This quote is written on a MantraBand here in The Rev and it jumped out to me today as I have been reflecting on the past week. There have been three main things that have made me really think, reflect and thank God for life: a death of a close family friend; Dawn, the remission of Lacey and a friend sick from malaria forcing me to reflect on my near death experience a year ago. These three things have really put so many of my thoughts into perspective this week and I hope that through sharing my experience you too will reflect and shift your gaze as well on the beauty of 'Celebrating Life'.
My husband and I spent October 23rd afternoon celebrating Dawn’s life in a beautiful and unique way. Dawn is a longtime family friend and her husband Michael even married me and my Michael. This wasn’t a normal wake with a long sad sermon with soggy faced goodbyes. There was worship and honesty and laughter and yes tears too, but it was mostly about remembering Dawn and celebrating her vibrant life. Dawn’s daughter Abbey and husband Michael are brilliantly gifted musicians so there were several times in the service where they played and sang. It sounded beautiful, yes, but to see them process this grief and mourn her through their gift of music was amazing. You could feel the love, the pain and the anguish as they sang and led us in worship. I have been surrounded by music my entire life, much thanks to my dad and Michael’s band Manna, so these songs were resounding in my soul. Tears were streaming down my face as we sang songs to The Lord.
As we sat listening to hilarious story after story being shared, I felt thankful I had the chance to be affected by Dawn. I told my husband on the way home, "This is how I want my funeral to go down. I want people worshiping the Lord and remembering the fun times, the times that God moved and we noticed and the times that made us 'celebrate life'."
Because this happened on a Sunday, it set the tone for life reflection for the week. This was especially fitting because Lacey was celebrating her remission. Many of you know that my partner in crime, Lacey, suffered a very rare kidney disease called FSGS. It has a more formal medical name but let’s get real- I will butcher that so let’s just go with FSGS. These letters, this acronym, has become threaded through my life not because I was personally affected by it or even around Lacey during this terrible time in her life, but because I am in constant gratitude that the Lord miraculously saved her from this dreaded and rare disease. I am in awe at her faith and the role that played in her recovery. I am grateful because it shows us the sovereignty of God. He knew she wasn’t finished and that she had so much to accomplish in this world and He chose me to walk alongside her in this purpose. Gosh, I am thankful.
We have seen so much, experienced miracles much like Lacey's miracle and we are reminded that where there is faith the Lord WILL show up and move. How amazing is that?!
What are you believing God for right now? Direction in your life? A baby? A spouse? Healing? Can we move into the idea of crazy, uninhibited faith? Can we believe with every fiber in our being that GOD, the Creator of the World will come through in a way that will bring glory to Him and in a way that is best for us. Can we shake off a “normal” faith and go for the “our life depends on it” faith? A faith that moves mountains, a faith that heals, a faith that provides a baby in a womb when there is no medical reason for that to happen. This is the kind of God we serve, my friends. This is the God I have been reflecting on as I look at Dawn’s life and Lacey’s remission.
I am also reminded of God’s grace in my own life as I talk with a friend that is currently battling malaria and trying to get care in the States, which let’s be honest, can be quite the challenge when you come in with malaria and they look at you as if you have 3 heads. As I have been praying for her, researching different options and learning about the differences in her symptoms and the ones I experienced a year ago I found myself in awe that I survived my bout with it.
I am reminded of the grace I experienced. Grace that looked like making it to the hospital just in time and having a precious friend in the Emergency Department that helped the process speed along. It looked like shielding those closest to me to the reality of my condition. It looked like ridiculous prayer warriors on their knees around the world praying for me. It looked like me surviving.
After being released from the hospital, I didn’t do much research on my strain (plasmodium falciparum) out of advice from my infectious disease doctor and now, researching for my friend, I know why. I remember them saying to me “be careful doing too much research because you survived it.” I remember thinking “well dang” talk about perspective. Sometimes in our lives, God uses these types of things to cast perspective; Perspective on our own lives and on others. Many asked me after I recovered if I would be returning to Kenya and I think they were thinking and/or hoping I would say no but I quickly responded, “Of course I am going back”.
Pushing through the weird looks and stank eyes, I got on the regular, my response to my battle with malaria is, "I pulled through, I have air in my lungs, the Holy Spirit in my life and a reason to keep moving. I have been where these kids are suffering malaria and other problems and they desperately need aid and need to hear about how the Lord loves them. So yes I will press on. Yes, I will celebrate life then and now. I will be thankful for every single day that the Lord gives me and I will live a life that will have stories to share at the end. Stories of miracles, laughter, bold moves, love and perseverance. I will celebrate life, mine and those around me. I will do my very best to follow Christ with my whole heart, even if it is unpopular and uncomfortable."
I encourage you today to celebrate life. Call a friend struggling and take them to dinner or heck take them to dessert because that is always more fun! Tell someone you love them. Get on your knees and thank God for breath in your lungs and ask Him to lead you, give your life to Him because when we surrender to Him is when we fully gain our lives right? We know our lives don’t end here and that the ultimate celebration will happen in heaven, but until then let’s celebrate life here and live everyday like it matters, because it does.
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