10 months of grieving and healing
All to You, I give it all to You. I lay my life before You. Lord, I surrender all. All that I have been through, I give it to You now. And though I have some questions, things I'll never understand, I come into Your presence, and I place them in Your hands. I know that You are faithful. Your mercy will sustain me, and Your grace will see me through. I cast my cares upon You, and I come to You in faith. (From the album, Thank You Lord, by Don Moen)
Ten months ago, my life changed forever. I still wish so badly that I could go back to my former life, connected to Julie and Timothy. I struggle, I wrestle, but at the same time I am aware that I have to embrace and accept the new life God is giving me. It’s so easy to think that we are in control, and that life as we know it will last forever. Nobody lives expecting tragedy. We avoid it. But there is an appointed time. This alone should give us purpose and direction.
I want to make mine the words of Don Moen. Julie enjoyed listening to him, and I clearly remember how, often on Sunday mornings, Julie would play his CD and look up to heaven, singing along. Occasionally she would lift up her hands and worship. I would catch her singing, "I surrender all."
|An average day in Paraguay, Jan 2009|
Perhaps I never truly understood how much Julie surrendered. She surrendered living in her birth country after her call into missions. After every furlough back in the States, she would say goodbye to her mother and father, not knowing what the future held. She gave up pursuing a successful career and all the benefits that may have come along with that. With her business degree and her almost straight-A school record, she surely would have landed a well-paying job somewhere.
Julie also gave up positions that she held in the first 24 years of her life. Before we got married, she was part of the pioneering team that started SpringHill Camps' InPursuit in Seymour, Indiana. In college she was involved in student government, serving as student body president, the second woman (got to double check this fact) to hold that position at Anderson University. She gave up making good money to embrace a calling that brought her to Paraguay to serve people she had never met.
During a tough day during our first year in Paraguay, Julie said to me, "Norb, I feel like a nobody. People laugh at my broken Spanish; my head hurts." Between tears, smiles, and frustrations, we talked, prayed, and held each other, knowing that we were in the right place but realizing that it wouldn't be easy.
Of course, within a few years, Julie learned to speak great Spanish. She took on responsibilities, locally and internationally. Soon people realized that she cared and was here to stay. Her simple actions and her smiles gained her favor with Paraguayans. She began blogging about her journey in Paraguay. She once had me recording how clothes are washed by hand. That video has been watched thousands of times,
But giving up things gives room for new things to happen. In Julie's 10 years in Paraguay, she saw the fruits of her labor when:
- Sandra Greve, after being personally mentored and trained by Julie, took her place with Children of Promise, a child-sponsorship program that currently serves almost 100 children in Paraguay and Argentina.
- The Radio Alternativa Christian radio station, which Julie had administered, became self-supportive and she was able to hand it off to capable hands.
- Timothy gave his heart to the Lord at age 5 while we drove back from Asuncion.
- We moved into our own home in 2009, made possible because saving and living within our means was so dear to Julie.
- Esther Anahi came into our home after two years of waiting and paperwork. One more orphan has a loving home.
|During a family trip Feb 2012|
- Women in the neighborhood would come to Julie to ask for prayer and have long conversations. Today young women that she mentored hold leadership positions.
- We inaugurated the ICCI, the Christian Bible school, and 5 full-time and 20 part-time students began their training to become Christian leaders.
- She helped give away 50 motorcycles to indigenous pastors.
I wish that Julie could see the people in the church today who are making commitments and stepping into ministry, remembering Julie and wanting to imitate her example.
Today, 10 months after the accident, I admit that healing is taking place. The pain has subsided, and I am beginning to hope, to create new habits. I am enjoying my little Anahi, who still prays for her mommy and, with no prompting, looks up to heaven when she says the word "Mommy." I am thankful for my sister, Nila, who has been by my side since the accident. I thank God for each of you who has said something, sent a note, or prayed for us. You are one reason that I am standing today.
One side of me wants to go back to my former life with Julie and Timothy and recover what I have lost. Another side of me wants to live again and hope and dream, aware that I have been given another chance to live and wanting to make the most of it. I am learning that there is a tension that exists and that will probably remain with me as I journey on.
Anahi needs me, and there is still a ton to be done. Don Moen sings, "Lord, I give my whole heart, mi corazón." I want that. "My soul sings, my spirit shouts with every breath of crying out." I pray that I can be faithful to the end and that God can turn these ashes into beauty.
On the journey,
Norberto and Anahi