Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The wind is blowing...

The wind is blowing. Changes are coming and indeed have come. As I looked out the window driving home from Chicago last Sunday morning, the sun was just peeking over the horizon. It was incredible. The previous day I signed a lease for an apartment in Aurora, IL. My heart weighed back and forth as I knew I was embarking upon God's adventure for me, but there were also small pockets of fleshly fear as I make a big life change. His sweet voice reminded me of scripture I've been praying for months now...

When You said, "Seek My face," my heart said to You,
"Your face, O LORD, I shall seek."

In regards the the wind blowing? Well, God swung a door open (perhaps it was His wind) at Martopia in St.Charles (west-suburban Chicago) and I am walking through it. MediaSauce knows of my departure and this Friday is my last day at an office I've come to know very well, a business I've learned in, and a people I've come to know as some of my best friends. Life is a series of whirlwinds and if we're only paying attention we can see God's hand. I promise you, when I stop and watch the sunrise, when I soak in all that He is doing in this "whirlwind", I can attest it is indeed God's hand that is moving and it is more than ok by me.

The word I continue to use on my aim status is "bittersweet". Bridgette, my roommie, tells me that there is no "bittersweet" in Italian. She speaks fluently in Italian and that happens to be her favorite word. So when she lived in Italy she always struggled not being able to accurately describe "bittersweet" moments of life. It would seem these moments are all around me; not just in my life but in the lives of many.

Last Saturday I signed a lease for an apartment in Aurora, IL. It is close to my new job (starting May 11th) and even closer to Tyson and TJ. I'm psyched. Of course the transition is bittersweet as I let go of commitments here, groups I've joined, and say a temporary "see you later" to my friends and family. This Sunday I will pack a trailer and drive up to my new home.

How consistent the story goes with me... I ask and I ask and I ask. Just waiting for God's answer about the next phase of life's journey. Then when He does make the path clear, swings open those somewhat scary doors, I'm like "WHOA GOD. I'm not ready!" "Knock and the door will be opened. Seek and you shall find." I have sought His face and He has answered. Alas, He is faithful and knows when I am ready. He knew that it wasn't time to leave for California last September. He knew that it wasn't time for me to go to Kenya in 2005 but rather in 2006. His plan is GOOD, PLEASING, and PERFECT; not only to HIM... but because His best for me is better than my best for me, His plan is indeed good, pleasing and perfect for me too.

Bittersweet.... this week has been a series of events, saying goodbye, enjoying "last meals" with friends and co-workers, preparing for the mini-marathon in Indy (or wishing I could), packing things here and there, and wrapping up at work. Then my heart shattered on Monday around 2pm.

The McCrackens posted a blog that still brings tears to my eyes at the mention of it. Susie McCracken has now flown home to Jesus. She rests in the company of the angels, my sister, and most importantly the Almighty God... her papa. Her father. She is no longer in pain. But as she is basking in the glory of the Lord, there are family and friends left aching, and it is with those that I ache. Bittersweet is best described knowing someone so deeply, seeing the hurt so intensely, saying goodbye until you reunite in Heaven, knowing that because they are away from you in Heaven they are happier, healthier, and made whole.

Please be praying for them as they walk through these days, weeks, months, and years. Realizing that it won't feel normal, but they will be able to adjust to a "new normal" as dad affectionately calls it.

And so the war continues to rage. The winds of life swirl about me. I am moving to be with Tyson. Can you believe it? God has brought me him; without any help from me. As more and more people find out about this miraculous relationship I continue to say "yeah... its full of redemption, restoration, and God's hand." And so it is again with me moving. A miracle.

Please pray for us. As God gave us Psalm 55 & Zeph 3:17.... we rest in the fact that God is our defender. With a waging war against a relationship that desires to please and glorify God we find ourselves at odds with each other for no (really) good reason.

The war is evident and it never ends. My heart is heavy for the body of Christ today in thinking of war, disease, and sickness. A friend of mine from Common Ground, about my age, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. My heart is aching for her as she was preparing to serve Christ over seas. She is a gift with incredible vision and passion, and certainly this will not squelch this but as she says it is simply a "detour".

The Strands
are faithful in updating us on how they are doing. I am so encouraged by this family, Laurie & Greg's marriage, and the family's faith. Please continue to pray for them.

And yet... in the midst of all that is going on our God is good. He is sovereign. And indeed He is hope. I remembered that, watching that sunrise at 6am. My heart was able to rest amidst the blowing winds of life and I will continue to remain in this...

When You said, "Seek My face," my heart said to You,
"Your face, O LORD, I shall seek."

ps- we need someone to fill my spot in an awesome house in Broadripple (Indianapolis). Let me know if you know anyone! :)

Friday, April 10, 2009

4 years on a Good Friday

Today, four years ago, my big sister flew home to Jesus; almost at the exact time I'm writing this. (8:30pm) It just so happens that thousands of years ago today Jesus flew home to His Father. There is no coincidence in what I, we, might take away from today.

A lot of you are probably familiar with last year's post on this day. "3 Years Ago". Although it has indeed been 4 years ago today that I have seen my sister alive, seen her heart beating, hear her voice, felt her hand, and kissed her warm cheek, I still miss her. It is a quiet ache that exists in my heart; as if she was and is a part of me and forever will be. Sisters have an tendency to "stick" no matter the length of time you haven't seen them.

She has a grave stone now. Her empty body lay under the ground while her soul is in heaven. Over the past four years, today marked (I think) my third day to visit the site. Her grave stone is light pink. It says her name, and the day she was born on earth and the day she was re-born in heaven.

"Sarah Jane Umbaugh January 21, 1979 - April 10, 2005. Always in Our Hearts"

How true that statement is. On the back of the gravestone these words are there:

"For God So Loved the Word - John 3:16" and under a picture of a dove says this " When you come to die fly to Jesus and live."

Its perfectly "Sarah". My parents did a great job. Around her gravestone are trinkets from those who came by to show their love for her. "She was loved", Anna put it just two days ago.

I suppose I don't have an eloquent order of words to say like last year. If you want to walk down the scariest 24 hours of my life, visit last year's blog on this day. Today, I want to remain hopeful. After all, Jesus died for me thousands of years ago today, and because of that death I have hope in my sister's death just four years ago.

Wow the symbolism. I am so thankful for Jesus. As we sang at church today "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain He washed it white as snow." PRAISE GOD! This week, these past weeks, I have been slipping. I have been slipping into the excuse of "busy-ness" and "exhaustion". While we were worshiping tonight, God slipped me a memo. "Jesus died that You may have life." And as we prepared for communion, with a repentant heart, I asked for His strength to help me live that life. What freedom we have in Jesus! What hope we have to live for... and dare I say, what hope we have to die for.

"To live is Christ, and to die is gain." "Pick up your cross and follow Me." Life, as we know it (or rather don't know it), is about Jesus. Oh how often I make it about myself. Just goes to show you how human I am; how finite, how small, and how in need I am of a BIG God.

This morning I read Jesus' road to the crucifixion as told in Matthew, and then I read these words in Isaiah 40 and peace inevitably followed:

"To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One.

26 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and complain, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God"?

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.

29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

That is the God we serve! I was filled up, encouraged, and ready to remain in Jesus today.

Then of course, as my sinful heart forgets the truth God just spoke into it, the day wore on and my heart became weary; missing Sarah, wishing I was curled up in bed. I then remembered what this day is. I took a moment to breath in deep April 10th, Good Friday. I remembered the symbolism. I remembered that the road Jesus walked to His death greatly surpasses anything I endure on earth. And so it is with hope that I post this. It is with hope that I remember my sister and how she has spent 4 solid years playing with Jesus. And it is with hope and humility that I remember Jesus, His sacrifice for mankind, and His saving grace in my life.

Rest assured, my heart will be filled with abundant praise on Sunday. I plan on leaving everything at the alter and worshipping my guts out. He deserves it. He deserves so much more than I could ever give. I am thankful for the 21 years I got have with my amazing sister Sarah Jane. I miss her. But I know that she is in "better hands now", and I am in those same hands until we are together again.

Still reflecting... still processing... ever thankful...


Our last Easter together:
(Liza, Me, Sarah, Anna, Laura, Lydia)

A healthier Easter one year prior:
(Dad, Rob, Sarah, Anna, Me, Mom, Lydia, Laura, Brayden)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Tears in a bottle...

As I sit in almost uncontrollable tears, I'm examining my heart. Why am I crying so hard and so much? I can't explain it. I share a similar experience to the McCrackens and the Stands but it runs deeper than that. There is this ache in my heart that goes beyond words or explanation. I almost "feel bad" for feeling their pain so deeply in my own heart.

I am NOT making myself out to be some saint. I guess as I sat here, read the blogs, my heart was torn open and tears, like a flood, began to fall out.

I praise God that He does indeed (as pointed out in a comment on the McCracken's blog) collect tears. My dear friend Amanda gave me one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received. A bottle. Its a little glass bottle, with a ton of colorful beads it in. On this bottle it has this verse:

You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? (Psalm 56:8)

I never used to be a crier. I was kind of an "internal processor", and because of this in my high school days, and early college, anger inevitably followed. It would take me hours of crying to figure out the "source" of this frustration, anger, and sadness I was feeling. When Sarah was diagnosed with cancer somehow God released me. He released my tear ducts, my anger, my fear of being real and vulnerable (not completely... but I'm working on it), and because of the immense pain I felt with her, along side of her suffering, my tears were released.

Since then, I'm a "hot mess". Tears come really easily and often. I wear my "heart on my sleeve". And so it is today.

It struck me today how upset I am for my friends. How my heart physically aches with them, and how if I let it I could cry for hours for their pain. Perhaps all those tears I never released, up until (almost ... on 4/10) 4 years ago, that my sister went to Heaven, He is now letting me use them for others.

I used them on Leslie and Tyson. I used them on my Grandpa and Grandma. I used them for my parents. I use them now for the McCrackens and for the Strands.

Really, this is a call to prayer. Please pray for my beautiful friends as they walk the road of suffering. Tears and prayer are the only response I bring to the table. I remember when Sarah went home to Jesus. Some tried to encouraged. Others just said "I don't know what to say". All I needed to know is that I was loved; because certainly I didn't know what to say and I still don't. But here is what is on my heart for each family....

Susie & family... I love you. I love you deeply. I have ALWAYS been so encouraged by you, and your family. The life and energy that radiates from every member of your family is encouraging. I'll never forget the moment at Molly's wedding when all of the sisters sang a beautiful hymn of praise to the God we worship. Thank you for living your lives boldly for Christ, from the time I met you all in junior high until now. I pray that peace will fall on your lives like a warm blanket and that you may find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Laurie & family.... same goes for you. Laurie thank you for your post about peace and entrusting your family into God's hands. How beautiful are the hands that crafted you together in your mother's womb. He is certainly with you, abiding in this moment, with you. I pray for more peace that passes all understanding, and that it will continue to guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I love you.

To all families, in every walk of life, I believe in the God who split the Red Sea. I believe in the God who walked on water. I believe in the God who turned water into wine. I believe in the God who sent His Son to die for us and then raised Him from the dead. I believe He is with you all. In this moment. Crying with me. I am praying for you and available to you in every possible way.

With a humble heart loving you all...