Over a month ago ( July 17, 2013) my husband and best friend left this world due to cardiac arrest. He was young (35) and left suddenly with no signs or warnings. Although I believe regular Dr. Visits and medicine could have prevented or delayed his death, there were things that God used to give me peace in knowing that this was His plan. When I found Shannon, my husband, laying in the yard, he had been working hard to make things beautiful outside. He LOVED working in the yard! He had told me just a week before that his time in the yard was his time to talk with God. It was when he felt Him closest and heard Him the clearest. While he was mowing, weeding, and pruning... i was busy inside that morning with our 2 girls, Maisy (6) and Madelynn (2), fixing lunch and was working on a project for Shannon. I was making him an IPAD cover from some vintage hunting material he loved and wanted to surprise him by getting it done while he was working. So, when I wasn't tending to my girls, I was focusing on finishing my creative project. We had a great morning, week, month, even year as a family. Shannon and i were up late the night before trying to dodge things on our Summer "to do list". we spent an hour or more the night before, after the girls were asleep, organizing hundreds of family photos holding memories of fun, family, friends, and faith. We laid on the living room floor, laughed and talked over photo boxes about how blessed we were in our life. We then got ready for bed and laid down at midnight, remembering we still had to read our Sunday School lesson to teach that very next morning in church. shannon and i had felt the Lord calling us to teach an adult Sunday School class earlier that year, and we were enjoying our studying time together. The topic that night was unforgiveness and grudges. We talked about some that we once had, but were great full that they had left our hearts and we were now free from their bondages. Shannon and I had been through a rough bump in our marriage a couple of summers before, and the wounds took some time for recovery. This recovery would not have been possible without Christ as our rhird chord. In hinds sight, I see now that God put that bump there at that time, giving us enough time to heal and be rebonded before Shannon's departure.
That next morning Shannon had excitedly pre-planned his yard work. We all woke up, drove to McDonalds drive-thru in our p.j.s, and ate breakfast on the porch while daddy pulled sticker burs from the ground. He wanted us to eat outside to keep him company for a while before he mowed. The company was short because of the bugs and heat. Maisy could not handle it and started to whine to go in. Little did we know this was the last moments to spend with Daddy as a family. But after we came inside, I had Maisy take a big tall bottle of ice water out to the porch for Daddy. She waved big to him so he would see her with her refreshing gift. He waved back and smiled at her. Even this small detail gives me peace. I didn't want her last words to be whiny with him. I am forever greatful that she took it out to him rather than me, so he could see her happy one more time. This whole year was full of seasons of renewal, growth, hope, and healing for our marriage and family. My prayers for spiritual renewal had been answered...
Things were finally feeling... Well...
Perfectly orchestrated by His great hand!
I must Backtrack now to something very improtant...
Five years prior to this day (August 2008), my life took a major spiritual awakening, and I knew The Lord in an entirely new way.
See here for my illustrated (yet incomplete) Testimony...
I wanted Shannon to know The Lord the same way I had begun. He was a man of faith, no doubt... But he was quiet about it. I was usually the one to initiate giving, read the Bible to the girls, and tuaght them (well Maisy mostly) how to feel and hear God. I had been the spiritual leader. I knew that if he knew The Lord as intimately as I was now doing, he would not be able to be so timid about his faith. But, he had just not gotten the experience personally yet. I depserately wanted him to have what I had. (I desperately want EVERYONE to have it!) So, I began to write and pray about The Lord "shaking" his faith! I wanted him to wake up to the unseen spiritual side of life here on earth.
Sketch of Vision
(done after Shannon's departure)
One partitcular time (fall/winter 2012) As I prayed, The Lord gave me a vision. He showed my heart a picture of me, Maisy, and Madelynn walking alone in a forest of trees. It was on the verge of darkness and we were alone with nothing but the compasses of our hearts... And I was the navigator with no map. I felt a sudden urgency to take His word into heart and digest it. It was important that my " map" not be something that I held in hand, but rather heart. But in my mind, I felt urgency to tell Shannon to step it up and get things together! I thought at the time that God gave me this message for Shannon, to warn him to be more of a fearless spiritual leader rather than a quiet observer. I was not sure how to tell him about this peculiar vision, so I took notes on a yellow pad to get my thoughts together before I confronted him with it. I couldn't go to bed without letting it go. So, as we laid down, I laid it all out. He respectfully listened to the message, my suggestions, my feelings and seemed open to stepping it up. but... In time, his actions proved he was not confident in how to do this. I knew to be patient. sadly, he did not have a strong male faithful figure to follow. He was lost... with no compass, disconnected to true North. So, I just kept praying and let God take control. This was about winter of 2012. That spring, our church youth group was searching for a male adult to be a leader of a group called UM Army. It is where a group of teens and an adult go to different arranged locations in a community to do labor projects for people that needed help. He was excited to go work for The Lord because he loved to build and be outside. But, he was not excited about the idea of leaving us girls for an entire week of summer. But, I did not mind at all knowing that this may be the answer to my prayer in "shaking" Shannon's faith.
Shannon at UM Army with his youth team
standing on the wheelchair ramp they built together...
Shannon and Mike
his instant new Brother in Christ BFF!
This was his hardworking group he was blessed with at the UM Army.
He bragged on them nonstop after his return from the trip...
This was the answer! After he came home, he was able to now talk with me about spiritual things, the Bible, Heaven, and life through the eyes of Jesus. I was so excited! We started to go deeper into our Bible studies, he was stepping up with prayer more, and had confidence in his own faith. We talked a lot about our individual thoughts on Heaven and what we were expecting it to be. He said he imagined it like a shore that we come to where we meet all of our loved ones and family. While my version of Heaven was full of art supplies, stained glass window, trees with exotic fruit, bike trails neverending.... his was just simple. His was family. We talked about how we woudl die if we got to choose. Neither of us wanted to be old or go to nursing homes. He wanted to just fall and go home like his dad and grandfather. He wanted it short and sweet, no pain, no fear. He even told me he always felt like he would leave young. He reminded me about a week before that he wanted "Spirit in the Sky" played at his feuneral as they rolled him out! He was ready in his heart for home.
That day he left was planned out by God. I found him laying under a tree, peaceful and still. He was not struggling to stay with us... he was gone already. His heart is what failed him because it was not built for this earth, it was built for Heaven. In the moment I paniced (or course), I SCREAMED... but the girls never heard me from inside the house. They did not see him. God protected them and took care of them. But as the help came and minutes that seemed so long passed, an unexplainable peace came over me. God was telling me that it was ok to let go. He was home and in His hands. I didn't have to beg or make deals with God to keep him here with me... the more time passes, the more I realize that Shannon's death was beautifully orchestrated by God's hands.
I did feel in my stress, abondoned by Shannon. I selfishly thought that he left me with so much to do... and it was things that I had no idea how to do. As I came back home with an overwhelming feeling of stress... I started making a new "to do" list. I grabbed a yellow pad of paper and mapped out all the things I needed to do in this new life we are forced to live in . I filled page after page after page, until I discovered some notes I had written in the back just 2 seasons before. It was the notes about my vision of Me, Maisy, and Madelynn in the trees alone! After reading over the notes I had read that night to Shannon, I realized I had misinterpreted them! God was not showing me that SHannon must lead us... but that Shannon was leaving us. He was preparing my heart for the future! This vision was of what our family would become... I would be the one to take full responsibilty for leading my girls through the dark paths of our future with nothing but His Word in my heart. Just days after I realized the meaning of the vision, a Christing collegue and firend gave me a verse that she had found and felt that the Lord needed me to have it to confirm something He had showed me. SHe knew NOTHING about my vision. The verse she gave me was,
"And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into lihgt and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do. I will not forsake them".
As I read these words of truth in private... I cried tears of pure joy.
I suddenly felt that altough SHannon had left, we had to fully rely on our faith to get us through uncertainty. I had been wondeing weeks before about our road before us as a family.
I knew that he would lay it out, just like the Yellow Brick Road for Dorthy in The Wizard of Oz.
But here it says, that He will make our road smooth and light our way as we walk.
The road is uncertain, laid brick by brick, and we do not know the way, but He does. He will be our leader, our light, our compass in times of confusion. All I have to do as a mom, is trust His promise!
Now I see that Shannon left us to do something more important. He is getting things ready for us in a life that we will have after this life is over. He did not abandon us at all, he is preparing for our forever future that we can only see with eyes of faith! He is waiting for us there at the end of this Yellow Brick Road...
and I will be wearing my ruby red slippers.