Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Great Discovery!

Yesterday, I decided it was time to do some spring cleaning (in July!) and I began by straightening out my bookshelves. I've acquired a lot of books over the past several months, and they've just kind of been stacking up...piles I've read, piles I haven't read but plan to read...you get the idea. As I was going through these bookshelves, I discovered a book that said "Hannah Joy Sullivan" on the spine. I quickly pulled it out, and it was a book that Hannah made in her GT class when she was in eighth grade. It's an autobiography, complete with pictures. I had completely forgotten that we even had it.

She drew the cover picture, which is a bell (her grandma always called her "Hannah Bell") with five self-descriptive words under it..."joyful", "optimistic", "sweet", "Christian", "caring". The first page put a lump in my throat: "Dedicated to My Amazing Family". She begins with a chapter called "Before Me", in which she states that we were so ecstatic when she was born that we gave her the middle name "Joy", which is true! That chapter is followed by a chapter for each year of her life. It was so much fun reading all of these chapters, and looking at all the photographs she included. The one that really got to me was the final chapter, which was titled "My Future Possibilities", and reads as follows:

"As I think about the future, I get so excited because I know my future is bright. I love to think about what is to come, and I do constantly. I plan to graduate high school with a 4.0 and at the top of my class. Then, I would like to enroll in Ouachita Baptist University with a full or almost full paid scholarship, and study elementary education to become an elementary teacher. I'd graduate with a bachelor's degree from OBU, and then go somewhere for my master's degree in teaching. I would hope to be married by the time I graduated college, so I would settle down in a small town in Arkansas and start a family (and teach). When I'm old enough to retire, I will probably move closer to where my grandkids live so I could be close to them and watch them grow up. I want to live a long, happy, healthy and content life that I can look back on someday and be proud of. And maybe someday I'll read this book and I'll think, "Wow, I did just that!""

...As you can imagine, reading this paragraph, especially the last part, felt like a punch in the stomach. It literally left me almost breathless for a few minutes. How can someone so excited and full of plans for the future just be gone? How can her innocent desire for a long and healthy life be so unfulfilled?

And God had to gently remind me of something I already know. As we speak to groups and churches, one of the things we talk about is God's sovereignty...the fact that He is in control in and through every situation. As Hannah's illness progressed and it became apparent that, without a miracle, she would be leaving us for Heaven, we felt that we were being called to submit to His will for her life and for ours. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans that I have for you,...plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope." Hannah's future was in His hands...she had her own plans, we had our plans for her...but God had a better plan. What seemed to be a calamity to us was the best thing that ever happened to her!

I found this quote the other day:

Death is God's way of saying, "Your table is ready."

I love that! Barbara Johnson in "Pack Up Your Gloomees in a Great Big Box, Then Sit on the Lid and Laugh" says this: "There is a finality to death that is inescapable. You can't go around it, over it, or through it. All you can do is negotiate--not for a reversal that could bring your loved one back, because there is none. Instead, you plead for some kind of understanding, some way to make sense of it all as you try to get through it, allowing your grief to take its course and let the pain eventually drain away."

We will never completely understand why Hannah's wish for a long and healthy life was unfulfilled on this earth, but she also said that she wanted to be able to look back on her life someday and be proud of it. I think that if she could see the lives that have been touched through her relatively short life (and I think maybe she can in Heaven), she would be proud. Thank you for being part of her story by reading these postings!

5 comments:

Betty Lacy said...

Jill:

What a wonderful discovery!! God had you find that book on the right day. I have been finding things the boys made and wrote growing up as I am unpacking from our move. The memories come back and I thank God for the memories and thank Him for the future memories that will be made.

I know God has more discoveries in store for you, they will all come at just the right time.

Blessings Always,
Betty Lacy

The Shingletons said...

I love you blog! I'm excited to keep up with you. I'm not so great about updating ours, but it is www.shingletonfamily.blogspot.com You can click on links to Jared and Maci's if you want to. They are much better at keeping them updated! Excited to watch your journey and pray for you. Love you, Shawnah

Maria Sullivan said...

God is so good! I agree with Betty, he set the discovery up for you to find exactly when it was the right time. I also believe there will be more discoveries made in the right time. I remember when Hannah wrote that and was so amazed at how well she had thought out her future. She WAS always a thinker... the thinking look!!!!!

Nina told me about this post this afternoon and I got really mad.... I thought it was so unfair. But because our God is sovereighn we know that he has had this all planned out, just as you said. I must admit it still hurts. I am always in awe and strength filled by you, Brad and Bethany. I love ya!

Sherri Smith said...

As I read your post, it just broke my heart and I can only begin to imagine how you must have felt reading it as Hannah's mother. But of course in the typically wonderful way that you did in your emails throughout Hannah's illness right up until her time to join our Lord in Heaven, you reminded me that God's plan is beyond anything we can grasp. Sometimes we hear a story like Hannah's that just seems unbearable for those suffering or unfair even in human standards, but God's plan is something we can't begin to even imagine and Hannah's storm has taught us all to have a bigger faith. Love reading your posts!

mspiva said...

Hannah did graduate with a 4.0 with the ultimate degree that we can only imagine. She did become a teacher by teaching each one of us how important it is to love and to reach out with God's love and her life, as with most great teachers, will influence lives for years to come. She may not have gotten married and fulfilled that part of her dream, but I believe she wouldn't trade that for what she is experiencing today. We Love You very much and thanks for dinner.