A Road Trip with Hope

Yesterday morning after “Adventure Training” I had a conversation with Janine and Rachel about life and death.   (It was not because my workout was so hard they felt that they might die—but I can pretend that was the case!)  We talked about what it means to “fight” in the midst of pain and suffering.  We talked about this life being about so much more than the pain of the present moment.  We talked about the daily journey.  We talked about how on the journey–and often in the midst of pain–we find real life. 
On this Easter morning I wanted to relay an update that was sent from sweet Cabell Sweeney.  (If you do not know Cabell’s story, my entry entitled “The Climb” will give you a little history.)  Cabell is not only a “fighter” in every sense of the word…she also lives with a deep sense of God’s love for her life.  She has hope.  On this Easter morning, no matter where you are on your journey in this life, I pray that this day, you would be reminded of the hope we have because HE lives. 
Yesterday marked two years since Sweeney died. Two years. I don’t miss Mike less, so in some ways it feels like he died yesterday. But then it feels like ten years since I have heard him sing, laughed with him- touched him. I know time has brought healing and perspective for which I am grateful but it has also brought distance and that feels a little sad.
I was driving through our little town yesterday morning after working out, on the way to get coffee. It was still quiet. Windows down, sunroof open, music up. I stopped at the corner of Sixth and Broad. Elizabeth Elliot’s words met me at the stoplight. “Of one thing I am perfectly sure. God’s story never ends with ashes.”  
There is a little coffee shop on the corner of Sixth and Broad called Swift & Finch. It is the creation of Ellie Mahon and Abby Mitchell. They dreamed it, they asked God for it, they shared their vision, people came alongside them, they worked hard and now that dream has come to fruition. Swift & Finch will soon open it’s doors to the “oohs and aahs!” of this entire city. Dave Mahon, Ellie’s husband became our Young Life area director after Sweeney died. Abby moved to Rome last May following her husband Wyatt’s death in December. She and I met while our husbands battled cancer. Dave, Ellie and Abby moved to Rome because there were ashes.
Dave is the kind of man you want your son to become. He is the kind of man you want your daughter to marry. He is highly intelligent but still humble, he is tender but still strong, and he is kind but still speaks hard truths. Sitting at that stoplight, snap shots of high school guys faces flashed through my mind. Boys who haven given their lives to Christ, boys who will grow into men of God because Dave Mahon has loved them and shown them Jesus; because Dave moved to Rome and because “God’s story never ends with ashes.”
Ellie finds beauty in seemingly ordinary things. If I asked her to empty her pockets right now I imagine a small pile of “treasures” would spill out- acorns, butterfly wings, oddly shaped pebbles, 3 fern fronds and a few already wished upon dandelion stems. Sitting at that stoplight snap shots of Ellie’s friends from the newspaper and every other corner of Rome flashed through my mind. My thoughts wandered to the people she and Abby will employ and share life with at Swift & Finch. All of those people seeing a picture of how God finds beauty in each of us even when we feel very ordinary. People will know and do know God treasures them and thinks they are extraordinary because Ellie Mahon has loved them and shown them Jesus; because Ellie moved to Rome and because “God’s story never ends with ashes.”
Abby is beautiful. She sees the world through the eyes of an artist. She notices the brushstrokes of God, The Creator, The Artist in everyone and everything. She loves music and literature and art and people because she sees God in them. She loves scripture more and clings to it harder than anyone I know. Sitting at that stoplight snap shots of Abby came to me. Pictures of the two of us crying, laughing, praying, reading scripture, teaching campaigners (bible study), sharing pizza and cups of coffee flooded in. Snap shots of high school girls faces who see God’s faithfulness, who see joy personified, who see the power of healing because Abby Mitchell has loved them and shown them Jesus; because Abby moved to Rome and because “God’s story never ends with ashes.”
I love Dave, Ellie and Abby. They love me. That would not be so if my story were not what it is. Yesterday at the corner of Sixth and Broad God reminded me that He is all about Life. Because Jesus rose from the dead, He conquered death. Defeated it. Because God has victory over death, death doesn’t get the final say. Death doesn’t get to end the story. Because Jesus is alive, Sweeney is alive with Him. Because Jesus is alive, I am alive with Him.
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Rev. 21:5
God is always making things new. God always brings forth life. I hope every bird and bud and bloom of spring is reminding you of that. Whatever is happening in your life, I pray you are encouraged to know that God is always making things new. He is always redeeming that which seems dead and hopeless. He is always restoring things that seem too broken to be fixed. “God’s story NEVER ends with ashes.”  It didn’t for Jesus, it didn’t for Sweeney, it didn’t for me, and it won’t for you.  
-Cabell Sweeney

May you be filled with a real sense of HOPE this Easter! 
JC 

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