Monday, November 8, 2010
Last Christmas was...well, it was different for the Sullivans. If you recall from some of my previous blogs, last year I made a promise to God that I would stop manipulating where my family was concerned. I wouldn't brush over awkward moments, sad moments, mad moments, hard moments. I wouldn't do a song and dance any longer to try and make everybody happy all the time. I mean, for heaven's sake, Marti. Somebody is gone. Somebody important. There is gonna be some screaming and crying and awkward moments every now and again. It is what it is. It was time for me to get over it and let the family become what we are going to become. Not continually lament that we weren't what we used to be and try to make us some version of that...
So. Jesus and I talked about this last summer. He opened my eyes to that sin, and I told Him I would do better. It went well for some time. But, as the holidays rolled around, I found myself wanting to do some orchestrating. Making sure everyone was where I felt they needed to be when I felt they needed to be there...
What can I say? I'm an addict. A manipulation addict. We aren't cured overnight.
I caught myself in the midst of it, though, and promised the Lord I would be happy in whatever circumstances He placed me and my family in that holiday season.
Famous last words.
Thanksgiving went awesome. I honestly began to see that my doing what I thought was "best" for my family all that time had actually been hurting them. When I stopped attempting the song and dance, stopped trying to make everyone happy all the time and fix everything I thought needed fixing, things did indeed become more peaceful. And I could see God work....as I got up out of His way! Turns out, I was the big problem all along...sigh...
Since Thanksgiving went so well, I was really excited about Christmas.
The weather report for the mountains was a bit grim for Christmas weekend, and my dad had to think long and hard about whether we would have Christmas in the mountains or not. But, in the end, he gave us the go ahead after talking to the neighbors and hiring a fellow to clear our very long and very steep driveway before we arrived. So, I took off from Charlotte on the 23rd leading the pack. Mom was not far behind me driving from Charleston, and dad loaded PJ up and left a bit later from Charleston. Alex and Pamela were to join us the following day.
My BFF Sarah Barnes and I had come up with this brilliant idea a week or so earlier that we would switch cars. I needed a 4x4 because of the mountain forecast, and she needed good gas mileage to drive to ATL to see her family, so we traded for a couple of weeks. I took her Explorer and she took my little sedan. Her tires weren't in the best shape, but it was better than rear wheel drive.
Me and Sarah and our "ideas." (insert eye roll)
These were my dad's last words to me as we discussed the condition of the roads in our neighborhood in the mountains: "Be veeeeeery careful, Marti. You only go as far as you feel comfortable. Then stop and wait on your mom. Do you hear me?" (My mom drives a Subaru Outback. That thing will go anywhere.)
My last words to my dad: "Yes, Daddy. I will."
I rolled up to our neighborhood at around 4pm, as I recall. The mountain road up to that point was completely cleared, but there was a good 10-12 inches on the ground as I passed the snow line. As I approached Mountain Meadows, our neighborhood, the steep hill at the entrance was completely covered in snow, and it was packed down.
I decided to go ahead and attempt the hill.
The truck took the hill with ease, and I began the half mile or so ascent up Mountain Meadows to our driveway, Dandelion Lane. My first sign of trouble came as I looked for a place to pull over at the base of our hill up to the house. Snow was piled high on both sides of the road, and the fellow dad had hired to clear Dandelion Lane was blocking the entrance of the driveway. I didn't want to stop on the incline and wait for him to move, afraid I would lose my traction.
I had nowhere to go but up...up, up, up...
I wound up at the tip-top of Mountain Meadows before I was able to find a place to maneuver the truck and turn around. At that moment, here is the situation I find myself in:
1. A steep downward slope before me. (Like I was about to jump off a black diamond run at Vale)
2. A wall of rock to my left.
3. A cliff to my right. Nothing to catch a fall. A cliff in every way the word implies.
As I sat there working up my nerve to begin the descent, and thinking of the best strategy...you guessed it...the truck began to slide. To the right.
The right where the cliff is.
Now, my foot is already on the brake so, clearly, that isn't an option. As much as I pump it and pull up the emergency brake, I continue the slide.
I have to tell you, I can't think of another moment in time that I have been more panicked. And that's really saying something because I was born a drama queen. I really can't think of another time I have been in more immediate danger. Except maybe the Yard Man incident of 2000, but that's a story for another day.
So, I'm no more than 10-15 feet from the edge and still sliding when I remember a Motel 6 radio commercial I had heard years earlier. It stuck with me. PTL. I remember that the Motel 6 guy said, randomly, in one of their commercials, that if you are sliding in a vehicle that you should turn the wheel in the direction of the slide...even though that is against EVERYTHING that your instincts tell you.
I did it. It totally worked.
However, even though out of immediate danger, my options at this point were grim. I couldn't abandon the car, because just the opening of the car door and me and the dogs jumping out would likely re-initiate the slide. In that moment, I did what I needed to do...
I called my dad screaming and crying.
But, devastating as it was, I knew he couldn't help me. He was still hours away. He tried to call the guy on the snow plow on our driveway, but he couldn't hear his phone over the plow. I could hear the plow still hard at work. Dad was beating himself up and apologizing to me, feeling like he had put me in that danger. You can imagine how that feels after losing a child. My parents want desperately for Alex and I to always be safe. As bad as he wanted to, he couldn't help me...
It was just me, my dogs, and Jesus up on that hill.
As I look back on it now, as the realization of what I was going to have to do washed over me that day, I see a lesson in it. So often, after tragedy or hurt or victimization or rejection or whatever, we feel like we'll never love or hope or feel or let ourselves be vulnerable again. We freeze up. Not moving towards the cliff, but not turning our wheel away from it, either, and easing off the brake.
I knew that's exactly what I had to do. It was, without question, the scariest moment of my life. I turned the wheel hard left, away from that cliff, and I began to ease off the brake. Thinking about it now, I have tears welling up in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I really thought I might go over that cliff. I did. But I knew...
I couldn't just sit still. I had to try. Me and Jesus. Up on that mountain...
The truck did indeed ease to the left, mercifully, and I managed to make it down the hill to the driveway. The saga was far from over, however. It's a long long story, but by the time the night was over and I was warm and safe up at the house, I had slammed that Explorer into the back of the snow plow that had been clearing our drive, and over 4 hours had passed.
But...I wasn't over that cliff.
I'm not saying easing off that brake was easy. I'm not saying the road in front of me was easy. I'm not saying it was pleasant to be stuck on that mountain for 4 hours in the snow. And I'm certainly not saying it was fun to slam that truck into the back of a snow plow. It all stunk.
But...I wasn't over that cliff.
Christmas 2009 was one that we will never ever forget. It involved a lot of snow, ice, and wind...and very little electricity. We cooked Christmas dinner in the fireplace and opened presents by candlelight. We snuggled to stay warm and played games in the dark. And even though I never would have chosen any of it, it was our best Christmas since we lost our beloved.
Christmas 2009 will be hard to beat.
I had to turn my wheel and ease off my own brake to consider life and family beyond Chad. It hasn't been easy...
But I'm not over a cliff. ;)
Monday, October 4, 2010
John 1:3-5, The Message
This time every year, and every day in between, I will not mourn. I will celebrate the life of Chad Sullivan. I don’t want it to be depressing. I hope you all see…
The darkness cannot, and did not, overcome the Light.
Friday, July 16, 2010
He was 86 years old.
His testimony is one of faithfulness to God and humility of himself. A winning combination for any player...
The past few months have been a little darker for me than normal...and I don't mean in the manner in which you probably are picturing right now. I've not been sullen or depressed or even really sad at all. In fact, over these last few months God has done some amazing works of deliverance and mercy over my life, and I'm so humbled and grateful to him. I haven't deserved an ounce of it, and if you knew the whole story you would agree with me without a doubt. That's just the truth. What I mean by "dark" is that I have not seen or felt the presence of God in the way that I have become accustomed to in some time. He's been more silent...more mysterious...just a little more elusive to me than He has been in several years now. The Truth that I have known all along is that He is still as near and as present and as concerned over me than He ever was...He never leaves or forsakes me, Scripture assures me and I believe Scripture. So...I have continued with my Quiet Time with Him, even though it has been harder and they have been often less fervent on my part, because I know the dangers that lie behind neglecting my time with Him.
Night before last I pleaded with Him...I had an overwhelming need to feel His presence again. I was lonely, really. I missed Him...knowing all the while He was right there I just wanted him to show Himself.
Let me stop here and provide a disclaimer for a moment. There is a danger in needing to "feel" too much where our Savior and our faith walk is concerned. His Truth is THE Truth whether we "feel" it or not. Even when I don't "feel" Him or "see" Him or "experience" Him in the way I want...doesn't mean that is "the" truth. If we begin to equate OUR "feelings" with the truth...we're in a mess of trouble. Listen to me...I have to remind myself of this constantly...if what we are feeling or doing or believing or choosing contradicts ANY part of the Holy and inerrant Word of God, the Bible...we are being deceived by the Enemy. Plain and Simple. The world we live in is fallen, and SO OFTEN we are subjected to situations or victimized in terrible ways or led astray by those who claim we can trust them, because let be honest they're just mortal men living in a fallen world just like we are, and our minds get...well, let's just called a spade a spade...our minds get all kinds of screwed up. In the end, bottom line, we start self-protecting and controlling and set out for nobody but ourselves because it seems as though no one else is...and we make a mess of this one chance we get at life. We can't trust our own minds to make the best decisions. None of us.
I'm not talking about any place I haven't been myself.
We need Him. More directly, we need His Word. It is that Lamp unto our feet that Scripture calls it. It is unchanging and perfect...like NOTHING else on this earth. It is our only Hope to live the lives we long for. If we spend time with Him inside His Word and we ask Him, share with Him our need and desire to know His perfect will over our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit...He will deliver. Might it involve repentance? Likely. Will it involve sanctification... a patient journey of God to be make us more holy as He is holy? Yes. Will involve an abundance of joy and mercy and sweet grace, the wonderful unmerited astounding favor of God Almighty? Oh yes. Plenty of it...
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. " Romans 12:2
End of Disclaimer.
So, anyway, night before last I pleaded with Him to show Himself. I wanted a real and refreshing taste of Him, like a tall and cold glass of water on the hottest day of the year. I missed His presence, and I told Him as much. He then led me to some places in my heart that needed to be cleaned out. Some resentment I had been harboring, some folks I needed to change my attitude towards, some pride I needed to let go of. He showed me some places I had been judgemental where I had absolutely no right. These sins had snuck up on me! And I had been justifying them. I laid on the floor prostrate and asked His forgiveness. I asked Him to please come alongside and help me to change my heart...
The next day...He showed up.
Last night, as I pondered it and prayed, I told Him, "I just want you. All I need is you."
Bingo. There it is. I finally arrived.
For years I have been saying that, "All I need is You," knowing it as Truth but not necessarily always "feeling" it myself. Sound familiar? (see Disclaimer) I have tried my best, most of the time, to live in that way...in obedience to the only one who would never lead me astray..the Perfect One.
Yesterday...I got it. I owned it. I know it.
I don't NEED a bigger house or a nicer car...I don't NEED a new degree...I don't NEED the perfect church or the perfect family...I don't NEED a bunch of money...I don't need a husband or a house full of kids...I don't NEED my dogs (gulp)...I don't NEED great friends...I don't NEED that new outfit or your approval...I don't NEED control.
All need is Him. He's got me, and He's proved it over and over...
I can risk it all and lose it all. I can put my heart on the line and trust anybody and everybody. For one reason alone...
I can't lose the one and only thing I simply must have...
My Savior Jesus Christ.
"My beloved is mine, and I am His..." Song of Solomon 2:16a
Friday, June 4, 2010
It was the first thing that came to me. Go figure.
It was hilarious. I genuinely just cracked myself up watching it. And...no...I will not share with the group. ;)
Truthfully, I needed a crack up. I have this lump in my throat that just won't go away. I was just now texting with a fellow Chad and I grew up with...his wife is so so sick with cancer and his baby sister getting married...tomorrow. I wish more than anything I could do or say something to make this easier, or make this journey they are on more bearable. But, I can't. This is their journey...not mine.
My good friend from college, Cheyanne, is in the same boat...watching her brand new husband struggle though battle after battle with this horrible disease. He was airlifted to NIH in Maryland just yesterday morning. I've heard no news since then, and I'm afraid to...honestly...
This is the last one...I promise. I have some very good friends that are walking through a battle that I have walked through myself...but only to a degree. Truthfully, I didn't get an "A" in that course the first time I took it, so I'm not sure what I'm doing back here...attempting to counsel and answer pleas for help, all the while without manipulating or letting myself get in God's way. I'm REALLY bad at that. It's like walking a tight rope. I never did have much balance...
I was reading Exodus last night, about Israel's deliverance from Egypt. We would do well to remember in our modern day lives that Israel is the chosen people of God. The whole world will literally fall around them. Literally. Anyway, I digress. I was reading of Moses, when God asked Him to basically go the people of Israel...
"Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.' "
Long story short, for various reason, Moses didn't want to do it. Didn't feel qualified. Didn't feel up to the task. He basically look God Almighty in the face and said, "I know you made me and all, but I'm pretty sure I don't have what it takes to do this. You must be mistaken..."
So, even though the Bible says God was angry with Moses, He obliged him in this. He allowed Moses to use Aaron, his brother, to deliver the message to the Israelites. Now, this is the part that really got my attention. Once Moses, via Aaron, delivered God's message, the people of Israel reacted thusly...
"Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed. And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped."
You know, the Word of God tells me that we are to bear one another's burdens, and I do that happily with the people in my life. Happily. However, I can't walk another man's journey. I can't make decisions for him. OOOOOOOhhhhhhh how I want to sometimes! But, really, it would be a tragedy to rob a man or woman of their walk of truth, faith, grace, healing, deliverance, and beautiful Victory...their walk to the land flowing with milk and honey...for them. I wouldn't trade my own walk for the world itself...no way.
I think one of the bits of Truth I found in my journey was the concern that God clearly had for me, my family, or pain. Just like the Israelites, when I saw that concern...really paid attention to Him and SAW it...I hit my face and worshipped. I was astounded that the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe actually saw me...wept over me...took time to soothe me...reassure me...prepare me...carry me...heal me...
Deliver me to a land flowing with milk and honey. It's a sweet place to be. There are battles to be fought here...
But I know the Victor. And I am His.
Do the thing with God. The hard thing. The Best thing...
Thursday, May 27, 2010
No...your eyes are NOT deceiving you. Willie Nelson did indeed cut off all his hair. And I have to tell you, it has rocked my world. Really. Why? I don't so much know. I mean, it's just that...you think you know a guy...
I don't have anything even remotely profound to say. The little brother moved in with me a few weeks ago, and he has surprised me in more than a few ways...to be expected since we haven't lived under the same roof since 1995. The main surprise being...drum roll, please...the boy is clean. Like mildly OCD clean.
Talk about thinking you know somebody. When Chad lived with me several years ago it was like living with Oscar the Grouch. In spirit and in truth, you know what I'm saying? Chad was a sweetheart with a HUGE heart...but he had a "side." If he were here, he would say "Amen." He knew it. Loved it, really. Anyway, I had emotionally prepared myself for the same type of experience with Alex since, I think, in my mind they are basically the same person born 10 years apart. I was w r o n g. I have never in my adult life been the messier person in a house. I am now...and I seem to work myself to death keeping it as clean as he thinks it should be. Why? I don't know. I'm a people-pleaser. What can I say? I just want the boy to be happy.
I've been cooking at night. I really love to cook. I'm not that good at it, but I do enjoy it. I don't generally cook for myself, but I sort of find it soothing or something so I embraced it again when he moved in. Last night it was spaghetti squash and all I need to tell you about that is he wouldn't even feed the leftovers to the dogs. Enough said. It was my first strike out. I should just stick to what I know. Anyway, the bub gets in from work around 8 looking for something to eat, so I try and oblige him a few nights a week. I've spoiled him rotten his whole life. Why stop now?
So, the thing is, I don't cook carbs. I'll make a meat and a vegetable and a fruit usually. Something along those lines. On the third night he looked at me and said, "Soooo, you're not much on carbs, huh?" He's so perceptive. Such a smart boy. I told him I would be happy to start making him rice or a baked potato with his meals, but he declined. However, every night, about 20 minutes after dinner, he goes to the fridge. Hungry again. And usually winds up eating a huge pickle (which is an experience to watch, believe me) and 3 ice cream sandwiches...the expensive Breyers-No-Sugar-Added kind, not the VBS-eat-all-you-want kind with that cow on the package. Just saying. I gotta put that last kind on the shopping list.
There you go. A blog about absolutely nothing. I have to say I'm proud of me. Marti's never done that before and I have to admit that it really was super fun...
Just one last thing. Lately, I have to say, God has been beyond good to me. So good it's hard to wrap my brain around. I just want to publicly acknowledge and praise Him for that. He's really done some amazing things to orchestrate me out of some pretty tough circumstances that me myself and I put MYSELF IN, and I just need to tell you all...My God is faithful. Even when I am just not. Even when I'm a moron. (2 Timothy 2:13..read it. I'm telling ya'll, The Word is Truth and in it we find freedom. I'm living proof.) I have found these last years that if I will just rest day to day, and when I do make a move...make sure I move in obedience to Him...He will do the most extraordinary things! The question is can I quit "helping Him along" and "giving Him ideas"??? Someday I'm going to learn that God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, does not need my ideas. I'm not nearly as brilliant as I would like to be, or think I am sometimes...sigh...
Good thing He is.
Love ya'll. Mean it. ;)
Friday, May 21, 2010
Hey guys...just a quick update.
I hope this finds everyone doing well...enjoying the scorching heat, I trust. At this rate, Charlotte will look like Pompeii by August. Maybe not...but it sure is hot. I don't like to sweat.
Alright, enough about me. Speaking of heat, Chad will be finishing his first full week of radiation today. ;) So far, we're looking great. He's gained back all the weight he lost during the high-dose interferon, and is rather hysterical these days. He's always been a funny guy, but he's raised the bar lately. It's our understanding that the radiation becomes more difficult as the weeks pass and the amount of radiation within the body grows. Keep that in your "Chad prayers" and I'll keep everyone updated, of course. It's our understanding that he should finish up with radiation around June 24, at which point he'll meet with the oncologist again and another PET scan will be scheduled. I know I've told you all this before, but a reminder never hurt anyone. The PET will be the first indication that the treatments have been a success! BIG BIG BIG. Prayers are the number one need for the Sullivan Family right now. Healing, strength, and faith...we need it all and look forward to sharing God's glory with all of you when Chad is healed...
Hugs to you all. Until next time...
Last weekend, my good friend Stephen's little brother, Scott, had a terrible accident. He was helping his dad cut some trees down in their yard and one wound up falling askew and it struck him. As I write this, Scott is still in trauma ICU. Prayers are much needed for a brain injury that Scott has suffered. He is still unconscious, but is breathing on his own now. Praise God for that huge piece of progress. I went to visit today and stayed a bit, visiting with the folks that were there at the time. They are basically living at the hospital, and I certainly know what that is like. Exhausting is the first word that comes to mind. As I left, I told Scott's fiance', Emily, to please let the church know if we could do anything at all. "Pray," she said. "Just keep praying."
"We will," I replied.
Since Chad went home, the most difficult prayers that I pray are prayers for healing. To be honest, they go something like this...
"Lord, I don't know what to say. I do ask that it could be your will to heal in a miraculous way here. But, you know I have already asked you for that for Chad, and you took him home to be with you. I've already been to the end of myself praying for this sort of situation, and an earthly healing wasn't in the plan. You're going to do what you have to do, so please just comfort the family and glorify yourself in this situation. Draw them closer to you through this. I trust you. I don't know what else to say. Amen"
Not word for word, but you get the gist.
I live a very simple faith, and a very simple life. If you want to debate Calvinism or apologetics, please don't come find me. I believe God is in control, completely sovereign, His Word is Truth, and He is good. I believe He is for me, not against me. In short, I trust Him. You will see, as I continue to share my emails from Chad's illness, that I truly did attempt to go to the end of myself, mustering every bit of faith that I had, to believe in faith that Chad would be healed here on earth from his cancer. Yet, it was not to be.
I trust my God. I trusted Him, to begin with, because my parents told me to trust Him, and they were trustworthy. They loved me. I knew they wouldn't lie to me or lead me astray. I trusted Him later because His Word, the Holy Bible, the inerrant Word of God, told me to. I had seen my folks adhere to the Word, to treat it as complete Truth, and they had been blessed by that Truth. It was indeed true! Their lives were a testimony. So, when the time came that I had to trust Him to the end of myself...and then beyond...I was able to do it. It's a whole other level of trust to look at your God and say, "I don't know exactly what or where Heaven is, but here is one of the one's I love most in the world. I hand him to You. I trust you with him. Take him...I trust you, Lord." That is big "T" Trust. It takes a lot to get to that moment...
It took nights and nights and nights alone in my room, on my bed, weeping, pouring through Scripture, crying out to God...and day after day of looking for Him, searching for Him in any way I could find even a glimpse of His presence and faithfulness and love. It took time. He gave me time. He prepared me before I had to do it. I see now, He does that with most everything he asks me to do, if I'll just pay attention.
He's sweet like that.
Lately, I seem to be truly coming out of the dark. Finding myself, my new self, on the other side of my life's big tragedy. It's not that I wasn't me before...but I was in the midst of more of a "becoming," I think. I was passionate and desperate and hungry, a little manic at times. The details of the last several years are sometimes a blur. These days, I think I'm more settled and quiet-spirited than ever before. It feels nice. With that, also comes revelations of the past. As I age, I see that clarity is sometimes hard to find in the midst of situations. It's the reflecting where so much truth...big "T" Truth...can be found. It's a rich place to be...the treasures and bounty of a hard season of sowing. The reaping of the harvest is the blessing.
So, today, for Scott's family, I utter prayers of faith on Scott's behalf...still mustering up all the faith that I can to believe in a full recovery for him. I do this knowing they will be blessed and prepared for whatever road lays ahead of them. God is indeed a God of miracles. Why them and not us? I don't need to know. It is what it is, and I big"T" Trust Him. I don't have to struggle to understand everything. I see that now. I don't have to wonder what He's doing or how He's doing it. I Trust Him. He is for me, not against me. I Trust Him. He is working here. I Trust Him. He is good. I Trust Him. I don't understand all He does...I don't want to understand all He does. Who wants a God they completely understand? That is not God at all.
I Trust Him. He is the Truth. I Trust Him.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and
do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands."
No, I don't always understand. But, He's given me the strength to be big "B" Brave, and I can big "T" Trust Him.
There is big "P" Peace there.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I'm just going to give you a taste of what has been on my heart the last week or two, and then I'll talk more later with more of my testimony. I started thinking about the next portions of my journey that I want to share, and they really are where the rubber meets the road in my little life journey. The word that has been resonating?
Not little "b" brave, Big "B" Brave.
What do you think is brave? Do you think independence is brave? Do you think that rebellion is brave? Do you think living on the edge is brave? Do you think living "extreme" is brave?
Think again. I believe what this world calls "brave" is really just a weak excuse for not having the nerve to do the thing with God. Yes, I said that. I did it for years. To really get quiet and listen to God is the scariest thing I've ever done. This world's idea of brave is just a cheap imitation of the thrill we only get from our MOST High. And what's worse, we label true God-followers as straight and boring. Honey...the life I have led since surrendering myself to the direction of the Holy Spirit has been anything but straight and boring. It's been unbelievable... frightening... thrilling... miraculous... victorious... terrifying... devastating... life-altering. It's been FULL of my own mistakes and His sweet redemption. And I won't go back. But, let me tell you, it has taken more than me. More than me being brave. I've had to be Brave...capital "B" Brave from a capital "G" God.
I'll explain more later...
Monday, April 19, 2010
Last week, I told you I was going to share with you about my own unfaithfulness to my God, but first I have to start with my own salvation story. It's a simple, but special story...to me anyway.
I remember as a child hearing my parents talk very often about this "Christian" word. It came up constantly, and I had not yet clued in to the fact that this word..."Christian"...had to do with the Jesus I was learning about in Sunday School. They talked about it passionately with their friends, and they seemed to really be defined by it in some way. So, at 8 years old, one evening in our family room I asked my dad, just in a conversational kind of way, "What does it feel like to be a Christian?"
He got a funny sort of look on his face.
I thought for a moment, as he looked over at my mother, that I had said something bad. Then, he got up, strode across the room, put his hand out, and said, "Well, let's go and talk about it." That night, kneeling on an old bench in my bedroom, my own father led me to Christ. Precious. I wish...more than anything...that I could tell you that from that moment on I led a life that honored God.
You know, as I look back, the most frightening thing is that I never did anything that this world would consider out of line. And, honestly, I was a pretty tame teenager by the world's standards. There are two standards we operate by, and they are completely mutually exclusive. A worldly standard, and a biblical standard.
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
The devil got ahold of me by blurring the lines of right and wrong, and who exactly my "god" was, and he made a fool of me in the process. I don't want this to be a confessional of my many sins, but I want you to know that I struggled profoundly for many years to overcome bondage that I had walked right into. Actually, I sort of strutted into it. It came in an attractive package but, in the end, it wrought years of regret for me. Still does, in fact, in a lot of ways.
I knew, probably beginning around 10 or so, that my folks were different. I know now that I was noticing they were "set apart." As in holy, sanctified...Christ living in them. At younger ages I didn't think much of it, but as I grew up it started to bother me. When you're a teenager, you just want to be like everybody else. My parents made that difficult. God bless them! My "mess" started innocently enough, but eventually I was sneaking around and lying to my folks, rolling my eyes when they voiced their concerns...I was so young, what were they so worried about??? It was no big deal. But, before I knew it, years had passed and I felt powerless to do anything to get away from what had become an idol to me. It haunted me...and ridiculed me. It made such a fool of me. I still wince when I think on it.
By my mid-20's, I was feeling all used up inside and so frustrated...like I was trying to walk up a down escalator and had been for nearly 10 years. Something had to give, and I knew it had to be bigger than me. I was getting a good taste of the permissive will of God...versus the PERFECT will of God. Big difference. Big. For years I had known God was unhappy with the life I was determined to lead. He had, very patiently, been giving me hints and even small amounts of I suppose what you would consider discipline...consequences...along the way. Conviction was happening, but I was ignoring it. That had all begun to increase both in frequency and severity. I had been "back in church" for a couple of years at this point and I was growing in the Lord, but I had this one particular idol that reared it's ugly head now and again. It's almost like when it came around, I was another person...turned into the worst version of myself. I had not dealt with it...I wanted to keep that one to myself. The evening that it all came to head, I remember driving home with so much regret and shame over it that I could barely hold my head up, as a thunderstorm absolutely raged around me. It was late when I walked in the door...in the early morning hours...and I came face to face with my father.
You want to get my attention about something...involve my dad.
Through a crazy set of events, my dad had been clued in on my whereabouts. And, even though I was no child at this point...I am still his child, and he was ready to deal with me. It was rock-bottom. I saw in my dad's face, yes, some anger...but mostly worry and pain and (shutter) disappointment. I fell in his arms and sobbed and sobbed, confessing to him what I was guilty of. Again, from a worldly perspective, there was nothing terribly wrong with what I was doing...but my dad's perspective is not worldly. It's biblical. And I was miserable because when I accepted Christ I became NOT OF THIS WORLD. I couldn't seem to "just be like everyone else" for a reason...I wasn't everyone else. I'm not everyone else. Christ lives in me.
My father was disappointed and hurt, but incredibly loving about the situation. He gathered me up in his arms and let me know we would get through it...together. I hated to let him see that part of me. I wanted to be perfect for him. And for Him. I see now, it's why Jesus came. It's the only way we can be perfect before a Holy God.
"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."
We can't do this without Him! We have GARBAGE. Heck, I grew up in the Christian version of the Cleaver family and this lost world messed me up something fierce. We have to come to Him WITH our garbage...and He will work it all out as we surrender ourselves to Him. In His will and for His glory. So often we think we have to get "clean" before we go to Him..., but, hear me very clearly when I say this, HE does the cleansing. If we try and clean ourselves up in your own strength, all we wind up with is more dirt and a bitter heart. Believe me...I know.
That night, with my dad and the thunderstorm, was a turning point for me. I became obedient to some very specific things God had been calling on me to do for some time...and with that obedience came a freedom I cannot begin to explain. I have never once looked back. And that's the honest truth. I praise God.
That surrender...that what He's looking for. Turning my back on my own stubborn ideas of what would make me happy was the catalyst my walk with God was looking for. Simple obedience. I'm not here to tell you I haven't sinned since. I have and will again...but I found a place in my walk with Him that I recognize what sin does to me...how it binds me. It's like bricks on my wings. And I want to FLY...wherever His wind takes me. That's where I want to go! He changed me. He changed my "want-to's." He changed my desires! Who better to show me my true desires than my Maker and Builder Himself...
I know who I was 10 years ago, trying to run my own life. I wasn't much. I knew it, even if I fooled those around me. I know who I am today, surrendered to my God. It's more than I could ever accomplish on my own, even with all my trying. And we're going places! The difference?
I turned my back on myself...and walked His way.
The way to Ephraim.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Give a girl a break. ;)
I was in Charleston this weekend with my folks...I cannot believe, considering what went down for us in Charleston on Easter of 2006, that my parents actually live there now. Can I tell you? We had the greatest weekend! Low key, family time, no drama or tears (at least loud tears), Mom went to church on Easter Sunday for the first time since 2006...we're settling in to ourselves again. Praise God! Still can't wait to hang with the Sullivan 5 again, though. That's one day I look so forward to. Me, Dad. Mom, Alex, Chad...and Jesus, too! It's almost too much to stand I get so excited thinking about it!!!
Yes. I'm a dork. A Jesus dork. Live with it.
Do you have stuff...not public stuff...private stuff...that stresses you? Me, too. To make matters worse, I sorta have "Chicken Little tendencies." Do ya'll understand this? You know, I will pronounce the sky is falling...when in reality only one little piece of it fell. God has had to teach me, largely though...you guessed it...Chad's illness, that all He asks me to deal with is my present reality.
I take this to extremes.
I live life in 24 hour increments. I've talked on this before, but it's so huge to me. It has been a learned habit...I was NOT born with this. So...when something unsettling and a little scary showed up on my doorstep this morning, I have learned to look it over, consider it, find some calm, talking with God all the while or none of the previously mentioned steps would have occurred...and then I make the best decision I can on what I HAVE TO make a decision on at that moment, in my present reality. Nothing more. I don't make decisions based on things that have not happened yet...what some of us like to call "preparation," but in my world I get out of hand with that and wind up in a place called "manipulation." Not that preparation is always a bad thing...I just don't know when to stop. Manipulation ensues.
I'm special, and a little remedial. The Lord is patient with me.
So, anyway, God has taught me to step back and assess the reality He has placed me in, and then He and I decide ONLY the next step I MUST take. This is incredibly hard to describe, but it basically keeps me from panicking (which I am a little bit prone to do) and, most importantly, it keeps me from taking matters into my own hands...which, 9 times out of 10, produced the mess I'm in to begin with.
I waited patiently for the Lord;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
I'll be in Albemarle this weekend sharing my testimony with the folks at Bethany United Methodist Church on Sunday morning. Keep me in your prayers over that.
Is there any way I can pray for you? I wish you would let me know...
Hugs...all the way to Ephraim, friends!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Hi everyone. I hope you week has gone well! Happy Easter to everyone...
Just wanted to pass along a quick update. Chad has completed 3 of 20 of the high dose interferon treatments. He'll go today, again with Mom, and I'll take him tomorrow for his final treatment this week...I think they need a break from one another. ;) Monday night he did really well, but Tuesday was rough...
So that's that so far. I'll pass along another update next week. Pray that he'll be able to make it to church Easter Sunday! And of course for spiritual and physical healing, strength, and peace. Pray that the interferon will be effective. And, again, pray that blessings will be realized through our suffering. God continues to lead me to amazing Scriptures I believe shed a little light on what He is trying to accomplish here, so I ask you not only to pray for life...but abundant life that can only be found in Him.
Once again, thanks for all the support, concern food, cards, calls, emails, hugs and love, but most of all...for your prayers. All I can say is God has surrounded us with truly amazing people. My dad always says that one way God loves us is through others. Count yourselves among them.
Easter. I love it. It's so bight and warm (hopefully) and open-toe shoe friendly. And the only time of year you can go crazy with pastels and it's completely okay. My kinda time of year! Oh...and Cadbury eggs. Praise the Lord for those babies! I'm 33 and still get an Easter basket by they way. If you think that's pathetic, talk to my mother...
I also, of course, mostly love Easter because of it's life-altering significance, not only to all Christians, but to my family. In Easter of 2006, 2 years after this email was written, my entire family would vacation together in Charleston...just before Chad's brain tumor showed itself on Easter Monday. It was the last time that the Sullivan 5 was...well, just the Sullivan 5. It was the last time I saw Chad get to just be himself on this Earth. Can I tell you a quick story? It's just a funny...
The day Chad and Brooke left Charleston was Easter Monday 2006. It had been an amazing family weekend. We ate oysters and played on the beach and stayed up way too late. Easter morning we went to to church at FBC Charleston which is just about as Old South as it gets. There was more seersucker than you could shake a stick at, and I'm proud to tell you our boys were among them! The next morning we woke up and went down to King St. for some shopping and lunch before Chad and Brooke hit the road. I remember that lunch so clearly because we spotted Andie McDowell, the actress, as we were sitting down to eat. (She's a beautiful women, but not nearly as perfect as those Loreal commercials would have us believe. I'm just saying. Not to belittle her, but just to let the rest of us girls know we look pretty good, too! Airbrushing. It's a bad thing.) Anywho...I remember the quirkiest little thing Chad said that day that just makes me smile and sigh every time I think on it. Brooke, we call her Princess Two-Legs, she will only eat fish or animals that walk on 2 legs...ie, poultry...but no four-legged animals at all. She, because of this, opted for a turkey burger. An excellent choice paired with some sweet potato fries. Chad, on the other hand, an all-American type of guy, doesn't discriminate against the number of legs his food originally had. A "cow man," if you will. And that's exactly what he told the waitress he wanted. "A COW burger, please." (dramatic pause) "Moo."
It was a moment. Chad Sullivan, ladies and gentleman.
Anyway...back to my original points...
Easter, to me, is the anniversary of the death of not just my Savior, but of my family as I had always known it. As I've shared with you before, I miss the Sullivan 5 that died that Easter Monday night. I now, however, have the opportunity to embrace the new life that has come out of that death. In all death in Christ there comes new life, and I celebrate that today and in this season. I see the prayer request in the above entry...and I'm moved. They were all answered, every single one over time, in one way or another. It wasn't always the manner in which I envisioned...but He was showing off all along. I have this bad habit (if you can imagine) of trying to envision and figure out what God is doing and "help Him along," if you will. Just to call a spade a spade, I manipulate and get in His way. I have had such a conviction on my heart about this the last few years. God does not need my help...He simply wants me to trust and obey 24 hours at a time. There, I find the peace and the wonder of my God.
"...again, pray that blessings will be realized through our suffering."
That line, written 6 years ago, is the prayer that birthed my life's passion. And I manipulated nothing to realize it. It formed right before my eyes as I trusted my Savior and waited patiently. And you know what else? I really love that it all went down for the Sullivan 5 on Easter. Ours truly is a story of life out of death...
Yes He did...Ephraim.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
It's been a little over 3 years since Chad died, and in those 3 years my life has changed in many ways. There's very little, aside from my home, that has stayed the same. I have now found what I call a "new normal," and have moved ahead with my life. I don't like to say "moving on." That makes it sound as though I'm leaving Chad behind...I'm not. I take him with me wherever I go...but life has to move forward. So...on that note...as far as the blog goes, I've done some soul-searching. Here is what I've come up with:
First, I feel this pressure to say something really profound each time I write on the blog. It's exhausting, and makes me dread the blog instead of enjoy it. Ridonkulous. This one is easily fixed: "Lighten up, Marti. Give it a break...you're not the poet laureate of NC." Done. All better. Next...
This one is a little more complicated.
I found out a lot about myself in my brother's death. It was, truly, both a blessing and a suffering all in one. Ephraim...it's what it's all about. My love of speaking and writing and serving for the glory of God all came from the fruit that I gleaned, the abundance I found, in Chad's sickness and death. I LOVE what I do. I found my passion not in spite of but because of my suffering. It's a beautiful thing. The problem has arisen for me, however, that every time I write or speak...I have to go to that place. I have to remember that face, sit at his bedside, have those conversations with him, read those emails...over and over and over. I have to keep it all alive in me in order to share...so that hopefully our suffering can inspire you to find the blessing in the trial as well.
I want to do it.
But, I will admit, that it has worn on me. As I have prayed and pondered over this, it really comes down to discipline and obedience. If this is what He has called me to do, then I must go there...because it what He has asked me to do. And every time I do...Chad's suffering matters more and more and more...
But not in MY strength. It has to come from God.
Would you pray for me? Would you pray I can learn to exercise His strength in this endeavor? Otherwise, I'm wasting your time and mine. It's futile.
I commit to you that I will post once a week...it may not be life-changing, but it will be His work, and not mine.
Will you hold me accountable?
"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." -2 Corinthians 12:9
Monday, January 4, 2010
In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.