Death, Its Blessings, and A Fresh Start.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." - Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

I was asked this week if there was a defining event that altered the course of my life. I can think of a few events that impacted my life in a major way, but this was the one that changed everything.

The pastor cleared his throat. "Your father has gone to be with the Lord."

Almost 19 years ago, my mom drove my dad to Pennsylvania to receive a kidney and pancreas transplant. I didn't know the severity of the surgery at the time. All I knew was that daddy was sick, and the doctors were going to make him better.

And they did. Daddy was a juvenile diabetic, and for the first time since he was a kid, he didn't have to inject himself with insulin. He had a successful surgery.

Two weeks later, on the night of New Year's Day, my older sister and I sat in the family room waiting to go to our next-door neighbor's house. My dad had been vomiting the night before, so my mom was taking him back to the hospital where he had the surgery.

Something was wrong.

Even though my dad was sick, I remember nagging him all day about opening a bottle of Martinelli's to celebrate New Year's Day. Drinking Martinelli's was a family tradition, and I didn't want to break it.

But daddy was annoyed with me (for good reason). He was sick and trying to figure out what was going on with his body, and all I cared about was popping a bottle of sparkling cider.

While my sister and I were waiting on the couch, I heard my mom scream from her bedroom. I tiptoed into the room to find out what happened.

And that's when I saw him—my dad passed out on the bed. Mommy was hysterically crying and panicking, so my older brother called 911.

As soon as my mom could contain herself, she told my sister and me to go next door immediately. We left thinking everything was going to be okay.

But everything was not okay.

We were only at our neighbor's house for about an hour before we were told to go home. Go back home? Why? I was confused.

When we got home, there were people all over our house, including the pastor of our church who was daddy’s good friend since childhood. We sat down at the kitchen table and were told the horrific news—our beloved father had gone to be with the Lord.

My sister started crying, my brother was already crying, and my mom was inconsolable. Everyone was crying but me. I never cried.

What's wrong with me? When someone you love dies, you're supposed to cry. I wanted to cry, but the tears never fell. Instead, I felt numb, confused, and guilty.

My dad was dying, and I was being a selfish 12-year-old who only cared about having a glass of sparkling cider.

The Blessings of Death

The last 19 years of my life have been a wild bull ride. But, and I know this might sound strange, some blessings came from my father's death.

My dad was a man of great faith, and his death taught me to take risks, live in the moment, spend as much time as I can with the people I love, and most importantly, trust God in everything I do.

One day after my dad's surgery, I remember having family devotions and my dad telling us that while he was under anesthesia, God showed him some of the mischievous things he did in his life.

He then apologized for anything he might have ever done to offend us and told us the importance of making things right before God because tomorrow is not promised to anyone.

I distinctly remember that family devotion because it was the last one we had before daddy went to be with the Lord. He may have died at a young age, but he left a great legacy.

"Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." - Proverbs 22:6

My dad's death taught me that our time here on earth is short. We are obligated to step into our God-given purpose so those around us can be infected by the contagiousness of the light within us.

I saw the love of God in my dad, and I never forgot the scriptures and lessons that he taught.

C.S. Lewis once said, "When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place." One of the most unexpected blessings that came from my dad's death is my bond with my mom. She's my best friend in the world and the strongest person I know.

A Fresh Start

In this season of my life, I'm learning the importance of taking my problems to the throne instead of to the phone.

When we are grieving, hurting, and going through rough periods in our lives, our first instinct is to call someone who can empathize with us. And there's nothing wrong with that, but lasting healing comes from God alone.

You may not always understand death, loss, and heartbreak, but I want you to know that God can heal all of your wounds. At times, we may not have the strength to move forward, but God offers His strength in exchange for our whole heart.

It's fitting that my dad died on New Year’s Day. For some people who have experienced loss, it can be hard to celebrate the holiday season without their loved ones. But for me, the holiday season always reminds me that even though challenges come our way, we can start fresh.

You don't have to wait for the seasons to change for your season to change. Today is a new day.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." - Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

Let's make 2021 the best year yet by trusting God and starting fresh TODAY.

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Do great things with God.

- Mags

* Today's message was edited from its original post on 12/19/16.