Amazing Grace… how sweet the sound

This is a speech that I wrote after being asked to speak at a church in Cleveland, TN.  It was written shortly after Jim died, within a month or so, and was integral in my healing from this shock… God is faithful… and He is worthy.  I wanted to share this, as there may be another new widow out there who needs to know that God will not forsake them… no matter what

Hello.  Thank you for having me with you today.  My name is Gina Minton Kearns, and I am, among other things, a Christian, a photographer, writer and greeting card designer.  I live in a very small town in Southwest Virginia, on my parent’s farm.  The fields stretch out in front of the house, all the way to the road, nearly a half a mile.  The mountains loom behind it and rolling hills bypass it on either side.  It is a peaceful place.  I love it there.  I’ve loved it there since the first time I ever sat foot on it, before my Dad decided to buy it and move there.  He later, after my Jim and me were married, invited us to move by him on his land.  We went and that’s where we spent the last few years.  Jim and I would have celebrated our tenth anniversary this year.    He was called home two weeks and two days before our anniversary.  It was an awesome shock and completely unexpected.  I really can‘t think of a time in my life when the shock has literally brought me to my knees.  Coming home, expecting to find him doing something around the house, and find him dead over his coffee instead.  I remember thinking, all in a matter of seconds, “well, he’s fallen asleep at his table” and before that thought was complete “he wouldn’t do that”.  And that was true.  He wasn’t asleep.  He was dead.  Had been dead for the several hours I had been trying to reach him.    I can’t say that I was really worried about him when I couldn‘t reach him.  I assumed that he had gone somewhere and forgotten his phone, or as a worse case scenario, he had fallen or become disabled somehow while tending his peppers.  It never occurred to me that he could be dead.  It never once, not even when I was thinking of all the things that could have happened to him, not once, crossed my mind.

I went through, then, what you’d expect:  weeping, wailing, oh-noing, questioning, screaming, crying.  All of it.  Then the funeral home came and took him away.  He was buried in the little cemetery of our beloved church, in a beautiful place that watches the sunset through one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen.  It’s like it was sewn there, by the birds or the wind, for Jim.  God knows all things.  

I love trees.  I love the sound they make in the summer, when they are full of leaves and the wind blows them.  I love the sound of them in the Autumn, when the leaves are drying and rustling in the wind – then blowing into the air to  make a colorful rainfall of leaves and falling to a carpet that smells earthy and wonderful… and the lonesome whistling as it weaves through the bare branches of wintertime.  Our lives are very similar to that of a tree through one full cycle of seasons.  We start out new and bursting with life.  Growing strong in the sunlight and the rain and all the other blessings of God… and then a season passes and we are mature, having children, bearing fruit for the next generations.  Thriving on health and fullness of life, dancing wildly in the winds and the rains after toiling in the heat of the day… and then another season passes and the children are grown, the seed mature, and gone to their own lives.  Our strength begins to falter and the winds are much harder to withstand.  By the time another season passes, we will be old and waiting for the final call of God when we can give up our suffering and be with him forever.  Bare and naked before the Lord, yet beautiful in a battle-scarred body and our faith… knowing that after another season, there will be rebirth into the place where there will be no death.  God is faithful.

It was hard losing Jim.  He was a precious gift to me from God… a gift that helped to nurture my spirit and soul as we worshipped the Jesus we loved together.  My heart was heavy, too heavy for me to bear alone, so God sent a blessing to me far beyond my wildest imaginings.   I’d like to share my story with you for it is beautiful to me how God works.  He has no care for time, for He is time… all time.  Anyway, I had cleaned out Jim’s closet as I wanted someone to get some use out of his clothes.  They are too good to waste, taking space, that if allowed, would become shrine-like and sacred.  Nothing short of what is God’s should be considered sacred.  Some of them hadn’t been worn in a long time and they smelled stale, so I washed them.  It was on the way to the clothesline with the washed clothes that God spoke to me.  We often think that we can only hear from God if we are in church or during prayer.  But God is with us always, including when we are not in church and not praying.  He is with us when we are hurting and sorrowful.  When we are guilt-ridden and burdened by the trials of this life.   So on the back porch with a basket full of wet clothes, God reached out to me.  There a blooming flower caught my eye.  A beautiful, perfectly blooming, orange calendula.  All the other flowers in the surrounding pots were dead.  The frost had killed them and they had turned brown and stood in the pots like dead trees that had never fallen.  It was then that I noticed that although the bloom had caught my eye, I could only see a tiny corner of the orange bloom, and I realized at that moment, that was how I felt.  Hidden and lost behind a forest of pain and sorrow… grief and guilt… tears and tears and tears and tears… slumping from the heaviness of the burden I had been given to bear.  I moved forward a bit and could see a bit more of the bloom.  The dead zinnia stalks with their dead seedpods were still the most prominent thing in my sight, yet there was more of the bloom than there was before.  And it was here that my journey started.
 God spoke to me through sights and feelings.  I used my camera and could feel the urging of Holy Spirit as I snapped off the photographs that were coinciding with the moments of my life I was being shown.  All the while, with each new vantage point, the days of my future were running through my head and my heart.  Not the actual day, but the essence of it with the weight of the burden I was dragging.  It was in real time.  I knew what I would feel.  I felt what I would feel.  I felt weightless and free as I lived in the moments that God was showing me. There are many trials that we face in life that drag us to our bellies, with our face in the dirt.  Obstacles that seem unsurpassable and burdens that feel unbearable.  And they are unsurpassable and unbearable if we try to get through them ourselves.  But when we turn to God to lift us up and hold us until we are able to stand, the path becomes clear and the burden lighter.  God showed this to me on that day, on the back porch, with the laundry basket at my feet.   

It never occurred to me that I would have to bear two deaths when Jim passed away.  The physical death paled in comparison to the second death.  Though both were painful, it was second, enduring death that left me shattered, broken and lost as I struggled to grasp the magnitude of enduring the reality of losing that part of him that merged with my spirit and made me feel part of the whole.  It is the knowledge that your spirit, though not broken, is severely bent and seemingly irrevocably sorrowed.  It is now that there is only the slightest glimmer of who you are behind all the pain, sorrow and weeping agony that plagues us through silent, lonely nights and empty mornings…  But after a season, although we will still be hidden behind the shadow of their missing spirit, there will be more of us.  Day by day, week by week, a battle fought hard and bitter, though at times so beautiful, the Father will continue to hold us up until our strength returns.  
After another season, those things which made us unique will begin to show.  The loss will still be there at the center of our heart but our spirit will slowly be spreading its wings… then at some point, there will be more of our spirit shining through and less of the pain and sorrow that ravaged it.  Although the pain and sorrow will still be there, we will be able to face it, each time, a little better than the last – for as long as we travel in this world, the sorrows and anguish will come unexpectedly… but by then, we will have become stronger than we’ve ever been.  God will have refined our faith in Him and each refining gives us strength and faith beyond what we had before.  God doesn’t want our losses and sorrows to break us.  Though we may cry, weep, pray, scream, question, beg, bargain and crash, in the end you need to choose to live your life in peace, following the roads and dreams that have culminated over a lifetime to make you special… that part you lost that completed the whole, just like the parts of others you’ve lost over the years never left – it is simply smothered, for now, underneath the grief and sorrow, but it will re-emerge in you, and through Grace, you will begin to feel whole again.  For after all, to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.  Ecclesiastes 3:1

When we are faced with trials, sorrows, tribulations, temptations and the myriad of other things we will come across as we walk through this life, God doesn’t want us to face them alone.  We are like a candle, whose flame has not been lit.  Once lit, we can either flare out or flare up.  If we flare out, we have noting… but if we flare up, we have hope.  If the trials of life put out our light, we are no good to anyone, especially to God, since with guilt, hurt or betrayal, what more, except those curses, do we have if we have no light.  Instead, we should flare up to God.  Ask him for understanding if it is his will, but don’t give up hope.  For salvation is our hope.  And that is more important than everything else combined.   So as we sorrow or grieve for that which haunts us, we should rejoice as well, for we are children of God and have been saved by the blood of his perfect lamb.  For though this world is just a little while, Salvation is eternal, never ending.  I can’t even imagine never-ending.  I’ve tried.  But in my never-ending, there’s always an ending.  I cannot fathom something without end.  How vast – more than vast- the ocean and earth are vast, but they have ends.  Salvation without end is greater than my mind can bring clear.  Do you really and truly believe all that God has said about seasons, forgiveness, love, everlasting, salvation and eternity?  If so, then flare up for Him so that others can see His light through you.  As God said in Isaiah 1:18-20:  “Come now, let us reason together” says the Lord.  Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.

Call on the Father who loves you more than anything…  Enough to watch His beautiful boy die a horrific death so that you could live with Him in glory.  He only asks for your obedience and acceptance of His son.  As we enter the season of celebration of the Holy Virgin Birth, call out to God to be with you.  He will never, ever leave you.  And He won’t, as we have done to Him so many times, let us down.  

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