How Great Thou Art

8 05 2015

this post was written on Wednesday, but I didn’t have a chance to publish it until now.

A week ago today my cousin Eddie was freed from his earthly body and went to his heavenly home. I’m glad he no longer needs to struggle for breath, but oh it hurts that he is gone.

*taken about a year and a half ago*

*taken about a year and a half ago*

About three weeks ago, Joe & I stopped in for a ten minute visit on our way home from a wedding. I knew it would be the last time I’d see him. We’ve been close. There was this connection we had since we both faced diseases that limited our physical abilities. We understood each other without a lot of words and he was a tremendous role model to me.

“My time of fighting is over,” he told me that day. “But you must continue on.”

I didn’t want to hear those words. I wanted to cling to his hand and keep him there with us. He was too young, much too loved and needed by all of us in his family to die! Who would be our cheerleader? He was so strong. We needed to fight together!

The morning before he passed away I received a very special goodbye text from him. “My life is coming to a close. I want to thank you for the encouragement in helping me fight. Prepare to meet me where I am going.”

When Joe woke me Thursday morning and told me Eddie had gone, my mind didn’t process it at first and then reality hit. Joe held me as I cried. “You have to stay calm,” he said, “so you can go to the funeral.”

I had physical therapy that day and we made it about twenty minutes before I had triggered and the session had to be canceled for the day.

I didn’t want to enter the viewing room, I tried to linger at the memory table looking over photos of bygone years, remembering happy times. But time does not stand still and when I saw him lying there in his casket, truly gone, the grief that hit was so intense I wasn’t prepared for it.

I sat there during the funeral and looked around, noticing how even my strong, brave uncles had reddened eyes and did not keep from showing their emotion. I watched the line of funeral-goers pass through the front of the church for the final viewing, so many friends he had and so many lives he had touched in his thirty years on this earth. I saw my cousins file past with their tears flowing. He was everyone’s favorite and all forty-two cousins were there.


*this was the first time we had all been together in seven years. we range in age from the lower forties to one year*

It was almost my turn and part of me wanted to stay sitting so it wouldn’t be real, but Joe helped me to my feet and I walked jerkily up to the casket. It was real.

It’s just his body, he’s in heaven and so much happier! I know all this; but, we’re still here.

I want to ask “Why? Why Eddie? Why did he have to die the terrible, long, suffocating death, typical of the cystic fibrosis disease?” But cystic fibrosis, his response to it and his unique personality helped to make Eddie into the man he was, someone who gave so much to others. Someone worth grieving for. I don’t wish him back…

…I think…

It’s just, I miss him.

Last night I couldn’t sleep and so Joe played some hymns on his phone. The first one, How Great Thou Art, spoke to me. The descriptions of how great God is gave me a sense of peace and comfort. And I knew again that the God who made the world and stars, who sacrificed His Son for my sin, that great God knows what I’m feeling. He knows the grief of my aunt & uncle and cousins. He sustained Eddie, and He will sustain us.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

A Plan That Is Perfect

2 04 2015

In January one of my dear friends in our community passed away. She had battled cancer for many years and at long last she gained her freedom from this world’s trials. 

I know that I am quite blessed to have had someone like her to walk beside and mentor me, not everyone has that privilege. But I miss her. I miss being able to talk to her about the things that were a part of our lives, doctors, nurses, hospitals, medications, pain, lab work, fatigue, learning to let go, learning to keep going, good days and bad days. These things were/are a part of our everyday life. It’s what is normal. I miss the freedom of being able to talk to her about these things that are not relative to others. 

Sometimes, especially at night or on our way home from church, I think of her. Although I don’t wish her back, it doesn’t stop the tears from falling.

Below is a tribute I wrote for her shortly before her death. You know how when someone dies, you can think of all kinds of good things about them and write glorious tributes that would have been a little more difficult to write while they were still living? Well, this was not the case here. This was how she lived her everyday life. She had a way of making everyone one feel special. We didn’t have to wait for her to die to appreciate her!

A Tribute To Wilma

You may not be a woman of extra-ordinary physical beauty, but you have a beauty that shines through in your strength and godly character. So much so, that when I asked my high school girls who they thought of as a truly beautiful woman, your name was mentioned several times.

IMG_4977-2-2A meek and quiet spirit is defined in you. You are not perfect, and you are always quick to remind us of that. But in your humbleness, you have allowed the Holy Spirit to work in your life and give you victory.

You always look for the good in others with never an unkind word. You are no respecter of persons, everyone and anyone is welcome in your home.

Your uncomplaining spirit has inspired me. No matter how sick you feel, you cheerfully do more than your share. Now when I face something that looks too big for me to do, I think, Wilma would do it like this, and she wouldn’t complain. Then I try my best to follow your example.

Throughout our years of simultaneous sickness, you have been my comrade, confidant, and role model. We have shared so much. You understood how I felt and you didn’t criticize me. You would, in your gentle way, point me to God and encourage me to keep my trust in Him.

You have suffered greatly, yet you are an incredible example of quiet surrender to God’s will and living the life He gave you with such courage. You have allowed circumstances to make you a better person, showing love instead of bitterness. I’ve watched you live and I’m watching you die, and always you are reaching out to others, even ministering to us with your last words.

In one of our visits you told me, “I can’t be angry with God for allowing my cancer. His way is perfect. If I tried to plan things, I wouldn’t be satisfied with the results anyway and so it’s just much better to accept God’s way since He has a plan that is perfect even if we don’t understand it.”

I sit here to write, tears on my cheeks. I have just bid you a final farewell. As heart wrenchingly difficult as it is to say good bye, seeing you lie there in so much pain, I pray for God to call you to your pain free, eternal home soon.

For your sake.

But I am selfish. I wanted you to get well. I think, but we need her! However, I cannot be angry with God. For you have taught me that even when God doesn’t answer our prayers, His ways are higher than our ways and He has a plan that is perfect, even if I don’t understand why.

Enjoy that pain free, disease free world, Wilma. You will probably say, “Oh but God, if you just knew what I think sometimes, you wouldn’t let me enter Heaven.”

He knows.

But you’ve applied His cleansing power in your life and you’ve been redeemed.

Your spot in Heaven is waiting for you!

Life Behind A Blue Door

26 03 2015

Several weeks ago my husband was in a little cafe for lunch and noticed a lady glancing at him. She soon approached him asking if he was Joe. He replied that he was and she proceeded to say she was a blog follower and had recognized him from the photos here. (even though he was covered in grease from head to toe!)

She also mentioned the lack of blog posts. =) And so Nancy, thanks for the nudge! I needed it!

I guess my biggest excuse for my lack of writing is that it was winter. Winter is a tough time for me. Going out requires a lot of bundling up and my muscles are much more likely to betray me in the cold weather. My energy levels are much lower and everything looks like a big job. And I just simply don’t feel as well in the winter time.

With all the viruses flying around, I wasn’t able to escape my share and so the past several months have also included several dystonic events which took a few weeks to get back to normal each time.

Another excuse is the fact that I married someone who loves to travel! I have traveled more in my short married life than I have in several years! Most of our trips have been to North Carolina where Joe spends a few weeks working at his old job when work around here gets slow. And I get to spend time with my Aunt Jan, while we take advantage of her warm hospitality.

IMG_0268 There have been weddings, which were wonderful and fun, but far more funerals than I would prefer. Saying good bye to friends is never an easy thing!

And so, excuses aside, I decided to give you a peek at what’s been happening in our corner of the world. I have been lazy and gotten far too used to taking photos with my iPad. The quality of the photos makes me frustrated and yet I still do it. =/

As you know, we did a lot of renovating to our trailer. The inside was almost totally stripped, walls and ceilings repainted, floors redone, door jams rebuilt, holes in the walls fixed, cabinets replaced with top quality, custom cabinets by my father-in-law from my dad’s shop, and the front door painted BLUE. I love my little house!

With so much to do, our house wasn’t quite ready for us to live in when we got married. We lived in my aunt’s trailer for several weeks while we got our house finished enough to live in. Our youth group pitched in, cleaning the place and getting it ready for us to move.

Alex helped too. He said our coffee table needed to be fixed, so he expertly welded it back together again. photo 2 (5) Grandma and Alex helped to find a place for everything after we had moved in. We enjoyed supper on our very own front porch one evening!

Joe is amazing. He can literally do anything. From plumbing to painting to woodworking to putting in our own heating and air unit and then washing the dishes when I’m too tired. I love him.

I love pallets! Our bed is made from pallets as is our walkway, there is no end of interesting things to do with pallets. And they’re great for a young couple on a budget! Here he is making pantry shelves out of pallet wood.

In November our church hosts an annual Ladies Banquet for the widows in our community. I was responsible for decorating the entrance, the appetizer and welcoming the ladies. With Joe’s help and that of my mom, everything came together nicely and we had an enjoyable evening. Joe even sent me home to rest when it was over and cleaned up everything on his own!

My family spent a day at the zoo for Alex’s birthday. My brother Bruce and his girlfriend, Sheila, were quite happy as they had just gotten engaged the day before. Colton proposed to my sister, Erica, a few weeks later and now our family is excited to be gaining two more members in May, just two weeks apart!

We spent our first Christmas in Mississippi with Joe’s family.

Joe and I hosted the New Year’s Eve party for our youth group. Space was limited, but they made themselves at home on the floor or wherever and we had a grand time. Complete with fireworks, compliments of my dad.

I had the opportunity to swap my kitchen sink for a white board for six fun half-days while I substituted for the first grade teacher. These two were my kindergartners last year and I enjoyed seeing how much they had learned! photo 1 (6) An ice storm took out our power for several hours and our trailer got pretty cold pretty fast! It really was beautiful out there! I wanted to go out take some real photographs, but didn’t quite dare because of the cold, so instead, I sent my cousin Andre’ and my brother Bradlyn, out to capture the beauty. They are quite good those two! I don’t have their photos to post, but here is a photo I got while holding my iPad out through a crack in our back door. photo 2 (7) And now warm weather has at last arrived! Joe came home the other day with a load of mulch and we are excited about being able to focus on the outside of our place this year!

Stephanie J. Leinbach

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