David Jeremiah wrote, "journalizing, memorializes the blessings of God" in his book, "When Your World Falls Apart, Seeing Past the Pain of the Present." My dear family and myself have recently experienced a terrible tragedy, resulting in the death of my precious daughter, Samantha. This is an unwanted journey, one of the most difficult walks that any parent can experience. It is riddled with extreme grief, profound disorientation, and beautiful graces from God. He holds me close. He has not forsaken me. Even though, my heart is shredded with sadness, I shed buckets of tears, I question my purpose now and I wander astray at times, I know I love God. He is real and present. I know what I know!!! And, I feel privileged to have the opportunity to share with you. I have learned that I am at my best when I walk with God, not against Him.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sharing Stories

Thursday, June 20, 2013

During my deep suffering, I remember entering into the local bookstore and realizing to arrive where I needed to be, the “spiritual section” required a walk to the rear end of the store. I mean really, in the far back left corner were shelved the words of strength that my soul required. Reading stories of survival and redemption was and is a saving grace for my soul.  I felt like to get to the pages of peace, I had to push past pages of mystery and murder, affairs and altercations, chaos and cruelty! It angered me that the books I needed, the ones that had an impact on my innermost self, the stories that could heal and help my hurting self, lined the last shelves of the store!!! Many times, upon entering the store, I wanted to turn all the tables over, (reminds me of another story? Matthew 21:12) make a mess, then rearrange and redo. Placing the peaceful stories, the ones with reality and redemption, grace and goodness, truth and tenderness, front and forward, moving all the others to a less important position. Even with the passage of time, and the mellowing of emotions, I get twisted when I think on the way things are and why such stories of chaos are positioned to attract readers more so than books that pave pathways to peace. (Just a pet peeve of mine!)

The trips to the bookstore and the income invested in these books hit such a high, that on one particular trip after our purchase was complete, David commented to me, “Remember, we have been instructed to track our expenditures relating to the accident. Looks like the book store will be one of the biggest!”  I shrugged; I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t even care; reading was necessary for me, somehow it served as a lifeline. To sit with a stranger, to create within me, their circumstances, to share their sorrow and their suffering, to experience the exact same emotions, to fortify myself with their faith, to acknowledge and accept the goodness of their God, to begin to recover from their redemption. This was where I could relate; real people, with real pain; warriors winning against worldly ways, hearts clinging to hope and souls surviving their crippling circumstances. Within the pages I shared so much with the characters. Often, underlining and highlighting lengthy sections. At times, sharing my mind in the margins; written comments that notated similar experiences and shared emotions. Some of the stories mimicked my situation. For instance I identified with, Mary Beth Chapman in her book, Choosing to See

Her story tells how their beloved son, Will ran over and killed one of their adored adopted daughters, Maria. How did this mother handle this? The loss of one child and the heartache for her son involved in the accident. I needed to know how she handled such extreme sorrow and sadness alongside her life long love and devotion towards her eldest son. The words of her dedication, to her son, delivered a strong stance of faith through love and loss:

Dedicated to Will Franklin

“You have been entrusted with an incredible pain! I’m so sorry. I wish as your mom I could take it away, but I know God has a plan for you to steward this story well and to minister to others through your suffering. You are my hero, as well as Maria’s … she loved you so much, as do I! 

Can you imagine, grieving the loss of your beloved "girl" and watching your oldest son wiggle and wind through gut-wrenching guilt and grief, and to adhere to and honor the parental commitment to sustain his soul with the promise of God's peace and presence. My situation was not the same but similar, Paul was not responsible but certainly carries some self-imposed guilt in not returning Samantha home. He has expressed this to me. Samantha left with him and he didn't bring her home! He was driving the boat, however not held responsible for the accident. He loved Sam and Sam loved him, I love Paul and he loves me!  I wish my brother didn't have to know that pain that he does and the restless sense of responsibility. Along with Mary Beth Chapman, I share a similar knowledge knowing God will work through Paul to bring comfort and consolation to others through this awful accident. 

And Mary Beth's loving tribute to her daughter, Maria

Mommy misses you so much. Your time with us was too short, but there is only One who holds all of time and eternity in His hands, and we trust Him. My prayer is that Mommy's tears will continue to water the seeds of your life and that all who read this story will be pointed to the One who holds you in His arms until I can. 

I share similar heartfelt thoughts and prayers as Mary Beth Chapman does. Samantha's absence in our lives is always evident. But, not overshadowed by the knowledge of the truth that she rules and reigns in God's eternal kingdom. Don't get me wrong, at times my emotions escape by way of tears, tenderness and temporary insanity but none of that, changes what I know! What a double blessing it would be to use my scarring scenario and sadness to boldly bring others to the Kingdom of God! I remember telling my friend, Robin, as she helped us with the search in Shell Beach, LA, "It is my prayer that others will be closer to Christ because of this." Right there in Shell Beach, before we ever returned home, somehow it was within me to see that this tragedy could be used to Glorify our God. And another such affirmation from an earthly angel who once proclaimed to me, "Elizabeth, don't you know, Samantha's life was all about saving souls!" It has taken me a while to wrap my head around that particular phrase. But, I am beginning to see the light! When she said it, I knew what she meant, but it has taken a fair amount of time for my flesh to surrender into submission to this.  At times, I find myself praying for supernatural qualities to be bestowed upon me to deal with Samantha's death; for me to be given the ability to let go of her life and and find serenity about what her Savior had planned for her and how her life would be used for His Honor and His Glory. So that, I can continue to "water the seeds of her life," pointing those that come in contact with my story towards my Healer, my Hope and my Heavenly Father. I am so human, it is a must for me to lean into the Holy Spirit that dwells within me to do this. 

Another such story was, The Color of Rain. Two couples, each losing a spouse. Two complete families; one losing a father and the other a mother; wading through the loss however, having to move forward with life. There was a page of this book that actually reiterated my religious experience the moment I knew Samantha entered heaven.  Our stories had such strong similarities;  Immediately, the husband recognized that his wife had entered heaven not that she had disappeared from this earth and died. His, the husband's peace came from knowing God's presence at this very moment, despite the despair his emotions emitted. It can be a very uncanny experience to read about something you experienced, where the words acknowledge your every emotion and actually reenact your inner thoughts. I was reading about myself in someone else's story! Michael recounts, this manifest moment:

When I read this , it was as if I had written it; change the words, "by her casket" , to "sitting on a back porch in Shell Beach, Louisiana." In my most grief stricken moment, My God was with me, where He said He would always be, at my side! When my mental clarity is at a crest, I can confess, "Sam did not die, she went to Heaven!"  There is a sense that this person Michael and I, we are strangers, but both hold memberships in the same heavenly club!!! 

My mind wonders to a movie I watched recently, The Great Gatsby. There was a buzz around town about this, so many folks traipsing to the theatre. I, one of them. I watched and when it was over , I could only shake my head with hollow thoughts. Oh, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it on a earthly level, I love clothes and enjoyed the costumery!  But, these people led chaotic lives! The show ended in sorrow and sadness, emptiness and agony, for everybody! Why did I come to watch this? I would equate the marketing of this movie to my experience in the bookstore.  A story of chaos, betrayal, lies and illegality promoted and placed in a position of importance. Presently, I find myself actively pushing away and safeguarding myself against chaos and confusion. This is something new for me, this inextinguishable desire for peace and harmony. Sometimes this sensation soars and prevents me from participating in social settings where there is a cacophony of conversations, unpredictable explosions of sound, and to many faces to figure out. My senses get overstimulated resulting in confusion and then I feel that "flee or fight syndrome." Small groups, one on one, and lots of alone time, is what presently promotes peace within me.  As I sit in the silence, a question captures me, "Why don't people pursue peace?" Why don't they relate to and read stories of peace? The world is chaotic enough without entertaining oneself with more stories of chaos! (Just my personal opinion, I record it knowing it matters not much!!) 
To begin to put a period on all of these thoughts, I realize, the books that I have read, the movies that I have watched, they are all stories. Good or bad, long or short, fiction or non-fiction, peaceful or chaotic, they are all stories. I have been taught by many how important stories are. My pastor, James Mitchell, once said in a sermon, "Stories are powerful!"  My dear cousin Louise, one of God's faithful, once expressed in a letter to me how important stories are. 

From: Louise Reinoehl 
Subject: RE: Checking on you guys
Date: March 1, 2012 4:22:37 PM CST
To: Elizabeth Vinturella <evinturella@charter.net>
Reply-To: LouiseReinoehl

Hi Elizabeth,
          I guess you might have participated in some Mardi Gras events. Your dad emails me often about what’s going on. Jim and I faithfully read your blog also so we feel we stay connected to your heart through your ever so honest words. I, too, am still amazed by how Granny’s influence is still prevalent. On a weekly basis, I am reminded of something she said or did and how I still want to emulate her and make my life count for eternity. Her words are prophetic and for all time because she based them on the scriptures. I am glad to know you rediscovered the letters and that her words bring consolation and hope. As I think over how you have a “story” and are trying to go forward by sharing all the events in light of God’s sovereignty, I was reminded of something someone told me once. And that is that we are a “storied people”. Stories resonate with us in that stories are the most powerful means of communication. For someone to tell us their story is a high honor. For you to tell others of your story is powerful. There is an implicit vulnerability in sharing our journey with all its smooth and rough places, joys and heartaches. Unfortunately, our natural tendency is to not share our story. But you have found courage in  your dependency on God and in knowing that He alone is your foundation, your rock, your comforter, your healer. He will do a mighty work through you because of your willingness to be His mouthpiece. And I predict, great healing will come for you in the process. I love  you and never cease to pray that God make Himself ever so real for you, David, Brooke, and Paul’s family on a daily, minute by minute basis. I know you are learning to look for Him in a variety of ways and to recognize His presence.
          My Spring Break is coming up the first full week of April. Jim and I were wondering if we could come for a short visit again with you and Paul’s family. We were thinking of arriving on Saturday March 31 and leaving on Monday or Tuesday. We love you so much.

Recently, I had the opportunity to walk once again in my former footsteps. Pre-family, my career orientated itself around my love of clothes. Having earned a degree in Fashion Merchandising, I once was employed as a buyer for a large department store and thereafter, a store manager as well.  After receiving the invitation to visit the Dallas Market with a friend, I was all in. Maybe this is what I am suppose to do with my life, I thought! Reenter the retail world?!? Off on the plane I went, only to fall on my face after spending several days of looking at so much "stuff." The company was incredible but I don't think I belong in that world? I had a major meltdown and returned home a bit dazed and somewhat defeated. The next few days were spent soaking in the stillness and silence, creating the environment where I am able to hear the small, sweet voice. I heard, "Why are you trying to go backwards, trying to relive what you have already done?" You have been there, you have done that! Move forward, I am creating something new in you." The lyrics of the song "Beautiful Things" by Gungor sprang forth in  my mind. (This song is so special; we played it at Samantha's memorial service.)

Beautiful Things" Lyrics
by Gungor | from the album Beautiful Things

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new
You are making me new

Again, Lord lets me know this is the way it He works as stated in Isaiah 43:18-19:
New Living Translation (NLT)
18 “But forget all that—
    it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

So, if I take just today, tallying up what is inside of me, I see I have a story. People have told me the story needs to be shared. I know it's not my story, it's God's story and I am only to be the storyteller. I know that stories have sustained and strengthened me during my suffering. 

I know God creates beautiful things, out of dust. The song says so! Due to the circumstances, we had to cremate Samantha's body. How I remember burying what was left of her body; dust. We met in the memorial garden, just a small gathering of us. All that was left was in a little bag and we placed it in a hole in the ground and covered it up. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust ..... So many have heard the saying. I have peace about returning Samantha's remains unto the earth but the best part will be the beautiful something that will delivered out of the dust!  

I know I am called to do something new! Going backwards is a bad thing! Isaiah instructs me to forget what once was and to walk in new way, on a path that God has already paved for me.  He tells me the journey has already begun, that I have already stepped past the "starting line." Then, He questions me, "Don't you see it?!" I interpret this as having to be hit on the head with a baseball bat, to recognize what He wants of me. The beautiful thing has already begun. Could that be me writing a blog? Being a speaker at A Women's Hope Conference along with responses, that offer rewards and a realization that maybe I have the ability to write? Never, have I thought, either of these, to possibly be a part of my life! This is all new and can be unnerving. Until, I read the last two lines of Isaiah 19! When I lean into and listen to what the Lord says, " I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland." I know I need not worry. All I need to do is write and He will do the rest!!!

I humbly know I will need prayers as I begin to write a book .... 


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, you truly do have the gift of writing. You also have a lot of meaningful thoughts to share, and God will see you through. Your book will be a blessing!
Judy Cahill