There are a handful of experiences that I can wholeheartedly say helped shape who I am. (Note: do not translate that to “define” who I am… Christ defines who I am and that is all). At the top of that list, ranks the experience that I had growing up with my dear baby sister Laura.
Today marks 5 years since she left this world to go be in a more majestic place with Jesus. You won’t hear me say the word “die” because, although our bodies die, our hearts and souls do not. Praise be to my Savior for what He did on the cross so that we could LIVE with Him. Point being, my sister isn’t dead. She’s alive, with Jesus.
While Laura was here, she was one of the bravest, most stubborn, smart-as-a-whip, strongest, people I have ever known. While she could talk (as a toddler), it was pretty obvious that she was going to be the sister with the good grades, good looks, and all the talent. But the true tenacity of her character showed during the years that she was unable to speak, walk, sit up, or hold her head up. (For those of you that have never read or heard, she had Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (infantile)… link to what that means is somewhere on here, or you can just Google it. The point of this post isn’t about disease. Disease gets no attention or time from me).
Here’s the thing; if it’s raining on the wrong day, or I’m sick with a cold, or there’s some other stress going on, then I just want to go home, sit the rest of the day out and start again tomorrow. Laura was not like that. At all. Every day for her took effort. Lots of effort. She had to be spoon-fed mushy food for every meal, and that could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Baths weren’t the most comfortable because she had to have those baby sponges, and sometimes they didn’t cushion very well. The rest of the day she would spend on the couch, unless we ran errands in which she would come with us while seated in a car seat or wheel chair. (Let’s just take a moment to realize how amazing my parents are, too, because they always took the best care of her). Nonetheless, she woke up and faced every day with determination for 12 years with her condition (she lived to be 14) and didn’t give up until she couldn’t breath anymore. She could’ve given up on life but she didn’t. And she had a couple times where, while in the hospital, she could have. She’s a living testimony to how we should face every day.
I, by no means, am even remotely as good as she was at facing the day with courage. Some days, I slip into routine and forget that that’s how life was for so long. (It’s funny how 5 years can seem so close, but so far away at the same time). Other days, I snap back to 5 years ago and think “oh I need to be quiet because she’s sleeping”. Regardless of the memory of the circumstances of the situation, I won’t ever forget her and her character.
One day, (about 3 days before she passed away), she and I were in her room listening to a CD a friend had given me. The song “I’m Ready Now” by Desperation Band was on, and as the chorus began to to build up, she began responding (which for her, was a sort of a soft, humming in her voice). So we just talked and when my parents came in, they asked “she sure is talking a lot, what are y’all listening to?” The lyrics to the song were this: “I’m ready now, do what you will”. That’s something else about her. Not only did she face every day with a spirit of determination, but she knew the Lord was with her and she was ready for Him to do His will. Even at the very end, when she wasn’t able to breath easily, she had complete faith in her Lord. And she made it completely apparent in her agreement with the song. (If you click on the song, it’s a little older, so don’t judge).
There were so many times that I was sure she could see angels, (the ones protecting her, and doing battle against the Enemy). In fact, being with her was comforting because you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit with her. The Lord is faithful and presides over every circumstance, and He made it extremely apparent in my sister’s life. Not only did He create one of the most beautiful spirits I have ever seen, but His presence was palpable in her life. When I say that my experience with her helped shape my spiritual journey, I mean it in a multifaceted way. She was a light, and He used her to show that He can fuel our strength in all circumstances.
I’ve never taken the time to write or talk about her quite like this, because, well, when someone can’t walk or talk, how can you really explain who a person is without being able to give physical reference? But on the anniversary of the day she went to live in Heaven with Jesus, I wanted to do more than just post a picture on Instagram. I’m not seeking attention at all, but I do want to highlight the life that my sister led. She was amazing, and I only hope that I can learn to be that strong in tough circumstances.
The thing is, she trusted God. And how could she not? In that situation you’d have to be desperate for Jesus every day. But she didn’t get discouraged and give up. She lived life to the very end. Me? Well, after she passed away I went through a long season (nearly a year and a half) where I didn’t doubt God, or His love, or His existence, but I just didn’t understand, and I made some poor decisions. Nothing life altering, but they could have been. See, it went like this: I knew from a very young age that the faith of a mustard seed could move mountains, and that by His stripes we were healed, so all we had to do was receive what He did for us. And we trusted God for her healing. But in the process, I put God in a box. I shaped what I expected Him to do by my mold of what it meant. In actuality, there is an entire part of this that we can’t see and we won’t see until we get to heaven. God didn’t work any less of a miracle and I’m more than certain that He was glorified in the life and passing of my sister. I guess I’ll just have to wait to see the magnitude of said miracle, when I go to be with Jesus.
I miss her, a lot. I miss talking to her, holding her hand, her attitude, her personality, the whole thing. And yes, that does make me want to cry. But even though it might seem like a long time until I get to see her again, I do get to see her again. I can’t wait to see her and all the jewels in her crown. Moreover, I can’t wait to see Jesus and for us to be together with Jesus. It will be… like, ahhh! I can’t even fathom it.
So I really hope that you walk away from this post feeling inspired, joyful, and with a sense of encouragement that He has it all in His hands. Not sad. Cause here’s another thing that experience taught me: no matter what, if He is at the center of you your life and you have given Him complete control, everything, literally EVERYTHING will be okay no matter what. I never allowed myself to even think about “what if” Laura passed away. It was never talked about, and it was the worst possible scenario I could think of for years. But in Him all things are made new. He is the Bread of Life that sustains us, and let me tell you, He SUSTAINED me. Every need He has provided, every fear He has taken away, and I know that no matter what we face He will provide.
Today, on January 12, 2015, I’m giving praise for the life of my sister. She was an amazing girl, and I’m just honored that I got to be her big sister. I’m giving praise, that I will get to see her again one day. I give praise for His faithfulness and grace during my wretched season of life where I didn’t understand and have full trust. I’m giving praise for the opportunity that I had to see Him work in a completely unique way. Laura, I love you, and I hope you are celebrating and praising just as much as me right now.