Christmas: The Never-Ending Story

“What is the true meaning of Christmas?” Brooklyn has repeatedly asked me this season, usually as we are driving somewhere. I always say it’s the time we celebrate Jesus’ being born into this earth. It’s His birthday. “Jesus is the reason for the season!” I say happily.

But there is obviously so much more to the story. Christmas is the day we celebrate Jesus’s birth; but the real Christmas story actually began in the very beginning, before God created mankind.

When God created mankind, He gave us a free will, and for some inexplicable reason, in the midst of the beautiful garden in which He set Adam and Eve, He placed a forbidden tree. “Eat of any of the others, but not this one; eat from this one and you will die,” He essentially said.

Most everyone knows the story. The devil came in the form of a serpent and convinced them to eat it. At that moment, sin and death (and thus separation from God) entered this world.

Man needed a Savior, and God knew that he would need a Savior.

He had already made The Plan.

Why Jesus wasn’t born one or two generations from Adam, I don’t know. Why God waited 4,000 years for Jesus to be born of the virgin Mary, I don’t know.

But during those 4,000 years, God kept hope alive by sending many prophecies of a coming Savior. The exact number, I’m not sure: It could be from 108 to over 400. But, interestingly, in the 1950s mathematician Peter Stoner calculated that the odds of even EIGHT prophecies coming to pass in one person’s life was one in one hundred quadrillion!

The point is, about 2,000 years ago an angel appeared to a virgin named Mary and told her she was blessed and highly favored among women and would conceive and bear a Son named Jesus, the promised Savior. She was confused as to the logistics since she was a virgin, but the angel patiently explained that it would happen by the Holy Spirit who would come upon her.

To Mary’s great credit, she agreed to this plan (God did not “rape” Mary, as I saw one claim recently): “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be unto me according to your word.” Thus the seed of God was implanted into humanity, and there grew, and was born.

What a glorious day!

We don’t know exactly what day of the year it was, but we celebrate His birth on Christmas day.

It’s what Jesus did at the end of His time on earth that makes this a never-ending story. He became what no one else could: a perfect sacrifice for the sin of all mankind. Every person is born with this Adamic sin nature; but when we are born AGAIN, we become a partaker of GOD’S divine nature! We are made a new creation!

John 3:16 records Jesus’ summation of The Plan, saying that God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son, that whoever would believe in Him would have eternal life.

Eternal life. I’m very interested in that, you see, because I have a young daughter whose earthly life was cut short.

How does one receive eternal life? How is one born again into God’s kingdom, a kingdom of life and not death?

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10:9-10, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Because Jesus came, lived perfectly in the face of temptation, suffered and died on the cross, was buried and subsequently resurrected, we can now have life by believing in Him. Through Jesus’ resurrection, we have resurrection—first of our spirit, then one day our body.

He was the first fruit of many. The never-ending story of life and hope.

Because of this never-ending story of Christmas, I have hope. I have hope for eternal life, and I also have hope that I will see my beloved daughter again, because she believed in Jesus and what He did for her.

Because of this never-ending story, I write this today so you can have that hope, then you can share this same hope with your loved ones so that we never have to experience eternal separation from the God Who Saves or from those we love.

(Genesis 1-3; Isaiah 53; Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:26-38; John 1:1-5; John 3:3-18, 35-36; 1 Peter 1:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Romans 3:21-28; 6:23; 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; 1 Corinthians 15:1-26; and many more.)

Try to Remember the [Good] Times in September

It’s Labor Day weekend here in the USA. For most, I’m sure, a holiday to mark the last hurrah of summer. For us, it’s “that weekend.”

Our Emily went to heaven suddenly on Labor Day, 2013.

We can try to act like it’s just another weekend. We can try to have fun (and we will). But we don’t mention “it” because, why? Why turn a holiday into a time of mourning?

But it’s there. It’s there in the heart, loud and clear. It’s in the social media “memories” that pop up, lest we forget. “This day five years ago” leading up to September 2nd brings happy pictures in which the pain of losing a dear one has not yet been etched in our faces.

The very old song “Try to Remember” comes to mind. “Try to remember the kind of September … when life was so tender, when no one wept except the willow.”

Emily’s birthday is also in September.

So I try to remember the GOOD times in September.


I remember when, after a miscarriage and months of trying to conceive, I was blessed to carry and give birth to Emily in September, 1992. We were surprised at the blond hair and blue eyes that greeted us since we both are brown-eyed brunettes.


I remember how happy we were to add two more daughters to the family. So many good times we all had together over the course of Emily’s 21 years.


I remember how much she loved animals.


And dirt. As in mud, dirt races, and mud truck madness.


I remember the look that said, “Enough pictures, Mom!”


I remember how beautiful she looked when she got married in a sweet, simple ceremony in our backyard, the blue waters of the lake reflecting the happiness of the day.


I remember her being pregnant with our first grandchild, and all the doctor appointments that I took her to. Due to her medical condition, her pregnancy was deemed high risk which meant we had the pleasure of viewing ultrasounds every month! Her doctor was 80 miles away, so we always made a day of it.


I remember watching my firstborn become a precious mommy.



Emily left us so many wonderful memories. But the best gift she gave us, after herself, is her beautiful daughter, who, like her mom, surprised everyone with her coloring: red hair, coming from blond parents. Emily’s little girl is our own. She fills our lives with joy and grace and laughter and gratitude.



I remember the times in September and November and December and all through the year. The good times. The blessed times. The wonderful times. When I do that, my heart is filled with thankfulness, along with the unswerving hope of seeing her again in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.








It’s Resurrection Sunday, also known as Easter. I’m a Christian, and the resurrection of my Savior, Jesus Christ, is a defining moment. If He had only lived and died, He would be like everyone else. But He rose on the third day, just like He said He would, and walked on the Earth another 40 days before ascending to Heaven in a cloud of glory.

Resurrection. Sometimes the word stabs my heart, because I have a sweet daughter whose body quit way too soon. I was there some time later, as the doctors worked on a shell whose spirit had long left and was enjoying the wonder and splendor and perfect love and complete health of heaven. When they gave up, I did not, and continued to call her back in Jesus’ name, because I believe in that. One of Jesus’ last commands was “Raise the dead,” so I know I’m within the bounds of His will to do so (Matthew 10:8). In hope and faith, I spoke life to that body.

The only thing is, she also has a will, and I can only imagine that having experienced the pure presence of Jesus in a completely healed body is something she had no desire to give up. So her earthly body died and was buried, along with part of this mama’s heart that will only be truly whole when I see her again.

Having my girl in heaven is like having one foot in this world and one in the next.

And that is where hope comes in. Because I have come to realize that we humans can barely exist without it. We have to have a hope in someone or something. So each day, and sometimes each moment, we have to find and grasp that hope in order to stay alive.

Romans 8:9-11 says that if I am in Christ, then the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in me and gives life to this mortal body through His Spirit that lives in me.

So that’s where the circle is complete. Because He died, I can choose to die to sin by choosing Him, and because He rose, I can rise and live with His presence in me. In Him I find hope whenever hope dims.

“But I would not have you ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and arose again, so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall be forever with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 MEV)

So, on a Resurrection Sunday in which I formerly found myself with low hope and a hurting heart, I find resurrected hope in my resurrected Savior. This day and every day.

Yay, Yay, Another Gray Day

Yay, yay

Another gray day

Time to laugh

And time to play

Time to read

And time to pray

Yay, yay

Another gray day!

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The sound of the rain began in the wee hours of the morning. How easy it is to sleep being lulled by the incessant patters of rain on the roof.

Opening the blinds at first light, my eyes confirm that it is another gray day. To some, this may mean gloom, but to me, it is my heart’s delight. Especially on a Saturday with no other plans.

Another gray day means time to read while my favorite music plays in the background. I only need to pause while I wash the week’s clothes or unload the dishwasher.

Another gray day means more time to play. More time for snuggles with a red-headed sweetie-pie.

Another gray day means time to slow down and pray and purposefully and deliberately reconnect with my Creator. Unrushed.

Yay, yay, for another gray day.

Here’s the Happy

“How’s your week been?” texts my sweet friend. “Girl! The crappy and the beautiful! Always! Until I get to Heaven, then it will all be beautiful!” I reply.

“The crappy and the beautiful” refers to an earlier blog in which I described the highs and lows of this life after my daughter’s death.

And let me stop right there. Because part of the crappy is simply choosing words to describe the present state of my precious daughter, words that don’t pierce through my heart and stop my train of thought. I really can’t stand to refer to her as “deceased” and certainly not “dead!” Dead is the worst word in the world.

The truth is that she is very much alive in heaven, but the reality is that I am here on earth. So, however I choose to refer to her, the words don’t come easily, but always fall clumsily from my mouth.

So there’s the crappy, but there’s also the happy.

A huge part of the happy is the part of my daughter that she left behind. She named her Brooklyn Grace.

Brooklyn was ten months old when her mommy went to Heaven (my favorite way to describe her passing), and through a wonderful miracle of God, we were allowed to adopt her.

So in addition to my two beautiful surviving daughters who are grown and gone (out of the house), we are now parenting this curly-haired, blue-eyed, five-year-old redheaded bundle of joy.

Here’s the happy, when she throws her little arms around my neck and asks if I need “some lovin’s.” Answer: always yes.

Here’s the happy, when the sound of her voice either singing or talking to herself as she plays fills this house and this heart.

Here’s the happy, when she says, “Nana, you’re my best friend.”

One day we went for a walk and picked some wildflowers. “Why do these have splinters on them?” she asked after I handed them to her.

“That’s just the way God made them.” (My go-to reply when I don’t really know the answer.)

“He shouldn’t put splinters on flowers!” was her astute reply. I laughed and agreed.

This is how we think life should be, right? Only beautiful. But the reality is that the flowers have splinters. The challenge is to look past the crappy to the beautiful. To savor the sweet in the midst of the sad. To see the happy in the midst of the hard.

Here’s the happy.


It’s time to write again. I haven’t written in this blog for many months because it had become a log of my grief journey and, frankly, I got tired of grieving. Moreover, I was really tired of talking about it.

When you don’t talk about it, you begin the task of telling yourself that you’re okay, that you were blessed to have her 21 years, that you’re blessed to have other precious daughters, that you’re blessed she left such a wonderful little human behind so full of love and sweetness. You try to find the good, all the good you can, hoping it will overcome all the bad you feel inside. And when it doesn’t, you feel worse.

When you lose someone, a part of yourself is missing that can never be reclaimed. Sure, you go on with life, you find many moments of joy. But the hole is always there. The missing returns.

So you keep a secret drawer with a few items of her favorite clothes. And you retreat to press your face into them, searching for the familiar scent of her that has long since faded.

When you take a family picture it’s never whole. It’s imperfect. It’s incomplete. The heart sees what the eyes don’t. She’s always missing.

You better believe your heart will never let you remember any times your beautiful, sweet, soft-spoken daughter was anything but. Your head knows different, but the heart speaks louder. Recalling only good times. Good times. Good times. Thump thump. Thump thump. Thump thump.

The sweeter the memories, the stronger the pain. Oh, my heart, why you gotta be so mean?

I think for the rest of my earthly days I will travel this path back and forth, the sad and the sweet, the despair and the hope, the head and the heart.

This is what missing someone feels like.

The Real Steel

Last night I turned on the TV for a few minutes before going to bed and caught the end of the 1989 movie “Steel Magnolias.”

I haven’t watched the movie in many years, but it was sadder than ever, the parallels all too real for me this time.  The ending where the mother loses her daughter and goes on a tirade in the graveyard, from acceptance to anger to grief to laughter. It’s not unusual to go through the grief process in 30 seconds, but that doesn’t mean you’re done with it. Sometimes, nearly two years later, I may experience all these things in a single moment. And the part where she finds joy in the precious gift her daughter left behind, her grandbaby. And the part where she feels distaste at religion’s sorry attempt to soothe by fabricating explanations that have no scriptural foundation, when in reality the truth is that the devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy, while Jesus comes to give abundant life (John 10:10), and the reasons it happened are always complicated and never easy and usually we will not fully understand this side of Heaven. So your best response to someone’s loss is your presence, not your theology.

But then that’s also another part of the ending I identified with: the presence of friends and family.  Everyone, every gesture matters. Every visit to the wake and funeral, every gift, every card, every text, every social media  message and comment, and every single hug, mattered. Each one mattered a lot and helped a lot. And when all of those are gone, your friends and family remain, and that’s what keeps life going. “Life goes on,” as Shelby says.

There are still times where grief ambushes you and gives you a gut punch, but mostly the days are filled with the stuff of life: working, eating, sleeping.  Better moments come when we can offer a measure of comfort or help to others. The best times are in appreciating and spending time with the ones who remain.

And so, as life goes on, somehow also must we, thus being compared to a flower that is beautiful and fragrant, while being strong as steel. 

I guess we become what we need to be.

However, though religion as a part of our Southern life is woven into the movie’s fabric, I would have to say that in my case religion as RELATIONSHIP plays the biggest part of my life as I strive to thrive and not merely survive. 

Relationship with a Heavenly Father that begins through believing in His Son, Jesus Christ. A relationship characterized by prayer, reading the Bible, and listening to the still, small voice on the inside. Strength summoned by getting a word in due season, by entering into His Presence through praise and worship (not just at church, either), and by gathering with a body of believers. And more. So much more.

In the movie, Annabelle is probably the character which seems to have the most authentic relationship with God, though she is portrayed as sort of backward. However, in the end, she seems to gain some backbone. When  Ouiser says,  “Well don’t you expect me to come to one of your churches or one of those tent-revivals with all those Bible-beaters doin’ God-only-knows-what! They’d probably make me eat a live chicken!” Annabelle retorts, “Not on the first visit!” 

One might venture to say that this is an accurate portrayal of a true relationship with God (except for eating a live chicken): it begins as a decision but, as we commit to Him daily, we might just find ourselves doing things we never imagined! Whether that is teaching a Sunday school class or raising our hands during worship or simply surviving tragedy, we find we can do all things through Christ Who gives us strength (Phil 4:13).

And therein lies the real steel. 

Good Grief?!


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I am quitting the grief process. That’s it. I quit. I don’t like it. It’s not working for me. No good.

I read a lot about it. I can see it’s been well-studied. There are steps to take and things to do and feelings to feel. But Grief and I don’t get along. Grief weighs me down and fills me with sadness.

Before I go any further, let me interject here that I don’t despise or in any way think any less of anyone else who finds comfort in following through the grief process. I say, if it brings you comfort, and helps you navigate through the awful pain, go for it! Lord knows the anguish of losing someone is too great to not have help of some kind.

But for me, grief isn’t good.

In Isaiah 53:4 I see that Jesus bore my griefs and sorrows, and as a dear friend of mine put it, “He did it completely and perfectly!” Oh, what a relief it is! Thank you, Jesus!

Instead, I’ve got a new focal point: HOPE. Oh, yes. Hope. That determined expectation of seeing my sweet daughter again, and very soon. SOON and very soon. That makes me smile so big!


Let me be perfectly clear: this doesn’t mean I won’t have moments of missing her. I will miss her until I see her again. I will think about her and look at pictures of her and remember her on the spur of the moment, and tears may come to my eyes. There is an Emily-shaped hole in my heart right now, but I am filling that hole with HOPE. Not “I hope I will see her again,” because I KNOW I will see her again. I know Jesus was her Lord, as He is mine. Hope is expecting it to happen, and looking forward to it eagerly! What a hope!

Something About Hope


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There’s something about HOPE. It’s a little word with a lot of muscle.

It can make the heart happy.

It can stop sorrow dead in its tracks.

It can give a knock-out punch to despair.

It can bring light into darkness.

It can turn downcast eyes upward.

It can transform what looks like the end into a new beginning.

Hope is an expectation of something good. Where there is hope, there is comfort, even a spark of excitement. You can’t have faith unless you first have hope. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

In my “Grief Report” post, I made reference to a couple of scriptures that spark hope, then faith in me. Read that post first to get a fuller picture of what I’m talking about here.

Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus had died by the time Jesus arrived, and they said, If only you’d been here he wouldn’t have died! Jesus told them, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” I’m sure when Jesus said this, hope sprang up in their hearts.

I just love this! In saying “Didn’t I tell you,” He’s basically saying, “Remember what I said? Remember? I told you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God!”

I think this is so relevant to you and me in whatever situation we find ourselves. When we begin to despair, when we begin to lose heart and lose hope, we need to remember what the Word of God (the Bible) says! Jesus is the Word! (John 1:1) Remember what He says! Find out what He has said about your situation.

And I love that Jesus said, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God,” because I believe this is applicable to any promise made to us in the Bible. If you believe, you will see.

Finding out what He has said about your situation brings hope, which is a springboard to faith, which is necessary to please God (Hebrews 11:6). In Romans 4:18, the Bible says that “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed, and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him.” Abraham in hope believed what God had promised him, and it came to pass!

Another scripture I referenced in “Grief Report” is this: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5) But as I continue reading into verse 6, it says, “My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember You….”

This excites me! When my soul is downcast and disturbed, I put my hope in God by remembering Him! I remember Him; I remember what He has said to me in His Word. This will give me hope. This will lift my spirits, so to speak.

A few more scriptures about hope:

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.” (Psalm 62:5)

“For You have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.” (Psalm 71:5)

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in Your word.” (Psalm 119:114)

And then there is that familiar scripture in Isaiah 40:31 that says “those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…” The word “wait” actually means to expect, look for, and hope in Him (Amplified Bible).

In Lamentations chapter 3, Jeremiah is recalling much hardness and sorrow in his life, and then says this: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him….” (verses 21-25)

I am so happy about this! Notice that in the midst of his pain, he “calls to mind and therefore has hope.” He remembers something good about God, and this gives him hope! And what’s awesome is that “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him.”

I so love what Paul said to the Romans in chapter 15, verse 13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

What a mouthful! Need hope? He IS the God of hope! And that God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE. How? By the power of the Holy Spirit.

The bottom line is, you can’t do it alone. You can’t live this life alone. You can’t grapple with life’s issues and problems and hard times alone. Well, you CAN, but there’s no hope in it. There’s only despair and a sad end. With God, what looks like the end becomes a new beginning. Darkness turns to light. Downcast eyes look heavenward, where our help and hope come from.

Grief Report


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Well, I might as well call it what it is: a grief report. No apologies. If you don’t want to read about it, stop right here.

I hate it. I hate this process. I hate this grief thing. I’m tired of the word “grief.” I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to have it, I don’t want to go through it. I want it to just go away.

But it won’t.

Somebody said grief is like a tunnel that you have to go through. It’s dark inside, but once you go in, you’re on your way out. That sounds nice, I just don’t know what it means right now.


I went to the grave site today, for the first time since the funeral over four months ago. You might think that’s weird or unnatural or cold-hearted. I haven’t been mainly because I don’t see that as being the place Emily resides. She’s not there. She’s in Heaven, and she’s happy, and she’s whole. The grave is where she left her earthly body.

Maybe I was avoiding what I knew would hurt pretty bad.

Because if you think it doesn’t hurt a mama’s heart to see her baby’s date of birth and date of death on a headstone, you’re mistaken.


I never use the word “death” in conjunction with her name.

What I know in my heart is that she’s not there. What I know in my heart is that she is with Jesus. What I know in my heart is that I will see her again. But my earthly heart still hurts and misses her oh so terribly.


And I see her face reflected in the one she left behind, her beautiful daughter Brooklyn. And my heart hurts again that Brooklyn will never in this life know her mommy. Her mommy who loved her so much. Her mommy who was planning her first birthday party, a party she didn’t get to attend. Her mommy who would make funny faces at her to make her giggle. A mommy she will not remember.


While I was there, I remembered how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. And I wondered if it was too late for me to call Emily up out of that grave. I really did. Don’t feel sorry for me. Jesus said, “Heal the sick! Raise the dead! You’ll do the things I do and greater things!” (If you don’t believe me, look it up. It’s there. Dig for it. Go to or just google it. Pretend it’s treasure. Put as much passion into searching out the Word of God as you do finding information about the latest movie or music or entertainer or insert-hobby-here.)

I opened the Bible app on my phone and read the story of Lazarus out loud, from the Amplified Bible, in John 11. I was going to put the whole story here in this blog, but it’s at least 45 verses long. Read the whole thing here or just keep reading for my summary.

I read it, because I was curious about the logistics of the thing. And at one point, I was even amused. See, Jesus loved Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. When Lazarus got sick, his sisters sent word to Jesus. However, He stayed where he was two more days before heading toward Bethany where Lazarus was. The disciples advised him against going, because the Jews had tried to kill him there. But,

11 He said these things, and then added, Our friend Lazarus is at rest and sleeping; but I am going there that I may awaken him out of his sleep.

12 The disciples answered, Lord, if he is sleeping, he will recover.

13 However, Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He referred to falling into a refreshing and natural sleep.

14 So then Jesus told them plainly, Lazarus is dead,

15 And for your sake I am glad that I was not there; it will help you to believe (to trust and rely on Me). However, let us go to him.

The part that amused me is that Jesus had to plainly tell them, “Lazarus is dead.” But it also pierced my heart, because I don’t ever say, “Emily is dead” or “Emily died.” I say she “left” or “departed.”

But Jesus had a plan. It had to be the Father’s plan, because Jesus never did anything unless the Father told him to.

When he got there, everyone was crying over Lazarus’ death. Mary and Martha said, Oh, Jesus, if you’d only been here! And when Jesus saw everyone crying, he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” He asked where they’d laid him; they showed him, and he wept.

The shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” John 11:35.

Why did he weep if he knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead? Maybe he was just feeling the pain of his dear friends Mary and Martha.

And before I go on, let me take a side journey here. Because this particular post is me just letting stuff flow out of me in whatever form and fashion it wants. I’m not trying to write a nice paper here. I’m working through this crappy grief thing.

Dear friends. That’s what I want to talk about for a minute. Dear friends. My heart swells at the thought of my dear friends. I am so blessed with dear friends. What would I do without my dear friends? I literally thank my God daily for my dear friends, upon every remembrance of them. Oh, how He has blessed me with dear friends. Oh, how I need them. Oh, how they have been and continue to be there for me. Thank you, dear friends. Thank You, Father, for these dear friends You have placed in my life for such a time as this!

So, to continue with the story, because I’m getting to a point here, I read this story aloud at Emily’s grave site because I wanted to see how Jesus did this thing. How did He raise Lazarus? And could I, maybe, call Emily forth?

I know, you’re feeling really sorry for me about now. Maybe even a little concerned. You think I’m crazy.

But I read that Jesus approached the tomb, which was a cave with a boulder at the entrance to close it off. And He said, “Take away the stone.” And Martha (the practical one) said Lazarus has been dead four days and probably stinks.

I love what Jesus says next:

“Did I not tell you and promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you would see the glory of God?”

Let me take another side journey here. That one sentence from Jesus has been one of my cornerstone verses for standing firm on His Word during tough times. Put another way: “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” If you believe, you will see. If you believe, you will see the glory of God.

Then: Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.

42 Yes, I know You always hear and listen to Me, but I have said this on account of and for the benefit of the people standing around, so that they may believe that You did send Me [that You have made Me Your Messenger].

43 When He had said this, He shouted with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out!

44 And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go.

He shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” But first he had them move that stone away.

I make that point, because I was thinking what if I shouted, “Emily, come forth!” What if her spirit entered again into that earthly decayed body and brought it back to life. How would she get out of that closed casket, and up through all that dirt?

So, sadly, I stopped thinking about that. But just so you know, that wasn’t the first time I thought of it. I called her back when I first saw her body on her bed, and I could plainly see that her spirit had already left her body. I called her back as the paramedics worked on her. I called her back after the emergency room team pronounced her dead and let me go to her. I crawled into the bed with her and, as my tears fell upon her hair, I spoke the words in her ear: “Come back! Come back!” And after they moved her body into another room, I called her back. And after the funeral, before they closed the casket for the last time, I called her back.

She didn’t come back. I don’t know why. I don’t know why. I would imagine Heaven’s a better place than this. I would imagine she didn’t know a person could feel so free and so good and so alive. I would imagine she didn’t want to come back. Or maybe I just didn’t do it right.

So, we who knew her and loved her and enjoyed her for nearly 21 years are left behind. We feel a great loss.

At different times I feel anger, guilt, regret, sorrow. Much of the time it doesn’t even feel like it really happened. But when it does, it hurts pretty dang bad. The kind of bad that makes you want to swear.

But in the end, I hear two verses. I hear them loud and clear in my spirit.

The first is this: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5, Psalm 42:11, and Psalm 43:5)

The second is this, and it’s the clincher: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55)

It stings right now, but who will have the last laugh? We will. We will be laughing in Heaven together one day. Once again I will be able to wrap my arms around her and kiss her sweet face and see the twinkle in her blue eyes. And she’ll probably say, “Mom, you’ve gotta come see this!” And off we’ll go.