I wish every single one of you reading this post could have met Martha, one of my very best friends.
Some of you DID have the joy of meeting Martha, and I'm sure you would agree with this statement -- you're a better person for knowing her.
You might remember I wrote this post last October, a few days after the finding out that I could no longer hug Martha, text with her each Tuesday night about Chicago Fire, and boo-hoo my eyes out while watching wedding videos with her.
Exactly one year ago, the Lord took Martha to Heaven to be with Him eternally. I have no doubt about that - if there's one comfort I have in the loss of a friend, it's that she has seen the full extent of the Lord's glory, mercy, power, healing and peace. I just know she is rejoicing in Heaven, singing Needtobreathe songs and teaching everyone her favorite Camp deSoto line dances - all while wearing Patagonia shorts and her spirit jersey, of course. Yup, pretty much sounds like Heaven to me, and I can't wait to meet Martha again there one day.
Sometimes I can't believe it's been a year. Sometimes it feels like it's been so, so much longer. It was a hard year. Between learning how to be a wife, moving to a new city, moving away from friends, losing a friend, finding a new job - it's been a constant roller coaster of emotions. I think I cried more tears this year than I have any other year since probablyyyyy about age 5. Some were sad tears, some were happy tears. I cried on the drive home from Spartanburg the day after she died. I was alone, it was noon, and I was listening to Needtobreathe. Because Martha loved Needtobreathe. I cried on the airplane to Nashville to go to her funeral. Once again, I was alone, but this time, listening to a Ben Rector song. A few weeks later at church, I tried to hide the tears as I took communion and listened to the band play "Come Thou Font" - one of her favorite hymns. Music reminds me of Martha for some reason, and I'll take any small reminder of her.
That Ben Rector song - please listen to it if you haven't - has been my song this year. I, too, feel like I've been on a sailboat. I've seen storms and choppy waters, and dark nights when I thought it would never get any better. I've seen beautiful rainbows and calm waters that give me peace. Some would run away from God in dark times, but if anything, I ran toward Him. And it pains me to think that there are others who have to go through hard things without confidence in Christ. Of course, there were days when I felt so alone, so helpless. But when I was alone, He was (and is) there. One of my very best friends texted me a few weeks after losing Martha and said -
"God is working... He never stops. He doesn't let us down or give up on us or forget about our struggles. He sees every tear and frustration and heartache, and he works through and in those things, too."
Those words carry me through to this day. Losing Martha gave me a more clear view of the Gospel. Of just HOW incredibly beautiful and wonderful the love of God and the sacrifice of Christ is. God works through all circumstances - even through hurt and tears. I think Martha would rejoice in the fact that this past year has drawn me closer to Him - just the way she always did. Martha and I had a very special friendship, and that deep, special friendship is because of Jesus. Martha pointed me towards Christ SO often, and for that I am grateful. She lived a life that was selfless, full of peace, and that brought joy to all around her. Truly, that girl had friends everywhere and showed Jesus to all of them. She loved God, and loved others. Isn't that what we're all supposed to do? She had done that so well, and though I miss her each day and wish the Lord hadn't taken her from me, I ultimately know that His plan is perfect and He is good. And that carries me through.
I wish I could remember the day I met Martha. Sadly, I don't. What I do remember so well, is my last day with Martha. Friday, October 11, I had finally reunited with my closest college friends after not seeing any of them since the sparkler exit of our reception back in June. I saw Martha in front of one of the Village apartments on campus, and literally ran toward her. I yelled "Marf!!" (a little excessive, but whatever!) and experienced the best hug she's ever given me. You see, Martha kind of disliked hugs, and always talked about her "bubble"... but that night, she let me burst it, just one more time. And I am eternally thankful.
Martha taught me many things on her time on Earth, and many things even when she left us. She taught me to loosen up a bit and not let grades define my life. She exposed me to some of the most beautiful wedding videos I've ever watched. She taught me that size large t-shirts are the way to go. She also taught me about perseverance, finding joy in suffering, loving others well, loving Jesus, and resting in His perfect peace.
If you're still reading this - I'm glad. I hope you've gained an understanding of how much this wonderful friend meant to me. And if you knew Martha, I hope you're nodding your head in agreement. I wish no one would ever have to lose a friend, but because this world is broken, we weep over our cherished ones. We long for the day without hurt, and it will come one day. Meanwhile, when we hurt, we pick ourselves up, and we turn towards the Lord. He's building us, molding our character and shaping our lives to reflect His glory, and reminding us of our HOPE in Jesus.
To those of you who have carried me through this year - I am eternally grateful for your love, encouragement and prayers. I am blessed with wonderful family and friends from all parts of my life who have loved me and motivated to continue and take each day as it comes. I have come to cling to community, both those in Greenville and Raleigh. It brings tears to my eyes to think of all who loved me so well during this extremely tough time. My core group of college girls has been my rock. My husband, my parents my other best friends - they've all been there for me this year and I am so grateful. This year also brought me a new church community in Raleigh, and there are no words to express how thankful I am for that. I've made friends who let me cry over coffee with them about things that hurt, and invite me over just to craft or run errands with them. I pray that I can show all of these people that I've named the same friendship and joy that Martha gave me, and demonstrate to them how knowing Martha and loving Jesus has made me a better person.
365 days later, I still miss you immensely, Marth. Life has changed a lot, and it breaks my heart that you're not here to see it first hand. Miss you, love you. Keep watching over us all, my sweet friend. Until we meet again.