Friday, May 8, 2015


Listen, GOD! Please, pay attention!
Can you make sense of these ramblings, my groans and cries?
King-God, I need your help.
Every morning you’ll hear me at it again.
Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life
on your altar and watch for fire to descend. (Psalm 5:1-3 The Message)

I stood in the doorway of my closet with a huge empty box. The cat wondered what I was doing with the box. So did I. I talked to her. She's a good listener.

“Where should I begin to pack up this far corner of my house? There are maternity clothes and cloth diapers in here! Our youngest child is nine! Maybe I should check my e-mail first. Yes. I’ll think about packing in five minutes.”

I clicked on an e-mail titled “Ellen” from my women’s ministry leader. I figured it was a prayer request for my friend who was in intensive care due to cancer complications. The e-mail filled my screen and I gasped.

Ellen was gone.

“No,” I said out loud, “No. I just saw Ellen at Bible study two or three weeks ago!” Ellen was so alive, so passionate—“Ellen” and “dead” did not belong in the same sentence.

I remember a precious day with Ellen five years ago. She burst into the study I was leading, crying out, “I just came from the doctor and I have cancer.” Oh Ellen. Brave Ellen, to share such a fragile moment with her Bible study sisters. We gathered around her and prayed. Several women who had already walked this path told Ellen what to expect the next few months, and reassured her that she had an excellent doctor. (I was overwhelmed with all the hugging that happened in our class that day.)

Eventually Ellen chose a verse to cling to on her journey:

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

Now my friend is gone. Gone to a forever home with no more packing boxes. I glanced at the still empty packing box at my closet door. How could I think about packing while I grieved for Ellen? I rejoiced for her homecoming, but sorrowed for her three daughters, and for the fact that I will never again greet her in the church parking lot.

I am annoyed by cancer metaphors. “She lost her fight with breast cancer.” Ellen didn’t lose. Cancer didn’t win. Ellen finished her race, followed the perfecter of her faith, and now she sees him face to face.

Weeks later, as I write this, I remember Ellen's memorial service. The music was perfect. Ellen was a teacher, and she chose songs that told us who Jesus is. She wanted our last thoughts of her to be focused on him.

I wonder how I can adopt Ellen's verse. What does that mean, in practical steps? How can I stop staring at that pink oleander (did I mention I hate pink?) and look to Jesus?

I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God. (Psalm 69:3 NIV)
But I pray to you, Lord, in the time of your favor;
in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation. (Psalm 69:13)

You can read Ellen's writings at

Unknown photo source.

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