02/03/2013: Heather Gray
Someone told me recently that the Lord only gives stories to those willing to tell them. So here’s my story in a nutshell.
ONCE UPON A TIME, a girl named Heather fell in love with a boy named David. He was a warrior; strong and courageous yet possessed a humble servant heart. They married and had three beautiful children. They lived happily ever after for 11 years. Then, the fairy tale ended when David was killed in battle. Heather was heartbroken. But she and the children pressed into their faith and community to carry on. In the days and months that followed, Heather recalled David’s words to her during a difficult time they had previously weathered. “It isn’t how well you run the race that matters…just Finish Strong.” This saying would become Heather’s mantra. She made it her goal to tell as many people as possible about her beloved David and hopefully inspire others to run with endurance the race that is set before them. THE END
My husband completed his final mission on August 8, 2012 in Kunar province, Afghanistan. Now, I am a girl on a mission. My goal is to share my testimony, our story, and a message of forgiveness and resiliency with as many people as possible. I created Finish Strong Ministries with the intent of providing motivation and resources to a world in need. FSM will serve as a vehicle to offer scholarships to enlisted military members wishing to become officers, support charities all over the globe, and provide inspiration through word and song in the form of devotions, albums, and public speaking engagements. David walked into Heaven wearing boots in the sand. So I will don my high heels and press on as long as I must in order to honor his legacy.
What do you do when you’re given a gift that is so precious and cherished and then it’s taken away? How do you not scream “Indian giver!” and let bitterness take root? David was the most amazing gift. A treasure. A love so great I didn’t even have the capacity to fully appreciate its complexity and beauty until it was gone.
The dust has settled. The meals have stopped. The cards and calls are coming more sporadically. It is in the space of these quiet moments that the silence blares. The tears come unexpectedly… Opening a bill; changing a lightbulb; putting the kids to bed then heading to my own alone. Or today when I received the incident report for David’s death. The pain sears through my defenses and I melt.
The pain is so intense I sometimes fall to the temptation of allowing distractions, mindless pursuits, and a million other things to be cheap substitutes for the love I lost. At times, I’ve even used God’s grace as a license to sin. I just get so exasperated with the way life seems to be going. Every time I take a step forward, it feels like I then take two steps back. Times like these I have nothing I can do but heave a huge sigh, tilt my head toward heaven and throw my hands up in resignation.
But I discovered a hidden gem during my quiet time recently that I’ve been camping out on the last couple days.
We know that Jesus wept over the death of his friend Lazarus. So he obviously felt and understood grief. But two little words wedged in a seemingly mundane occurrence in the grand scheme of Jesus’s ministry speak volumes to my aching heart. He spit on his hand and placed it on a mute man’s tongue then…
“He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”) mark 7:34
He sighed! Im no theologian but I’m pretty sure a sigh from the savior came from the same place from which I daily draw frustrated breath. He felt the exasperation of living in a fallen world where the ramifications of sin abound. I don’t think he was bothered by having to perform yet another miracle. I think he sighed, just like I do, because we just so desperately wish things could be different.
This knowledge helps me breath a different sigh…a sigh of relief. My Lord understands.
HOLD MY HEART
When David died I became the head of the household. Suddenly thrust into a role for which I am convinced I was not intended. But yet I am sure that God doesn't make mistakes. Doesn’t give us more than we can handle…Will equip us to do whatever it is he calls us to. Yet, admittedly, there are times I wonder where he hid the tool box.
I have been assured that the Lord will be the Father to the fatherless and the husband to the widow. But what does that practically look like? How do I lead my family when I so desparately want to be led?
If I’m being honest, I get frustrated because David and I had determined to be the ones that were going to break the cycle. Not to disparage our parents, but between them there are 10 marriages. And the sad reality is that is probably average these days. I don’t know too many people whose parents aren't divorced. I’m no stranger to broken families. But praise God he brings restoration and healing and I am so blessed by the step parents in my life.
But again, now what? I am terrified of my children growing up without a father.
My question isn’t who will walk my girls down the aisle. There are a number of amazing men in our lives who would be more than willing to stand in for David. My question is, who will walk them through life? Who will model for them the kind of man they should expect to have waiting at the end of the aisle one day.
My question is not who will teach my son to play football. It’s who will have the tough talks with him about what it means to be a modern day knight… the kind of godly man that every girl dreams of seeing at the end of the aisle.
Some days it is difficult to reconcile the fact that the Lord fashioned my heart knowing it would be broken one day. Lately I have been crying out to Him to hold my heart since David is no longer here to hold my hand.
On Sunday, my pastor preached on the covenant God makes with us. When Michael spoke, I felt he was delivering a message the Lord had given him in an envelope with my name written on the front.
He spoke of the Hebrew word, Hesed which means faithful lovingkindness. It is used in several places but the one that resonated with me and that Michael shared with the church, was in Hosea 2.
16 “In that day,” declares the LORD,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master’…
19 I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in lovingkindness and compassion.”
How amazing to think I, a wretch, could be the bride of Christ. This passage was written about God’s redeeming love for Israel and his willingness to take them back despite the fickle nature of their devotion. But not only does He take them back, but he also says He desires a covenant relationship with them!
I learned recently that where you see the word LORD in the old testament in capital letters it is the translation of the Hebrew word Yahweh, which is the name the Lord said He would be remembered by…the one that means relationship. The word Lord is the translation meaning master or authority.
I nearly danced when I realized that the type of relationship the LORD desires from me, with my fickle Israelite-like heart, is one of lovingkindness.
And the beautiful thing is that even when I doubt, even when I wander, He remains faithful. 2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
He is wooing me to a valley so He can be the one to hold my heart. Now I just have to trust Him enough to leave my heart and my life in His hands.