When asked if they would follow God’s Plan for their lives if they knew what that was, I believe most people would say they would. Knowing what that plan is though really is the hard part.
I think that is because we want that plan to unfold like it would if our boss at work had given us an assignment.” Carolyn, I want you to make a video of you reading Gregory’s homily. I want it filmed after the six o’clock service on his 30th Birthday. I want Joe Jackson to film it. Then I want you to do a supporting website. Type out the chapters and send them to Andre Goncalves, and he will prepare the website. Do you have any questions?” “No, I got it. Seems simple enough,” might be my reply.
I believe following God’s plan is more like playing the childhood game “Simon Says” than it is like receiving a work assignment from the company president. If you remember playing “Simon Says,” someone stands in the middle and acts as Simon. Simon says “touch your nose.” Everyone does that and then Simon Says “pat your belly.” What child would run up to Simon “well after touch your nose – what are you going to say next. How many things are you going to say? How long are we going to play this game? How does it turn out?” No, children just take things one step at a time. That is what makes children so very special. Simon Says one thing. Children do it. Then they get the next instruction. Then they follow it.
God says “move your right foot forward.” Many people then reply “so what is going to be the next step? How long is this going to take? and on and on and on. There are those that are reading this that God has already said “move your right foot forward” and you will tell your pastor, I am waiting to hear from God. You are in a no-win battle with the Lord. May I repeat, you are in a no-win battle with the Lord. God has all the time in the world. He has all the patience in the world. You are not going to get your assignment by fax or e-mail. You will get it one step at a time. It is called living by faith. Sorry, God is Simon. You don’t get to be Simon. Move your right foot forward and wait for the next instruction.
The story of this project will serve as an illustration. My husband accepted Jesus as his Savior when we met with our church pastor following his proposal of marriage.
Since that time, I mentioned that he should be water baptized. He just replied that he was baptized as a baby, and he didn’t feel it was necessary to be baptized as an adult. This past August, six years after accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior, I mentioned to Pastor Mike after church that Steve did not see the necessity of being water baptized. “I was baptized as infant. I don’t think I need to be baptized as an adult.”he replied. “Pastor Mike, tell him why he he should be water baptized.” I asked. Thinking that a quote from scripture was going to be his reply, I was quite taken back when he simply said. “Because Jesus said so and that is good enough for me.” He did not go and on say “well are you going to be obedient or not?” Sometimes less is more as in this case. After my six years of, “you should take this step,” he simply said “okay.”
Because my husband is 6′ 4″ and is literally all legs and has a bad knee, he asked that the water baptism take place in our own backyard pool and not in the small baptismal at the church. Also, Pastor often mentioned that he did not know how to swim so we agreed on a date fora swim lesson and a baptism.
Knowing that Pastor loves to eat and knowing how busy a man he always is, I made a chicken, zucchini, squash and tomato dish for lunch. We ate at the dining room table as it was easier and it was hot outside being August in Florida. After eating, I simply asked Pastor and his wife if I could read something to them. I took Gregory’s Homily off the wall in the office and read it to them. In the past thirty years, except for the people who attended Gregory’s funeral, I have shared the homily with fewer than a dozen people.
I told them it was the words spoken at my seven week year old’s son funeral by an Episcopal Priest. As I read, Pastor kept asking “where did you get that? “those are the words from the funeral. How do you have that?” I did not think about doing this before that moment. It just came to me to do it, and I did it. There was no thought or plan behind it.
After I had finished reading it, we all just looked at it each and said that it should be read on YouTube. For those who know me, I don’t look at YouTube or do a lot of updates to Facebook or any of those techy things. We have our own coupon advertising booklet, and I sell all the ads for our seven booklets that go out every month plus do all the invoices and post all the checks that are received each day. Between communicating with clients and sending ad information to our graphic designer for proofs, I try not to spend any of my non-work related hours on the computer. I saw maybe two YouTube videos ever. They were on TV on a news show. This is unchartered territory for me.
Pastor Mike and Christi both agreed that I must do this. Okay, I had the plan and the confirmation. The sneakers were in the closet waiting to be laced. Now, the rest. When? Where? How? I started thinking about how February 18th was going to be Gregory’s 30th birthday. I knew that September, October, November and December are really busy months in the life of any church. Our church puts on an original production each Christmas. That was a lot of work. The words and music were all written in house. I felt that this plan was meant for 2012 and not 2011. The ingredients were in the pot. The pot was placed on simmer.
I thought reading the Homily on a video posted to YouTube would be incredible but felt it was only one part of it. I thought there should be a website that contained more information. The story about Gregory’s life needed to be told. I read in the paper that Compassionate Friends was having a Christmas lunch the first Sunday in December. Compassionate Friends is an organization for parents who have lost children. I had never been to one of their meetings or events in the almost thirty years since Gregory’s death, but I called the number and made a reservation. Gayle Schroeder, the President of the Boca Chapter told me that her own daughter had been killed by a drunk driver when she was nine years old, and that she had been serving as President for the past ten years. I told her a little bit about the project I was working on.
I did feel a little strange when people asked when my son died, but I knew that I was meant to be there. It was so heart wrenching to hear about all the ways that the children had died. A good portion of them had been in their twenties. There were parents in their sixties and seventies talking about their children who died in their forties and fifties. No parent expects to live to bury their child. To me, the most devastating pain were the parents whose children had committed suicide. Several talked about having memorial websites for their children. Never heard of such a thing. This just confirmed that aspect of the project.
After Christmas, I mentioned to Pastor’s wife Christi that I was working on the homily project. She just replied. “Yes, you must do that.” Okay, God thank you. I needed to be sure that God was in front of me. No more of me out in front.
January came and I met with our administrative Pastor John, who I thought handled the taping of the church services and his wife, April, who I thought did websites. We talked about the project. I read him the homily. He prayed that if this was, in fact, God’s project, He would be involved in every aspect of it including bringing everyone I needed and every thing I needed. I made an appointment to meet again on Wednesday morning. Perfect, I was selling in Lake Worth on Wednesday. Our church is in Lake Worth, At the meeting, he told me that he does not do the taping but gave me the name and phone number of the person who did. He also told me that Andre does websites. “You are kidding me.” I replied. “No, that’s what he does when he is not leading worship on Sunday mornings.” I had wondered how I was going to possibly pay for a website to be done. Our business website cost close to two thousand dollars. Times are tough. Gregory died thirty years ago and was not my husband’s son. But now I knew – not back then when I agreed to move one step at a time that God would take care of everything even the financial cost.
I called them both and asked if we could meet after church to discuss a project at that meeting. I told them both what I thought I was supposed to do. I read them the homily. When they asked questions, I asked them to consult with the project originator and manager – God himself. “I want everything to come from Him and be as He wants it to be.” I replied. They both understood. That they both did understand was the very best part! I asked Andre if I could barter him ads for his services. He said don’t worry about that part of it. We will work that out later.
After church, I had mentioned to Pastor Mike that I had met with Pastor John and I was working with Andre on the website and things were proceedings He gave me the thumbs up sign. I then mentioned that I didn’t want to release the video to YouTube until after the website was completed and didn’t want to release the website until he had seen it. No problem. I would be honored to look at it. “What happened is what happened. What was said and how I felt at the time can’t be changed.” I said “But just want to make sure about the rest.” I understood the importance of spiritual covering.
I wanted to tape the video for YouTube on Gregory’s 30th Birthday, Saturday, February 18th sometime during the day. Okay everything was in place. Or starting to be in place. I looked at my calendar. I would clear my schedule for all day Saturday, January 27th and Saturday, February 3rd. I would type these two days.
Friday night, January 29th, the new women’s ministry group was going on an overnight camping trip. Two women had RVs. The campground was literally five minutes from my house, but I had never even known that it had overnight camping. I took Gregory’s homily with me. I also took the letter from the N-5 nurse and the letter to Father George that I found in Gregory’s baby book when I started looking through it again.
Our Camping Trip
When I arrived I asked the activities director, Sandy, how many women were coming. “Six.” she replied.”I can’t believe that out of entire church only six women wanted to do this.” I said. “These are the six that God wants here I guess.” she replied. She actually believed that the God of the entire universe would have enough time and concern about such minute details as to hand pick the six women who were to attend an overnight sleep over of the women’s ministry! I agreed wholeheartedly. Yup, those that came were the ones that were supposed to be there.
Sandy talked about our next activity that was planned for February 18th. I guess the taping wasn’t supposed to be during the day. We recently started a six o’clock Saturday evening service with worship and the word. That makes sense I said to myself. After praising and worshipping the Lord is the time when the power and anointing of God is greatest and the Holy Spirit is in the church. Yes, okay. Now I know the timing needs to be after the six o’clock service on the 18th.
I told the ladies that I had something I wanted to share. We decided it would be best to wait for the two remaining ladies who were going to come after work. I shared with the three ladies a little bit about Gregory. Nancy and Barbara were sisters. They shared with me that there had been ten children in their family. Their brother Perry had died in a car accident when he was 23. They still missed him almost forty years later. It had been hard on their mom.
It got dark and we all decided the morning would be the best time to share. Early morning at a campground overlooking a lake. The perfect time. Everyone had their bibles out and open when I walked out of the trailer. We sat around the picnic table, and I asked if I could share. I showed them the picture of Gregory and read them the homily and the two letters. They all found it hard to believe I wrote that letter to Father George only six months after Gregory’s death when I had been away from the church so long. We prayed for the project. We prayed for each other’s needs and concerns and thanked the God of the universe for hand picking the six women he had brought together for this night and day of fellowship,prayer and blessing.
An hour or so later, I went into the trailer to help Nancy make the beds. She told me.”Carolyn, when you were reading Gregory’s Homily, God gave me a vision of Gregory as he looks now. He has red hair. He is handsome. He is a good size. Not too big. Just a good size. And nice shoulders.””That’s him.” I replied. She told me that several of the women who were taking the class “Surrendering the Secret” which was a class to bring healing and comfort to those who had had abortions, had asked God to see their children as they look now in heaven. Many had seen visions of them as adults and some as infants. She said I should pray to see Gregory myself. I did. I have not had that vision myself – at least not yet.
Barbara told me about a book she had just finished reading. It was called “Heaven is for Real, a Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back” written by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent. She said she would give me a copy at Bible Study on Wednesday. She gave me the book on Wednesday. Wednesday night I looked at Gregory’s baby book again and looked at the funeral program. What were the songs that we sang that day? I needed to know. I needed to have a copy.
I was going to be selling in Deerfield on Friday. There was an Episcopal Church on Sample Road. I would stop there and see if I could ask at the office if I could make a copy. Some churches don’t have office hours on Fridays, but I hoped they did. I got to the church office at 3:30. Office hours were until 4 PM. I told the woman who was filling in for the regular church secretary about my project. I showed her the program. The one song was called Victory. The words were seared into my memory. Some alleluias. And then “the powers of death had done their worst.” It was Hymn 91, that was thirty years ago. The order of the hymnal has apparently changed. They didn’t have any thirty year old hymnals. We looked and looked until we found what we were looking for. She made me copies. It was a glorious moment and another confirmation that everything I needed was being supplied.
Saturday was to be my first day spent typing. I had made tentative plans for Sunday to see my friend Jianny who had recently come back from up north. On Saturday I sat at the typewriter and started typing. My husband came in two hours later and asked if I would take a ride with him to look at a desk that was on sale. Our office desk looked like it had been moved a few times too many. I declined.”This is the most important thing I have done in my life, I can’t lose my concentration” I replied. He wasn’t that happy with me, but I knew that if I died without ever replacing my computer desk, it was no great loss.
Driving home from church the next morning, I wondered whether I was supposed to go hang out with Jianny or read this book called “Heaven is Real.” “I leave it up to you God. I won’t call her. If she calls me, then fine. If not, I will read this entire book this afternoon.” She didn’t call. I told my husband that I was going to sit on the swing on the patio and read a book. He still wasn’t that happy with me that we didn’t check out the desk on the last day of the sale. When I called Jianny the next week, she just laughed knowing that that is how God works, and she would have done the exact same thing.
Heaven Is For Real
At almost four years of age, Colton Burpo, the son of a pastor had an emergency appendectomy. In the months following that event, he told his parents that he left his body during the surgery – and authenticated that claim by describing exactly what his parents were doing in another part of the hospital while he was being operated on. The hospital records show that he never flat lined during his surgery. He astonished his parents with descriptions and obscure details about heaven that matched the Bible exactly, though he had not yet learned to read.
He told his parents about being approached by a little girl who said that she was his sister. She looked like his older sister Cassie but with black hair. When asked what her name was, she had told him that she did not have a name. His mother had had a miscarriage two months into a pregnancy before he was born that was never mentioned to Colton. The parents had not named her, and did not, in fact, know that the baby was a girl. They could not agree on a name on earth so they teased that each one wanted to get to heaven first so that they could pick her name without the other’s veto vote.
He talked about meeting his father’s Grandpa who he had called Pop. Pastor Burpo told Colton that Pop was his mother’s dad and had died when he was about Colton’s age. When he showed him the last picture he had of Pop taken just before Pop died at 63, Colton told him that people in heaven were not old and did not wear glasses. When Pastor Burpo had asked his mother to find a picture of Pop when he as younger, she found one and mailed it. It had been taken when Pop was 29. When showed that photo, Colton said “that’s Pop.”
Colton talked about all the colors in heaven. When he saw a rainbow sometime later, his parents asked if that was like the colors in heaven, but Colton told them there were a lot more colors than that in heaven. Colton talked about Jesus having a horse and that there were dogs in heaven. He told them that the people had a light above their heads and wings.
He told them that Jesus had white clothes, but “it was purple from here to here.” He didn’t know the word sash, but described one. He said “he had this gold thing on his head.” He talked about Jesus having “markers.””He had colors on him.”his dad asked. “Like when you color a page.””Yeah.” “Well, what color are Jesus’ markers? “Colton told him they were red. When asked where they were,Colton held out this right hand, palm up and pointed to the center of it with his left. Then he held out his left palm and pointed to his right palm. Finally, he bent over and pointed to the tops of both of his feet.”
At Easter time about a year after the trip to heaven when Pastor Burpo asked Colton if he knew why Jesus died on the cross. He replied, “well, Jesus told me he died on the cross so we could go see his Dad. “You just have to love the innocence of little children. Pastor Burpo in his book remarks how Colton’s answer to his question was the simplest and sweetest declaration of the gospel that he had ever heard. He said that he thought again about the difference between grown-up and childlike faith.
Colton told his mother that when his father preaches on Sunday, God shoots down power from heaven. In Christian circles, we refer to this as “speaking under the anointing.” This is what I am praying for when I stand before the mike and speak the words to Gregory’s Homily. I want the light of Jesus to shine so bright and be so real, that the words comfort, heal, restore and save!
Colton’s parent showed Colton many, many pictures of Jesus over the years and each time he replied that that was not him. Friends of the Burpos e-mailed them a report on CNN of a young Lithuanian-American girl named Akiane Kramarik who lived in Idaho. She begun having “visions” of heaven at the age of four. Her descriptions of heaven sounded remarkably like those of Colton. The narrator talked about a self-taught artist who says her inspiration comes from above. Paintings that are spiritual, emotional and created by a twelve year old prodigy. The video showed painting after painting of angelic-looking figures, idyllic landscapes and a profile view of a man who was clearly meant to be Christ. Then a shot of a young girl filling a canvas with color. But they did not seem to be paintings by a young girl or even of an adult learning to paint portraits. This was sophisticated artwork that could hang in any gallery.
Akiane began painting at the age of six. At four she began describing to her mother her visits to heaven. She told her mother that the colors were out of this world. She told her that there were millions more colors than we have.
The narrator went on the say that Akiane’s mother was an atheist. The concept of God was never discussed in their home. The family did not watch television. Akaine did not attend preschool. As the little girl began to tell her mother stories about heaven then depict them first in drawings, then paintings, her mother knew she couldn’t have heard these things from another person. Slowly her mom began to accept that Akiane’s visions were real and that, therefore, God must be real.
A close up portrait of the face of Christ filled Pastor Burpo’s computer screen. Akiane was saying “He’s pure. He’s very masculine, really strong and big. And his eyes are just beautiful.” Colton too had told his dad about Jesus’ beautiful eyes. He called for Colton to come to him. “Take a look at this.” “What’s wrong with this one?”he asked his son. This is the same question he asked him every time he showed him a painting of Jesus. To Akiane’s picture painted when she was eight years old, he simply said “Dad, that one’s right.”
A lot of Pastor Burpo’s Catholic friends asked him whether Colton saw Mary, the mother of Jesus. The answer to that question is yes. He saw Mary kneeling before the throne of God and at times, standing besides Jesus. Colton said “She still loves him like a mom.”
Jesus may be Lord, Savior, Friend, Companion and Comforter to us but to Mary, the woman who carried him in her womb for nine months, who rocked him as a baby, who nurtured him, cared for him, watched him be crucified, cried when he died, saw him be buried and missed him until she left this earth and was reunited with him in heaven, he was simply her son. The flesh of her flesh. I am sure she cried at times during the rest of her earthly life. I am sure she longed for him. I am sure she missed him even though she knew that she would see him again after all she was his mom and that’s what mom’s do.
For the past thirty years, I have mailed Gregory’s nurse, Jennifer Kellow a Christmas card. I still refer to her as Gregory’s nurse even though the hospital pulled her off taking care of him. There were many other nurses who took care of Gregory. I appreciated each and every one of them, but Jennifer loved my Gregory like I loved my Gregory and to me will always be his nurse. I didn’t expect to receive a card back in return. Several times over the years she has written me an update. Whether she did or not this year, I just wanted to let her know that I was thinking of her and loved her and appreciated everything she did for me at the blackest point in my life. I told her about this being thirty years and how that seemed impossible.
I called my husband during the day and asked if we had gotten any mail yet. He replied only a card from a Jennifer Kellow from Jersey City. “Who is that?” he asked. I told him matter of fact “Gregory’s nurse.” “You have mentioned her but didn’t put the name together.” he replied.
I came home excited to hear from her. She was going back to hospital nursing after almost twenty years since being on staff. She was taking a thirteen week orientation class, and they had just studied the embryology of the digestive system. None of them had seen a large omphalocoe. She told them about Gregory and his life and death. She said that she hadn’t realized that the problem occurred so early in development – before most women know they are pregnant. “No one still knows why things go awry.” Yes Jennifer, no one does. “I remember him so clearly. How can it be so many year already?” she wrote. To receive this card from her right while I was getting ready to type the website was so perfect. If I had never seen or heard from her again, my heart would still be connected to hers through the life of Gregory.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we had the privilege of having Evangelists Greg and Robyn Hubbard at our church. During the Tuesday service, Pastor Greg had talked about when he got to heaven he would have three children waiting for them. Robyn had had three miscarriages during their marriage and did not have any children here on earth. He teased that he would recognize them immediately because they probably talked fast and sweated and spit a lot like he did. He mocked his own walk and said they probably walked liked him too.
On Wednesday, I stopped at the UPS store and made a copy of Gregory’s Homily. That night I gave it to Pastor Greg and and showed him Gregory’s picture and told him about the project. He said he would keep me in his prayers. I showed the picture to Robyn and told her that I had given her husband Gregory’s Homily. I told her that I hoped that it would help many mothers who have had children that have died to heal. She said that only God could bring that inner healing. She knew that to be true. I was so glad that I had taken the time to make them a copy.
I had made a second copy when I was at the UPS Store. I thought about giving Pastor Mike a copy but that wasn’t necessary, he had already heard it. The next night I found out the purpose for the second copy. My husband and I had gone to Virtuous Productions Studio for our weekly dance lesson. God is still working on getting this 5 ‘ 1″ (if I’m lucky) woman to learn to follow her 6 ‘ 4″ husband. At least from 5 PM – 6 PM on Thursday night that happens – or attempts to happen.
Steve was running late, I took the extra copy of the homily and Gregory’s picture in with me. In addition to dance, Sarita has a class called “Acting for the Camera” maybe she could give me some pointers for the video taping. I showed her the whole picture. She had seen the picture I carry in my wallet of Gregory’s face but not the one with his huge bandage. I read the Homily.
She just looked at me after I had read it. “You probably don’t know this but this is the fifth anniversary of my husband’s Bruce’s daughter Blair dying in that car accident.” Yes, I I knew about that tragic accident, but I did not know that that day was the fifth anniversary, but God did. Blair was 19 and hopped in the car to get a container of ice cream from the store a block or two from home. Her boyfriend hit the curb going 17 miles an hour. The air bag in her Mazda deployed, and she died. Eight other people throughout the country died from this car defect.
“How is he.” Better. Each year is a little better. He talked about her yesterday and will tomorrow, but today he seems determined to just stay busy. To load up the day with activity. He doesn’t want to open all the e-mails. Just wants to be busy. He misses her. They all miss her. I am going to read this to him tonight. God wants him to hear this tonight.”
“Sarita, your husband Bruce and I both know and love Jesus. We know we are going to see our children again. Jesus gives us strength and comfort. And still life is hard. How do people do life without him? How do you handle this type of loss without him?” I stated. “I don’t kow. I really don’t know. All I know is we weren’t meant to and thankfully, we don’t have to” she replied.
RACE TO THE END
It is Saturday, March 10th as I finalize the proofreading of this website. I started getting up at about 6:30 every morning and typing before going to the gym and heading off to sell ads. I just kept getting up and typing and getting up and typing. The website was created the way most movies are made – not in the order of the finished product.
I thought I knew what all the chapters would be when I started, but I was cetainly mistaken about that. I am glad I didn’t know everything all at once because my head would have literally exploded.
I sought God’s Will for the posting of the video to YouTube and the simultaneous posting of the finished website, and I knew that date was Friday, March 16th, the kickoff date of our two day Women’s Conference. I kept typing as much as I could finish in the hour and a half to two hours I had to spend on it before work. I didn’t worry about the time deadline – just kept plugging away. And then the supernatural happened. My selling schedule literally opened up so that I could devote Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week to writing.
Usually, in order to take a day off to visit my children or go to Orlando with my huband, I would have to plan out my selling schedule two to three months in advance so I was quite surprised when these three days kind of just materialized, and it turned out that I need every hour of them.
I found the hardest section to write was the one called Advocacy. God’s plan for that one just wasn’t all that clear so I put it off until I understood what is was supposed to be about.
Although we made a video on Gregory’s birthday, February 18th after the 6 pm service, I was not that happy with it. I was reading from a large posterboard that had the homily words printed in large letters so I would not need my eyeglasses, but I kept messing up. The sound was kind of echoey. It was okay, but it was not as good as I hoped it would be.
I called Sarita and asked if I could tape it at her studio on Thursday instead of having our regular dance lesson. The lighting was perfect, the background as perfect – we prayed – God answered. I read through the homily four times perfectly. No do overs. That was the holy spirit we both agreed. The orange background was perfect.
My point is, I thought the taping was supposed to be at church on February 18th at 7:30. It worked better at her studio. If you are following God’s plan, He will direct you. Don’t sweat the small stuff – or the big stuff for that matter, you will end up in the right place somehow if He is leading and you are following.
I kept typing and typing until I had it all down on paper. Until I felt in my spirit that it was done.. I didn’t know this when I first started, but I will be posting a bible verse on the website every morning – a word and a prayer for the day.
So it is midnight on March 10th and everything is right on schedule. So what can I take credit for. Doing it – sitting at the computer and letting God’s words flow through me. And the spiritual fast. I had heard on that same television show about the value of a forty day spiritual fast. I did not really want to do it. I had tried a three day protein shake diet several times since January 1st and had made it to about hour number six. But this was different.
I started my fast on Tuesday, February 21st. I eat again on Sunday, April 1st. I have been drinking protein shakes, fruit smoothies, water and Crystal Light. Oh and an occasional stick of gum gets chewed when I can’t stand the taste of my own breath. I actually look forward to having toothpaste in my mouth!
What has come out of it. These words. When you are not full of steak, potatoes and apple pie, you are full of the Holy Spirit and just feel closer to the heart of God as you are depending on his strength to literally get you through the day.
So I guess that is why I never was able to get those ten pounds off during the past six months. God knew I would need them in order to get through this period of fasting. I will tell you I am really looking forward to eating again. I really like eating. But forty days is a small scarifice in order to see God’s Will accomplished more fully and completely if I had not been fasting.
So what about the words to this website. I take no credit for them. They were given to me – I just typed them out. I don’t write this good on my own.