What 23 Would Be..

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What would 23 be like for you? A wide variety of thoughts and questions have passed through my mind this month as I’ve anticipated your birthday.  Gosh, that seems so crazy to say…23?! I can’t help but imagine what you’d be doing with your life, where you’d be living, what you’d do in your free time, what we’d talk about, how you’d celebrate 23.

If death has taught me anything, it’s that all those things I imagine you’d be doing here are worthless compared to the glory you’re living in.  Every time I get caught up in thinking life would be so much better, so much like it used to be, with you here for holidays, family dinners, and daily life—I remember that’s not the point.  FAR BETTER.  That’s the real truth, the promise of heaven we’re guaranteed will be fulfilled one day. To stand face to face in awe of the one who created the universe will be far better than ANY earthly thing—and how could I wish you back from that.  Your death was not an end date, but thankfully a resurrection date.  The grave has lost it’s power over us.  You’ve achieved the ultimate upgrade—and I can’t be mad about that–well, maybe only because you beat me to it.

What God has done through your life and death, has radically transformed mine in a way I can’t even quite explain.  Although it’s come with many days of struggles and challenges, it has truly made me desire heaven and a deeper relationship with Jesus more than anything else in this world.  A small taste of the glory that is to come has given me so much hope; so much reassurance knowing the things of this world are temporary and not to be tangled up in.  There’s so much peace in knowing what I feel like has been stolen from us, will be fully redeemed and restored in the presence of Jesus. While it often feels much too soon to us, I know you reached your home in God’s perfect timing: not one moment too soon or too late.  Gosh, how what I used to fear in death has been shattered.  For I know deep in my bones what you’re experiencing is far greater than the deepest joy I could search for on this side of eternity, and I absolutely can’t wait to be greeted in glory by you someday.

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“Yes, indeed — God is my salvation.  I trust, I won’t be afraid.  God — yes God! — is my strength and song, best of all, my salvation!”    -Isaiah 12:2

As I process what we’ve all walked through after losing you, I’m realizing just how deep a love and passion for the Lord I’ve come to experience.  One like I never imagined I’d need to or want to, Drew.  But, wow—what joy and inexplainable peace I was missing out on before.  It’s given me such a confidence and trust in the Lord; something I just want the world to experience.  How shallow and empty this life would feel without Jesus! I’m learning the Lord works in funny ways sometimes, but even so, I’m grateful.  For even in the midst of overwhelming sadness that pierces deep into my core, I’ve come to understand an eternity with Jesus, is worth facing every ounce of it.  For if one single person came to know Jesus, or understand more about Him through your life and death, then all of this had absolute meaning and purpose.  So we journey on forward, with such a living hope.

It often takes my breath away feeling like I’m forgetting the sound of your voice, specific memories we shared, or simply your presence, but I’m gently reminded–the hurt is temporary and the Healer is everlasting, breathing new life into mine.   I’m certain, even if I can’t ever find it, there’s so much Godly purpose and glory in the pain. I know I’ve seen only a small glimpse of how many lives have been touched by how you lived yours—carefree and full of joy.  So, on those bad days, I cling to the hope I have anchoring my soul to the place I can’t wait to be. For death truly has no sting—to be fully present with my King apart from my flesh, simply can’t come soon enough.

I think I speak for Mom and Dad, Jenny and Sam when I say certainly, we miss hearing your laugh, falling prey to your pranks, being annoyed by your ever-constant whistling, and watching you chase your dreams.  The loss is definitely ours, but what you and heaven have gained–I can only begin to fathom.  So, while I sit here teary-eyed in momentary sadness wondering what 23 would be for you–I’m more grateful and thankful for the 20 I was able to witness by your side, and truly rejoice in Jesus’ love and the promise of heaven.  For I stand confident knowing one day soon we’ll be reunited face to face in the presence of our Savior—and that alone gives me JOY.

I love you so much,

Natalie

2 Corinthians 4:18 MSG

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.