Three weeks have passed since we said "Good-bye" to our dear niece Grace. It's hard to see but in this picture she's wearing a shirt that says, "Never the Same". That was the motto for her Costa Rica mission trip, but it was also something talked about at her funeral. Her older brother, Caleb, mentioned that life would never be the same and he was right, things are different. I could give you a list, but I'm assuming you've lost a loved one and you know the pain and changes that it brings.
Much has been on my heart the last 21 days and though I'm sad and don't like the fact that our lives will never be the same without Grace in them, I've been challenged as well. In some ways I'm hoping my life is never the same. Death, especially when it's unexpected, is always such a perspective check for me. A reminder of the things, and people, I take for granted. Proof that I am not in control and have no idea what the future holds. Life can get busy and sometimes I lose focus of the big picture. I'll be honest and admit that I'm guilty of getting upset over things that don't matter, getting anxious about things that I can't control and getting consumed with stuff that has no eternal significance.
Days after Grace's death I vowed to be more intentional with my time, my words and my actions. Even with my thoughts and how I appreciated people. As I saw Facebook post after Facebook post with words about the difference Grace had made and heard of the love people had for her, I was convicted. Why do we wait until it's too late to let people know they are appreciated? Maybe that's just me. As I thought about this God assured me it didn't have to be like that. Following Grace's death things would never be the same and this, appreciating others more, would be a good change.
I knew this good change didn't have to be limited to one thing, and I trusted God had more to teach me so in the midst of my sadness I sought His direction and wisdom. God knows I love words and proceeded to give me something for each letter in Grace's name, something that when I put together I call "the GRACE project". These are all things I've tried to do before, but have been more intentional with the last 3 weeks. I don't want to just remember Grace, but want to be impacted by the legacy she left and friend if you have that desire yourself will join me and complete the GRACE project too?
So what is this you might be wondering? Let me explain -
G - Gospel Sharing - At the funeral, one of Grace's sisters shared a story about her pee-wee softball days. Some of the girls on the team were cheering and yelled, "Believe in yourself! Just believe in yourself!" Little, determined, fearless Grace turned to them and said, "Don't believe in yourself, believe in Jesus!!" At a young age Grace got it, she understood the Gospel and she wasn't afraid to share it. I know it, but I can do better at sharing it. There are times I need to be like that little girl Grace and not worry about what others will think and simply speak up and share the Truth. That's what the "G" of "the GRACE project" is all about. "But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15
R - Right Living - Now Grace would be the first to admit she was far from perfect, but as a 20 year old she had a deep desire to live rightly. When it comes to right living it's avoiding the wrong, bad things (God will clearly show you what that means for you), but it's more. Right living is tied to Godly living. Remember the old phrase, "What would Jesus do?" I think right living boils down to "What did Jesus do?" Abiding, prayer, seeking, sharing our faith and forgiving are all a big piece of this puzzle! Friend we must avoid sin, but let's not forget to also do what is right! "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Colossians 3:17
A - Appreciate the Moment - This letter sums up what I was talking about earlier...friend, it's a hard fact to face, but the reality is all of us have numbered days. We have no idea what tomorrow will bring so we need to make the most and best of today. It's easy for life to go by and be distracted by the busyness. We need to be thankful, but don't stop there, why not let others (God first, then people) know we love and appreciate them. Take a minute and think - when is the last time you really let someone know what they mean to you? Remember this is not about flattering someone else, but genuinely sharing how you see God working in and through them. "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18
C - Courageous and Obedient - Have you ever thought about what it means to be courageous? According to Webster it means to be brave, but Biblically this word means a bit more - "the quality of mind that enables people to encounter danger or difficulties with firmness and without fear." Personally, courage has never been one of my strong points, but God has been working on that and friend it takes courage to be obedient, which in the Bible means "to hear God's Word and act accordingly." Grace lived this out...I specifically remember her coming home from a mission trip two years ago when she was set to head to her first year of college. She was excited and looking forward to it, but while on foreign soil she sensed God leading her in a different direction so she cancelled all her plans and lived God's out. For us hindsight is 20/20 and it's obvious she did the right thing and went where God called, but friend we need foresight to trust God when He changes our plans. Courageous obedience is a must if we want that to happen. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Johsua 1:9
E - Encouraging and Enthusiastic - Finally when I think about Grace two powerful "E" words come to mind - she was enthusiastic about all she did and was an encourager for all who knew her. Oh to be the same! Friend if you long to live out these words let me assure you of something God has been teaching me...it's possible! The same Holy Spirit that equipped Grace can equip you and me. And that same Spirit can work through us to impact others. "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Grace's death spurred on "the GRACE project" for me, but as I pray about this I realize it's not just something to do in memory of Grace, but understand it will only take place because of God's grace. It's His free gift that has changed me and will equip me to do all He asks. He will do the same for you! So friend, even if you never knew "our Grace" I pray you've experienced God's grace and if you're feeling led to live out "the GRACE project" I pray God will work through that powerfully in your life and for His kingdom!
I'm going to close by sharing a video of Grace that her sister posted on Facebook. Five days after Grace's funeral was her older sister Jennah's wedding. They found this song recorded on her computer; she wrote it and I believe intended to sing at the reception. The tears still fall every time I listen, but as someone said these words could have also been about her relationship with Jesus...she is with Him now for eternity. May we each pursue Him, strengthen our relationship with Him and live our lives for Him!