Highest Honors

Occasionally I’m asked how I’ve been honored. Sometimes people word the question, “What are three or four of the highest honors you’ve received?” I’m quite certain that at least some of my answers are not what people expect.

I’m sharing this today because of my last answer. Also, perhaps the question or my answers will inspire you to live intentionally … not because you crave honor. That’s prideful, but because you want to leave the world a better place. You want to pass on your values. You want to affect people well.

Think about the question. How would you answer it today? How would you like to be able to answer it 10 years from now?

I do sometimes include three ministry-related honors. One of these is being represented by Ambassadors Speakers Bureau. Gloria Leyda, my agent, is a beautiful soul doing important work and I’m very grateful. I love speaking at conventions, churches, and schools, and without Gloria’s support it wouldn’t happen.

Second is being a guest on Focus on the Family radio. This was on my bucket list for years before I received the email inviting me to be a guest. I had prayed about this on-and-off and my mom prayed about this faithfully for years. Because of how their guests are chosen and the reach and amount of influence the show has, it truly is an honor I’m grateful for.

What about being the technology expert in Kirk Cameron’s movie, Connect? Oh, yes! That’s a high honor. I still marvel at how that happened and I’m SO grateful I didn’t reject the email. I assumed it was spam, but decided to reply “just in case.” (To pray to be in a movie is a ridiculous thought. I was just living faithfully and God honored me. Remember that … walk forward and live your values. Pursue those and Christ and not honor.)

Personal Answers Mean More

My more personal answers are more important to me. I typically answer with the opportunity I had to pray for Ndeba in Senegal, West Africa, many years ago. Have you ever heard me tell her story? I’ll come back and tell her special story on Wednesday. She’ll inspire you as she has me.

A good friend of mine had survived a devastating childhood. With the support of her counselor and pastor, and wanting to separate more from her past and her family or origin, she stood before a judge and legally took my first name as her new middle name and my last name as her new maiden name. I will always remember the day when she asked me if this would be okay with me. For her to see something in me and my life that she wanted to embrace in this profound way is humbling and inspiring.

Then there’s also the reality that my brother, Dave, and his wife, Debbie, chose to name their second daughter after me and my mom. Katie‘s legal name is Kathryn Arlene. This, too, is humbling and inspiring. Truly!

But here is maybe my most sincere and meaningful answer to the question about my honors. The most important seven weeks of my life had nothing to do with my education or career. They have nothing to do with ministry and everything to do with life. The most important seven weeks of my life were spent helping my mom die well. This was my highest honor. My mom’s life was rich and beautiful. I’m grateful I could help honor her at the end. I’m grateful to God for my flexible schedule.

I flew to her home in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, suburb in June, 2009, so I could attend a few doctor’s appointments with her. I was going to stay about 10 days and help her pack. Our plan was to move her to my brother’s in Atlanta sometime in July.

Unfortunately her health rapidly declined as she understandably chose to end treatment for another cancer occurrence. So I stayed and helped her make end-of-life decisions including going to the hospital and then from there to hospice, not ever returning to her apartment. When I wasn’t visiting with her, I spent time packing her things and figuring out what to do with her furniture and more.

The time with her at the end was rich. There were hard times, for sure, but glorious times, as well. I was honored to listen to her say goodbye to relatives and friends. Listening to her hopes and dreams for me, Dave, and his family was meaningful.

Yesterday, Mother’s Day, was a bit challenging because I miss my mom and it would be great to have her here. I wish she could have experienced more life with her grandchildren and that they would have had more years of influence from her. I wish she knew their spouses and Betsy’s two young children. I wish she could be enjoying life through Debbie and Dave’s experiences. Like her, they live life well! I wish she could still be speaking into my life.

Knowing our mom is with Jesus in heaven is, of course, comforting. So is choosing to trust God for ALL things. If I trust Him for my life, I need to trust Him for others. If I trust Him for life, I need to trust Him in death. This isn’t always easy, but it’s right. I’m grateful for God and my faith in Him and the mom He chose for me.