It’s funny how fast life goes. Isn’t it? I mean first you’re five years old sitting in a cul-de-sac watching the older kids ride their bikes dreaming of the time you can do the same. You blink then you’re in 1st grade, then 5th grade, then middle school, and before you know it, you’re graduating. And then somewhere between then and now you find your person. And you start a family. You blink and they’re now starting families of their own. Your life now filled with people, projects, and those darned memories that pop up once in a while and remind us of who we used to be.
I had such a memory recently. Let me say at the outset it’s not my favorite memory. In fact, it is one of my least favorite. And yet here it is, popping up all the same, over and over again. I felt the nudge to write about it and here we are.
Though I warn you ahead of time, if you choose to read on, the ending is weak.
This story took place within the first few days to the first week after my husband passed away from cancer at only 49 years old.
When I had recited “till death do us part” almost 19 years previous, I had no idea that was actually going to happen so soon.
At the time of this story, my best friend, Allan went into the hospital and was gone within four days.
I was 41 with four kids at home and was in complete and utter shock. I mean this couldn’t happen to me, could it?
The shock and grief were so great it was all I could do that first week to just try to keep breathing, and make sure my children did as well.
My family has always been everything to me. Allan and I had our first child together when I was 21. We married when she was one and a half. And later had three more children.
For most of the marriage he worked, and I stayed home with the kids, though that changed off and on a little bit over the years. He was a blue-collar worker and money was always tight. As one child put it “we never had money to go to on fancy vacations [to that I would add really any vacations] but I always knew you’d love me and that was enough.” Not only were vacations scarce, but so were many extras. That’s why when I made chocolate chip cookies my kids absolutely loved them.
So did Allan. For every time I made the kids some, I secretly made him an extra batch (with walnuts) and he would hide them so that he would have some to take to work.
I never really knew where he’d put them, never thought about asking. I was just happy that I could make him a treat, he worked so very hard.
That might have been why it hit me so hard.
Like I said it was the first week maybe within the first few days after he died. I remember my daughter and her friend were in my room and I was asked by my youngest son if he could see the kittens who were sequestered in my walk-in closet (the closet door open with a baby gate). The kittens were about to be given away, so I relented. He was young, so I wanted to keep an eye on him with the kittens.
I remember going into the closet and just sitting on the floor with my back against the wall, watching him play.
I don’t know what made me do it, but something made me look up. I saw the corner of a plastic bag and I immediately knew what it was.
I stood up I grabbed the bag where he had hidden it behind some clothes. I’m not sure how long it had been there. and I’m not sure what it was about seeing this batch of cookies, but what I do remember is the scream that emanated so from so deep within me, that when it escaped it must it rattled windows within a 10-mile radius.
My daughter and her friend were there in a flash, sitting with me and reassuring me as I continued to scream (btw I am not a screamer usually, so you can imagine everyone’s surprise), helping me out of the closet, and into bed after gently taking the cookies from my hand.
That’s it that’s the memory.
I cannot tell you what preceded that memory nor what came after. Just the loss, the closet, the scream, and the help.
To be honest for the last week I have felt a nudge, repeatedly, to write about this memory. But I have not wanted to go back.
It has been 14 years and though I never dated again, and I have healed emotionally and moved on, thinking about it put me back there.
I started out this blog post by saying the ending was weak. That is because I have had no idea why I reacted in the closet like I did.
Why scream over cookies?
Then I realized it was not about cookies at all.
It was about what they represented.
In a house as poor as ours, the cookies were the one thing that I could do special for him. And he would eat them slowly over the next week or so, knowing that he was loved.
The love that I placed into the bag of cookies, made just for him, now had no outlet.
And never would again.
On this side of Heaven.
So, are you like I was?
Are you holding a metaphorical bag of cookies, that now has no home?
Are you screaming, crying, or silently numb, unsure of what to do next?
Has your love lost its receptor?
Without trying to give trite answers, I will say that I understand, completely, and deeply. And my heart aches for the pain you are in.
I am praying that you have friends and family around you, as I did.
I am grateful beyond words for all who walked with my family.
You know who you are. Thank you for all you did.
But I would be more than remiss if I did not thank God for taking me each step of the way through the craziness that surrounded me in the beginning and all the days since.
If you have read this far there is a reason.
God has put on my heart to let you know my story so that you will know that you are not alone, he sees you in your pain of loss, whether that is of a child, partner, or dream.
You are loved!
I pray that you feel that love wash over you as you read these words.
You might not believe in God,
I get it I used to be the same way.
But I have seen Gods hand in my life repeatedly,
and felt his love way too many times to deny him.
I pray that you give him a shot to show you who he is.
Allan didn’t believe in God for most of our marriage.
This changed the last year of his life.
I know that he is in heaven now.
And that I will see him again one day.
And when I do see him again , I sure do hope that some way, somehow, I will be holding a bag of chocolate chip walnut cookies.
When my daughter was five, she was in a group at church called “Kids on a Mission.”
It was a wonderful program for elementary aged children that taught them the value of serving others. They met on Wednesday night and, along with the leaders, spent the year learning about Christian heroes of the faith, (among other things, like playing games, dancing, and doing acts of service in the community once a month).
I joined as a leader and was (like other leaders) given the task of teaching about George Mueller. At that time, I had never heard of him and started doing research. Afterwards I was amazed that he was not more widely known.
The man was amazing. If the Bible has been written in his lifetime, he surely would surely made it into the Hebrews Hall of Fame. He was a titan of faith. And in the remaining minutes I will explain why.
George Mueller was born Kroppenstadt, Prussia (now Germany) in 1804. His father, a tax-collector, wanted George to become a Lutheran Minister so that he could make a lot of money to take care of him in his old age. George did what his father wanted but spent his childhood and teenage years stealing money (sometimes from him father) and getting into lots of mischief. At 14, when he was out playing cards, his mom died. The older he got the worse he got. He spent years cheating people out of money (he even went to jail for it). And even though he was training to be a minister, and was even confirmed, he had no relationship with God. He was lost.
All that changed when he was 20 and his friend took him to a to a Christian home meeting. He give his life to Christ at the meeting and never went back to his old cheating ways.
Fast forward many years later, past the time he lived in an orphanage for a few months while tutoring American ministry students, past the time when he moved to London, got married, and past May 25, 1832 when he and his wife moved to Bristol and founded “The Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad.”
Go all the way to December 9, 1835. The day where he held a meeting when he presented the idea he had been thinking about since his days as a divinity student. To open an orphanage for the street orphans and those children whose parents were in debtor’s prison.
Interestingly his main reason for opening it was not really for the children. This is because, as he said, “My heart’s desire was certainly to be used by God to benefit the bodies of poor children, bereaved of both parents, and seek in other respects, with the help of God, to do them good for this life…. but still the first and primary object of this work was, and still is, that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith, without anyone being asked by me or my fellow laborers whereby may be seen, that God is faithful still.”
His plan worked because on April 11, 1836 he opened the first orphanage with 26 kids and the entire time the orphanage was open, he paid for everything with money he received not by asking for it but only through asking God through prayer. Everything (including volunteers) came through prayer. And he recorded every single prayer in a journal along with its answer…to build of the faith of Christians far and wide.
Here is one example of how God provided for every need through prayer.
One morning the plates and cups and bowls on the table were
empty. There was no food in the larder, and no money to buy
food. The children were standing waiting for their morning
meal, when Mueller said, “Children, you know we must be in
time for school.” Lifting his hand he said, “Dear Father,
we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat.”
There was a knock on the door. The baker stood there, and
said, “Mr. Mueller, I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow, I
felt you didn’t have bread for breakfast and the Lord wanted
me to send you some. So I got up at 2 a.m. and baked some
fresh bread and have brought it.” Mueller thanked the man.
No sooner had this transpired when there was a second knock
at the door. It was the milkman. He announced that his
milk cart had broken down right in front of the Orphanage,
and he would like to give the children his cans of fresh
milk so he could empty his wagon and repair it.
By the end of his life (at 92) George Mueller helped a total of 10,023 orphans He also said that he received around 50,000 specific answers to prayer.
George Mueller is a great example that we can always be confident when we pray that God hears us and gives us everything we need when we need it.
“And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.” (Matthew 15:21–28, ESV)
If I am honest for years I struggled with this passage. This is most likely due to the fact that I (like most of us) have felt the sting of rejection at times, and as a result I focused more on the words Jesus said to her than her response to them. But now this is one of my favorite passages . There is a lot to glean from it. Including the fact that:
- Jesus came to her – The passage says “Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out” So Jesus, who was fully God (as well as fully man), and therefore would be all knowing, came to a place where she was. She was no surprise to him.
- Jesus said that her Faith was great – Even though Matthew uses the “great” word twenty times in his book, this is the only time that he links it with the word “faith.” Also it “is interesting that Jesus does not commend the woman’s persistence or her humility.”1 Those are things that are about her character. Jesus only complemented two people on their faith. She was one and the Roman centurion, (Matthew 8:10) was the other. So what does great faith look like? Well:2
*Great Faith Looks Like Self-forgetfulness – She sought Jesus at all cost, regardless of how she looked to others.
And Jesus only complemented two people on their faith. She was one and the Roman centurion, (Matthew 8:10) was the other. There are several reason he could have done so, such as:2
*Great Faith Focuses on a Higher Power – She knew that Jesus could do for her daughter what she had to power to.
*Great Faith Does Not Quit When Obstacles Interfere – Jesus tested her faith by giving her reasons to give up. But she persisted. Phillips Brooks said “Do not pray for easy lives. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” Never quit!
*Great Faith Wins – If you are doing what God has called you do do, you will accomplish it in his timing.
3. Jesus answered her Prayer – Jesus gave her the desire of her heart through her faith in him.
So now looking at this passage I see that she was a woman who pursued God with all her heart, and although she did struggle, she was heard, and her prayer was answered.
Not every prayer may be answered in the way that we desire, but every prayer of ours will be answered. We will not be turned away.
All verses from: The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 15:21–22.
- Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 405–406
2. Outline taken from LeRoy Lawson, Matthew: Unlocking the Scriptures for You, Standard Bible Studies (Cincinnati, OH: Standard, 1986), 196.