Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pure and Undefiled Religion

Death touched the life of a young girl I love dearly a few weeks ago and changed the course of her world forever. Watching her go through this was almost too much to bear. My mommy's heart ached day and night just thinking about the pain that wrapped itself around her.

I met Emily when she was only a tender, sweet and adorable 5 year-old. She and her beautiful mother moved in right across the back yard and our hearts became connected by our touching lawns. Through the years our two lawns became one big yard as Emily and my girls crossed between homes pretty much daily. When the neighbor kids were asked to go home because we had company, that never included Emily. She even signed Grandpa's birthday card.

It was God who surprised us with this close bond we developed and it seemed planned by Him all along. In the beginning, I babysat Emily because her mommy was a single working mother. We just wanted to help out. That was our plan, but God had a bigger one. He knit Barb and Emily right inside of our hearts and lives and made us feel like family instead of neighbors. I love Him for that.

One of the issues surrounding Emily that pulled at our heartstrings was the tragic loss of her daddy right before she moved into the neighborhood. Barb had been widowed and little Emily (daddy's girl) was left fatherless. We walked through moments with her when she missed him so very much. We reassured her that her Father in Heaven would be faithful to comfort her, and we prayed like a bandit for her and her precious mom through the years.

God showed us all His faithfulness to Emily. He began to show her that indeed it was true - He was a comfort. He became hers. We watched Emily learn to cling on to God as her source and even turn into a little warrior for her mother. She was the preacher of the family and preach she did. Her mom heard the gospel through Emily. Most importantly, she saw a living version of the gospel. I remember Barb calling me one day and saying "Jodie, the change in Emily is like a miracle!"

For eleven years we watched her grow, prayed for her, and loved her like our own. On July 5th of Emily's sixteenth year on Earth, a second tragedy struck her life that I thought would completely shatter her. But I was wrong. Instead of shattering her, she became a pillar of strength that I have not seen before in a human so young. Faith exuded from her and held her whole family up. Her strength made others strong.

The call I received July 5th I will never forget as long as I live. It was Emily. She was hysterical. She told me that her mom and boyfriend were in a motorcycle accident and Bruce was killed. Barb was in critical condition. Within an hour and a half, Barb died. Emily was orphaned. Life as we all knew it was changed forever. Death touched us all and left a permanent mark on our hearts.

Over the next couple of weeks, we watched this young teenager (who is still that sweet little girl in my eyes) grow up in a way no child should ever have to. Death entered her whimsical teenage life and viciously, violently knocked the wind out of her sails. However, just when we thought she was down for the count in the dark dirt of despair, she rose up. When others would need a sedative, Emily grabbed her Bible. She chose the music to honor her mother at the funeral and, of course, it also honored God. She clung on to the hope that Heaven is just another city and we are only separated for awhile. That hope she has spread to others.

It is for this reason that I am writing this blog. I want to honor Emily. I want others to know that in the great big world, there is a sixteen year-old who had the ability to overcome tragedy and become a pillar in the most tragic of any circumstance known to man. If she can - so can we. I now have seen an example. If Emily can get through this with faith burning inside of her heart - I can get through anything.

Emily is just at the beginning gate of this walk through the valley of the shadow of death. In Psalm 23, God promised her that He would be with her and comfort her. I heard it said once that we, as Christians, are the hands and feet of Jesus. He will use our arms to hug her when she hurts, our words to speak peace to her when she worries. On her weak days, we will hold her up - on her strong days, we will remind her where the source of her strength is coming from. Jesus will use our bodies as living vessels to take care of His little girl. According to James 1:27, this is a part of pure and undefiled religion - to look after the orphan.

Maybe you are moved in your heart by Emily's circumstance and would like to be involved in helping her. Maybe you just would like to be a vessel that God uses to take care of a young girl who no longer has a mom or dad to walk through this big world with her. Maybe you are simply interested in partaking in pure and undefiled religion. Whatever the reason, an opportunity for each one reading this is available.

An account has been set up at Fifth Third Bank in Emily's name. This is for her education. The call of God is very strong on Emily and I have no doubt that she will grow up to accomplish great things, so the donation will be well spent. However, even the smallest amount given is seen by God and pleases Him because we are fulfilling what He accepts as pure and undefiled religion.

Please consider giving to the:

Emily Elliston College Trust Fund

There are a couple of ways you can do this:
1) You can go into any Fifth Third Bank and give a deposit to the teller for the Emily Elliston College Trust Fund.

2) You can mail in a deposit to:

Fifth Third Bank
1311 Bellefontaine Street
Wapakoneta, OH 45895

* Put a note in the memo of your check saying "Emily Elliston Trust Fund".

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