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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

“See you in the Morning”

Now, pick yourself up off the floor. I know I haven’t written a blog in a loooong time. Moving to Florida this summer kind of took a chunk out of my “me” time. It isn’t that I haven’t had many thoughts penned in my head or I haven’t wanted to pour my heart out in ink. I just simply haven’t had many spare quiet moments. There comes a point though that I know I MUST write or I will not be serving God in the way I promised Him I would. He knows my hectic schedule. He knows my many demands. He knows how many boxes I just unpacked. He knows I have 5 kids and a husband to care for. But His grace is also sufficient to have allowed me some time right now in the car to type while Jim drives. His sovereignty brought us to another crossroad of life today; the funeral of a dear friend taken Home too soon. The first funeral I have attended since my own sweet husband’s. The first funeral Jim has attended since his own dear wife’s.

Not too long ago I mentioned an amazing young woman named Sara Sullivan. She was in her twenties. She was a cancer patient. She was a fellow F-16 pilot’s wife. She was an expectant mommy. She was a faithful servant of Christ. She was my new friend. Only a few short months later, she is gone. Not from cancer. Not from childbirth. But from a massive stroke just two days after bringing her premature, yet perfectly healthy baby, Chloe, home from the hospital. She didn’t even know she was fighting for her life. She was just figuring out how to feed her little baby. Her husband, Brad, did not know that morning when he woke up next to his beautiful wife that it would be their last morning to do so. And that evening that he would climb into an ambulance next to that same beautiful wife begging God for her life.

Brad and Sara’s story is told best by them. Their blog site is bandssullivan.blogspot.com. If you haven’t been on their blog yet I highly recommend it. Reading the Sullivan’s blog is akin to taking a vitamin boost for your faith. Suffice to say their story, in some ways, combines my and Jim’s stories. It has many common themes. Cancer. Sudden and unexpected death. A married couple trusting the Lord in sickness. Parents of a sweet baby girl. A fighter pilot and the wife who loved him serving their God and country. Sound familiar? It did to us. Life came full circle today. We just weren’t sitting in the first pew. We watched someone else’s life in a slideshow. Hope and sorrow on the face of a hurting Believer who just gave their spouse back to their Creator. A traveler about to go on a weary journey. We were there….just farther down the road and looking back. Brad is a new widower and a new daddy but he certainly is not a new Christian. He may not know much about changing diapers but he knows the God he serves. He will be okay. He will see light again. Morning will come. But he will walk in the dark for a while. I cried knowing that road will not be easy. It will be excruciating. I held sweet Chloe and praised God for the chance to witness a bonafide miracle. The doctors told Sara and Brad to abort the baby because Sara had to go through surgery and round after round of chemo. They gave their baby to the Lord, placing all their trust in Him. She is perfect. Brad took care of her all by himself last night. He said it was a sweet time. Just he and his baby girl. Jesus must have wept as He watched. Yet He knew this world would have burdens. Christ walked this world for 33 years. He saw it the struggles on the faces of the people He knew. He felt our sorrows on the cross. He knew Brad would be walking the floor with Chloe at 3 am. He knew I would lay in my closet crying until I couldn’t breathe. He knew Jim would sit in a chemo chair and hold his tiny faithful wife while the pain ached deep in her bones. He knew all these things. He knows all your things. I struggled awhile back with the fact that He knew all this was going to happen yet would do nothing to stop it. I know people sat in that church today and wondered the same thing. I couldn’t have stood up there in front and given them the answer. But I know now, more than ever, that everything doesn’t have to make sense to me because I am not God. I don’t qualify for the job. I don’t see the other side of that tapestry He is constantly weaving. All I know is He keeps His promises to walk with us. I thought the pastor today said so many powerful things. Obviously, many about Sara and what an incredibly glorious way she lived her life all the way until her death. But he also have a beautiful explanation of some verses of Psalm 23. They are familiar verses we read without possibly understanding fully the comparison David was making between us, the sheep and the Lord, our Shepherd. I won’t say it as eloquently as he did but I must give it a shot because it was SO good. A message so full of hope and healing on such a sad day.

Psalm 23

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

David was many things. A giant-slayer. A shepherd. A warrior. A sinner. An adulterer. A fugitive. A Believer. A musician. A poet. A king. A man. David stood on the top of the mountain and walked in the deepest valley. David was us. A little bit of a lot of different things. Some good and some not so good. I love David. David was an emotional guy. David expressed what was on his heart. He shared what was on his mind. He knew, in the end, it really wasn’t all about him. There is a reason the Psalms are so relevant. David was so relevant. Relevant to who we are and what we struggle with. Life and death. Joy and sorrow. Pain and comfort.

The words he wrote in Psalm 23 were of comfort. The picture he painted was of peace. Not comfort and peace when life is easy there on the mountaintop. But comfort and peace in depths of the valley.

The pastor today gave us the historical background of what prompted David to write this particular Psalm. David was a shepherd early in his life. There was a dark and difficult path he had to lead his sheep through to get to safety on the other side; the valley. Death was all around. The mountains on one side were too rugged to cross. The other side was desert. Both equally dangerous with darkness lurking alongside the narrow path. Yet the shepherd would send out someone ahead of them to make sure their was enough food and water and no predators for their passage. He prepared for their arrival. Just like God prepares for our tomorrows. The shepherd’s rod protected the sheep from harm and the staff kept them on the path so they didn’t wander into the wilderness or the desert. He cared for them so they wouldn’t be afraid of what was ahead. Just as Christ cares for us when the shadow of death is all around us. The shepherd put oil on the sheep’s heads to keep certain pests out of their ears. In other words, our Great Shepherd takes care of the things that “bug” us along the way. At His table we are always welcome with a warm welcome and a full cup. He won’t let us go on down the road on empty.

Death of a spouse casts a long shadow over your past, present and future. There is no part of life that that death does not permeate in some way. We live in a fallen world. We live in a world that is not nearly as much about what we see but about what we don’t see. Remember it was hard for the sheep to see in that dark valley. They HAD to trust their shepherd. We HAVE to trust our Shepherd even in the times we cannot see that any of this journey makes any sense or is even worth going on.

Ezekiel 34:11

“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says; I myself will search for My sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.”

When I first married Jim and he would kiss me goodnight, often he would say “See you in the morning.” It was a simple statement to me as he closed his eyes. He probably didn’t even think much about it. But as I laid there I couldn’t help but think how comforting those words were to me. Each night after Troy died when I laid my head on the pillow for another sleepless night I began to dread the next morning. Because the next morning meant more of the same; another day without him. I knew going to bed lonely would only lead to waking up lonely. So when Jim first said that to me, I thought to myself how lovely and sweet those words were because that meant that in the morning he would be there. I had something to look forward to when I woke up. Day was a happy time all of the sudden.

The deep pain and stinging sorrow inside of a broken heart stops making it worth waking up in the morning.  But, with the Shepherd’s help, it will be worth it someday. We don’t have to do much at first. Just wake up. Just put your feet on the floor.  Like the pastor said today; Just Walk. I remember my dearest encouragers reminding me to keep walking. Morning will come they said. I couldn’t picture it. I couldn’t even imagine the hole in my heart being healed enough to want to live again or be a good mother again. I knew what God promised me in Psalm 23 but I just didn’t know what the other side of the valley looked like or how long He wanted me to walk through it. Those thoughts terrified me.  But I had to trust Him. Even sheep are smart enough to know they are too dumb not to follow the Shepherd.

Today Brad begins that same walk Jim and I went on. As we stood with him next to Sara’s casket, he said he felt he belonged with us now. We told him we were sorry he did. But we know he won’t walk it alone. And we know that someday his mourning will to turn to morning. In some way there always will be morning for those that love the Lord. Sometimes that morning is in heaven like it was for Troy, Andrea and Sara. Sometimes that morning will feel like hell on earth, like it was for me, Jim and Brad. But for those that serve a mighty God, morning will come and it won’t even resemble night at all. 

As we walked out of the church after Sara's service I couldn't help but notice this big sign in the foyer.  Doesn't the fact that the word DOES is underlined say just what we need to be reminded of in times such as these?  He does love us.  He does stretch His mighty arms down from heaven to hold through the pain.  He does bring us sunshine again.  I snapped the photo and reached for Jim's hand and we walked out the door knowing the sign spoke the truth; morning comes.

I love that God chose to raise His son early in the morning on that Sunday 2000 years ago. I think it was symbolic that night was over forever. Satan would never have the last word. He may whisper in our ears that there will never be another glimpse of sunshine in our life. That it’s over or at least not worth living for. But Christ’s victory over the grave forever says to us, “Keep walking, I am with you and I will see you in the morning, my child.”

Lamentations 3:22-23

“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.”

Tonight, as I finish writing this blog, Brad and Chloe return home after burying Sara today. My heart is heavy for Brad. It’s unbelievable how significantly enormous the absence of someone can feel. Yet, it is equally unbelievable how weighty the presence of the Lord suddenly becomes when you need it the most. Grief can dull the senses in one way. Yet, in an another, it shines a light on God’s goodness and mercy. I know Brad must feel both as he rocks their precious baby girl to sleep tonight.

Sara gave me a candle right before I moved. I had been saving it for some unknown purpose. I began lighting it last week as I prayed for her healing. I remembered she said it was her favorite scent. My friend, Angela, also received one from Sara and she brought it my attention that the scent of the candle is "Bird of Paradise".  How fitting.  Paradise.  Sara's new home.  The same address as Troy and Andrea.  How they all must soar now - birds in Paradise.  I burn it now most every night, knowing the fragrance is even sweeter now that she is gone.

Isn’t that just the exact same way we want our lives to be remembered and our legacy to be carried on? As a pleasant bouquet that lingers in the thoughts and hearts of those we leave behind? With tears filling my eyes I listened to the pastor speak of Sara in much the same way that Pastor Steve spoke of Troy. I so desire those same words to echo again, someday, when my loved ones are gathered together to celebrate my coming Home.

Until then, I will seek to love, live and forgive. I will keep walking. Peaks. Vallleys. Whatever the Lord asks me to do. And only with His help.

Oh and I will probably find out where Sara bought me that candle and order another. The candle reminds me of her light and her light reminds to continue to trust God, no matter what.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.


  1. Ging! God uses you in a truly amazing way. I love the scripture his has given you. I know attending the funeral for both of you was a difficult thing. But I also know it meant so much to Brad! I have the candle that Sara gave me, too. I would light it before her stroke, but now I have a hard time lighting it because I don't want it to go away. I miss you tremendously, my friend!!! Jenny and I are going to "run-away" to come see you soon. I will talk her into to it!! Love ya!

  2. Ginger, miss seeing you and the children here in Texas. I continue to read your blogs and keep the faith of healing from loss. God Bless your friends Brad and Sara and praise God for the new life in Chloe.

  3. Ginger,
    I have been following their blog just since Sara was taken to the hospital. Their story breaks my heart. She is the third woman I have poured my heart out in prayer for healing only to be taken Home...too soon, in my humble opinion. I am struggling with this. Thank you for your words and insight. I look at you and Jim and think, if they can keep the faith so must I. I know Andrea would want me to. You are right there is more than what can be seen and not my place to decide, only trust.

    What a blessing you two are to Brad...and sweet Chloe. My prayers are with you as well as I know comforting another in grief stirs those same feelings in your own hearts. You are brave and faithful.

    Thank you.


  4. Dear Ginger, We have several mutual friends--the Gordans, the Mulligans, the Grevens, and the Sullivans. We were in Korea with the Grevens and the Sullivans. also, we now attend Serenissima in Italy. Sandy passed along your site. We were at Serenissima when the helicopter crashed, and Rob immediately called you for our friend Rachel. Thank you for loving our Lord, and for your words of truth that ministered to my heart today. -Janna