Healing or Adapting?

“‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.  But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.'” Malachi 4:1-2 [NASB]

Lately Scott and I have talked a lot about what it means for us to be “healed.”  From almost the very moment Sarah left we have heard talk of our eventual healing.  It’s been almost eight weeks and the wound to my heart is still just as raw as it was the very first day.  Pretty much every day at some point, if not multiple points, I end up weeping, as does Scott.  How can we not?  Our child we have poured our hearts and lives into for seventeen and a half years has been ripped from our arms.  There is a gaping hole in our family, a searing open wound simultaneously inflicted on each of our hearts and the hearts of Katelyn, Kristen and Sophie, as well.

Friends and family have offered up countless prayers for healing for us from the moment she left us, many counseling and encouraging us that healing will certainly come in time.  I believe what they say in a sense, but in a larger sense I don’t.  I have a sure and certain Hope that the Son of Righteousness truly will rise with healing in His wings, and we will be completely healed at our reunion in heaven.  On this side of heaven, however, a precious, treasured, irreplaceable part of the body of our family has been severed from us.  We have suffered a traumatic amputation.  We know where that precious part of us is, but she is gone for this lifetime.  As I think of healing, I think of restoration of former health, a return to completion.  Healing in that regard is an impossibility for us, restoration of former health and completion as a family will not occur this side of heaven.  Because a precious part of us is missing, we as individuals and a family will never again be who we were prior to June 8th, 2017.

In addition, when I think of healing I think of the absence of pain.  When you’ve had an injury you generally don’t consider it healed until the pain has subsided.  In the initial days after Sarah’s departure the pain was suffocating and constant.  Now we find ourselves able to breathe most of the time, but the pain still remains constant.  We know from others who have walked this path before us that the pain will always be a part of our lives.  For the remainder of this earthly life we will bear in our souls a mark of suffering.

I find myself recoiling every time I hear mention of our “healing.”  It seems to me to be a lofty, unattainable goal, something I would have to constantly strive for all the while not really believing it possible for the aforementioned reasons.  For that reason my personal goal has become adapting.  It is liberating for me to say that because it gives me an attainable goal to set my sights on.  I don’t believe we will be healed here, but I know God can and will enable us to adapt to this new and different life.  Recognizing all the while, this is just part of a journey.  Sarah skipped ahead of us and we will meet her there, but for the remainder of our journey we must adapt to her absence and our pain.  We are learning to do both.  We are learning how to push through the pain to live this new and different life.  As we do, we are offering our pain up as another fragrant offering to Him, trusting Him to redeem it and use it for our good and His glory, just as He has been redeeming the taking of Sarah’s life.

We are already seeing some of His redemption of our pain.  The pain causes us to be constantly aware of our need for His grace and mercy.  Though we have never been capable of making it a day in the absence of His grace and mercy, through our pain our eyes have been opened and we are acutely aware of our desperate need for His sustaining provision.  At the end of each day we offer up prayers of thanksgiving for His having sustained us through another day in Sarah’s absence.   We thank Him for the comfort He provides through His Word, the love of family and friends, notes of encouragement and a myriad of other sources.  We are reminded though His Word that we are not promised to be spared from our affliction, but we are promised that the Father of mercies and God of all comfort will comfort us.  He chooses to allow us to bear this pain, but He faithfully undergirds, strengthens and comforts us in it.  Though our suffering is abundant, “so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 [NASB]

Through our suffering He has equipped us and called us to serve differently, and so we are adapting to this new role as well.   Through our pain He has given us a greater tenderness of heart toward those who suffer.  By allowing us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death He has made us His ambassadors there.  He is calling us to speak Life in the midst of death.  He has so graciously comforted us in our pain “so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  We as individuals and a family are all recognizing and adapting to our calling to be vessels of His comfort in a hurting world.

We as a family will not be healed, restored to former health, complete and free from pain, but we will adapt.  That is not a statement of hopelessness, to the contrary it is an expectant testimony of His ongoing grace.  The hole in our family and the pain will remain, but His comfort, grace and mercy are abundant and exceedingly sufficient.  He will continue to sustain us, just as He will continue restoring our joy, His word promises us so. We are learning as individuals, as a married couple, as parents and as a family to adapt to life here without our precious Sarah.  Sarah’s absence constantly reminds us that we are only sojourners here.  At the end of each day we rejoice that we are one day closer to our glorious reunion with our precious sustaining Savior and Lord and sweet Sarah at His side.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.  After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:6-10 [NASB]

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Sarah’s promises and challenges taped to her laptop

Waiting in the Pit

“For the choir director. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD. ”  Psalm 40:1-3 [NASB]

Last night I finally washed Sarah’s sheets and blankets and made her bed, neatly placing her favorite blankets and stuffed animals back in their places.   It shattered my already broken heart a little further.  So this morning I find myself still in this pit I’ve been stuck in for several days now.  I see the light of His new mercy in the morning as I spend time in His Word, but in the depth of the pit I don’t feel it fully washing over me as I do when I am on solid ground, for now the shadow of death seems to block its warmth.  I have no energy to claw or climb my way out, and even if I did have the energy to somehow get out it would never be sufficient to keep me from eventually sliding back in.  So as I sit here in the mire of this pit this morning I once again look to His Word longing for encouragement.

David “waited patiently for the LORD” in the pit.  That alone is encouragement to me this morning.  Not only did he, the man after God’s own heart, fall into the pit just like me, he also realized he was incapable of getting out by his own strength.  So he waited, he sat in the pit and waited.  He waited but he did not wait silently.  He says God “inclined to me and heard my cry.”  He was crying out to God from the depths of the mire of the pit, and God heard and inclined Himself to David.  Not only was David crying out, but as he was waiting, it says specifically that he was waiting “patiently.”  Some think the word for patiently here is better understood as “intently.”  Either way the implication is the same, as David was waiting in the mire he was expecting His God to answer.  The man after God’s own heart knew the character and nature of God just as we can through His Word, and He knew that His God prides Himself on His faithfulness and lovingkindness to His children.

“Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments” Deuteronomy 7:9 [NASB]

My prayer through tears this morning before opening His Word was that He would remind me of His faithfulness, and that He would give me confidence to wait on Him.  I’m so thankful His Word is living and active, that through the power of the Holy Spirit He faithfully speaks exactly what our aching hearts need to hear.  So once again in the midst of this suffering I will entrust my soul to my “faithful creator,” and I will choose to wait patiently, intently, for Him in this pit (1 Peter 4:19).  Like David, I will cry out knowing He will hear and eventually answer me, “My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me” (Psalm 77:1).  I find courage in knowing He will lift me out, providing my way of escape, in His time.  In the meantime I know He is faithful and will supply my every need to endure however long He chooses to leave me here.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. ” 1 Corinthians 10:13 [NASB]

Eventually, in His time, He will once again “set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.”  When He does He will also “put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.”  May the world around us bear witness to His deliverance of our family from the pit.  May they witness His placing of our feet on solid ground, and may they hear the new song in our mouths.  As they do, our prayer for them is that they, too, “will see and fear and will trust in the LORD.”

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Artwork: Sarah Harmening

New Mercy For Today

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;  who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,  you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.”  2 Corinthians 1:8-11 [NASB]

This passage has become my personal prayer over the past week or so.  The numbness that initially shielded our broken hearts has now resolved and been replaced with excruciating reality.  We are acutely aware of how desperately we miss Sarah and how radically our lives were transformed on June 8th, 2017.  We are “burdened excessively” far “beyond our strength,” indeed we have “despaired even of life.”  We feel the sting of death in our souls, and we cry out in the depth of our grief like Jeremiah in Lamentations, “my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD” (Lam 3:17-18 ESV).

Thankfully Jeremiah’s testimony goes on to give us hope in the midst of our deep distress:

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;  they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”  Lamentations 3:21-26 [ESV]

We cling to this hope, His mercies are new every morning.  We have learned the necessity of heeding His warning in Matthew 6:34 regarding “tomorrow” as we journey through this dark valley.  We must fight the constant temptation to agonize over tomorrow, we must not allow ourselves to fall into Satan’s crippling snare of trying to figure out how we will survive the next painful “first,” “second,” or “third” without Sarah.  We do not currently possess the strength, grace or mercy to meet the unthinkable challenges of tomorrow.  We praise Him that His Word promises to provide each and every morning the new mercy and abundant grace uniquely necessary for that day specifically.  We relate to the Word inspired through Paul in the 2 Corinthians passage above, “we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”  So we fix our eyes on Him and strive to rest in the grace and mercy provided for the day, knowing He has faithfully provided our every need each new morning for the past 45 days and trusting like Paul that “He will yet deliver us.”

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 [NASB] 

Also like Paul in 2 Corinthians, we continue to ask for prayer, that you may join “in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.”  People naturally watch those who suffer, so our prayer is that we may suffer in a way that points to God’s abundant provision.   May we keep our hope set on Him and He continue to faithfully deliver us daily.   May His mercy and grace be evident in us, and His surpassing power overrunning in our lives as a testimony to His faithfulness for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;  we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 [NASB]

We long, like Sarah, to finish well but the path before us is so painfully long, dark and daunting without her.   We covet prayers that our focus will stay fixed on Him and His provision for today, that we may receive the outpouring of grace, mercy and strength necessary to continue in Him.  May we also hold unswervingly to the hope we profess so that in the end we, too, may be confident and unashamed before Him.

 

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Text message from Sarah Harmening to Rachel Early 5/22/2017

Death is Not Good…

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28 [NASB]

Sharing our focus of looking for redemption for the anguish of Sarah’s departure has become a little bit of a double edged sword.  We want to consistently point to the hope and redemption that God so faithfully brings in fulfillment of His promise to work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).  However, in focusing so much on redemption we have learned there is a risk of some misconstruing that the redemption might somehow make Sarah’s death “worth it”, or even “good”.  It can lead to such an excitement in some about what God is doing that sensitivity is lost to the deep loss that precipitated the need for redemption to begin with.  Statements about Sarah’s death being “worth it” or “good” are like daggers in the hearts of those grieving her absence.

Almost immediately after the accident our prayer as a family was for God to allow us to see redemption for the unimaginable pain we were experiencing.  We knew redemption would in no way eliminate the pain or make the pain “worth it” or “good.”  We would never willingly choose this painful journey, but we knew redemption could fuel our perseverance through it.  Redemption does not answer the question “Why?”, it answers the question “How?”.  When we look for and see redemption, it does not indicate that is “Why” God allowed Sarah’s death, instead it shows us “How” God is faithfully fulfilling the promise to use all things for good to us, even the worst thing, death.

God has been so faithful to answer those prayers for redemption.  We have received countless emails, texts, cards and letters all testifying of the impact of Sarah’s life and testimony on them.  What a tremendous blessing every single testimony  has been to us, each poured over us like a healing balm.  God is indeed mightily redeeming the taking of Sarah’s life and he is turning the evil intended for harm to use it for good.  God is using the devastation of Sarah’s death for good, but that does not make Sarah’s death good.

Death is not good.  Parents having to bury their child is not good.  Sisters grieving the absence of their sister is not good.  Grandparents mourning the death of their grandchild is not good.  Sarah’s death is not good.  When God proclaimed creation “good” and “very good” there was no death in it.  God’s perfect plan did not include death, death is an enemy introduced through the fall.  While we as Christians have the glorious Hope of eternity, that does not remove the pain and anguish death inflicts through the void left in the earthly lives of  grieving families.

We do not grieve for Sarah’s future, we grieve for ours here without her.  We grieve because there is a massive void in our home where Sarah once was.  Our entire family dynamic is forever altered by that wretched thief called death.  God did not create us with death in mind, death is worthy of grieving, deep, broken grieving.  Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, knowing He would raise him, so it is certainly acceptable for us as believers to weep at the death of our loved ones.  Praise God, though, that as we grieve we do not grieve without Hope (1 Thess. 4:13-14).  Though this temporary separation takes our breath away, we know eternity is looming and with it a glorious reunion.

We are so very blessed to have so many faithfully walking alongside us simultaneously grieving our unimaginable loss and rejoicing over stories of redemption with us.  Some days grief prevails and they weep with us, and other days stories of redemption prevail and they rejoice with us (Rom. 12:15).  Their balancing the two, grief and rejoicing, never losing sight of one for the other, but carrying both together in sensitivity to our broken hearts continues to bless us immensely.  What a privilege and blessing it is to be part of the body of Christ, knit together through the love born of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, filled with longing to bear one another’s burdens, overwhelmed with compassion to weep with those who weep, and subject to the selflessness that rejoices with those who rejoice.

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Artwork: Sarah Harmening

 

 

 

Why Sarah? Why Us?

When Scott and I wake each morning it still seems incomprehensible that Sarah is gone.  Also incomprehensible is that 38 other students and adults on the very same bus have already made or will make full recoveries.  I have avoided seeing the crash footage for the most part and don’t want to know any more details than what I already know, but based on what I do know it is safe to say that the hand of God delivered those 38 other people on the bus from physical death.  Not only did He deliver those 38 people from physical death, He also miraculously delivered each of them from severe injury (severe injury meaning life altering spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries).  It is undeniable that the hand of God clearly protected those other 38 people, so why not Sarah? Why are we left grieving the absence of our daughter when the hand of God was clearly delivering others at that exact moment?  Did He abandon her and ultimately us as her family?

I suppose one could be tempted to think perhaps Scott and I had not prayed adequately for her safety, perhaps failure to pray on our part or hers is the reason she alone did not survive?  Thankfully, I can confidently report that is not the case at all.  Her journals testify she had prayed over this trip for months.  In addition to Scott’s and my prayers in the days and weeks preceding the trip, I was so fearful and burdened about Scott not driving the bus that I spent a particularly prolonged period in prayer the afternoon before the crash.  The Lord led me to Psalm 91 and I prayed it at length over my precious Sarah.  As I prayed through that Psalm as well as other scripture that afternoon, evening and the next morning before they left I walked through the process of entrusting her to Him once again.

I cried out to God that afternoon, praying verses 9-12 specifically.  I reminded the Lord that we as a family love Him with all of our hearts and that we have made Him our refuge.  I entreated Him to honor the prayer of this Psalm in our lives, that He would protect Sarah as she traveled, that He would set His angels guard around her, that they would bear her up in their hands and protect her from harm.

“For you have made the LORD, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place.  No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent.  For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways.  They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone.”  Psalm 91:9-12 [NASB]

I thought about that prayer after the accident, at first thought it broke my heart that He had apparently chosen to disregard the very prayer I felt He led me to lift to Him.  I had believed as I prayed Psalm 91 that He had specifically led me to it, that He led me to pray that prayer for my child, to entrust her to Him as I put her on that bus.  I obeyed in prayer but He had apparently not honored the very requests He led me to bring before Him, had He?  In the days following the accident I prayerfully went back to Psalm 91 and reread it once again.  God opened my eyes and spoke to my heart to show me how in His faithfulness He had inspired, heard and graciously answered the cry of Psalm 91 in the life of Sarah that day, though painfully not at all in the temporal way I had intended.

God did indeed set His angels guard around Sarah the day of the crash, just as I had petitioned through Psalm 91.  I believe that, though Satan was allowed to sift us by taking Sarah’s physical life, God Himself set limits on what was inflicted on her, sparing her physical pain and suffering, and for that we are all deeply grateful.  He has consoled me that He honored my prayer that His angels be set guard around her, and that she was no less held and protected than any other person on that bus.  He commanded them to bear her up in their hands, and I am confident they obediently did just that as they ushered her directly into His presence.

The day before she left, as I prayed Psalm 91 over her, verse 14 struck me, “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name” [NASB]. I remember requesting of the Lord as I prayed that day, “you know how much Sarah loves you, so please deliver her, keep her safe as only you can.”  However, as I look back I am struck by His promise there, that He “will set him securely on high,”  which of course reminds me of the verse Sarah chose for this mission trip, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).  Sarah was already crying out to Him and trusting Him to set her securely on high, safely upon the Rock that is higher than us. When His angels ushered her into His presence He fulfilled that promise, she was swiftly and safely led on high to “The Rock that is higher than I.”

As I prayed Psalm 91 for Sarah the day before the crash,  I prayed for His provision and abiding presence with her through the words of verse 15, “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him” [NASB].  How precious it is that even as sweet Sarah was on that bus she was doing exactly what this verse said.  She recorded in her journal that she was nervous and she called upon Him, seeking Him through His Word.  She even testified in her journal that He answered Her in her trouble at that moment.  He kept His promise in the Psalm prayed over her the day before, and He quickly answered her on that bus setting her at ease.  This mommy’s heart agonizes that her child was not rescued physically as every other mother’s child was on the bus that day.  Even so, I can testify without a doubt that He did “rescue” her from death, delivering her to Life everlasting through the blood of Jesus, and He has most definitely honored her.  The testimony of a quiet little girl few knew has been propelled around the globe by His faithfulness and for His glory.   She set her heart in the preceeding weeks and days to be on mission to be used by Him, saying she knew He would do “something incredible.”  Indeed, He has been faithful to do something incredible, and as He has brought glory to Himself through it, He has also graciously and mercifully honored our precious Sarah.

Verse 16, the final verse of Psalm 91 that I had prayed over Sarah before she left is,  “With a long life I will satisfy him And let him see My salvation” [NASB].  Of course my heart as I lifted this prayer to God was for Sarah’s physical life to be long, but I also acknowledge that is a finite perspective.  In spite of being painfully grieved at her absence, we rejoice that, like Sarah, we all know that this physical life is like a “wisp of smoke,” but the greatest is yet to come.  Praise God that His Word is clear that when we are in Christ Jesus we live even though we die (John 11:25-26).  Sarah is enjoying eternal life, the epitome of “long life,” she is no longer constrained by impending death, it is powerless over her.  Lastly and most importantly, God has allowed Sarah to see His salvation.  As she has seen her Savior and God face to face, her faith has become sight (Matthew 5:8; 1 Cor. 13:12).

So, Why Sarah?  Why us? I guess I don’t really have a good answer to those questions, except to answer with opposing questions, why not Sarah? Why not us?  God through His Word has prepared us, He has forewarned us that we live in a fallen world far from his original intent of perfection for us.  He told us in Genesis of the entry of sin and death into the world and He warns us throughout His Word that we will face trials and tribulations as a result.  He warns us, as Sarah pointed out in her last journal entry, that we have an adversary, the devil, who prowls around longing to devour, scheming and devising ways to steal, kill and destroy (1 Pet. 5:8, Eph. 6:11, John 10:10).  In the midst of all that bad news, though, God offers a sea of rich promises for us, all available through the blood of Jesus Christ.

I’ve shared before but will share again, that in the moments after learning of Sarah’s departure God clearly impressed on my heart that Satan had asked to sift us, and God spoke to my heart that if we will cling to Him, He will carry us through.  God clearly impressed this on my heart and ultimately on the heart of each member of our family.  We don’t know why Satan requested to sift us specifically, and we don’t know exactly why God said yes, but we accept and trust His decision.  Now we, like Peter, long to persevere through this excruciatingly fiery trial, through this sifting, and allow Him to not only use it to refine and sanctify us, but also to strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ (Luke 22:31-32).  And so we share, and I write, knowing that He will redeem it in His time, that He will eventually exchange our ashes and mourning for gladness and praise.  May He enable us to stand as mighty oaks for Him, that He may be glorified.

To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. [Isa 61:3 NASB]

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Because she has loved Me, therefore I will deliver her; I will set her securely on high, because she has known My name.

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Another Mission Trip

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“Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. ” 1 Peter 4:19 [NASB]

The verse above is so perfect for today.  Scott and I with heavy, raw, grieving hearts delivered Sarah’s younger sister, Sophie, to church this morning and watched her get in the back of a vehicle and leave on a mission trip.  There is a part of my Mommy heart that wanted to refuse to let her go, it’s certainly reasonable to say it’s too soon for that, right?  I can justify it, I’m certain I can.  But the Holy Spirit will not allow me to.  He is convicting me daily to trust my God with what is most precious to me.  I am called to entrust to Him that which is much more precious to me than my own life, my children.

As He has called me to entrust my very soul to Him, in like manner I am convicted He also calls me to entrust my precious children to Him.  I’m particularly drawn to the Psalms these days, and over and over again in them He implores me to trust Him, to fear not and to be faithful.   In great detail He repeatedly shows me throughout His Word why He alone is worthy to be trusted.  Most impactful to me right now in this regard is the account of His speaking to Job in chapters 38-41.  He alone is God, the God who laid the foundation of the earth, the God who directs the lightning, the God who alone can do all things.  The God who sets all things in motion and maintains them by the power of His Word deserves and demands my trust.

Another passage also comes to mind, a passage that I cling to for a variety of reasons but is appropriate for me today as well, Jeremiah 9:23-24.

“Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches;  but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24 [NASB]

I love this passage because it clearly tells me He allows us to know Him personally.  Not that we can comprehend all there is to know about Him, He is infinite and we are finite, but we can most definitely intimately understand and know Him.  Through knowledge of His Word we have a clear portrait of who He is because He has chosen to reveal Himself to us there.  What blessed assurance and comfort to confidently know that He exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness, and that He delights in those attributes.  The culmination of a nurtured intimate relationship with Him through the power of His Word is our ability to trust Him fully.  We are able to trust Him with that which is most precious to us because He alone is worthy to be entrusted with them.

He has repeatedly graciously and mercifully shown Scott and me He is worthy to be trusted.  He has confirmed in the depths of the valley He alone is worthy to be trusted because He alone is willingly able to carry us through.  Though our hearts are raw and grieved may we continually, fully entrust our souls and our children to Him.  May we continue to find rest, peace and comfort in our knowledge and understanding of Him, our faithful Creator.   May we be ever reminded that He will never leave us nor forsake us, that we can always find refuge in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 64:7), and that He will sing over us and quiet us in His love (Zeph. 3:17).  May we always boldly and confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid” (Heb 13:6).

Swallowed up by Life

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,  if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.  For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.  So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,  for we walk by faith, not by sight.  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 [ESV]

Since Sarah left I’ve learned that she talked a lot about heaven with family and friends.  She talked about heaven with me but stopped short of saying she “can’t wait to go.”  The same can’t be said for her friends and sisters, though, she readily made it known to them that she was ready and excited.  Initially when her sisters told me she had been telling them she was excited about heaven I thought it was just a desire to be away from a fallen world and a desire to be in heaven for all the obvious reasons.  After all, we all look forward to unimaginable beauty, the presence of the Lord and freedom from the pain and suffering of this world.  As I’ve spent the past weeks reading her journals, though,  I’ve learned I underestimated her heart and desires.

Over and over again in her journals I read her frustration with her fallenness.  Her tender heart grieved over moments of impatience or sometimes struggling to love someone well.  She commiserated with Paul in Romans 7, she longed to walk in obedience to Christ but regularly found herself repenting at the end of the day for failure to obey despite her best intentions.  Her precious tender heart poured out words of brokenness into her journals each time she fell short of the standard of Christ.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. … For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:15, 22-24 [ESV]

Today as I was spending time in 2 Corinthians 5 it suddenly hit me.  I underestimated my child. She understood and embraced something I had failed to fully appreciate.  Her desire for heaven was not fueled by wanting to avoid pain and looking forward to the beauty of heaven, it was actually fueled by her longing for righteousness.  She understood life on this earth would be continually about sanctification, but she longed for glorification.  She longed for death to be stripped away and to be swallowed up by life.  She longed to be with her Savior in the unimaginable beauty of heaven, but she also longed for deliverance from her flesh and its constant inclination toward sin.

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”  Romans 8:22-23 [ESV]

Sarah longed to be swallowed up by life, and in so doing she had greater maturity than her mother.  I’ve loved the Lord since I was five years old, but I also love this world.  I love good and wonderful things in this world.  I love being a wife and a mother, I love investing in college students and high schoolers, I love spending time with family.  I am convicted now that I have loved those things more than righteousness, I have never truly groaned to put on my heavenly dwelling.  I have always longed to stay here in this world, heaven is for later, I have too much to look forward to here first.

Sarah told Katelyn she couldn’t wait to go to heaven.  Katelyn told her not to say that because she had lots of stuff to do here first, that she needed to get married and have a family.  Sarah said that would be great but heaven would be better.  I never would have said that at her age. She understood so much more than me, she got it and I did not, she groaned and was burdened for her mortal being to be swallowed up by life.

I have a longing for heaven now, but I will be quick to admit it is significantly impacted by a longing to be with my precious Sarah again. But I also get it now, Sarah showed me something I failed to appreciate and I am thankful for it.  I am joining her by longing to be liberated from this body of death, to be swallowed up by Life.  I have accepted the challenge left by her testimony and have set my heart on using every part of my “moment” to point others to Him as I eagerly await abiding with my Savior and Sarah, groaning with longing to be free of death and swallowed up by life.

Journal   5/3/17

Okay so in yesterday’s quiet time I kind of gave a hint of what’s been going on, but I want to write a little more to get more of the story so I can remember all that God has done. So I just said something stupid and got in trouble.  I don’t want to get into the details because I’m sure my story is one-sided, but I kept replaying the scenario over and over again in my head and I was beating myself up about it.  I was discouraged because no matter how hard I try, I still make mistakes and make a mess of things.  But then the Holy Spirit reminded me of grace.  I will never be perfect and that’s why there’s grace. My sins are eternally covered.  And then I read Psalm 119.  Two verses really encouraged me because it was exactly where I was.  It was Psalm 119:9-11 and 28-30.

~Sarah Harmening

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Artwork: Sarah Harmening