The Enveloping Darkness

In the Summer of 2018, the kids and I visited New Zealand with our friends, the Scherer’s. One of the most exciting places on our agenda was the Cavern House, which is home to the amazing glowworm. If you don’t know what a glowworm is, go look it up. I won’t have time in this blog….unless y’all want it to turn into a book….to explain them to you, but, trust me, they are amazing.

So, we boarded a boat, and set sail for the glowworm caves. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I was just excited about this opportunity to see something I had never seen before and experience something rare. Nature amazes me because it is God’s way of showing us just how incredible He is.

The scenery was picturesque. The tour guides prepared us as well as they could for what we were about to experience. They explained the glowworm and how it lives. They told us what to do when we were in the cave and how to remain safe while we were below ground. They took every precaution to make sure we were ready.

As we started to leave for our tour, they told us that our boat was full and they needed 2 volunteers to separate and go with another group. Caleb and Robin looked at me and asked if I would be ok if I took all the kids/young adults with me and they would volunteer to go with the other group. I was totally fine with this. So, they left us and we started our walk down to the caves without them. img_1350

We were led by an experienced tour guide, who knew exactly where we were going and what was ahead of us, because he had been down this path many times before us.

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Upon entering the cave, you could hear the loud sound of rushing water and water falls. The area was dark, but there was electric lighting where we were. The tour guide showed us important features and helped us understand the surroundings. We saw our first glowworm up close and in a small space. But, with all the lighting in the cave, we couldn’t see how the worm, itself, glowed in the dark. We had to go further into the darkness in order to see the light.

So, we boarded a gondola. There was one bench running down the middle of the small boat. Tourists sat back to back along the bench, facing outward so they could see. Our tour guide was at the front of the boat, guiding us. Thankfully, I also noticed that the boats were attached to a system of ropes, so they couldn’t stray off the path.

We pushed off. As we sailed along, I could still see a fair amount of light from the dock. Up ahead was darkness, and I was beginning to see the glowworms. As I looked up to the ceiling of the cave, the glowworms were everywhere…their little white lights shining at us. We moved further and further into the darkness, and the tour guide asked that everyone in the boat remain completely silent. It got more and more black until I literally could not see my hand in front of my face.

The silence was deafening. I could hear my own heart beat. The darkness was enveloping. I felt like it was hard to breath. I have never felt anything physically like this before. Mia and Ben (the youngest of these people for whom I was responsible) were pressed up against me as tightly as they could, each holding one of my hands. Emma and Grace were sitting with their backs to me and I felt both of them lean back closer to me. Hanna and Sam were further away and I whispered as quietly as possible, “Everyone touch me. Just touch me so I can feel that you are still here.”

I needed to know they were there because, y’all, I literally felt blind. I would blink my eyes and there was no change. Whether they were closed or open, it didn’t matter. The blackness was the same. I was terrified for a minute. Something could have come up out of that water and we never would have seen it coming. The darkness felt like a person, pressed up against me and breathing in my face. I could literally feel the darkness pressing on me.

But……when I looked up…..the ceiling was covered in these tiny white lights that looked like a million stars above us. Because of the darkness, we were able to see this beautiful light that we never could have seen any other way. We had to go into the cave, where there was no other light, to see the glowworm. And, there, tucked away in this cave deep in the mountains of New Zealand, was a beautiful creation that God made.

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If I wouldn’t have pressed through the darkness, I never could have seen it.

I would have had to hear others tell stories about it, while never experiencing it for myself.

And, as I looked up and gazed upon this really amazing creation, I was gently reminded that our tour guide had been here probably thousands of times before. He knew exactly where he was. Our boat was attached to the ropes and he was in full control. He wasn’t scared. He wasn’t surprised. He wasn’t alarmed. When I was grasping for the things I loved most to make sure they were still there with me, he was calmly guiding our boat back to safety.

And, we made it. We made it out of the dark and into the light.

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Look at our faces just after we came out. We were so excited about what we had experienced. Now that we could talk again, we couldn’t wait to tell each other all about how we felt down in that darkness. We all experienced it together, but we still told our own version of the story multiple times. We were amazed. We all were.

It was an experience I will never forget. And, the best part…..we were reunited with Robin and Caleb. I remember watching them walk out and all of us rushing over to hug them and share stories. We were all laughing and so excited to talk about how it all felt.

Minutes later, we were standing in a beautiful valley. The kids were running and laughing and playing. We were all smiling and taking in God’s beautiful creation. I was so thankful for all that He had shown me that day. We were together. We were safe. We were changed because of something amazing we had encountered together. We had a knowledge that we didn’t have before this day. Our eyes had seen something unique and wonderful. We had come through the darkness and lived to tell our story.

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I hope you have been able to recognize the analogy to this story.

We are all in the glowworm cave, y’all. We’re down there together. Collectively. Basically the entire world. We’re all down there together right now. We’ve pushed off from the dock and the darkness is growing darker by the day.

For some of us, the darkness is so real that we can hardly breath. It is pressing on us. We are reaching through the dark just to make sure our loved ones are still there. We are missing those who are not with us.

Some of us are scared….

Some of us are lonely….

Some of us are wondering how we got to this dark place….

Some of us are afraid that something will jump out of the darkness and take us….

Some of us are paralyzed….

But, some of us are looking up!

Looking up to see the hand of God.

Looking up to see the reason God led us here in the first place.

To show His glory!

We are surrounded by darkness, fear and loneliness like we’ve never felt before, but if we look up, we can see the glory of God.

And, as we place our eyes on the only good thing in this moment – Jesus – we will gently be reminded that we have a Holy Spirit who is guiding our boat. We are tied to the ropes that God placed in this cave and He is guiding us through the darkness. He has been here before. He saw this coming. He prepared us to enter this cave, and He will get us through it.

He is not surprised.

He is not scared.

He is not lonely.

He is right where He wants to be. In the boat with us. Leading us. Helping us. Quietly speaking to us so we can hear Him through the darkness. And, He knows how to get us back to the light.

Psalm 31: 7 – 8 says,

“I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
    because you have seen my affliction;
    you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
    you have set my feet in a broad place.”

He is going to bring us out of this. We will be reunited with our friends. He will lead us to that valley and our feet will be in a broad place. A big, wide open, beautiful space where there is plenty of room to run and play and be safe. There will be sunlight, blue skies, clouds and mountains in the view. We are going to be smiling and telling the stories of all that God did while we were down there in our cave.

I promise. He promises.

If you will remain faithful and trust the Lord, He will bring us out. And, we will have such a powerful story to tell. We will be able to say that we have seen something amazing. We will understand God more and we will be different. His glory will be seen in the earth.

The glowworms were worth the darkness.

I’m praying that we can all say that Jesus was worth it when this cave experience ends.

I love you.

P.S. Happy Birthday, Emma!!!!!! We’ve been in more than one dark cave together in this life and I’m rejoicing that we lived to tell of the glory of God! I love you like you are my very own.

Are You Grieving?

Just after Clay’s funeral, many of you who so faithfully read our blog, encouraged me to continue writing…and I said that I would. I told you that I thought it would help me heal. Well………..I didn’t. I only wrote about 4 times. I couldn’t. I would sit down to write and nothing would come.

When Clay was sick, we were spending so much time with doctors, family and with visitors. Many of you asked me, “How do you have time to write?” My answer was that I couldn’t NOT write. God was compelling me. The Holy Spirit was literally urging me and I couldn’t go to sleep at night without writing sometimes.

After Clay died, if I’m being honest, I wondered if you would want to read about this part of the story. It seemed that what drew you to this blog was Clay. His testimony. His life. His affliction. And, rightfully so. He was such an incredible testimony. God did so much through him!

And, grief is a difficult topic to write about. I wasn’t ready to really tell you what was happening in me. Some of you know exactly what I mean by that. God was so faithful and He constantly pulled me out of my pit, but there were pieces of that time of my life that I just wasn’t sure I could share. Besides love, grief is the deepest emotion I’ve ever felt.

A few weeks ago, I was asking the Lord to show me some things about my future. I was asking Him about why He didn’t have me write over the past two years. This thought came to me and I know it was from God. “You will. You will write it. It will be a remembrance of all that I’ve done for you.” He made me see that…written in my moments of despair, my words may have been tainted with grief. Written now, they will be soaked in joy.

So, why now? I’m so glad you asked that!

The first answer is that it is God’s timing. I never wrote because I wanted to. The blog wasn’t even my idea. He used some of my dearest friends to show me the idea. It was all God. And that has to be true now, as well. I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing this for God. He has something to say that can only be said by and through Him.

Our church is live streaming our services right now, like so many others. I was there this morning to help and make sure everything went well. I sat in the back of the sanctuary, and although my heart was so glad to be there, I felt weak and unable to even stand – much less lift my hands in praise. I wanted to literally lay on the floor in the back of the room and bawl like a baby while the worship team sang and Pastor Lee preached.

I was weepy all day. Tonight, in the presence of God, all I could do was cry. I almost couldn’t even pray. I’ve heard some heart wrenching stories of how this virus is affecting peoples’ lives and my heart is so broken.

I got in my car this evening, and just started driving for a while. The Lord gently spoke to me and let me see that what I am feeling is grief…all over again. I literally feel just like I did after Clay died.

I’m grieved for the sick. For the lonely. For the hurting. For the lost. For the church. Y’all, I’m so grieved for the church. Being assembled is vital to our lives. I’m grieved for those of you who are scared. For those of you who are trapped in fear. For those of you who are fighting depression and sadness. For those who feel confused and out of control. I’m grieved for God. For what He must be feeling right now as so many suffer, but won’t turn to Him.

So, I’m going to write to you about how God pulled me out of grief. I’m going to share with you the things He taught me as I walked the valley, for what seemed to be a long time. It was in those days that I found the hiding place. It was in the valley that I found the table. It was in my sadness that I found my praise. It was in the darkness that I came to love the light. It was in death that I found life.

And, that life is available to everyone. There is nothing special about me, y’all. In fact, it is the complete opposite. I am nothing. But, God came to me. He found me. He helped me. And, I want the world to know the joy that is available to them in my very best friend – Jesus. He is real. He is true. Every promise He’s ever spoken has been proven. Put your hope in Him today.

The quarantine got me motivated to clean up some things in the house. I moved my bedroom around and created a desk space in my room, so I would have a better view from which to write.

As I was arranging furniture, the only space Clay’s rocking chair fit was beside my desk. I didn’t think much of it until later that night when I sat down at the desk and looked over. It’s like he’s sitting here with me as I write to you. The Lord constantly gives me sweet reminders of him. I miss him so much.

I’ll leave you tonight with a really wonderful thought. I carry this around in my Bible with me….

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It’s Clay’s handwritten notes from a Bible study we taught together less than 6 months before he got sick.

Here are a few of my favorite words in Lamentations 3,

“…But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. Great is your Faithfulness. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men. I called on Your Name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit, You heard my plea. You came near when I called on You. You said, ‘Do not fear!’ You have redeemed my life.”

Clay wrote these words, “Jeremiah’s remembrance of God’s faithfulness brings him hope in times of distress. This is a made up mind focused on all that God has done through you and for you…seeing how He has moved in times past in your life. This will allow you to declare, no matter your circumstance, ‘Great is your faithfulness!'”

Friends, I know that many of you are hurting tonight. Maybe you are praying for loved ones you can’t be with. Maybe you are praying for lost loved ones. Maybe you are just sad because you are lonely and not handling the quarantine very well. No matter your current circumstance, recall to your mind tonight all the good things God has already done in your life. Remember. Ask Him to help you remember the times He has pulled you out of the miry clay. Recall to your mind the steadfast love of this wonderful God, and stir up the hope you have living inside of you.

And, if you don’t have this hope, all you have to do is invite Him in. Just confess your sin and ask Him to be your Savior. He is waiting for you to come to Him tonight. Right now. Don’t delay. You can see that these times are unprecedented. Don’t live in fear. Walk with God and He will draw near to you. Imagine hearing Almighty God say to you, “Do not fear!” You can hear it. Come to Him tonight. He will free you from fear.

I love you. And, as I go to sleep tonight, I’ll be praying for you. Praying to a God, who I KNOW is able to help you, because He helped me. He will rescue us, friends. He is in control tonight. Trust that. I encourage you to take a moment in the morning to write down just a few things God has done for you. Do it and see how God can use it to encourage you all through your day tomorrow. “This I recall to my mind….”

 

Standing Firm In One Spirit

Yesterday was the first day that me and the kids were all home in quarantine. I worked through the morning, and then Grace, Ben, Ellie (our family dog) and I decided to go out for some fresh air. Grace and I wanted to jog, while Ben wanted to fish.

Now, stay with me. There is a point to this story!

The four of us left the house at the same time. All with the same mission – to get out of the house for a little while.

Grace and I shared a set of air pods so we could be listening to the same music. She has an amazing worship playlist, which got both of us ready to run. We left the driveway in perfect unison. Walking at the same pace to warm up, listening to the same music, breathing practically at the same pace.

As we started jogging, Grace was keeping a faster pace than me. I was having to work to keep up with her, but it was tiring me too fast, so I slowed back to my normal pace and let her get ahead just a little. (Please keep in mind that I am 23 years older than her!)

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See….she’s ahead of me.

Then, when we were both ready to stop jogging and walk for a minute, I quickly passed her with my faster walking pace. A few times I tried to encourage her to walk a little faster so we could remain side by side, but she didn’t want to. The more I urged her, the more frustrated she got, so I just walked ahead of her slightly.

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Then we would jog again and she would pass me. There were times when I slowed my walking pace a little so we could walk side by side and have conversation. I love talking to her!

After a while, we came around a corner and I could see Ben in the distance. Standing at the bank of the lake…Ellie at his side…fishing. Loving every minute of it. Just as we walked up, he hooked a 1.5 lb fish. He was so excited!

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He’s unhooking his catch!

As we sat down to watch him for minute, the Lord gently spoke to me about His church during these momentous days we are living in right now. We all have a common goal – to see God receive His glory. But, it looks different in all of us. We are each called to a different purpose and we have to know what God has asked us to do.

Ben wasn’t standing at that lake thinking to himself, “I wonder if I should be running with Mom and Grace.” He wasn’t afraid that what we were doing was better. He was perfectly content to do what he felt was right in that moment.

And shame on me or Grace if we had judged Ben for not running with us. What if we had approached him at the lake and said, “What are you doing wasting your time here? You should have been exercising with us.” How dare we. In fact, for me, it was quite the opposite. When I turned the corner and saw him there…happy as he could be…I was proud of him. I was happy for him. He was enjoying himself and excited to tell us about what had happened while we were gone.

When Grace and I were jogging, we let one another run and walk at different paces when needed. There were times we were side by side and in perfect unison. There were also times that we were a few steps apart. But, it was fine. We both accomplished our goal and we made it home at the same time.

Church, People of God, Christians, let us do this for one another in this time. Let us love one another and trust each other to live our faith the way God has called us to live it.

If you are quarantined in your home because you believe that is what God has told you to do – do it with faith. Tuck yourself away with Him and let Him teach you and speak to you during this time.

If you feel God has told you to go out into the world under the guidelines set forth by our officials – to help others, to go to your church, to work – do it with faith. Let Him use you in a great way during this time.

Let’s not spend our time judging one another. Let’s stand together in unity and love.

Very early in this pandemic, God pointed me to this verse:

Philippians 1:27-28, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”

This is my prayer for my church, the church in our nation, and the worldwide church. That God would return and find us standing together in one spirit, striving side by side. In UNITY. I long to see us maintain unity. How can we defeat our enemy if we are fighting ourselves?

I love this part….NOT FRIGHTENED IN ANYTHING BY YOUR OPPONENTS! When we stand together, we don’t have to be afraid of our enemy. Our unity is a clear sign to the enemy of his destruction. Satan wants to destroy the church during this time. Let’s pray for the opposite. That we would band together in unity and become a sure sign of his destruction. I love that thought!

My Pastor recently said this, “There is one thing of which we can be certain. There is no possible way that an event of global proportions like this could occur without God and the devil being intimately involved.” Don’t you know that this is true? This is a spiritual event. Yes. It’s a physical sickness. But the proportion to which it has affected the globe signifies that it there are spiritual implications.

If this is true….if you believe that the devil is real and that he is fighting against the church of God…

Then, let’s stand together, without fear, and become a clear sign to him of his destruction! He is already defeated. We have read the end of the story, church. It is already written! God has given us His Word so that we will be able to discern these events and understand the truth of what is happening. This is a call to prepare ourselves to see Him. He is our salvation. He is our answer.

Can we honor Him, and demonstrate our love for Him, but loving one another? By serving one another?

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Let’s encourage each other and cheer each other on. I love you! I am praying for you. Whether you are fishing, running or walking, I am praying for God to fill you with purpose, faith, confidence and hope!

Please pray for the church in the world, y’all. The hope of glory lives in us. Let the world see hope in you!

 

I Need You…

As soon as the news of limited gatherings hit the news cycle, my heart was so grieved. Because I know. I know how much we need each other. I know how much I need you!

I agree with what many are saying….The church is not a building. The church is the people. But, there is power when those people are assembled. And God is the one who created the assembly.

It wasn’t until I was 40 years old, and my husband was dying of cancer, that I really understood the value of the Body of Christ. But, let me just tell you that in the valley of the shadow, God revealed to me why He designed the church. And, I’ve never been the same. I’ve literally given my life to the church, now, because I know that I can’t make it without it.

I sat and looked through photos for a while today. I really miss Clay during times of crisis and I’ve been remembering so many things about his life over these past several days. These are just a few of my favorite pictures that tell a beautiful story of how powerful the assembled church can be. It literally carried us.

Our church has been working so diligently to figure out ways to gather together during this pandemic, while following the governmental recommendations. Someone asked me yesterday, “Are y’all afraid to not have church?” My response in the moment was “No.” Followed by an eloquently worded explanation of why we believe it is important to gather. But, later when I was reflecting, I thought to myself that the answer is actually, “Yes!” I’m fearful of what we will miss if we are unable to gather. Because I know the power of an assembled church.

After a long week of planning and preparing at the church, I was literally exhausted last night. We had called a prayer meeting in our sanctuary, and I knew only 50 people could enter, so I waited to see if there was room for me. I walked in at 6:40 to find 34 people spread out all around the room. They were worshipping, singing, talking to God. Some were crying out. Some were praying for others. Some were quiet and still.

I immediately just began to cry. I was so comforted by the presence of God in that room. And, though I had been in prayer all throughout the day, it was different. It is just different when you gather in a room with other believers who are seeking God. I was able to sit in my exhaustion and just listen to the prayers of the people around me, and I was lifted up.

I was strengthened.

I was encouraged.

I received help from God.

I received boldness in my prayers.

I was broken for the lost and those who are unable to see the reality of God in all of this.

I was broken for the Christians who will lose faith during this trial.

I was sad for those who have never known the presence of God the way I felt it last night.

Y’all, I want so desperately for the world to know Jesus the way I know Him. Please don’t misunderstand this. I’m no better than anyone else. I’ve just come to a place of desperation. A place where I knew I wouldn’t live if I couldn’t find Him.

And, in that desperation, He taught me the power of His presence. He brought me into His Hiding Place. The shelter of His wings. The secret place.

But there have been times when I was so broken, so weak, so burdened, that I needed my friends to carry me. You know the story of the lame man whose friends lowered him through the roof to Jesus? So many of you have been that friend to me over the years. I can remember so many Sundays or Wednesdays when I barely made it to the church and couldn’t wait to get to the altar during worship because I needed the presence of God that lives in the beautiful people who are there worshipping God with me. And, they came. They surrounded me in prayer. They lifted me up so I could get to Jesus.

God made us for this. He made us to love one another and help one another. He put life in us so that life can flow out and minister to others around us who desperately need hope.

So, friends, please see it. Please realize that the lack of ability to gather is a desperate thing. It is not something to be taken lightly. The Bible says, “as the day approaches, gather all the more.” Because God knew we would need each other.

And, I beseech you, pray against the hardening of your heart. Pray against the tendency of our flesh to become stagnant and comfortable. If we are home watching church online for weeks, how easy will it be to just continue that and convince ourselves that we’re fine watching from home? Don’t give in. Let there be a burning in your heart to gather with the people of God. Don’t grow comfortable. Don’t be satisfied.

Let’s call out to God and believe Him for miracles and a cure. He can stop this disease. But, if He doesn’t, He can keep our hearts from growing cold. Pray that He causes you to long for the church more than ever. Let this time away from one another cause you to desire it all the more. You should miss it.

I love this video of one of the many nights our house was filled with people who just wanted to worship God with us while Clay was sick. We did this often. In a time of great need, our love for the world faded and our love for the body of Christ grew. We would have had a worship service in our home every single night. Life stopped. Everything was about Jesus. The things of the world didn’t matter anymore….only the work of God.

I’m praying for you, believers. I’m praying that your faith will be strengthened during this time. I’m praying that fear will not take root in your life, but you will be bold and courageous for God. I’m praying that our love for the things of this world will grow cold. That while sports and entertainment is taken from us, we won’t miss it. But, that we will crave the gathering of the church.

Please don’t become complacent. If we retreat to our homes and binge on Netflix, we are going to be useless to God in this desperate hour. Recognize that this is a spiritual occurrence and God has a plan. He desires to receive glory through this situation. How can He receive glory through you? What does He want to accomplish in and through you? Ask Him. Don’t let this moment pass you by. Engage. Pray. Seek.

The world is reeling in fear and confusion. The lost are so afraid. Bring them hope. It lives in you! The hope of glory – Jesus!!! Let the world see His life in you right now. Lower each other through the roof, if needed. But, whatever you do, get people to Jesus!

I’m so excited about what God will do through this momentous event. We are going to see the glory of God, friends! I love you!

For I know….

Jeremiah 29:11 is probably one of the single most quoted verses in the Bible.

 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans for good and not evil, to give you a hope and a future.”

 

Isn’t that such an encouraging message from the Lord? So many of us hold to those words as we believe God for hope. But, did you know that He wrote these words to His people when they were in exile. They were exiled to Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar was ruling over Israel. They were captives….living under the rule of an ungodly king.

 

So, God speaks to Jeremiah and tells him to write this message to the exiles. He reminds them that He is in control and that He will restore them. I can just imagine the people rejoicing at the thought of being rescued. There’s just one small detail that is really important. He tells them exactly when the rescue is coming. In a week? A few days? Right away? Nope. After 70 years.

 

What?! 70 years?

 

Is that supposed to be encouraging? Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself.

 

“For thus says the Lord, When seventy years is completed for Babylon, I will visit you and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you…” Jeremiah 29:10-11

 

Why 70 years? Why not right then?

 

Because He had a plan.

Because the entire future of the world was at stake.

Because Daniel and the three Hebrew children were being developed.

Because He was going to make a brilliant display of God’s glory.

Because the Bible was being written.

Because the Name of God was at stake.

 

Because those exiles, who were completely absorbed with their own lives, needed to be reminded that the things which are seen are only temporal and the things that are unseen are eternal. God was gracious enough to send them encouragement that if they would believe Him and just hold on, He would come at the perfect time.

 

God has taught me so much about this. The future that I dreamed of is gone. My plans for the rest of my life, proved to be just that…MY plans and not His. I thought that Clay would be with me until we were old and grey. I assumed he would be with me at all the big events. I dreamed about being really happy empty-nesters one day.

 

Over the past several weeks, we celebrated two significant life events without Clay. Grace’s High School graduation, and the end of our 15 years at Victory Academy, as Ben graduated from 8thgrade.

 

 

As humans, we place such a priority on these events. While Clay sat beside me at Sam’s graduation, just months before he died, the Lord worked a truth into my spirit – the things that are seen are temporal. These life events that we celebrate are mostly not significant in the spiritual realm. Yes, they symbolize success and growth. They give honor to the work of God in our lives, but I had accepted the reality that when we get to heaven, these moments are not going to have significance in eternity.

 

 

I’m thankful that the Lord helped me see this because it gave me confidence that I could make it through future events without Clay. But, the void of his presence was so obvious at each one. Everyone is thinking it. No one is really saying it. But, he’s not there. And it’s sad.

 

When I opened my eyes on Ben’s last day of school, I literally burst into tears. Clay drove our kids to that school every morning for years. I loved his white Ford F-150. My heart still stops sometimes when I see one on the road. He was so good looking behind that wheel. Y’all, that truck was a safe place for my kids. That’s where they talked about life, learned their deep appreciation for all genres of music, and made many memories with their dad. I’m so thankful they had that time with him.

 

 

But, it’s over and he’s gone. That harsh reality could make me really mad. It could crush me. The grief I feel when I think about this is so strong.

 

And, then, the Lord reminds me that He knows the plans He has for me. And, although they don’t look like mine, God is a much better Author than I am. Y’all, He orchestrated thousands of peoples’ lives just to get Daniel into that lion’s den and just to get those 3 Hebrew boys into that furnace. He knew that there was a spectacular opportunity for His greatness to be displayed, so He didn’t rescue the people when they wanted to be rescued.

 

He was writing the greatest love story of all time, and those exiles in Babylon were part of His story. Some of them were not cast into the roles they wanted, but now that they are in heaven, they can see how vital their life was to God’s plan.

 

That is my hope. When I see Him face to face, I will understand. And, I relinquish the right to understand it while I live here on earth. I take my thoughts captive and I choose not to dwell on what I want, or the disappointment of what I didn’t get. Rather, I choose to trust my Lord. He is fully trustworthy, and He has a plan. And His plan is for a hope and a future.

 

I implore you to allow God to engraft this truth into your spirit. It is the only way to live through the pain of this life and not be bitter, disappointed and overcome. If you want to walk in victory and peace, you must let God reveal these spiritual truths to you.

 

Proverbs 16:9

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

 

Proverbs 16:3

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

 

Psalm 146:4

“When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”

 

Let God have His way in your life. His plans will not perish. His hope will not be put to shame. His ways will be established if you commit your life to His work. Don’t hold on to what you want, or what you think you deserve. Trust Him with your future.

Motherhood….

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If this was the first time we had ever met, you might look at this picture and think that my life, portrayed here as a strong mother surrounded by 3 amazing children, would be something to envy. I mean, we were filming a commercial for a well known hospital. There we were…dressed up, make up perfect, all smiles.

What you wouldn’t see is how we got there…..

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You see, first, we walked through the valley of the shadow of death.

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Clay and I were so young and in love when we married and began a family. All we could think about was being together and building a life that we could love and enjoy. Everything seemed perfect and wonderful. Becoming a mother was the fulfillment of many dreams.

When I held my babies, or when I prayed over them, I always imagined the good things ahead of us. I celebrated the thought of watching them grow and mature. I saw happy moments in our future.

I never imagined this….

I never saw myself as a single mom. Never.

But, there we were. Watching them crank the coffin into the ground. Saying goodbye to their dad…my love…for the rest of our lives. I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t escape it. I couldn’t rescue my kids and swoop them back to their pre-cancer, perfect life. I had no ability to do what I wanted to do.

All I could do was this….

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Pull them in close and point them to Jesus.

I always told them that He was the most important part of their lives. I always taught them to pray and love the Lord. I reminded them all through their childhood that a life built on the foundation of the Word of God was all they needed.

Well….now it was time for God to prove it. We were in the fire. The refining had begun, whether I felt ready or not.

Romans 5 contains one of the most foundational scriptures of my life,

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

What more could I ever want for my children than for them to be filled with endurance, character, hope and love for God? Nothing. They don’t need anything else. But, how will they attain these attributes?

Through SUFFERING. Through pain. Through difficulty.

The very things that I strove to keep them from…are the very things that will move them to love God and exude the character of Christ.

The very things I prayed they would never experience…are the same things that will create an unwavering hope in their soul. A hope that will not put them to shame.

God has proven His Word to be true. His promises have stood the test. My children have walked through the fire without being burned. They know He is real. As much as my mom heart wants to take all their pain away, I wouldn’t trade the lessons they’ve learned.

One of the greatest blessings of my life has been to have them standing by me through this time.

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They have loved me when I didn’t deserve it. Helped me when I was weak. Encouraged me when I was tired. Supported me when I felt alone. Hugged me when I needed it most. Listened to me when I needed to talk. Remembered with me even when it was hard.

They are my greatest joy in this life. God has protected them and helped them, in spite of all my weaknesses. Their lives are no reflection of me. They are proof that God is able to do far beyond what we ask or think.

On the day we filmed the commercial, I listened to my kids tell stories about their dad and talk about their loss with such confidence and hope. Of course, we cried a little, but the overwhelming theme of the day was hope and encouragement. They saw that his life had meaning and they’ve seen God do amazing things. As they told stories, while standing in the middle of suspended pictures of our life, it felt like a dream.

They are not perfect, but they have emerged with strength. They have compassion for others who experience loss. They have a broader perspective of life.

Moms, parents, grandparents….anyone reading this,

If you find yourself trying to protect those you love from the hardships of this life….don’t. Let God have His way. Trust Him that His ways are higher than our ways. When you don’t understand why…just release your life and the lives of those you love. Trust God that He will not fail. He has not forgotten you. He will not abandon you.

It is in the valley that we see the table.

It is at the table that He anoints our head with oil.

It is as He anoints us that our cup overflows.

It is in the darkness that we see His light.

It is in our weakness that He is strong.

Hebrews 10 tells us,

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
“Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

As a mother, my greatest joy will be watching my children receive what is promised. One of the last things Clay told them before he died was how much he longed to be with them again one day. He implored them to follow Christ, so he could have the promise of a reunion.

And so, my prayers for my children have changed dramatically. I regularly tell the Lord to do whatever He has to do to make that day a reality for my family. I don’t ask Him to keep them from trouble, or shield them from this terrible life. I ask Him to shed abroad the love of God in their hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. And, when I pray this, I know the fulness of what I’m asking. I know how He accomplishes this work.

Through suffering.

Of course, I want them to live a blessed life and to walk as pain free as possible, but my greater desire is that they know Him and that they endure. I pray that they never shrink back, but that they believe to the saving of their souls.

And so, I will walk with them. I will help them. I will support them. I will pray. And, I will trust God that He knows how to get them to that glorious day.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

P.S. I love this picture of me and the kids standing between the two most important mothers in my life….

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I love you, mom. You were my example.

I love you, Flo. You raised the best man I’ve ever known.

I Am Not Alone…

Photo credits all to Jennifer Doughty of Shine Images

The service was over…we were waiting in the car…Sam was behind the wheel…Grace and Ben were in the back seat….it was quiet….

I told them how proud I was to be their mom in this moment. They were completely amazing at the services. They stood by me, greeted people, smiled, laughed, talked, hugged, helped me, and supported me. Then, Sam and Grace stood on the stage with such dignity and grace. Their words ministered to so many people. Ben sat right beside me and held my hand most of the service. I was so thankful for what God had done.

Then the car started to move. I looked up and the realization completely crashed on me, like a huge wave. It was like my body was being thrown against the hard sand of the bottom of the ocean. “I am in the first car following the hearse. I’m the widow! Oh no! I’m riding behind the hearse. It’s over. It’s final.”

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I took a huge breath and started sobbing. The kids were just quiet and Sam reached over to hold my hand. He just squeezed it tight. I wanted to scream really loud, and just let it all out. I felt a huge ball of fear knot up in my throat, as if it would choke me. My mind started racing and my thoughts were all thoughts of despair.

But, then this song came to my mind….

Y’all, this song has meant so much to me during this time. I can’t tell you how many times I would be playing Pandora and this song would miraculously come on at the perfect time.

He is not leaving me alone. I am NOT alone. I am not alone. As painful as this is, I can not allow grief to swallow me. I can not allow my enemy to gain one inch of ground. I can hurt…I can weep…but I can not be overcome.

God is my strength. He is my help in time of trouble. He is the lover of my soul. His unfailing love is great enough for me now. He will uphold me with His strong right hand. I will not fall. My children will not fall.

So, in that moment, I let my tears out and then I started telling the kids how much I trust the Lord. I encouraged them by reminding them that everything we just said inside that service was true. Every word their dad said in that video was true. It’s truth that we will base our lives on. We will choose to live in that truth. It can no longer just be words. This is the part where we walk it out.

Verses from Psalm 31 that I pray often…

“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress. My sight is blurred because of my tears. My body and soul are withering away. I am dying from grief; my years are shortened by sadness…But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying ‘You are my God!’ My future is in your hands…Let your favor shine on your servant…In your unfailing love, save me…You are my rock and my fortress. For the honor of your name, lead me out of this peril….”

Speaking of the service…..wasn’t it beautiful?! I was so pleased with it. I know the Lord was glorified and I pray that Clay was able to see it. I think he probably could. I don’t know….but I hope he could see it. Not so he could hear all the good things we said about him, but so he could see how much his death glorified God.

Healing Place did such a wonderful job. Clay and I were married in the old building almost 19 years ago. We attended Healing Place for about 9 years. We met there, fell in love there, and had our first two babies there. So, it is like a second home. Judy Davis and her staff were so meticulous and detailed. She took care of everything, which allowed me not to worry one time.

I had always imagined that Clay’s services would be held at our church, First New Testament. But, I had several people advise me to consider a larger church because of the number of people that could potentially attend. Our guest book shows that approximately 1,400 people came through the church. Good decision!

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The wake was Friday evening. Y’all, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed seeing so many faces that I love. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who came. Old friends, new friends, my friends from work at Capital One, a few clients from my Capital One days, all 5 of my managers from the bank, Clay’s former workmates, his former boss, old church friends, nurses and techs who took care of him, my dear high school friends, Clay’s little league coaches, family…..And,  yes, a few people who have been reading the blog, but don’t know us. That was amazing!

Don’t laugh, but by the end of the two days, my earring had punched a hole in the side of my neck from all the hugs. Apparently, I mostly hug on my right side. But, it was worth it! I felt so loved. And, seeing all of your beautiful faces reminded me of what a wonderfully blessed life Clay lived, and that me and the kids will continue to live. Our family pictures through the years flipped on the screen while people waited in the long line. So many of you who came through said to me, “What a great life!” And, it was.

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I remember smiling a lot that night. I think I stood up for over 5 hours, but I never got tired. I was smiling because you all said the sweetest things to me about Clay. I remember everyone who came through the line. The sad part was that I could only have a few seconds with each of you. I wanted to sit down and have a cup of coffee with everyone. I wanted to have more time to visit, but just know that your presence made a huge difference for me.

My sweet friends, Christy, Chenelle and Michelle came to help us get ready before both services. They loved on me, prayed over me, pampered me and helped me in so many ways.

The funeral was Saturday. At 11:30, people began arriving, and there were more hugs and sweet words said.

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Clay’s baseball team, The Rangers, all came dressed in their uniforms. That morning, Ben asked me why he couldn’t wear his baseball uniform. He said, “Mom, it’s not fair. I’m a Ranger, too!” So, he settled for a red and blue suit and the coolest red shoes EVER!

As the service began, I’ll be honest, I had a wave of emotion as I stood at the casket with Jim and Flo one last time. Because Clay was sick for so long, I had imagined all these moments over and over again. Clay had even talked about what it would all be like. But, to be there, in the moment, was something I couldn’t really be prepared for. None of us could.

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We just had to trust God that He would be with us. And, He was.

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Summer, my sister, sang “Oh The Blood.” I was so proud of her. She’s a cryer, but she made it through and did a beautiful job. She did not leave my side from that Tuesday am until Saturday night. She was my personal secretary, my dearest friend, my go-to. I couldn’t have made it without her.

James VanValkenberg ministered in song. Clay always loved to listen to James play and sing. He is so anointed. But, he is battling Parkinson’s and is having major physical problems. Up to the very last minute, we weren’t sure he would make it, but God was glorified 3 times when James walked up on that stage and used his gift to glorify God! It was a beautiful testimony.

Dr. Gummadi, aka our very dear friend Subhakar, opened in prayer and a few words about Clay’s experience. It was so heartfelt. And, I thought it was powerful to hear the perspective of Clay’s doctor. This man has prayed for our family many times over the past 17 months, and each time I was drawn to tears. He is anointed to pray. God used him so mightily in our lives. (The complete story will be in my book!)

John Green gave a beautiful tribute to his lifelong best friend. They have so many funny stories. But, my favorite thing about John’s comments was when he spoke directly to each of our kids about what Clay said to him regarding his love for them. They won’t ever forget that. It was powerful.

Grace read Clay’s eulogy that she fashioned from her own point of view. I wanted to stand and applaud her when she finished. What 16 year old can do something so difficult? At first, she didn’t think she wanted to say anything, but when I asked if she wanted to just read the eulogy, she said yes. Well, then she added all her own stories and funny moments. It was amazing!

Ron, Clay’s twin older brother, brought good memories and stories of their childhood and did a good job representing Clay’s family. They had a really wonderful childhood and Clay loved to remember it.

Sam. Sam. Sam. Oh my goodness, Sam. My heart wanted to explode. Y’all, my knees are worn out from all the time I’ve spent praying for the Lord to get a hold of that boy, and then he stood there, in front of 850 people, and shared his beautiful testimony. God used Clay’s sickness to capture Sam’s heart. Clay would say it was all worth it just for that. My favorite thing Sam said was, “I’m sad, but I’m not scared.”

As soon as Clay got diagnosed, I had the thought of filming him for his funeral. I just knew that Clay could speak to an audience of grieving people better than anyone else could. And, he did not disappoint. If you haven’t see it, please take time to watch this. I love how his eyes glisten when he speaks. He meant every word, and he lived every day with this purpose inside of him. It was an inspiring thing to watch.

Our wonderful Pastor, and friend, closed the service with powerful comments and an invitation to know Jesus like Clay did. He was so involved in our lives during this process, so he could speak from a place of intimacy regarding Clay’s thoughts and his spiritual life. He talked about how Clay gave up all the things he loved about the world after he got diagnosed. He no longer cared as much about baseball, movies, music, etc. He loved Jesus and that’s what he wanted to talk about.

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I knew that the graveside service would be hot, so weeks before, I had ordered umbrellas to provide shade from the heat. Little did I know we might need them for rain. During the service, you could hear a loud thunderstorm outside. By the time we walked out the doors, following the casket, the sun was shining and it was beautiful. The entire time at the cemetery, the sun shone brightly. It was hot, but very pretty. Then, when we left to drive home, the rain started, again. God parted the skies for us.

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You just never think you’ll have to do something like this when you are 40. That’s me, with my two boys, following my husband’s casket. It’s surreal. In the moment, all I could do was focus my thoughts on the amazing things God has done.

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The service was brief. Joanna, Clay’s beautiful cousin, sang “There’s Just Something About That Name,” accompanied by Clay’s lifelong friend, Chris McMorris. Caleb, Clay’s close friend, spoke and did a wonderful job of honoring what God did through Clay. Grant, Clay’s nephew spoke about Clay’s love for people. And, Lee closed the service with a few words and prayer.

The pallbearers were Jimmy Cook, Jason Lasseigne, Michael Mullins, Scooter Morris, Caleb Scherer and Jason Doise. These men were all very special to Clay. They were a mixture of family and friends who represented his life. As I watched them carry his body to its final resting place, I was so thankful that they were a part of his life. He was surrounded by such Godly friends.

Honorary pallbearers were Grant and Drew Furlow, Max Cook, Todd and Drew Lasseigne. These young men were all very important to Clay. He desired so much for them to know and walk with the Lord.

Have you ever seen a more beautiful casket? My uncle, Larry Norwood, made it. In April, just before Clay got diagnosed, I took my grandmother to see Larry. In conversation over dinner one night, his wife Suzi just happened to tell me a story about Larry building the “Heaven Bed” for his brother-in-law. As the time drew near with Clay, I remembered that. Of course, it was difficult for Larry to do, but he labored in love to build it. I loved it. It’s so strange to say that you love a casket, but I loved it. Clay had said before, “Just throw me in a pine box.” Well, that’s pretty much what we did, but it was a beautiful pine box.

I asked the Funeral Director to lower the casket before we walked away. I just didn’t want to leave with the casket sitting there above the ground. I don’t know why….that may seem strange….but I wanted it lowered. So they did. We watched as it lowered into the ground. I’ll never see it again. It was hard to walk away. But, as all the people started to leave, I made my way around to say goodbye and thank everyone for coming. Then I looked up and saw this….

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My lifelong girl friends. We all met in middle school and we are still friends. All of us still serving the Lord and loving each other. They have done so much for me. I hugged each of them and felt so loved to see them all waiting for me. I love you, girls. So much!

These are a few of my favorite pics….

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So, here we go. Just the four of us. Living. Walking. Wondering what God has for us next. Trying to heal and grieve and keep moving. Trusting. Loving. Keeping our eyes focused on Jesus. Some days are easier than others. But, I just keep coming back to David’s words in the Psalms….

“But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he has been so good to me!”

We love you. Thank you for your continued prayers, cards, acts of love, texts and calls. Thank you for holding us up. God has great things in store. We believe it.

What Now?

I believe that Clay’s services were exactly what he desired. I hope God let him see it. He was honored. God was honored. Jesus was lifted up. It was beautiful.

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Of course, I was exhausted. The past two months were the difficult months in caring for Clay. He required more attention, and during the last month, I only left the house once or twice. He needed constant care. Then, the planning and preparation was tiring. So, I slept really good Saturday night.

But, I couldn’t sleep through church. I had to be there. Honestly, I thought it was going to be harder than the funeral. I wasn’t sure if I could go in with a smile, and I didn’t want to fall apart. That sanctuary is where God started and finished this work. It is a very sacred place to me. The people in my church have walked beside us, known every detail, helped constantly, watched us cry snot and tears at that altar so many times, watched us fight and struggle in prayer, and held us up continuously. So, I knew it would be emotional to go there without Clay.

We started going to FNT almost 16 years ago. Clay’s brother, Ron, and my grandmother had both started attending and had been telling us about it. They would talk about the depth of the preaching and how Lee’s words had ministered to them. Clay and I were at a point in our life…young married with small kids….where excuses to miss church were easily found. We were getting lazy with church attendance and growing more and more disconnected from church friends.

We were both raised in small churches with small youth groups, surrounded by close friends and families. So, we had a desire to raise our kids in a similar setting. From what Ron and Gammy told us, FNT was very much like our childhood churches. So, we decided to go and just see.

I’ll never, ever forget it. Lee and Carla both came over and spoke to us to greet us. They were loving, humble, sincere, and very laid back. But, when Lee stepped into the pulpit, he literally looked different. The anointing on him to preach is an amazing thing to witness. Sometimes it changes his countenance.

He preached on holiness. Ouch. We are called to be holy, like Christ is holy.

When you are living a complacent Christian walk, and going to church every few weeks, and finding every excuse not to read your Bible, it’s kind of hard to live a holy lifestyle. Now, don’t get me wrong. Clay and I were not living in gross sin. We were just sleeping. That’s how I think of it. We were asleep in our faith.

But, the Lord woke us up that morning. I was so convicted, y’all. I remember feeling like I couldn’t sit still, and being uncomfortable, but also LOVING it. I remember thanking God for convicting me. I felt His love that morning. It was like He looked down on me and had compassion because He knew I couldn’t be asleep in this life. He knew what was ahead for me. So, He woke me up.

Clay and I got in the car and sat in the parking lot for 15 minutes. I cried a lot. We had been at the same church for a while and I didn’t want to leave. God had done so much in our lives while in that church. My heart was broken. But, we both knew God was moving us here. We committed to attend FNT right there in the car. After just one service. We became members.

Now, 16 years later, I know that moment where God woke us up, was for May 2, 2016. He knew this was coming. He placed us under Lee and Carla’s leadership so we would learn and be prepared. Lee has often shared that he has been walking through his own valley for the past 8 years. They have made many sacrifices and suffered their own losses, and although they didn’t write a blog about it, he preached to us about how God was helping Him. He taught us how to walk through adversity with grace. He poured into his congregation all the excruciating lessons God was teaching him.

And, he did it with no shame. He never tried to hide the bad parts. He was real, transparent, open, and honest. It’s not about us, anyway, right? We don’t have to put on perfection and act like we are something great. It has nothing to do with us, really. It’s all Jesus. If we are willing, He lives through us and does everything. So, being real is powerful. It helps other people. Lee’s honesty helped me and Clay more than he’ll ever know.

God sent Lee and Carla ahead of me and Clay. Then He gave us the wisdom to soak it all up, so we would be prepared for our Red Sea crossing. And, we were. In every way. We were fully prepared.

You can see through these short paragraphs that I feel a tremendous amount of emotion toward our church, so going there yesterday morning felt like a tall task. But, as soon as I walked in the doors, the peace of God flooded me, and, the service became a continuation of Clay’s funeral. Lee acknowledged our family and the work that God had done at the service. He praised God for the things that have come from Clay’s life.

Jimmy, my brother-in-law, spoke and thanked the church for all they’ve done. It was perfect. He said everything I would have said. My dad talked for a minute. We worshipped. The Holy Spirit was strong in that room.

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There is one particular place at the altar in our sanctuary where I have sat and prayed many, many times. For some reason, I always went to the same spot. For a few years before Clay’s diagnosis, I found myself right there almost every Sunday. Praying, crying, pleading with the Lord. My prayer was for Him to use me. He placed a desire in my heart to be used of Him. Not just to live for Him, or be a Christian, but to be used by Him in a great way.

I would pray for Him to change me….make me more like Him. I asked Him to strip me of my pride and selfishness. I begged for strength to make sacrifices that would allow God to use me anyway He saw fit.

One morning, as I sat there in prayer, the Lord gave me a vision. I was standing in a pulpit, in front of a casket, looking out to a large crowd of people, and I said these words, “This is for you.” I was telling the people that God allowed this death so He could save lives.

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I prayed about that vision for many months. “God, what does it mean? Who is it? Why did you show me that?” I knew it was from Him. Y’all, I imagined every possibility. I wondered if it was my parents, my sister, my in-laws, even my kids. I asked God to show me if He was planning to require such a high price for me to know Him. I wasn’t afraid of it. I didn’t fear it and I didn’t dwell on it. I simply told the Lord that I didn’t want that vision to be fulfilled, but I would do whatever He asked. Then, I put it out of my mind.

But, I can tell you this. Not one single time did I imagine that Clay would be in that casket. Not once. The thought never entered my mind.

When he was diagnosed, I had never told anyone, but that was one of the first thoughts that came to me. God gently comforted me and said, “I knew this was coming. I have prepared you. Walk with me and I will use you and help you.” The strength of God filled me immediately. And, He used that vision to prove to me that He knew.

My favorite thing God did, though, is that He gave Clay the same exact resolve. Our hearts were in perfect tune throughout the entire ordeal. We never one time asked God “WHY?” Never, y’all. I’m not just saying that to sound good. We never asked that question. Because we always knew.

I didn’t feel released to share this with you because so many of you were believing God to heal Clay. And, we always believed He could. We knew He could, and we prayed with you that He would, if it was His will. I know God used that desire in your heart to draw you closer to Him. You spent more time in prayer and God used it to give you an urgency to pray. And I hope it changed you.

But, I tell you now, because I want you to know that GOD DID NOT FAIL US. He did not let us down. “He is not cruel,” as Clay said.

Clay’s name went before God probably millions of times over 16 months, and I believe it was a sweet fragrance to Him. Our prayers did not change His mind, but Clay and I never wanted to change His mind. All we both wanted was the will of God. The perfect will of God. Clay stood firm in that until his last breath. He never begged for his life, he simply prayed, “I trust you, Lord.”

Please don’t read these words and let yourself think for one second that Clay and I are anything special. Y’all, we’re not. I promise. God did everything. It was all because of Him. He saved us. He prepared us. He put the desire in our hearts to be used by Him. He led every step we took. He made our path straight. He strengthened us. He did it all.

The only thing we do…..is surrender. Surrender. Stop trying to do everything on your own. Stop trying to figure things out. Surrender. Tell God that you are willing to let Him use you. And, don’t be afraid. Please don’t be afraid. God will not take you through something He doesn’t prepare you for.

Don’t be afraid to surrender because of the price we had to pay. God wants to use every single one of us, and He has a plan for your life that looks very different than His plan for mine. Trust Him. He knows what is best and He sees what we cannot see.

Many of you have asked me what I think is next. Will I continue to write? What will our lives look like? This is all I can tell you for now…..

God’s promises are still true. He even sent me a rainbow to prove it. A rainbow was perfectly visible right over my house Saturday evening just after the services. God was writing in the sky for all of us to see that He has not left us and His promises are true.

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Yesterday morning, I walked to my favorite place at the altar in our sanctuary. I knelt where I’ve knelt probably a hundred times before. I went back to the same place I was when God showed me that vision, and where He spoke to me so many times. I knelt right there and I simply said, “Lord, I will follow you.” Wherever He takes me. Whatever He desires to do. I will follow Him. I will not be afraid. I will not retreat. I will not draw back, now. We’re waaaayyyy to far into this, now!

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And, my kids are right here with me. Filled with strength and resolve to follow Jesus.

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On Tuesday, September 12, my heart went to heaven. My affection for the things of the world evaporated. My greatest desire, now, is for Jesus to come and take us all home. So, my focus will be on heavenly things. My desire will be for God to use me in an even greater way so that I’m ready to see Him face to face.

For now, I will continue to write. It is going to be my healing. I know it. I will continue to be raw and real with you. And, I continue to pray that God uses it to help you.

This is the last thing I’ll say today…..About five years ago, I was kneeling in that same spot in the altar at FNT, and the Lord told me that I was going to write a book. I told Clay because I just wanted to get it out in the open. I couldn’t believe it, but I knew He was saying that I would write a book. I remember telling Clay, “What in the world would I write a book about?!”

When he was in the hospital at MDA, just before surgery, I was reading my blog to him one night. He looked over at me, with the sweetest eyes, and with the sweetest voice, and said, “You know you’re writing your book, right?”

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I love y’all.

Service Details

Thank you, all, for your love and concern. Your messages, cards, flowers, food, gifts and text messages have meant so much to us these past few days. We hope you can join us as we honor God for what He accomplished through Clay’s life.

SERVICE DETAILS FOR CLAY FURLOW:

Visitation held Friday, September 15 at Healing Place Church
3:00 pm Private Family Viewing
4:00 pm – 7:00 pm Visitation

Funeral Service held Saturday, September 16 at Healing Place Church
11:00 am Private Family Viewing
11:30 am – 1:00 pm Visitation
1:00 pm Service Begins

Graveside Service to follow at Resthaven on Jefferson Highway will be for family only

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to First New Testament Church Missions at 3235 Aubin Lane, Baton Rouge, LA 70816. Clay Furlow wanted the world to know his Jesus, so your donations will help to further the gospel!

Morning Has Come….

When I got up yesterday morning, I knew it was going to be the day. I just had a feeling in my spirit. I’ve learned to respond to those feelings because God has done this for me the entire time Clay has been sick. I texted the nurse early and told her Clay’s breathing had been difficult in the night.

He actually called my name a few times when he was hurting to take a deep breath. This morning, as I’m typing those words, I’m realizing that the Lord did that so I could remember the last time I heard him say, “Kristy.” It was sweet because, in his pain, he wanted me. He always wanted me. Close. He wanted to sit right beside me at every table we ever sat at. He wanted me in the same room with him if we were at a party. He wanted me right beside his lazy boy if we were at home. He always wanted to be with me. And, I always wanted him.

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My mom had spent the night with me, so we were drinking our coffee on the balcony with the doors to the bedroom wide open when the nurse arrived. It was such a beautiful morning. The birds were chirping, the wind was blowing, and the sun was shining. Julie looked at Clay and took his vitals. She couldn’t get a blood pressure. So, I knew these words were coming, but I couldn’t have imagined how it would feel to actually hear them.

“It’s probably going to be today.”

Y’all, there are so many requests I’ve made to the Lord during this time. When I pray, I always say, “Lord, you know best, so I want your will, but these are the things I think I want….” I didn’t want Clay to pass in the night. I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted Dr. Gummadi to be here. I wanted our family here. I wanted the kids right by his side. I didn’t want to be surprised. I wanted it to be peaceful. I wanted to be singing and praying and holding hands. I wanted our Pastors to be here. I wanted to feel the presence of God. I wanted worship music playing. I wanted to be holding Clay’s head because I’ve known that Jesus has been holding his head this entire time.

All of that happened. It was the hardest, most excruciating feeling, but all my desires were met.

Our close family started arriving around 11:00 am. We left the doors open almost all day for the fresh air to come in. We laughed, cried, told some stories, talked about Clay’s life. There was plenty of food for everyone and we all just lingered with him. I read him my devotional for the day. It was written just for us. It’s crazy how God does that. The book was written in the ’50’s, but the entry on September 12 was exactly what we needed to hear that day.

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At about 6:20, I asked everyone to step out of the room so me and the kids could be alone with Clay for a minute. The four of us got close to him and loved on him. I talked to the kids about heaven and what was going to happen. They had a chance to ask me questions that were on their minds that they didn’t want to ask in front of people. It was a very precious 20 minutes. We cried and told him we love him.

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Just as I told Sam to tell everyone they could come back, his breathing changed. Ben ran to tell Dr. G, while Grace and I just held his hands. I told her, “This is it, Grace. This is it.” Clay’s cousin Amy texted me this morning that it seemed like Clay was waiting for that moment alone with us before he could let go.

He labored to breathe for a while. The sound was uncomfortable. I reminded the kids that Dr. G had told us repeatedly that he can’t feel anything at this point. So, although it sounds bad, he’s not hurting. But I started praying right away. Lord, please take the sound away. Let it be peaceful.

After a while, I got right in his ear and started singing…

What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see….

Clay’s mom had just come down the day before and she sang that to him while he laid in the bed. It came right to my mind and I just started singing it to him. He calmed down almost immediately. The breathing became quiet. Still labored, but quiet. His last breath wasn’t even very pronounced. He just quietly took it and we waited to see if he would breath again. I laid my head on his chest and heard one beat. Then nothing.

As soon as I thought he was really gone, an alarm started going off in the room. I am so perturbed by cell phones interrupting quiet moments. But, not this time. It was my “Take the trash out alarm” that goes off every Tuesday night at 7 pm. Y’all. He died almost exactly at 7 pm. 7 is God’s number. What a wonderful thought. God knew exactly when He wanted to bring Clay home.

This morning, I’m sitting in my bedroom, reading your Facebook comments and text messages, while my three beautiful children sleep beside me. God blessed me with some really great kids. They are strong. What they experienced yesterday was something most kids their age will never dream of. But, I trust God to use it in their lives to accomplish something great.

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I keep thinking about how Clay had no regrets. My cousin, Lori, called me a while back and said that to me. It got me really thinking about how Clay had time to tell everyone how he felt, see everyone he wanted to see, tell the world about Jesus, go to the places he wanted to go, spend time with his family. He died with no regrets. No words unspoken. No lose ends. Nothing undone. What a blessing.

 

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We are finalizing the details, but his services will most likely be this Friday evening and Saturday. Times to be announced. The services will be held at Healing Place Church. We would love for you to come and take part in this celebration of a life lived well. I will post all the details soon.

I leave you with this amazing thought that just came to me. We took these family photos about 5 weeks ago. Ashleigh Cormier (Ashleigh Jayne Photography) did such a beautiful job on them. She took this last picture of us together that day. It was her idea. She just told us, “Ok, for the last shot, I need you all up on that hill right there.” Clay was tired and he looked at me like he wasn’t sure he could make it to the top. But, we held hands and made it up there.

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This morning, when I looked at it, I was reminded of the blog I wrote almost a year ago titled, “Morning Will Come And I will Stand On A Hill.” It’s a powerful message God used to comfort us. And, what a beautiful thought for me now. The morning has come, and we are standing on a hill. We’ve crossed over the sea. The night has ended and the pillar of fire led us to the other side. We are standing on a hill, watching our enemy get washed away by the floods of the Red Sea. He thought he would win, but he is defeated.

Clay is with Jesus, and the four of us will continue on. There are more battles ahead, as we take our Promised Land. There are more hard days ahead. But, God just brought us across the Red Sea and completely wiped out our enemy. There is no giant too big. No task too great.

We will go on. And, we will see our promise. Morning has come.