Alyssa Sellers

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A Life Story

Lazarus died.

Really, legitly died. Mary and Martha rightfully mourned his passing. They went through all the pain and grief of him dying so that “God’s son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)

Jesus allowed them to experience all that pain and hurt so that others may know him. Eventually Lazarus died again. And presumably Mary and Martha grieved again then, too.

In chapter 9 of John we meet a man who was blind since birth. He and his family suffered scorn, embarrassment and hardship because of this blindness and Jesus says, “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:3)

That’s who our God is. This world, my life, is not my own. It’s not my movie, it’s not my show, it’s not really my story. I play a part in a minor plot in God’s gigantic story.

Even though it sometimes doesn’t look like it, ultimately God is showing compassion. He wants the whole world to receive his gift: life lived to its fullest through following Jesus. Everything that happens is in revelation to this truth. It’s not about me and my comfort or you and yours. It’s about God’s Glory. People suffer, I have suffered, but we can suffer with the hope that in the end, all may LIVE.

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~ Jesus in John chapter 10 verse 10.

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Time Is On Your Side

726a9-books014lightA little boy is wailing in the courtyard of my apartment building. I live above a daycare and at least twice a day the children are brought to the courtyard to play. This child had been hysterically crying for well over 20 minutes. Consolation will not come. Many have tried, I’ve heard them, but it’s of no use.

I imagine this is what five of my friends have felt off and on over the last few weeks. They all have lost their mothers to illness; four of them after months of watching cancer ravage a beautiful body and one rather unexpectedly. The pain is fresh and deep for all.

All have also found hope in knowing their mothers are in a glorious place where they can yell with joy and see beauty again. I imagine these two wonderful women meeting each other in heaven, sharing stories of their families with joy and love. I hear their children talk with such hope about where their mothers are; the light in their eyes inspiring. I know that the ache in their souls is deep and will only be dulled over time.

I am really the worst at mourning. I want it to be over and done with at a pace that is inhuman. I encourage my friends to not be like me, to not rush through it but to embrace all that God wants to give them during this time; all the comfort, all the peace, all the love.

Time, after all, is a gift.

My friends all hold strong to the belief that this life is a staging area for the next. We are given time here to prepare ourselves and others for the next and longer, “here.”

In Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery, Anne sits up one evening with Ruby Gillis, a woman in her early twenties who will die the next day. Ruby says that she doesn’t want to die; she wants to go on living here.

“I’ve fought so hard to live – it isn’t any use – I have to die – and leave everything I care for.”

Anne sat in a pain that was almost intolerable. She could not tell comforting falsehoods; and all that Ruby said was so horribly true. She was leaving everything she cared for. She had laid up her treasures on earth only; she had lived solely for the little things of life– the things that pass–forgetting the great things that go onward into eternity, bridging the gulf between the two lives and making of death a mere passing from one dwelling to the other–from twilight to unclouded day. God would take care of her there–Anne believed–she would learn–but now it was no wonder her soul clung in blind helplessness to the only things she knew and loved. Chapter 14 ~ The Summons

After talking a bit more Anne leaves and on her walk home sums the evening up with this:

The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be sought and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth.

Sue Erickson lived her life in that place. She left explicit instructions on how no unneeded expenses should be spent on her burial so that all of the money could go to help the people in India for whom she cared immensely.

In the summer of 2004 Sue and a few of my friends went to Hong Kong for a conference and service opportunity and met a man who was a spiritual leader in a community off the south east coast of India. They developed a grand relationship and when disaster struck in December of that year, our church community began to work to help that community. The first donations brought aid in the form of rice and fishing nets. The continued work over the last seven years has brought new life to hundreds of people in that area through teaching sewing skills, hygiene and the lifesaving word of God.

Sue worked an extra day a week giving that day’s wages to the impoverished widows, women, children and outcasts she loved and served in India. A memorial fund has been set up to continue that work.

The week she was supposed to leave for her second trip to India Sue learned she had cancer. She never saw India or the people she loved there again. I believe she will see those friends one day. Those friends and many more who found life because of her sacrifice.

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A Time to Dance, A Time to Mourn

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ~ October 2011

On a couch in a cozy corner of a home in North Portland I sat with Bob and Maxine, both aged over 80 and together for well over half a century. I watched as they held hands and occasionally cried softly through the sermon on suffering Cork shared this past Sunday.

Cork is married to their daughter Sue and this year they celebrate 40 years of marriage. Later this year, Cork will have to bury his love. Sue is near the end of her heroic battle with cancer. Since the notification a few weeks ago, hundreds of people who love Sue and her family are making personal pilgrimages to their home. I am one of them.

After most of the other visitors left, I sat alone with Sue.  She told me how much more real Jesus’s love has felt to her recently. As she unconsciously fiddled with the collar of her night gown, her clear deep blue eyes gleamed as her feeble voice spoke with power words of truth and love. We talked about how she saw and felt Jesus’s love through the kindness of her husband. With the heart of school girl she told me how Cork insisted they celebrate their anniversary this week even though the actual date is in October. He made potato and steak soup. She ate the broth and he ate the potato and steak.

On Saturday, I attended the wedding of two of my friends. These two friends are at the beginning of their journey together in love. Along with those who love them, I danced and laughed and hugged. Hope and love were tangible. On Sunday, during a worship service in a living room with 30 of their friends and family members, I watched Cork stand up from his chair and rub Sue’s now bald head and hold her hand as we sang praise to God. Together with those who love them, I cried and sang and hugged. Faith and love were tangible.

At the beginning and at the end, there is love.  This is the Good News.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
 ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4 NIV