I am involved in an Online Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries. We are studying the book Limitless Life by Derwin Gray. The book is helping us put the past behind us, and learn to live a Limitless Life in Jesus.
This week we are reading Chapter 3, From Mess to Masterpiece and Chapter 4, From Orphan to Adopted. I want to focus on how God has transformed my Mess to Masterpiece.
When I started this week I felt so broken, so useless. I was reading Chapter 3 of Limitless Life and seeing how God was changing so many lives from Mess to Masterpiece. I even knew that I had the Ultimate Mess to Masterpiece transformation. As a 6-year-old girl, I was innocent in so many ways, but I was still a sinner. I acknowledged to Jesus that I was a sinner. I had lied, I had bad thoughts about others, and I may have even stolen something. Then I told Him that I knew He died on the cross because of those sins. The ones I committed, and I was so sorry for what I had done. But I was so glad for Him dying on the cross, and I thanked Him. Then I let Jesus know that I wanted him to come and live in my heart forever, and from that day on He would be #1 in my life.
So you may read this and think “How can that be the Ultimate Mess to Masterpiece? You were 6. It was simple enough for a child.” I would respond, “That is the point? Jesus can take the worst criminal hanging next to Him on the cross and change his eternity (Luke 23:40-43) with the same prayer as a 6-year-old says to change her eternity.” Now that’s Mess to Masterpiece!
As I was saying earlier, I have the Ultimate Mess to Masterpiece, but where else has God taken the messes of my life and transformed them? Because on Sunday night, all I could see were messes, mess after mess after mess. It’s kind of like the way my house looks right now. Little stacks and piles and messes everywhere and no end in sight. Certainly NO masterpieces! Do you ever find yourself in this place at home, having little stacks and piles of stuff around your home, and they grow into larger stacks and piles until we go through them? Then once you decide to tackle those piles, I think 2 wonderful things happen. 1. As you go through them, which may not be such a fun thing, because you will find mail you need to attend to, but you will also find wonderful treasures; a card you forgot someone sent you, a picture you laid aside, something you’ve been looking for, or something that just makes you smile. 2. When you are finished going through all those messes, you now have a house that is not quite so messy. It looks refreshed, you feel refreshed, and you probably have a new outlook on some things. Well I believe that is kind of what happened to me in my emotional and spiritual life this week. God helped me see that, yes, I had lots of messy stacks and piles in my life. But as I allowed Him to walk me through some of them, we found nuggets of his truth and love. Then as we finished this walk I did find peace and a definite Masterpiece in the way He has orchestrated some of the toughest times in my life.
I know I am long-winded, but I feel it is not only important to share with you how I went from not seeing the Masterpieces to seeing them, but also to sharing one of the works God has done in my life. So please bare with me as I tell you how God has taken the Mess of loss and transformed it into a Masterpiece.
My life has been filled with loss. It is a truth I can look at objectively and state as fact. I faced many losses through my forty….years of life. The first time I was personally touched by death I believe I was seven years old. My Grandpa (Pop) died. He was my daddy’s dad. I don’t remember a lot about Pop, but I do remember that after his death, there was a definite void left in my life. After I finished 2nd grade my family moved to a different house, in a different part of town. This also meant going to a new school in 3rd grade. So this time I experienced loss in a different way. When we moved, there were many friends I had gone to Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade with, that I didn’t know if I would ever see again. For a child of 8 or so, that can be very hard. About a year later, my dad’s job decided to transfer him from Oklahoma City to Lawton, OK. So in 4th grade I would again go to a new school. The biggest loss this time though was leaving all of my church friends. From the time I was a baby or toddler, until we moved to Lawton, I had gone to the same church. And we were there every time the doors were open. So were my friends and their parents! So my friends at church, they were my best friends. Many I am still close to today. In fact one of the boys was Cecil Pettijohn. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he is my husband! In July we will celebrate 29 year of marriage!!! Ok, time to put the bunny away Haha ya know, chasing rabbits. So moving away from my friends at church left a BIG hole. Well, we spent the next 1 ½ years in Lawton. Then the company transferred my dad back to Oklahoma City. Yay! I remember my mom and dad, as they were searching for a place to live. They were praying that God would put us back in the school district where both my sister and I had started school. Praise God, He did! In fact we moved into a townhouse right across the street from that very school. So as a 5th grader I returned to Windsor Hills Elementary in Oklahoma City. From that point forward we never moved again and I stay with the same group of kids until graduation. On top of that, Mom and Dad felt like God wanted us back in the same church. We stayed there for about a year or so. When we felt that God wanted us to go to a small church that was just starting in Edmond, OK. We had been there awhile and the church was growing. People from Edmond were coming to the church, and our youth group was getting bigger. Well there was a guy in our youth group named Ken. Ken was a Senior, and I was in 8th grade. I had a huge crush on him, but he had a girlfriend. One night Ken and his friend were coming home from seeing Ken’s girlfriend and they had a 1-car accident. Ken was killed and his friend, who was driving, suffered a broken leg and some other fairly minor injuries. That was one of the hardest deaths I have dealt with. One thing that helped was spending time with my friends from church, who were feeling the same loss I was.
Before I go on, I want to tell you about 2 very special people who are part of my loss story. These 2 are my cousins, Stacy and Stephanie. My uncle Benny (mom’s brother) and aunt Ginny had 3 children Stacy, Jerry and Stephanie. Stacy and Stephanie were born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic, life threatening disease that primarily affects the lungs and the digestive system. My sister Becky and I were always close to Stacy, Jerry and Stephanie. We enjoyed time with them. Due to the disease the girls would have to take frequent breathing treatments or they would cough a lot. When they coughed it sounded like someone with bronchitis or even pneumonia. They would get choked and it could be very scary. Well in 1984 the year Stephanie and I graduated from High School. Stacy had been having a really rough time. She had been in the hospital several times with pneumonia. CF patients are very susceptible to that. The end of June she lost her battle. We were so grateful she was with us for 22 years. At that time 22 years was a long time. Stephanie was able to find an awesome doctor and she was given new treatments and medications. A few years after graduation, Stephanie got married to a wonderful Christian man. We still keep in touch with him. In 2001 Stephanie was 35 when her body could no longer fight this awful disease. Stacy and Stephanie hold a very special place in my heart. Stacy’s best friend named her first daughter after Stacy. When I had a daughter I named her Stephanie. One of the blessings of my cousin living as long as she did was that my daughter got to meet her namesake and spend some time with her.
From November of my Senior year in High School through January of my Freshman year in college we had 3 deaths in my family. They were all on my mom’s side. In November of 1983 my mom’s mom died, then June of 1984 my cousin, and in January of 1985 my mom’s dad. It was a tough time.
As the years went on Cecil had to watch his dear grandpa as he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was so hard to deal with. He passed away in the mid 90s. A few years later Cecil’s grandma followed. Along that same time his Grandmother Pettijohn died. Then Alzheimer’s hit my family when my dad’s mom began to deal with it. And somewhere around 2000 she passed away.
We had no idea we were about to enter one of the hardest times of our lives when we entered the new millennium, but that we did. In June of 2000 my sister’s husband was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). ALL is the most common type of cancer in children and there is a good chance that treatments will lead to a cure, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. However, the chance for a cure is reduced greatly when ALL occurs in an adult. I won’t go in to all of the details of the ten months from the time my brother-in-law was diagnosed in June until he passed away April 2001. I will say that it was a difficult time, but it was a joyous time because I don’t think Brian was a stronger witness for Christ than while he was sick. As I have stated earlier my cousin Stephanie also died in 2001.
All of the losses I have written about so far have affected me, some of them deeply. This next and last one has hit me harder than any other. November 15, 2008, two days before my daddy’s 64th birthday, my husband and I were browsing a craft fair. I found a blanket with 3 Labs on it, Chocolate, Black and Blonde. My Parents have a beautiful blonde (really he’s white) Lab. I new my dad would love the blanket. Due to the lack of a thyroid because it was removed when they found cancer, my dad was always cold. Later that day my mom let me know that dad was at the hospital because he hadn’t been well for several days. They were concerned about his heart and would be doing an echocardiogram the next morning. So I decided I needed to go see my daddy. The next morning I drove from the Dallas area to Oklahoma City. When I arrived mom told me that they discovered that dad’s heart was only working at 10%, so they were going to move him to ICU, get him started on meds, and he would be fine. As they moved him to ICU mom and I waited in the hall. All of a sudden a nurse comes out and tells us that when they were moving him from one bed to the other his heart stopped. They worked on him awhile, but God had already called him home. My heart still aches when I think of that day. I will never stop missing my daddy!!! But I KNOW that he is not only so much better off than he was when he was here, but he’s better off than I AM!!!
We have gone through all of those stacks and piles of loss that have been cluttering up my life. What did we find? I saw memories, people I love, some heartache, and history. Those are some pretty great things I’d call those little masterpieces. But as I look back over my life what can I take away from all of this loss? I’ll tell what I can take away, sympathy, understanding, love, comfort, tears, empathy and hugs. Those are things that I needed from friends each time I had a loss. I may not have wanted these losses, but God has given me a tender heart and a special understanding for those who are grieving that I would never have if I hadn’t been through the losses I have. Not just the amount of losses but the variety of losses. God is so good. He never takes you through something without a purpose.
I know this was long, but I pray God was able to speak to someone.
Living in Grace,