when i was a kid growing up here in the dallas/fort worth metroplex, there were a few things that we only got to do occasionally. which, of course, made them an extra special treat. the fort worth zoo. the omni theatre. and of course the ultimate treat was going to wet ‘n wild and six flags. oh man, that was like the equivalent to your birthday party and Christmas morning all rolled into one.
six flags in the mid-80’s wasn’t quite the theme park that it is now, but it was still an amazing place for a kid to spend a day. well, most kids. i, however was a big. fat. baby. seriously. it didn’t seem to affect me (or my social status quo) until i got older. then, all of a sudden your level of “coolness” was based solely on whether or not you enjoyed your body being flung in multiple directions at moch speed a mile up in the air and away from solid ground. well, friend…i no longer wanted to be cool. i wanted to live.
there was one particular ride that completely freaked me out. it was called, “the flashback” dun, dun, duuuun. if you did not read that ride name with a lower voice pictured in your head like you hear on suspense movie trailers, then please go back and re-read it. i’ll wait….
this ride not only went faster than the other rides, but it had loops (yes, that is plural. God help me.) and then just when you thought you really were going to throw up all of your cinnamon pretzel all over the boy you liked and so desperately wanted to impress…the ride sloooows…down…but, in the completely vertical position. that’s right….not horizontal. vertical. for those of you who are not known for your math brain, let me be clear. horizontal is left and right, east and west, like the horizon. get it? horizon and horizontal…catchy, eh? vertical however is up and down, north and south….and it is not how you want to end a roller coaster ride. so…there they are, car after dangling car just hanging up there in mid air for what seems like an eternity, but is really only like 3 seconds…and then it happens. swoooosh! you plummet at moch speed ( i know i already used that reference, but that is that fastest thing i know. oh wait, what about warp speed? is that real or just for star wars? or star trek? ugh..i digress.) anyway…get back with me here…you and your “pals” who apparently spiked your frozen lemonade and were able to convince you that this ride was going to be “totally tubular”… are now plummeting three stories going really, really stinkin’ fast (there, that’s better) and you do the entire ride all over again…backwards.
ugh. i get queasy just thinking about it. of course, nowadays this ride is probably for like 5 year olds or something..but, i’m telling you, in my day it was fierce. at least, for me.
i am sure we all have experienced a flashback in life a time or two. i know i have. i find an old tshirt from high school and whoosh…i am instantly brought back to my glory days on the soccer field. (yes, i was an athlete. i didn’t always have an 84-year-old’s body) i can almost smell the grass on the field and see the cute varsity boys sitting sidelines watching us. (yes, i was a bit boy crazy. i’m praying that our sweet girl is like her daddy…a munk until college. 🙂
or maybe it is a song. that always does it for me too. it doesn’t matter if you play it on purpose from an old mixed tape or if you are flipping channels and you hit it mid-song. whoosh…you are immediately brought back to the time and place that song represents. dun-dun-dun-du-du-dun-dun. chhhh. dun-dun-dun-dun- du-du-dun-dun. ahhh,1990. remember when vanilla ice was kinda cool? that hair. those clothes. that song. good times. and now, 21 years later (uggh.) he’s remodeling homes. that is just a little odd for me.
anyway…today was a flashback for me in more ways that one. first of all…i had a pretty major flashback physically. here i’ve been, the last few weeks, as my mom says “goin’ and blowin'” non-stop and trying to get anything and everything done. now, granted, if i were to write out my actual schedule for you, you wouldn’t think it was that bad, really, even for a mom of three. but, for me…who has spent the better part of the last year completely and utterly flat and still – it has been a bit intense. and then, the kids get sick again and there goes my good night’s rest. although i can’t blame it completely on my kids, because my 84-year-old body has kept me up late at night as well. i mean it. my joints are killing me. my ankles hurt, my shins hurt (yes, i know that is not a joint. but it hurts, too!) i just plain hurt. so…add it all up and what do you get?? a very bad day for a very tired me.
i started the day fairly normal with the two younger kiddos and i having a nice morning together. watching a show, playing games, doing laundry, and then making dinner. my incredibly sweet and thoughtful friend brought over “dinner in a bag” the other day with all i would need to make a great recipe she found. she knew we were near the end of the month and would be feasting on mac-n-cheese and ravioli (which by the way, we are totally fine with) but she wanted to help out…again. she is wonderful. i can’t hardly keep stocked with enough thank you notes for her. so, anyway, here i am trying to get all this stuff ready to throw into the crockpot and it just took a lot longer than i had thought. which, on any other day these last few months wouldn’t be such a big deal. (thank you GOD!) but, last night three out of our three kids decided to get up and various times throughout the night. multiple times. each. it wasn’t pretty. so…i think today my body just flat out stopped.
it started with a weird twinge in my back as i tried to get up off the floor. ouch! what was that?? i lied back down, but the icepack back where it always resides on my lower back and stayed still for a bit. and when i tried to get up again, zing! it happened again. ugh. i’m telling you, friend, anytime i have weird stuff going on with my head and/or back, it gets me a little fearful. so, then i stood up and tried to stretch and i felt just weird in my head. almost woozy. my tongue felt like it was getting a little swelly (yes, i just invented that word, feel free to use in freely) and i just didn’t feel right. and then it happened…whoosh….i had a flashback to those days and days and weeks and weeks and months and months where i would wake up every single day and never know what weird stuff my body was going to do. ever.
so, today…wasn’t fun. i didn’t panic. well, i did a little, but not a full fledged “me” kind of freak-out panic that i was known for in the past. (i’m telling myself that is proof God is working on me and my fear issues) i tried to walk it off…and sit it off….and i just kept feeling weirder and more tired. so, i called my hubby and he told me to lie down immediately and call my parents. i’m thinking…ugh…again. those poor people had to come over every single day for months and now i have to bother them again. ugh. but, they are amazing and came at the drop of a hat. they came. and i went….to my bed. i positioned the ice pack where it goes every single time i lie down, even still…and the heating pad where it always goes too…and i. just. crashed. for like two hours. at one point i woke up and didn’t really know where i was. you know those times. when you are exhausted and you crash…and when you come to, you are a bit disoriented. what!?! it’s daylight? ryan’s not next to me? i don’t hear children?!! what in the world?!! but, then i remembered what was going on and so i turned back over at went back to sleep. then i ate a little bit for lunch. and then… the coup de gras… i took a long, hot bubble bath. this was glorious. it felt good. it relaxed me more. it helped tremendously with the pain in the base of my head. and as i was getting out of the bath and doing the whole “girl-towel-turban-wrap” i feel that my flashback concluded. i was reminded of the many, many, many times over the last year and a half that God had gotten me through bad days and tired days and scary days and hospital visit days. He had never failed me and i knew He wouldn’t again.
and that, friend…is when i had the flashback that has meant the most to me. when i closed my eyes, i saw her face. her sweet, smiling, preciously cute face. i saw my friend jenny.
and once again, for like the twentieth time in the last few days i had a flashback as to what this date was. the 22nd of february, and is. and always will be. on this date…it marks one year since my friend jenny went to be with Jesus. she was 31 years old.
now, jenny and i weren’t best friends. in fact, we didn’t hang out really, ever. but, she was my friend. she was one of the most devoted volunteers in the children’s ministry at our church, of which i was the volunteer coordinator at the time. it was hard not to be friends with jenny. she was kind, genuine, sweet and often just silly. we got along well. occasionally we would send random texts to each other…but most of all, she was one of those people i loved seeing each and every week at church. she was, my friend. she was the real deal.
and a little more than a year ago, she got pneumonia…and then it got worse…and then it got to her bloodstream…and then she went into a coma. and then it got really scary. this was really serious now. really serious. her family set up a care page online for friends to be updated…because, like i mentioned before…everyone loved jenny…so i am sure they were bombarded with people wanting to see how she was. like thousands of others, i followed this care page diligently every day…multiple times a day. i prayed for her and her family and her healing more times that i can even count. days and days went by and it just got more serious and more scary. at least for us here. not for God…He knew exactly what was happening.
you see, jenny’s family loved Him and served Him wholeheartedly. when her husband wasn’t at home supporting their nine-year old daughter through all of this, he was spending hours by her hospital bed whispering into her ear and speaking Scripture over her. her parents and her brothers and their families set up “churches” all over the hospital day and night lifting her up to the Lord. they claimed the amazing praise and worship song “mighty to save” as their heart’s cry. and…some days were a little better. we had hope. other days were dark. but we still had hope. we knew the enemy was trying to use this whole ordeal to break this family. to make them turn from God. you see…they all loved Him.
her father was a pastor. her mother was my very own Christian psychologist, and her two brothers were pastors as well. i am not making this up. this family loved God and served Him. i have no doubt that they did some seriously fierce things in their lives, along with their sweet jenny, to totally demolish satan’s plans. in fact, i bet they obliterated them.
but on this day…one year ago…they had to say goodbye to their jenny. and i know they, along with the (literally!) thousands of supporters, were left with one haunting question…
i know that when i got online that day and read the news, that she was gone…i set down my laptop, walked to my room, barely made it to the door and i fell onto the ground sobbing. i was an ugly mess. and let me remind you…jenny and i weren’t like best friends or anything. but i just loved her. and her mom. like i mentioned before, her mom was my psychologist. her mom had held my hand and walked with me through the months prior that were as dark as i’d ever known. and now this? it just didn’t make sense to me. these were faithful followers of God and they had done it all “right” in my mind. why would He let her die?
come to think of it? why would He let her die and yet keep my selfish, prideful, impatient, controlling, scrawny neck here still breathing in and out?
i don’t know how you are going to react to that statement. you may think i am selfish and self-centered and awful. but i don’t care at this point. i am just being real. here i was facing month number four of medical drama. (really, it was month number four added onto years number one and two) i had seen every specialist and had every test run. yet, i was still in pain an still without any answers. it is hard to fight off the fear of death when you are in the midst of a chronic illness with no answers and no end in sight. it is hard. very hard. for me, it darn near beat me. and i was left questioning not only if God was with me but, if He even was.
and then this happened. my friend jenny got sick and was dead within a couple weeks. dead.
i felt so guilty for not loving God and His people like she had. i felt so sad for not ever arranging those lunch dates we always talked about. i felt so blessed with each hug from my family,my husband, my precious babies. i felt so scared that i would be next. i felt so proud to have known and loved her. i felt so confused as to why He would allow something so bad to happen to a family that is so good. i felt so angry because this was not the ending of this story that i felt He should give. He was supposed to revive her. He was supposed to give her family and the rest of us the miracle we cried out for so desperately. we sang that He is mighty to save.
but, in my mind, He did not save.
and here we are. one year later. i have had to stop writing this post numerous times because i can’t see the screen through the tears. and again, we weren’t even that close of friends. i cannot imagine what her family and her best friends, and God help me, her husband and daughter are going through today. more emotions that i listed above… that is for sure.
i leave you with two other flashbacks i have had so intensely today. one…was the last time i can remember seeing jenny alive. it was at church and i was rushing around (back when i could rush around) through our children’s ministry area looking for someone. and i saw her. she was kneeling down right outside the elementary ministry’s doorway tying the shoes of a sweet little kid. she looked up at me and mouthed “how are you doing?” you see….she knew. she knew what few people knew at that point. she knew i was going through the darkest time of my entire life. she knew i was facing anxiety and fear so real and so deep that sometimes i could almost swear i could see it. she knew i was going to see her loving mom to help me get through, to help me seek God, to just plain help me. and so, in that briefest of moments, she, with her precious smile that not only affected her mouth, but also her eyes in such a great way…she was investing in me. again. she knew. and she was reminding me that He knew too.
the other flashback i have had so many times today was from her memorial service. it was like none i’d ever been to. there were hundreds and hundreds of people there, maybe even thousands…and they were not all friends and family. some were complete strangers who had driven from all parts of the state because they had been so touched my her life and her story. the church sanctuary was packed to the brim downstairs, in the balcony and in the hallways. her own brothers led worship. i was amazed by this. they had just spent, what i’m assuming, was the most gut-wrenching weeks of their lives alongside their family as they tried to pray their sister well. and there they were leading all of us in worship. they knew jenny would have it no other way.
and then one of her brother’s asked us all, every last one of us, to get down on our knees. and he prayed something like this…”God, we love you. we don’t understand this at all, and we’re heartbroken, but we love you. we have asked you over and over to keep the enemy away from us these last weeks and especially today. but, God, i am asking you to grant him permission right now. allow him to see us now God. we want him to know that even now, amidst our darkest hour, we will bow down to YOU ALONE God and we will praise you. we want him to know he was not won.”
it was singlehandedly, one of the most powerful things i have ever seen. ever.
that was one year ago today.
i am sure that those closest to jenny have had numerous flashbacks on numerous days. i know without a shadow of a doubt that they have seen a tshirt, or heard a song that has whoosh…taken them back to a time with jenny. i just cannot imagine. how they have made it, i do not know.
actually, i do know.
i do know that He is good.
i do know that He is faithful.
i do know that His ways are perfect.
i do know His Son, Jesus Christ, is the only way to heaven.
how do i know? because He tells me. and He shows me. over and over in my life, i have whoosh….flashed back to His Word. to His promises. to His Truth. and friend…it is the only way we can get through anything.
jenny, i miss you and i am thankful for you. i can only imagine what celebration has awaited you today in heaven. on this day, God celebrates the fact that whoosh….He got you back home. i love you friend. and thank you…for everything.
deut. 32:4 “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”
jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
psalm 33:4 “For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.”
john 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
zeph 3:17 “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”