O Death, Where is Your Victory?

March 2nd my grandmother, affectionately known as Nana Sue, died.

That word “died” has a kind of brashness and finality to it, doesn’t it? In fact, I didn’t want to use that word at first when Nana died. I used “passed away” or “went to be with the Lord” in its place. Those are fine and true phrases to use for a believer, I just didn’t want to use a word that assured me of the reality that Nana was no longer here with me.

But the real reason I didn’t want to use the word “died” with Nana’s name was because I wanted to avoid thinking about the issue of death. Even for me, a long-time believer, death all the sudden seemed scary and mysterious. It brought to the surface insecurities and doubt that I didn’t know existed. When Nana died it was as if for the first time I stood at a crossroads of my faith. I could either continue down the path of believing God’s Word is true and that those who believe in Jesus live forever with him OR I could go down a new path of cynicism and pessimism refusing to believe and hope in the unseen but only believing in what I could see — that death was the end.

I remember praying, “God, I believe. Help my unbelief!” And for the first time, so it seemed, I understood what Paul meant by, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” (Rom. 8:24)

Yesterday I listened to a podcast of Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, preaching about the Crucifixion from Matthew 27:46. In this verse, Jesus quotes from Psalm 22:1 crying out that God has forsaken him. Because Jesus took our sin, the death he died was one of judgment and punishment by God. Our sin had to be judged, punished. And in that moment, God forsook him.

Why does this truth bring me hope and peace when thinking about Nana’s death and even my own? Hours before Nana died I went in to speak to her while she was lying in bed unconscious and on life support. One of the things I did was quote Scripture. I honestly cannot recall what Scripture I quoted her except for one, Hebrews 13:5b, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

It dawned on me while I was listening to Keller’s sermon that the reason I could confidently say that truth to Nana and believe it for her was because Christ was already forsaken by God in her place in order that God might never forsake her. Did you catch that? Jesus was forsaken by God on the cross in our place for our sin so that in him we might never be forsaken but rather welcomed as children of God! I know that Nana was not forsaken by God at death and neither will I by the grace of God through faith.

But so many are and will be. Those who refuse to accept Christ’s gift of him taking their place before God will have to endure it for themselves — the judgment, punishment, death, and probably the worse thing — forsakenness. What about you? Will you believe and accept Christ’s gift?

Those of us who are in Christ can confidently proclaim Romans 8:31-37 now and for when they die:

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

February update on 30 for 30 list

Well it’s been over one month since I turned 30, and the actual event was somewhat anticlimactic. We had a big weekend planned. I was to attend a women’s conference at my church Friday night and Saturday (Feb. 1-2). Then Saturday night go out to dinner with my family. Sunday was church and the Super Bowl, which was featuring my husband’s favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers. We had a watch party planned with our best friends. Then finally, Monday, my 30th birthday, I was hoping to do something with my friends and family.

To make a long story short, I got very sick on Thursday, January 31. I missed the retreat and church, and we had to cancel the Super Bowl party. However, even though I was still not feeling great, I did have a nice birthday. One of my best friends came over and brought me lunch and a present. Then Ozzie, Philip and I went out to eat. After dinner, when we got home, Ozzie had arranged a surprise birthday party for me with my closest friends. They were all there welcoming me with a cake and LOTS of candles! Even though it wasn’t the weekend I had planned or hoped for, I had lots of time to reflect on the end of one decade and the beginning of a new one.

So how have I done so far on my 30 for 30 list in one month? At the end of each month I plan to give an update on the list. (This time it was somewhat delayed with the passing of my grandmother.) Please hold me accountable! It would be awesome if I could do all the things on my list this year.

 

1. Run a 5K. – Been training with a friend. We were up to 2.5 miles then I came down with another infection the last week of February. Then the following week I was in San Antonio for the death of my grandmother; now I have bronchitis. I had planned running a 5K at the end of March but I’m not sure if I’ll be ready just yet.

2. Get a massage. – Haven’t done this but am hoping this is something Ozzie and I do for our 3rd anniversary, which is tomorrow! (Happy Anniversary, Babe!)

3. Publish a second Bible study. – I have a contract for a second one with Woman’s Missionary Union’s mymissionfulfilled! I am to turn in my copy by this summer so I have lots of work to do! Excited and grateful for this second opportunity.

4. Take Philip to a museum.

5. Read and work through the Greek of one New Testament book. – Ozzie and I started reading 1 John in its original language together but stopped when our household fell into sickness. Hoping to pick this back up again soon.

6. Take a trip to visit friends outside of Birmingham.

7. Read Lord of the Rings. – I started reading and am in chapter 7! But I still have about 900 or so pages to go! For the past week and a half Ozzie has asked me where I am in the book. My answer has stayed the same, “At the house of Tom Bombadil.” To which he replies, “Still?” Needless to say I think this one will take me the entire year.

8. Tell someone new about Jesus. – Had an opportunity to tell someone whom I sat next to on the airplane from San Antonio to Dallas about Jesus. This is a continued goal of mine!

9. Lose one pant size. – No comment!

10. Speak at an event, retreat or conference. – I did speak at my grandmother’s funeral, but I don’t think it counts.

11. Blog regularly. – So far I am failing this goal!

12. Learn to sew.

13. Go on a weekend “date” trip with my husband. – Maybe this will happen next week while we’re in Florida for Spring Break?

14. Finish mine and Osvaldo’s wedding scrapbook.

15. Consistently update Philip’s baby book and scrapbook his first year.

16. Have an international over to our home for dinner.

17. Do a jigsaw puzzle.

18. Paint one room of my house.

19. Take a trip with my Supper Club friends. – One of my very best friends, who is part of my Supper Club group, got engaged last month! She and her fiancé will be getting married in June. As of today, us friends are planning a trip to the beach in May before she marries.

20. Go to a college or professional football game.

21. Go to some place new that I’ve never been before.

22. Learn Spanish.

23. Volunteer with a ministry in town.

24. Play Settlers often with friends and husband. – Last month we played with our friends Michael and Meagan. Neither had played before so it was fun introducing the game to someone new.

25. Make a new friend.

26. Get out of debt.

27. Take lots and lots of pictures of Philip. – I took about 800 pictures of Philip this month. Let’s see if I take more next month!

28. Teach Philip a new truth about God.

29. Give lots of kisses and hugs to my husband and son. – Pretty sure I have already accomplished this in just one month! I love lovin’ on my two boys.

30. Have a big 30th party — which is up to my husband. – First item to check off my list! Ozzie was so sweet to invite my friends over to surprise me. I am so glad I got to ring in my 30th year with them.

Nana’s Tribute

Last Saturday, March 2, my beloved Nana Sue (grandmother) went to be Jesus. The Thursday and Friday leading up to her death and the days following were probably the most difficult I have had to go through to-date. Nana was active in my life, sending me texts and e-mails, calling and praying for me. My grandfather asked me to speak at her Celebration of Life service last Tuesday on behalf of the grandkids. It was my privilege to honor her in that way even though it was very difficult to get through. Below is the tribute I gave. Thank you to those who have prayed for me and my family during this difficult time. The only thing that got me through this was prayer and my belief in that God is good and is on His throne.

If Nana were here today she’d tell me, “Kristen, keep it short.” But Nana needen’t worry since Don Guthrie has already told me I have only three minutes and would be timing me.

It’s a privilege to stand here today on behalf of myself, my sister, cousins and our spouses to speak to you today about the person we knew as Nana. Immediately after Nana died I thought how my son Philip, my sister’s son Nathan, my cousin Ricky’s son Reed due the first of May, and all our other yet-to-be-born children will not have memories of our Nana. So the questions that come to us grandchildren are, “What will Nana be remembered for? What will we tell our children about her? What will be her legacy?”

First, I think we will remember how Nana never missed an opportunity to preach us a sermon. You never had to guess what Nana was thinking because she always would let us know. Her directness and bluntness were charmingly annoying but more often than not what she said was true. She told Ben before going to Cleveland that if she didn’t come back alive that he could be sad for one week but then after that he couldn’t be sad or she’d come back to haunt him. Sounds like something she’d say!

We will tell our children how our Nana loved playing games with us everything from UNO to Yahtzee to 42. If she lost, Nana would say, “Kiss. A. Pig.” But if she won, she’d shake her fists in the air and just smile. We’ll tell them how she loved to laugh at us and us at her. She’d get so tickled watching the boys make fun of the way she walked or by the quick witted comments made by Kim or Ben. She would tell us all the time, “All you want to do is laugh at me,” but she’d say it while laughing so that we knew she enjoyed it.

I think we’ll remember her sitting at the piano playing one tune after another from memory filling the house with a beautiful melody. This personally was one of my favorite things.

We’ll remember those blooper moments like Nana paying for my sister’s and mine Happy Meals at the McDonalds’ drive thru then driving away without our meals. Or that time when she bragged to Alex about how good her chocolate pudding was, but when she finally made it for him she had used lemon extract instead of vanilla extract. It tasted terrible of course and had to be thrown away immediately.

We’ll also remember to tell our children how much she loved Papa even though she fussed at him all the time. We’ll tell them how she dropped everything to go help Ben when he called her saying he was lost in downtown San Antonio. How she spent hours helping Ricky apply for college or how she stayed with Ricky at the hospital when he had brain studies. Or how she came to the hospital when Kim gave birth to Nathan and wouldn’t leave but stayed all night those first hours of Nathan’s life that he was so sick. How she came to our graduations and weddings; how she never forgot our birthdays; how she’d always send me texts when she saw storms were coming to Birmingham to tell me to be safe; and how she was always praying for us. Our children will know that she loved her grandchildren, and when Philip and Nathan came along she loved them just as much. In fact, I spoke to her the night before she went into cardiac arrest. She didn’t want to talk about herself; she wanted me to tell her stories about Philip, and that’s what I did. 

But these memories won’t be her legacy. No. Her legacy will be that their great-grandmother, our grandmother, loved the Lord Jesus Christ above us all and served Him faithfully. She showed us by example and by word what it meant to be a follower of Christ, to be obedient, to be a lover of Scripture and to be faithful to the local church. She demonstrated what it meant to suffer with grace. We never heard her curse God or be angry with Him for her suffering. Instead, she’d say, I’ll serve Him as much as I am able and if the Lord restores my health I’ve told Him I’d continue to serve Him.

In fact, if Nana were here today I don’t think she’d tell me to keep it short. Rather I think she’d say, “Kristen, don’t talk about me; talk about Jesus. For I’ve seen Him and have beheld His glory and beauty and nothing that the world has to offer compares to this!” So that’s what we’ll tell Philip, Nathan, Reed and any others to come that Nana’s life pointed to Jesus, and if you want to see Nana just look at Him.