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Contemplating Eternity

I got a text Tuesday from a friend and loyal blog reader asking if everything is okay here in the Land of Milk and Hotdogs. I suppose my absence from the blog for more than a week throws up red flags. The truth is that my heart has been so heavy this past week that I didn’t even know where to begin. Still, I’d like to share what God has taught us in the midst of a devastating family tragedy.

Brian’s sister called early last Thursday morning to let us know that their step-brother, Joseph, had passed away. It was the day after his 27th birthday, and we’re still not sure why or how it all happened.

Immediately, I was reminded that one of the hardest parts of military life is the fact that we’re so far away from our families. This is particularly difficult in times of tragedy. Thankfully, my mom volunteered to fly out to Kansas from Georgia so she could stay with our kids. We couldn’t afford to fly us all to Atlanta on such short notice, and I have sworn off road trips until the kids are old enough to entertain and/or not pee on themselves. My mom arrived Friday night around 11 p.m., and Brian and I hopped in the car on Saturday morning. Thanks to bumper-to-bumper traffic in Missouri and a storm that followed us the entire way, we arrived 16 1/2 hours later.

After brunch with Brian’s family Sunday morning, we made our way to the funeral home. Within the hour it was filled to overflowing with people from all walks of life:  men and women, young and old, tattooed and tattoo-less. There were pastors, teachers, musicians, and students. My sister-in-law aptly described it as the most eclectic group of people she’d ever seen.

As I watched them one by one express their sincere sympathy to the family, I couldn’t help but think that—despite our diverse beliefs and backgrounds—we all share a common experience. And as the preacher, John Baker, so eloquently celebrated Joseph’s life, I was fixated on that common thread. As Joseph’s younger brother, Trevor, sang the most beautiful tribute to his best friend, my mind was unable to escape it. And as I watched Joseph’s 5-year-old daughter, Veda, wipe away her mommy’s tears, my heart longed for it.

That common experience is eternity.

In the days before his death, Joseph shared with friends and family that he was through with his former, sinful way of life. Two days before he died, Joseph shared a Relient K song with his dad that beautifully describes the Godly remorse a regenerate Christian should experience:

I’m sorry for the person I became.
I’m sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I’m ready to be sure I never become that way again
’cause who I am hates who I’ve been.
Who I am hates who I’ve been.

We believe that Joseph’s heart was truly changed and that we will see him again in eternity.

After the memorial service, we did what Southerners do. We ate fried chicken, biscuits, and macaroni & cheese. And as we sat around the table, we discussed the events of that past week and how God’s grace was evident even in the midst of this painful tragedy. My mother-in-law said something that stuck with me. She said, “I don’t know how people do it. I don’t know how they survive something like this without God.”

In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote this:

“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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

It’s hard to believe that a person could boast in hardships. That they are content to suffer for the sake of Christ. That they consider themselves stronger in their weakness.

It is difficult to trust that the Lord is good when our circumstances are not.

But that is the power of Christ in a believer.

As a busy mom, it’s easy to get so focused on the present that I forget about eternity. But Joseph’s death brought that reality back to the forefront of my thoughts this week. As I tucked JJ in to bed last night, he said to me, “Mama, will you lay  down with me for a minute? I very need you.” I had to choke back the tears as I thought of Joseph’s precious little girl, Veda.

With my father-in-law’s permission, I’ll share with you something that he shared with me on Sunday. This is a drawing that Veda created for her daddy back in March. I snapped a photo of it because I never want to forget how important it is to put down my phone, my computer, or any number of distractions and just be the greatest Tickle Monster my kids have ever known.

Contemplating Eternity, Veda's Picture

This is Joseph’s legacy. 

As we approach Father’s Day this weekend, I’d like to ask that you keep my in-laws in your prayers. Specifically, my father- and mother-in-law (Joey and Terri), Brian’s step-brother Trevor, and also sweet, little Veda.

Contemplating Eternity

(From left:  Veda, Joseph, Joey, and Trevor. Photo was taken approximately 3 years ago.)

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

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Comments to "Contemplating Eternity"

  1. Rita Sheloff

    June 12, 2014

    I cannot help but feel this big lump in my throat as tears fall down my face from reading this. My heart breaks – aches – for Veda, who no longer has her daddy. I will be thinking about her and her family this Fathers Day…time I’d so precious, I know all to clearly myself. <3

  2. Karmen

    June 12, 2014

    I am so sorry, Katy! But God is so good to bring Joseph close to Him right before bringing him home. And for there to be so much evidence of his transformation–well that is just icing on the cake! Praying for you all!
    Karmen recently posted…Our Beautiful ThingMy Profile

  3. Monica

    June 12, 2014

    Oh, Katy – my heart breaks for your family. I love to read your blog. Sometimes because it makes me laugh, but more often because it warms my heart. As tears run down my cheeks, I want to thank you for these precious reminders. Looking forward to sharing eternity with you…and Joseph.

  4. PappyJack

    June 12, 2014

    Thank you so much, Katy. All very nicely put. I will miss my son so much. We had some rocky times but I am so thankful that all of that had been behind us for a few years (the pic you posted was very shortly after “the mend”). My big take from this whole thing (at least right now) is make amends. Doesn’t matter who it is or what happened – end the feud, disagreement or fight. It’s not worth it. I am so glad we made up. This is a terrible time but it would have been 100 times worse if our “stuff” had not been resolved. Thanks again, Katy. I love you. Oh, and by the way, my thanks still goes out to Pam (Precious) for dropping everything and going out to Kansas so you guys could be there. That meant so much to me …

  5. Dan A.

    June 12, 2014

    Thank you Katy.

  6. Michelle Cole

    June 12, 2014

    This is perfect. I’m happy I got to finally meet you and Brian… Just sad that it had to be at a funeral.

  7. Heather

    June 12, 2014

    What a wonderful tribute to Joseph. It’s so comforting to know that despite the sadness in his loss here on Earth, you’ll be reunited in eternity! I’ll continue to pray for you all.

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