Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Remembering Maria

He said that there was one word that was never used in their house; my mind was flooded with ideas about what that “one word” might be. I think we were all just a little surprised when he said that they never used the word “step,” as in “step-child.” They were all just—“children.” You see—they are a blended family, and that often consists of step-sons, step-daughters, and step-parents; but not this one. I’ve known a lot of blended families and know from other people’s experiences that it can be one of the hardest things on earth to do—to blend two families into one. This family was so successful at it that it was probably eight or nine years before I knew which child was the biological child of which parent. I discovered that truth not because either parent ever told me but by putting two and two together and praying that I came up with four! This must have taken a great deal of determination and love to accomplish. That’s exactly what this young preacher explained in the next 30 minutes of the eulogy he was delivering—that of this mother (not biological). He had begun by saying that there was really nothing to be said about this beautiful lady—that her life had said it all. True—so true!

I had been blessed to know his “Re” (Maria Lorick) for probably nine or ten years and can honestly say that it was not surprising that Maria could pull off this blended-family thing. She was a one-of-a-kind woman who made me want to be a better person! She was one determined woman, and I think she could pull off anything. As is often said of someone with a strong characteristic, “Look in the dictionary; beside the term ‘steel magnolia,’ you will see a picture of Maria.” Tall, always elegant, she even looked the part, even after numerous rounds of chemo had taken her hair once again. Then she would start wearing the big-brimmed hats which always remind me of the genteel women of the South.

But she was tough as nails. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in May of 2007, she was told that she might see the Christmas of that year. Those who made the diagnosis did not know Maria---or her God! Many of us started grieving in 2007 until we realized that we were wasting our time: Maria had no intention of leaving us just yet! Christmas, 2007, came and went as did Christmas, 2008. Maria was determined to see Christmas, 2009. She was much worse by then, but she was determined to see that holiday. And just for good measure, not only did she see that special day, she threw in an extra month and four days, dying on February 4, 2010. Maria was so close to her God that it wouldn’t surprise me if she had talked Him into giving her those extra days to just show off His power and love!

She did a lot of things that she probably shouldn’t have, but she just determined that as long as she was alive, she would be alive! I received this story second-hand, but there is not a doubt in my mind that it’s true. The Lorick family always has a huge Fourth of July party. Maria had had numerous cancer-related surgeries, but she was not about to miss this big party (or anything it offered!) just because of a few little surgeries. Her family tried to talk her out of going down the water slide—wasted breath. In retrospect, I have to laugh at their even trying to do that. It is my understanding that Maria went down the water slide (with her surgeon looking on and praying, I’m sure) singing, “It’s my party, and I’ll slide if I want to.” Just that mental picture makes me smile. Life was good for Maria—even when it wasn’t!

In addition to being tough, she was the most loving person I think I’ve ever known. Throughout all the years I knew her, not one phone conversation ever ended without her saying, “Love you.” Not one visit ended without a hug and her saying, “Love you.” The amazing thing is that I’m sure she always meant it. She had so much of God’s love in her that it just had to come out some way, so she shared it with everyone. Before the funeral, I had told someone that I couldn’t imagine Maria’s ever saying anything bad about anyone; not many of us can claim that one. During the eulogy, the young son/pastor proved my point; he said that his wife had noted that in the ten years that she had been a family member, Maria had never said anything negative to or about anyone. Amazing love! But that was Maria!

I learned so much from her (including how to die and still witness and minister to others) that I could go on and on. I’m going to miss her! We’re all to be striving to emulate Jesus in our everyday lives, and if we’re lucky, at some point in time, we will have a “Maria” in our lives to remind us of what He wants us to be! At the funeral service, the family handed out teal bracelets to remind us of “Ovarian Cancer Awareness.” I wear mine every day to remind me not only to be praying for a cure for that awful disease but of Maria. And there’s just no escaping it: when I think of her, my mind goes to her God—my God! As I said, she makes me want to be a better person!

Friday, February 12, 2010

What does your Valentine say? AND YOU DO have a Valentine

Sunday is February 14th. It's a holiday made-up by society to celebrate love. Its icons include Cupid, roses, chocolates and other gifts to show one's level of admiration, affection and love.
 But it was brought to my attention that maybe instead of looking to another human being for the love and affection we so desperately want and crave, we need to look to our Father. So, if you were to make a Valentine for the Lover of your soul what would it look like? What would it say?

Think about this…Before you were created He knew you. Before you took your first breath, He had already ordained your footsteps and numbered your days. Before you were born, He knew you would make choices that would break His heart, and yet, He still created you; He still loves you; and He so desperately wants to be in a relationship with you. He thinks you are worth it. He thinks you are worth all the heartbreak. He knows you are worth dying for, and so He did it for you. "There is no greater love than this."

 When everyone around you and every situation and circumstance seems to hurt you, He wants to love on you and protect and guide you. Is that some crazy love or what?
He wants you to feel Him present. He wants you to feel His hands around your heart protecting it. He wants you to feel His arms around you holding you tight when things seem too hard to bear. God wants you just as you are. You are precious to Him. He finds you beautiful and worth loving. He loves you the way you need to be loved.

He wants to be there to prepare you for each day. He's there during the day waiting for a word from you, so He can share a Word with you. And at the end of the day, even though He's been with you the complete time, He still looks forward to your telling Him about your day and what your concerns are. He wants to listen to you. He is the lover of your soul. What more can you want?But what do we as women do? We still find ourselves looking to another human being to make us happy, to love us, and we've bought into the lie that we need another person to "complete" us. The only person we need to complete us, to fill our void, to heal our hearts is Jesus Christ, and He's waiting on YOU! What are you waiting on? What are you afraid of? If you're in a marriage or not, if you're in a relationship or not, why don't you give Him an opportunity to love you? Some of us who have been Christians for many years need a fresh touch from God. We need to cuddle up with the Word of God, spend some time quietly in His presence, and feel Him around us. And in those quiet moments when it is just you and the one who loves your imperfect self, may you feel the liberty in that love that you feel nowhere else. The liberty to expose you heart and your hurt and to entrust it to Him…the One who can heal, rescue, and repair.

So, what does your Valentine to the lover of your soul look like? What does it say?