Thursday, July 30, 2015

Grieving for, and with, Grace


Grace - it's a word that carries a lot of weight, one with a big meaning and today one that has brought tears to my eyes. You see my barely 20 year old niece, Grace, was killed in a bike-car accident early this morning. The mention of the word has shook my being and comforted my heart all at the same time...not sure I can explain, but now in the late hours of the night I feel like I'm supposed to try.

Grace, in the blue, at the annual Beran Labor Day Camp-out
So let me begin...Grace, though we weren't yet related, entered my life as a little girl long before I became her aunt 14 years ago. She was just little when she'd come to my parent's house and play with my dad's puppies. That smiley, little blond girl loved every animal there ever was. Time together on the farm put a jump start on our relationship when I married her uncle Job and became her aunt "Dill". After a few years passed, the same sweet girl with a spunk for life joined me on the PeeWee softball team and as she entered junior high she livened up my 7th grade basketball team. During those same years she brought joy and laughs to our home when she'd spend time playing with my kids and helping scrub my kitchen floor.

I can't begin to tell you the times today I heard about Grace's uniqueness, her love for life and people. She truly never met a stranger and had no fear in sharing her faith. She was only 20, but had already touched lives across the world...she'd spent time on sports teams, music groups and in speech competitions. She'd walked the streets of small towns as a child promoting Christian radio in local parades. She'd attended faith based conferences and served as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Huddle leader. She'd been to Peru, Panama and Costa Rica to share the love of Christ.

But it's not about what she did, it's about the life she lived. From words I've heard others say in the last 15 hours - "She had a smile that lit up a room." "She'd give you the shirt off her back." "She was someone I could go to if I needed anything." " She was such a generous daughter of Christ and followed the word with certainty and love." I could go on, but Grace wouldn't want me to...she be the first to admit she fell short time and time again. Really her life wasn't about Grace, her name, but GRACE, God's favor. 


Celebrating her one and only
college season
As her former basketball coach, I will say she lived up to her name in more than one way...she brought it to life on the court. Early on she wasn't always graceful as her growing feet got in the way of her running legs. But, more important than the grace she showed through her motions was the grace that flowed from her heart. 

Now, I'm not going to pretend this is easy...we've shed countless tears, wrestled with the why's, don't understand the reason and can't make sense of her death. It hurts. I think of her parents, six siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, 30+ cousins and too many to count friends and my heart breaks. I watch my kids mourn and it hurts. I've experienced loss and said "Good-bye" to loved ones, but today I've experienced groans from places I didn't know I had. And though I've been in tears and found myself crying out, I've experienced God holding me, all of us, up.

The peace that Paul talks about, the one that surpasses all understanding? It's real. I can't explain, but if you have it, you know. And friend, this peace only comes from God's grace. A grace we can't earn and would never deserve, but one God freely gives. If we are willing to receive. Have you received this GRACE? Nothing would make our Grace smile more than to know her mission continued even in her death, accept God's gift of eternal life. I know without a doubt that Grace, the girl who loved fun, is having the time of her life in heaven right now. She had plans to leave her Iowa home for college in Canada in a few short weeks, but like my daughter said, "God changed them, He took her to heaven instead." A year ago, she left the farm and God worked through her; today she went to her eternal home and God is still working through her. 

Friend, I'm going to take a lesson from a girl who was my niece and became my friend, I'm going to be bold and put this out there...we need the GRACE of God. It changes everything...our perspective, our purpose and our pain. God's gift of GRACE is available for you and me...simply admit you are a sinner (and know this - we all are), believe this - God sent His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (see John 3:16) and then "confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)

This won't take the pain away, but it will provide the peace that only comes with knowing God and acknowledging His Son Jesus as Lord and Savior. Life will still be hard, bad things will happen and grief will hurt, but there will be hope and the knowledge that this is not our home. Death, for the living, is a terrible thing, we're the ones left with loss, but God knows that...He lost a Son and is still close to the broken-hearted. The God we praised before Grace's accident is still on the throne after her death. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow!

I say this at 1 in the morning with tears in my eyes and simply a blur on my screen. On the outside I look like a mess and I feel like one too, but deep in my heart I know, I know God is good and He will carry us through. I also know I can echo the word's Grace shared on Facebook not long ago - 

God is good. No matter what you are feeling or not feeling today, that will never change. God is our constant when we're confused, our rock when we're unsure and the one person I know I can always count on. He's really been showing me lately that He is a fact in my life. My feelings and heart can't always define my relationship with Christ because I'm human and I sin and sometimes, they will trick me. But, God is still God. He is still the same yesterday, today and forever. Trust Him no matter what because He will never let you down!

Oh Grace, our former cow-lick kisser, puppy lover and mutton-buster, I miss you deeply. And I know I'm not alone, people literally all over the world are grieving your loss. My prayer is these same people will be forever impacted by God's GRACE as we miss the one we loved and seek the One you loved!! 

One day I long to hear the words I know you did, "Well done good and faithful servant!!" 



My faithful blog reading friends, I ask you to keep us in your prayers. Above is the Harken family, whose life will never be the same. Jennah, Grace's older sister is set to get married on their farm on the 8th...a day everyone was looking forward to, but now, on the outside, it will look different than they expected. Tonight as I carried extra food to our church basement, the one that was supposed to host a bridal shower for Jennah earlier in the day, I saw a verse that we must remember and live out today and always, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

21 comments:

  1. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family during this time of sadness. God will wrap His loving arms around each of you and catch your tears. I'm sure there was a celebration in Heaven when Grace arrived; her Savior was the first one she saw when she opened her eyes in God's kingdom

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    1. Thank you so much for your prayers and encouraging words. We know Grace is where she knew she was going, she just got there earlier than we all wanted. Looking forward to seeing her again someday.

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  2. Prayers for all. His strength & comfort will support and lift you up for He knows our frame as he walked this earth as a "dust person" just as we are.

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    1. Thank you for your words and prayers. Hadn't heard the term "dust person", but it's so true...oh to keep an eternal, proper perspective today and always.

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  3. Sweet Jill, my heart aches for you, and I truly have no words. But I can offer my prayers. Clearly the Lord is feeding you what you need for this long road called grief and mourning. But HE IS our COMFORTER. The God of all Comfort, and I entrust Him with you and with her family. Thank you for sharing Grace's words from her Facebook post. They are absolutely beautiful and wise beyond her years. I picture her dancing with Jesus, her heart full that she is now with the One who created her and she knew and loved so deeply while on this earth. I am praying, my friend, for all of you.

    Love,

    Wendy

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    1. Wendy, thank you for your prayers, kind words and encouraging TRUTH. Yes, this is a long road, but grateful I don't walk it alone. Love you.

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  4. Jill, Heather Pedlar here. I am so sorry to hear about Grace. We met their family several times during our tenure at FCCC and I was always impressed by their deep faith and maturity. Your post was beautiful. May it be a comfort to all who read it and try to make sense of this. You and Job will be in our prayers. . .

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    1. Heather, thank you for stopping by and pausing long enough to comment. Grateful for the faith the Harkens have and know God is strengthening them each moment of the day. Thank you for your continued prayers.

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  5. May God's comfort, peace, and grace fall heavy upon this precious Harken family, over you and your family Jill, and all of Grace's family and friends. I'm so sorry for your loss, Jill. I'm crying with you. God really anointed you to write a powerful article to keep people's eyes fixed on the Lord and on eternity, and also to cherish the sweet memories of your niece. Love & hugs, Amber

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    1. Thank you Amber...this road is a hard one and the post was one I needed personally and I'm grateful God has used it so powerfully. Thank you again for your prayers, I'm grateful to have you in my life! Blessings!

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  6. I'm sorry. I too know the pain of losing a loved one far too soon. I will be praying for you and her family.

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    1. This pain is hard isn't it Kasey? But grateful God is bigger than even that. Thank you for your prayers. Blessings to you!

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  7. Praying for all involved. Thank you for sharing your heart and giving us a glimpse of Grace. Thankful for her relationshi with Christ which makes all the difference for eternity.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Brenda and for your encouraging words. Yes, the hope of heaven brings much needed peace in a time like this. Blessings.

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  8. Praying for all involved. Thank you for sharing your heart and giving us a glimpse of Grace. Thankful for her relationshi with Christ which makes all the difference for eternity.

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  9. Jill...your family and the Harken family have been on my mind and in my prayers!! I was not lucky enough to have met Grace officially but I wish I had. I love your post. It warms my heart to know without a doubt that she is with our good Lord but at the same time my heart breaks for the lose you are all going through. Please let me know if there is anything I can do!!! I will keep you all in my prayers!!!!

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    1. Thank you for your prayers Crystal...you would have loved Grace! Her older sister spoke at ReNEWed Life last year and another one did the year before. We are grateful for the hope of heaven and thankful for the body of Christ that is sharing God's love with all of us. Blessings to you!

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  10. Jill, I wish I could be there to give you a tight hug and just be there to show my love and my sorrow for you during this time of such a great loss to the Harken family, to you and yours, and to the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives Grace touched. God truly spoke to your heart during the wee hours of the night. He is using your writing to help others try to understand the grace of God that Grace shared in and shared with those whom she influenced in her love for God. Your grief is so special to God as only He knows how to comfort you and to help you endure what is ahead as only He can!!! No other can comfort your heart and very soul and bring you peace that you cannot imagine but our Heavenly Father. He is.. and will be holding you and this precious family in His arms, sheltering you all during this "special" time of Grace's homecoming.
    May His comfort and peace surround you,
    Mema Jeanne

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    1. Thank you Mema Jeanne! I always appreciate hearing from you and am encouraged at how God speaks through you. Thank you for your prayers, we need them and God is answering them. Thanks for reminding me that this is a "special" time!

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  11. Jill, I do not know you, but I found this posted on the Facebook page of my sister, who lives in Cresco. I wanted to tell you how well this blog was written and what a wonderful tribute to Grace and her love for the Lord Jesus Christ, and her sharing love to all around her. Grace has just changed her address to 123 Sunrise Circle, Heaven. She is now one of the "great cloud of witnesses" cheering her family and friends on from heaven. "Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you". II Thessalonians 3:16
    Betty Howes

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    1. Betty, thanks for taking the time to share. I prayed God would use my words and He has. I love the new address you mention will share that with my kids! :) Praying that verse for myself right now!! Thanks again!!

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