Finding Joy in Him

Through Every Season

Month: April 2013

He Doesn’t Skimp With His Traveling Companions

Favorite Picture of Joel in the Smokys

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Heaven, Joel’s last day here, his first day in Heaven and Joel hiking in Heaven.  I’ve found that most of my favorite pictures of Joel are of when we were hiking and really look forward to hiking in Heaven with Jesus, Joel, Mike.. anyone who will love Jesus and His creation with me.

Joel finding pleasure in surprising me.

I been thinking how odd it is that the worst night of my life thus far was the beginning of the best day in Joel’s life.  It was the day Joel saw Jesus face to face.. the day Joel began to fully live.. really live the abundant life Jesus died to give us.. eternally.

God is so good!
Looking up.

Meditating on what Joel experienced the second he opened his eyes in Heaven and looking forward to experiencing what Joel experienced helps me keep reaching toward that day.

I started Joel’s last day here meditating on the Word, praying, and working on finishing a few  songs the Lord had given me on my harp.  Joel came over to visit with me while I played and  I excitedly demonstrated for him how easy it was to play “Away in a Manger.”  He replied, “Oh, yeah, I learned that one years ago.” .. so the master says to the ‘nube’. 🙂  He plays the guitar so beautifully.

That way!

I spent most of the rest of the day worshiping and praying with IHOP streaming and putting up Christmas decorations while he studied for his finals.

Around 10 AM the last of the Kinkade paintings we’d bought was delivered to our door and Joel helped me hang it in our prayer room.  He was impressed with it and walked back and forth between it and our favorite Kinkade comparing their similarities.

Joel with two of his favorite cousins.

Each of the Kinkade paintings we bought are of road and/or river passing by a church or a cottage.  They have an ethereal quality about them which I believe is what attracted us to them.  Deep within, we all long for more than what earth can offer; we long for Jesus, for Heaven for things that sometimes seem intangible now, but will become eternally ours once He welcomes us home.

Hiking near a river in Arkansas

I created my first digital scrapbook pages in 2008.   In each, I combined a photo of the kids with one of my favorite scriptures.  They’ve hung in my Grandmother’s frames in three different houses now.

 

 

I used these verses with Joel’s photo because he loved to dance with all his might in worship and seeing Jesus in Heaven is something to dance about.  We’ve always loved singing, “Better is one day in Your house..”  and Audio Adrenaline’s ‘Big Big House.”

 

I am enjoying meditating on the part in the Message where it says, “He doesn’t skimp with His traveling companions.”  Thoughts of traveling, hiking, up the road to our heavenly cottage, our place of worship near the River of Life where we will see Him face to face are good thoughts.  He is with us always.. wherever we go..  a loving, faithful Traveling Companion.

Playing on mountain near by.

One of my all time favorite educational quotes is from a book called “Ourselves” written by Charlotte Mason.  In it, she talks about Holy Spirit being our guide, our educator, in all we do.. in the “County of Mansoul” (the center of our hearts, souls, minds).

She says,

“The best treasures of the country are kept in the fairest of its buildings, in its churches, which are always open, so that people may go in and out many times a day to talk with God, and He comes and speaks with them. But, indeed, He walks about everywhere in the land, in the workshops, in the picture-galleries, and in the fields; people consult Him about everything, little things and great, and He advises about them all.”

He is so good!

 

After several more hours of studying for his finals, Joel came out for a breath of fresh air, stood in front of the Thomas Kinkade painting that reminds us of meeting our loved ones in Heaven and surveyed the work I was doing putting up the Christmas decorations.  He was smiling, thankful, and full of longing.  He said, “Normally it feels like Christmas.. but it doesn’t yet because I still have these final exams.”

Everyday in Heaven must feel like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, our birthday, Sunday worship and Jesus’ return rolled into one.  Some days our earthly existence just doesn’t feel like Heaven yet.  We long for it, we are thankful for the preparations our Savior is making for us; remembering them brings us joy, but we still have these final exams.  Leaning on our Traveling Companion and looking forward to the day we will see Him face to face will see us through.

I Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in Heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
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8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 

Finding Joy in Jesus my faithful Traveling Companion through every joy and trial..

Jenny

Rock City Gardens

If you’ve ever driven through this area of the country, you have seen a ton of barns like this one. 
We finished our Arboretum hike early enough that we had time
to drive up Lookout Mountain and see what the fuss was about.
 
It turns out that it’s aptly named.  Rocks, more rocks; big rocks
with a pathway that took you through
places with names like “Needle’s Eye.”
At one point, we got turned around and ended up going the opposite way of the crowd
which in a way made it more adventuresome.  Who needs maps?
While making our way up stream through the front end of
“Fat Man’s Squeeze” we unintentionally scared a bunch of people 
who thought we were unable to squeeze through and had to turn around.
 
I think a little laughter slipped out as I explained that we’d gone the wrong way.
There were places to sit.. 
Beautiful trees
 Gnomes hiding in caves and little fairy cities.
 
A wooden swaying bridge that I was happy we’d missed in our confusion. 
Then the highlight was a lookout over Lover’s Leap 
where it’s fabled that you can see seven states on a clear day.
Flags were hanging appropriately at half staff for the Boston Marathon victims.
Alabama’s stats.
A nice engraved stone showing where each state is for those of us who have gotten turned around.
Alabama 25 miles south and Georgia where we were standing.
South Carolina 80 miles this way
North Carolina 50 miles with the Smokys. 
Seeing the Smokys stand out from this distance made me love them even more.
Kentucky and Virgina 130 miles this way
And Tennessee half a mile this way.
Proof we were there squinting into the western sun.
More walk through caves.
A tree growing between the rocks.
Maybe my favorite photo.
Rainbow hall: lined with colored windows which allow you to walk through a rainbow.
I so want to do this in my house.
High Falls.. a man made, 140 foot, water fall that flows under Lovers Leap.
Us.  I tried to get the waterfall.. it’s in the very most right corner behind my shoulder.
A very beautiful day that I’d love to do over again. 
Love,
Jenny

Relections on Heaven at Refection Riding Arboretum

Warning: Lots of photos
Saturday after lunch, we went to the Refection Riding Arboretum 
at the foot of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga.
We so enjoyed walking it’s 3 mile loop which you can drive, bike or walk. 
 These horses reminded me of a Canadian TV show we’ve been enjoying, Heartland.
The cool spring breeze was so refreshing.
 Had to get one more with the mountain in the background.  🙂
 The Arboretum has a has a level 4 rating which means
 it has labled at least 120 different species of trees.
 Everything is colored with missing Joel now.  
We could not help thinking about how much he 
would have enjoyed the hike as we walked along.
He would have loved everything about it.. the beauty, the adventure, the history, the day.
Wild hydrangeas.
 As I snapped photos,   I wondered if Joel and Jesus went on hikes together
and if they ever had any need for photos or scrapbooks.  
One room cabin with spring feed water basin.
This cabin was dedicated to John and Margret by their grandchildren with 
Psalm 19:1-3
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.  
Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.  
There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; 

yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

 Favorite flower picture.
 I hear that the colors in Heaven are even more amazing than any we’ve ever seen.
 These flowers were growing on a Florida Anise Tree
These mushrooms reminded me of our very first real nature walk together 
at OP Schnable Park in San Antonio.   The Lord so blessed us that day with tons
of different mushrooms, bees and mating garter snakes.

Pages from Joel’s Nature Journal

 Joel was 10 years old.
 We all took turns using our first digital camera.
Joel’s version of what the snakes were doing below.   🙂
 We had to look up what kind of snakes they were
 We were all amazed by God’s creation.
The one below was from a different walk at OP Schnable.  
We went there often; there was so much to see 
and it was an easy drive from our house.
We met our good friends, the Chagoyas, there just last May.
Back to the Arboretum.. 
 We’ve been to St. Augustine.  Glad we didn’t have to walk here from there.
Cherokee monument.
 Joel so enjoyed taking nature photos.  
Will I get to see all the scrapbooks he’s collected when I get there?
 
About halfway through our hike we came upon this rock.. it amazed me.. 
I took half a dozen photos and still could capture the wonder of it so I took a video.
There was water springing up from the rock.. it reminded me of the water God provided in the wilderness for the Israelites and these verses from 
Revelation 21
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away,
 and there is no longer any sea…3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be 
 His people, and God Himself will be among them,4and He will wipe away every tear from 
their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, 
or pain; the first things have passed away.” 5 And He who sits on the throne said,
 “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. 
I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
I’ve wondered many times how spending time with Jesus will work in Heaven.  
Will thousands of others be sharing my long, quiet walk with Jesus?    
 In Revelation 21:22 John says, 
“I did not see a temple in the city, because 
the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”
 I was glad when I read in Anne Graham Lotz book, Heaven My Father’s House, last night 
that I wasn’t the only one who’d wondered.. and who’d selfishly not wanted to give up 
the wonderful, intimate, daily, individual, fellowship that we enjoy with Him now.
Anne believes that “There will be no place in Heaven 
where God is not physically, actually present!
  Because He is omnipresent, 
He will live fully and completely with me every moment, 
as though I were the only resident of Heaven!  
And He will live every moment fully and completely with 
you as though you were the only resident of Heaven!  
What a wonderful place Heaven will be!”
 Mike noticed, while on our hike, that sometimes the path would disappear beneath 
the forest overgrowth and we would have to look up ahead to find where to go next.
Mike at edge of a bamboo forest.
He said that in life we can get so focused on the here and now 
that we feel lost and have to look up to find eternal perspective again.
Beekeeper hives center right.
 I’ve been meditating on Colossians 3:1-4 lately. 
 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, 
where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, 
not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
 I meditated on it before.. to keep myself in check that I didn’t love earthly things too much;
now because earthly things are too unbearable.  
 Mike’s view.
My view.
Wild flowers and dandelions.

 Yet another view.. what’s that in the distance?
 Turtles enjoying the sun.
So nice to take time and listen to the heavens
 and the earth declaring God’s glory.
Dogwood tree.
And for a grand finale an Azalea bush.
Looking up,
Jenny

Celtic Women in Concert

Mike and I had a very nice time away this weekend.  He took me to see Celtic Women in concert Friday night in Chattanooga.  He’d surprised me with tickets for Valentine’s Day.  
It was so sweet of him.  Celtic music is my favorite. 
 I love the clogging, the bagpipes, all the stringed instruments; it’s all so beautiful.
The stage was beautiful.  We had good seats.  The singers were very jovial 
which made the show all the more enjoyable.  The way the violinist danced and 
especially twirled around while she played was amazing.  
The climax of the show for me was when they played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.  
I found a youtube video.. but it’s just not the same as being there. 
They sang some sad songs: “O, Danny Boy,” of course, “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Mes 
(I had to find my tissues).  Then towards the end they sang, “The Parting Glass.”  
I could just see Joel up on stage dancing around, smiling, lifting a cup of joy to us.  
He loves to dance and is always smiling.. and I know his cup is overflowing with joy.
Of all the comrades that e’er I had
They’re sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I had
They’d wish me one more day to stay
But since it fell unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all 
Warning: cute video of Joel playing freeze dance with all the girls at
Judi’s 10th birthday party.  
 James is playing the part of the dizzying
camera guy. 

Spring Has Come and Zoe’s on the Run

 I took these photos of our tree shortly after we returned from our Spring Break trips.
I didn’t remember it flowering before, but I did remember the helicopter seeds.
I loved playing with those as a girl.  
Not sure I am going to enjoy cleaning them up as this tree matures.
It’s kinda a new tree.. our first tree died in the April 2011 tornadoes.
 Josh and Joel helped Mike plant this one.  🙂
It’s a Shantung Maple.  We bought it expecting red fall foliage.  We got yellow.
Zoe, turned her head the second I snapped this picture.  
Something caught her eye and she’s ready to run.
She has managed to get through a door and run off 
through the neighborhood several times in the last few weeks.
So thankful that she hasn’t been hit by a car.
Love,
Jenny

Spring Break Photos Part 2

Lake by our tent at sunset
 We got home from Pigeon Forge, unpacked then repacked for
 camping Thursday morning with Josh and Patrick.

Our tent.. Josh and Patrick ruffed it along a river.. no electricity or bathrooms.  I like hot showers.

 The National Forest was beautiful and only 1.5 hours from our house.. 
so we hope to go back sometime.
The river was REALLY nice.. clear.. beautiful.

First of many waterfalls.

You can see the river bed.

My very own Texas Cow Boy.
We read that there are over 100 water falls along these canyon walls.

We didn’t get pictures of the boys.. most of the time they were off on their own..

While we were hiking this trail they were running off the road while messing with their GPS getting a flat tire.  We had no cell service so they were unable to reach us for help.  :-/

Spring Break Photos Part 1

Yum Fudruckers

Judi, Miranda and James on the left.  Rebekah, Nichole and Mike on the right.

 Girls in Judi’s car following us bumper to bumper (the norm) in Pigeon Forge.

Our view Sunday evening.

Our view Tuesday morning after 2 days of snow.

Making snow balls.

4 inches of snow on the cars.

Which ball is smaller?

I think this one is.

Our snow person.

Our tongues keep popping out to catch snowflakes.. 

Mountain at the end of our road.

Friendly horses in Cade’s Cove

Cheese!

The church choir.

It was a little muddy..

James was computing while climbing the mud slide and slid himself.. ipad survived the mud.   Judi said, “I have a towel you can use in my trunk.”  James asked, “Where is that?”  Judi, “Attached to the back of my car.”  James wouldn’t budge.. do involved in making sure his ipad was okay.  Judi was so great that she marched down, got the towel and gave it to him… while the girls and I laughed at James for falling in the mud and took pictures.

We are church goers.

Maybe my favorite snow picture.

Or this one.

The barn.

Girls in the hay loft.

both sides.

Jumping down.

I got mud on my rear.. is that from James?

Best cabin yet.

The road behind.

The road ahead.

Did I share enough of these?

Love this one.

My Family Quilt Story: God’s Story

I started my family quilt 12 years ago when a friend of mine lost her husband to colon cancer.  He was 36 years old, in the military and had a 1 and 3 year old son. 

I had prayed, “God how should I pray for healing here on earth or that he’d quickly go to Heaven?”  I’d heard very clearly, “Pray for healing.”  One night while interceding on the floor beside my bed, I had a vision of Jesus interceding beside me.  The sicker he became the closer we believed he was to healing.. when he died we prayed for resurrection. 

Days passed and I prayed, “What happened?”  And God answered that it was my job to pray; His to answer; sometimes the answer would be no.  And I learned that He was God and I was not. 

In the trauma of it all, I decided to make a quilt of my family so they would live “forever” in a quilt.  As I worked on the quilt, I prayed for help as I do for everything.  I was shocked when I felt His presence helping and guiding me especially with the drawings of my family, which are far above my abilities, because in my heart, I knew I was rebelling against God’s omnipotence and wisdom.

As I made the quilt, I understood what some of it meant.  I knew the tree trunk was Abba God’s hand at work in the midst of everything.. holding everything together with strength and majesty; the dove was Holy Spirit moving across the earth in power.  I knew, of course, that Jesus had James in his arms.  James has aspergers and being both mom and teacher to him I often worried about him not fitting into the mold, not learning how to read until he was 13 etc., but the Lord continually gave me dreams showing me that He was taking care of James and not to push him. 

Most of the time I was too fearful to ask the Lord what the rest of the quilt meant.  I was afraid that James being in Jesus’ arms might mean that he was going to die, but one day while working on the border, I felt prompted to ask what all the blues meant.  He answered me that they were days; some light and happy and others dark, but that He would be with me through them all.

I started this quilt in the summer of 2000, but I didn’t finish it until the spring before Joel went home.  Homeschooling 4 kids didn’t leave a lot of time for quilting.  I think I finished the middle part the first year, but then moves came, algebra, team sports etc.; months and sometimes years passed without a stitch. 

Josh, Judi and Joel on piano in front of crazy quilt.

Then we were moving again, and I decided that I was going to finish the quilt.  It had been so long since I’d started that I decided to stretch Judi out to make her taller, then I finished the quilt with a crazy quilt border and hung it in our house in Montgomery.. but I didn’t like it.

We moved again to Huntsville this time and when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2011, I decided to take the border apart and start over with a different design.  One of the ways I deal with grief is by being creative.  The Creator creating through me helps bring healing.

Then finally, I was finishing the quit a second time and I wanted to add our new puppy to my quilt, but Joel said, “No, it should be like a frozen piece of time.”  So I finished the quilt without adding her in and hung it in our music room… which was in a way Joel’s room.  He almost never slept in his bed and only used the room he shared with Josh as a closet.

One day, while I was visiting Joel in his room with the quilt and admiring it, Joel said, “It looks like a stain glass window.”  He liked the idea, but I had a problem with the thought that it might be memorializing my family.  I didn’t want anyone to think that I put my family above God.. because I so didn’t.  I actually agonized over leaving it up and thought about taking it down many times.

Joel and Josh in “Joel’s” room.  Now named the music room in Joel’s honor.

So knowing full well that the quilt pattern I’d used for the new border was called “cathedral window,” I argued weakly that we weren’t apart of the stain glass window .. it was a clear window bordered in stained glass, and we were outside enjoying God’s creation.. picnicking or something.  He looked at me like, “Yeah, right.”

On the Wednesday after Joel had been murdered, a friend from Birmingham brought us dinner, and my mother showed her the quilt, and I saw.. for the first time more meaning in it.  I saw that Joel was the one up above all of us in God’s hand, that God knew all along that the number of Joel’s days would be short and that we would be left here on earth with Jesus in our midst.

The meaning of Joel’s names: Joel “God is Sovereign,” and Manuel “God is with us” were demonstrated in my quilt.  We don’t live in a crazy quilt world.. a world bordered in chaos.  We live in a cathedral window world.  A world designed by God with beauty and purpose.  A world were God works everything together for our good.

James is still in Jesus’ arms looking up at Joel.. seeing clearly that he is in God’s hands.  Josh is leaning on Jesus fishing.. for men.. for answers.. for cures for the earth’s woes.. for wisdom and direction.  Judi looks like she’s in a dream world chasing bunny trails.. but the angels (our rabbit, Angel, died of breast cancer at 10 years old shortly after we moved here) are close beside her.  Mike is finding refuge in worshiping while leaning on our ROCK, as am I.. as I search, study and meditate on His word and as I record what He is teaching me.

In these dark days, the one thing that gives me the light of hope is remembering the instructions God gave me early in this grief journey .. to think of Joel as having pushed a head of us in the race.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says
“Seeing that we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

It’s fun to think of running a race with Joel, and of course, he would push ahead of me and win, but maybe one day, in Heaven, I’ll get a re-match.  It encourages me to think of Joel up in that great cloud of witnesses cheering all of us on and I look forward to meeting him again one day at the finish line as I keep persevering in this race while keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus.

I struggle daily with either wanting to re-write Joel back into the story God is writing so skillfully.. or begging God to bring me to the end of my story where my suffering ends, every tear will be wiped away and I will hold Joel in my arms again.

I am working intentionally on my grief; asking God for right thoughts to replace my deep longings.  I work purposely and methodically at turning my thoughts to asking for strength and wisdom to live each day for His glory.

Psalm 139:16 says “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

This weekend the Lord showed me through this verse that not only was the December 7th marked out for Joel to lay down his life for his friends at the birthday party .. but today and however many days there are left until I see Him were laid out for me to continue living with His help for His glory.  Joel’s story was written on mine before I was formed in my mother’s womb.

The following verse (verse 17) is embroidered on my quilt:

“How precious it is, Lord, to recognize that You are thinking about me constantly.”

Glory to God, Who’s ways and wisdom are far above ours and Who thinks about us constantly!

I Peter 4:12-13
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Love,

Jenny



Come

Come
Tuesday April 9, 2013

My old friend, the Morning, now stings with
Reality that I so long to see erased.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Tuesday, only Tuesday, how the days drag on.
When will I see your face?

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Tears and more tears; sorrow clouds Joy.
But is not It’s undoing; only hate.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Lord, Jesus, you alone are my hope, my joy, my song,
The Morning, that I so long to see dawn.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Only Your loving kindness can make my heart,
my soul, my mind new.  Come.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Come with Your peace. 
Come flood me with Your joy.

Come let Love begin It’s healing work
On the ache from deep with in.  Come.

Lord, Jesus, come.
Be my Sun.

Running with Perseverance

Yesterday morning, Mike asked me when I was going to have the trash can the tornado ripped apart picked up.  I made the call a second time.  It isn’t easy to arrange a pick up for when you are home and they won’t forget.  I realized, too that it’s the trash can Joel took the trash out to.. the trash can Joel went and found after the tornadoes.. the trash can Joel duct taped together.. the trash can Joel brought into the garage on Wednesday nights.

It’s hard.  Should I even allow myself go down that thought path?  I
didn’t yesterday morning and here I am now at almost 3 AM.  Maybe it’s
better just to do the hard thing and allow myself to grieve even over the
trash can that is so easily replaced. 

Joel going to fish a trash can out of the April 2011 mess.

I had books (Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman, Heaven, and If God is Good by Randy Acorn) on hold at the library yesterday, so I went to pick them up on the way home from the chiropractor.  The best route was the route Joel took the day that he totaled his car.  I decided to take it.. to re-live it.. to face it.  It was hard before Joel went home; harder now.  I am so thankful that the city put in a much needed red light in response to Joel’s accident.

On the way home from the library, I chose another hard path; through the neighborhood just north of ours where I taught our three youngest how to drive just two years ago.  We spent so much time in that blue van.  Judi tipped one of the mail boxes on one trial run.  I learned a lot about self denial and control in that neighborhood.  I continue choosing to make myself do hard things, hoping that they will become easier with practice.

Mike planned this year’s vacations around Josh’s school schedule.  We had originally thought we would spread Joel’s ashes in the Smoky Mountains during Spring Break, but Josh was unable get off from his new stocking job at Walmart and we decided we just weren’t ready.. weren’t sure it was the right thing to do, so we’re waiting for wisdom, peace and more grace.

Judi
and James had the beginning of the week off so we took them and a few
of Judi’s friends up to Pigeon Forge to stay in a cabin.  It was a hard trip not
only because of our original plan but also because Mike and I had spent the
beginning of Joel’s last week on earth in Pigeon Forge.  We were glad
to have the girls there as an extra distraction. 

The girls on the cabin stairs.  Miranda on top, Rebekah, Judi and Nichole.

Spring Break, Mike’s birthday and Passover all fell on the same week this year.  I spent some time meditating on Jesus our Passover Lamb as I do each year while preparing to share the meaning of Passover in light of Jesus’ sacrifice.  That Monday night was our first Passover without Joel.  

I
explained to Judi’s friends that Passover is a Jewish day of
thanksgiving to God for their deliverance from slavery and bondage, and
that Jesus is God’s own dear Lamb sacrificed for our sins so that we
could be invited to join His family and enjoy deliverance from slavery
and bondage to sin.

Our Passover Table in Florida.

In the midst of my thoughts on Jesus’ and Joel’s deaths I found myself living with no will to live.  I had just spent the week before coming to terms with the fact that it might be 60 years before I see Joel again.  I had to accept that I could be in this for the long haul.  Remembering the events leading up to Good Friday, the week of Jesus’
death, and His sacrifice as I was reliving the week of Joel’s death in Pigeon Forge was
not something I had planned.  I needed the will to keep on living.

I began praying over and over, “Lord, if you are going to continue to leave me here to live, please, give me the ‘will and the do’ for it.”

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” 
Philippians 2:13

Finally, the Holy Spirit reminded me how God had instructed me to think of Joel when I was struggling early on.  He had said, “Think of Joel as having pushed ahead of you in the race.. and crossing the finish line in front of you.”

Meditating on this thought worked quickly to renew my mind; gave me hope and light.  It gives me joy to think of myself in a race with Joel, to think of Joel at the finish line waiting for me.  It reminds me to keep my eyes on Jesus, resurrected and beautiful, Lamb on the throne, and it gives me the courage I need to run with perseverance. 

Favorite picture of Joel in the Smokys.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2

I remembered last night that Joel was several years old before he could pronounce his name properly.  For the longest time, he would say his name was “Goel” with a hard “g” sound .. trying to get the “J” sound out right. 

Then I realized, that his early mispronunciation was actually a real word with meaning: “Goal.”  I will forever remember Joel and goal together now.. as I run my race, reaching towards my goal.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:14

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the
test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has
promised to those who love him.”  James 1:12

The long trip back Wednesday afternoon to our present home without Joel was still very difficult and filled with tears, but thinking of Joel at the end of his race in his true home did add hope and joy to my deep sorrow.  Maybe our next Passover will be in the New Jerusalem.

Love,
Jenny

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