God is there, He hasn't left and when you are hurting the most is when He is going to show up and behold a beauty in you, a feeling of freedom and through that freedom comes joy. 

Some of us have lost children, some have strained relationships with our children and family, some have lost loved ones, some are fighting for their lives, some feel as though their lives are falling apart. Sometimes the hurt is so great you think you can't go on. On our own we wouldn't be able to. But through Him we can. He is in our yesterday, our today, and our tomorrow. He is going to show you how great His love is, it is in those clouds that we see the rainbow, the beauty of God, and no matter what you are facing, He is there for you. Don't allow the fear to define you. Let go of the fear and let God's strength set you free, for His freedom will take you places you never thought you would be. 

For me, this I know; There have been times in my life where I was facing trials and I  didn't think I would make it through. I thought my life was over, but God showed me what life is when I take His hand and trust in Him, to hear Him say to me,"Be still my daughter", gives me faith, gives me hope and strengthens my belief in Him.

When we are facing a trial we always think it can never be worse and it will never get better. We ponder how we will ever survive the anguish, the turmoil, the sheer force of agony that is gut wrenching. But friends, there comes that day when that trial is passing. We can see where He has stepped in and moved on our behalf. That valley is long, but He is there to walk it with us. 

What we often struggle with is defining peace. It isn't something that comes when all is quiet. Peace comes in the midst of the fury, of the forces of the wind, just when the water is about to take us under, there it is. We call out to Jesus and peace is there to comfort us. It is a knowing that no matter how awful things are right now, we are not alone. His peace brings us through to the other side. 

Through our trials we grow stronger. We grow wiser. We find grace and mercy. We understand patience and forgiveness. What we have learned we will soon treasure and carry with us for the next trial. 

Oh, if we could just learn to be transparent. To share our trials instead of wanting the world to think our lives perfect. If we could all be honest we could learn such valuable lessons. We all face them, right? How much different our lives would be to have support and encouragement from others who have faced similar trials. Too often we hide in them, buried deep in an aloneness because we think others couldn't possibly understand. Our circumstances do not define us. We are simply people trying to figure it all out and move forward each day doing the best we can. 

If we haven't faced trials by now, we will. Life as a Christian doesn't make us exempt. Living with Christ changes everything. I asked earlier if we can ever be prepared for our trials. Is that even possible? We prepare by seeking Jesus. We read the Word. We spend time in prayer. We study and ponder. With every question we have for Him we must give an ear to listen. This can be one of the hardest lessons we learn. To be still and quiet. He is always teaching us. 

When we seek Jesus He will forever show Himself to us. He will make Himself known if we will simply look to Him with a no matter what kind of faith. When I make room for Jesus my entire thought process changes. I'm focused on Him. Doing so reassures me that no matter what will happen in the day He is present and He isn't leaving me. He will see me through. He's bigger than any trial, an Goliath we face on this earth. In Him we will overcome. 

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?
Psalm 56:3-4

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 
2 Timothy 1:7

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Seven Days of Love

"If I could speak all the languages of the earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps not record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever-faith, hope, and love-and the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13 1-13

When God calls us to love we have a choice. We obey Him or we don't. In December I made that choice to obey. It had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with Him. My brother-in-law had been diagnosed with colon cancer. After ten years of knowing something was wrong, colonoscopies, hospital stays, and feeling poorly, he asked for my help.

He asked if I would help him find a great doctor. I researched and found the best of the best. He was soon calling and by God's grace was in for an appointment. She wanted to admit that day, which he was that night when a room became available. Surgery was scheduled as soon as possible. He remained in the hospital for a week before the surgery. He had a battle with being on blood thinners. An added kicker was the diabetes. Later we would learn that both of these things would make healing very difficult.

Surgery day came. Everything went as planned. The T4 tumor was removed. No cancer in his lymph nodes and nothing metastasized. This we knew was a miracle. This tumor had been growing for eight to ten years. Our prayers were answered. 

Two days later something was going terribly wrong. The surgeon wanted to go in and see what was happening. The window of opportunity was small. It was passing by the minute. He was scheduled for surgery that day, but two hours before surgery he refused treatment. He was simply finished fighting. He had gone through so much the day before and now facing another surgery. This surgery could have been a one and done giving him a road to healing and home. It too could have been many surgeries to come, a long stay in the ICU and a fight like he's never faced. 

As deadly infection was setting a course for sepsis to overtake his body. Everyone from his surgeon, to his nurses, to his family, begged and pleaded, "Just try, please, just try." There was hope! For us that was everything. We already knew God healed had healed him of the cancer. 

We had meetings with the ethics committee, his doctors, nurses, palliative care and hospice. I was speaking in a room filled with medical personnel, the best of the best in this area. My husband was given power of attorney by his brother for this reason. Pascal said, "If there is any hope at all, please, let them do whatever is needed." But he made is decision with a clear mind. Now it was too late for us to step in. What was left was for us to honor his wishes. This would be a very difficult road for us to walk. A journey we still today question. 

My husband's parents visited him. My mother-in-law broken, had laid over him, tears falling, begging him to just allow the surgery. My sweet father-in-law, quietly sitting in the corner of the room, with agony across his face. I sat upon his bed, my own tears streaming down, asking him to explain, to help us understand. But all he would say is, "I'm done. No more." 

That afternoon I knew what I was to do. I was to remain with him. My husband's parents had a friend pick them up that afternoon. My mother-in-law hugged me as she had never embraced me before, saying, "Thank you, Rob." I knew with their age and all that they had already been through there was no way they could remain there with him. My husband couldn't take off work. It is a sad world we live in when a family must make such sacrifice. 

I remained with my brother-in-law for seven days. I would stay with him during the day and and go home late at night. Now, there's something I have to share. I wasn't close to my brother-in-law. In fact, I didn't really like him at all. There was a battle raging within me. I was angry he wasn't trying. I was angry his parents and family would endure such agony to come. There in his ICU room my heart battled every emotion possible. 

The first day I helped him as much as possible. He couldn't eat or drink. He could have ice chips. I was still praying for healing. That next day he went unresponsive. For the next five days I would watch a mostly healthy man die of sepsis. I knew what my dad had gone through in his last days with cancer, but this was something I had never experienced.

If you don't know about sepsis is extremely painful. The pain meds increased hourly for the next five days. The nurses were above and beyond the best of the best. They cared for me in valuable ways. They explained what was coming. Each day was something new. The sights, sounds, smells, and sheer emotional agony is something I will never forget.

Healing doesn't always come as we wish it to be. Healing to can come in heaven. That is where Pascal found his healing. I remember placing my hand on his heart. I couldn't believe he was dying, but his heart was still so powerful. It wasn't giving up. You know, the heart is the last to give up. I sat next to him as his body was slowly shutting down. It was all just so wrong. But yet there was a beauty. That beauty, that grace, was God. He wasn't leaving Pascal. He was remaining until He carried him home. I can only imagine what Pascal experienced there in those moments before his heart finally gave way for his homegoing. 

For months later I wouldn't sleep at night. I was still researching. I was so trying to heal him. Isn't that crazy? He would be gone on Christmas Day. To this day I am still struggling with leaving that room. 

I got to his room early each morning. I brought my Bible to read to him. I read many scriptures, but what I read the most was 1 Corinthians 13 1-13 and Psalm 23. I would curl up as close to his bed as possible, open my Bible, place my hand upon him, and read the words that will forever mean more to me than ever before. As I read the tears poured. I would lay over him and simply pray. I talked to him for hours upon hours. So much so I could envision him sitting up and saying to me, "Rob, enough already. Just shut up!" 

I would look out the window at night and tell him the beauty of the stars. Share with him as morning snow fell. I shared my life with him, but most of all I shared Jesus. Jesus poured Himself out in that room. I knew He was near. I knew because of what I was experiencing. I wasn't strong enough for this. I thought I could do it, but I couldn't. He did it. It was all Him. I think that's why I struggle so when people thank me for all I did for Pascal. It breaks my heart to hear those words. I know they are simply sharing gratitude. But for me, somehow it cheapens all that Pascal and I shared in that room. 

I would call my husband's parents and lay the phone on Pascal's chest as they would pour out their love to their son. I just folded over in the chair and cried as I listened to my mother-in-law share her love to her son that would never again reply to her spoken words of 'I love you.'

I would place my hand upon his heart and pray over him. I spoke to him about heaven. I remember the words I shared before I left. "Pascal, do you hear His voice? Do you see His angels surrounding you? You are about to experience all of heaven and you will see Jesus on Christmas Day. It doesn't get any better than that." 

So, if I knew. If in my gut I knew, why did I leave him that night? I will ask myself that for the rest of my days. It is an inner struggle for me. A battle that I walk because I cannot forgive myself for not being there. But again, the nurses were sure he would make it through the night. His vitals never changed. They were to call if there was a change. But everything happened very quickly. He left this world for heaven in the early hours of Christmas morning. I missed being there by five and a half hours. I know, maybe that's how it was suppose to be. Maybe he was waiting for me leave. I will never know. I just know I wish I had been there. 

See, I opened up to him and apologized for not being nicer. For not being the sister-in-law I should have been. What I learned, what I knew, I should have invested time in him. Before the ICU I wouldn't have called us friends, but leaving that room on Christmas Eve it was a honor for me to call him friend. 

Each night before I went home the nurse would tell me they thought he would make it through the night. Of course they can't really know, but through experience they have a good idea, but sometimes they are surprised. The nurses were very open and honest with me. With each new day I knew what was to come. But even knowing, it just doesn't prepare you.

Each night I went home planning to return early morning. I won't share with you the experiences of his death. But as each day passed I knew it was closer to his homegoing. When I left him on Christmas Eve the plan was for me to return early Christmas morning. 

The phone call came around 1:45 that morning. I was awaken by the ring. I didn't answer the first time. I just sat there staring at the phone. "No, God. Please, no!" The second call went unanswered too. On the third call I picked up and on the other end was the nurse. She gave the phone to the doctor and then he handed it to the pastor. I now had a choice to wake my husband or allow him to sleep for the few hours I knew would be peaceful. I let him sleep as I sat on the loveseat waiting for him to wake. Before I could speak words tears flooding down. He knew. My husband was broken. He would drive to his parents house and from there we would make the drive to the hospital to pick up my car that remained there for seven days. 

So, in me being transparent it is to share with you that more than anything love is most important. For me, in this room God taught me so much. He taught me to let go of self, to focus on Him, and to obey when He calls. I wasn't friends with my brother-in-law, but he was my brother in Christ. He was my husband's brother, my son's uncle, the son of my husband's parents. I wanted to comfort them all, to shield them, to fix things and make it right. Pascal had reached out to me. I couldn't not reach back. 

In these times that will come to all of us let us remember to love. Let us lay everything down at the cross and trust in our Lord to make a way. In doing so, in allowing God to move, in giving Him room, I experienced Him as never before. I was his vessel and He poured out Himself. 

As my family journeys through loss and healing it hasn't been easy. It never is. But knowing that Pascal is waiting on the side brings hope alive. I am still healing. My journey is different. I spent more time with Pascal in those seven days then in the entire twenty-eight years of being married to his brother. 

Friends, let us not waste time. Let us never bargain love. But may we reach in deep and love big. Always giving God the room He needs to grow His love. Maybe you are facing something similar. Maybe God is asking you to step out and trust Him. I hope through my sharing you will be able to see there is nothing too big for our God. Wherever He calls us we will never go unprepared.

Psalm 23
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close to me. Your rod and your staff protect mde and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love with pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever."


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