Monday, May 28, 2007

The stories...

Today, as I reflect on Memorial Day and what that means to me, I can't help but think of the 'stories' I have heard through the years, and those which make up my own life. In church yesterday, the message was about Noah and his great faith. I'm sure most of you know the story. He built an ark and brough all the animals in, two by two, and then it rained forty days and forty nights, and then God opened the ark, sent a rainbow and promised never to flood the earth again. Cute story, no? And it makes for really cute baby room decor to boot.

But really, there is so much more to that story than we normally hear about.
For instance, did you know that Noah felt God speaking to him to build the ark...and when he started to follow that lead, there had never been a flood in the history of the universe before? Noah must have looked crazy to those around him as he began to build a massive boat. It took years to build the boat...still Noah kept the faith.
One of the points made in the message yesterday, was that surely Noah's great faith wasn't something that just happened overnight, but instead, was something that was developed in him as he saw others around him live it out in their own lives. He was 600 years old when he boarded the ark...and during those 600 years, he had heard the stories and watched God's faithfulness in the lives of his father and grandfathers. He had a great spiritual heritage...all the way back to Adam; surely the stories of how God had been true to His promises throughout generations impacted the way Noah responded to God's voice when he heard it in his own life. Noah's faith WAS great...and certainly is an example for the rest of us. But it was his belief that God would do for him what he had seen and heard Him do in the lives of his own family. It wasn't 'blind faith'...but one that had evidence.
It is with these thoughts in mind, that I write today. Memorial Day has taken on a much greater meaning to me, not only since Teagan's death, but with each passing year, as I see how much has been given for this nation of ours, and with such a high price. Hundreds of thousands of people have died for the freedoms that we enjoy each day. Hundreds of thousands of families have had to live with the consequences of their loved ones giving of themselves for others. It is no small thing...certainly worth one day of our time, reflection and thoughts. I remember and am grateful today. For people's lives who have touched mine, though I have never seen them. They are a part of my heritage.
In my own family, Memorial Day has held it's own memories and stories through the years. I see now, how much it is a part of me and has shaped the lives of some of those closest to me through the years. I have written bits and pieces of this story, and thought I would write more of it today. To remember. To honor. To reflect and to share.
My mom's mom, my grandma Shirley, has been a big inspiration and encouragement in my life for so many years- for so many reasons. Her life could be (and probably should be) a book. She was left in a hospital as a newborn baby, and adopted by a family as an infant. There were all sorts of events that happened to her, but in 1953, on Memorial Day weekend, her life story took a tragic turn.
She and some family friends were preparing to go boating and have a picnic together for the day. My mom was not quite 4 at that time, she had 3 brothers and a baby sister on the way. Her dad and 6-year old brother and friend went down to their basement to bring up the boat motor that had been stored for the winter. As they carried the motor out, the fumes ignited the pilot light on the furnace and there was an explosion.
I have heard this story told countless times, from various perspectives, and it is heart-wrenching no matter who shares the details.
My mom remembers seeing her dad and brother both in flames. Her dad laid her brother down and started rolling his body to extinguish the fire. She basically watched him burn to death. He died one stop light before the ambulance arrived at the hospital. Her dad sustained burns to his hands and body- 3rd degree burns over 60% of his body. My grandma was told he would not survive. The doctors repeated this grim prognosis from the burn unit of the University of Minnesota, for a few months. But for some reason, he hung on. He was a 'guinea pig' for many of the skin grafts and treatments that the doctors performed on his burned body. My grandma was at his side through it all. She even gave birth with him in the same room...this back in the day when dad's waited out in the hallways during labor and delivery.
Then, after 2 years of treatments and surgeries, my grandpa was discharged from the burn unit. He still faced months of recovery and had impending skin grafts- especially on his webbed hands, but still, the family was rejoicing at this miracle.
Two weeks later however, tragedy struck again. My grandma and grandpa and the two youngest kids in the family (my aunt Betty and uncle Ken...ages 2 and 4) were driving to a friend's birthday party, when their car had carbon monoxide poisoning, and they all fell grandma did too...their car hit a guardrail, and in that crash, my grandpa was killed on impact. My grandma recalls coming out of her unconscious state only to look over and see my grandpa dying. She herself had major injuries, including both knees broken, and she cried out to God at that time, "I wouldn't treat a dog the way you are treating us". Clearly she was angry and her faith was shaken more than most people have had to endure.
She spent 7 months in recovery...and as a result of the fire and the medical expenses that had incurred, she literally lost everything in a matter of about 3 years. Her husband, her son, their farm; everything.
The interesting thing to me and hundreds of others through the years, has been her attitude and her faith. They have grown and been an encouragement and inspiration to many. I have no doubt that because of the way she has allowed God to work in her life, through her pain and tragedy, many have come to know this same faith that has carried her through. I know it has not been easy. I know she has had days where she wondered why God would allow such suffering, and she has faced doubts and felt angry and ofetn felt like giving up. But, God has been faithful to her, and has given her grace and mercy and blessings and rewards too.
In all my years of growing up, my grandma was married to a wonderful man that I loved dearly- my Grandpa Budke. He was a preacher and the two of them together blended their families, and I was blessed with wonderful aunts and uncles as a result of their marriage. My grandpa died in 1988 of cancer, but still, my grandma faced life with joy and happiness.
My mom and Grandma have recounted these events to me, as I said, many times through the years. They have spoken at churches and events, of God's grace to them through all of these circumstances over the years.
I have seen in them a faith that is real. I have no doubt that my own faith has been strengthened as a result of this spiritual heritage I have been given through them. I know that God has been with them each step of the way. My grandma tells a story of being in the hospital shortly after her car accident. She was wondering where God was and how He could allow such circumstances to befall her- after 2 years of sitting by her husband's bedside...only to have it come to this. It was in the midst of her anger, misery and questions, that she heard the voice of her little girl singing this song- my aunt Betty was in the hospital too, and she was singing, "My Lord knows the way through the wilderness. All I 'has ta do' is follow."
In that moment my grandma talks of a peace and calm that came over her. She didn't have the answers to her questions, she still faced months of pain and hurt, and a life of grief. She still had no home or knew how things were going to work out...but she KNEW that God would provide. Just as He had spared Noah from the flood- asking him to build an ark and do the impossible it seemed, she chose to trust the unknown and to simply 'follow where God would surely lead her...through the wilderness and beyond'.
It is what has been such a comfort and strength and example to me since Teagan's tragic death and the pain and suffering I have had to endure in my own life. Thinking and reflecting on the memories of those who have died and given so much helps me depend on God for whatever task He calls me to. Memorial Day to me is a day to remember. It is a reminder that life doesn't always make sense; that it's not always fair; that it's not always easy. But I simply must believe that God has a plan to make all things new. He has called each of us to follow. That's what faith is. And the examples of those in the Bible, and those in my own family is testament that I can follow unswervingly to this faith. I don't have to be strong, or have all the answers. God will not ask me to do more than I can do in my life...and if I trust that and believe that reality, it gives me ongoing peace and contentment, that I am safe in this world. No matter where my journey takes me.
Today, I remember Teagan especially. I remember others in my family who have served this country, and those family members who have gone before me. I am humbled and grateful for the spiritual heritage I have...for the examples of faith I have seen in the lives of others, and the great hope we all possess as a result of this faith. I imagine someday I will stand in Heaven, and the picture will be so clear of why and how things had to happen the way they did. So, when I have moments of doubt and discouragement in my life, I remember...I realize 'all I have to do is follow'. A hundred years from now, none of this- what I feel or experience on my life's journey- will matter to me anymore. I simply hope that 'my story' will touch a few along the way.


Anonymous said...

when I read about your grandma I realised where you get your strength from.....god put it in your blood and your soul...

mary h. said...

Sweetie, you have touched more than a few along the way.;)

Anonymous said...

You are amazing! I found your blog when you left a comment on Noah Steven's blog--I have been following you ever since--I tell all of my friends to follow your story as well! You are an inspiration!
Erika in MS

Anonymous said...

I sit here reading and the things that seem to be over-whelming to me have no bearing after reading what women (and men)in your family have gone through. Where is God when bad things happen? Right there watching, weeping along with us through it all. He is there for any who seek Him.

I am of the generation who was born during or just after WW2 and the world now is a different place. People no longer seem to find patriotism of that time to be something to embrace. They don't respect their leaders or the country that has sustained them. It grieves me that so many have paid the "ultimate price" for people such as this to denegrate the flag and the freedom that was brought with a huge price. But I praise God for having His hand upon this country...and upon us with many, many blessings that we can't even fanthom.

Blessings to you Jody and your family for the 'witness' you all bear to the rest of us.

gloria said...

what a moving story!!
i am constantly inspired by the stories you share. thank you.

Kristy said...

what can I say? You are an inspiring, sweet, gentle spirit and I feel so blessed to read your words of wisdom. You have definitely touched my life and I know many more along the way!
Kristy in Texas

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your family story with us. What an amazingly strong and inspirational woman your gradmother is.

I often have thought something similar to what you said near the end of your post -- that someday when you are in Heaven it will all make sense. That will be a beautiful day.


tammy said...

Hiya Jody~
Thanks for sharing such a inspirational story. Bless your grandmother's heart. I can only imagine the heartache and pain she endured in such a short amount of time. Love the "wilderness" quote much truth to that!
God bless,
~Tammy Up North

Paula said...

I so feel the same way. THe Lord will always be with us to guide and protect us through the good and bad. We have trust in him and love him as he would love us

Valerie said...

you are so a chip off your grandma. thanks for sharing your grandma's story, as well as a piece of your heart every day.

Anonymous said...

Crazy question Jody:

Is your last name prounounced

Just wondered if Brock's name
"rhymes" :)

Blessings to you, Sue

Anonymous said...

it sounds like 'fur-LACK'...Brock doesn't ryhme. Close though! =)

~Lea~ said...

What a beautiful post Jody. Thanks for sharing that amazing story of your grandma's life. Hope that you had a good weekend.

Lisa G said...

Wow Jody, just wow!