Harder Family

Harder Family

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The House of Mourning

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."

Last week I had the privilege of traveling to California to support my friend Lynnie, who had lost the love of her life to GBM brain cancer. I met Lynnie a few months ago in a Facebook support group for women whose husbands have GBM brain cancer. I discovered that Lynnie lived in Chicago and that her husband, Bobby, was being treated at Northwestern like Wayne. We started attending the brain cancer support group at Northwestern around that same time. In the support group, we were given the opportunity to get to know Bobby and Lynnie better. I know that there are no accidents in this life. Meeting and getting to know Bobby and Lynnie was not by accident. I know that God placed me in Lynnie's life for a purpose. That purpose was to be a light. 

God calls us to be the aroma of Christ to the world around us. Walking with someone through the death of a loved one is difficult, but it provides us not only a chance to show the love of Jesus, but it also gives us a chance to stop and reflect. According to Ecclesiastes, it is better to go to the house of mourning then to a house of feasting. Bobby and Lynnie are Jewish, which allowed me to experience a different kind of funeral. The service was beautiful and I loved hearing the scriptures read in Hebrew. Bobby was buried at Mount Sinai cemetery in California, which was one of the most beautiful cemeteries I have ever seen. 

After the funeral, they hold a Shiva, which is a seven day period of mourning. In Old Testament times this was a time of outward mourning where people would rip their clothes, they would weep and wail, they wouldn't eat, and they put ashes on their head. Friends would go to the house of mourning to visit, mourn, and eat with the family. At Bobby's funeral, the modern version of ripping your clothes was performed. The Rabbi placed a ribbon on each of the family members and then the Rabbi ripped the ribbon to symbolize the tearing of one's clothes, which is called Kriah. It is so beautiful to see Jewish practices and realize the Jesus participated in all of these during His life on earth. I love the heritage that we share! The Rabbi quoted Psalm 121, one of my favorite chapters in the Bible that talks about the help that God gives us!

Experiencing this Jewish funeral made the verses in the Bible come alive, especially the verses from Ecclesiastes above. As I sat grieving with my friend and her loved ones, it reminded me how precious life is. If you attend a party or banquet, chances are that you aren't contemplating and evaluating your life. Most likely, you are laughing and enjoying yourself. Laughter is good for us. In fact, in Proverbs 17:22, it says that a joyful/cheerful heart is good medicine. The danger is that we tend to run from our problems or from the gravity of life and death. We prefer laughing and good times instead of pondering that our lives are but a vapor (James 4:14). 

Sorrow, although it is painful, leads us to reflective thinking about our lives. We try to avoid death and suffering, and yet these are the very things that God uses to mold and shape us to make us more into His image. Suffering and sorrow lead to eternal benefits, which are far greater than the temporary pleasures that one experiences at a party. 

How do you respond to sorrow, pain and suffering? When you are a child of God, He walks along side you and comforts you in ways no person or substitute can. Experiencing joy in the midst of trials, suffering, and loss seems to contradict one another. But, when your joy comes from the Lord, it is unending and unexplainable. Will there be sadness and tears, absolutely! Even Jesus wept when Lazarus died. 

Sorrow, pain and suffering is all around us. Tomorrow the girls and I will attend the wake of an amazing, godly woman who I have known for about fifteen years. We spent hours canning together and just talking about Jesus. Although it is sad to see her go, I know that she is in heaven rejoicing with her Savior!

This morning I wept with my friend Lori. Her father is in the hospital facing a very dire future with cancer. We wept over the phone and prayed together over her father. Although we prayed for a physical healing, the more important prayer of our hearts was for his salvation. 

The hardest part of attending a funeral is knowing the person didn't know Jesus as their Savior. I have attended quite a few funerals. There is a huge difference between the funerals I have attended. Last year I attended the funeral of a man who faithfully loved and served Jesus up until his final breath. His funeral was a celebration of a life well lived and a "celebration" of his home coming. His family didn't mourn as those without hope, but as those with hope that they will one day be reunited with him in heaven. I attended another funeral a few years ago and the person was an unbeliever. It was a very somber, sad funeral as the family mourned without hope. Both families experienced sorrow and sadness over their loved ones, but the difference was hope or the lack of hope. Jesus is the one that provides the hope that makes the difference! He can turn our mourning into joy.

Psalm 30:5 "...weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning."

Jeremiah 31:13 "...For I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow."

Back to Ecclesiastes 4 and the deep truths contained within those verses. My challenge is for you to attend funerals. Don't be afraid to ponder and consider death. Death is inevitable for all of us and no one is promised a long life. Through sorrow we consider the seriousness of life, we take inventory of our lives, we evaluate our situations, and we make changes to our lives. It is human nature to look more seriously at God when we experience suffering and sorrow. We realize that we can not do life on our own. Our times of need lead us to depend on Him and His strength to make it through. The trick is to remind ourselves when life is "good" and "going well" to keep that same dependence on Him. 

I know that when Wayne was going through his brain cancer treatments, that God used that time to draw my heart closer to Him. He created a depth in my soul that I couldn't have reached any other way. I look back in my life and I know there are very specific times that my faith grew deeper during painful suffering and trials. But I would not trade those experiences because of the work God has done in my life.

Allow God to do the work He wants to do in your life. Is it hard and painful to allow God to mold and shape us? Yes! But is it worth it? Absolutely! He will walk along side you and will fulfill His promises because He is faithful. We may not see His purpose this side of heaven, but we can rest in the knowledge of who He is and the promises He has given us.

Job 8:21 "He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy."

Please pray for my friend Lori and her dad, for Lynnie as she mourns the loss of Bobby, for my friend Mary and her husband Jonathan who is fighting brain cancer, for the Deal family as they mourn the loss of Edna, and for the salvation of any of these who do not know Jesus, who is the HOPE that I live on every day!

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Long Goodbye

Isaiah 43:1-3 "But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.'"

Back in 2015 when Wayne was diagnosed, I came across a blog written by a woman by the name of Kara Tippetts. Months before I found this blog, I had read a letter she wrote to a young woman named Brittany Maynard. A friend on Facebook, whose father had passed away from brain cancer, shared this letter. At the time, it moved me greatly. Little did I know that brain cancer would touch our lives just a few short months later. In this letter Kara, who was dying from stage 4 breast cancer, shared with Brittany, who wanted to end her life because of her brain cancer, that we don't have to be afraid of dying or suffering. Kara spoke from first hand experience walking the hard road of suffering. Here is a quote from part of her letter to Brittany: 

Dear heart, we simply disagree. Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known.

In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with the such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths.

As I sat on the bed of my young daughter praying for you, I wondered over the impossibility of understanding that one day the story of my young daughter will be made beautiful in her living because she witnessed my dying.

That last kiss, that last warm touch, that last breath, matters — but it was never intended for us to decide when that last breath is breathed.

Knowing Jesus, knowing that He understands my hard goodbye, He walks with me in my dying. My heart longs for you to know Him in your dying. Because in His dying, He protected my living. My living beyond this place.

But in my whispering, pleading, loving voice dear heart- will you hear my heart ask you, beg you, plead with you — not to take that pill. Yes, your dying will be hard, but it will not be without beauty. Will you please trust me with that truth.

More importantly, will you hear from my heart that Jesus loves you. He loves you. He loves you. He died an awful death upon a cross so that you would know Him today that we would no longer live separate from Him and in our death. He died and His death happened, it is not simply a story.

He died and He overcame death three days later, and in that overcoming of death He overcame the death you and I are facing in our cancer. He longs to know you, to shepherd you in your dying, and to give you life and give you life abundant- eternal life.

But in our dying, He does meet us with His beautiful grace.

Just a few months after reading this touching and moving letter, Wayne was diagnosed with the same brain cancer that took Brittany Maynards young life. One night, as I was up late praying and wrestling with God over this cancer, God brought this letter to my mind. I looked up Kara's website and read her old posts. I did not know Kara, yet her honest expression of what she was experiencing and the closeness she felt with God reached through the screen. Not long after I started reading her blog, she passed away from her cancer. I was devastated, along with thousands of people around the world who were following her story.

It was at that moment that I realized that God uses both life and death to display His glory. God has been glorified through this woman's life in amazing ways across the globe. One person's suffering, that she handled with grace, has touched thousands of lives. Isn't that how we should all live? 

From the beginning of Wayne's diagnosis, it has been our prayer that God would be glorified, in his living or in his dying, much like Kara's life. God has been gracious to allow Wayne to lives these four years, after being told that the average life expectancy is 12-18 months. We cannot take a moment for granted, we must live in the beauty of suffering. Whether that suffering is a hard relationship, a physical illness, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, etc. God, in His great plan, allows suffering to enter our lives. Not to punish us or to be a mean God, but to help grow us in His image and draw us closer to Him. Wayne is not the same man he was before brain cancer, he is even better now. His love for the Lord and his passion to live fully for God is contagious. He may not be able to always clearly communicate his thoughts, but deep inside is a man with a deeper love and walk with the Lord because of his suffering. Wayne's suffering has impacted our entire family, but I trust that God will be glorified in the end in all of our lives because we have been entrusted to walk this road of suffering, which allows us to grow closer to God each day. 

I am so thankful for Kara and her testimony. At the end of her life, some friends decided to make a documentary about her life and her testimony. On March 22nd, this documentary will be released on DVD. Below is the trailer for the movie. I already ordered a copy. I would love for others to be able to experience the testimony of this godly woman. I am going to give away a free copy of the movie to one of my blog followers, so if you aren't following me, add me. 😀 There will be a random drawing on 4/15/19. 

Thank you again for all of your prayers for our family! We couldn't make it on this journey without all of you praying along side of us! Please also pray for my friend Lynnie who lost her sweet husband tonight to brain cancer. My heart is breaking with her.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Two Year Adventure

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

Today Facebook reminded me that two years ago I was climbing the Great Wall of China! I absolutely loved China and would return in a heart beat to visit our sons' birth country. The people of China were friendly, the food was delicious, and the best part of the trip was getting our two sons. I won't sugarcoat adoption and make it appear like it is all rainbows and unicorns because adoption is hard. BUT, adoption is also beautiful. It is crazy to see how far we have come in two years...both individually and as a family. God has taught me so much over the past two years about myself, and He continues to teach my heart new things. Different experiences in life will peal back layers we try to cover over. Adoption is one of those experiences that God will use to point out parts of your heart and attitude that need adjusting. Although the last two years have been hard at times, I would not change the past or exchange what I have learned. 

There are many hard things in adoption, but there are pictures of beauty as well. This year, both boys decided that they wanted to follow Jesus!! That made our heart sing with joy! That wasn't the only exciting news. Yesterday at church when Shan Chen saw a screen mentioning baptism, he told us that he wanted to be baptized and it was time that he took that step. Last night Shan Chen called our pastor and told him that he wanted to be baptized. Shan Chen will be the first one to tell you that while in China, he never heard who Jesus was. In fact, he will tell you that he prayed to idols and he feels bad that he did that. He says that someone needs to tell other people in China about Jesus! He says that he is so glad that he came to America and was able to learn about Jesus' love and forgiveness! THAT is worth every tear, struggle, and battle we have fought over the two years fighting trauma, medical issues, and different diagnosis. 

And that my friend is where YOU come in. There has been a lot of chatter and discussion on the internet over the last few weeks about abortion and protecting life. I am full PRO-LIFE, so hear my heart clearly in this! I wonder how many of us say we are pro-life, but don't do anything else to help protect those lives we don't want aborted. What about a young mom who needs someone to walk along side her during her pregnancy and needs someone to show her the love of Jesus? What about the 100,000+ children in America in foster care? What about volunteering at your local pregnancy center, or opening your home for short period of time through Safe Families? Maybe it is supporting someone adopting or donating supplies to organizations who are on the ground fighting to help others? Sometimes we need to put some feet to our words. Proclaiming the gospel to a lost and dying world is the most important task we have as Christians, but we also are called to be God's hands and feet. On this day we celebrate 2 years with DJ (Shan Chen's two years is in just a couple days), I just wanted to challenge you to pray and contemplate how God may be calling YOU to be His hands and His feet.

Some people think we are crazy and they have questioned if we have lost our minds. I mean who adopts two boys, with unknown needs, in the midst of having a terminal cancer? Who moves to another state and leaves everything behind for the unknown? I say we are absolutely not crazy, we are just crazy for Jesus! As Corrie ten Boom once said, "The safest place to be is in the center of God's will." Pray and ask God where the center of His will is for your life. Maybe God has some crazy, bold adventure for your to embark on as well. I say go for it! There is no place better than in God's will!!!

China: 2017 (above pictures)

Current pictures (below)