Saturday, July 28, 2012

Another leg of the journey

It has been a crazy summer filled with hard and good things.  God has taken care of us so well; providing before we even knew what we needed.  And now, I am certain, He is going to do it again.  Our summer has been filled with family and friends and lots of distractions.  I'm going to trust that we needed this to get through the shock of our journey.  We needed the outpouring of love and comfort of people to fill the unexpected hole we have found ourselves with.  A house full of teens and relatives have kept us busy and right in the center of watching God change lives.  Exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time.  But people are leaving and preparing to go back to school and I have this sense that the next part of the journey is going to bring peace, but also a time of tears and deep processing.  

Ryan was afraid of heights.  Yet he filled his life
doing the thing he feared most.  He didn't let his fears
stop him.
I'm ready for the peace, but not really looking forward to the time of introspection that I know is going to require feeling pain and loss.  Perhaps just recognizing what is ahead will help make it more bearable as it creates opportunity to make choices that will allow for the processing of pain.  But,  "I have chosen the way of faithfulness, I have set my ways on your laws."  Psalm 119:30.  So I am going to trust Him for this next leg of the journey.

I've already started to think and feel things I haven't felt before.  Some good, some, not so pleasant and kind.  I found myself thinking the other day, "Why did you have to take my son Lord?  Why couldn't you have taken a young man who wasn't living with passion and zeal and made little impact on the world?  There are plenty of them out there!"  Yikes, that was ugly.  However, I can't say I felt guilty over that thought because what mom wouldn't want their son to be the one to live.  But I did immediately know the answer to my questions.  I felt the Lord say, "Because Ryan died for those young men that they might wake up and live the way I created them to live!"   I wonder if Mary, Jesus' mother, ever had those thoughts?  I bet she did as she was human and just as filled with humanity as I am.  Being reminded of the bigger picture I, once again, set my mind on how God is making it worth the pain.  

I was reading Psalm 119 yesterday and was amazed at how David spoke my heart.  David, a man all those years ago who cried out to the Lord, yet trusted the Lord.  He was brought to such great depths of pain and yet experienced God's strength in powerful ways.  These are my words, through David:

"I will be blessed if I seek God will all my heart.  I will seek Him with all of my heart.  I will treasure God's word in my heart to keep me on the right path.  With my lips I will tell of His strength.  Open my eyes so that I can see that Ryan's death has been worth the pain.  When my soul cleaves to the pain, revive me with your word.  When my soul weeps in grief, revive me with our word.  I have chosen faithfulness.  I cleave to your promises.  Give me understanding.  Teach me so that I may follow and obey you to the end.  Show me your unfailing love so that I can answer all of life with your strength.  I have put my hope in you!  I will speak of your strength and not be ashamed of the strength I find in you.  I reach out to you.  The comfort I find in my suffering comes from knowing your promises preserve my life.  I get mad and annoyed with those who have forsaken you when you are all you have promised. In the night I remember you Lord and choose to keep your law.  This is my life practice.  You are all I really need Lord and I continue to choose to seek you with all of my heart.  I have considered my options and have chosen YOU!  Continue to teach me knowledge and good judgement for I completely trust your ways.  Before pain came I didn't really know what it was to trust you completely, but now I fully do.  I choose to say, you are good and what you do is good.  It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn to trust your faithfulness.  Your hands made me and formed me and I will trust your plan.  May those who fear you rejoice them they see your strength in me for I have chosen to put my hope in your word.  I know that in your faithfulness you have afflicted me.  Fill me with your compassion that I might live fully through this.  My soul faints, my eyes fail but I will choose to stand on your word.  All your words are trustworthy and eternal and continue through all generations.  If your word and promises had not proved faithful, I would have perished in my affliction.  I will never forget your precepts (guidelines for life) for by them you have preserved my life.  Oh how I love them and meditate on them day and night.  Your commands are always with me and make me wiser and give me unbelievable insight.  Your word is my lamp in the darkness.  I have suffered much, but you have preserved me.  Accept my praise Lord.  You are my hope and my shield.  Do not let my hopes be dashed.  Turn to me and have mercy on me as you always do to those who love you.  My zeal wears me out.  I hate falsehood but I love your law.  May my cries give me understanding, may my lips be overflowing with praise."

So be it!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I never thought I would....................

My one and ONLY tattoo
"How He Loves", by David Crowder

Have you ever played the game, "I never thought I would......"?  I was in the car with my sister Katy and the kids (they are hardly kids any more) and Amanda suggested we play this game.  I could play this game forever as there are so many things in my life that I thought I never would do, experience, say or live through.  What immediately came to mind were things just in the last couple years; have a husband who had a stroke at 48, become foster parents, adopt a daughter at 17, have a son that died at 20 and the most recent, get a tattoo.  But as I look through my life of living for Christ there are so many more things I never thought I could or would do that I have done.  Through each one of those events, as painful as some were, I can still say, "Oh how He loves!"  This is one of the main reasons I chose to capture this phrase for part of my one and only tattoo. 

In one of my previous blogs I showed pictures of Ryan's room that had How He Loves, by David Crowder,  painted all around the walls.  This song was one of Ryan's favorites.  Anyone who knew him and worshipped with him knew that when it came to the chorus he would just belt it out.  He shared with one of his friends that he knew he didn't always sound that great when he belted, but that's when he knew he needed God the most!  Love that.

Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
For a few weeks I had been thinking I would have the heart tattooed with the RtW and the word "hurricane" coming down the side for "loves like a hurricane".  But after Libby taught on Thursday night, at "Closer", about the meaning behind this song I knew that the part that I wanted to take to the grave was, "Oh how He loves" me, how He loved Ryan and how Ryan and I love Him back.  It is that love that makes Ryan's home going, and all the other things I didn't see coming around the corner "afflictions that eclipsed His Glory!  This song is packed with incredible meaning:

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like a unforseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don't have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way:

He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.

Not only is this song rich with meaning, but the story behind it is simply amazing and so appropriate for connecting with Ryan's home going. John Mark McMillan wrote the words to this song.  Stephen Coffey was John Mark's best friend and youth minister for MorningStar Ministries.  During a church prayer meeting, Coffey prayed out loud "I'd give my life today if it would shake the youth of this nation."  That very night he was in a multi-car accident and died.  The next day, McMillan wrote How He Loves as a tribute to Coffey and out of need "to have some sort of conversation with God" about his frustrations and emotions of his best friend's death. When Libby shared this there was a hush that came over the room and streams of tears.  Ryan was willing to do the same.

Some may not see the good in all that I am sharing and might not be able to work through the pain of it all;  BUT I SEE GOD'S HAND SO CLEARLY!  Because of God's love I see God looking for parents twenty years ago that could parent this child who He was going to form and have be named Ryan (which means Little King), who was going to leave this earth early and would need to be parents willing to CHOOSE to use that death for God's glory, and he chose Tom and I.  This child was going to be formed to live outside the box his entire life, he was going to draw others to him in his uniqueness, he was going to love and live big, he was going to live on the edge, he was going to latch onto a song that expressed how much God loved him and how much he loved God.  This song and Ryan's life and death would be used to shake and wake up the nation for a need for a Savior; just as John Mark McMillan prayed.

My sister Katy's choice for a tattoo. 
She too is choosing to allow Ryan's home going
to remind her to allow God to love her like a hurricane;
fully enveloping and at the center is peace.

In the center of a hurricane is peace.  Only as we choose God's love do we experience that peace amongst the hurricanes in life.  Ryan understood this and now I do too.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

It is a hard road, but certainly never boring.........................

I think it is sinking in.  It has been 13 weeks since Ryan took residence in heaven.  Today on the way home from work I had a huge wave of reality hit me; he is not coming back to this earth. I came home and wept.  It felt so good to cry hard.  I haven’t done that in a while.  It feels healing to have purged the tears that have been building up.  I tamp, tamp, tamp down the tears so often in order to get through the day.  But now and again there is just no holding my tears and sobs in and this is O.K. because I have read that I can only heal what I can feel.  If I keep myself numb the healing will take so much longer. 
I’ll always grieve not having Ryan here on earth. I cannot NOT grieve. I just lost one of the most precious things in life. Even Jesus grieved, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Matthew 26:38. However, I don’t want the intensity of the grief to be here forever. I’m counting on Jesus to be the one to carry me out of my grief in His timing.
As I watch myself grieve I see that my life will never be the same. That seems obvious. But if I'm honest about the changes, I have to admit that not all of them are bad. In fact, some are really, really good. STOP! How could I, his mom, say that? I almost feel disloyal, and I cringe, in typing that sentence.  But the reality is, it is true.  I know my son and he would be thrilled that I was willing to say the hard things and live out the hard and unexpected. The bad and difficult changes are obvious, but here are some of the good:
  • I am immensely in tune with seeing God in everything. I have asked God to help me see how it is worth the pain, and He has; I see it everywhere.  I see one dot connected to another dot almost on a daily basis.  His handy work is what fills me with that unexplainable joy.  But I have to be looking for it.
  • His Word has become real. The Bible is no longer a book of promises that I will be able to claim one day; I claim them daily and count on them for my healing and strength.
Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:45
  • My peace comes from trusting God fully with the big picture.  I can cry on my bed and be mad that Ryan will never walk through the door again, but once I’ve allowed those feelings to pass through I can still have peace that surpasses all understanding because I TRUST AND BELIEVE that God has my best interest.  He had my best interest when he sent his Son to die an excruciating death on the cross for my sins so that I could have eternal life if I choose.  I’m so grateful Ryan chose that too so I know while my time with Ryan on earth is over, I will be spending eternity with him.  Eternity! Hold on Ryan, I’ll be there before you know it. 
  • If I remain on this earth than I have a purpose, otherwise I’d be with Ryan.  Each day is a gift to live fully and completely committed to being all that God has designed me to be no matter where I am. My purpose doesn’t look like anyone else's.  It certainly doesn’t look like Ryan’s.  It looks like Gail Wahl’s.
Each day God unfolds His purposes as I keep my eyes lifted to Him and my heart attuned to His Spirit. I have no idea how it is going to turn out…..but I’m excited for the journey. I see many hard roads ahead, but it is doable with the Lord and it certainly is never boring.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Nerves like Jesus...........................

It was so good to go to church this weekend.  Our pastor, Matt Heard, came home from his sabbatical early to be with the church family as 74 families lost their homes in the Waldo Canyon Fire.  As I sat through the service listening to how our pastor processed this most recent disaster while in another country knowing his house was right in the path of the fire, I felt this confidence come over me. He talked about choosing to trust Christ even when things looked bleak. He talked about clinging to the Resurrection and the strength and truth of the cross. I thought,  "YES!  I've been processing Ryan's death the same way.....I'm not abnormal."  

Sometimes I feel so abnormal because I am not angry and I'm not an emotional heap.  I feel like that is what people are expecting from me.  Who wouldn't be mad and angry when their son was taken so young and so suddenly?  Well, I guess I wouldn't.  And I know Ryan wouldn't want me to be. Oh, I have moments that grip me and I can be sad and I weep often and I would love it to be different, but I am not wrecked.  I have so much faith in my Father who promises me a peace that surpasses all understanding (Phillipians 4:7) and a renewed strength for those that hope in Him (Isaiah 40:31).  And I believe Him when he says that  ".....His plans are to prosper me and not to harm me and to give me hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

The pastor shared today that when he left his family behind in another country to deal with the crisis here in Colorado Springs his son prayed that his dad would have nerves like Jesus.  I LOVED that!  Imagine the nerves it took to die on the cross; to do what was best for us even though it caused himself so much pain! That is what it takes in a time of crisis.  It takes nerves to choose faith and to do the hard thing and move forward.  It seems easier to blame and get stuck on the question of "WHY?"  And yet, the outcome seems so much sadder. 

Today as we went to visit Ryan's graveside for the first time....I, once again, had to have nerves like Jesus.  I had to choose to not let it wreck me.  I had to choose to focus on the fact that Ryan wasn't really there...he had already moved on and he was in a much better place.  At the funeral we had everyone bring a rock to create a cairn at the graveside.  In the early 1800s explorers left cairns along the trail to mark where they had been for others to see the trail and let others know they had been there.  That's what I saw when I was at the graveside today. Ryan has gotten to his final destination and he beat us there (as usual).  His trail leads to Jesus; he wants others to follow his trail.

We sang one of my favorite songs this weekend in church, "You Are God Of This City."  As I sang the song I sang it for this City as well as for myself:

You're the God of this City
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You are

You're the Light in this darkness
You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City 

Greater things are yet to come for this City and for me.  I choose to believe it with confidence.