And Everyone Who Calls on The Name of The Lord Will Be Saved. Acts 2:21
Sorry I’m a bit late on this blog post.
Last week was busy, difficult, confusing, and beautiful.
It was all I could do to get through each day and not get caught up in the real of life, let alone sit down and think of anything to write that may be worth your time.
Now that things are calming down in my small part of this universe, I would like to share a bit about last week, as it will be ingrained in my heart until the day that I leave this earth.
August 3rd, I went out with a group of friends that have been coined “the crew.” We have a special bond that has lasted over 25 years.
The celebration was for our dear friend Toni’s birthday.
She would have been 38.
She wasn’t there, but her mother and sister were, which reminded us of Toni in both appearances and attributes.
Toni’s soul had gone to be with the Lord May 23rd, 2022, after a courageous battle with cancer.
As we all settled into our seats in the restaurant, we noticed Toni’s sister had brought with her a birthday bag.
Not long after the stories and memories all started flowing, she stood up and began passing out gifts, we of course were puzzled.
She explained the bag was filled with a gift for each of us and we were calling it a reverse birthday.
This is something I had never heard of, and I could tell we all shared feelings of surprise.
As she handed out the identical packages to each of us, she explained Toni had called her before she passed away and asked that she get each of us a bracelet. She had specific instructions that this bracelet should hold a pendant of an angel wing, her birthstone, a palm tree (because she lived in Florida and loved it there), and a round pendant holding a bit of her ashes mixed with sparkles.
Who thinks of that when they are facing mountains as big as she was?
As if this wasn’t enough, under the bracelet was a folded white handkerchief with Toni’s handwriting pressed on, that read,
“I love you with my whole heart.”
As I sat at the table of her favorite Mexican restaurant, receiving the most precious gifts I had ever received, her mother right beside me, it was all I could do to hold it together.
Toni was so, so special to all of us, and we were all of course shedding slow rolling tears, feeling so important that she had thought of us during such a hard time in her life.
But it really wasn’t surprising, that was Toni.
I couldn’t help but focus on her mother as the pain shot through my own heart.
I can’t even begin to imagine the hurt in a parent’s heart after the loss of a child.
The more time I spent with her mom and sister during this emotional moment, the more I could see where Toni not only got her glowing beauty as a person inside and out, but how they shared so many traits. Her sister has her hands, and her laugh and I noticed more than ever how her mother had passed on her kindness and humor. But they both shared in exhibiting the same strength that Toni had encouraged us with for so long.
Three days later we all met again at the celebration of life ceremony for Toni.
I had been asked to get up and share a memory and sing a song at the end of the celebration.
Which I eagerly agreed to do and considered it such an honor.
I knew Toni had been saved.
We had conversations about it before she ran into the arms of Jesus, which brought so much peace.
But I also felt so strongly that if she cared enough to think of us and the beautiful gift on her birthday, how much more would she want to remind us of the gift of salvation.
Especially now that she was in Heaven and seeing all the truth through her own unique hazel eyes.
I just knew if I could have one more conversation with her, me knowing Gods promises and her having now seen them, she would tell me to remind everyone that life can be beautiful and fun but the beauty without Jesus Christ in your life doesn’t compare to the beauty when you have a relationship with Him.
I was convicted.
All week before the celebration I kept feeling like God was telling me this would be a time when I would need to share the gospel. We knew there was going to be 150-200 people coming. I always desire to be obedient when I hear God calling, but this was a bit intimidating.
I know the gospel, but I felt I needed to study hard and pray even harder that week leading up to the day to make sure I understood every part and that I could share it well with this one opportunity that I felt God was giving me.
But, the day before the celebration, I was weak. My body was a mess with anxiety, I couldn’t stop crying, and I couldn’t focus on anything.
I retreated to my bed that afternoon, where I laid flat on my back and tried to breath my way through the anxiety.
I began crying so hard that before I knew it without remembering any effort of my own, I was on the floor, knelt in desperate prayer.
I realized as I knelt before my maker, tears crying out for my Father, He was reminding me I can’t do anything in my own strength, but with Him, I can do all things.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I gathered myself off the floor and my husband Jayson and I walked down to my neighbor’s house for the love and conversation that is always there, looking for an escape from the weight I was feeling.
The back yard was full of other people from the neighborhood and family members that were there out of town. There were children laughing, and good conversation happening all around me.
Everyone could tell I had been crying, and as they asked lovingly if I was ok, I could only answer with more tears.
But shortly after we had arrived and joined a table, the area cleared and there was only me and two other neighbors whom I’ve recently gotten to know. To my surprise we started conversating about God and salvation and they began asking questions about scripture and the truth.
Thankfully in all my studies that week I had solid, fresh answers.
As I sat there, weak, swollen eyed, and still longing to make that my escape from my own emotions, God sat down at the table with us.
It didn’t take long before my heartbeat fast, which I have identified as Holy Spirit heartbeats, and I could tell what was about to happen. I prayed in my head, please let me lead them correctly.
As the questions came, I explained the best I could in that moment that to be saved you must admit you are a sinner.
We all are.
I explained we must understand as a sinner that we deserve death, but that God sent His perfect sinless son Jesus to die on the cross to save us from our own sin.
I explained that to be saved you must repent which means to turn from your old ways and rest in the newness of being a child of God when you give your life to Christ.
You then receive the gift of salvation through your faith in Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit will indwell your soul to help you in the transformation.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
Sadly, death without salvation is eternal separation from God in hell.
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day that He comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.
2 Thessalonians 1:8-10
Those two neighbors gave their hearts to Jesus at that table and were saved.
I gained two sisters in Christ that very unpredictable evening.
It was beautiful, and my own soul was nourished witnessing others accept Jesus as their savior.
All glory to God.
When we showed up to Toni’s memorial the next morning, I still felt as though I was supposed to share the gospel and had been strengthened by others faith in believing and accepting Jesus as their savior the night before.
But as I listened to all the speakers before me in amazement at Gods plan, I heard the gospel proclaimed over and over.
By the time it was my turn to speak, I simply agreed with the other speakers and shared what peace I had in knowing Toni was with Jesus.
I pray that as you near the end of this post you can somewhat grasp the idea that the pain a parent experiences when losing a child on earth, although real and so hard, and scarring, does not compare to the pain our Heavenly Father experiences when we don’t believe in His word.
When we don’t come to Him in obedience of the gospel to receive our gift of salvation.
Friend, He cares for you.
He loves you.
He understands you.
And, if you let Him in, you will get to share in the joy of having a relationship with Him on earth and the longing to meet Him when your time here is over.
In doing this, you will also give the gift of peace to loved ones you leave, who will then know your eternity is secure as Toni did for us, and the promise that we will see fellow believers in Heaven when it is our time.
So, in honor of sweet Toni and the example she set in her very important choice to humble herself and be saved by Jesus Christ, would you please consider the truth if you haven’t already?
Would you please acknowledge that God, knowing the pain that He would endure as a grieving parent, sent His son anyway, as a gift, to die a terrible death, so that you would be saved.
And on top of that, Jesus was willing.
I believe Toni’s gift to us modeled a gift that Jesus Himself would leave for you.
“I love you with my whole heart.”