Thursday, October 13, 2016

If The Lord Does Not Build The House

From the beginning, although I knew that God would provide for the literacy center construction, I have to admit that when it came to filling the literacy center with books once the construction was completed, it felt as though I was staring at a blank page.  

I couldn't imagine it, couldn't visualize it, didn't know what we would do to obtain the books, what He had planned, how He would provide...   it was a complete mystery.  All I knew was that He was asking me to simply focus on the construction, and when the time came to fill the library, He would reveal His plan.  Well, maybe that's not all I knew -- I also knew that I felt completely inadequate for the task ahead and that was perhaps why He chose me for this yet again.  Like I said, a complete mystery.

In reality, it wasn't any different than any other callings He has placed upon my heart.  The child slavery rescue mission in 2011 was much the same -- I came to the table empty handed aside from my belief and understanding that God had promised it in full, and that it was my calling, my purpose.  I had no idea what we could do, individually or as a whole, that would ever amount to enough.  Picking up recycling bottles wouldn't be enough.  Neither would mowing lawns or selling photo sessions.  That's because the only "enough" was Him.


I have vivid memories from 2011 of how it felt when we were scheduled to leave for Ghana in 53 days and we had only managed to raise 12% of the $30,000 needed, not including travel costs.  

It looked impossible.  If we'd had a dollar for every person who had told us that we'd never reach our goal, well, we would have been much closer to reaching our goal!  We all felt it.  The pressure, the weight of the calling, the awareness of what stood in the balance for the children who were waiting to be rescued, and those who had been rescued and needed the resources we were gathering for them.  

The only reason I didn't get discouraged is because I knew from experience that God works best when we've come to the end of ourselves, when we've exhausted all other possibilities.  When the only success possible is the kind where He steps in and does the impossible.

He did just that in 2011 by providing the funds in full before we stepped foot on that plane, as He had promised, and in ways we can't explain to this day.  I still choke up when I think back to what we experienced that year when we simply said "Yes!" to whatever He would do through us and in spite of us.  

Before we left Ghana to come home, I gave Him that "Yes!" again, this time for the literacy center, and once again, I'm finding myself in that place where we are up against a wall, and the only success possible is the kind where He steps in and does the impossible.

I feel the pressure, the weight of the calling, the awareness of what stands in the balance.  I refuse to get discouraged, as I know that what He has started, He will finish, but I feel weak in the knees just trying to wrap my mind around this.  Maybe that's part of the problem -- I should stop trying to wrap my mind around this, because I know I can't.


Remember when I mentioned that at first, I did not know the logistics of getting the literacy center filled with books?  I didn't know, but now I do, and that's what has me completely bursting at the seems with excitement, and trembling at the knees when I see the gap between where we are, and where we need to be to receive these books for the literacy center.

A short while ago, I came across a book that caught my attention.  It was a book about a Christian couple whose calling was to create a non-profit that would provide books to rural communities in Ghana.  (I know, I was speechless for a good long while as I read this book and could relate so much to their ministry!)  The communities interested in receiving books had to fund and construct a library with certain specifications, including having a minimum of 300 linear feet of bookshelves, a board of directors to oversee the library, the library being available to the entire community, and someone that could be trained to become the community's paid librarian.  Once the community met those qualifications, they could apply on a first come, first serve basis, with preferences given to rural libraries, and if accepted by this non-profit organization, they could receive a large shipments of books all sorted by the Dewey Decimal System, with a variety of books from all the different categories, and proper training.    

As I read the last page, I felt as though I'd been holding my breath.  

FIVE YEARS.  

FIVE YEARS, I prayed for God to provide a way for the books to be brought into Enyan Abaasa somehow.  

Five years of not knowing how God would provide, and as I finished reading this book, I knew.  


I flipped to the beginning of the book again, and realized that since the book had been written in 2013, there was a possibility that they were no longer providing books.  I pleaded with God as I did some research, "Please, Lord, if there is any way..."  I found some information, and reached out to them, providing information about our calling to help provide a literacy center to the community of Enyan Abaasa, and received the confirmation that they are still in a position to provide for one last library this coming spring while they are in Ghana.

To be clear, after years of providing books to libraries throughout Ghana, they are only planning on providing books for one last library in the foreseeable future, so that they can focus instead on supporting the libraries that have already been established through their ministry. Having read about their experiences, I completely understand and support their decision to focus on the libraries they have already established until the Lord directs them otherwise.  

When they received my email about the literacy center, they encouraged us to apply as soon as possible, preferably by December, since this will be their last library provision.  However, in order to apply and qualify, we must include with our application photos of finished bookshelves, along with the list of board of directors, and plans on how the librarian's salary will be provided for. The first community to apply and qualify will receive the last of the book resources they have at their warehouse.  They have confirmed that they have just what we need in terms of books (and exactly what we prayed for!!!), and that the literacy center has many things going in its favor in terms of being well supported, but until we provide proof of bookshelves being completed and fulfill the other requirements, we are at risk of losing our opportunity to receive this immense blessing, this precious shipment of books. 

The challenge is time, funds, and, well, bookshelves.  Bookshelves?  Why is that so complicated?

Given that we're in the midst of fundraising and haven't reached the required funds yet to start the interior work, we're simply not ready - the bookshelves haven't been started yet.   I can probably guess what you're thinking -- how long does it take to build bookshelves?   It may not take long to build bookshelves, but it takes a lot longer to raise the funds to provide for the bookshelf material and the labor, it takes 4-6 weeks minimum for them to receive the funds and our instructions, and if they understand that we need photos of the bookshelves and they send the photos to us, it will still take another 4-6 weeks for the photos to reach us.  

As of today, October 12th, we have raised 8.25% ($751) of the funds needed to finish the interior of the literacy center.  

In order to get the shelves started so that they can be built and photographed for the application process, we need to have at least $2000 raised and sent without delay along with instructions for the bookshelves and the need for the bookshelves to be built first.  Sending $4000 would be even better, as they could make more progress as we raise the rest, and work on the tables, benches, floors, plumbing and electricity.  (We always try to send the funds in $2000 increments, since $2000 is the limit per transaction for this project, and we are limited to two transactions per year).


I feel so utterly overwhelmed by the sense of relief at the answer to our prayers, the gratitude in being called to do this, all while all at the same time, the sense of the impossibility of it all.  With one simple communication or transaction taking 4-6 weeks or longer, and with us not quite having reached the initial $2000 for the first transaction... the timing looks nothing short of impossible.  

Have I mentioned that it's October?

This is the point in which my kids would say "can't.even".  I'm tempted to join them, but I can't, and won't -- this is not impossible for the God we serve, the God who has promised us that He would see this through.  In fact, my heart knows that place that seems impossible is typically when God shows up in all His glory and everything falls into place at the touch of His hand.

So, yes, I know that God's got this -- He alone can do this...  but it still requires something of me, and I'm willing, if only I knew how!

I know from His word that if the Lord Himself does not build the house (or library, as it were), then those who build it labor in vain.  Psalm 127:1 

The Lord HAS built this literacy center.  He IS finishing it.  We have NOT labored in vain.

That being said, I have reached the end of me -- I honestly do not know how to take the next step, in which direction, what to do or how...  and so I am doing the one thing I know to do...  ask you to join me in prayer and in action.  Prayer for the Lord to light our steps as He promises to, for me to have the clarity to see the ways He lights my steps (because sometimes I don't see too well!), for the funds to come together miraculously and in time, for communication to be fast and efficient, for Him to provide His people to come alongside of us, help us on this calling, and help see this through.  


There's room at His table -- won't you join us?
 

JD

Ghana@beyondmeasure.me
Monday, August 01, 2016

Ghana Community Literacy Center - 2016

As of October 18th, 2016:

12% of the funds needed to complete the library have been provided!!  If you would like to help us reach our goal, please join us -- details below!

__________________________________________


When we began sponsoring Ato Sam through Compassion International in 2010, we would never have imagined how much impact he would have on our lives. 



Ato Sam, although he was barely 10 years old at the time, compelled us through the many, many letters he wrote to us to consider helping his people in Ghana beyond the impact we were already making through sponsorship.

Through our love for him and through his encouragement and strong leadership, we embarked on a journey in 2011 to partner with humanitarian organizations that had a holistic and sustainable approach to rescuing children from modern day slavery in the Lake Volta region of Ghana.  



By the time we traveled to Ghana in November of 2011, God had provided $30,000 towards long term rehabilitation and care for rescued child slaves.  


While in Ghana, we not only met Ato Sam and his family, along with 3 other children from his area that we sponsored and children sponsored by friends as well, but we also witnessed the unforgettable rescue of two children from slavery.  To this day, 57 children reside in the facilities we helped provide for in Kumasi, Ghana.  



We have since shifted our focus to Ato Sam's own community needs, by providing for a community kitchen at his local church in 2012, as well as some instruments for the children to learn and use as an income generating activity in 2013.  

In Ato Sam's letters over the years since 2010, the lack of access to books and literacy resources in his community was a recurring theme.   Through discussions with his community leaders, we knew we had to make this a priority, not only for Ato Sam and his family, but for the entire region.  

That is how the dream of a Community Literacy Center was born, a center where the entire community can gather to gain access to books, literacy skills, a computer skills and research lab, and more. 




The construction of the Community Literacy Center began in the spring of 2015, and is nearing completion. This has very much been a community effort both here in North America, and in Enyan Abaasa.  The people of Enyan Abaasa have inspired this project and have designed the center to fit the needs of their community.  Having witnessed the entire community working together on the construction efforts has been amazing. 

Everyone in Enyan Abaasa. yound and old, has contributed to it, making it entirely their own.  Even the village chief has given it his blessing, declaring that all the tall trees in close proximity to the literacy center should be cut to protect the literacy center from falling trees in the event of a severe storm.


We are in the final construction fundraising phase before we begin to fill the library with books, with computer equipment, and before it is filled with joy, laughter and wonderful Ghanaians eager to benefit from this resource center.



We have been given a (very!) detailed list of exactly what is needed to finish the center's construction. (see list below).  This will be used like a gift registry list, which will continue to be updated as people step forward by choosing an item from the list and donating the cost to the construction fund.  

Donations can be made in person, by mail, or online (Paypal or EMT).



All donations over $20 received are eligible for a tax receipt (Canada and U.S. only).

Your support, prayers and encouragement are welcomed and appreciated!

For more information, please don't hesitate to email me at Ghana@beyondmeasure.me

Follow along on Facebook by liking our Community page! https://www.facebook.com/GhanaLiteracy/


Items Needed QTY  Cost per item   Total  QTY Received Total Received
PLUMBING
4'' pipe  4  $      8.16  $        32.64 4  $        32.64
1/2'' pipe  1  $      7.31  $          7.31 1  $          7.31
4'' elbow  6  $      1.70  $        10.20 6  $        10.20
4'' T 1  $      2.38  $          2.38 1  $          2.38
Plumber's adhesive 1  $      4.08  $          4.08 1  $          4.08
Vent cover 1  $      1.19  $          1.19 1  $          1.19
4" chamber cover 4  $      2.72  $        10.88 4  $        10.88
4" vent hook 1  $      5.10  $          5.10 1  $          5.10
 $        73.78  $        73.78
TILES & SCREENING
Bags of cement 30  $    10.88  $     326.40 6  $        65.28
Trips of sand 3  $      4.42  $        13.26 0  $               -  
2'' x 6'' tiles  20  $      5.44  $     108.80 0  $               -  
2'' X 2'' tiles 40  $      2.72  $     108.80 0  $               -  
Box of 3'' nail  1  $    11.90  $        11.90 0  $               -  
Toilet and seat  2  $ 102.00  $     204.00 2  $     204.00
Washing bay 1  $ 119.00  $     119.00 1  $     119.00
Boxes floor tiles big size (200^2m) 114  $    20.40  $ 2,325.60 0  $               -  
Tile cement  75  $      6.12  $     459.00 0  $               -  
Boxes wall tiles  16  $    13.60  $     217.60 0  $               -  
Boxes floor tiles small size  4  $    13.60  $        54.40 4  $        54.40
Gallon of enamel paint  16  $    18.70  $     299.20 0  $               -  
Gallon of oil paint 10  $    18.36  $     183.60 0  $               -  
Tile filler  1  $      4.42  $          4.42 1  $          4.42
Workmanship (Tiles) 10  $    34.00  $     340.00 0  $               -  
Workmanship (Screening) 10  $    17.00  $     170.00 5  $        85.00
Workmanship (Plumbing)  10  $    34.00  $     340.00 0  $               -  
Workmanship (Painting)  10  $    40.80  $     408.00 1  $        40.80
 $ 5,693.98  $     572.90
ELECTRICAL
Pole with fixings all cost GHC 750 .00 10  $    25.50  $     255.00 0  $               -  
 $     255.00    
ARCHITECTURAL / STRUCTURAL
Work to ceilings, doors and windows 10  $    61.20  $     612.00 0  $               -  
2 X 2 wood  120  $      2.38  $     285.60 1  $          2.38
 $     897.60
FURNITURE:  Tables
3/4Plywood  7  $    32.30  $     226.10 7  $     226.10
Board  7  $    10.20  $        71.40 7  $        71.40
2'' X 4'' wood  5  $      8.50  $        42.50 0  $               -  
Machine  1  $    17.00  $        17.00 0  $               -  
Nails  1  $      5.10  $          5.10 0  $               -  
Formaker board 8  $    13.60  $     108.80 0  $               -  
F. Glue  2  $    22.10  $        44.20 0  $               -  
T & T 1  $    17.00  $        17.00 0  $               -  
Workmanship 10  $    17.00  $     170.00 9  $     153.00
     $     702.10  $     450.50
       
FURNITURE:  Chairs and benches        
Beam   18  $    27.20  $     489.60 0  $               -  
Machine   1  $ 170.00  $     170.00 0  $               -  
White glue    1  $      6.80  $          6.80 0  $               -  
Nails   1  $      5.10  $          5.10 0  $               -  
3/4 Plywood    2  $    32.30  $        64.60 0  $               -  
Form maker glue  1  $      8.50  $          8.50 0  $               -  
Foam 4"  16  $      6.80  $     108.80 0  $               -  
Foam 2"  5  $    17.00  $        85.00 0  $               -  
Leather (per yard)   24  $      5.10  $     122.40 0  $               -  
Sandy sealer half gallon 1  $    17.00  $        17.00 0  $               -  
Varnish half gallon 1  $    20.40  $        20.40 0  $               -  
Thinner gallon 1  $    13.60  $        13.60 0  $               -  
T&T  1  $    34.00  $        34.00 0  $               -  
Workmanship (chairs & benches) 10  $    34.00  $     340.00 0  $               -  
 $ 1,485.80
Total Needed      $ 9,108.26 Received:  $ 1,099.56
Thursday, April 30, 2015

Docile's Well

Docile Duguay
June 30th, 1949 - September 13th, 2014
Photo Credit - Sebastien Benoit (son)



As you may know, my beloved mama, Docile, lost her life in a drowning incident last September. Her death has been one of the most devastating losses we've ever experienced as a family, a loss that has also shaken her friends and co-workers to the core.

Just as too much water can lead to death... so can too little.  



Half a world away, in South Sudan, a group of people from the communities of Pacong and Mathiangkok are dying, not from drowning, but from the lack of clean water.



It hurts to know that my mama’s death could have been prevented, but while it is sadly too late for her, with a little help from her friends and family it won’t be too late for the people of Pacong and Mathiangkok.

As a monument to her precious, generous life, 
a water well will be drilled in her honor
and named after her...  "Docile's Well" 

Docile’s Well will supply crucial living water to two neighboring tribes who until now, had been at war with one another as is common between tribes desperate for water and survival.  Read their remarkable story and see their photos in the link below, and just imagine Docile as one of the two women who stood up and spoke up, breaking the vicious cycle of revenge, war and killing...  and bringing forth the gift of peace and education.  In being the voice of hope, these women changed the lives of those around them and the future of their villages for generations to come.


Mama was a teacher and a peacemaker ... and Docile's Well will not only uphold the peace amongst these people, but it will sustain a primary school full of children much like the ones she taught over the years.


Time is of the essence... the well must be drilled before the rainy season begins in May - can't imagine a better way to honor her on this bittersweet Mother's Day..  


Will you join us through this link, give in her honor towards this well, and share?





Thank you...

Merci...
Monday, September 22, 2014

Eulogy for Maman -- Sept 2014

June 30th, 1949 - Sept 13th, 2014





(Read by Will)

A reading from 2nd Corinthians chapter 4, verses 7-18

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness.
We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at.
We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.
What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!
We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

(Read by Jolaine)

In the wake of mama’s homecoming, I felt so overwhelmed at the thought of standing here today, and the responsibility I so heavily feel to honor her and her life before you today.

As time passed, God provided the message I am about to share with you loud and clear, delivered to me in three specific points.  The source of her essence and spirit, her true purpose in life, and the choice she ultimately leaves us with.

I’ve been witness to this my entire life – my mom was a legendary woman, evident by the glorious 65 year trail of life she leaves behind, filled with friends and loved ones who were drawn to her beauty, and evident by your presence here today.  She was known for her capacity to love without reserve or judgement, to forgive the unforgivable, to show mercy and grace, to find joy in the unlikeliest places (even French verbs), giving of herself without reserve to anyone she came into contact with...  with a strength and grace that was unparalleled in this world.  We all saw it, we all paused in the wonder of her spirit – it was as though her well of life never went dry.

On September 13th, the day God called her Home, the message in my devotional for that day clearly described the source of mom’s well, as well as the reason it never ran dry.  I felt compelled to share this with you today.   Exodus 34:2 says “In the morning... come up... present yourself to me there on top of the mountains.”  As you know, mom was constantly fluttering from here to there, busy doing life, always in contact with her family and friends, always on the go, loving, living and embracing life to the fullest... but what some of you may not know, is that each of her mornings began in complete stillness, envisioning herself climbing to a place she called “God’s mountain”, to climb into His embrace and replenish her spirit and soul. 

She knew full well that blessed is the day when the morning is sanctified, set apart to God! 

...  That successful is the day when the first victory is won in prayer! 

...  That each morning begun so sacredly on the mountain would make her strong and help her carry out her purpose the rest of the day. 

She would spend an hour in His presence, praying, pouring over scriptures, writing pages and pages as she journaled her faith journey, quieting herself before God - not a small feat for a woman who so loved to talk and struggled to sit still.  (I am my mom’s daughter!)

The words in my devotional reflected this beautifully “That hour was like a blessed fountain from which she drew the strength and sweetness that prepared her to complete all her tasks.  It also enabled her to maintain a genuine peacefulness in spite of the normal, trying worries and pettiness that so often accompany life in a [busy] environment.  As I think of the life she endured, I see the absolute, [unquestionable] triumph of the grace of God in the ideal Christian woman.  She was such a lovely woman that I never saw her lose her temper or speak even one word in anger [ok, except maybe once or twice in my teenage years].  I never heard her participate in idle gossip or speak a disparaging remark about another person, [ever, regardless of the circumstances, even if it was someone who had hurt us deeply].  In fact, I never saw in her even the hint of an emotion unbecoming to someone who had drunk deeply from “the river of the water of life” (Rev 22:1) and who had eaten of “the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51).”

A dear friend of mama’s, Jennifer Seeley, shared a meal with mama over 20 years ago in Sussex, and as they talked, mama told Jennifer that she couldn’t possibly have more joy, that she knew life to the full...  she told Jennifer that you could take everything from her, strip her life of all that she had, take her health, her family, her everything...  throw her in jail, and still, she would have joy, because she had Jesus and Jesus couldn’t be taken away from her.  Jesus was all she needed.

Dear loved ones, that is the true reason for the indelible mark she left on all our hearts...  Mama lived a life of pure and glorious devotion to the One that gave her life.  That is why we are so touched by her life – He touched us all, through her, because she had completely and utterly surrendered her life to Him.


Her surrender to Jesus gave her a perspective and purpose in life that was very rare in this world of “every man for himself”.  She often talked about the Five Love Languages, words of affirmation and quality time being the two she not-so-secretly favored, but as much as she craved to hear the encouragement and love, she also felt an intense responsibility to reflect them back to her Jesus, and not be tempted to keep them for herself.  This was a delicate walk for her, given the attention she drew in all her interactions and her renowned career.  She was forever making attempts to give credit where it was due, for she knew that without Jesus, her life would lack meaning and purpose.  Given that not everyone was comfortable hearing this, knowing the Gospel can be offensive, divisive, even mocked...  she sometimes had to preach it without words, but one way or another, she found a way to make it known.  To her, it wasn’t about religion – it never was... it was about relationship. 

In the song Legacy (Nichole Nordeman), a picture perfect description of my mom’s lifesong is described through the lyrics. 

As a gift to you, I will choose not to sing it for you, but instead, sharing only the lyrics:

I don’t mind if you have something nice to say about me...
I enjoy an accolade like the rest
You can take my picture, and hang it in a gallery
With all the who’s and who’s and so and so’s
That used to be the best at such and such,
It wouldn’t matter much...

I won’t lie it feels alright to see your name in lights,
We all need an atta boy or atta girl
But in the end I’d like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough?
I want to leave a mark on things, want to leave an offering,
A child of mercy and grace who blessed Your name unapologetically...
And leave that kind of legacy.

Don’t have to look too far, or too long
To make a lengthy list of all that I enjoy
Some accumulating trinkets and treasures
That moth and rust, leaves and dust will soon enough destroy

I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough?
I want to leave a mark on things, want to leave an offering,
A child of mercy and grace who blessed Your name unapologetically...
And leave that kind of legacy.

Not well traveled, not well read,
not well to do, well bred...
Just want to hear instead,
“Well done, good and faithful, Well done!”

And that, indeed, was her legacy to me...  and to us all.  It was the most priceless treasure she passed on through her living example, one that I will continue to carry out in my own life.  She wanted it for me, lived it out for me...  but never one to exclude someone, she wanted it for all who knew her.  For her children, her grandchildren, her siblings, her extended family, her friends, her co-workers, and everyone else who came into her life.  It was what mattered most to her.


I have written many letters to my precious mama over the years...  some of which she shared with many of you. 

I have one last letter to share...  for such a time as this. 


My beautiful, precious mama...


I remember when I was little, sharing with you how I prayed that we would both pass away at the exact same time, because I knew we were so close that losing one another would be unbearable.  Yet here we are...  I wonder how I will keep breathing.

At first, it seemed impossible to imagine life without you here with us... 

It was so hard to realize, over and over again, the loss we would feel with each step, at so many points of our lives. 

My MIND WOULD SEE an empty place at the Christmas table, where you would delight in being surrounded by your children, grandchildren, friends, and any so called strangers you would welcome into our family when they had none to be with.  I’d ask myself “How would you want us to celebrate this without you?  How do we piece together a new normal?  Who will make your cheesecake in your absence?  Who will go to the ‘DollarGramma’ for the white elephant swap, or as Sebastien affectionately calls it, “torture”?”  In many ways, that’s how I remember you, surrounded, always, by those you loved, celebrating and always making sure everyone felt welcomed and included. 

My MIND WOULD SEE all the photos we have of you, and feel the ache of knowing how many photos will be missing of you as the years go on, each representing an event or moment you would miss alongside of us.  When the kids graduate, when they walk down the aisle, when they welcome babies into the world, we won’t have photos of those special occasions with your bright smile so full of life.  You looked so forward to going to the Outer Banks with Jillian and I, and to Honduras to visit with Bessy, Justin and Maryuri, and we will go in your honor, but will deeply feel your absence in the photos, the look on your face as you stand in awe of God’s beauty and live life to the fullest, the joy radiating from you.  Oh, how you loved photos....  and how precious few of you and I there are.  Yes, my MIND WOULD SEE how our family photos from this point on would always be missing someone – as though our family would never be complete again.  You wouldn’t be where we pictured you, you wouldn’t be here with us.

My MIND WOULD SEE the memories of you and I worshipping the Lord side by side, and it broke my heart to imagine not going to Harvest with you this fall at church, not sitting beside you on Sunday mornings, not reading devotionals with you and hearing about your spiritual journey and the things God is showing you, hearing about your Lay Ministry program, which the kids’ lovingly referred to as the Pope Studies.  They were convinced you were net in line.  I would miss not having you to talk about our favorite topic ever... serving Jesus...  Most of all, I knew I would miss you teaching me about Him in ways only you could.  You were only wrong about one thing, mom – I hadn’t become your spiritual mentor over the past few years, as you so often told everyone, including myself...  you had always been my teacher. 

There were things I wished I could ask you... What went through your mind as you breathed your last breath and reached out to Him?  Did you see the joy on His face as He ran to you?  Has our heavenly Father showed you the indelible mark you left on the world, the impact you’ve had, the lives you’ve touched?  What’s it like to be held in the hands of the One who created life? 

There are things I want you to know...  I’m thankful that you were here to welcome Jillian into the world... and that she was here to hold you as you were welcomed into Heaven. 

I’m thankful you had extra time to spend with Brandon and Joshua, especially in the past year.

You loved me fiercely, and loved me well, and although nothing can ever replace that, I know we both rejoice and thank God for the gift of Will in my life, I know it brings you peace to know that in your absence, I am loved as fiercely and as well as you loved me.  You’ve left big shoes to fill, but he has big feet – and he is able, willing, and honored.  I am thankful you had the blessing of knowing him, and that he had the blessing of knowing you. 

My heart feels an ache in the space where you once were...  as though I’m no longer whole...  a permanent ache that will linger the rest of my life here.  And yet, if loving you leaves me with a permanent ache, loving you was worth it.  You were worth it.  Someday soon, the ache will be healed, I will hold you again in my arms and rejoice with you – but by then, I will be whole and no longer aware the ache ever existed.  I will be Home.

And you know what, mama?  What I want you to know the most, is that while at first, it seemed impossible to imagine life without you alongside of us...
  now, I understand why it was impossible...

It is not you that is missing from where we are, it is us that are missing from where you are.

You are living the life you were created to live – you have achieved the dream I pray for all my children; the dream that I pray for everyone -- for their lives to lead them Home to God. This was your goal, your purpose, so how can I not rejoice?  This was the way it was meant to be all along, but somehow, along the way, I had hoped to selfishly keep you here, away from the glorious experience you are living now.  

Rather than my heart noticing the empty chair alongside mine at the family table, I now see the seat you've saved for me at His table, and I see you showing me which fork to use. I'm sure there's about ten!  You’re there now, likely sipping a glass of Green Smoothie.  When I sit with you at His table, I’ll still give you all my mushrooms.  Just sayin’!

My heart sees no photos of you missing in God's family photos --
 you're where He pictured you to be all along. We're missing... we're not home.  Our family will only be complete for the rest of eternity once we are all gathered with you THERE. 

Last but not least, my HEART KNOWS I’m the one who is missing from singing with the saints all around His throne, you are there, and I am not yet... but  when I get there, you will teach me all that I’ve been missing out on, and we will worship Him side by side once more. No more tears, no more goodbyes...  you’re still my teacher, and always will be.

I no longer see us growing up without you, I see you growing up without us... waiting for our hearts to understand what you've understood all along, waiting for the day until you can teach us about where you've been since the day you were called Home.

Your passing is not what we want in this life...  but what if we wanted the wrong thing all along?  What if instead of clinging to this life, we follow your example and set our hearts’ compass on eternal life with Jesus, only then we will find everlasting peace and joy, and only through Jesus we will find our way back to you.

You will not return to me, but I will go to you.” 2Samuel 12:23
The world would be quick to say you’re an angel, but you’re not.  Nor did you grow wings or become a mere memory.  He did not pick the best for His garden – let us not be tempted to diminish your life this way, let us instead speak the Truth.  His heart in you made you who you are!  You are not gone!  You are not lost!  You, my beloved, are so much more – you are fashioned by the Creator’s hands, a spirit born of His heart and love, and returned back to Him. 

You are simply Home, waiting as you always did, for us to come and gather together around you.  Given how you felt about everyone being included, everyone being together, about living in community with one another and God – we owe it to you, mom... to you, to ourselves, and most of all, to God, to not be left behind, to really take a moment to consider the weight of your legacy, and to not forsake that eternal gift that has been offered only through Jesus and is ours for the taking. 

You left behind one message for us all, the one thing you ask all of us to do in honor of your life...  to choose Jesus, as you did, and to lay down our lives for Him.  I will pick up this cross and spend the rest of my moments left making sure everyone who knew you considers the purpose of your life and wants it for theirs, that everyone considers the choice you were given and the gift you embraced – the gift of eternity that is also theirs for the taking...  that everyone considers the brevity of life, and the sacredness of eternity with Jesus. 

When our hearts ache for you, mama, and all that your life stands for...  in essence, our hearts ache for the One you represented so well and His character in you...  our hearts ache for Home, where you’re waiting for us to join you.   We could close our eyes right now and almost hear that distinct “wooouuhoo”, I am here, who’s with me?

You’ve sung it with me many times, mama – no guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me; from life’s first cry, to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny... no power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand, ‘till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

And so today, mama, on this sacred ground, I stand, loud and clear... just as you did... “As for me and MY house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:1
You are loved... beyond measure
You live on... beyond measure.
We are blessed... beyond measure.

J’taime buckets...

Bonne nuit...

Jolaine

(Music – “Home” – music by Nicol Sponberg)

What is it like to be held in the same arms that hold the universe?
What is it like to sleep on the chest of the King of heaven and earth?
When you open your eyes and look on the face of the Giver of life, the Author of grace, do you know?

That your days here changed everything
You're missed here and will always be
But you left here the greatest gift of all
Cause our hearts ache for Home

What is it like to breathe in and breathe out heaven's glorious light?
What is it like to be robed in perfection, no reason to cry?
When you feel on your face, your Father's kiss, his welcomed embrace, we prayed for this, you should know...!

That your days here changed everything
You're missed here and will always be
But you left here the greatest gift of all
‘Cause our hearts ache for Home

Twinkle twinkle little star
We will keep you in our hearts
Twinkle twinkle little star
We will meet you where you are

Your days here changed everything
You're missed here and will always be
But you left here the greatest gift of all

‘Cause our hearts ache for Home