Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Healing is Hers. Joy is Mine.

Guest posting today is my dear friend, Andrea Flanagan Edmunds. She recently said a final goodbye to her special needs daughter, Presley. I have known Andrea for many years and she exemplifies joy in the midst of great challenges. Today she writes about that joy and God's purposes in her daughter's life. You will be blessed by the words she shares. Welcome to One Ringing Bell, Andrea. 

My precious, seventeen year old, special needs daughter passed away two weeks ago. She has been ultimately healed and is in heaven with a new body, walking for the first time. I miss her so much my heart literally aches, yet I do have joy. Joy knowing she lived this life and fulfilled the purpose God set out for her. Joy, because this verse rings true: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy…” (Psalm 16:11).

Some told me after her passing that she was probably “better off.” I shake off those words meant with good intentions, because they do not reflect what I know to be true. Yes, heaven is a far better place than this world. But, to be “better off” implies her life was miserable and pointless.  

I, however, know the truth.    

Presley’s life verse from the first days and one we fervently declared over her life was Jeremiah 29:11. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.’” At the time of her birth, I didn’t know what God had in mind, but I trusted Him and in His promises.  

When Presley was twelve, I was able to see one of many examples of God’s plan and purpose for her life.

After I graduated college in 1998, I traveled to Brazil to teach
English as a second language where I became fluent in Portuguese. Fast forward sixteen years and I am a mother living in Georgia with three kids (Presley and her two little brothers) with a full-time job and absolutely no reason to speak anything but English. In 2014, I was invited to go on a mission trip to Rio de Janeiro, and after  only a few days into our trip, my Portuguese miraculously started flowing again. 

On the bus heading to the  last church on our visit, I was told to be ready to share my testimony.  Much to my relief, we finished the first service without anyone calling on me. Afterward, while drinking coffee with a new friend, Adelia, I met Norma. She was preparing our lunch in the kitchen and happened to join in our conversation. As Norma stood by, Adelia asked about my life, so in Portuguese I told a bit about myself. Suddenly, I sensed God say, “Tell them about Presley.” 

I ignored that impression and continued talking about my job as a teacher. Again, I heard, “Tell them about Presley.”  

“OK, Lord.” Still with reservations, I told Adelia and Norma about Presley. “My oldest child, Presley, is twelve. She wasn’t breathing when she was born, so she can’t walk or talk. She is precious, though! She laughs and smiles. We love her so much!”  

Adelia smiled and nodded, but Norma said, “I had a little girl like yours.”  

The hair on the back of my neck stood as I listened to Norma telling us about her daughter’s disabilities and her early death.  

“What did I do wrong?” she asked. “Women in my neighborhood who were drug addicts, prostitutes - they had beautiful, healthy babies. I am a Christian, I love God, and yet I had a sick little girl that died. What did I do wrong?”  

My heart pounded, and blood rushed to my ears. The purpose for God nudging me to share my testimony became apparent. “Nothing,” I cried. “You did nothing wrong!” I shared the verse in John 9 when the disciples asked why a man was born blind and if it was the sins of the man or the sins of his parents that caused it. “Norma, listen! ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus said, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in his life.’” As I spoke with her, she began to cry and rejoice as the bondage of pain and guilt she carried for almost twenty years was broken!  

This was one small part of God’s plan for Presley’s life, just as it was, with her disabilities and all!  

Before and since Presley’s passing, people have said my faith in God during these times has been an inspiration to them, drawing them closer to God. That is simply the grace of God. To me, her birth caused a ripple effect that lasted all seventeen and a half years of her life, affecting those closest to her and spreading out to people we have never even met.   

Maybe you're struggling to understand God’s purpose in a difficult time. Maybe you have lost a job, have an illness, or perhaps, you too have lost a child or someone close to you. Hear me when I tell you God has a plan for every single one of us! Here are three things that will help:  

1. Study His Word. God wants us to know Him intimately by reading and studying the Bible and praying. His word is our guide and encouragement!

2. Trust Him. Our trust in the Lord can grow with each day. Trust Him fully, knowing that victory is His and He will carry us through all the storms we will face.

3. Be willing for God to use you.  In spite of all of your imperfections, God can work through your life as a testimony for His works.  

Before Presley was born, I had a close relationship with Jesus and afterward, it became closer still. Because of God’s extraordinary grace, for the most part, I could trust Him each day, because I felt that she was His and I was blessed to care for her. But through the difficulties, like weeks of only four hours of sleep at night because of her illnesses, waking morning after morning not knowing if she was alive, or scheduling everything around feeding and meds,  I had to speak aloud to myself, “God knows what’s going on! He’s not surprised, and He has a plan!” 

In the first years of her life, God gave me this verse: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8

It was my hearts desire that others see Christ in me, so I said, “Here I am, Lord. I’m a scoundrel and a cracked pot, yet please, God, use me anyway.” And, I believe He did!  

At the end of Presley’s life, it is my hope that God’s plan for Presley was fulfilled. I know it was to demonstrate the love of Christ and to draw us all closer to Him.

My dear friends, healing is hers.  

Joy is mine.  

 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Romans 15:13).

 Andrea Flanagan Edmunds is a mother of three and teaches fourth grade. She enjoys reading with a pup by her side and going for treks in the woods. 

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