Seeds in the Fire
I’ve been digging, reading, remembering. My dusty old Rubbermaid of letters came down.
I give thanks for my friend that is gone. For the time that I got with Stephenie, for the friend that she was.
I give thanks for the faith of her father and mother, Steve and Ginny. Steve, currently, lays paralyzed in the ICU (after an accident last week), facing surgery tomorrow. He’s waiting to see whether we will have mobility again. (please watch the video below)
I give thanks for the faith of her grandfather, Nate Saint (and grandmother, Marj) that allowed for his death so that others (the tribe of indians about to kill each other off) might more fully live.
We became friends in the fifth grade. Her – long blonde hair, green eyes and precision in all she did; Me – a bit of a muddled mess in everything I did, struggling to catch up from nearly falling off the bandwagon in public school (another story for another time). We fought as much as we got along, or maybe more. At the end of the day, we called each other friends. What mattered more than whether my sweater happened to actually be black or navy blue – we argued about that one for 30 minutes one time…and yes, she was right…I did wear my hand-me-down-sweater-from-my-grandmother with black jeans. (She was the brilliant one, and I was the one with the idea for smashing skittles to look like flowers on cookies :)) …but what mattered more, immensely more, is that we both loved the Lord and cared for one another. I hardly knew in our days of 2 square and writing notes in class what the future would hold.
I switched schools in 5th grade – new school, incredibly tall (6 feet by 6th grade) and completely foreign to a long list of Baptist rules that were dehydrated of any grace or joy. I had nothing to wear and felt like a complete outsider. So, our brand new friends with a daughter my age, what did they do? Mrs. Saint (Ginny) sewed me a dress! There house was forever open to me, and it didn’t matter that I wore shorts or had or had not seen movies they approved of. They loved me with open arms.
Over the years Steph and I argued less, I think, and laughed more…sometimes to the point that we couldn’t stop. We sat on the ground, on top of our text books at lunch, talking about the deeper things that most high school students avoided. There is such a long list of things that make me smile about her, but in the end, I know that only the readers that really knew her would read them all…and I do need to eventually get to my point. Suffice it to say, she was brilliant (missed one question on the SAT, kind of brilliant…picked up languages like they were nothing etc) and stubborn and passionate and beautiful and tender and sensitive and joyful. Sometimes she reminded me of our boxer puppy, just bounding with energy. She was the only girl and a daddy’s girl. Her Mom was her best friend.
Steve and Ginny were always an INCREDIBLE testimony to me. Their missions with the whole ultra-talented family at Itec blow me away. What I think about looking back was their love for one another that you could see it in every ear-to-ear grin they gave one another. They raised their kids was completely unlike any Christian family I’d seen, or have seen since. It wasn’t about laying down the law or total freedom. It’s hard to put it into words, but it’s something I very much want to emulate. When their church didn’t have a youth program for their teens they began a sort of Bible study in their home. Thought provoking and deep, it was a far cry from most things labeled “youth.” And it was SO much better. And they never seemed to blink an eye at having 40 teenagers invade their living room.
They were the water and soil that God used to grow my faith in those vulnerable teen years! God’s work, through them, has been blessing me ever since I met them!
Flash-forward a few years. There was their year in Ecuador during sophomore year, where I was probably more of a pen-pal than Stephanie could have ever wished for. My letters probably got tedious, but she was always so grateful. Almost daily letters for a year, and calls relayed from the Ham Radio.
Then there was college, where we were states away. Stephenie studied piano and then spent a year traveling with a ministry, playing piano (she played SO beautifully!) She had just flown in from Trinidad, and had called to say hello. That call ended up being something like 3 hours. We were both about to turn 20. We were so excited to both be headed to the same university at the end of the summer. We talked of being roommates and taking cooking classes together. None of that was to be…those were our plans. Not His plans.
The next morning Jesse called to say that she was in the ICU. We rushed there, and as I learned more about what happened I knew that it was to tell her goodbye. It shook me hard. The suddenness of death is horrid! She had suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. The babies, the husbands, the things teenage girls talk of for hours on end…they weren’t coming for her. It shook me to the core.
Another dear friend and missionary died within a few months of Steph. I was living at his house at the time and it was another sudden blow. His wife, the week he died told me, “He was never mine to have. He was always the Lords.” What a view! These people we love, they live and die at the whim of their creator, according to his plan – Not. Our. Own. I spent the next year barely leaving the house, writing and reading – sorting out my faith – growing in the pain of it all…and my grades falling off the deep end…almost.
Years later, I read Steve’s book, End of the Spear. Tonight I flipped again to chapter 20. I read some of the same words that I heard him say them when Steph died – the same words I hear now, as he waits to see where God is headed with his ICU stay. But the thing that strikes me most is his recount of Mincaye (a native Woadani with a lot of spunk – the same man who speared Steve’s father to death). When Steph was rushed to the ER in an ambulance, Mincaye had no idea what was happening. He thought that everyone was shoving tubes and IV’s in her to hurt her. He kept asking Steve, “Who is doing this?” Steve, watching his little girl die, wasn’t tracking at first and then realized that Mincaye was ready to defend Stephenie…I mean really start taking people down. But when Steve finally answered him and told him that no one was doing it, peace came over Mincaye and he told Steve, “I see it well! I see it well!” She was going home. He would see her in heaven. God was doing this! HE was taking her home, he told Steve.
I butcher a really touching story of God’s providence, and I encourage you to read it on your own.
Today, Steve asks that we pray not for his healing or his pain, but “for God to write this story.” …for His will to be done. That might mean a wheelchair. We know about wheelchairs in this family, and I honestly can’t say that I dared to utter the words “Thy will be done,” when my little boy was facing a lifetime in a wheelchair, but don’t worry…God is working on me too!
I’ve hear that in the past 100 years Sequoia trees have become more sparse. Park rangers were becoming desperate to plant more trees. Despite great efforts they had no success in getting the seed to actually grow. Then fire came. Young trees began to rise up. Fire was the key to germination for those seeds. Efforts to prevent fire had prevented growth.
We don’t have much say in when the fire of hard times will come in our life, but if we water the burnt and broken seeds of our trials, with God’s word, we can see growth in the unseen areas of life. …Areas that matter far more than whether our outward circumstances in this life look the way we want them too. I hurt for the pain, I selfishly miss my friend, and wish that her “Pop” wasn’t having to suffer so much pain and helplessness, yet again. …yet I give thanks for the faith that can come of it!
Isn’t this what Christianity is really about, dying to oneself, to find life in Christ, dying to our ideas, our expectations, the way we want things to go…surrendering, letting the fire burn all away except what really matters, Christ and Christ alone? Is He really my foundation? Can I really say, “What ever my lot, it matters not?” I’m not sure, but I’ll keep on trying …and being thankful for those in my life that have really learned to say it!
“Those who sow in tears, will reap in songs of joy.” Psalms 126:5
This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.
Steve, talking about Steph a few years ago: