These regular My Forever Memories blogs are written with love to offer encouragement, help, hope and love through your personal journey of grieving your loved one.
Like millions of people today, I am both happy and sad that Billy Graham left this world to go home with You. Our world will miss Him. It is incredible how You used one willing humble man to lead so many to an eternal relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve been thinking how grateful I am for my own connections with him and his wife. Not only did several family members walk down a Billy Graham crusade aisle to begin their life with You through Jesus, but his wife Ruth was personally responsible for telling the editor of Decision magazine to publish my first series on marriage. I never met or spoke to her, but her encouragement kept me writing for You.
My husband and I volunteered like so many others at the last Mission OKC revival for three nights. (Again, one of my stories was published in the special OKC issue of Decision magazine handed out at Mission OKC.) It took two men to hold Billy up as they walked him to the podium. It was disheartening to see him so weak—until he sat down to speak. Then the power of the Holy Spirit took over! He seemed like the most powerful man alive as he once more led thousands to a new life through Jesus. But one instance surrounding that same revival spoke to me of the man Dr. Graham really is.
The day Mission OKC was to begin, a young man who was a good friend of my son had taken off work to go fishing at a city lake. He had been severely stressed by finances and his wife’s health and desperately needed a break. As he was fishing by himself when he noticed an old man slumped over on some rocks. He went to see if he could help. The old man lifted his head and smiled that Billy Graham smile and told him he was just fine but thanks for checking. He explained he always finds a solitary place to pray over a city before he preaches. Then he began to ask my son’s friend about his life. He ended up ministering to this burdened young man for almost two hours. Lord, I thank You for Billy Graham who was always ready and willing to lead people to Jesus whether it was one at a time or thousands at a time. I look forward to meeting him and his wife—after I fall into Your arms!
Quote from Billy Graham: “One day you will hear that Billy Graham has died. Don’t believe it. On that day I will be more alive than I ever will be.”
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. O Lord, truly I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have freed me from my chains.” Psalm 116:15-16
“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.’” Revelation 14:13
Lord God, help me answer Your call to come to You just as I am…
Two new books I wrote are now released. It is my deepest desire to kick them off with prayer—both mine and hopefully others. My Forever Memories of You has been in the making for twenty years…ever since my first husband died at the age of thirty-seven, leaving me with our four children to raise. Perhaps, these books were actually in the making longer than that—for You, Lord Almighty, knew me, my husband and my children each before we were born. You already knew the wondrous plans You had for us. Your story is written in our lives and not just on paper.
The story of the adult version intertwines three remarkable relationships. One is the amazing story of my relationship with Steve, as I review our lives together after his passing. It is told mostly through excerpts from my personal prayer journal as I worked through my grief. Another story is the one the reader tells as they write their story of their unique relationship with the loved one they are grieving. They tell their story in journal pages and prompts in between mine. It helps them review, come to peace with, and realize how grateful they are for their amazing relationship no matter how long or short it might have been. The third relationship grows in depth and love as we both discover how You never ever leave us; that You walk with us through pain and joy; that You desire an eternal love relationship with us through Jesus Christ. It is Your everlasting love story for us that ties everything together.
Father, I lift both the adult and children’s version before You- asking that You use them in more miraculous ways than I even know to ask. May You use them to bring the deep comfort and peace to those who are brokenhearted. May You use them to draw the hopeless to You at such a critical crossroad in their life. May You use them to fill the deep void in broken lives with the overflowing fullness of Jesus Christ. May You use them to show Your love to adults and children who are grieving the loss of someone so very precious to them. May You even use them to bless those who read it out of curiosity just because they know me and want to hear our story, or want to support the ministry to the grieving. May these books be more than pages of words—but be about loving relationship. May whoever reads them, writes in them or gives them to someone who is grieving be blessed by a deeper relationship with You. How I praise You that You are still writing stories in each of our lives with the blood of Jesus and they are all gathered up in the Book of Life!
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of the God gives it light, and the Lamb its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 21:22-27
Heavenly Father, I pray for these books to…
On the same day this last week, one of my young cousins’ husband died and another dear friend was going through the year anniversary of her husband’s death. Having gone through the deep pain of a husband’s death almost 24 years ago, I knew some of what they were both facing. I so wanted to take away their pain, but I knew I couldn’t and shouldn’t. Grief is one of the deepest parts of love—when our hearts wail out from having part of ourselves ripped away. When someone who was a very part of us has to leave, it is though we are critically wounded. There has to be a period of pain, recovery and healing where they were once so intermingled with our own soul. Though there is not much I can say or do to take that pain away; but I can love, pray and offer hope that one can heal and go forward on our own journey with You, Lord.
How wrong it would be of me to try to tell someone else not to feel the pain when there is no way around it. You did not even spare Jesus’ suffering, but turned it into good. How uncaring to not listen to their pain even if it might be uncomfortable for me. How thoughtless it would be to never mention their loved one’s name for fear it might cause them tears when they need to know others still remember their loved one. Let me never avoid a grieving person because of my own fear of what to say or do. Help me to simply stand by them, to offer a listening ear, to let them openly cry or laugh or voice any emotion—even if it seems irrational. Let me quietly let them go through their grief in their own personal way.
Father, there is no way any one single person can be there twenty-four hours a day as someone grieves for however long it takes. Life goes on and we all have to go on living. Yet I can gently keep pointing them to You—the one who never leaves us or forsakes us (even when those closest to us had to go.) Lord, through this intense suffering and personal loss, I pray they discover You in a new and more personal way than ever before. I know it happens through the heart-wrenching process of grieving. I am proof. Lord, I continue to pray that the books You helped me write (which are about to be released)—one for adults and one for children—will help others go through their personal journey of grief with hope as they look to You in the midst of their pain. Let them not fear as they hold Your hand as they travel through the shadow of the valley of death—for You are with them as they go through and find eternal hope and healing in You.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
“Then He (Jesus) said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.’ Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.’” Matthew 26:38-39
“I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13b
Father, I pray for __________ who is grieving…
Forgive me when I don’t know the full story. This morning, in so many words I told someone who had to ride out one of the recent hurricanes, that I was so glad they just lost power instead of their lives or their home. Then I was reminded the trauma that goes deeper than what appears on the outside. I should know that even though someone may look OK on the outside that things can be a whirlwind on the inside. After reading someone else’s post of the emotions that go on for quite a while after the storm has passed, I remembered what it was like when our home caught on fire. We were all physically unhurt. We didn’t lose all our possessions. Yet every little spark caused me to panic for months afterwards. I could smell the smoke long after it was cleaned. I had flashbacks of standing in the front yard with my family with no shoes, in our swimsuits thinking this was all we would have in the world as the fire raged. Everything in me wanted to stop the firemen from crawling into our burning home to save our material things and I wanted to yell, “It’s not worth your lives!”
How often do people look fine on the outside after a death of a loved one, during a traumatic illness, after a car accident or other traumatic event? I can’t help but think of all those who have gone through one of the recent disasters (hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes…) and know that even though they say they are fine, there is so much more going on deep within their souls. They may not even know yet how to express it or how it will alter their lives. We may care deeply about them, but we do not know the aftermath of these critical life experiences and how they will affect each individual person. Obviously, there are those who lost loved ones or all they had. It will take years to grieve and go on. Even the ones who look OK, will have to go through surprising emotions as they deal with the aftermath of what could have been; how to survive until food, gas, medical help and shelter get worked out; how to deal with the flashbacks, panic and uncertainty. Though we look upon the outward appearance to evaluate how someone is doing, we have no idea what goes on deep in the heart, mind and soul of a person.
But You do, Lord! There is absolutely nothing hidden from You. When no one else understands what we are going through…You know. When we can’t even figure out our thoughts and emotions…You know us better than anyone else ever could. Whether we look ok to others or not…You know what is going on. When it seems like no one could possibly know what we are going through…You know. When it seems there’s no way out of our circumstances…You invite us to hold on to You, the One who created, us, knows us, loves us and died on our behalf so we could never be separated from You. Whether it looks like a disaster to others or not, You are our shelter, our refuge, our Safe Place, our Provider, our Savior, our Counselor, our Guide through it all. And You completely know us and love us. Help others come to know, trust and love You during this time during and after the crisis. Real life is getting to know the One who KNOWS us!
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Romans 8:26-27
“O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit down and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely, O Lord.” Psalm 139:1-4
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13
Father, search me deeply and help me in ways no one else can….
All-Knowing Heavenly Father,
It takes holiness to hold back sometimes. I’m seeing that more and more as I get older. I certainly didn’t understand when I was young. When I was younger, it seemed everything revolved around me. When I wanted a certain toy or dress, I thought I should get it right then. It appeared to me that my parents were being cruel or unreasonable to say “No” to my current whim. As I became a parent, I had to learn to hold back on granting my children’s every wish or demand. I knew what was best for them in the long run. Their development of good character was far more important than giving them momentary satisfaction. What a reward for one of my grown sons (after becoming a dad and admitting he used to get mad at us) to come back and genuinely thank us for not letting him watch certain movies, go to uncertain parties or play games with unstable morals. The greatest reward is seeing his awesome character.
Through the years, I’ve struggled with seeing those I care about in pain. At times, it’s been my husband, children, grandchildren or people who are grieving a death or a loss that has rocked their world. I just want to take away their suffering. But You have shown me the eternal value of holding back. If I tried to fix it, they might gain momentary relief…but if I hold back and simply stand with them in the pain and let You fix it in all Your holiness- there will be eternal results. You, Lord, are the only One who can see the whole picture. You, alone know the good which will come from holding back. That is why it is always better for me to wait upon You and Your perfect ways.
It is comforting to know that it must have been hard for You to hold back when Your Son Jesus struggled in the garden, was falsely accused, condemned to die an unjust death, whipped beyond recognition and hung on a cross to die. It was all part of Your plan to give us eternal life. It was part of Your plan since the very beginning. I can’t imagine the holy love it took for You to hold back when Jesus cried out in forsaken agony on the cross. He died alone without You for our sakes so we would never have to live without You. It would have been easy for You to take the cup from Him; to relieve His pain and suffering…yet You held back. You knew what His death and resurrection would mean to each of us. Father, help me hold back when it is part of Your plan …but let me hold nothing back when it comes to worshipping, loving, obeying and following You!
“Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him. ‘Abba, Father,’ He said, ‘everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.’” Mark 14:35-36
“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “my God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mathew 27:45
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12
Most Holy Father, thank You for holding back when I ask for the wrong thing like…