Thursday, November 14, 2013

Miracles

When the holiday season begins, I get a little bit sad.

Because holidays are family times, and our family, even when we all get together, is no longer complete. There's a hole, and it's present every day, but it's never quite as noticeable as it is when we are drawing names for our gift exchange, or planning who will be cooking what on Thanksgiving, or hanging ornaments on  the tree.

When I get sad, and my heart misses my sister, I usually find comfort in the Word.

Confession: It hasn't been working lately. I'm in a Bible study group that is going through the book of Luke (my favorite gospel) and recently we've been reading a lot about the miracles Jesus performed while He was on earth.

I love reading about His mighty power displayed in people's lives.

Until we get to a story of Him raising someone from the dead.

A lump fills my throat.

My heart races.

My jaw clenches in an attempt to keep it from shaking.

There's something inside me that has a hard time reading those stories.

Because, when my sister died, we prayed that God would raise her from the dead. And I believe that He can still do that miracle, and I had faith that He could do it for her...but He didn't.

And so, even though it's not rational, whenever I read about Lazarus, or Jairus' daughter, or the widow of Nain's son...I get sick to my stomach, because I am trying so hard not to ask Him,

"Why couldn't you do that miracle for ME?"

It's impossible to understand. It's too unimaginable to accept. The God of the universe, the ultimate Creator, the All Powerful I Am...chose not to heal my sister of her brain hemorrhage, even though thousands of people were praying for Him to do that very thing. And He chose not to raise my sister from the dead. Even though I know He could have. Even though I asked Him to.

He had great compassion on the widow of Nain, and he raised her son from the dead. (Luke 7:11-15) He told Jairus not to fear, to just believe, and He raised the little girl up again. (Luke 8:40-56) He told Mary and Martha "Your brother will rise again." And then...Lazarus rose. (John 11)

Did He not feel great compassion for my family? Was our grief not great enough? Were we not afraid enough to move His healing power? Were we not good enough friends of His to warrant a death-defying miracle?

These are the hard questions, the ones I don't verbalize because they're ugly, and because I know, logically, what the answer is.

But, oh, how hard it is to swallow that I didn't get my miracle.

Today, something happened.

A reminder. A whisper from my Savior.

I met a wonderful woman today, a friend of a friend who is in the middle of reading my book. And even though she hasn't finished it yet, she told me that it is ministering to her heart, and rejuvenating her faith, and she is so inspired.

A lump filled my throat.

My heart raced.

My jaw clenched to stop it from shaking.

I wrote the book to tell the story of my sister's life, and to spread the story of His work in the life of anyone willing to walk His path for them.

If she hadn't died, I never would have written the book.

And if I hadn't written the book, people wouldn't have been able to read her story, and be inspired by her courage and love and passion.

And their lives being changed by one simple girl's story...that's a miracle.

And a sweet wonderful woman being moved to tears as she tells me that she can't wait to meet Joy in heaven...that's a miracle.

And the real miracle, the one that I can't stop crying over today, the one that He keeps whispering to me...she isn't really dead at all.

She lives.
I GOT my miracle.
His way.
And I got so many more miracles that I never even asked for.
And people's lives are changed...because she died...because she lived for Him.

"Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this...?" John 11:25-26

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Real Story - Friendship

Okay, for the sake of consistency, I titled this post the way I have titled all of The Real Story entries, but this one is going to be a little different, and should really have been titled: Real Friendship.

There are people you are friends with - You hug them when you see them, you swap favorite movie and book stories, you have them over for meals or play dates, you clean the house before they come so they will be impressed and not judge you, you threaten the lives of your children if they aren't on their best behavior during the play date or meal, you take them dinner when they are sick or just had a baby, you laugh together about things, and you enjoy being part of their lives.

But then...then there are your FRIENDS - you rarely hug them when you see them (it's more like eye contact followed by a frazzled 'Hi' from across a room) you don't talk much about movies and books (because you know they don't have time to read or watch TV, and they know you don't either) You do NOT clean the house before they come over (and you know they won't judge you for the dirt) you threaten the lives of your children if they aren't on their best behavior (but you also know the kids will still be wild, and the friend will still love you) you take them a meal when they need it (but you also pick up their kids and take them back to your house so your friend can have some rest time, and you may or may not smuggle fattening goodies or alcoholic beverages into their meal basket) you laugh together about things (mostly inappropriate things) and you know you are a part of each other's lives even if you haven't seen, talked to, or spent time with them in weeks, months, or years.

Here are my top ten REAL facts about Real Friendship (in no particular order)

1. A real friend is the one you ask to check your teeth after a meal, and they gladly point out which teeth are housing chunks of herb chicken for all the world to see.

2. A real friend lies to you when you tell them you've gained weight and ask them if they noticed.

3. A real friend judges you for your high school music choices, and tells you about it, and you aren't offended. You just tell them you judge them for theirs too, and you both laugh.

4. A real friend gets mad at your husband when he does or says something that hurts your feelings, but she also reminds you that you LOVE that man and to figure out how to work it out.

5. A real friend frequently deletes all text conversations between the two of you, because if anyone else picked up their phone and read the messages, they would be horrified.

6. A real friend doesn't sugar coat their feelings. If they are crabby, they say mean things to you. If you are crabby, you snap at them. But you both know that you will still be friends the next day, and that your apology will be received and the incident forgiven.

7. A real friend is one who can be absent from your daily life for months and even years, but when you get the opportunity to spend time with them...it's like you were never apart.

8. A real friend doesn't have to call you on your crap. Just being around them makes you aware of it, and you admit it on your own without them having to say a word.

9. A real friend makes time for you in their lives, no matter how busy. And the other side of that is, a real friend isn't offended or insecure when you CAN'T make time for them in certain instances. They are there for you, and you are there for them, even if you cancel plans with each other multiple times in a row.

10. A real friend makes you want to be a better friend, Christian, spouse, parent, house-keeper, and all the rest...but they accept you when you are sub-standard versions of those things, and don't judge you for your below-par rating.


It takes work to become a REAL friend. It takes time. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable. It takes a deep, shared love for the Lord, and requires an honest appreciation of a few key things: chocolate, coffee, wine, shopping, appropriately placed curse words, Christmas music, texting, jewelry, family, and board games. (or at least half of the above list...I'm willing to bend on wine, Christmas music, and jewelry...the others will require some prayer.)

I am blessed to have a list of wonderful REAL friends in my life. If you don't have that, I'm truly sorry. Take a minute and examine my thoughts above, and then ask the Lord to give you the courage to BE a Real Friend, and to bless you with someone who will be one for you in return.

And, don't be afraid to let your friends know "If we are going to be friends, I'm going to need you to..."

You fill in the blank. I have finished that sentence with: 'learn to like coffee' 'watch and enjoy the Star Wars movies' 'read this book and love it' 'never say the word sensual to me, for any reason' and so many more...

The Real Story about friendship is: it takes time and courage and energy...and you won't regret it.