The rain is falling this dark night. I listen to the drops fall upon the roof and against the windows. I hear occasional gusts of wind blow swiftly through the trees. The seasons are changing. There is always turbulence during change and transitions. Change isn't all bad but it definitely disturbs our comfort level. Our family had it's "normal" shaken. And now with the change that Laina has passed into new life with Christ, a new normal is starting to emerge for us as well. I recognize that this next year there will be many "firsts." The first time I go to parent teacher conferences alone. The first time I care for myself and the girls while we are sick. The first time I plan and prepare for Matea's birthday without Laina. The first time (in two weeks) that I will remember our 12 year wedding anniversary and be without my wife. The changes come with remembering the wonderful times of the past, but also questions and uncertainty of the moving forward. I still have dreams and hopes, but not my partner who walked with me through them. Life is a journey. We need to keep moving forward. I could choose to stand still and do nothing. Or I could seek God whole heartedly as I've always done and trust Him to walk with me and the girls through this transition. A new season is upon us.
I must say, I am so thankful for my daughters. The faith of children is a wonder to me. I'm getting more cuddles and having wonderful, deep theological conversations with them about life and death, heaven and hell, sadness and joy... They understand more than we give children credit for. Of course they miss mommy as I do. But their hope, joy and peace encourages me. Matea and I watched mommy's video again today. Such rich words of wisdom, grace and peace that Laina offered. And you should see the girls faces when Laina shares about their names and our hopes for them. I see a sparkle in their eyes and their faces light up. They have received the blessing and love of their mother and can remember her love through the video and our stories. I'm not saying that everything is perfect and that there will be no challenges. But through this transition I see God working in our lives, together.
The last couple years I've studied and prayed through this passage,
Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
We often refer to these verses when we are tired, worn out or frustrated with life. And I have definitely hit those moments with ministry and the cancer journey. But what I did not expect is how God has used our trials, fears, uncertainty, weariness and pain to shape us into His son's image more and more. Isn't that the goal that God has for us to be made into the image of Christ until we all reach maturity? If we are following Jesus closely, we will face trials and suffering. That is a hard truth isn't it? Yet when we are weary where else can we turn? The internet? Alcohol or drugs? The latest fad or trendy religion? A relationship? People do turn to these but Jesus is the best answer though it is difficult to follow him at times. Peter said to Jesus, "To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Our momentary trials are working within us the Christ-like maturity that God desires for us. It's amazing really. That though my wife has passed away and I miss her terribly - I still have peace, joy, love... because of our precious faith in Jesus. He gives us the fruit of the Spirit. I feel rest in Him. My burdens though many with grief, paperwork, housework, taking care of the girls and considering my vocation - is light. Jesus is humble and gentle of heart - He cares for us. Seasons change but God uses those transitions to change us. We cannot stay as we are or have been, we must reach maturity in Christ. We don't do this on our own, it is with Christ's help, the Holy Spirit's empowering and counsel and with other Christian's in community.
When I consider all that we have been through these last couple years, I ask God: Is this the rest you give when I come to you?! Yet, whether I came to him or not we would still have to go through this suffering, through cancer. And the truth is that I (we) have seen God's extravagant love continually through this journey! So yes, the Lord is true to His word at giving us rest for our souls. I'm learning to take His yoke/burdens on and learning from him. If I look in contrast to the burdens and yokes that others put on me or even the burden I put on myself - Jesus's burdens are light and easy. I've had employers give me a ton of work while they are surfing the internet or joking around. Has any employer ever asked you to work late, miss family events or even church to complete projects? That is a heavy burden and at what cost? The cost of time with family? The cost of a marriage? The cost of your soul?! Jesus has much to teach us if we are willing to learn from him. The last couple years have been extremely burdensome learning to detach and let go of many things and people. Yet my heart and eyes are learning to look heavenward. By fixing my eyes on eternal life I don't make other inconveniences or burdens such a big deal.
The invitation still stands from the words of Jesus, "Come to me..."Once again, today I come to him, seek him and learn from him. He is gentle and humble of heart - I know I'll find rest for my heavy soul. Jesus promised!
This Saturday at Oakwood Church in Hartland, WI we will celebrate a memorial for Laina Jerdon (Rowe). One way that we can continually remember Laina and cherish some of the beautiful things that we enjoyed together, is to contribute to the building of a prayer garden in her memory. The photo above is schematic, but will give you an idea of what we are trying to create. The prayer garden will be hosted on site at Oakwood Church. The girls and I, along with Laina's parents and others can come to the garden to remember Laina, but most importantly seek the Lord in prayer surrounded by the beauty of His creation.
Laina and I loved going on hikes in nature and talking to God as we walked along. My previous poem indicated such a time of prayer. Laina and I also loved taking time to pray in prayer labyrinths as well. This practice of prayer labyrinths dates back a couple thousand years ago. What Laina and I like about it is that it forces us to slow down, breath and listen to God. We may bring our journals and Bibles or just walk and talk to him. I won't go too deep into it's practices for now. But for the sake of Laina's memorial we wanted to create a place where people could come and meet with the Lord and pray.
If you'd like to contribute to the design and building of this memorial please send checks to:
Oakwood Church and note in memo "Laina Jerdon Memorial Garden".
We appreciate your donation to this memorial or to Angels Grace Hospice in memory of Laina Jerdon in leu of flowers.
Lastly, we will also be posting the memorial service on Facebook Live on Saturday at 1:50pm.
We are missing Laina... but rejoicing she is with the Father in Heaven and seeing the face of Jesus!
PS> Thank you to Josh Larson for the design of the prayer garden and for Oakwood Church in their generosity in hosting this memorial.
A prayer Labyrinth in Tennessee where Laina
and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary.
Here you will find updates, thoughts, discussion and prayers for my life and ministry...