Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Things Eternal

"Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away."
Mark 13:31
(KJV)



Today, I stood, watching our dear, old car be driven away by a perfect stranger.
It felt like saying good-bye to a precious, old friend.
We've owned that car for nearly 12 years.
We've put over 200,000 miles on it during that time,
taken many a trip,
and spent many an hour in the confines of its interior.
Zach was a tiny baby when we first got it...still in a car seat.
He graduated from his car seat in that car.
It felt like a member of the family...
like a permanent fixture.
Somehow, I thought it would always be parked in our driveway,
where it was so accustomed to being parked.

The new owner and I had been talking a few minutes before.
"These older cars hold up a lot better than the newer ones do", he said.

He's right.
I think that car is still good for another 50,000, maybe even 100,000 more miles.
Seriously.
The motor is in great condition.
It just needs some minor repairs & cosmetic work.

Zach and I stood on the front porch and watched him drive away, out of sight, down the road.
Of course, I cried.
Another chapter closed.

Knowing they were coming to pick it up today,
I went out last night and finished vacuuming the inside.
Then I stood by the passenger side looking in at the spot where Mom used to sit
while traveling so many, many miles with me as I followed God's lead.
She spent many an hour sitting there beside me.
Supportive, sharing words of wisdom and encouragement,
and most of all....praying.
Not only for me, but for something else.
I can still see her place her little, frail hand on the dashboard as she
prayed over that car.
She would ask God to bless it, to keep it running, to protect it...and us.
He did....all those years....all those miles.
We never had a wreck in that car.
God always saw us through...even during the times we sat, broken down,
by the side of the road.


I felt compelled to open the door last night and sit down in her seat...one more time.
At the risk of sounding like I've completely lost it, I'll make a confession.
I talked to Mom....just like she was sitting right there.
Memories flooded over me....
all the times she rode along with me just to sit in the car to watch Zach and keep him safe 
while I visited and prayed for the sick,
picked up and delivered bread and clothing donations for the needy,
and did countless other tasks.

I just sat there....
reliving those moments....and talking to Mom.
I felt like I needed to explain to her why we were letting go of our dear, old, mutual friend.
Call me crazy....it is just something I had to do.

Zach used to get so frustrated when that old car would break down.
He'd call it a piece of junk or tell me how we just needed to take it to the salvage yard!
As I sat there, I could still hear Mom's voice answering his little outbursts,
"Oh, Zachy, don't talk about this poor, old car like that!
It's been faithful and taken us many a mile."

When the buyer came back today to take it away,
I told him about how Mom used to pray over that car
and how I believe that is why it is still on the road.
I told him I hoped God blesses it and keeps answering Mom's prayers
and keeps it going for a long time...not for us any longer, but for him.

I could tell he will take great care of it...just like we did.
Come to find out, he is going to use it to take his Mom places,
since his Dad passed away last year, and she doesn't drive.
I don't know why, but somehow that made it easier for me to let it go
and turn it over to him.

I will miss our old car.
If you saw it, you would wonder why.
You would tell me it was time to let it go.
The A/C doesn't work,
the hood latch comes undone and starts flapping, at will and unexpectedly,
the headliner is not only falling, it is literally disintegrating,
the CD player makes weird noises, even when it isn't turned on....
just to name a few of its discrepancies. :)
If you saw it, you'd wonder what the fuss is all about,
you would think it looks a bit shabby....and dated for sure.
I didn't really mind how it looked...
it was a faithful, loyal servant to us for many a long year...
and it hurt to let it go.

I get so sentimental about things.
I definitely have an undiagnosed change disorder!  :)
I wish I didn't.
It is just my nature, and I don't see my aversion to change....changing anytime soon.  

Even as well-made as that old car is,
there will come a day in the not-so-distant future
when it will pass off the scene....
probably be sold for parts
or end up where Zach wanted to take it so many times...
piled on the scrap heap, amid the other has-beens.
It won't last forever.


Things in this life are fleeting...passing.
Even us.
Mom used to tell me, "Cheryl, none of us came here to stay always."

Somehow, it was hard to think of that rule applying to her.
Mom was the strongest woman I ever knew.
She was resilient.
She bounced back from a multitude of tragedies, wounds, and devastatingly painful life events, 
including losing her first love to circumstances beyond her control,
her first husband being killed instantly, leaving her a widowed mother of 4,
saying good-bye to both of her parents and five of her siblings,
losing Dad after nearly 35 years of marriage,
multiple surgeries and life-threatening health issues,
and numerous other sad and hard-to-get-through obstacles of life.

Like our old car, it was hard to even imagine ever saying good-bye to Mom.
I just couldn't picture her not bouncing back from whatever came her way.
But, even she had to leave us.
I will never get over losing her.
I miss her every, single day....
I know I always will.


My sister, Debbie, and I stood...
one on one side, and one on the other,
by the dying bedside of Dad over 13 years ago.
We found ourselves in the same exact position, in different hospital ICU rooms,
nearly 12 years later, last April....
this time waiting for Mom to cross over.

We looked at each other and commented on how it brought back such painful memories...
reliving those moments together....a second time....
losing our last and only earthly parent.
Walking through such pain together strengthens a bond like nothing else in the world.
Standing there together, saying good-bye to the one whose womb both of you inhabited,
watching her breathe those last, labored breaths,
draws you closer in more ways than you can imagine.

One of the things we repeated while standing next to Mom's deathbed last year
was to sing the same, exact songs we sang to Dad all those years ago.
The songs we picked were two that have sustained me through some of life's darkest hours.
Their words are deeply inspired and seem to grow more true and real to me as life passes
and I experience their value in new and unfamiliar ways.
"Hold To God's Unchanging Hand" was written by Jennie Wilson,
and I am uncertain as to who wrote the second song, "God Is True".
I wish I knew the details on the two people who wrote these songs.
What were they experiencing as their pen met paper?
How were they proving God to be true...at that moment?

One thing is for certain....
the most deeply-inspired writing comes, many times,
from heart-wrenching, anguished circumstances.
How can one write about holding to God's unchanging hand so believably
and with such credibility, without the author having learned, in the most difficult of ways,
the priceless value of clinging tight?

I don't know how they found God to be true.
I have no idea what kind of fire they may have been walking through
in order to be able to prove His faithfulness....and write the words to those two songs.

I only know these songs will forever be two of my favorites, 
and I will never sing or hear either of them without thinking of Mom and Dad,
and seeing a mental image of Debbie and me standing there....
tears streaming....voices shaking...lips quivering....doing our best to reassure our dying parents
that God is true and encouraging them to hold to His unchanging hand....
right up to the end.

Precious memories made with my sweet, beyond-dear family...

including our dear, old car (in the background).  :~)
(From L to R:  Kevin, Zach, Mom, Debbie, Mark, LD,
Amber in front of Debbie, Austin in front of LD)

Little snippets of both songs come to my mind often, 
especially when I am in the valley of trial.

I found myself there again tonight,
and once again, I felt the deep comfort of their words.

"Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God's unchanging hand.

Hold to God's unchanging hand,
Hold to God's unchanging hand,
Build your hopes on things eternal, 
Hold to God's unchanging hand.

Trust in Him Who will not leave you,
Whatsoever years may bring,
If by earthly friends forsaken,
Still more closely to Him cling."

and


"There is no need to tell me that God will prove untrue,
For I have tried him, brother, and I know what He will do....
For God is true,
His Word to you,
Will be an anchor to your soul,
Will hold when waves of trouble roll,
For God is true,
For God is true."

We just can't afford to build our hopes on things...or even people...in this life.
We can't expect anything in this life to last or stay the same forever.
As the song says, "Time is filled with swift transition."

The only safe place for us to place our trusting hands
 is in the hand of the One Who created us....our eternal, Almighty God.
Because God is true....always....forever....eternally.

"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms..."
Deuteronomy 33:27

In I Corinthians 15: 19, the Apostle Paul said,
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."

Aren't you glad it is not just in this life that we have hope in Christ?
That the hope we have in Christ is an eternal hope....
a hope that goes beyond the veil....beyond that last breath of earthly life....
that lingers throughout the entire duration of eternity, which will never end?

Our hope in Christ is unending because when this life is over, we simply change worlds.
We cross over.....into a realm unknown to us...
but already eternally inhabited by Him....in Whom we trust....and hope.

To quote another dear, old, favorite song written by Edward Mote,
"My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But, wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the Solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand."

We live in a swiftly-changing world., my friend.
On this, we could all agree.
"Naught of earth unmoved can stand."
What are we investing in?
Things temporal?
Things fleeting?
Things of this life?

Are we placing our every hope in things on this earth?
Have we forgotten that it will all one day burn and pass away?
That one day, we will pass away?
That there is more...than this?

I read an article about Alexander the Great the other day that really struck a chord, 
and I wanted to share.
Although I found this on several sites on the internet, I was not able to verify its validity. 
However, I am inserting it here, as it is very wise...regardless of where it originated.

"On his deathbed Alexander the Great summoned his generals 
and told them his three ultimate wishes.

1. The best doctors should carry his coffin
2. The wealth he had accumulated (money, gold, precious stones)
     should be scattered along the way to his burial
3. His hands should be left hanging outside the coffin for all to see.

    Surprised by these unusual requests, one of his generals asked
    Alexander to explain.

Here is what he said :
1. I want the best doctors to carry my coffin to demonstrate that in
    the face of death, even the best doctors in the world have no power to heal.
2. I want the road to be covered with my treasure so that
    everybody sees that the wealth acquired on earth, stays on earth.
3. I want my hands to swing in the wind so that people understand
    that we come to this world empty handed and we leave empty handed,
after the most precious treasure of all is exhausted - Time.

We put so much emphasis on the here and now.
Our careers, building wealth, our physical appearance,
accumulating worldly goods, keeping up with the Joneses and everyone else along the way,
knowing full well it is all fleetingly temporary.
None of it will last.
Every career, however flourishing it be, one day comes to a close, and we must retire or move on, 
wealth is spent or left for heirs,
beauty fades, regardless of how hard we try to retain it,
worldly goods are vulnerable to fire, flood, and theft, and they finally just wear out,
and competitive nature gives way to tired, old age.

Everything on earth that is within the realm of time....has an expiration date...even us.
There will be a moment when there will be no more....
at least not on this side.
Where will that moment find our hope placed?
Upon what will we have built our hopes?
We are now making that choice.
We are now preparing for that final moment.
What will it be?
Things that will inevitably pass away....
or things eternal?


4 comments:

  1. I am sitting with tears in my eyes thinking how I had to say good bye to my Mother nearly 5 years ago. My 92 year old Dad is living with us now and someday in the not to distant future he will join Mum. This was a lovely read.
    Blessings Gail

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    Replies
    1. Bless your dear heart, Gail! I am so sorry. Losing our parents is truly one of life's greatest sorrows. How thankful I am for every moment with both of mine, and I trust God will allow your remaining precious moments with your dear Dad to be of the finest and best quality. What a reunion it will be when we gather home to see them again! May the dear Lord bless you in a special way and give you what you need in these difficult times. Thank you for your kind comments. Love, Cheryl

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  2. What a great devotion.
    Your momma was right. If you all lived like we are not staying here forever ~ life would be so much sweeter.
    This world is not my home ~ I am just traveling through.
    Have a blessed day my new friend.

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  3. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving encouragement behind! Yes, praise the dear Lord, we have a life awaiting us over there...our forever home! I am so happy to have "met" you. God bless you, too, my new friend! Love, Cheryl

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