Friday, December 19, 2008

Mercy Me Bring the Rain

This song hit me today while I was driving. I have heard it before, but today the words seemed to be speaking right to me. Who "enjoys" the rain that comes into our lives? However through that rain, God is reaching out to us, our hearts, and changing us. There is Christmas and then the real celebration of Easter is right around the corner. I want to share this letter written by MaryBeth Chapman. I pray it will touch your heart like it did mine and give you a renewed vision of what LIFE in Him is all about as we all walk through the rain. Blessings.

I have been impressed for quite some time now to write a letter to all of you who have been so present with us in prayer during these last several months as we have grieved and come to terms with the reality that Maria is gone from us, but present with Christ. We honestly don’t like that very much. As we enter this Christmas season and all of the festivities that it brings, it also makes the point even louder that one of us is missing. A stocking that won’t be filled, and less presents under the tree. Maria had a contagious giggle that would fill the room over the wonderment of finding the elf that moves to a different spot every day during the month of December. The reality that the precious laughter of Maria won’t be heard for awhile has been a quiet loudness that screams for Jesus to come quickly…not as a baby in a humble manger, but as the King of all Kings that will wipe all of the confusion and tears from this sad mother’s eyes! I am eagerly anticipating His arrival, but in the meantime, I thought that I would and should update you all on the Chapman family from a mother’s point of view…. in kind of a Merry Christmas fashion!

M – Maria and Stevey asked Jesus into their hearts on February 20th. They wanted to be sure that they were going to SEE God’s BIG BIG House with lots and lots of food!

E – Emily and Tanner were engaged on May 17th - their one-year of dating anniversary. Tanner took Emily to SEE Maine, where his precious grandmother lived. He proposed to her on an airplane…. long story…maybe another day!

R – Ruthy and Will Franklin started dating in March. She is an awesome young woman and has been an unbelievable support to Will during this very difficult time in his life. They are SEEking Christ with their relationship and we love her so much!

R - “Roo”, or Caleb to you all (don’t ask how he got that nickname), graduated from high school in May. He chose to be homeschooled, but CPA (where he attended K-11) invited him to sing at graduation. The Toy Story song, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, and a self-penned song titled “Goodbye” were his selections. It was the day after Maria’s funeral and I was so proud of him for following through with his commitment to sing. The funeral was in the exact same sanctuary, and out of respect to our family, the entire graduating class were barefoot in honor of our sweet Maria. You could SEE Christ at work that day!

Y – Yeah Team! GO CPA! Ok, I am a little excited. Will Franklin chose to go back to CPA for his senior year. He decided to play basketball this one last time. For those of you who don’t know, Willy is a talented player who was starting on the team as a sophomore before he decided to homeschool and play drums for Dad. He now starts as a senior, voted a captain, and his team is a state contending team! The best part is that the entire team wear an “M” on their Jersey every game in honor of Maria. They want as many people as possible to SEE Jesus in this story.

C – Caleb and Julia are engaged! November 21st! I tell everyone that Caleb and Julia are elementary sweethearts. They have known each other since elementary school and have been best friends forever. They have only dated each other, and it is about the coolest thing ever! Julia’s family are super close to us and it just doesn’t get much sweeter! Caleb took Julia to Paducah and proposed to her at the exact same spot where Steven proposed to me! I have SEEn God protect and safeguard them. I know He has great plans for their life together!

H – Head em up and move em out! The tour buses that is… Caleb and Will both homeschooled last year so that they could work at what they love! Music! They were hired by a tough boss, SCC, to play in the band. Out they went on the “This Moment” tour. SCC says there is nothing better than to SEE his sons on stage with him. When Will returned to school in the Fall, Caleb continued to play on the “United” tour with SCC and a new boss, affectionately known as Michael W. He enjoyed working with both of these…how should I say it…. Patriarchs!

R – Relationships are all that matter! That is what the Chapmans SEE as one of the main things learned from this year. Things can change so quickly! Do we love well those who are in our circle and out of our circle? Christ put specific people in our path for a specific time and reason. Let’s make sure we SEE every opportunity that comes our way to LOVE WELL!

I – Inspiring. My three oldest children are simply inspiring. Watching first hand and up close my 22, 19, and 17 year olds handle the press as it related to our loss of Maria was simply…. INSPIRING. I watched my children interview with Good Morning America, People Magazine, and Larry King Live. Enough to make a seasoned interviewee struggle with their answers. Not Emily, Caleb, and Will Franklin. The poise and gentleness that they fielded the questions with was simply amazing. They loved well each other, and to watch how they honored their Savior with how they answered the questions was quite humbling. Lots of questions, but the faith they have was definitely displayed for the world to SEE.

S – Stevey and Maria graduated from Pre-school on May 15th. All dressed in caps and gowns! Quite the day to celebrate the upcoming Kindergarten year. They were both presented with diplomas, Bibles, and hugs as they walked across the stage. Stevey said she wanted to be a lifeguard when she grew up. Maria said she wanted to be a ballerina when she grew up. I’d say Maria is dancing right now in the most beautiful of tutus. I only wish I could SEE it!

T – Tanner and Emily were married on October 4th. What a glorious day! Not a cloud in the sky and the weather was perfect. An outdoor ceremony where Stevey Joy released a butterfly in memory of the absent flower girl, Maria. Emily was an absolutely stunning bride, and Tanner was a handsome groom. We celebrated this new family with food and dancing at our barn afterwards. I think it was a picture of what heaven will be like when we are reunited with Christ and the loved ones that we miss so much. Can you imagine what it will be like when we finally get to SEE them again?

M – May 13th Maria turned 5. May 21st Maria left for heaven. We don’t like it at all, and wish with all the wish in us that God would’ve spared us this cross, but for some reason beyond understanding, our family was chosen to walk this journey of suffering out in front of the world. Our only hope is that Christ Himself has been SEEn. Your prayers have been felt. Thanks from the deepest part of our hearts!

A – ASIA. China to be exact! Steven, Caleb, Will, and I went with several others to China for 2 weeks so that Steven could do concerts there! He got to perform at 3 different universities in different parts of China as well as a couple other venues there. We don’t exactly understand why or how (well, God Himself has given favor), but Steven is always welcomed there and is always allowed to sing and perform the exact songs that he would do here in the States. We have huge hearts for China and hope to be spending more time there in the future. You can SEE God at work in the people of China and we feel privileged to be a small part of what He is doing there.

S – Shaohannahs Hope! Continues to be a place where you SEE God himself smile! Emily, Caleb, and Julia have all started to work there this year which is so cool to see your kids loving something so near and dear to your heart. Emily is the International Programs Director and as I write, is meeting with the First Lady of Honduras in Honduras to discuss adoption and orphan care there! Caleb does all the sweet media clips that you SEE about SH! He loves “creating” visual pieces that communicate the SH vision. Julia is the organizational queen administrator! What would we do without someone that is punctual and organized? Maria’s Miracle Fund was established in honor of Maria this year. To date, about $765,000 has been given in her name! Thank you so much for keeping the memory of her full life alive so that others too will live!

As we look to 2009, we have much to be grateful for. Emily and Tanner are praying about Bible College in Ireland, Caleb will marry his lifelong sweetheart, Julia, Will Franklin graduates from high school, Shaoey is going to be double digits (10), and Stevey Joy graduates from Kindergarten! Steven and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage in 2009 as well. I am anticipating a long vacation somewhere warm!

As I anticipate Christmas 2008, I have many thoughts flying through my heart and head. The last several days, my mind has not been able to stop thinking about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Pregnant and scared, knowing that the baby she was carrying eventually would pay the ultimate price of His life. How would I have lived differently if I knew that my time with Maria was going to be this short? Regretfully, I would have lived much differently. I would have purposely hugged and kissed more. I would have tried to memorize and lock away in my heart certain smells and smiles. I would have colored more and worked less. I would have laughed more and fussed less. Bedtime wouldn’t have become a chore to check off the list of things to get done. Instead it would have been more of an opportunity to listen about the day and offer whatever words were needed. The swimming pool wouldn’t have been too cold to swim in. The flowers in the garden would have all been picked, and definitely more ice cream would have been consumed!
I wonder what it was like for Mary after her son’s death. I know she saw him resurrected and was certain of the fact that she would she him again, but she was still his mom. Mary found favor with God; therefore she was chosen to be Jesus’ mom. But because God favored Mary, she was also chosen to suffer. Not just at the crucifixion, but her whole life. She was chosen to carry a baby in her womb, be persecuted and give birth in a dirty stable. Most of the time at Christmas we end the story there…. in the stable, with Mary, Joseph and Jesus receiving their company. Wise men, shepherds, and angels - you get the picture in your head right? The star, the animals, the Nativity! What about the rest of it? Mary, mothering the Son of God! She was human, she had a baby, and she raised that baby with the heaviness that she was to see him suffer and thus she too would suffer. I think when Mary was hiding things in her heart; it was a lot more than the reality of whom she carried in her womb. I am certain that she was hiding away the memories of first smiles and steps, as well as the first tears and tumbles. Knowing what was to come, did Mary have the opportunity to live differently as a mom to her little boy? I believe she did. I am sure that she watched him differently, taught him differently, and prayed differently. I can only imagine the discussions that she and Joseph would have when their son wasn’t listening, how they probably begged God to let the cup pass from them, but in the end yielding up the prayer we all hesitate to pray when it comes to our children…. Your will be done. UGGHH!!!! I don’t want to. I didn’t want to on May 21st, and I still don’t want to now. Yet somehow we did, and somehow we will continue to. I am reminded more than ever this Christmas, that it doesn’t end at the Nativity in Bethlehem in a cozy manger… it is a journey all the way to the cross on the hill in Golgotha on Good Friday.

Christmas for the Chapmans this year represents suffering. For that matter, from here on may we always remember that it represents the ultimate suffering that came. But isn’t it amazing that it is called GOOD Friday? Why is it good if it is full of suffering? Because Easter came on Sunday and what Satan intended for evil, God intended for GOOD! Christmas ultimately ends at Easter and the reality that we will see Maria again! If we are to live as Christ, then we will suffer like Christ. I am thankful this Christmas more than ever for Easter. When all the questions I have will be answered and all the tears I have will be wiped away. Until then, Merry Christmas with the reality that Easter came and all of this suffering will someday be gone in a moment, and all things will become new and right and awesome!
Thanks for your prayers during this journey. It isn’t an easy one and your love and support is continually needed. May you be richly blessed for gracing us with your love.

Longing to be washing dishes in heaven with Maria,
Mary Beth for all the Chapman family

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