Lana Elder

I'm believin'!

Keeping Your Eyes Open

on March 23, 2013

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 responses to “Keeping Your Eyes Open

  1. Nadine Wetz says:

    Thank you for sharing these experiences Eric. I had….and still have…. so many similar instances of God showing up when I was at my lowest after losing my husband in a car accident almost 15 years ago. The strength He as given me, keeping me upright when I’ve wanted to crawl into bed and be left alone, the dreams and plans we had made now shredded and impossible to fulfil. Only He could show me I was still alive, still had a purpose of life through my young daughter, only He took away my pain, my sorrow, that physical ache in my gut that no medication could remove. Eric, you have work to do, The Lord is giving you rest for now but you are His servant, His steward, you are a man and a father, life is calling you to continue with the great and wonderful work that your precious late wife and you are so passionate about. Plant those trees, fulfil those plans….for the very evidence of our Lord is everywhere should we just open our eyes and seek His face, He is surely walking with you Eric, knowing your pain, sorrow, loneliness, fear of the future…..but He will provide, protect and bring you to where He wants you to be.

  2. Carol says:

    Thank you for your honesty, I empathised with every word! Keep strong x

  3. Terri Elson Caldwell says:

    Oh how I needed this! Thank you Eric May God always richly bless you!

  4. Elaine Goerne says:

    Thanks, Eric, for these encouraging words! And thank you for sharing how God is working in your family’s life during this time.

  5. Nancy Kulik says:

    Dear Eric, thank you very much for all you have shared the past two weeks. I can really relate to what you are saying and thank the Lord for you and your family. You are such a blessing! I feel so privileged to be your sister in Christ and to be part of the family that God is developing through His infinite love and wisdom. Praise and thanks to our wonderful God! Lots of love to you all in Jesus.

  6. Jan Summerford says:

    Eric I believe the MinI God Moments Are Just Kisses Of Love From Our Daddy!

  7. Elvira Brooks says:

    Eric, Thank you so much for this letter of support! I needed it this week. You are blessing many with your courage and these posts. Please be in prayer for a dear friend of mine Shelley who just told me her breast cancer is back for the third time within a year and is very aggressive. I am trying to be strong for her and am going through some of my own struggles that have been very hard for me to deal with. Yes, we must not loose hope. I have memorized these verses: James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
    12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receiver the crown of life that the Lord has promised to hose who love him.

    I will continue to pray for you and your family. Lana now has the crown of life. I love hearing these stories and have had similar experiences too. I know for a fact that it is God who is helping us when we ask, no coincidences.
    Bless you Eric. Have a wonderful Easter.

  8. Fred Thomas says:

    As I followed Lana’s progress and now the emails from Eric I am constantly reminded that God has not forgotten nor forsaken me. Yes I have lost what the world values, but I’ve gained what God values and it is messages like Eric’s that help keep me going. May God Bless You and Your Family & Friends as you navigate the grieving of your loss. Lana was an encouragement to me and remains so today. John 20:25-24 Ask yourself what storm in your life will Christ quiet. After all, the winds and the sea responded to his command. He will quiet your storm as well through Faith!

  9. marylynn melton says:

    Dear Sir I am not sure how I would like to reply to this? First of all I am sorry for the loss of Lana.I read her post as she went through her journey to heaven and I was shocked and sadened when I read that she had moved on to heaven.Yet, I was touched by the words from your daughter that posted on here after her death. I am sure you recieve many emails and can not remember the situations on them all so I am sure you will not remember mine. I have written you before and discussed with you the fact that I have a prodigal daughter  that I have not seen in 5 years and I am raising 3 of her children.During the last 12 years, I have been through so much as I have raised them.As you well know getting 3 children over night has an affect on your finicial life as well as physical and emotional and after all these years, we have one in college,one in high school and one in middle school and we find ourselves at retirement with no retirement, But that isnt the battle that I am facing that is trying to over come me.My middle daughter has been dx with cancer.Need I say more?I pray  you continue to face your loss with the strength only God can give you and I pray you will be there for your children and love them and let them lean on you for their comfort. There is really nothing more I can say as I know you know what GOd would have you do and it seems by your post ,you are doiing his will and leaning on his touches from you. One day,if I live long enough, I hope to write a book about my journey,first with my prodigal,then the grandkids and the struggles with them and now my child with cancer. I just dont know the ending yet. God bless you. You remain in my thoughts and prayers as your entire family does. sincerely Mary Lynn Melton P.o. 1242 Cheraw, s.c. 29520

  10. Mary says:

    None of these stories are trivial. I have had wonderful prayers like yours answered and I learned that nothing is too small for God.
    Thanks for sharing your story.Its hard to lose the one you loved so much. But Its hard to understand sometimes why. I have learned to lean on Jesus more now than I ever did.
    I pray for you, Eric and your children.

  11. Ann Kite says:

    Oh Eric…
    Thank you so much for your obedience… And for being willing to share both your struggles and your joys. I admit that when Lana died, I felt like the battle had been lost as well. It made me deeply sad and disheartened… and I have never even met you two! But, even as God is moving in my own life… and now reading these past two posts sharing how He’s moving in yours, I am so encouraged. I think we must feel something like the disciples felt during the last few days of Jesus’ life and in His death.
    The shock and confusion gave way to such power and beauty as God continued on with HIS plan.
    I’m going to pray that so many of us will SEE the power of the resurrection with fresh eyes this week… and that that power and beauty will far outway the pain of suffering as we look for Gods hand in our lives.
    May you be deeply blessed as your journey continues.
    So glad you found your glasses! : )

  12. Eddie Erlank says:

    Thank you for your encouraging words. Stories like these are not trivial; – for it was often in the almost trivial things that the love of Christ shone through. May you find boundless strength and inspiration to continue the wonderful work you are doing.

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