In my spiritual walk, there have been a couple of women who really stand out to me as being instrumental in who I am. My grandmother Jensen - a prayer warrior and a true Lady of God. She prayed for each of us individually every day, and her life shone with a radiance that only comes from one whose face is turned to God 24/7. She passed away in January of 2007, but I know she is with God and take comfort in that. Of course I miss her terribly. Sometimes the smallest thing will bring reality crashing back - like when I think about baking a cake and want to call her for her Divinity Icing recipe (which I always call her for, and write down, and lose) and realize that I can't.
The loss of her prayers is something the entire family shares. But - when I realized that God had brought some of his light home to Him ... that responsibility falls to us. I may never achieve it - but I want to be a Lady like my grandmother.
When I moved back to Austin, I had made a pact with God that I could not do "this" on my own like I had tried to for so long. I grew up going to church, but was at best a hypocrite and at worst a stumbling block. After college, I stopped attending church altogether. I wouldn't say I was angry at God or doubted His existence ... but I was very angry with His church, His people, and really felt He didn't understand what life is like now.
The holy Spirit within me wouldn't let me continue like that. On December 29, 2007 I made a tenuous peace with God while visiting my parents for Christmas break. I was about to graduate from Boston University and had no idea what I was going to do. A year and a half truly on my own had hollowed me out. I had perhaps one close friend in Boston, no church home, but kept myself from getting down by remaining insanely busy. Don't get me wrong - I love the city ... but I was very lonely. And that's when I realized that God wanted me either in or out. My prayers were ineffective because I was picking and choosing what I wanted to believe. My scripture study was misguided and sporadic. And I denied that "iron sharpens iron" and had run from the very people God says we need to prop one another up. So I promised Him that I was turning over a new leaf ... once I knew where I was going, I was going to find a church and get involved - join groups, volunteer, whatever He asked - I would do.
Blessed assurance fell in my lap the next morning, when I got the call offering me my dream job - back home in Texas - that I thought was already out of my reach. In a whirlwind, I packed up my things and moved to Austin.
Behind my apartment, which I picked for its location on a winding road that avoids any interaction with IH-35, there was a church. My gut reaction was that it must be some kind of cult, that surely wouldn't be where I would end up going. I had a different church in mind, where several of my friends had previously gone. But curiosity got the better of me, and I looked up their website.
What I found was a church that loves this town, and that is based on seeking the truth. A church that is accepting - but that isn't afraid to step on toes. A church that values volunteerism and service and isn't pious and judgmental. This was absolutely where God wanted me - and it was practically steps from my front door.
True to my word ... I immediately looked for opportunities to get involved. The first group I joined was a women's Bible study. I wasn't ready for mixed company, and felt that there would be some great wisdom in a mixed-age group. I was already a couple of weeks behind - but the leader, Rita, welcomed me and in no time I felt like family with the group of women. Our fellowship was so sweet that we decided to continue as a book-club during the summer months, before the fall study began.
Rita is an amazing woman of God. I attribute much of my growth and healing in the past 8 months to her and this group of women.
Last night, Rita suddenly passed away due to a stroke. I still feel in shock. My heart is aching for her family and our group, and all whose lives she has touched. At the same time, I feel a joy that she is now face to face with our Saviour. And as with my grandmother, I feel that part of her torch, her light, now falls to me. God's work for her is done ... but I'm still here, so He still has things for me to do.
Rita's encouragement, her loving spirit, her drawn out "Buuuuuuuuut" - keeping us on track and pointing out truths we may have missed, and her wisdom will be missed. Just last week, in our study of the sermon on the mount, a sense of urgency for the lost was brought up. Rita lovingly explained that sometimes that comes with age, with the realization that at any moment any one of us could be gone. In my youth, I still feel invincible and think my friends are too ... these kinds of things don't happen. But they do - and I pray God will teach me the urgency that Rita felt.
Praise God that Rita is truly home now - she will be missed here until we are all reunited someday. Until then, I pray that all of us she touched can sew that seed anew ... Rita you have many treasures in heaven.