Monday, August 31, 2009

Count Your Blessings

Yesterday, the speaker at our church said, “You don’t have to be that old to realize that life is hard.” I couldn’t agree more. With that said, God is faithful and good and He always provides what we need. There have been a few instances over the last year when I have been especially thankful for ALS. I know that it sounds odd, crazy and possibly estranged, but I have a great deal to be thankful for and here's why:

Last summer I was working at a golf course down here in Lethbridge. A little girl and boy came in with their dad for a late dinner. The dad stepped out for a moment so I asked the girl, probably about 6 years old, where her mom was. My heart broke as she looked up at me with sad eyes and replied, “It’s called cancer.” Her mother had passed away two years earlier. Though at any age it seems like it’s too soon to lose a loved one, I thought, “Thank-you Lord that I’m not 6.”

Last fall I met someone who would become a dear friend. Her dad had passed away months earlier from ALS and frontal lobe dementia- a tragic and rare combination. Not only did he lose all physical function just like my dad, but he also lost his memory and much of his mental function. At one point she said to me, “At least your dad remembers who you are.” At that point I thought, “Thank-you Lord that it’s just ALS.”

Today is my first official day as a teacher-intern at a high school in Lethbridge. (Yes, I'm blogging when I should be lesson planning!) This weekend, one of the teachers here, who thankfully is a believer, lost his wife suddenly due to complications from a massive blood clot in her lung suddenly leaving behind a 6-year old son, 4-year old daughter and 4-day old baby girl. I thought, “Thank-you Lord for the years we had and that I had a year and a half to say good-bye to my dad.”

At any point life there are a number of circumstances that could discourage hope and faith. There are a few Biblical exhortations that come to mind. The first is from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17: “Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Our tough circumstances in life are not always God’s desire, but it is his will that we be thankful. Why? Simply put, we are his light on this earth. If we can praise God through the storms, what does that tell the world about the God that we serve?

Another that the Lord has reminded of is from James 1. “Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds. For you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.” We can be joyful in the storms of life because we know that they God is his soverieignty can still use them for a good purpose and we know that this life is only preparation for the next.

John MacArthur compared this life to the back of a Persian rug. From our perspective it looks like a big group of jumbled threads that seem to be woven together in a mess. It’s not until we flip it over, possibly not until eternity, that we see the intricate tapestry woven together to create something beautiful and our faith in Romans 8:28 become sight: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God who are called according to His purpose.”

As I think of the old hymn, Count Your Blessings, I have many to name one by one. I had my dad for almost 24 years of my life. He set an incredible example in faith and pointed me to everything I need for life and godliness. My dad was my dad right until the end. He did not lose his faith, his family or his mind. Until his last breath, he encouraged us to not let this disease discourage our faith in Christ. Until the very end, he gave practical advice and cracked his famous smile. Lastly, I had the gift of a long good-bye. Nothing was left unsaid. So many of us got a chance to thank him and encourage him in the impact he made. I am thankful for other believers in the family of faith. Thought we don't all know each other personally, we can support each other in prayer and be encouraged by the faith and hope displayed in tough times.

I praise God for situations that He uses, whether good or bad by the world’s standards, to show himself faithful to the lost word. My dad’s words from last summer come to mind at this point: “If you were to live with the perspective that today was your last day on earth, what would you do to impact the Kingdom of God?” I tend to think that all those around and myself included are invincible. Every so often, I am reminded of the fragility of this life. Everyday is truly a gift and I need to ask God to continuously remind to make His kingdom work my priority.



Steph, continue on with this blog as it reaches and touches the hearts of people from far and wide.
We will continue on lifting your family in prayers.

Evelyn and Ramon Castelvi

Virginia Olive said...

You are a very gifted writer and I want you to know that your blog blesses me every time I read it, and often to tears. Please pass along my love to your Mom and sisters and know that we continue to hold you up before our God in prayer, petitioning Him for strength as you venture on this new jouney without your dad.
With love, Virginia Olive

Kathy Anderson Seidler said...

See Steph! I'm not the only one who thinks you have a gift in your writing! I have a friend who doesn't know your family well, but she's been following your blog for a few months now. She told me that not only has your dad's story touched her life, but your writing and spiritual insight has challenged and encouraged her in her faith walk. Keep it up kiddo! You are a blessing to many! And I know your dad was & is proud of the woman of God you've become. All God's blessings in your teaching. I know you will impact the kids as well as your colleagues in Lethbridge!

Much love, Kathy

Anonymous said...

I am your friend Sonya's auntie and I have been following your blog during the past few months. What an encouragement you are and what a beautiful testimony your dad and your family are to so many people. I will keep you in my prayers as you walk this road of sorrow mixed with joy. You do have a gift in writing and I feel like I know you and your family (and we are all part of God's wonderful family). Will also be praying for that teacher who lost his wife so suddenly. Blessings, Sharon Friesen

Ellen said...

Steph, been thinking of you this week as you've begun the school year! Thank you for sharing your heart with us! I needed to read this today...Joy in the journey!
I'll be praying for the co-worker and his family. Goodness...
your family is loved!