Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Fast forward to February, I knew that the June trip dates I'd originally signed up for were definitely not going to work, and in early March I was switched to the July trip dates, though the destination was the same. Shortly thereafter I spoke to my new rep and then took off for Costa Rica (for a class trip) and then immediately after returning I turned around and went to Iowa for a conference for a few days. About that time, my rep called me to let me know that due to some of the arrangements that would have to be made, a deposit of $500 was needed. I was very uncertain about it but decided to put the money into my GE account anyway. A few days later I got another call from my rep letting me know that one of the trips for my particular destination would have to be cancelled-and as it turned out, it was the July trip that was cancelled. Since I couldn't go in June, I now needed to pick a new destination.
I chose Uganda because it's somewhere I've wanted to go for a while, as well as the home country of one of my Compassion sponsored children, and because GE will be working with former child soldiers for part of the trip-and slaves, child soldiers, and prostitutes are very important people to me. I still wasn't entirely certain, though. I went to GE's TrueNorth seminar at the end of April, and just a couple days later was offered a spot as a country assistant on the Panama trip. Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE Panama! So I was very torn between choosing a country I'd never been to but wanted badly to visit, or a country that has entwined itself thoroughly in my heart.
It took several weeks of indecision but finally the Lord spoke to me and directed me to Panama. The next day I called the leadership rep and committed to be a country assistant in Panama, and called my "regular" rep to let him know what I'd [finally!] decided. That was just a couple of days before finals began. Then I entered the whirlwind of final exams, and the next day I found out my good friend Sarah was in the hospital in critical condition. After several hours in prayer and petitioning, I found out she had gone to be with Jesus, and I cried for the next four hours. I finally slept around five that morning, and I woke up a few hours later and my family went to lunch. Sometime that [utterly surreal] day, I checked my GE account and found a friend of mine had given $100! The next day we held a yard sale, and raised over $400! The day after, I spoke at a church about my trip, and about Sarah because it tied directly in with the pastor's sermon, and was given another $250!
That week was incredibly difficult-going to Sarah's services is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and at times it still feels completely unreal. The day of her funeral, a friend of my youngest sister was killed in a car accident, so we travelled down for her services as well. The day after that girl's funeral was my other sister's baby shower, where someone gave me another $100 for my trip. The next day I spoke at two churches, from which I was given a total of $400 between them. I also had opportunity to use Sarah's story to minister to a young woman with many hurts in her heart, for which I am very grateful.
In the weeks that followed, I was given another $200 by friends and another $200 was raised at a second yard sale [in which I was also able to get rid of a lot of unneeded stuff!], as well as getting a darling nephew. :) Then, this past Sunday, I was given opportunity to speak about my trip at another church. Now, at each of the churches I have spoken at, I have given a small offering of $5-I believe it is important to sow into the lives and ministries that are sowing into yours whenever possible.
At the church I spoke at this Sunday, I was writing my check out, and for some reason felt impressed upon to write it for $6 instead of $5. I dropped it in the offering plate and then when speaking about my trip, I shared my project director's vision for our trip-GE's theme this year is "Touch the World," and my project director has a vision to expand upon that-to make it "Experiencing freedom to touch the world." His desire is that those on the trip would also experience the freedom Christ purchased for us on the cross, that they may be free to touch the world as He directs. I also shared about Sarah, because she was never able to break free of that which held her in bondage, and I do not ever want another brother or sister in Christ to be unable to break free of that which holds them.
This morning my dad got an email from the pastor of that church. There were thirty-six (36) people in attendance on Sunday, and when the offering was totalled up...
It was $636. From 36 people. When I gave $6 in the regular offering.
That is literally a hundred-fold increase. And I am in awe.
The Lord has done some incredible things to get me on this trip-to get me in Panama. I don't have any idea why He wants me in Panama, I only know that He does. I never got my support letters out [any of them, as I ended up writing at least three different ones, one for each of my three different trips I'd hoped to go on this summer], I didn't even get to bring my little trinkets from Panama to the church this Sunday, because I forgot the bag at home! It's been a difficult month in a lot of ways, but the Lord has absolutely been showing off how faithful He is when we obey Him. It's been awesome to watch this money literally pouring in from all over, from places I'd never expected, from churches where I personally didn't even know anyone! And as a bonus, I got to talk to a young girl at the church this Sunday about going on a Global Expeditions trip! Awesome!
The Lord does work miracles, friends. Crazy, awesome, extravagant, wonderful miracles. He loves to show off if we give Him opportunity to do so, and I am so, so thankful that He is my God.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
I have been thinking of adopting this blogger name [consecratedworship] for a very long time-probably from the time I first signed up for blogger under missionarygrrl. I still love that name, but I'm not really a girl anymore, and the name consecratedworship, which I first coined when an intern at the Honor Academy, really is much more indicative of the way I desire to live my life. Of course, I started missionarygrrl after a couple of years on Xanga [which I still keep up with], so this is probably about the twelfth blog I've started. Let's hope I don't have to keep starting them!
Last night I did not go to sleep. I wasn't really sleepy, then around 3:30 AM I had a sudden burst of inspiration to clean my room. These bursts come rarely, so I acted on it and now I have discovered there is actually carpet under the piles of books, papers, clothes, and various random assorted junk that previously covered the entire floor and part of my bed. Now it only covers most of the floor, and very little of my bed.
I want to get back into my artwork. I miss drawing, painting, sewing, making jewelry, piecing together mosaics out of scraps of colored paper, and all the other million things I have tried my hand at in the past. Sometimes I feel like if I don't do something creative, I'll just burst! And that would be bad. And messy. So to keep from bursting and making a huge mess, I shall simply have to delve back into creativity. Writing is one outlet for creativity, yes, but it is certainly not the only one, and not my favorite either. My favorite activity is whatever one makes the biggest mess. Writing does not make that much of a mess, unfortunately. Unless the keyboard exploded, in which case it probably would make a mess. But I digress. My sleep deprivation is peeking through here.
I am going to Panama in less than a month. In the last three weeks and one day, starting the day my dear friend Sarah passed away, the Lord has brought in about $1500 for my trip-I need only $600 more dollars, plus money to get to Texas and back, and some for spending money. It has been incredible and awesome to see how the Lord has brought in nearly all that I need in the midst of such a crazy, difficult time-made much better, of course, by the birth of my nephew, Ike, last Sunday. Though if you do not like his name, I shall tell you he otherwise was to be named Nebuchadnezzar Mephibosheth Bartholomew. So if you don't like it, tough. :)
Ok I am done and I need sleeeeeeepppppp!!!!
PS Less than one month till Tejas & Panamaaaaa!!!!!!
ETA: I just imported all the posts from my missionarygrrl page, all the way back to 2006!
PPS I also am very excited to have discovered how the feed reader works... ;)
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
It’s been over a week now since I received news of my dear friend Sarah’s passing. Since I learned of it before I went to bed for Thursday (May 21st), it feels like eleven days have passed; eleven days since I got socked in the gut; eleven days since I cried harder than I think I ever have in my life. That first night the tears came so fast and I sobbed so hard, I nearly made myself sick. Shock, grief, sadness, anger—I faced a whole gamut of emotions all at once. I found out about one in the morning; it was after five before I fell asleep. My journal that night details some of the shock and horror I was feeling:
“I hardly know…where to begin…approximately three hours ago, my dear friend Sarah Hill…passed into the arms of Jesus…I found out around one and cried for an hour…”
Included in that entry were the few details I had surrounding her death and the fact that I had chatted with her just a few nights before on Facebook…how I wish I had known that conversation would be our last! I would have told her I loved her at least a hundred times…I wish there was something I could have done to help, to prevent its happening, but I didn’t know…until it was too late.
I’ve never lost someone this close to me before. My aunt Melissa died of cancer my senior year of high school, but we knew she was reaching the end of her life—her last days were spent in a hospice bed in her living room, hooked up to a morphine drip, the cancer too aggressive to be stopped. With Sarah, I had no idea it was coming. I didn’t realize the pain she was in, how dark her world had become. I wish I had known; I feel like if I had known I could have done something, anything to help. Maybe I could have helped; maybe there’s nothing I could have done at all. It’s too late now for Sarah, and I grieve that fact, as I grieve the destiny that was cut short by Satan’s web of lies. God had such great things in store for Sarah—for this woman who loved so deeply and so well, whose love for others and for children was remarked upon by all who knew her.
It’s hard to know exactly how to feel. I grieve Sarah’s passing and the loss of a good friendship; all the memories I have of her and with her are now so bittersweet. We’d had some fun adventures together, and I’d always hoped to have more with her—but those will have to wait now, until heaven. I know she’s with Jesus, worshipping with the angels and the others who have come before; her world is no longer a dark and lonely place, because where she dwells, darkness cannot. She has no more pain or suffering, and for that I rejoice; I rejoice that she is free from the bondage of depression. But still I grieve that she could not find that freedom here on earth. I grieve for those who knew her and loved her even more than I did; those who, like me, did not see her often but cherished the times they did and the friendship they had with her. I grieve because the world has lost someone who brought so much joy and beauty into the lives of all who knew her—and because one of those lives was my own.
I feel fortunate that I was able to attend the services held for Sarah; we lived only two hours apart and had always talked of meeting halfway in Raleigh for lunch, but we never did. How I wish we had! We both could have used the fellowship and encouragement, but we were both just so busy…
On Monday of last week, May 25th, my sister and I drove up to Winston-Salem to our grandparents’ house (my dad gave her the choice between mowing the lawn or visiting the grandparents…). We ate dinner, during which it poured down rain, and then I hopped back in the car to drive the 45 minutes or so to the funeral home. The rain had stopped and I was heading eastward and praying for strength to make it through the viewing and I looked up—there, directly in front of me, a beautiful rainbow arced its way across the sky. One of the most brilliant rainbows I have ever seen, its vibrant colors were reflected in the shadow form of a second rainbow further up. Such a beautiful reminder of God’s faithfulness and promises brought tears to my eyes and solace to my heart, and I held that picture in my mind many times over the next few days, whenever tears threatened to overwhelm. It eventually faded, but I later saw another, fainter rainbow shortly before turning off the interstate. I followed my Googled directions and found the funeral home without any trouble (which is quite a feat for me!), parked and took a few moments to compose myself before heading inside.
Inside, there was a line snaking its way through the building; many people whose lives had been touched by Sarah or her family had come to pay their respects. I fought tears a number of times, whenever I remembered the reason I’d come, but holding the picture of that rainbow and speaking to the God above helped a great deal. There were two main rooms set aside for Sarah—one in which she was laid out and her family waited to greet everyone, and another through which the line passed first, with a guestbook at its entrance. The funeral home was very richly appointed, with ornate wallpaper, furniture, wall hangings, statues, etc. (though I do not pretend to understand the apparent fascination with monkey statues that the decorator had).
In the first room that the line passed through, there was a rectangular table to the left (across the room from the line) and to the right (next to the line) was a smaller table and an easel with a collage of pictures from Sarah’s life. The small table had pictures of Sarah and her family and two outfits—a pink onesie and a blue dress and bonnet—from when Sarah was a baby. The larger table across the room had different memorabilia from her life—pictures of Alex and Katena, the Russian-born children she babysat and loved so dearly; her diplomas from high school and her associate degree from Guilford Tech; her acceptance letter to the Honor Academy; a poem (most likely from her core) about sisters; a picture of her core in black shirts and jeans, laying side by side on the ground and smiling; her blue Bible she received upon graduating from the Honor Academy; a couple of notecards written to her from friends at the HA, and a memory book made of construction paper and bound with cloth, with pasted in pictures and handwritten notes—reading through it, it looks to be something made for her by her core when she had to go home for a bit shortly after coming to HA.
In the second room, the one with the family and the casket, there was a TV playing a slideshow of sorts, with pictures of Sarah’s life. I greeted some relatives—cousins, aunts and uncles, I believe—and then Sarah’s brothers, her father and her mother. Her mother remembered me from the times I’d been to Sarah’s house, and we hugged and held each other tightly and spoke for a few moments and hugged some more and she asked me if I was coming the next day and I said yes and we hugged again. And then. I don’t know if I can put into words the jumble of emotions I was feeling as I approached the casket…I can remember thinking, I’m not ready for this! I shouldn’t be having to do this! As I looked upon the shell that once housed my dear friend, I barely recognized it—because she, my friend Sarah, was not there. Her spirit had departed this earth and was now with our Saviour. But as I said a silent goodbye, I could not stop the tears from coming. It was then that I went to examine the table holding some of her memories from the Honor Academy, and when I went to watch the slideshow that was playing, one of her aunts approached me and hugged me and told me about some of the pictures in the slideshow. There was a picture of her on the first day of first grade, pigtails and bright grin firmly in place. There were pictures of her with her grandparents, now gone from this earth. There was a picture she’d taken—walking along the beach, she’d stopped, turned around, and taken a picture of her footprints in the wet sand—such a poignant picture of her journey through life. And there was a picture I was told was the last picture taken of her, just days before she died. She’d returned to her home in Savannah, gotten her hair cut into a shoulder-length bob, gotten her fingernails and toenails done and gone tanning—and she looked beautiful.
I lingered for a bit to impress in my memory the words on the screen at the end of the slideshow, and then I left, headed back to my grandparents’ house to rest before beginning a day I knew would be a difficult one.
Tuesday morning I awoke, ate some breakfast, and headed out early, in case I got lost (as I do, unfortunately, have a tendency to do that). I arrived at the church about half an hour early and remembered the last (and only) time I’d been at the church, for the Christmas cantata service once (I think it was after Sarah and I came back from New Orleans). I went and sat in an aisle seat towards the back. The casket, a beautiful brushed copper color, was set up at the front and was still open. When workers from the funeral home came forward to close it, fresh tears threatened, as they did many times during the service.
The service began with the song, “I Can Only Imagine,” and then Sarah’s pastor came forward to speak. He told of Sarah’s struggles with depression, of how depression is like a room into which one is locked without a key. He shared one of Sarah’s text messages (of which he had many) from the days and weeks preceding her death. She’d written something to the effect of, “I feel so numb, like everyone is spinning around me so quickly while I’m just standing still.” He told a story once told by a beloved member of his congregation before she passed, of the time when she, an elderly woman, got locked in her bedroom without a key. Apparently someone had put her doorknob on backwards, so the door locked from the outside and a key was needed on the inside, and one day this lady entered her bedroom and shut the door before realizing it was locked. She could not, for the life of her, remember where she’d put the key, so she was locked in her own bedroom! As she could not get out through the door, she searched for another means of escape—and spotted the window. She opened the window and dragged her eighty-something-year-old self out the window—her shoes caught, one after the other, on the windowsill and fell back inside the house, and one of her socks got caught and came off as well, and she tumbled out of the window and into the snow, with one sock on and one sock off, because that was the only way she could see out of her locked bedroom.
That was Sarah, he explained. She was locked in this room, this depression, and she could not find the key. Her friends and family were just on the other side of the door, shouting at the top of their lungs to tell her where the key was and how to find it, but for whatever reason, though she could hear their voices, she could not make out the words—she couldn’t understand what they were saying. She was desperate to escape and she took the only way she could see to get out.
He described conversations he’d had with her about the consequences of “taking such action.” He asked her if she understood the consequences of what she was considering. In his mind, he was thinking of the grief and the sorrow that it would cause those who loved her, but when he asked her this question—when he asked if she understood what the consequences would be, she answered simply, “I’ll be with Jesus.”
After he spoke, there was time to share memories of Sarah and the song “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” I shared a few humorous stories of our trip to New Orleans—driving through Atlanta rush hour traffic, the bridges that scared the mess out of us in Alabama, how she wore heels to walk the riverwalk in New Orleans, drinking Starbucks coffee every single night. Several people thanked me later for sharing these memories. There were a few others present who’d known Sarah from HA, though only one I really knew at all personally (Claire) and we chatted for a few minutes, sharing memories of happier times. Then I hurried (so I wouldn’t get left behind) to bring up the rear in the procession to the graveside service.
At the graveside, a few more words were spoken, a few bundles of flowers—carnations, I think—unwrapped so the family could place them on the casket, an announcement made of a meal prepared for us back at the church’s fellowship building, and it was time for the family to leave. As Sarah’s mom passed me, she reached out and we clasped hands and she asked me through her tears, “Are you going to stay? Please stay! I hope you’ll stay!” Of course I’ll stay. I could only nod, as I was too choked up to speak.
On the way back to the church, I took a wrong turn somewhere and drove over half of Greensboro, I think, before I figured out where I was and where I needed to go. Sarah would have laughed at that, as I also managed to get lost the first time I ever went to her house (and have an astonishing ability to do so elsewhere). So it took longer than I expected (by about a half-hour) but I did finally arrive and partook of the food that had been so graciously prepared for us. I sat beside some other of Sarah’s aunts and we shared stories and memories of her. Later I spoke with her pastor, who was raised not too far from where I currently live—he vaguely recognized me from the time I’d visited the church with Sarah. After that, I spoke with her dad about Sarah’s going to the Honor Academy, her mission trips with Global Expeditions to New Orleans, and some of the people who’d come out. I told him (and later told Mrs. Hill) that I knew of many people who wished they could be there but were unable to make it. Lastly, I spoke to her mother. She told me that they were looking for a way to print out Sarah’s Facebook page, with all the comments people had left for and about Sarah. I promised I’d write down every memory I could think of regarding Sarah and send it to her. She told me she was sorry she hadn’t been able to know me better, but “You were Sarah’s friend—and her friends were her life!” She gave me her email to share with anyone who wished to contact her about Sarah (so if you’d like it please message me!). After many hugs I finally turned to leave. I’d been doing well with not crying until I reached the cousin I’d spoken to the day before and as I started to speak to her I burst into tears (how embarrassing!) and she was asking me if I would be alright! I finally got to my car, sat for a few minutes getting ready to drive again, and then slowly pulled away…and cried.
There were times the last few days when I wondered if I’d ever run out of tears, if I’d ever stop crying, if it’d ever stop hurting so badly. My head knows things will get better, but my heart still aches for this beautiful, wonderful friend I’ve lost. No, she wasn’t perfect. But she was a joy to know. I cling to the promise in Psalm 23:4—“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me,” (where the word for comfort is used to denote that God experiences the pain and the suffering right along with us, shedding tears with us) and Matthew 5:4—“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Though I wish this had never happened, that the past two weeks could be rewound and done over and that Sarah was still here with us, good has already come from her story. I find my heart awakened and so much more sensitive to the pain others are going through; I am less hesitant, less afraid to reach out in compassion to comfort someone in need. It has thrown into sharp relief what is and is not important in life, and I find myself caring much less about silly, unimportant things that not so long ago seemed to be all-important. And I find myself wanting to be all that the Lord has called me and intended for me to be—yes, I longed for this before, but it is even more important to me now. The last few days have been good ones, but I don’t doubt there are hard days ahead. I know I’m not “over” this yet. Perhaps I never will be “over” this—this is not the sort of thing one skips lightly past with nary a thought. This is the sort of thing that has the potential to impact the way one lives—and I hope it has. Whether or not I am ever “over” it is not important—what is important is to move past it and to come out on the other side a better person for having known and loved Sarah. I hope that this draws me deeper in my friendships and relationships with others. I hope this pain, this stretching, helps me to grown more into the woman God’s designed me to be. I hope it leaves me willing to share my heart with others so that they might also find redemption in Christ. I hope, I hope, I hope that after tasting such sorrow, I will come out loving more deeply and more purely than I ever have before.
I will leave with a few words that I took from the slideshow that was playing at the funeral home the night of Sarah’s viewing. I feel they really epitomize Sarah well—this woman so many knew and loved dearly. I will miss her deeply and I long for the day when we can again fellowship—over coffee, more than likely, some distant day in eternity. For now, I shall cherish the memories of our beautiful friendship and do all I can to reach out to others in pain.
She had the heart that cared completely,
The smile that brought so much pleasure,
And a love that brought joy beyond measure.
With love for Sarah Hill, 13 October, 1985 to 22 May, 2009.