Sep 1st. 16 years ago, it was a Wednesday. I remember my mom dropped me off at Patillo A+ Elementary School. “Love you!” I remember her saying that. I remember the silver Passat. I don’t remember much else from that morning. My life would change that afternoon.
Remember: to have in or be able to bring to one’s mind an awareness of (someone or something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past).
I think it’s important to remember. My friend Hannah pokes fun at me when she catches me scrolling through my camera roll, remembering her cute daughters as babies or remembering how short my hair used to be. I do it more often than I’d like to admit.
I remember being in Kenya with my mom. I remember her by my side when we gave candy canes to little outstretched hands in the pediatric wards. I remember how the hospital smelled badly. I remember the bumpy roads. I remember her showing me how to use a squatty in a cramped dirty bathroom. I remember she let me and my siblings drink Coca-Cola from glass bottles and eat french fries with Peptang tomato sauce.
I remember bits of life with my mom. I remember her wide smile revealing white teeth and her pink manicured toes. I remember her playing the piano. I remember her wearing denim shorts. I remember a time she forgave me when I disobeyed. I remember sitting on the porch swing, praying with her. I remember feeling special to have her time to myself.
I talked to a family friend on the phone the other day. “I didn’t know your mom well, but when my first son was born, she mailed me a Children’s Illustrated Bible. That meant so much to me! She was so thoughtful. I still have it,” Nancy remembered.
I think humans like to remember because we like to feel like we are part of a story. Bigger than us. Grander than just going to work or jogging on the trail or feeding our kids. We reflect on the past and anticipate the future, piecing together a story for ourselves – who we are and what our lives mean. We like stories. We like good stories.
I think God values and cherishes our memories, our stories. He likes stories. Jesus teaches with stories. Most of the Bible is made up of good stories.
But not every story ends well. There are confusing stories. Tragic stories. Stories that don’t line up, don’t make sense, don’t live happily ever after. Moms die. Dads leave. Couples divorce. Women miscarry. Racism. Depression. Bankruptcy. Sickness. Abuse. Poverty. Injustice. Bad stories.
I remember the seven days my mom spent in the ICU. I remember all the people in the waiting room. I remember balloons and hugs and casseroles and playing games. I remember the beeping machines hooked to her body. I remember her shaved head. I remember my Aunt telling me she saw my mom’s eyelids flutter. “She’s going to wake up!” My mom died September 8th, 2004. I was 9 years old. I remember my dad crying in the hallway. I remember him reading a Psalm out loud. I remember how much I loved the new skirt with flowers that I wore to her funeral.
So how do these things reconcile? The pain and grief and bad endings … with a God I believe in, who promises to be good and trustworthy and take care of us. This is a hard question. That theologians spend their lives trying to answer.
But I’m confident that part of the answer is that God does have a really good story, even when it doesn’t seem like it.
One that all of us are invited to be part of, one that He wants all of us to trust. One that is better and more grand than we could ever think of ourselves. One that has a really good ending.
The story that we are His children. That we are enough. That we are accepted. That we are okay. The story that God is good. That He isn’t holding out on us. That He loves this world and He cares for it deeply. That He has given this world everything it needs for abundant and flourishing life. That He rejoices over this world. The story that creation is good. Very good. (inspired by these AMAZING podcasts)
What would it look like to tell our hearts, to tell each other this narrative that God has written? What would it mean to trust the narrative He has written for us, for our neighbors, for this world.
Lisa Sykes Leland. Today I remember her. Who she was, what color she liked to paint her toenails, how much she cherished being a mom. I remember her life, her death, her story.
Her story is a good one. And has an even better ending. Her story was about Jesus. Her story continues with Him, forever.
I was tickled to hear just a few years ago that apparently my mom liked to skip to the back of a book, with the intention to read the rest only if the ending was a good one. Who wants to read a story with a bad ending? I think we feel this way about our lives – we all want a really good story with a really good ending.
Consider the invitation for your story to be one of meaning and hope; to be a really good one. Let the reality of our stories be that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Let our story be about Him.
I leaned over to tie my pink tennis shoe. I was standing at the mailbox in front of my grandparent’s house, ready to jog.
“You’re Ronald’s granddaughter aren’t ya? I didn’t know your mom but I knew your grandmother. I loved your grandmother Jane. That was such a terrible car accident. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
I stood up straight, taken aback. This was just last week. In front of me was a man I’d never seen before. Why should I be surprised, I’m in small town Eastern Carolina.
“Yes sir, yes I am. Thank you for saying that,” I replied, feeling thankful to be part of a story that is still remembered, 16 years later.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.