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…..
You see, first, we walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
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….
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.
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.
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….
I love you, mom. You were my example.
I love you, Flo. You raised the best man I’ve ever known.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
We just had to trust God that He would be with us. And, He was.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
And, my kids are right here with me. Filled with strength and resolve to follow Jesus.
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?”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last night, all of our visitors left, and I was sitting by Clay’s bed watching him breath. Suddenly, I got scared. Fear came and settled on me. I was not sure he would make it through the night and my mind starting imagining the scenario. The kids were with me and they could see that I was upset. So, they came around Clay’s bed with me.
I called Dr. Gummadi and his words calmed me. When I hung up, Sam said, “Mom, I think we should just pray.” The five of us sat around Clay’s bed and prayed for about five minutes. Sam prayed the most beautiful prayer I’ve ever heard him pray. It was exactly what I needed in that moment. I felt the fear leave immediately when he began to pray. It reminded me of Psalm 34,
I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need.
We prayed to the Lord and He answered us. He calmed me completely and His peace filled our room. We sat around Clay’s bed and talked about funny memories of him. He has been such a good dad, so the kids have plenty of stories to tell. We laughed and Clay tried so hard to say some words to us. I know he was listening to Sam’s prayer and that he knows the work God has done in our children through this time. What an honor for him to know that he leaves them with Jesus.
What began as a fearful moment, became really beautiful because the Lord heard our cry. If you ever take anything away from our blog, this is what I hope you really understand…..
God does not love me and my family any more than He loves you. Every single thing He does for us, He can do for you. He is no respecter of persons. He wants you to feel as loved as we feel. He desires to bless you just as He blesses us. He is near to you if you will draw near to Him.
As we walk through the valley of the shadow of death this week, I was reminded of a beautiful picture the Lord gave me several months ago. Clay and I traveled with Lee and Carla (our pastors) to a conference in Florida where we shared our testimony. The YouTube video is below.
I hope you have time to listen because I don’t have time to write this really thoughtfully! (smile) And, the thought is so good. (P.S. The message the Curtis McGeehee preaches, after I share, is so beautiful. If you need encouragement today, listen to it.)
Last night, I could see this image of us so clearly. In the valley. The shadow falls all around us, but we can also see the light behind the shadow. The light is God. Jesus sits with us at our table in the valley and there is food, candles, our entire family, joy, laughter, peace. The best part is that our enemy stands there. When he thought he was dragging us into fear, death, darkness and loneliness, he is now forced to watch us eat our beautiful meal here at this table that Jesus prepared for us in the presence of our enemy.
When Sam prayed that prayer last night, and then we sat together to tell stories the remind us of God’s faithfulness, I felt like we were sitting right there at that table with Jesus. It was so real. God is so good.
So, then we slept. Good, too. Clay rested. I slept in the bed with him and all three kids stayed upstairs with me. And, for all of you who think I hate our dog…..Ellie slept up here, too! We left the worship music praying all night and God’s peace was here with us.
Here are a few shots of the past few days. We love you, all! Thank you for helping us and for praying.
I leave you with this beautiful picture. Clay is peaceful. All his words have been said. All his wishes fulfilled. His work on earth is complete and he is resting. He sleeps good and he is very calm. Today, I saw him raise his arms. When they settled back down, this is where his hands were. I whispered to him, “Are you praying?” I think he was…
Thursday was my hardest day, so far. Clay has been getting worse and I had spent several nights in a row waking up all through the night with him. My back is hurting from pulling on him and trying to move him around in our big bed. The nurses would have to literally get in the bed with him to help him because he would roll to the middle. Leaning him up to drink was difficult and caused pressure headaches. The list goes on….and I’m sparing you lots of details.
So, the Lord brought me to the end of my rope so that I would be ready for the next step. I went out for my morning coffee and time with the Lord. The balcony was an amazing place to pour my heart out to the Lord. I prayed for a while, and told Him that I trust Him. I could feel that He had prepared me for this day.
I texted the nurse and asked her to order a hospital bed. We spent Thursday cleaning the room and making the bed comfortable for him. The Lord sent Janell to be here with me so she could clean and help me arrange the room. Robin and Caleb came with supplies, moral support and to help move him to the new bed. Mom was here for moral support and whatever I needed her to do.
I cried a lot. You might think we are ridiculous, but I don’t think we’ve ever slept apart, unless we were in different cities. One time we went on a vacation and the room Clay and I stayed in had 2 twin beds. He was not happy when we walked in. I remember him saying, “Um. We’re either pushing these together or we’re sharing a twin bed.” He just wanted to sleep near me. We did push the beds together, but we basically slept on one bed. I mean, who wants to sleep on the crack??
I guess, it’s also hard because it brings a greater reality that the end is near. I thought he would look worse in a hospital bed. But, the truth is….once I got over my emotions, I quickly saw the benefit. He is comfortable (mainly because of the memory foam mattress topper Robin brought.) We can move him more easily, elevate his head and feet, stand on both sides of the bed to assist him, raise the bed to our height. It’s just so much better.
Once we got him settled, mom said, “He just looks better, doesn’t he?” And he did.
You know, I’ve come to a full realization of what it is to trust God. To trust Him with every detail. He knows what we need, if we’ll just listen to Him. I knew He was telling me it was time.
“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” II Timothy 1:12
Timothy is talking about his suffering for Christ in this verse, but the words “FOR I KNOW WHOM I HAVE BELIEVED” just keep coming to my mind this morning. I do believe Him. I do. And, through this time, He has caused my belief in Him to grow every day. Jesus is able to keep us until we see Him face to face. We have to trust Him.
I thought of this song as I was writing this blog.
He has to be everything to us. We have to come to a point in our life where our knowledge of Christ becomes a reality. When we allow Him to truly be everything….more than words on a page, more than Sunday School stories….He has to be everything. And, when we let Him be everything, we’ll find that we can do anything.
The Lord continues to encourage us and do sweet things for us that remind us He is near. Our faith remains strong. The kids are holding up very well, and we are having very precious moments with Clay right now. God has blessed us with this beautiful weather the past few days. So, yesterday, we moved Clay’s bed so he could look outside and just feel the breeze. I think it was good for him. He had been really restless, but when we opened the doors, he calmed down and slept a while.
He winked at Sam yesterday and smiled a huge smile a few different times. We shaved him and gave him a really good bath. He looks so good! It’s strange that he still looks so healthy. The Lord keeps sustaining him. It’s so beautiful to watch. Clay’s Aunt Jean and Aunt Faye came yesterday. When they were praying over him, he squeezed Jean’s hand and sighed to let her know he could hear her.
God continues to send precious people to encourage us. Kayla brought me coffee and got to be here when the Lord blessed me with the most wonderful gift that I can’t really tell you about yet. Just know that God loves you and He hears even the smallest prayers deep in your heart. My friend Tiffany Hingle blessed me and sent Rachael Lagarde to see me. She is helping me create something that I’ve been wanting for awhile. God is so sweet.
Our nurses, Julie, Christy and others have been so sweet. This is Christy below and Julie is shown above with Clay. My sweet friend, Anna VanV Abrahams, came to play the piano for us. She came Thursday night, and after such a hard day, it was God’s way of comforting me. We worshiped Him together and it was just what I needed before bed. I didn’t even cry when I laid down without Clay for the first time.
The last time he drank water was Thursday am. He only had a small amount and Julie realized he couldn’t really tolerate it. That’s when we stopped giving him his seizure meds via pill and moved to a shot. Britton, his niece who is a nurse, was here that night to give him the evening shot. But yesterday, I had to do it for the first time, and I did fine. I’ve given it a few times, now, and he stays very calm.
Grace, mom and I actually snuck in a little nap yesterday. Then, we had a quiet evening here with just the 5 of us. We all slept really well last night. Grace stayed up here with me and we had to get up a few times to help him, but we slept a lot. He was very still and calm. We all needed a good night sleep!
We covet your prayers over these coming days. I can feel that the end is very near. We still believe with all of our hearts that God can raise him up. He absolutely can, if that is what He desires. If not, we know that these next few days will be precious and excruciating at the same time. Thank you for praying.
Today, would you please pray for Clay’s parents. I know they are so proud of him, and so thankful for his testimony, but that doesn’t make it easier. They love the Lord and have been so strong in their faith the entire time. Pray for the endurance we all need right now. Pray for God to cover them both in His love. Pray for peace that passes understanding. I’m so thankful that they have always loved me like their daughter and they have supported me this through all the decisions during this time. They love me and I love them dearly. It is such a blessing right now.
Thank you for your prayers for our entire family. We are all so close, and each of us is hurting. Pray for God to wrap all of us in His arms. I am praying for you today. Praying for each of you that read our blog to trust God in your own lives. Praying that this message the Lord is teaching us will change you, too. Trust Him to always do what is best for you and I pray that He is your EVERYTHING today. We love you!
Over the past week, our days have gotten increasingly harder. Clay is awake less. He is getting more confused, so when he is awake, his comments don’t always make sense. His voice is very weak, so I have to get right beside him to hear him. He hasn’t left the bedroom for weeks, and he hasn’t walked in 2 weeks. He hasn’t eaten a meal in 2 weeks. He has had some severe moments of confusion that caused frustration, which is really hard for me.
He does still drink water in the mornings while he takes his medicine, but that is getting harder, too. Today was sort of a climax. Getting him to cooperate, take medicine and bathe was really difficult. The nurse was considering a catheter and a hospital bed. I am not completely opposed to this, but I don’t want it. I like to be able to sleep beside him and he’s so comfortable in our bed.
Robin and Caleb had come over to bring me coffee and visit, and Caleb was able to help me and the nurse get everything done in our bed. The nurse was here for over 3 hours today helping us. Hospice has been so wonderful.
I had a few melt downs. Which is ok. Sometimes I just have to cry and get it all out. The emotions start to pile up and it feels good to just cry. I came down the stairs, and found some of my favorite faces in the world….Pastor Lee, Jason Doise, Robin and Caleb. When I saw them, I just broke down. They came upstairs and prayed over us while we waited for the nurse. Clay is so loved. He hears the prayers and it helps him. After we prayed, he was able to cooperate with us and we got some really difficult tasks completed.
The entire time, he was apologizing to us…saying please and thank you….he was just so sweet. That is the Lord (and maybe a little bit of medicine) but I give the glory to God for his sweet demeanor. It is who he’s always been and these circumstances have only made him sweeter. I’m so thankful.
Speaking of being thankful…..some of you have asked me how I’m doing this. People sometimes say, “I don’t know how you’re making it.” This is how….
Psalm 34:1-10; 17-20
I will bless the Lord at all times:
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make her boast in the Lord:
the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he heard me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
They looked unto him, and were lightened:
and their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him,
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encampeth
round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
O fear the Lord, ye his saints:
for there is no want to them that fear him.
The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger:
but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.
The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth,
and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart;
and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous:
but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
He keepeth all his bones:
not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked:
and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants:
and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.”
This is an excerpt from a devotional that Robin gave me titled “Springs in the Valley” by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. The book was published in 1950.
“There is a legend of a man who found the barn where Satan kept his seeds ready to be sown in the human heart, and on finding the seeds of discouragement more numerous than others, learned that those seeds could be made to grow almost anywhere. When Satan was questioned he reluctantly admitted that there was one place in which he could never get them to thrive. “And where is that?” asked the man. Satan replied sadly, “In the heart of a grateful man.”
David knew this truth. He was a worshipper who had a grateful heart. And, even in his despair, he always found a way to praise God. He would talk to himself when he was sad, or discouraged. And those Psalms which begin with despair, almost always end in praise back to God for His goodness, mercy, lovingkindness and unfailing love.
This is the key to our survival. A grateful heart. No matter the circumstance, there is always something to be thankful for. Even in the very worst situation you could ever imagine….you could simply be thankful for salvation. But, none of us are in the worst possible situation. No matter how bleak you life may seem, you would only have to look a short time to find someone with a worse story.
In our situation, I find myself giving thanks for all the provisions God has made. There are many symptoms and side effects that Clay could, and maybe should, be experiencing that he’s not.
When he feels frustrated…..I think to myself that he could have woken up from surgery with an altered personality. But he didn’t. We had 16 months with Clay…the same Clay we have always loved.
When he is sleeping most of the day….I give thanks for all the time that he felt well and healthy and looked so vibrant.
When he is confused….I thank God for the months and months that he functioned completely normal and had time to spend with his family living life to the fullest.
When his head hurts…..I praise God that he didn’t suffer for 16 months with uncontrolled pain.
When he vomits…..I really thank God that I can count on my hands the number of days that he’s been throwing up from sickness related to his cancer.
God has been so good to us. He has provided. Helped. Healed. Parted waters. Guided. Comforted.
Every promise in His word has been proven true in our lives. Every single one. He has kept Clay and empowered him with great strength to stand in the devil’s face and laugh. He has built a testimony in Clay’s life that has changed thousands of people. He has never left us or forsaken us.
And, for that, I am grateful tonight.
When I want to despair, I can’t. Because God has been so good. He is so close to us because we are brokenhearted and His word promises He is near to us. You can feel His presence in our house. You can see it in Clay. You can see it in our kids. He is here, y’all. And, in His presence, there can be no fear, no despair and no hopelessness. He overcomes those things that the devil wants to use against us.
I hope and pray that wherever you are tonight…no matter your circumstance…you can be protected from Satan’s seeds of discouragement by allowing God to give you a grateful heart. If you don’t feel grateful, read a few of these scriptures and let God speak to you.
We Love You!
Clay and Kristy
II Corinthians 4:6-15
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Treasure in Jars of Clay But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
I John 3:1-3
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
These scriptures were inspired by handmade cards sent to me by Diane Ruiz, my dear and precious friend. Ms. Diane, you have encouraged my heart so much and filled my thoughts with scripture. That’s all I have right now…the truth of God’s word….to keep my spirit lifted. Thank you.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
The writers of the New Testament refer to our lives as a race several times. They encourage us to finish strong and to run with endurance. This analogy has always made sense to me, but this past November, God taught me a great lesson regarding running my race.
My friend, Meredith Heath, is an avid runner. She had been encouraging me to run, just to get some exercise and clear my mind while I was taking care of Clay. You may remember the blog post titled “Couch to 5K” that I wrote during the time that I was training for a 5K with her. She sent me a really cute pair of running shoes, which got me started.
Then she asked me if she could enter us in a 5K in Baton Rouge. Honestly, my first thought was that I didn’t need a 5K to make me run. But, it sounded fun to do it with her, so I said yes. I started training pretty hard. I couldn’t show up for the race and have her embarrassed by me! On days when I didn’t feel like running, I did it because I knew the race was coming soon, so I would roll out of bed and make myself go.
The day of the race arrived. I was ready. We had matching shoes, so what could go wrong, right?
Another dear friend from high school, Dawn Borges, decided to come run with us. I had two really wonderful encouragers by my side for my first 5K. I felt very prepared.
We lined up to start the race. It was very crowded. There were lots people of all ages crammed into a very small starting area. The gun sounded and the crowd tried to move together to get through the starting line. We were having to walk because there was no room to run, yet. But, as the crowd moved, and people started finding their own pace, we spread out and were able to start our run.
Everyone ran at a different pace. Some people walked most of the time. One man who was at least 75 years old passed us! Meredith looked over at me and said, “We better pick up the pace. That dude just passed us!” We laughed, but it actually really encouraged me to run harder.
We started off great. We had a good steady pace going and we were talking and encouraging each other. Meredith and Dawn really could have left me in their dust, but they stayed right by my side. There were moments when I was tired and needed to walk for a minute. And we did. I would catch my breath and then I was ready to run again.
At each mile marker, there was water and a cute sign that said, “1”, “2” and “3.” It really helped to have an idea of where we were in the race. When I saw that “1” sign in the distance, I pushed harder because it was an exciting feeling to know we had reached a milestone.
When the “3” sign came into view, I knew we were so close to the finish line, but I suddenly got a horrible headache. Y’all, I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever had a headache like this. It hurt so bad. I had to take my hair down and take my sunglasses off. I had water running out of my eyes and I was holding the bridge of my nose…just squeezing it because it hurt so bad. I told Mer and Dawn I had to walk a minute. I remember stopping and bending over. They just stood by me and encouraged me.
“We’re almost there, Kristy. We’re so close. We’ll walk it if we have to, but we are going to help you cross that finish line.”
I stood back up and started walking. Within about 20 feet, I could see that people were lining the street on both sides. They were holding signs and cheering at the top of their lungs. I was thinking, “What are these people doing out here cheering us on for a little 5K?!” But, when I heard their cheers, I was suddenly super motivated. They were watching us with excitement and cheering us on.
Those people didn’t know that my head was about to split wide open, but they cheered for me like they did. “You can do it!” “Great job!” “Come on!” “You’re almost done!” I could hear all these voices of people I didn’t even know. So, I picked up the pace and I pushed through the pain. We were jogging, again.
The closer we got to the finish line, the bigger and louder the crowd got. Their voices were even more excited for us, and I was even more motivated to finish strong. The last stretch of the race was shaped like an “L” so when we turned that last corner, we could see the yellow finish line marker and all the balloons. And, although this is probably an exaggeration, it looked like thousands of people standing all along that last stretch of road. Their cheers were so loud in my ears.
I was looking at the finish line and listening to the crowd, and feeling my head hurting so bad, but that crowd of witnesses gave me the encouragement I needed to keep going. I could see the end and it was close enough that I knew I could endure anything for that short distance. And, we made it. We crossed the line. The headache was still there, but I was smiling a huge smile! And, look at my sweet friends. Holding my arms and cheering for me, too.
Suddenly this scripture came into my head,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
Tears were streaming down my face as I got the most beautiful vision of all the saints in heaven cheering for all of us as we run this spiritual race called life. They can see our finish line. They can see what we can not see and they’ve already crossed through the finish, so they know that it is worth it.
Right now, those saints are cheering so loud for Clay. They are all standing around in heaven watching him as he nears his finish line. They are telling him, “You’re almost home Clay!” “Don’t give up now, Clay!” “Finish strong, Clay!” “Even if your head hurts, Clay, keep going.”
In that sea of faces, there are many that he has never met, but there are many faces that he will know. His grandparents, my grandparents, friends that have already gone to heaven. But, the most precious face he will see is the face of Jesus. He’s in that crowd. He’s cheering harder than anyone. Because He knows what it is to run a really hard race. He knows the splitting headache we feel sometimes as we turn that last corner. He feels our pain. That verse says,
“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus endured because of the joy set before Him. We should consider that. When we are tired of running, and our head hurts, we should consider Jesus. He endured so much more than will ever be asked of us, yet he finished. And, now, He’s there….cheering us on.
Every race ends with a prize. Our little 5K ended with a medal,
but just imagine the prize that awaits us when we make it to heaven! Imagine the crown of glory that we will receive. And, Jesus himself will give it to us! (II Timothy 4:7-8) What an honor.
I mean, what could you NOT do if you knew the end of it was a crown of glory presented to you by Jesus Himself? You have to believe it. You have to see your life through eternal eyes to believe that you are running this race for eternity.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” II Corinthians 4:16-18
I’ll be honest with you. I am at the part in my race where my head is starting to hurt. I am feeling the affects of this affliction. Clay is having a harder time. He sleeps most of the time, and when he is awake, he is starting to get more and more confused. He still recognizes everyone who comes, but he is having a harder time talking. He struggles to do things I need him to do, so I have some frustrating moments.
But, God has given me a very real picture of heaven. He is drawing my heart to heaven through this situation. My eyes are on the eternal things and not the temporal things. Those saints are cheering loudly right now. They are cheering for Clay, but they are cheering for me and you, too. Our race may not be over, but we are reaching some mile markers that let us know we are that much closer to the finish line. We are all running at different paces, in different shoes, and with different people, but we are all running.
You might be walking right now because you need to catch your breath, and that’s ok. God will send people to give you water and refresh you. He’ll do things to remind you that He is with you. Let Him refresh you so you can run again.
Keep your eyes on Jesus. He is the author and finisher of our faith. And He is cheering for us so hard! He is so excited to see us run with endurance.
Just like Meredith and Dawn ran my race by my side and held my arms when I needed help, we have been so blessed with so many people who are supporting us and helping us. This week, our house has been filled with worship, Bible reading, prayer, food and love. Here are a few snapshots:
We had Anthem come and lead us in worship, Taylor Beth Lloyd played her harp for us, many friends have come just to be with us and to pray. My family from Arkansas drove down today and prayed over Clay. Family from Mississippi came this morning. A bunch of our friends came out to support Grace at her volleyball game this week. A few of my lifelong friends have been cleaning my house and coming just to help me almost every day.
It’s just amazing the way so many of you have blessed us. Thank you so much. We love you for the way you are cheering us on to our finish line. We are surrounded with love and support that keeps us going. But, more than anything, we are filled with the hope of glory. We are so thankful that God has demonstrated great purpose in this journey. He is cheering us on and waiting for us to make it home. What a thought.
Let’s run with endurance and finish strong!
P.S. I love you Meredith and Dawn! Thank you for encouraging me to run that race so God could teach me a lesson that would be so important to me right now.
And…photo creds to my lifelong friend, Michelle Chenevert Morgan! She was in that crowd cheering and capturing it all! I love you, girl, and that photo will be a treasure to me for the rest of my life.
A while back, Carla (my Pastor’s wife) asked me to teach a Bible study on Joseph. Joseph is a type (or illustration) of Christ in the Old Testament, and the study was meant to bring out that truth. I found my notes yesterday and, once again, I just sat in amazement at how God prepared my heart so much for this event that He knew was coming.
Kayla and I were having (decaf) lattes on my balcony Sunday night, and she was remembering how it was so evident that God prepared us for this trial. I have come to realize that God knew this event was in our future. He gave us a choice….to be prepared and walk with Him, or to go through it without Him. We chose wisely. When God began to prepare us, we knew He was doing something really great in our hearts. We just didn’t understand the magnitude. But, nevertheless, God saw this coming and He paved our way with promises and hope.
Just like He did for Joseph. You know the story, right? Joseph was the son of Jacob. He wore the coat of many colors. He was beloved of Jacob and his brothers were jealous. So they sold him into slavery to Egypt. He spent many years of his life in slavery, in prison, and in great hardship. Until God raised him up and used him to bring deliverance to the entire nation of Israel.
But, before he went there, God showed him a vision. God told him that he would be used of God. That he would have an impact on the nation of Israel. God gave him a hope to hold onto while he would sit in that prison for years and years. God prepared him and worked in him while he was there in the darkness. In times when he wondered why, God spoke and gave him dreams and visions.
He knew his life had purpose.
It was the same with Jesus. He came here with a purpose. And, He always knew what it was. He endured great hardship “for the hope that was set before Him.”
That’s what God can do for you. If you will allow Him. That’s what He did for me and Clay. We don’t have to ask God why? We don’t have to wonder why He has allowed this, because He showed us. We knew immediately when this began. We both knew that God was building a testimony that would bring glory to Him.
Clay instantly became an evangelist. It’s been amazing to listen to things that come out of his mouth. He knows that God is using him and he’s honored by that. Your response to the video I posted of Clay was overwhelming. It’s been shared about 150 times and viewed thousands of times already. God is using him as a voice to a broken and hurting world.
So, if you are asking God “WHY?” Stop. We know why. And because God has shown us, and given us that hope, we can make it. We can endure.
He can do the same thing for you! He can show you the purpose for your life so that you can endure the difficulties of this life with purpose and hope. We all have to go through pain and sorrow…..don’t you want help with it? Don’t you want to know it’s all for a reason?
It doesn’t make it easier.
It doesn’t take the pain away.
But, it can make the burden lighter. It makes it bearable when you know that your life is being used by God to demonstrate His power to the world. If you can really let God help you live your life with a heavenly perspective, He can help you understand that this life is only a blip on the radar. Eternity is what really matters. What follows this life is the only thing that has meaning.
Live for that.
Live for eternity.
I want you to see this note I wrote in my journal when I was studying Joseph…..
“Ask God to speak into your life and show you His plans for you. If you are in your prison years, ask God to show you how He is using you. See your life on an eternal timeline and you will walk with victory and love.”
I did this, y’all. For years….really for my entire life….I’ve been praying for God to show me the plans He had for me. I’ve been begging Him to use me. I’ve always desired to be used of God. Now, don’t misunderstand. That is not natural. I didn’t work that up in myself. God did that in me. He put that desire in me. He taught me to pray for His work to be done and His perfect will to be preformed. He prayed through me. I didn’t do anything.
And, isn’t it wonderful to just accept that? We don’t have to do anything. His work in our life doesn’t depend on us. It all depends on Him. Some people have a hard time with this thought because we are influenced by the world to think that we have to be strong and brave and capable. Our culture is filled with self help and motivational speakers. We are buying a lie that says we have to get up each morning and strap on our boots and take on the world.
You have to get up each morning and give your life to Jesus.
So, the good news is that you can just rest and let Him do all the hard work. Surrendering your life to Jesus does not mean you are weak. It means you know how strong He is. We could never live up to what He can do. So, just surrender. Live your life with great purpose and let Him do the hard stuff. I’ve learned this concept so strongly this year.
Almost everything that God has set before us to accomplish has been impossible. And, I love that. I love that most of my days end in this thought, “How did I do that? Oh, yea. I didn’t.” He does it all for me and then I get to marvel at His work.
These truths are especially meaningful right now because the days are getting increasingly harder. Clay can no longer get out of the bed. His legs are too weak to stand. He has completely stopped eating and he sleeps most of the day. He is still drinking water, especially when he takes his medicine. He is confused a lot. But, he still has moments of consciousness where he talks and even cracks jokes. Here are a few good moments from the past few days:
My lifelong friends, Tiffany Barry Ray and Angie DeJean Vercher, came over with their husbands and helped us make a mold of all 5 of our hands together. It was really cool! Clay couldn’t sit up, so he just laid over the side of the bed and we got around him. It was tight quarters, but we laughed and joked around the whole time. I have great kids. And great friends.
You know, this is so sad and difficult, but there are many moments where I sit here in our room with a very thankful heart. Thankful that my kids are having this precious time with their dad. Thankful that we have LIVED our lives to the fullest for an entire year while knowing his end was coming. Thankful that God has provided. Thankful that all of you have loved us so much and continue to show us great love. Thankful for family. Thankful for great memories. Thankful for time. Thankful for Jesus. Thankful for peace.
Our room is so peaceful. I play worship music most of the time. Yesterday, Clay was sleeping. I went over to check on him and he opened his eyes and said, “I love that song.” He is listening and worshipping, even though he can’t say much. God has covered him in peace. It is a precious time for me. I’ll always remember these days by his side.
My father-in-law made me breakfast this am! He’s so sweet. It was delicious. For those of you concerned for me, thank you. I assure you that I’m sleeping at night. I’m resting when I can during the day. I am drinking lots of water and I’m eating. Not tons. I’m really not hungry, but I’ve been eating enough to keep me going. I am allowing the Lord to help me and He is. I read my Bible as much as I can and I sit in the quiet and worship as much as possible.
Many of you have also asked about our kids. I am so thankful that God gave me 3 really strong, grounded kids. They are doing as well as we could expect them to do. I believe that Clay’s strength has given them a strong foundation on which to walk the rest of this path. He has led the way for them and they are following his lead. Thank you for praying for them.
We are so thankful for your prayers and love. Today, you can pray that God will give Clay spiritual endurance. That his spirit will win over his flesh when he feels confused and frustrated by the circumstance. Pray that he will rest peacefully and feel the arms of Jesus holding him. I need strength. I need patience. I need God to keep reminding me of His plans. Our kids need God to feel near to them. Jim and Flo need strength and the hope of God’s purpose for their son to fill their hearts.