Five years ago today I lost my only sibling and someone I loved and admired very much. During those first weeks and months the tears flowed endlessly and still today, the pain is just as intense, but it comes less frequently (although still too frequently). I once read someone’s account of losing a loved one and it was very relatable. Grief is like a tsunami that pours over you with enormous pain. In the beginning, the waves come regularly and frequently. Over time, the waves come less often but the intensity of pain when they hit is still as strong as those first hours and days. 

Much has happened since that awful day. I wonder what Greg’s life would be like if he had lived and as much as I would wish him back in my life, I wrestle with knowing he is healed and where he ultimately intended to be—with our Lord in Heaven.
Recently a friend from my small group in church passed away. She was a mighty athlete competing in iron man challenges, but unfortunately was diagnosed with a somewhat rare and terminal disease that took away her abilities to live in the manner she was used to. We prayed for several years for a cure so she could be healed but in the end she went to the Lord too soon. Later, my wise small group leader said our prayers were answered because when she went to Heaven she was healed. She now has a glorious new body and feels no pain.

I remember many prayers I asked God for concerning my brother. I wanted his relationships to heal, his body to heal, and for him to find peace and happiness. And while he left us too soon (from our perspective), God healed him. He now feels no pain, he is with our Savior, and is awaiting us all in the Kingdom.

My parents, his children, and I miss him every single day. He was a glue and stable force in our lives. He was an amazing role model and I really wish he was still around to be an example of God’s love in his children’s lives. The way he lived his life and accepted me for who I was and his love led me to seek Jesus as an adult. God was in my heart but I was wandering lost for many years until my adult relationship with Greg took off and I saw how God could bring peace, a feeling of content, fun, and love in my life.

He affected many people in a positive way through his mission trips, work with Campus Crusade for Christ, volunteering at church, and being a solid base of support for friends, family, and others who just happened to cross his path.

Greg’s kids and our family and his close friends meant the world to him. He struggled those last years of his life, but was giving his all for his family regardless of how life was hitting him. I will never forget God giving us that last day. Greg called to ask me to come up to visit for no reason—just hey let’s get together. That was a week before he died. I really felt like God gave me that last day to see him and have fun before we would be separated for the decades I would have to live without him before God called me home.

So, I still spend some nights crying because he is gone and because of the fall out of being separated from some of my family members, and for the kids and my parents missing their father and son. But, I will always be grateful to God for giving me the best big brother a girl could ask for.

In Greg’s memory, our family created a charity called the Masterpiece Fund. We are honoring the character and principles my brother stood for by giving funds to people throughout the world who need love and support. Greg’s last bible study included a scripture reading from Ephesians 2:10 which inspired the charity.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for long ago.”

The pain of loss we feel when loved ones die is why we must remember to respect all life. Whether friends or strangers. If death of loved ones didn’t hurt so much we would not respect life at all. I think we need to remember that the death of strangers is as much of a pain to someone else as our loved one’s passing means to us. In honor of Greg, let’s remember what Jesus asked us to do.

“I give you a new command. Love one another. You must love one another, just as I have loved you.”
John 13:34

Milestones mark our time. I’m not sure why we mark time like that—maybe to organize our lives, remember important life-changing events, or because we need to put something in perspective? Sometimes that may be good—like giving parents a sense of how and what lessons to teach their children (e.g., financial responsibility in high school vs. when they are 40). Sometimes I think it’s not so good—expecting to achieve certain goals because you have reached a certain time in your life.

I’m just saying, time is weird and it’s “relative.” For me, the past six months have been sad and stressful. There have been moments of love and laughter and hope as well. But the time since my brother passed seems like an eternity and yesterday at the same time. As I arrive at a milestone, or pass by a place where we made a fun memory, or come to a day we celebrated during the year, the grief comes back like a truck that hits me all over again.

I’ve been told by many who have lost loved ones that this grief period goes on for quite awhile. I guess that’s so we remember how precious life is and how important our loved ones are. I really miss my family and the fun things we’d do together on weekends, but I hope with time that they (and me) can heal and remember Greg without crying too hard. Seriously, I really should buy stock in Kleenex.

Well, yesterday was an anniversary of September 11 and today I am thinking about my family and my brother, and my friends who are also grieving or facing a big challenge. But I don’t want you to leave this blog feeling all boo—yucky and pathetically sad. So, I’ll leave you with something to hopefully make you smile and know that “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 (A Time for Everthing)

It’s been hard to write lately. When you are dealing with something bad in your life whether it’s the loss of a loved one, sickness, heartbreak, financial distress, or the hordes of maladies that seem to strike people of all ages, races, religions, it feels like time slows down. I guess that cliché that time flies when you’re having fun has a polar effect in the universe.

Maybe God gives us that time so we don’t hurry into bad choices or so that we can really lean on Him for support. He wants us to remember Him in all things and when we start focusing on Him and His Word that’s when He starts to work the healing process and the clock starts up again—a new day.

Gifts from the Father

God has given me many gifts and they have been gratefully received and cherished—more so in the past three months than ever before. Those gifts are His Word, His love, and the people He has placed in my life. My family and my friends. He also gave me Grendel and the cats to keep me company and I thank Him for the creatures of the world as well.

“When we consider the blessings of God—the gifts that add beauty and joy to our lives, that enable us to keep going through stretches of boredom and even suffering—friendship is very near the top.” —Donald W. McCullough, Mastering Personal Growth

But I want to just talk for a moment about friends and trust and faith. My last entry was an outpouring of grief. Yikes, such a public display of my hurt and feelings—so embarrassing. But I needed it and God helped me by sending some peeps to listen to my tear-soaked memories of Greg and my concerns about his kids and their grief. I was comforted by so many loving and caring people—including my parents who were also hurting. What a blessing to have such wonderful parents and friends and family.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9–12

Doubt and Hope

I also want to say to anyone who is also hurting and not sure about their prayers or what God is doing—please, I beg you, please do not lose faith. It hurts, I know. We don’t understand why our loved ones have to be sick or hurt or why we have to go through trials and pain. There are some things that will take time and some things that will have to wait until we join our Father in heaven. The answers will be there, just have faith. God is for us. The hurts we feel come from man-made sin, not God. God sends us friends and family to help us through the tough times and He wants us to come to him and tell him our feelings and ask Him for His help. He loves you and He loves me.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” John 14:1-2

I found this wonderful article online by a guy named Jack Zavada. He discusses prayer and how sometimes if feels like our prayers aren’t being answered and it can be frustrating. He says we need to submit and trust God—hopefully before we hit rock bottom. It’s good reading—check it out: The Turning Point in Prayer.

There is this one scripture passage that always had me a bit, well, confused. Like—really? I can actually move a mountain if I really believe? Not sure about that one.

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.“ Mark 11:23

But then I realized that the word ‘mountain’ doesn’t have to be taken literally. It can mean a massive huge obstacle or problem or hurt or anything that is keeping you paralyzed and in pain. If you really put your heart to God and believe that He will take care of you better than you can ever do on your own—the mountain will move.

His Love Takes on Many Forms

I know He loves me because He has created so much beauty in the world around me. In the smile of my nieces and nephews, in the towering mountains, in the crystal blue lakes, in the saliva-dripping Grendel dog, in the purr of my cat, in the laughs of my friends, in the arms of my mother and father, in the giggle of the three-year old neighbor, in the soft grass, in the rain and sun, and in the loving words He has given us to guide us in all things.

Where You Go, I Will Go.

Thank you God. Thank you friends. Thank you all my “Ruths” out there who have been so loving and supportive. And to all my dear loved ones—in your own troubled thoughts and feelings, please don’t give up hope. Keep your faith. Give up your pain and control to God—He is better equipped to handle it. And love each other. And let me be there for you when you need someone. You are my people.

So in honor of my brother who was an amazing father, I will conclude this post with some thoughts from our heavenly Father as we near Father’s Day.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-19

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. “ Romans 15:13

“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12