On July 14 my twin sister, Terry Pomeroy, died suddenly while snorkeling in Hawaii. We had just returned from a wonderful 11- day trip to Eastern Europe with Terry and her husband Bob two weeks before. Terry and Bob were celebrating their ability to travel again after a 2-year medical odyssey during which Bob had almost died, making Terry’s unexpected death that much more shocking.
The tragic loss of my beloved sister has brought a sense of urgency to my continuing efforts in trying to figure out God’s plan for my life. This is an activity I spend some time on, inspired no doubt by my work with the POJ Committee on the Preparation for Ministry. Through that endeavor, I get to work with individuals engaged in an intentional process to discover and confirm God’s plan for their lives, which many times leads to ordination. With Terry’s untimely death has come a heightened realization that tomorrow is not guaranteed, and a greater a sense of priority for this quest to figure out how all the pieces of this earthly life fit together for me and whether or not I’m on the right track. Being a planner, I am often frustrated by the lack of certainty this process entails.
As I have worked to process this profound and unexpected loss in my life, however, I have discovered some things that have been helpful. Most importantly, I am coming to accept that I do not have to figure out the plan. I am trying to trust God more, embracing each day as a gift from God, and allowing God to set my course. Instead of trying to figure out every detail of God’s long-term plan for my life, I am trying to focus in on what God wants me to do today and to use the example of my sister’s God-filled life to guide me in living more fully. This is a work in process for me. Each day, this is what I am trying to do.
1. Be Thankful. “This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
Terry and Bob endured several traumatic medical events and challenges over the years, including Terry’s near-fatal brain aneurism in 1987, and Bob’s near-fatal blood infection in 2014. They never lost hope, and somehow seemed to come through each crisis with a stronger sense of gratitude for the precious gift of life. I am being more intentional about giving thanks for today and for all the blessings of my life, regardless of the circumstances each day presents. I find that when I choose an attitude of gratefulness, even if my circumstances don’t improve, my perspective usually does.
2. Help Others. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10
We live in a selfish world, but I know selfishness isn’t part of God’s plan for any of our lives. He wants us to care for others every chance we get. This means making time for others, not just members of my family. This was an area where my sister excelled. As my brother-in-law Bob said, “Terry’s heart knew that that relationships, not things or accomplishments, are what matter in life. She knew that every day you have a choice: you can keep other people at arm’s length by focusing on yourself and your own world, or you can draw them closer by caring for and focusing on others. Caring for and about other people is how Terry lived and it’s what drew so many people to her. “
3. Don’t Worry.“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6
Despite lingering medical issues and health uncertainty, Bob and Terry faced most days with joy and enthusiasm, and a trust that God would take care of the details. I am trying to refuse to let uncertainty rob me of peace. I know that God is bigger than whatever I am worried about. I am trying to give my worries over to God rather than trying to “fix” or plan my way to serenity.
4. Seek God.“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
Bob and Terry worked for and enjoyed a very personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. They held morning devotions together and weekly Bible studies in their home. They prayed constantly and devoted time and energy to the development of spiritual relationships with believers and non-believers alike. God was present in every aspect of their life. I am confident that God wants a relationship with me. My challenge is to focus on God in all I do, and to build quiet reflection time into my busy days to make sure I leave myself open to and aware of God’s presence.
5. Trust God. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “ Jeremiah 29:11
I am coming to accept that every difficult circumstance in my life is something God uses for my good and for His glory. I may not understand the why and how, but I am working to trust more completely that God’s promises for his people and my life will be fulfilled. For the time being, I plan to use these words from Psalm 16:5-11 as my daily devotional:
Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Praise and all glory be to God.