Last night I had the privilege of speaking at the Christmas Eve service at our church. I thought it would be a little easier than it was....I really don't like getting choked up in front of people, but it did go well. This post is to share with you what I spoke at the service. Some of this content you may already know, but some you might not. Word for word, here's how it went:
Grab a box of tissue, because I'm going to make you cry - Merry Christmas!
:::cue the laughter:::
Hi, my name is Reini. I’m no stranger to loss. You’d think after losing four children that would be enough for one person to go through. But those losses prepared me to go through something bigger. As some of you may know, I’ve just been through one of the hardest trials life can throw at you. I’ve watched a loved one die from cancer - My precious husband, Clint.
When we dealt with his first round of aggressive brain cancer at the end of 2010, God gave us peace and told me not to worry about anything because He was going to take care of everything. And He did! I chose to trust God through that storm, and believe me, it was a big storm. Clint underwent two major brain surgeries within a week, followed by chemo and radiation, which was exhausting. Clint was given only a year to live, even with treatment. However, we saw God work miracle after miracle, and it really increased our faith and our trust in Him. Clint lived three solid years with clean MRI’s, a rarity for the type of cancer he had. God even blessed us with a healthy baby girl during Clint’s remission. We really saw God move and felt His presence so strongly then.
But what happens when you don’t feel His presence during a storm?? I’m sorry to say that when Clint’s cancer resurfaced in April of this year, that’s exactly what happened. I felt alone. I began to notice personality changes last year in November, which set off warning bells that we were about to enter another battle with cancer. I prayed and trusted God with the same fervency I had during round one….only this time, God was silent, and it scared me.
We didn’t have the smooth paths and open doors that we had before. Everything was a fight and a struggle this last time. Insurance dug their heels in and refused to cover treatment options. Nothing was done in a timely manner, which was frustrating given the seriousness and aggressive nature of Clint’s cancer. I was so stressed out from fighting and persistently advocating for Clint’s right to care, that my chest hurt so bad, I literally thought I was going to have a heart attack. Nothing went right. And Clint suffered greatly.
I remember on numerous occasions crying out to God asking, “where are you!?? Why don’t I feel like you’re here with us? I can’t take much more of this, and you promised not to give us more than we could handle! I really need you, God. PLEASE.”
It was hard watching Clint face the same feelings that I was having in regards to feeling like God left us alone. I think deep down, he knew this was it, and it was very heavy for him. But one thing I really loved and admired about Clint was that he never waivered in his faith…he trusted God completely. I did too, but I didn’t understand what God was doing. (And often times, we don’t!)
When the last option for treatment became approved, it was too late, and the treatment did not work. It was the hardest thing in the world to realize it was time to let go. And I was not ready to give up my husband. I kept hoping for a healing miracle! However, I got to a point where God finally made His presence known, and asked me to surrender all I had to Him…..to surrender all I had and still trust Him if He took it all away. That is a lot to ask of anyone!! But you know what? I did. I surrendered it all to God, knowing full well what was likely to happen. And it did. After two months of rapid decline and great losses of functioning, God took my precious husband home. He died in my arms on September 8th of this year.
I’m pretty sure a lot of people probably thought I was in shock, or just ice cold, but I assure you neither was the case. I never had a major break down and I wasn’t a mess. I honestly grieved Clint as we went through his decline, and God has given me the strength and peace I need to walk forward through all of this. Sure, I miss him a lot, and I cry when I need to, but I made a very conscious choice not to dwell in the depths of my loss. I have chosen to rejoice with Clint in his gain. He suffered so much in this life, that going home to Jesus was a great mercy. I could not be so selfish as to wish him back into his misery here on earth. I know where he is….he loved Jesus with all his being! He is home with Jesus, and I will see him again! He is happy and healthy and whole!
When I rock our little girl to sleep at night, we always talk about daddy and where he is. I do my best to paint a picture of heaven for her in ways she can understand. She knows that daddy is with Jesus…anytime she sees a picture of Jesus, she immediately says “daddy!” I tell her that Jesus made daddy all better, but daddy had to go live with him to get better. I tell her that we can’t see daddy right now, but we will see him again when Jesus comes to get us! I don’t know when, but He will because He promised He would! I want her to grow up knowing that her daddy is ok and that she will see him again, and he is happy in heaven.
A lot of people have asked me if I ever wonder WHY….have I ever asked God WHY? And the answer is NO. Because honestly, the answer to the “why” question does not matter. We may never know WHY, and often times there is no answer. What matters is what we do with what we’re given. If I dwell on the “why”, I’m more likely to harbor anger and resentment when no answer comes….and it’s a lot harder to heal when you’re angry. My grandpa always says “you either get bitter or get better.” Bad things happen all the time because sin is rampant in the world. It is NOT God’s fault. Not everything happens for a reason, sometimes bad things just happen. But God can use ANYTHING. He can take this hurtful mess and use it to help others through similar situations. I do not blame God for my husband’s death. Even when I felt like He was so silent and absent, I KNEW He was there with me, and I chose to very consciously hold onto that and trust that He was there. That’s the amazing thing about God….He walks through these valleys WITH us, and helps us navigate through them! He gets it. He was no stranger to sorrows and pain and loss. He can truly identify with it and empathize with us. He even cries with us when we cry. What a truly compassionate God!
Adjusting to being a widow and a single mom has been a challenge. It’s a whole new identity, and one I’ve had no idea how to prepare for. It’s a lot of work, and it’s exhausting, but we’ve had tremendous love and support from family and friends, and I’m so grateful for that. God has provided.
Lately, I’ve really been pondering the saying “To whom much is given, much is required.” I always thought of that statement as referring to people with money, position, influence, gifts and talents. I never thought of it as anything else until I faced various trials. It never says what “much” it’s talking about! I’ve come to realize it doesn’t always mean good and tangible things. It also can refer to the amount of temptation and trials a person faces….the greater the temptation and trial, the greater strength and effort is required to conquer, overcome, and be victorious. Once a person comes through that successfully, they are responsible for sharing the amount of learning, wisdom, and understanding gained to help others. To whom much is given, much is required.
This makes me think about Mary and what God asked of her. Much was required of her because of what was given to her. She was mother to our savior, a wonderful thing. It was a scary challenge as well, since her child was being hunted by those seeking to harm him, and she also faced judgment and condemnation for carrying a child that did not belong to Joseph. But the greatest thing asked of her by far was to surrender her son for the world’s greatest sacrifice. The amazing thing about Mary was her willingness to bend to God’s will, regardless of the cost to her. Are we willing to make ourselves vulnerable to God’s plan when He asks the most from us? I guarantee that when we do, He is faithful to give us the strength and peace we need to get through it, and He is with us every step of the way.
All my love,