From Heaven She Still Speaks to Us
I have only known Marti a few short years. It began on the internet, where she had posted on a horse forum, looking for someone near Reno, Nevada to help her with her Arab gelding. Since we lived nearby in Winnemucca (just a hop-skip-and-a-jump by Nevada standards), my husband Jack responded, and they had several phone conversations. She decided to send him her horse but had no trailer, so we agreed to haul him, and we headed for Reno.
Marti and her adult son Shaun lived in the beautiful Palomino Valley northeast of Reno, on 40 acres, with a beautiful spacious home overlooking horse pastures and an apple orchard. We spent several hours there, while Jack worked with her two horses a bit. We had lunch and a lovely visit as we admired the artful but casual elegance of their Western decor.
She told us of how she had cared for her Aunt Inie the last six years of her life, here on this place, but now that she had recently passed away, Marti was looking for a job and trying to sell the place--so far, unsuccessfully.
Later Marti came to our place for a weekend of riding lessons on her horse Ret. Shortly after she arrived, we discovered that we shared not only a love for horses and good horsemanship, but also a love for Jesus Christ and the Bible. Marti was starved for Christian companionship--now we discovered how she could really talk! (And I had thought I talked fast--ha.) We stayed up late and talked horses and Christianity. It's always amazing how much those two subjects overlap.
She and Shaun came to a weekend clinic we had, riding their two Arabs, Ret and Taz. The next time we were at their place, we admired and discussed the beautiful paint decor in their home, comparing it to the white walls in our recently purchased little house. We were reluctant to paint, not being very experienced, but Marti had painted many houses, and, out of gratitude for the help with her horses, actually volunteered to paint ours! We finally agreed, if she'd let us pay her and help her. She came for a painting weekend later that fall.
One evening the next June, just as we were getting ready to saddle up, the phone rang. It was Shaun. Marti was in the hospital with a stroke--please pray! And pray we did.
She lost most of her speech and had some physical issues, but fortunately, her speech began to come back slowly. She couldn't afford much speech therapy so she devised her own therapy. Every day she was immersing herself in God's Word, looking for strength and comfort, so she began trying to read some out loud every day. Each time we talked, her speech was better--slow and halting, with many long pauses while she searched for a word, but better. However, the possibilities of ever finding a job were truly dismal now, and what if she couldn't sell the place? Her future looked scary, and the medical bills were piling up.
Marti told me that she'd been writing things down--what had happened to her during the stroke and her recovery, and what was happening inside as God used this trial to grow her faith. She wondered if maybe God might even use her writing to help others struggling with their own trials, and with their walk with God.
As a recently published writer myself, I encouraged her to write, and to share her writing with me. She told me that actually, she had begun writing just BEFORE the stroke--that she had felt compelled to write about some deep feelings she was burdened with. When I read what she sent me, I realized that Marti truly had a gift for words (even if she never would talk FAST again!) and she possessed great spiritual insight. We talked a lot about the possibility of a book. I passed some of it on to a few friends, who were equally as moved by her writing as I was.
God took Marti home to heaven on Sunday, September 4, 2011. She never got to write her book. I wish she had written down more of her journey--how she found a job, lost her home, lost her horses, lost her job, then lost another home, all the while losing her health--yet finding even more in the Lord. But I promised her that I would take the things she had sent me and put them on my website, where hopefully God will use her writing to impact others. I have tried to arrange it in a way that would make sense time-wise, with only minor editing, mostly punctuation and paragraphing. I have bolded the dates.
Who was Marti Rooney? What was she about? Now that she is gone, it is truly amazing to see what God laid on her heart. She writes of sensing that a new chapter of her life was about to begin, of a sense of change that was coming. She could not have known at the time--but God knew--that her writing would be the legacy she would leave her family, friends, and others unknown to her who may read this. This is what she wanted you all to know. May God bless all who read.
Email from Marti
Not out of woods yet. Words difficult. Doctor says addition stroke highly likely in near future. Plus heart attack a threat. Likely never gain recovery speech. Please continue prayer. I'm afraid but lifting my hands to worship Jesus.
Writing weeks before stroke. I wanted to share.
The desert stretches out in front of me in an unending desolate landscape. I'm not sure how it happened, how I lost sight of the path. But I have. I find myself here, alone in this wilderness, unable to move forward, unwilling to turn back. There is nothing to which I can return. What was there had been torn down years ago, leaving only ghostly memories among the ruins.
My heart beats with erratic poundings, seeming at times to stop, taking my breath with it. In the brightness of day, the sun takes sadistic delight in draining my strength. Oh how I yearn for a sweet spring of friendship to quench my thirst. Even the cooling breezes of the evening brings no relief or comfort as the sounds of the night grab hold of my mind with fearful imaginations.
I cower, hidden in the shrub, watching as packs of coyotes stalk through the sagebrush on their nightly hunt. In perfect execution they split the ranks, some moving to the left and some to the right as they begin circling their lone helpless prey. Slowly, menacingly, they tighten the circle around the unsuspecting victim, then crouch low in eager anticipation. Without warning, two charge up the center, shoulder to shoulder, skillfully running their prey into the waiting ring of killers. A great flurry of movement, then in seconds it is over. The exhilaration of the howling coyotes fills the silence with their eerie triumphant calling. Then, as before, I am left in deafening silence.
Am I too the lone prey, skillfully taken down? Do my killers howl in exhilaration at my fall?
Everyone that I loved, cared for, trusted, believed in, are gone. The last one standing by my side, my son, soon to start a new chapter in his story, as it should be. We will be left with phone calls and occasional dinners. Some left through no fault of their own. Others were tales of betrayal and painful desertion, rejection. I can't see beyond today. I am capable of grasping only this moment of time in this unforgiving desert, this never-ending sea of sagebrush and rock.
I have lost even the sense of self. Who is the woman hiding in fear? This can't be me. I am the warrior, I am the Gideon, I am the Jeremiah. How did I come to be in this place? Isolated, cut off. Where are those who will stand with me? My eyes continually search the horizon--where is my help? Does my journey end here? Have I come this far, suffered much, only to die alone? Another fallen solider with no one to mourn the loss, my passing unnoticed. I'm tired beyond words. Where is the glory for God in this?
The enemy's accusations blow on the wind, swirling around my mind as they echo defeat. "You are a silly woman! A warrior? Ha! You are no warrior. You suffer because of your own sinful decisions. Your motives are not pure. You have deluded yourself. It was your own selfish desires that have brought you to this place. God has left you to suffer the consequences, as He should. It is you alone who caused God to remove His hand of protection. The very land you stand on is cursed because of you. He is God and there is no unrighteousness in Him. It is the darkness of your heart that blocks God's mercy. You have missed the mark! You have missed God's purpose for your life and there is no remedy!"
In the shallow ravines I seek to find a hiding place from judgment--huddled low on the ground, arms wrapped around my calves, pulling my thighs tightly to my chest, my forehead pressed down onto my knees in an effort to make myself as small a figure as possible. So afraid to look up. Like a child huddled in the corner of her room, beaten into submission. Or a wife hiding in the darkness to escape the cruelty of never-ending attacks.
Are these truly God's words to me? No remedy...No hope...Wouldn't it be easier to just stop fighting, give up? Could it be true? I have deceived myself...It will never change, there is no future. Just give up and accept it...Just turn away...Stop the pain...Find rest...
I lay bruised and beaten, all but left for dead. Is it possible a flame yet burns, however small it has become? In the midst of the pain is there still hidden passion that refuses to be quenched?
The way is lost. The years have run past me and still no help has come. My strength is gone, isolation has overtaken me. Yet in the stillness of what is seemingly defeat, I hear my heart softly calling.
"Be still, wait on the Lord. It is not over."
There in that quiet place of my heart I know it is true...it is not over...I am not finished. I cling to the gift I was given so long ago. And as long as I continue to hold on to that gift of quiet strength, it most certainly is not over. The gift of Hope. That small flickering flame still resides in me, urging me on, giving me strength when there is no strength left. It is hope that lifts my hands to God in praise and admiration. A hope that will not die. A hope that will live to find its fulfillment.
Who would I turn to if not to God? Where else could my hope rest if not in the salvation and restoration Jesus the Christ has secured on my behalf? Most assuredly God's mercy is not lacking. His purposes are not changed. He has created in me a new heart. My hope is secure in Him. I will cry out in expectation.
"Almighty God, what is Your intent in all this? You have allowed me to be brought to this place on this day, in this hour. A day without end, hours ever passing. I can see no way to move forward. My hope is in You only. If I live, it is because of Your mercy. If I die, it is true my passing would be unnoticed by the world. But it would not be lost to You. You are my God, my Creator, my Salvation. Your desire is for me. I will not ask that the whole path be laid out before me in concise form, beginning to end. Only...reveal the next step so I can continue on this journey, to Your glory and purposes."
Dare I look up again and in doing so rise to my feet? The battle still looms on the horizon. I have been stripped of my armor. It lays scattered in the fields, broken and worn from the years of confrontation. The helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness. I must gird my loins once again with the belt of truth, and fit my feet with the gospel of peace. Raising the shield of faith, boldly lifting up the sword of the Spirit, the very Word of God, to protect me as I move forward.
The journey forward starts here. It sounds like such a simplistic statement of fact. In reality it is an ongoing epic story of life from death, surrender, discovery--filled with mystery and intrigue, danger and passion. There is not an adventure novel written that can compare to the reality of our story, our mission. Not to be taken lightly. Not for the faint of heart.
This is a journey that can only be successfully traveled with and in the power of the Holy Spirit. He alone knows the paths needed to break down the strongholds that hinder the way. This is the most exciting quest ever known to man, to find the mysteries, the treasures of God's grace--to deliver the word that will bring back God's children from death to life, from slavery to freedom. It is the good news of God's rescue and restoration. The tearing down of an evil kingdom, the promises of God fulfilled. A new covenant, and the Kingdom of God established in the hearts of His people. There is no greater story.
Not all see it as good news. They question a God that would so harshly judge. Judgment doesn't fit into their concept of love. The problem is, they apply the standards of man to the living God. Since true perfection is not possible in man, they fail to grasp what the standard of complete and utter perfection means. Unlike man, God is infallible, without flaw or blemish, incapable of mistake. His judgments are always correct. He is the God of perfect righteousness. Perfect righteousness could not by its very nature allow unrighteousness to stand with it. It would no longer be considered perfect. There is no unrighteousness in Him, nor can there be.
He is the light of the world. Darkness can not stand in pure light. In fact it is this very light that exposes the darkness of this world and within the hearts of all mankind. He does not simply possess the qualities of love--He Is Love. Complete and absolute love would not be so if qualities contrary to love were allowed to co-exist within it. By necessity, perfection can demand nothing less than perfection. We all fall desperately short in comparison.
But our wondrous God has not left us to suffer the judgment we are rightly due. Almighty God, in the most amazing act of perfect love, by way of His grace, through the sacrifice of Jesus, put into action the greatest rescue mission ever devised. This is the epic story played out in the lives of each of His children.
I will trust in the whispers of a heart restored. In trusting God's intentions toward me, hope lives. In trusting God's unconditional love and mercy, the gift of faith is born.
I am not as I seem--a person molded by the circumstances of life, a person caught up in the snares of unfulfilled self-satisfaction. Grace has broken the power that the strivings of my flesh held over me. No longer am I held captive by the words of failure and unworthiness prophesied over me. The blood of Jesus has taken my once-wicked heart and washed it clean. I can now boldly enter into His presence. The shadow of the written Law given as the first covenant between God and man no longer holds me a slave. Perfect Light has entered the world in the person of Jesus. The Messiah has dispelled the darkness.
I recently read an a excerpt of a poem by the poet Yeats, that speaks to the search I now embark upon:
If I make the lashes dark
So who am I in this never-ending saga of life in Christ? No...the better question is, who does God say I am? By what name does He call me? The Warrior? The Teacher? The Encourager?
The answer to that question is a great journey within the journey--a hidden mystery revealed in the renewing of my mind and heart day by day. The Word of God challenges me to become the person He intended. It must be known that no one comes to the Lord except His Spirit calls them. He has known and loved us since before the earth was formed.
I can tell you the very day I said the "sinners prayer." I can explain to you the circumstances that brought me to that place of surrender. What I can't explain nor even completely grasp is the fullness and utterly amazing love God has for each of us. Was that day, as some would say, the beginning of my walk? Not completely.
My "walk" started the moment I took my first breath some 58 years ago and will continue for all eternity. Now, however, God's grace has put a close to the old chapters and has opened the last chapter of this journey. It is no longer a search for life; now it is a journey of purpose in and of the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. He has made me alive. No longer dead in my trespasses, I have life to the fullness in Christ.
There have been many novels written about the phenomenal men and women of history. Some born into wealth, some poverty, and some, like most of us, born in average households. Their history details the various paths they followed. These novels tell us of the challenges they faced and overcame, their failures and ultimate successes. We read about the differing circumstances that molded their characters and strengthened their resolve. Each path they chose carried them along and brought them to a defining time of greatness.
For us, our surrender, repentance and new birth in God is the defining moment of our lives. Our story did not start there, neither does it end there. We will continue on, not as sons and daughters of the first Adam, born out of rebellion and doomed to eternal separation from the Creator. We travel now as God's children, reborn through the power of God's Spirit, our genealogy changed forever. We are the children of God's promise, our hearts having been sprinkled clean with the blood of the most perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God, Jesus the Christ.
"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
"... the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it."
The treasure, the fine pearl...A life restored, made new. God's perfect judgment passed on sin has been satisfied with the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
We enter the story here: we can see that the world and its rulers, authorities, the powers of darkness and the enemies of God stand condemned. Judgment had been passed and the sentence of eternal separation and destruction declared.
God's chosen also live in the midst of this darkness. But God has not forgotten them nor forsaken His promises and covenant. He will not leave them or us to suffer His righteous judgment.
Almighty God, in the greatest love ever known, by way of grace, puts into action the greatest rescue mission ever devised. His sent Jesus His Son, God's word made flesh, born of a virgin, into the darkness of this world.
He is coming to free God's people from the slavery of their own sinful nature. He is coming to pay the ransom and free them from their captor. He comes to give new life, reborn of the Spirit, and reconcile all to the Father.
We can see that at His coming, the people's hearts were still far from Him and they knew Him not. They refused to accept the true Messiah.
Could it be that He did not come in the way they thought He should? He did not come in great majesty, nor was He draped in kingly robes; there was no golden crown upon His head. He had not come to overthrow a political system. For those living under the written Law, He was viewed as a threat.
But He had not come to destroy the Law. He entered the world to fulfill the Law. Jesus stood before them in the guise of a ordinary man. He stood before them--God and humanity--Jesus the Christ, the anointed of God. The authority with which He spoke offended and enraged them. Fearing the loss of their status, they plotted against Jesus, seeking to take His life.
Jesus walked among the people, unfolding God's rescue plan in parables and teachings, miracles and healings. He spoke not to the intellect but to the heart of men. Many followed Him. Many fought against Him.
At the appointed time, Jesus, in perfect submission to the Father, paid the highest ransom ever offered, that which was foretold by the prophets of old. The most amazing act of perfect love took place as He laid Himself out as the ultimate and last sacrifice. The seed of the first Adam hung on that cross in Jesus. His blood flowed out for the transgressions of man. It was on that day that the sentence of death was carried out. On the cross, God's judgment against man was forever satisfied.
But the story doesn't end there. The greatest chapter now begins: the resurrection of Christ, the ongoing story of new life. It is a story of restoration and transformation. Jesus came not only to pay the ransom--He came to give new life to those who believed. Life as God had intended from the beginning.
Email from Marti
Each day is getting a little better...I've accepted that I won't ever get to the Irish fast talking thing. But thats OK.
I'm hard at work to improving my speech. Mostly talking to dogs and long conversations with the horses. I'm going to speech therapy...Yesterday I "witnessed" to her about Jesus and salvation.
I'm still writing. Just finished my June writings and started on July. Slow going but it really helps me to put it in prayerful perspective. I hope you mind but I'm including June's ramblings. Don't expect too much...
Hope to see you soon,
...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6
It was a typical day. I busied myself doing the things typical days are filled with.
I sneezed, a rather explosive sneeze mind you, but still just a sneeze. Coming out of the bathroom, wiping my nose, I turned to my son Shaun to say something, and no words would come. As we looked at each other I starting laughing while inwardly scolding myself for my lack of concentration. "Oh come on Marti, this is too silly, just say the words."
Still laughing at myself I tried again to speak, but for the life of me I couldn't form the beginning sounds. Shaun readily joined in my laughter. It must have been an amusing sight: my hand raised in front of my face, index finger extended, wagging up and down for emphasis, lips poised in an exaggerated forming of a word but continually failing in the effort. Much like a sneeze that, despite our overly-animated efforts, never comes.
For a few minutes we both laughed as if we just heard a knee-slapping joke. A few more tries and still I could not get anything out. The realization that something serious was happening started to sink in.
*** My laughter stopped ***
I tried to concentrate, oh how I tried concentrate, but even the thoughts I was trying to verbalize were quickly disappearing as this unexplainable fog was overtaking my brain.
Shaun was still laughing when I grabbed his arm and looked imploringly into his eyes. Lips still poised to form words, but try as I might, I just stood there in silence, hoping desperately that through my eyes I could speak my pleadings to my son.
He looked deep into my eyes. The laughter abruptly stopped.
"What going on, Mom?"
I wanted to tell him but I couldn't. Still struggling to make some sense of it all, I truly didn't know what was going on. Somehow that invisible connection between thoughts and words was severed.
Inside my head I was shouting, "Help me, Shaun, something is terribly wrong." Panic was setting in as I frantically tried to grab onto a sentence or even a single word, but my mind had forgotten how. I had no control over this thing that was assaulting my mind and I stood there in utter helplessness. "Jesus, please help me!"
I closed my eyes and visualized just a single word written as if on an imaginary chalkboard. The single word: SERIOUS. There I was, back in my second grade classroom trying to read out loud. The best I could, I blocked every other thought and intensely looked at the word in my mind's eye. And just like in second grade, I concentrated on sounding out the word one syllable at a time.
"Ser-ree-us." Hearing the word clumsily escaping my lips brought a momentary feeling of relief. In a low whisper I repeated the word several times to myself until I could speak it out loud and have it be understood.
It was then that the frightening reality of what was taking place hit: Stroke, Stroke, STROKE!
Shaun went into action. It was late afternoon and I was thinking it was going to be a long night. I pointed at the empty dog bowls.
"You want to feed the dogs, NOW?" Shaun said with a somewhat irritated tone. While he was filling the food bowls and topping off their water, I went to get ready--plugged in the curling iron, slapped on some makeup and changed out of my dirty work shirt. I was just starting to curl my hair when Shaun came into the bathroom.
"MOM, what are you doing? We've got to get you to the hospital!" Of course he was right. A few minutes later we were in the car. Driving down the dirt road off the property, I bumped Shaun's arm and pointing to the horses.
"I suppose you want me to feed the horses too!" He slammed on the brakes, flung open the car door, jumped out, threw several flakes of hay over the fence and was back in the car, all done in one continuous motion.
In a understandable sarcastic tone, "Anything else?" I shook my head no. I'm sure it must have seemed irrational to concern myself with feeding the dogs and horses, whether my hair was combed or I had on a clean shirt. But thinking about "normal" things was my attempt to keep panic at bay.
I don't remember if Shaun talked during the long drive to the hospital. Frankly I don't remember much about the drive, except that I somehow managed to get Shaun to take a side trip through the drive-up at Starbucks. Again, irrational. I don't recall whether I even drank that vanilla latte with whipped cream that I was so avid to get.
What I do remember as we drove was that I became acutely aware of my body. The tingling in my arms and legs--much like the feeling you might experience after crossing your legs for too long a time. The same feeling was increasing in the right side of my face with intermittent numbness. By time we got close to the hospital I felt totally drained. I was getting weaker by the minute. My very life force was slowly being poured out.
As if in a show of power, mocking my praises and new-found strength, the storm intensified around me. At the hospital, the ER entrance was blocked off because of construction, so we parked in the parking garage across the street and slowly walked toward the front entrance.
My mind was being bombarded with "what ifs." What if I never speak again? What if I lose partial use of my body? **What if I die?** What if don't die** and have to live out my life unable to care for myself?
Fear gripped my mind. Panic was close behind. Shaun tells me that half-way there, I raised my hand in a halting action, took his hands into mine while I tearfully labored to say a prayer. "I glorify Your name, I praise you, no matter what."
I don't remember saying the prayer. What I do remember upon entering the hospital is that the sentences I had written just days before came alive within me:
"If I live, it is because of Your mercy. If I die, it is true my passing would be unnoticed by the world. But it would not be lost to You. You are my God, my Creator, my Salvation. Your desire is for me."
"Your desire is for me." I knew in that moment it was OK, whatever the outcome. God had prepared my response, my heart, my faith, and I was humbled by His grace.
Accepting Jesus is not merely saying the sinner's prayer, or gaining control of sin in your life. It's an act of the Holy Spirit entering our hearts.
The goods news of the gospel is "WE ARE SAVED THOUGH JESUS." Everyone is.
So where does that leave room for judgment? Nowhere. Jesus knows His own. Only the Holy Spirit reveals and convicts. No one can judge what God is doing in the heart of man. God leads us along the pathways to preparing one's heart. We are simply here to deliver the good word.
Over the course of last month I had felt an urgency in writing. The words flowed out of my heart with such intensity it took me surprise. I was compelled, almost obsessively so, to put an understandable face to my emotional and spiritual turmoil. I didn't know when, if ever, my isolation would come to an end. My path was uncertain to be sure, but I sensed something was going to change. A new chapter was about to begin. My hope was renewed as God drew me into a deeper understanding of FAITH.
Life's continuing saga is ever challenging, ever changing. I knew how I ought to respond to the trials. And certainly I know what my response should be during successful times. Both were to be accepted in praise and thanksgiving to God. Throughout the years, the successes were few--in my view, almost nonexistent. Life's trials, piled one on top of another, created a seemingly insurmountable impasse. Increasingly I had seen myself as a helpless victim, being pulled this way and that by life's circumstances. Thinking God was somehow punishing me for some terrible hidden sin, I lamented over my unworthiness.
Worse yet, I was coming to believe God was indifferent to my needs. Pain, confusion, doubt, and yes, even resentment, lay buried for so many years. But God in His mercy shined His light into my darkness, revealing that which I had so skillfully hidden. And in the words of a song I learned long ago, I surrendered all. I hadn't a clue that within days, my resolve and new-found faith would be severely tested.
Each person's pilgrimage has its own challenges, its own trials, its own rewards. No one's life experiences are identical. But all are common in that we are being perfected in Christ to the glory of God.
It has been almost a year since I've written. I am now four months shy of my 60th birthday. A sobering thought. As my father got older (about my age) he told me a person spends three-quarters of their life making memories and the last quarter living those memories. A man can't make memories if he is constantly living in the past, he would say. And the man who lives and works only for the future will have a very dull past. When it's all said and done, memories are all we will have. It is all about balance. Remember the past, look to the future, but live and make memories today.
Having spent the last six years of my Aunt Inie's life caring for her, I can tell you it is true. For her, it was all about the memories. And what a life she had. I never tired of her stories.
It has been so long since I put pen to paper. More appropriately, fingers to keyboard.
Funny thing happened. As I shared my first writings with others, it seemed to strike a chord. Praise and encouragement followed. Keep writing, write a book, we want to read more.
Oh how that spoke to my hidden desire to be a writer. Of course it went straight to my head. I was like an excited child with her first big coloring book and brand new 100-piece box of crayons. I set out to do my great masterpiece.
But it was all wrong. My eye became critical. That tree was too green, or not green enough. I colored outside the lines here. The sky was too dark, the rainbow too bright. I would go back and read what I had written and something was missing. My heart. I hadn't started writing for acclamation. Why was I doing that now? Each paper eventually got crumpled up and thrown into the waste basket: delete key. Still the story went on internally.
But now I feel I have to continue. So much has gone on. And I want to speak of the journey, the stages of surrender. Trying to find my way from immature childish expectations to the childlike faith that God desires, and understanding the difference. Not that I am perfected or even comfortable in this maturing process.
Intensive Care Saint Mary's Hospital. Thought to have a blood clot that traveled to the lung. Turned out to be an inoperable malignant tumor. The doctor says six months, or maybe a year with aggressive treatment.
I'm sending you what I wrote about a dream I had a couple of weeks before the news of the cancer happened. It's not "polished" but still I wanted to share with you.
I had a vivid dream the other night, unlike I have ever had before, like something prophetic.
I was climbing up this steep mountainside. Not like the rugged barren rocky mountains of the Nevada desert. This mountain, although it had a very steep incline, causing me to reach down and steady myself with hand and knee at points, was a smooth incline, covered with plush knee-high dark green grasses, vividly-colored wild flowers standing tall here and there.
When the breezes dramatically swept the mountainside, the greenery seemed to dance in harmony. I looked behind--there were plush steep rolling mountain ranges as far as the eye could see. It was a breathtaking view.
My daughter Lisa, my precious granddaughter Lexi, and my son-in-law C.J. were starting up the base of the mountain. I was greatly comforted see them begin the climb. As I stood and watched them for a moment, Lisa, reaching back, took Lexi's hand to help her up, and C.J. supported from the back.
They were perfect together. It was almost overwhelming, the love I felt for my daughter and Lexi. As I watched C.J, he got down on one knee, his hand confidently on Lexi's back as they continued the climb. I saw such strength, confidence and ability. How handsome he looked. I knew that with C.J., my "girls" were safe, loved and nurtured. The love I felt for C.J. ran deep and was equally matched with respect. They were a family. They were my family.
I turned back around and looked up. On top of the mountain stood a majestic sheer rock outcropping. It was about twenty to thirty feet tall. The last trek to get there looked nearly impossible and I was tired.
To my left side, a few steps behind, stood my son Shaun. But I had already sensed his presence from the beginning. As I glanced back and saw him standing there, I was overcome with emotion. Standing tall and strong, his long black leather trench coat moving gracefully with the wind. The Matrix figure. A guardian, a warrior and yet a loving and tender son.
I don't truly know that there are words to convey the feeling. There was an unbreakable connection between us, a bond that couldn't be broken. I felt this great comfort just seeing him standing there--much more than comfort.
He smiled softly, lovingly, at me. There was such love, confidence, strength, encouragement coming from him, going straight into my heart, and my heart sending the same to his. I didn't want to look away. I wanted to hold that moment of love between us forever. As I smiled at Shaun, my heart lightened. The feeling of joy and laughter and even silliness we have always enjoyed lifted me up.
I turned and faced the last of the climb and led the way up. We stood at the base of the rock wall looking up. Suddenly there were bright flashing lights blasting the face of it, carving something out. The intensity was so great that we had to raise our hands and shield our eyes, like something out of an epic movie. The carving became more revealed--brilliant, glistening gold.
And then I saw it: two swords, the tips facing each other. These were not ordinary swords. These were magnificent warrior swords--large, strong.
I said to Shaun, "They are swords Shaun, is that what you see?"
"What does it mean?"
He didn't answer but I could sense he knew. I got on my tiptoes and reached up to touch the handle of the sword on the right, but stopped just inches away. I felt hesitant, not sure what I was supposed to do. Shaun was still behind me and he placed his hand on my shoulder.
"It's OK, Mom, you can do this. Go for it."
My hands were trembling. As I got closer to the handle I sensed my garments were changing. I was dressed in God's Ephesians 5 armor that was left scattered in the fields in the Nevada desert years before: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteous, feet fitted with readiness, the helmet of salvation.
Shaun removed his hand and stepped back. As I grabbed the handle, my other hand was now holding a shield and I heard a voice.
"The final battle begins."
Then I was awake. What can this mean? My mind went to the final world battle, the tribulation, the rapture.
I've always likened myself to a warrior, fighting the good fight for God. But as I sat and pondered, I realized this was not about me...not about my wants and desire to be a shining star in God's plan...not about what He does FOR me.
It is ALL ABOUT GOD, the Creator, the Author of life. He is Life itself. The thought is incomplete. I can but trust that God will give me the words to express it more fully. But for now....
After a valiant struggle with cancer, treatments, and pain, Marti received her perfect healing in heaven on Sunday evening, September 4, 2011. We talked almost weekly throughout her ordeal. Her eyes were focused on the Lord Jesus Christ and her heavenly home. She told me that during the past couple years, as she had struggled with the stroke and the fear of financial disaster if her place didn't sell, she had thought THAT was the trial. Now she realized it wasn't really--rather, that was what God was using to prepare her for the real trial: The Final Battle. The things she learned about God and about trusting Him were the things that got her through the cancer. Regardless of how God chose to work things out, she repeatedly told me that all she wanted was TO GLORIFY HIM--for her life, and death, if it came to that, to point her family and friends to her Lord.
While sorting through an old box of paperwork I came across some writings I wrote when I was about 16:
A wave of emotion broke over me. I was surprised that child, it some form, was still alive within me.
It was reported the child's heart died today.
The friends she never knew she had, mourned but for a day, then forgot. Her family grieved at the news, but were not at all surprised, and never questioned how such a thing had happened. They had their own lives to deal with, their own heartaches to mend.
She did what she could at that tender age. In darkness she took the fractured bits and pieces of her heart and, as best she could, wrapped it tightly with tattered rags and tears, then hid it deep beneath self-denial. She sought to silence its cries, deny its existence. She sought to protect the fragile life force within herself. But then...she was only a child...
I would lament and cry out, I am only a sinner saved by grace. There is nothing good in me. And where this is indeed a true statement, so many never go past that. The truth of the good news remains hidden. We call ourselves the saints, the children of God. All the while we hang on to the inherit wickedness of our previous parentage. The enemy of God has cleverly twisted and molded a gospel that speaks not to the new creation God declares us to be, but to the old--the children of the first Adam.
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