What I Gained From Losing My Sister

john514I’ve held off on writing this post for a few weeks. Lots of little details got in the way of the times I sat down to tell you my dear readers about one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met – my sweet sister, Michelle.

I had to say goodbye to her on February 19th. She was just 31 and died very suddenly. It was a shock and a huge loss for everyone who ever spent even five minutes with her. But she’s walking in peace and light and love right now. She’s with Jesus and singing louder than anyone there.

If there’s anyone in this world who understood me, it was Michelle. I liked to call us the outliers. We don’t fit into the world’s molds for us. But if I really think about it, we’re more than outliers, we’re overcomers.

I heard that song, “Overcomer” by Mandisa recently, and it’s the song that described my sister. While I’ve been finding ways around the walls in my way my whole life, Michelle busted through them. She was disruptive and determined and dearly loved by all who knew her.

I was amazed at the people who came to her funeral. I was amazed at the impact she made on the world. I am thankful she listened to the voice calling her out of her struggles and into the light. I am thankful for the imprint she left on my life.

The words that spilled out of my lips when I got the news she didn’t make it, were “Not Michelle.”

But it was Michelle. And we all have a decision to make when we lose someone – celebrate or dwell. I choose to celebrate her. I choose to keep living a life that is better because she was part of it.

I choose to look at her life as just beginning – you know that eternal one. The one you’re living in right now if you just believe it and own it as the gift the Lord has given freely with His own sacrifice for you. We’re already in eternity. We’re just in orientation.

There’s so much to share on with you on what I gained from losing my sister. I plan to turn this into a series at some point, but for now, I want to share the thing that gets me through the hard moments and the hurdles of life. Here’s what I learned about prayer from losing my sister.

Prayer brings the power of the Kingdom.

One of the things I’m not incredibly proud of is what happened when we got the news Michelle was unconscious and fighting for her life is that I didn’t stop to pray right then. I might have muttered something, but in that moment, I was consumed with getting others to pray for her and getting in touch with my gigantic family.

But I’m not going to feel guilty about my moment of weakness. I reached out to my fight club to pray for her. I got confirmation today that this is just as worthy in the Lord’s eyes.

I was listening to a podcast from Jill Briscoe (Telling the Truth) yesterday morning and she was speaking on worry. She said that sometimes we get to a place where we are not in a state to pray. We’re too worried. And God wants us to turn our worry into prayers. So, in essence, I did turn my worry into prayers through reaching out to others. You’ll see that my sister did this all the time and how it fits with the power of prayer.

The chaos of sharing the news that there is a problem with a person in such a big family is unreal. I don’t want to relive those moments again. But I know now that the first thing I should do is stop right now and pray.

That’s one of the most powerful weapons we Christians have in our arsenal. Stop right now and pray.

The beauty and power of this move is incredible. Praying before we speak, act, decide, start, after, in the midst of, and over every situation makes it better. It may not change everything right then and there, but it brings God’s power into your midst. He promises his protection and provision whenever He is present. It brings you peace.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” — Psalms 46:1

When the presence of the Lord is with us, we are empowered and able to overcome.

Pray where you are weak.

Michelle was a prayer warrior. Her war was often with her own confidence and about unity among those she loved. She kept several prayer journals and her husband let me look at them. The pattern she prayed was inspiring.

“Draw me close, God. I want to know more of you. I want my family to unite and be protected and provided for. I want to be serious about this walk. I want to trust you.”

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1

Michelle turned her worry into prayers. She understood that she needed that to live under the protection of the Lord. She understood that there was rest in His shadow.

Prayers don’t die.

A real prayer warrior, a general in the Lord’s army (you know the person you want to be able to pray like when you grow up) told me something remarkable about prayer that I think I knew but didn’t really know. 

She listened to me talk about my sister, and I told her of the journals. She stopped me and said something like this:

“You know those prayers didn’t die with her. They are still before the throne of God.”

I was SO encouraged. It made me understand why we pray.

Prayer is a practice for today and every day.

God’s story is one of a different timing than ours. His power weaves people, situations, and His purpose together. We only know a piece of the story.

We only know what we see; we must “have confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (That’s Hebrews 11:1 and if you need a boost of how faith works, go read that entire chapter.)

But when we open our eyes to the magnificence of God, we can understand on a small level that an act of obedience (faith) prayed out today may not be used until later, sometimes much later. Or it could be that same day.

I got away from my habit of writing my prayers in the aftermath of losing my sister. I did it a handful of times, but it’s not been a habit like it was prior to her death.

I sat down a couple days ago and poured my heart out before the Lord on the page. I sought His guidance and intervention and handling of some situations that were troubling me. I put my faith in this practice – asking boldly for what I needed that day.

Then, I asked God to work on the things that are out of my scope of work (intercession). I asked on behalf of others for what I saw as needs in the lives of those I love and even people I don’t know very well.

I followed the words of our Savior in Matthew 6 and 7 to ask for what I need today. Here’s a little context:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:7-11. 

Sidenote: Michelle used Matthew 7:7-11 as her guidepost for her life. She believed with her whole heart that her husband was her “fish” given to her as a gift from God. She told everyone about seeing fish as a symbol of God’s direction in her life. She really grasped that calling from Jesus to be “fishers of men.”

Prayer is an act of connection and drawing others near to God.

Michelle was great at vulnerability in prayer. She asked for what she needed that day. Then she sought God’s intervention in the lives of others and situations that looked like there was no great outcome.

She worked on her problems in prayer. She was a worrier, but I could see from her prayer journals that she turned her worry into prayers.

She also always asked for prayers over herself when she had a big observation or test. Michelle got it. She got the tool that was prayer. She understood that seeking the Kingdom of God empowered her where she was weak.

I used to get a little amused at her Facebook requests for prayer over small things. Things that wouldn’t bother me because I’m pretty confident in my ability to test or present. But she really struggled in this area. She really struggled with insecurity when it came to working and presenting herself.

But she was right and I was wrong. We need to be bold in our need for prayer.

Prayer is the power God’s people have in the Kingdom. It invites His presence into our midst. She really understood that. I’m humbled and my eyes are open even more to the beauty and majesty of what He has done for us.

My prayer for you, my friends, is that you won’t neglect this incredible blessing – access to God, the Father, the Creator of your soul. He can help. All you have to do is ask. Please let me know how I can pray for you. I’d be honored. You can contact me here.

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