Lana Elder

I'm believin'!

Lana’s Hope is My Hope

I posted a message on The Ranch website yesterday and wanted to post it here on Lana’s blog, too.  I know many of you who followed her journey will be interested in this note, too.

Ever since Lana passed away 21 months ago, I’ve wanted to do something special in memory of her.  So today I’ve created  a fund within our ministry called “Lana’s Hope.” My hope is that “Lana’s Hope” will help to fund projects that are in keeping with Lana’s heart for helping others in practical ways and encouraging them to put their hope in Christ for everything in their lives. 

I hope you’ll read this special message, and consider making a donation to “Lana’s Hope.”  We’ll send you a special thank-you gift to help you remember that “Lana’s Hope” can be your hope as well.  Read on to learn more…

 

LANA’S HOPE IS MY HOPE
(Follow-up to Part 6 of our series on “Transitions.”
Here are the link to Parts 12345 and 6.)

by Eric Elder
www.theranch.org

A few weeks ago I woke up in a sweat in the middle of the night saying, “I can’t do it!  I can’t do it!”  It wasn’t a dream that caused my middle-of-the-night panic, but reality.

Unfortunately, my sister, Marilyn Byrnes, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  Thankfully, it’s not the type or stage of breast cancer that my wife, Lana, battled and which eventually took her life.  But after surgery my sister needed a place to stay while she underwent radiation treatments.  They didn’t have a big cancer center where she lives, so she was trying to find a place to do it.  I offered for her to come live with us for the 6-8 weeks it might take, as I wanted to help if I could.

As the time got closer, my sister asked if my family and I were really up for having a guest in their house for possibly 2 months, going through treatments and all that goes along with it.  That’s when I went to bed one night and later woke up in a sweat thinking “I can’t do it!”  As much as I wanted to help, it just started to feel overwhelming, having just gone through all we went through with Lana, plus all that I’m trying to do with my work and my kids and my new life as a single parent.

As I lay there in my bed, I suddenly remembered a project my friends Dan and Emily Okall told me a few months earlier that they were starting in Kenya (Dan wrote an article for us last week on “transitions” and how God is helping him and his family as they prepare to move back to Kenya in a few weeks).  Over lasagna and laughter with our families at our dining room table, they told me they had secured a home near the capital of Kenya where women from remote villages could stay while undergoing radiation treatments at a big hospital nearby.

Dan and Emily also told me they had decided to name the house “Joanna’s House” in honor of two special women they knew named Jodi and Lana (my wife), so they came up with the name “Joanna.”  It was a touching moment to me to know that they would honor Lana in this way.  They said they wanted to include write-up about Lana that they could frame and put on the wall at Joanna’s House about Lana and her faith in Christ, as their hope is not only to minister to the physical needs of these women, but their spiritual needs as well.  I told them I’d be glad to do a write-up, but more than that, I wanted to help with their project in other ways if I could.

I wanted to help because Dan and Emily were not just friends who wanted to honor my wife’s memory, but I wanted to help because it was through their work that we first discovered that Lana had breast cancer at all.  Lana and I had just attended a talk here in the US one afternoon day where Dan and Emily were sharing about their work doing breast cancer education in rural Kenya; that night Lana and I discovered a lump in her breast.  It was only 11 months later Lana had passed from this life to the next.

Although we all wished our outcome would have been different, those 11 months became some of the most precious months of our entire lives.  Even though the doctors gave us no hope, God gave us tremendous hope, having shown us what was wrong and giving us time to say an extended goodbye, at least for now.

So having been so personally touched by Dan and Emily’s work in Kenya, even here in the US, I wanted to help them in their work if I could.  But it wasn’t until I woke up in a sweat in the middle of the night saying, “I can’t do it,” feeling overwhelmed about the idea of helping my sister through her treatments, that I realized the impact Dan and Emily’s work would have on the people in their remote village back in Kenya.

For here I was in the US, now facing the question of whether I could house my own sister who needed a place to stay while she underwent radiation treatments for possibly 2 months.  As much as I wanted to help, I found the idea overwhelming.  I thought:  If it’s this overwhelming to work out the details for this kind of treatment here in the US, what must it be like in Kenya?   I lay there stunned in my bed.  God had just given me a wake-up call in the middle of the night about His heart for Dan and Emily’s project.

After talking it through with my sister, she worked out an arrangement with her company to do her treatments in a different city.  She starts her daily radiation treatments tomorrow, Monday, August 25th, and we’re all praying for her health and strength and peace.  (If you’d like to send her a note, you can reach her at marilyn@1piano.com.  I know she’d love to hear your encouragement, even though she may not be able to reply right now.  Marilyn’s beautiful piano music has been a regular feature of The Ranch website from the beginning, and you can listen to it here.)

So my heart is with Dan and Emily on multiple levels, from believing in them as people who love the Lord and are directed by Him, to believing in the work they are doing as Lana and I were so personally touched by it already, to believing in what they’re trying to do with “Joanna’s House.”

When Lana died, I wanted to do something to honor her life and memory and the hope that she had.  I know many of you have wanted to do the same.  In that light, I’ve created a new fund within our ministry called “Lana’s Hope.”  My hope is that God will use this fund to help finance projects that would help others in practical ways and help them put their hope in Christ for everything in their lives, just as Lana put her hope in Him.  As Lana said in one of her blog posts, quoting from Psalm 25:

“No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame…” (Psalm 25:3).

Lana’s hope was in God, before cancer, after cancer and now in heaven with Him forever. I know if she could say anything to you, she would want you to put your hope in Him for everything in your life, too, knowing that He loves you so very much.  No matter what you’re going through, know that God hasn’t left you. He hasn’t walked away from you. He hasn’t forsaken you. You can’t go wrong putting your hope in Him.

Lana Elder - Mother's Day 2012

Having said all of that, now you know more about why I’ve started this special fund called “Lana’s Hope.”  The first project I’d like to help fund is Dan and Emily’s ministry for breast cancer education and care in Kenya.  If you’d like to join me, I’d be glad to send you a special thank-you gift as a reminder that Lana’s Hope can be your hope, too.

Dan Okall and Family

About 10 years ago, when Lana and I were raising money to travel to Africa to help with another ministry project, we offered supporters some simple rubber reminder bands that they could wear on their wrists to pray for our trip. So in honor of Lana, and in remembering her first trip to Africa, I’ve ordered 200 reminder bands for this project, too. The reminder bands simply say, “Lana’s Hope is My Hope.” It’s a simple way to honor Lana and join your heart with hers in saying that your hope is in Christ, too.

Lana's Hope Reminder Bands

I’ve included links below where you can make a tax-deductible donation to our ministry, and we’ll pass your gifts along directly to Dan and Emily’s ministry, Dala Development.  When we receive your gift, we’ll send you a reminder-band,  anywhere in the world, as our collective way of saying thanks.

I’ve also included some links below where you can learn more about “Lana’s Hope” in her own words, from the beautiful blog post she wrote on the topic just a month before she passed away, to a short video that a film team team made called “Lana’s Hope” just two weeks before passed away.

To make a donation to this special fund, just choose a colorful reminder band from the links below (we even have one that glows in the dark!), then enter the amount of your donation on the following screen. We only have a limited number of each color, so order soon to get the color you want!

Before you click, though, can I encourage you to take a moment to pray and ask God how much He would want you to give to this project?  The Okalls are trying to raise $3,400 a month over the next two years, and are currently at about 50% of that goal in monthly commitments.  Their initial expenses, such as flights, vaccines and the first month’s rent have already been raised, so they are preparing to leave next month; but there is still an urgency to raise that remaining 50%.

$3,400 a month may seem like a lot, but you might be surprised that this amount will cover the salary for their 11 staff members (who are currently reaching over 300 people a month through their outreaches on a part-time basis), their office, the rent and needs of Joanna’s House, and their operational and personal expenses while in Kenya! So whether you donate $10, $100, $1,000 or more, know that your gift will be used practically and effectively for the work of Christ and His kingdom.  (And if you’d like to make your donation a monthly one, just use the same links below, then check the box that says “make this recurring (monthly)” on the following page.  Either one-time or recurring gifts will be a blessing!)

Thanks for hearing my heart for this project, and thanks for your love and support, both now and over the years.  I truly appreciate it!

To make a donation by credit card or PayPal, and get a colorful reminder band as our way of saying thanks, just choose a color from the links below:

Your gifts may also be sent by mail to:
Eric Elder Ministries (write “Lana’s Hope” in the memo line, and let us know which color reminder band you’d like)
25615 E 3000 North Rd
Chenoa, IL  61726

Your donation will be processed through Eric Elder Ministries, a fully-recognized, tax-exempt religious organization here in the US.

To learn more about Dala Development, click here.

To read Lana’s beautiful blog post “Lana’s Hope,” click here.

To watch the inspiring video “Lana’s Hope,” which was filmed just two weeks before Lana passed away, click here.

Love,
Eric

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Lana’s “Heaven Day”

I know it may be hard to believe, but this Friday (Nov. 15th) marks the one-year anniversary of Lana’s passing into heaven. We’re planning on having a quiet day at home to ourselves that day. But on Sunday (Nov. 17th), we’d like to invite you to join us at 3 pm at the Lexington Cemetery (in Lexington, Illinois) to show you a new memorial bench we’ve just had installed this past weekend as a special place to remember Lana.

We’ll have a song and a prayer at the cemetery (Lucas may Skype in from Australia to sing us a song!), then we’ll have an “open house” at our home from 4-7 (about 7 miles away) for anyone who wants to join us for some of Lana’s favorite chili, look through photo albums and just hang out as we remember Lana’s life together. It’ll just be a low-key day and very casual (as Lana would have liked it). It might even rain, so bring an umbrella, as we’ll plan to do it either way.

I’ve uploaded some pictures of the bench in case you can’t join us on that day, and so you’ll know what it looks like if you ever want to stop by the cemetery to have a quiet place to think and pray for any reason. Lana would love that (not that you would think and pray about her, but just to have you take some time to think and pray!) I think it’s a beautiful memorial in a beautiful spot to a beautiful woman.

lanas-bench-front

lanas-bench-back

bo-and-kaleo-at-sunset

kaleo-arranging-flowers

bo-and-kaleos-flowers-at-lanas-bench

Here are some directions: The Lexington Cemetery is just off Highway 55 at the Lexington exit as you head east towards Lexington. To find the bench, as you enter the cemetery, just take the outer loop around the cemetery to the right and keep following the loop towards the far northeast corner of the cemetery. The bench is on the right-hand side along the line of trees. (My parents, grandparents and great grandparents are also buried in that cemetery, if you continue around the outer loop towards the southwest corner, and look to your left, under the last large tree on your left.) Our house is located about 6 miles straight north of the cemetery and 1.1 miles east, at 25615 E 3000 North Rd, Chenoa, Illinois.

Come join us on Sunday if you can! We’d love to see you.

Love,
Eric and the family

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Having Faith in the Resurrection

Happy Easter from our house to yours!  We could all use a dose of faith, and Easter Sunday is a great day to get one.  If you’re struggling with trusting God, even in the face of significant loss, this message is for you.
Eric Elder and Kids

It’s been almost five months since we took this picture of me and my six kids, not knowing that just two weeks later my wife Lana would pass on to be with the Lord (she was inside resting when this picture was taken, as we were in the middle of a 10-hour filming session for a project to give hope to families facing loss).  Since that day, we’ve had to celebrate seven major holidays without our beloved Lana:  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, two birthdays, and now Easter.  Each of these “firsts” without her this year could have easily overwhelmed me with grief if it weren’t for my faith in Jesus Christ and the prayers of people like you.

But when Christmas rolled around, God reminded me why we celebrate the holiday at all:  Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the baby who would one day defeat death forever!  While celebrating Christmas was still hard without Lana, God’s reminder of the reason we were celebrating helped me keep a balanced perspective on her life and death…and her new life with Him.

The same holds true for Easter.  While there’s no doubt it’s been hard to go through our Easter traditions this year without Lana, God keeps reminding me of the purpose of this holiday, too.  Easter is the day we remember that Jesus rose from the dead, and because He rose from the dead, we can be assured that all of us who have put our faith in Him will be raised from the dead, too, including my dear wife Lana.  Without Lana here with me this week, it’s already been a different kind of holiday.  I found myself videotaping the kids during an Easter egg hunt so that I could come home and show her the tape, only to remember that she wouldn’t be home when I got there.  But then God reminded me that it’s quite likely that Lana’s not missing a thing.  The Bible says that “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses,” witnesses who have kept their faith to the end, and remind us to do the same:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

As sad as it is that I’m having to celebrate Easter without Lana here with me in the flesh, the truth is that without Jesus, there would be no holiday to celebrate at all, and there would be no hope of Lana being raised from the dead either.  So in the midst of my heartache, God keeps reminding me of the whole truth:  not just the truth that she’s gone, but the truth that she’s gone to be with Jesus, and has been raised to a new life in spectacular glory.  And having that whole truth in mind brings His peace to my heart.  As the Bible says:

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

We do have hope.  True hope.  Not a desperate clinging to the mere idea that maybe there’s some kind of life after this life, but a firm faith in the reality that there really is a heaven, and that Jesus is really there, with my beloved Lana right alongside Him.

I don’t want to try to prove to you today that Jesus rose from the dead, but I would like to remind you of the fact that He did rise from the dead and that His resurrection was witnessed by many here on earth.  Not only that, but there were others in the Bible who were once dead who were resurrected to new life, as well, and even they have appeared to people here on earth, too!

As for Jesus’ resurrection, and His appearance to people on earth, listen to some of these verses from the Bible:

“When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons” (Mark 16:9).

“Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country” (Mark 16:12).

“Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; He rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen” (Mark 16:14).

“Afterward, Jesus appeared again to His disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias” (John 21:1).

“This was now the third time Jesus appeared to His disciples after He was raised from the dead” (John 21:14).

“After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me [Paul]…” (1 Corinthians 15:6-8a).

What’s even more amazing to me, since Lana passed on to be with Jesus, is that I keep reading verses that I’ve read before, but that strike me now in a new light:  that Jesus wasn’t the only one who died and rose again and appeared to people here on earth.  Listen to this!

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit.  At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people” (Matthew 27:50-53).

Not only had Jesus been raised from the dead, but many others had also been raised as well who appeared to many people in Jerusalem.  Even Peter, James and John saw people raised from the dead while Jesus was still living, when they saw Moses and Elijah standing on the mountaintop, talking with Jesus:

“After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.  Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus” (Matthew 17:1-3).

Moses and Elijah were so real to Peter that Peter asked Jesus if he should build a shelter for each one of them, even though they had been dead for thousands of years!  It was a reminder to them, and to me, that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, as Jesus once told the Saducees, the religious leaders who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead.  Jesus said:

“Now about the dead rising–have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.  You are badly mistaken!” (Mark 12:26-28).

I share all this as a preface to what I’m about to share next.  As with some of the other stories I’ve shared with you recently, I do so with hesitancy as I don’t want you to think I’ve lost my mind.  I’m also not sure what to think of them myself, for I realize I’m still in the midst of grief, and perhaps the grief is clouding how I think and see spiritual things right now.  Then again, perhaps it’s during our most difficult times, when we’re apt to be the closest to God, that we’re best able to see what’s really true!

On New Year’s Eve, I was praying on my knees during a time of worship at a large Christian conference, celebrating the New Year with over 20,000 other believers.  As I knelt there on the floor, I felt as if Lana were leaning down next to me.  She whispered in my ear, as she had done many times before in life:  “I love you, Eric Elder.”   Her voice was as clear and soft and sweet as any time I’d ever heard her say that to me before.  I could almost feel her breath on the side of my face.

The next night I felt her presence again, this time as I lay in bed.  I wrote in my journal the following morning:

“Father, thank You for Lana’s love for me and mine for her.  I miss her Lord.  But how can I be anything but grateful to You for giving her to me to be my wife for so many years.  This morning I woke up and literally felt her arms around me and heard her voice talking to me.  I couldn’t move for several minutes, it was so real, her touch and her words.  I even thought I saw her when I turned my head.  Thank You, Lord, for her continued presence, even if it is in my dreams, or in that state between dreams and wakefulness.  Thank You, Lord, and thank you, Lana.”

I’ve reached up to heaven many times in the last few months and have taken hold of Lana’s arm, only to find the arm of Jesus taking hold of both of us, as He promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us.  He promised us that death would not separate us, for we had put our faith in Him.  He promised us that we would live forever, not just at the end of time, but right now, in abundant life.

As Jesus told Martha in the Bible, after her brother Lazarus died:

“Your brother will be raised up.”  

To which Martha replied:

“I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”

To which Jesus replied:

“You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in Me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in Me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?” (John 11:23-26, MSG).

Martha said she believed it.  Lana said she believed it.  And I can say I believe it, too.

As I shared at the celebration of Lana’s life back in November, a good friend of mine sent me this text that helped me to see the reality of Lana’s new life in heaven:

“It is so hard to be in this place, but it is good to know Lana is seeing our Father and Jesus face to face.  She is touching them and hearing their voices, and talking to them about anything and everything she wants to.  Somehow you, because you are one, are part of that.  It takes my breath away.”

When I think about it, really think about it, it takes my breath away, too.

This is the great hope that we have in the resurrection, not only that Jesus was raised from the dead, but that all of us who have put our faith in Him will be raised from the dead as well.

As Jonathan Edwards, the great evangelist, said at the funeral of David Brainerd, the great missionary: “True saints, when absent from the body, are present with the Lord” (quoting the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:8).

As Jesus Himself said to the thief on the cross who was dying next to Him and who had just put his faith in Jesus:

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Jesus really did rise from the dead.  And those who put their faith in Him really will rise from the dead, too.

If you’ve never put your faith in Christ, let me encourage you, as Lana would encourage you, as Jesus Himself encouraged you:  put your faith in Jesus Christ today.  Believe that He died for your sins.  Believe that He’s forgiven you of your sins.  And believe that He will raise you to begin a new life with Him, starting right now and forever.  As the Bible says:

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Eric Elder Family, November 1, 2012As we close, let me share one more picture with you.  This is one that we took later on the same day as the picture above, when Lana came out to join us again for the filming session.  Although her body was weak, her spirit was as strong as ever.

At Christmastime I had a hard time deciding which picture to send out with our Christmas letters.  I couldn’t imagine sending out a Christmas picture from now on without Lana in it.  But when I looked at the picture of just me and the kids, I couldn’t help but be thankful for all the blessings I have in my life because Lana’s been a part of it.  So I eventually decided to send out both.

I share these two pictures today because they remind me that I have a choice to make every day.  I can either look at what I’ve lost and be sad, or I can look at what I’ve been given because Lana’s been a part of my life, and be glad.  It’s the same choice we all have to make, every day.

It’s not a matter of looking at the glass as half-full or half-empty, but trusting God that He will provide us with just what we need when we need it.  Zig Ziglar says He teaches advanced math when he says:

You + God = Enough  

As the Bible says:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, KJV).

The last few weeks of Lana’s life she was still helping me edit a book that we had been working on together on the life of Saint Nicholas.  After Lana died, I looked at the edits she had made in the margins of the book.  I used a quote in the book that others have used before that says:

“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it was beautiful.”

In the margin of the book, Lana had written:  “Amen!”

It was another reminder to me that we really are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses,” including Lana, who are cheering us on.

Yes, I still cry.  But I can smile, too.  That’s the great hope we have because of the resurrection.

I pray the Lord will bless you richly this Easter and in the days ahead.  He really has risen!  He has risen indeed!

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Keeping Your Eyes Open

Dear Friends,

Last week I shared two stories and a conclusion with you about how God has been helping me to keep the hardest parts of life from overshadowing the best parts about it.  (If you missed the message, you can still read it here, as it may have been, based on the responses I’ve gotten, one of the most significant messages I’ve shared.)

This week, I’d like  to follow up on that message and share a few more stories to help you keep trusting God, even in the face of significant loss.  I know you may not have lost a spouse like I have, but you may be facing something just as challenging in your own life, whether it’s a divorce, a broken relationship, a wayward son or daughter, a job loss, a change in health, or the loss of a dream that meant the world to you.

In any case, I want to encourage you to keep your eyes open to what God is doing all around you.  Even though you may not see God doing what you expect Him to do in one particular area, if you can see God at work in other ways, it can help you to keep putting your trust in Him.

I believe this is what Jesus did for John the Baptist when John was in prison and facing the very real possibility of death.  Up to this point, John had thought that Jesus was the one who was going to save God’s people.  But something about being in prison seemed to have made John wonder if what he had previously thought was true.  John sent his followers to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)  After all, didn’t Jesus come to “set the captives free” (Luke 4:18)?  And wasn’t John a captive, in need of freedom?

But Jesus sent a message back to John, saying,

“Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me” (Matthew 11:4-6).

It’s as if Jesus was reminding John of all the things that God was doing all around him, and even if God didn’t do what John may have thought He should do, John could still trust Him to do what was right.  When Jesus said, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me,” it’s almost as if Jesus was saying, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of what they think I should or should not be doing.”  Sometimes we’re so focused on one area of our lives that we miss what God is doing in other areas.

It turns out that John wasn’t set free the way others in the Bible were, like Daniel when he was rescued from the lions’ den (Daniel 6), or Peter when an angel led him out of jail (Acts 12), or Paul and Silas when an earthquake loosened their chains and caused the prison doors to fly open (Acts 16).  In John’s case, he only lived long enough to hear back from Jesus that God was indeed still on the job and working in the world.

I believe it was just what John needed to hear in order to face what he had to face: his own imminent death.

It may have seemed like John had lost his faith there at the end.  But coming to Jesus with his doubts didn’t mean he lost his faith.  It was an expression of his faith.  It showed that John still looked to Jesus for answers, even in the face of circumstances he couldn’t understand.  If this was a test of John’s faith, I believe he passed with flying colors, as Jesus said of him:

“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…” (Matthew 11:11a).

I don’t know if the trial that my wife Lana just went through was a test, or simply the result of living in a world that’s been subjected to sin and sickness and decay.  But if it was a test, I believe she passed with flying colors, keeping her faith in Christ to the end.  Now I’m praying that I’ll be able to pass with flying colors, too.

One of the ways I’m trying to do that is by doing what Jesus told John to do:  to keep his eyes open to the work that Jesus was still doing in the world and not to base his conclusions on what he thought Jesus should or should not be doing.

Let me share just a few brief stories of what I’ve seen God doing lately, some of which may seem trivial, but in the face of the loss that I’ve had, even the smallest glimpses of God are worth more than gold to me.

A few weeks ago I was helping my kids do some late-night craft projects:  tie-dying a dress with my daughter and making rubber squishy bugs with my son.  I was already worn out from the day, and going back and forth on these two projects was wearing me down further.  I wanted to help them, but I was definitely missing Lana and the help that she would have been in moments like these.

At one point, I went upstairs to take a break, and as I passed a mirror, I noticed the temporary reading glasses I was wearing, as I had lost my usual ones a few weeks earlier.  As I looked in the mirror I decided it was time to order a new pair, as I hadn’t been able to find my old pair.  On the way back down the stairs to the basement where my daughter was tie-dying her dress, I paused on the steps, reached my hand up to heaven, and said, “Lana, help me!”  (I know it’s God that helps us, but I still find myself talking to Lana in heaven, especially at times like this.)  Then I continued on down the stairs.

As I got down on my hands and knees on the cold cement floor of the basement to help with the tie-dying project, I happened to look to my left and there, hanging on some bottles of soap and shampoo under the basement sink, were my glasses that had been missing for weeks!  Had I not been doing these projects with the kids, down on my hands and knees on the cold cement floor of the basement, I never would have found them!  And had I not remembered the conversation with myself in the mirror upstairs just a few minutes earlier, and my quick call for help from heaven as I walked down the steps again, I wouldn’t have put my prayer and the answer together either.  My whole outlook on helping the kids for the rest of the night changed in that instant.  It was as if a little reward had been dropped out of heaven and was dangling on the bottles of soap in front of me.

That might not seem like a God-moment to you, and it may not have seemed like one to me, either, if this was the first time something like this had happened.  But just a few weeks earlier, when I was recovering from the flu and getting ready to start back into homeschooling our three youngest kids again for the first time since Lana died, I had reached up to heaven as well.  After gathering up literally dozens of books from around the house that the kids use for school, we were still missing two book.  Again, in an act of desperation more than anything else, I looked up to heaven and said, “Lana, help me!”  Within minutes we found the two missing books.  They had appeared practically out of thin air.

But more than that, after we found those two missing books, one of my sons wanted to take a break and do some kind of “outside project.”  Even though the temperature was literally below freezing outside, I said, “OK, let’s fix that broken pole on the trampoline.”  It wasn’t a very practical idea, as it was too cold to actually jump on the trampoline, but it was the first thing that came to mind that would be quick and easy enough to get us back inside before we froze, too.

So we went out into the freezing cold to start working on the trampoline pole and I happened to look up into the net above us.  There, hanging at the top of the net, were my daughter’s prescription glasses that had been missing since Lana’s funeral more than two months earlier!  It was as if they had been dropped down from heaven and got caught in the net for us to find!  How they had survived the cold and the wind and the snow for two months, I didn’t know.  But what I did know was that within minutes of calling out to heaven for help, I had found two missing schoolbooks AND a pair of missing glasses!  All the while trying to help my kids, which was something I needed to do and wanted to do, but was having trouble working up the strength to do.  But the moment I saw those glasses in the net, my whole perspective on the day changed.  I knew God was at work and I was able to find the strength to go on.

And just this past week, as the weather has started to get nicer here in Illinois, I was walking around the yard with a friend who’s spent years in the landscaping business, asking his advice about where and what kind of trees we could plant around the house.  This was a project that Lana and I had been wanting to do for some time.  To be honest, it was hard to even think about planting trees, as sometimes it feels like the dreams and plans I had with Lana died when she died.  But I have to remember that I didn’t die, and that God may still want me to keep some of those shared dreams and plans alive, too.

So there we were, walking around the yard and sharing ideas, when my daughter reached down and found a charm on the ground for a charm bracelet.  Then she found another a few feet away, and then a third a few feet from that.  They still had the tags on them, as we had bought them for her birthday party the month before, but we had lost them somewhere between the store and the house during a snowstorm that night.  Now here they were, out in the middle of the yard, hundreds of feet from the house, as we were trying to plan and continue the dream of planting more trees in the yard!

Again, it may seem trivial to you (and perhaps it makes you wonder why we keep losing so many things!)  But to me, it was as if God was saying, “Yes, this is exactly what I want you to be doing, walking around the yard and planning where to put trees for the future!  Keep moving forward on the dreams that you and Lana shared, and keep going on all that I have called you to do in your life!  You’ll be blessed as you do these things, as will others when you’re done doing them!”

It’s like Jesus keeps telling me, like He seemed to be telling John the Baptist, to keep my eyes open to the things that He’s doing in the world, and to keep on trusting Him, even in the face of all that I’ve lost.

I could share a dozen more stories from the past four months since Lana died where I’ve seen God at work in such small ways that it’s changed my outlook on everything else going on around me, but I’ll let these suffice to encourage you to keep your eyes open to the things God is doing in your life, and the lives of those around you.

Someday I hope to be like the grandfather who was out fishing with his grandson when at one point the grandson asked his grandfather if he had ever seen God.  The grandfather gazed out across the lake where they were sitting and answered, “The older I get, the more I see Him everywhere I look.”

Don’t be discouraged when you don’t see God at work in your life the way you think He should be working.  Don’t give up on Him because things don’t always go your way.  Don’t think for a minute that He doesn’t love you because you’ve lost something precious in your life.  As the Bible says,

“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all–how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

As we head into Passion Week, this week before Easter when Jesus experienced some of the most intense pain and suffering that this world has to offer, remember that you’re not alone.  Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer and die.  He knows what it’s like to lose people who are close to you, like He did when He lost Lazarus and John the Baptist.  In the case of Lazarus, Jesus raised him back to life.  In the case of John the Baptist, Jesus spoke words of encouragement so he could face his death with faith.

And in all things, remember that God really does love you and has a unique calling and purpose for your life.  Keep your eyes open.  The more you do, the more you’ll see Him everywhere you look.

13 Comments »

Two Stories and a Conclusion

Dear Friends,

Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers and kindnesses since my sweet wife Lana passed away on November 15th.  It’s been four months now and I wanted to share some thoughts with you on Lana, healing, and God’s will.  I apologize in advance for the length of this message, but if you’ve been discouraged or having trouble trusting God, especially in the face of significant loss, I hope you’ll read this message.  This message is really just two stories, with some follow-up comments to help you bring them together and apply them to your lives.

I haven’t shared these stories publicly until this week, as they are so personal and intimate that I’ve just been treasuring them in my own heart.  But I feel they’re important to share as a way of testifying to what God is doing in my life, and hopefully encouraging you at the same time.

The first story started on the day of Lana’s funeral, on November 20th, 2012.  Before she died, Lana had asked me to preach at her funeral if it ever came to that.  She said I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t think I could, but if I could, she wanted me to be the one to do it.  I did get up and preach, but not without seriously considering backing out several times, even a few times during the service just before I was about to speak.  I just wasn’t sure if I could do it.

One of the reasons I felt so unsure, apart from the sadness I felt in my heart from already missing her, was that I felt like I had lost so much in the days leading up to her death.  I had not only lost my best friend, my encourager, my partner in ministry, and apart from Jesus, the greatest source of joy and delight in my life, but we had also depleted all of the money in our bank account during those final months of her battle with cancer.  On the morning of her funeral, we had $26.45 in the bank.  I felt like I had lost everything.  (I hadn’t, but I felt like it.)

The morning of the funeral, I prayed that God would give me the strength to do what I wanted to do and needed to do.  I also prayed, more as a wish than anything else, that God would give the kids some kind of inheritance from Lana from the gifts that came in.  I knew that no amount of money would make up to them for losing their mother, but I wished I had something I could give them as an inheritance from her.  $26.45 wasn’t going to go very far among the six kids.

So I prayed that God would provide enough from the memorial gifts to pay for the funeral and still have some left over for the kids.  From past funerals, I knew that the gifts that come in are sometimes just enough to pay for the funeral and that’s it, so I wasn’t expecting much.  But then in my heart, I prayed, “God, if there’s any way to give the kids $1,000 each as an inheritance, that would be great.”  But then from deeper still in my heart, I thought that what I would really like for them is if I could put $5,000 into each of their bank accounts.  I quickly did the math and $5,000 times 6 kids would be $30,000.  There’s no way, I thought.  With $26.45 in the bank, I knew it was an outlandish request.  But I laid it out before God anyway.  Later that day, I got up to preach at Lana’s funeral.  (If you haven’t watched it yet, I’d encourage you to watch it online at this link.  It was like no other service I’ve been to before, and I think you’ll find it inspiring and helpful more than anything else, so please watch it if you can!)

Starting that day and the days that followed, people did begin sending in memorial gifts for our family in honor of Lana.  Some gave $5, some gave $15, and some gave $20 or $100.  A few gave $1,000 and some even gave $5,000.  By December 4th, just two weeks and a day after the funeral, we had received just over $30,000 from over 200 different people, none of whom knew about my private prayer to God!

Now keep that date and that astounding answer to prayer in mind as I tell you the second story.  For it was on December 4th, just one year earlier, that we had first found the lump in Lana’s breast, our first indicator that anything was even wrong at all.

It was on that day that we had heard a missionary talk about their work in Kenya teaching women how to do self-exams for breast cancer.  Later that night we checked and discovered the lump.  We thought it was probably nothing serious, as is often the case.  But over the next few weeks, after a mammogram and then an ultrasound and finally a biopsy, the doctors confirmed that the lump really was cancerous.  At that time, the doctors had no reason to think that the cancer had already spread.  They felt that with treatment, they could remove it and all would be fine.  We were shocked but felt this was beatable.

A few days later, Lana was listening to a podcast on her phone of a sermon that gave her some encouragement, so when she was done listening, she handed me her phone so that I could listen to it, too.  But as she handed it to me, I felt God speak to me as loud and clear as any time I’d ever heard Him speak in my life.  Although He didn’t speak in audible words, the effect of what He was saying was, “This is a good message, Eric.  But it’s not My message for you in this situation.  This time I have something else in mind.”

As I listened to the message, I realized it was all about praying “bold prayers,” that we shouldn’t just pray for a “C” on a test, but for an “A.”  That we shouldn’t just pray that we would survive a difficult marriage, but that it would thrive.  That we shouldn’t just pray for a sickness to go away, but for a long and healthy and abundant life instead.  It was the kind of message I would normally believe and receive and be encouraged to pray with all my heart for every difficult situation I faced.

But if God really had spoken to me, then what was He saying in regards to Lana’s healing?  With a great sadness in my heart, I felt He was saying, “Eric, I know you have the faith to ask for the moon and get it.  But not this time.  This time I have something else in mind.”  God brought to my mind Psalm 23, reminding me that He would be with me, even in the face of death:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…” (Psalm 23:4).

I felt this was a little extreme.  This cancer was beatable.  It didn’t have to end in death.  Then why was God telling me this?  But the next week I found out why.

Just a few days later, Lana went in for a few more tests.  She had started to have some other symptoms, some unexplainable bleeding and intense lower back pain.  The tests showed that it was worse than the doctors initially thought.  The cancer had already spread to her lungs and liver and spine.  In addition, the cancer was in a special category called “triple negative,” which meant that it wouldn’t respond to normal treatments that worked for other breast cancers.  There was no cure, the doctors said.  The best they could do was to treat the symptoms and try to keep her as comfortable as possible for as long as possible, but that the cancer would eventually take her life.  Statistically, the doctors said she had about one 1 to 3 years to live, depending on how she responded to treatment.  The majority of women with Stage 4, triple negative breast cancer don’t make it past 5 years.  And only one in a hundred ever make it to 10 years.

We were devastated.  But having heard God speak to me the week before, even before the doctors told us what was going on, somehow gave me great faith.  Not faith that Lana would be healed, although I believed God could still heal her in an instant, too, but faith that He would be with us through it all.  This was no news to God.  He had already revealed it to me before we, or even the doctors, had an inkling what was coming.

Knowing that God was with us gave me great peace in my heart.  But as comforting as this was, I still didn’t know how to walk forward in a practical way, given what I felt God was saying to me.  If God had told me that Lana was going to be healed, and to walk in faith and stand on the promise of the word He had spoken to my heart, I knew how to walk that out:  read and reread the Scriptures, fast and pray, gather others to fast and pray, and look for answers from any doctor or person of faith who could help us beat this disease.  But if I had really heard right, and God was really saying, “I know you have the faith to ask for the moon and get it, Eric, but not this time,” how could I walk that out?  How could I stand on something that I didn’t want to believe and didn’t want to be true?

Was I supposed to just give up on the possibility of healing?  Not bother praying at all for her?  Not ask others to join us in fasting and prayer?  Not go to doctors to try to get whatever help we could?  I felt that taking any of those paths would be utterly wrong.  Lana wanted to live and I wanted her to live!  And who knows?  Maybe I heard wrong.  Maybe the doctors were wrong.  And even if I had heard right, and the doctors were right, maybe God would still heal her miraculously!  God’s default position on healing is that we should be healed, as evidenced by the many ways He has created our bodies to heal themselves, to automatically seal up cuts, fight off infections, and repair damaged tissue.  God has demonstrated His desire for our healing throughout the Bible, performing miraculous healings from cover to cover.  God loves healing and wants us to be healed!  There’s no doubt that God is a healing God!

So I tried to remember what others did in the Bible when they received a word from God that they didn’t want to believe either.

I thought of Hezekiah, who was sick and dying when God spoke to him through the prophet Isaiah saying that Hezekiah’s sickness would end in death.  Hezekiah wept bitterly and pleaded with God for a different outcome:

“Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in Your eyes” (2 Kings 20:3a).

God heard Hezekiah’s prayers, healed him, and gave him an extra 15 years of life.

I thought of King David, who got a word from God through Nathan the prophet saying that the child born to David and Bathsheba would die.  But David didn’t give up and didn’t give in.  He fasted and prayed and wept before God every night saying:

“Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live,” (2 Samuel 12:22).

In David’s case, however, his child died after seven days, but not without David pleading with God for a different outcome.

Then I thought of Jesus, who, when faced with his own imminent death, knelt down and prayed so earnestly that His sweat fell like drops of blood:

“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Jesus knew what His Father was asking of Him, yet still He pleaded for another way, that the cup He was about to drink would somehow be taken from Him.  Yet Jesus yielded to His Father’s will, even over His own.

From these three stories of Hezekiah and David and Jesus, I felt I was in good company that even if I had heard right from God, I could still plead with Him, in fasting and prayer and tears, pouring out my heart to Him for what Lana and I both wanted: that she would be healed completely and gloriously, and continue to live a long, healthy and abundant life.

So we fasted and prayed and called others to join us in fasting and prayer.  We talked to doctors and nurses and researchers and nutritionists, both locally and globally, to see if God had an answer through them.  We called the elders of our church, and several of our former churches, to anoint us with oil and pray for Lana’s healing.  We held prayer meetings in our living room and drove and flew to get prayer from some of the most faith-filled men and women of God we knew.

But as time marched on, the tests continued to come back blacker and bleaker.  Either what God had spoken to me at the beginning was true, or God was preparing the way for one of the most miraculous turnarounds of all time.  Either way, we felt good about the steps we were taking, about doing everything we possibly could to bring about her healing, and about trusting in God completely whatever the outcome.

As much as Lana and I, and many of you, wished that the outcome had been different, I can say that when it came time to say our final goodbyes, we had no regrets.  We had done everything we could think of doing to keep her alive, and God kept His promise to be with us through it all.

Let me tie these two stories together for you by sharing my journal entries from December 4th, 2012, the first written early in the morning as I was remembering the one-year anniversary of finding the lump that took Lana’s life, and the second written at midnight that night, after we received the checks in the mail that put us over $30,000 in memorial gifts in her honor.

“12/4/12 – Father, thank You for revealing to me and Lana the lump in her right breast one year ago today…  Lord, any thoughts about this being the one-year anniversary of the day You revealed this lump?  ‘I’ve given you a great gift, Eric.  A chance to see into the future, and to make your plans accordingly.   I have not hidden what is to happen from My prophets.  I warned Abraham about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah before it happened, just as I told him and Sarah they would have a child in a year, and just as I told you, Eric, that your friends would have a child in a year.  Although I didn’t tell you an exact date [regarding Lana], I did tell you what the outcome would be, both by showing you the lump, and by confirming that while you could pray for healing, this wasn’t My will in this case.  I wanted you to know, Eric, because I wanted you to have time to plan, prepare, and say goodbye properly.  And you have done marvelously.  Your kids, your friends, your family, are all living testaments to that fact.  I also gave you test after test, and doctor after doctor, to confirm this to you, for you wanted the truth, and you knew the truth would set you free.  They were hard truths to hear, and hard to watch you hear, but they were necessary to help you absorb and understand what I was saying.  I’ve given you a gift Eric, both in what I revealed, and in the fact that I do reveal My knowledge to My children.  Lana wanted to live and not die, and she was right to do so, for that’s My will [He wants all of us to live forever!].  But I wanted you to know so you could plan, prepare, and say goodbye properly.  I wanted you to care for her and love her and be with her to the fullest extent possible, so when she passed through the veil, you would have no regrets, nothing left undone, nothing more you could have done, but love her thoroughly.  I did this for you, yes, but also for Me, for I wanted you to be able to care for her on earth as I cared for her from heaven.  You were, and still are, My hands and feet and voice to many on earth.  You will be sad, no doubt, for to lose the one you love, when you have loved so deeply, is sad.  But you will rejoice as well, for you have been given a great and wonderful gift.’”

“12 midnight – Father, thank You for helping us reach the $30,000 mark that I had asked You for, to give $5,000 to each of the kids as an inheritance from Lana.  Lord, we only had $26.45 in our bank account the day of the funeral.  It was an outlandish prayer, and within a few weeks, You’ve brought the full amount I extravagantly asked for.  ‘Open your mouth wide, Eric, and I will fill it.’  Thank You, Lord!  I love You.  By the way, the sunset looked delicious tonight, like rainbow sherbet, and I wanted to lick it.  ‘Thank You.’  Thank You, Lord.”

Yes, life can be extremely hard.  But it also offers sunsets that look like rainbow sherbet!  The trick is to not let the hardest parts of life overshadow the best parts about it.  God is at work in both.  The Bible says:

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner… So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust Him. He knows what He’s doing, and He’ll keep on doing it” (1 Peter 4:12-13, 19, The Message).

Friends, God loves you and has a unique calling and purpose for your life, just as He had a unique calling and purpose for Lana’s life.  Don’t be discouraged when life doesn’t work out the way you think it should. God is still on the job.  Keep putting your trust in Him.  He knows what He’s doing, and He’ll keep on doing it.

Thanks for reading these two stories, and thanks again for your prayers and kindnesses you’ve shown to me and my family, especially during this past year.  It means so much, and is yet one more reminder of all that’s good in life.  May God bless you and keep you as you keep putting your trust in Him!

Love,
Eric

14 Comments »

To Lana, With Love

Hi, this is Eric Elder, Lana’s husband.  I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who came out for the visitation and celebration of Lana’s life last week.  It was one of the most beautiful services of any kind I have ever attended in my life.  What could have been a tremendously sad event was tremendously uplifting instead!

I’d love for you to watch the whole service online, which I’ve posted at the links below. To encourage you to watch, here are just a few comments from those who attended, including a friend who rededicated her life to God and asked one of my kids to baptize her right after the service!

“Wow. Feel like I have so much to say and no words at same time. Witnessed arguably the most beautiful event I’ve ever seen today…a true worship service celebrating the life of a mother of six who WON the battle with cancer. Permanently. A funeral is a very different event for those who understand this world is not their home.”

“Of all the events I’ve ever attended where the Holy Spirit was really moving, never, in my entire life, have I seen God more glorified than He was at the funeral service for Lana. Thank you and each and every one of your children for reminding me of that, even when sorrows like sea billows roll.”

“I was so heavy hearted at Monday’s visitation and upon entering the celebration of life on Tuesday. But I left that beautiful service UPLIFTED. You and the kids were able to bring us into His presence and share in the beauty of Lana’s life and her desire to share Jesus. It effected me profoundly.”

“Recently I have been questioning whether God is even real or whether we just made Him up in an attempt to answer the unexplainable and to give us comfort when things are out of our hands. I prayed that God would show me a sign that He was really here. I was hoping this sign would come in the form of Lana being healed….. A week ago, Makari texted me telling me that her mom had died. I didn’t know what to do. I just cried. I started asking the same questions I had asked when my own mother died six years ago. God did the opposite of what I was hoping for. So on Monday, I drove to Bloomington, Illinois to be there for the services for Lana Elder. It was during the funeral/celebration of Lana’s life that God gave me His sign. Looking at Karis and Lucas and Makari and Josiah and Bo and Kaleo and Eric… There is absolutely no way that there is not a God…  At the end of the service, Karis had an invitation, and I went down and talked to her about what had been going on, and I rededicated my life to God. After the dinner, Makari and I were talking and we decided that I was going to be baptized right then and there because there’s no better time than the present. So on Tuesday, November 20, 2012, I was baptized in the well/waterfall by Makari in Eastview Christian Church in Bloomington, Illinois.”

Praise God! Even in death, Lana is bringing people closer to Jesus. Nothing is wasted when we give it to God. Hallelujah!

Special thanks to Russell Pond, our good friend and film maker who came up from Houston to be with us for the service and filmed part of the visitation and all of the service for us. I’m so glad he did!  I think you will be too.

I’ve posted the service below in 6 parts, plus a montage from the visitation.  I’ve also included the order of service at the end of this note if you’d like to follow along.  (If for some reason you’re not able to watch it at the links below, or it’s too slow, I’ve also posted the entire service on YouTube, but you’ll have to endure some unusual commercials along the way, over which I have no control. But here’s the YouTube link if you want to try it instead:  http://youtu.be/pKJhbGFlbhc )

Part 1 of 6, Including: Jason’s Prayer, Gary and Lucas and Makari’s Worship, and Makari’s Scripture

Part 2 of 6, Including: Mark’s Scripture, Laurie’s Thoughts, and Johnnie’s Letter

Part 3 of 6, Including: Josiah’s Scripture and Kaleo’s Dance

Part 4 of 6, Including: Eric’s Eulogy, Eric’s Video and Lana’s Scripture

Part 5 of 6, Including: Karis’ Invitation and Lucas’ Song

Part 6 of 6, Including: Bo’s Song, a Christmas carol, Mark’s Prayer and Rockin’ Robin

Visitation Montage, Including: Marilyn’s piano music

Order of Service

Piano Prelude: Marilyn Byrnes, sister-in-law

Welcome and Opening Prayer: Pastor Jason Sniff, friend

Songs of Worship: Led by Gary Marini, friend, Lucas Elder, son, and Makari Elder, daughter

Song: “Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)” by Brenton Brown
Song: “Everlasting God” by Chris Tomlin
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:28-31, Makari Elder, daughter
Song: “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan

Scripture Reading: John 14:1-3, Mark Olivero, brother

Expressions of Love: Laurie Landsman, sister, and John Paul Olivero, brother

Scripture Reading: Revelation 21:1-5, Josiah Elder, son

Dance: “I Can Only Imagine,” Kaleo Elder, daughter, and nieces Shana, Tara and Erica Olivero and Rebekah Landsman

Eulogy: Pastor Eric Elder, husband

Scripture Readings: “What God Says About Fear,” Recorded by Lana Elder, with music by friends Brent Mitchell and Chuck and Lynette Giacinto

Invitation to follow Lana’s Savior: Karis Elder, daughter

Invitation Song: “It Is Well With My Soul” by Horatio Spafford, sung by Lucas Elder, son

Closing Songs: “Happy New Life To You” and “O Come Let Us Adore Him,” Led by Bo Elder, son, and the family

Closing Prayer: Mark Dossett, friend

16 Comments »

In Loving Memory

Lana J. (Olivero) Elder
1963-2012

Lana on Mother’s Day, May 13, 2012

Lana J. (Olivero) Elder, 48, of Chenoa, passed away peacefully at her home on Thursday, November 15, 2012, surrounded by family and friends. Lana was born on December 25th, 1963, to John and Lorraine (Wargo) Olivero in Peru, Illinois, and was surely the best Christmas present they received that year.  Lana grew up in Peru, Illinois, graduating from La Salle-Peru High School in 1982.

After high school, Lana went on to earn a business degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 1986, where she also met her future husband, Eric P. Elder of Chenoa, Illinois.  After college, Lana moved to Flint Michigan to work as a Systems Analyst for Electronic Data Systems.  She later moved to Houston, Texas, where she worked with Eric in the computer department of Texaco, Inc., and soon after married Eric in Houston on April 29, 1989.  Lana continued to work at Texaco until the birth of their first child, when she decided to dedicate her full time to raising and homeschooling all of their six children.

Lana was a strong believer in Christ and brought much peace, joy and hope to many people in her everyday life and through her family’s ministry at theranch.org.  Her smile was radiant and her spirit soared, bringing joy to everyone she met. She had a passion for studying the word of God, and always took strength from the verse that says “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Through her life and her testimony, many people came to know Jesus. She touched so many lives and brought so many people to know and love our Lord. Her words of encouragement, hope and love were shown through her everyday life and in her written words. Lana’s grace, strength and strong desire to live her life to the fullest was demonstrated even to the end of her battle with Stage 4 breast cancer.

Lana was a loving wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend to all. She was actively involved in several homeschool associations, encouraging other families who also chose to homeschool their children. She loved serving in the church with children and youth and was a huge inspiration and role model in their lives. To them she was always just “one of the kids.” Lana’s desire has always been that people would find comfort in the Savior who had comforted her and that they would always Believe in His love for them and His unique purpose for their life. While our hearts ache at the lack of her presence with us, we rejoice knowing she is with the Savior she loved, resting in the palm of God’s hand.

Lana is survived by her devoted husband, Eric, and their six beautiful children: Karis (21), Lucas (20), Makari (18), Josiah (14), Bo (12) and Kaleo (9).  Lana is also survived by many loving family members, including her mother, Lorraine (Wargo) Olivero of Peru; eight brothers and sisters: John Paul Olivero of Peru, Lisa Olivero of Ladd, Laurie (Steve) Landsman of Willowbrook, Mark (Laura) Olivero of Fort Wayne, IN, Linda Olivero of Springfield, Tom (Wendy) Olivero of Utica, Lucy Olivero of Chicago and Luke (Jeanna) Olivero of La Salle; and twelve nieces and nephews.  Lana was preceded in death by her loving father, John Olivero of Peru.

A celebration of Lana’s life will be held at 1 pm on Tuesday, November 20 at Eastview Christian Church in Normal, Illinois.  A visitation will also be held at the church from 5-8 pm on Monday, November 19, and again before the service from 12-1 pm Tuesday, November 20. While Lana supported many worthy causes in her life, the cause in which she most heavily invested was her family.  Although gifts are not necessary, we believe she would be most honored if any gifts were made, that they be given simply to the family of Lana Elder, 25615 E 3000 North Rd, Chenoa, IL 61726.

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Service Times

Hi Beloved,

We just wanted to update you and say that we will be holding a celebration of Mom’s life at 1pm on Tuesday, November 20 at Eastview Christian Church (1500 North Airport Road) in Normal, Illinois. We will also be having a visitation at the church from 5-8pm on Monday, November 19, and again before the service from 12-1pm Tuesday, November 20. If you are able to make it to either or both we would love to see you all there! Thank you all for your prayers and notes of encouragement and love. We love you all and are praying for you all as well!

Love, Karis

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Making All Things New

Hi beloved,

This is Karis, Lana’s daughter writing. Just this morning my mom passed away. And while we are mourning the loss of her being here with us, we are rejoicing knowing that right now she is in heaven worshiping before the Great I AM. Her Creator, Beloved, and best friend. Last night she was in a lot of pain, but this morning as it got nearer to the end, she became more and more peaceful. And now looking at her, you can see that she is completely at rest. Her life has touched so many people and will continue to impact so many people for the glory of God.

I wanted to share something that I wrote in my journal a few weeks ago, starting with a song by Elevation Worship called “All Things New.”

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As You rise, we come alive.
The grave has lost, the old is gone.
You are making all things new.
And we are free.

I’m listening to this song that has been abiding in my spirit for weeks now since I first heard it. Mom isn’t doing well physically as the chemo and cancer have taken over her body. She is in so much pain and just physically weak. But I keep hearing echos in my spirit, God whispering this to my heart, “I am making all things new.” One day all things will be fully made new. But right now it is in the making process. We see the process but God sees the entire thing. He is from beginning to end and one day ALL things will be made new.

Hope is found, You are here
Our hearts forever sealed
By this love that came for us
Now we are Yours

We are His forever. Called to a place where there is no more pain, no more tears, no more sorrows. Where God’s light is overwhelming and we finally will see all things made new. The resurrection gives us hope, the glory of God. How can I not be overjoyed that Mom will BE with Jesus soon? In a new body without pain, worshiping the Creator and Lover or her soul? To be here is to walk by faith, to be there is to be with Jesus face to face, finally seeing clearly what we now only see dimly as through a glass. To be home with the Lord.

Although the death of our physical bodies is inevitable, no matter if it is this week for her or hopefully many, many years ahead, already she is alive in Christ. She was dead but now is made alive in Christ. Jesus already conquered the grave when He died on the cross and rose from the dead. It has already been defeated and the grave will not hold her. So we rejoice in either outcome. The healing of her body physically, knowing that our God is a miracle-working God, or we rejoice in her passing, knowing that when she passes, at that moment she will be with her best friend, lover, creator, and Father. How could we not rejoice, albeit with tears knowing that she will not be here with us. But. We will see her soon. Because in light of eternity this life is so short. So soon, soon and very soon, we all will pass and be with Jesus. Overjoyed and in awe in His Presence. Worshiping our glorious Creator who is forever worthy of all praise, glory, and adoration. All glory, honour, and power belong to Him forever and ever Amen!

Your love never ending,
Your grace never failing,
Redemption is calling us home.

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Thank you all so much for your prayers and encouragement and support throughout this whole season.  I know that you all will miss her as much as we do, but our hope still rests in the Lord.  Just like Mom’s did.

I know many of you will want to know that we plan to celebrate Mom’s life Monday night and Tuesday afternoon next week at Eastview Christian Church in Normal, Illinois.  Though we don’t have all the details yet, we’ll let you know when we do.  Thanks again.  I know Mom’s heart is that everyone would put their faith in the Lord and keep believin’ in Him.

Rejoicing knowing that she is with Him,
Karis

98 Comments »

A Big Thank You!

Dear friends,

Thank you so much for your prayer and concern for us! It has been a busy couple of weeks, but we’ve been encouraged by your cards, letters, emails, and gifts. They really do encourage us and give us the strength to carry on.

In my last blog update, I asked you for prayer for my blood platelets to increase, but unfortunately they’ve been going down.  The doctors have been giving me more platelets over the past few weeks.  That has helped the platelets increase for awhile, but then they go back down again.  In fact, I was at the hospital last night getting another platelet transfusion.

The doctors say that my blood work is not strong enough to take any more chemo, and I’m not eligible to do any clinical trials or experimental drugs either because of my blood work being so low. The up side of this is that I won’t have to have any more side effects of the chemo.  The down side is that the cancer will continue to take over the good cells.

The doctors say this puts me “between a rock and a hard place.”  But the truth is, I’m just “resting in the shadow of the Almighty,” as Psalm 91 says:

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
   will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress,
   my God, in whom I trust’” (Psalm 91:1-2).

I still believe God could heal me at any time.  But my hope isn’t just in healing.  My hope is in God.  He’s been so good to me, and I’ve been so blessed even in the last few weeks.  My kids have all been home this week to spend some time here with our family.  Here’s a picture of us all from a couple days ago.

I wish the news was better medically, but I have so much to be thankful for.  I truly have no worries about the future, as I know that God has it all under control.  Please continue to pray for me and my family as we go through this.  And thank you for going through this with us, too, by your prayers and encouragement.  We really appreciate you being there for us in so many ways.

With much love,
Lana

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