Sunday, June 22, 2014

June Hope Chest- Finding Hope In The Midst Of Loss by Jennifer Bias

Sometimes, life doesn’t turn out the way you had it planned, but I’ve learned that it’s okay because my life isn’t really up to me, it’s up to the Master Planner, the Creator of the Universe, the Kingdaddy of all, my God. 
The reality is I’m pretty happy that God takes that burden off me because His plans for my life are infinitely more wonderful than anything I could have ever come up with on my own. 
When I was a kid, there was a time when I really thought I had it all. Even though I was the “middle” child with two brothers, my family life was pretty cool. My Mom taught at the elementary school that I attended and she was the kind of Mom that kids would want to have, so I was always happy to make known that the cool teacher just happened to be my Mom. 
My dad was the high school principal.  In our small town, there was only one high school, and that made my Dad a big deal. It seemed that most of the people in that town knew who we were. Had I been a teenager, that fact could have been problematic in a myriad of ways, but as a kid, it was kind of special…until it wasn’t.
My dad had an extramarital affair with one of his employees. As with most small towns, it really wasn’t long before the whole town knew about it and most knew it before my Mom did. This very private “thing” was now a very public thing and it was really hard. 
The best thing that my mom and dad have done in my life is to introduce me to my best friend, God. I have always attended church and my journey of faith has been a lifelong one. I remember praying as many kids whose parents separate do, “Please God, let my parents get back together. You can do this!” Well, God did not have that in His Master Plan and times were tough but He worked in my mom’s life and mine. He equipped us to carry on without my dad as a major player in our lives.
We moved from that small town in West Virginia to another small town in West Virginia where a phone call to heaven is a local call. One of the best parts about growing up in Lewisburg was that I got the chance to be spoiled regularly by my grandmother, and she was THE best, really, I got THAT one, the best one. She epitomized my definition of a Christian woman and she helped my broken family pick up the pieces by giving us wise counsel based on her Christian ideals. I am a better person today because of her influence. And, it wasn’t too long before life started getting really good again. 
We began to find glimmers of hope for normalcy when, for the longest time, there was none. My brothers and I visited my Dad when we were “allowed” to, because my Dad ended up marrying the other woman, and she liked keeping my Dad to herself. But I still loved my father and enjoyed what time we were able to spend with Him.
During my senior year of high school, he was diagnosed with cancer. It rocked my world and I prayed regularly that God would restore his health. He underwent a few operations and some nasty chemotherapy but he died on May 20th after my sophomore year of college, one month before he would have turned 50. I was a mess because I still needed my dad. Who would give me away at my wedding? My future kids would need a grandfather to go on fishing trips with and to be honest; I hadn’t said everything I wanted to say to him.
 I didn’t have long to gather myself after my Dad’s death before I had to begin my summer employment at an all-girls camp. Camp kept me busy and that was probably best because I didn’t have time to think about my recent loss, but as my Dad’s 50th birthday neared, I began feeling a little sorry for myself and for the first time in my life, I was angry with God. 
  • Hadn’t I prayed for years that my parents’ marriage be restored? 
  • Hadn’t I prayed for years that my Dad’s health would improve? 
  • I thought God answered our prayers. Didn’t it say in the Bible, “Ask and you shall receive?”
I was beyond consolable because I just didn’t understand why God had chosen to be silent with his response to my prayers. 
Now I know you are really not supposed to challenge God but I think He knew I needed my own form of a burning bush to save me. On the evening of my Dad’s 50th birthday, God removed the clouds from the sky and placed a billion stars to dazzle this quiet night in the mountains of West Virginia. Simply put, it was a beautiful summer evening and God was really showing off. But I was angry and needed to prove to myself that God didn’t answer my prayers, so I laid down my gauntlet. I ranted, “I prayed that my parents would get back together, they didn’t. I prayed that my Dad’s cancer would be healed, it didn’t. And you took my Dad from me. Are you even there? Do you even listen to my prayers? God, if you are, in fact, there and you are, in fact, listening, then why don’t you make it rain?”
There were no plans for precipitation and the summer evening was just so beautiful that I just knew God wouldn’t possibly spoil it with rain. Not two minutes later, God anointed my face with a gentle sprinkle from heaven that would last but a few minutes but was enough to restore my faith and hope for a brighter tomorrow. The knowledge that the God of the universe loved me enough to make it rain when clearly it wasn’t in the forecast gives me assurance that He can do anything He wants and that my trust in Him would not be misplaced. 
The healing process had begun and once again, hope for a brighter tomorrow was restored.
I finished my summer at camp and headed back for my junior year of college. I was dealing with my grief but I wasn’t the same person I was. I was hardened a bit and had put up some walls in my relationships in an effort to protect my brokenness. I remember praying to God, “I’m not doing so well here, and I need your help. My friends are doing their part but I am holding them at arm’s length. Help me by sending me someone to help me through this, someone who will penetrate this invisible wall that I have put up?” Once again, God answered my request in only the way He could. God orchestrated a meeting between me and this mustached, country boy wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots who on occasion would call my sorority sisters Darlin’. God indeed works in mysterious ways because Rodney Bias was certainly not my usual type of guy. I like to believe that my Dad was up there in heaven with God and they said, “That One!” because Rodney grew up just a stone’s throw from where my Dad grew up.
Two years later, I married that country boy. In the nearly 22 years we have been married, we have raised three children who have turned out pretty well, moved 9 times, endured the heartache of the sudden death of my little brother and deaths of my three grandparents that I loved so deeply, in addition to suffering ridiculous financial losses tied into a declining real estate market. 
Admittedly, there have been times in my life when I was hopeless and my faith a little shaky, a little “Peteresque.” The disciple Peter has always been one of my favorites in the Bible perhaps because Peter was known to put his foot in his mouth a few times. He initially refused to have his feet washed by Jesus, but then asked to have his hands and his head washed. He was the swordsman who cut the ear off of Jesus’ arrester. Peter professed his love for Jesus yet denied Him three times when it mattered. 
In my life, I have taken my eyes off of Jesus, and I have stumbled and lost my way. Thankfully, Jesus remains by my side. Life is always moving forward, our past wounds are still with us but I think Jesus wants us to step out of the boat a lot more than we are willing. I really like the song by Hillsong United entitled Oceans, lyrics include “I will call upon Your name, and keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise my soul will rest in Your embrace, for I am yours and you are mine.” When you can, please listen to this song in the context of Peter’s faith and walking on our own waters.
I have seen God’s work in my life countless times and I am humbled by the fact that Jesus died for me. Christ’s resurrection is a beacon of hope.  At times, sometimes I don’t feel worthy but that’s when I recognize that His grace is extravagant. I think many times, people take for granted the Easter season. I love what Eugene Peterson says: “If you celebrate Christ’s resurrection only one day of the year, you’re missing something BIG. Because after the resurrection of Jesus, nothing is the same. Christ’s friends were utterly transformed by the resurrection. Their friendship, their work, and even the meals together took on a New Meaning and Purpose.” 

I live a blessed life. I have a loving family, live in a house that is bigger than I need with a pool out back, drive a car that is nicer than I deserve, and have a pantry that amply sustains even my hungry teenagers but the second I think that I have those things because of something that I or my husband have done, I hope God delivers us a gut-check because I know that everything that we have is because of Him and I am so abundantly grateful.
Recently, my son made a pretty big change in his life that he had spent time thinking about, but most importantly, praying about. When I asked him if he was at peace with that decision, he shared this little nugget of hope. “Sometimes you have to stop worrying and doubting and trust that things might not work how you planned but how God meant it to be.” And to that I say, Amen. There are plenty of doubters and worriers in this world, but what we all need is faith in God and the hope that brings to all who believe.

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