A Celebration

It’s hard to believe it’s been one month already. I know many of you who cared for Julie were unable to attend her memorial service. A member of our congregation, with a servant’s heart, worked very hard to put together this video from her service. Thank you Mike. I hope that you find this celebration of her life uplifting and may it bring comfort knowing she lived life with noble character, a smile on her face, and a heart full of joy.

You won

My best friend, wife, and an amazing mother has left behind the hurt of this world. She now abides in the comfort of her first and truest love. Oh sweet soul, my Jugi, how I will miss your smile.

Our Story

We were teenage kids when we met. Two kids from the same neighborhood, with a shared history of places, schools and friends, and though it made it easier to relate and bond we were certainly different. I was brash and arrogant. She was quiet and thoughtful. I was floundering. She was grounded. She had joy in her heart. I had doubt. Pain filled my heart from loss, but she could see past it.

Her beauty and belief launched a thousand ships in my heart. She made me want to be a better man, more caring, more compassionate, more humble, more and more and more. Outside of my parents, no one’s influence on me has been more profound. Why? Because she insisted Jesus be the center of our relationship. Always, from the beginning. The problem was I stunk at it. Like a toddler I stumbled alot. I made so many mistakes, created unfortunate pain and hurt. I learned to say I’m sorry. And like any parent knows, when the toddler stumbles you pick them back up, nudge them forward with a smile, and tell them they can do this. And that’s what she did every time; smiled at me, nudged me closer to Jesus, and believed in me. And slowly the teenage boy more consumed with his own self-interests than others self-worth learned to love with purity and selflessness. I learned that when you put Jesus first you can figure out the other stuff. It’s still going to hurt and be difficult at times, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.

During the past 20 years that’s exactly what our story looks like. The narrative has been filled with chapters of joy and love, pain and sickness, happiness and blessings, fear and angiush. The chapter today is certainly filled with angiush and dread, and maybe even the next couple of chapters. But what really got me thinking about this was when the pastor at church prayed over us the weekend during the service. I thought why single out Julie’s story? Surely there are others here who have similar stories; other people with pain, doubts, and difficulty. Aren’t their stories significant? Don’t they matter? Of course they do, but maybe God has choosen Julie to tell her to story publicly because she’s got a secret — Julie knows how her story ends. She knows that no matter how many chapters are left, at the end she falls into the loving arms of Jesus. She is surrounded by his grace and his mercy. It’s possible that what’s happened all along is each little smile she’s given you, each bit of witty sarcasm, each time you’ve found encouragement has been a gentle nudge back to Jesus. What I’ve come to realize is God knows each and every one of our stories, the beginning to the end, and that my hope and prayer is each of us marches boldy forward through all the chapters with the same confidence as Julie. Are you confident in how your story ends?

Father, today I come before you to plead for more nudges, more smiles, and more sarcasm. I need more story for me, my girls, and my wife. I pray that you wrap your loving arms around the girls. Give them comfort and wisdom beyond their needs. I pray that this cancer is removed from her body forever. I pray that you give the doctors the wisdom and understanding necessary to be successful. I pray that your glory shine through this story, that we do not lean on our own understanding but simply and boldy trust you in all things. I pray for healing in her body, that she recovers quickly, and she continues to be brave. I come before you with fear and doubt but I also know you hear my plea. Grow my faith today.