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|
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 |
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