Friday, May 11, 2012

A Legacy That Exemplifies Rivers Of Grace

I remember when I first met Christen.

I’d just moved back to Chicago and she and her newlywed husband, Joe, had started attending our church a few months prior to my return. They moved to the area for him to go to grad school. Christen was a first-year teacher in a Chicago public school on the south side and they had just found out she was pregnant. Having a baby came as a big surprise but, knowing children are a gift from God, Christen and Joe pressed on with faith and joy. That summer, sweet Audrey Grace was born. And just twenty-three months later, she gave birth to a precious baby boy, Elijah Hudson...

Christen amazed me as a young mom. It wasn’t easy. I mean, it’s not easy for any new mom. But she always had a quiet strength about her and a way of persevering with a smile. I spent a lot of time with her in the months and years to follow. She became more than a friend, she became a sister. Being at her place so often gave me an upcloseandpersonal view of Christen as a mom in everyday life, not just at church. Meals, naps, doctor appointments, teething, everything that comes along with the job. And I must tell you, it was a blessing to observe her in action. I’d think back to the girl I met – the young, new bride discovering she was pregnant and then look at her with two beautiful children and just marvel at the mother she became. The mother God created her to be.

Throughout this time, Christen and Joe continued to faithfully serve in a variety of capacities at our church. Her responsibilities in the ministry increased. Her influence became greater. Her love for the Lord grew stronger. In that season, she prayerfully took on the task of creating a life mission statement. It was so life-changing that she asked God to give her a specific statement for each of her roles.

This was her mission as a mother:

"I will provide love, discipline, counsel, and education so that our children will be trained up in the way of the Lord. I will exemplify a God centered, Christ exalting, Bible saturated life so that they would make choices based on their relationship with the Lord."

A shift took place in Christen’s heart and the vision of her roles became more specific. She knew each role was a stewardship that God entrusted to her and she lived each role out in a manner that glorified Him. She felt so passionate about living this way that she began to mentor many women about their life and leadership.

When Hudson was a year old, Christen discovered she was pregnant again. But this time she lost the baby. Like any mother miscarrying, the loss was great. However something profound took place in that time of grief for Christen. Something pivotal. As she allowed herself to grapple with the pain, difficult as it was, she experienced a deep, transforming work of healing. Christen grabbed a hold of the grace of God and walked it out with a new found revelation. It was more than restoration in her heart; I will go as far to say it was a revival.

The Lord put it on Christen’s heart to homeschool Audrey, which she began to do in the fall of 2010. She’d written her mission statement prior to this decision but looked back and felt a conviction about providing education for her. So she (and Joe) stepped out in faith. Upon embarking on this new endeavor, Christen started a blog called Learning Curve to document these experiences.

Christen’s heart was to shepherd her children, not merely survive them. In this season, she took the time to study the biblical call of womanhood. Common themes in her blog included the power of leaning heavily into God’s grace and glorifying Him in all things. She often communicated her desire to leave a legacy.

In one blog post, Grace Like A River, Christen wrote:

What an extravagant thing to waste when I don't choose grace. I believe it to be entirely possible to leave a legacy that exemplifies rivers of grace flowing from an extraordinary God through an ordinary woman. And it starts with the little things.”

A life of loving Christ, her husband, the children she had been entrusted to care for each day. Loving life itself and seeing it as a gift. Laundry still needed to be done. Crumbs still needed to be swept. Dinner still needed to be cooked. But Christen recognized that without the grace of God, she couldn’t do any of it.

And the more she chose grace, the greater she became. The greater she became in ChristIn the little things and in the big things. She did it all to glorify His Name.

Did life become easier? Not at all. Life was challenging, and would be the most challenging in the days ahead. Last fall, Christen began to experience terrible migraines and intense vertigo as well as some hearing loss. This continued for weeks. The symptoms became so difficult that she was rushed to the ER several times. She went in for a MRI on a Wednesday night only to learn that her brain was filled with tumors. 

Thousands of people around the world stormed heaven in faith for her healing

That Friday she went in for a biopsy but there were complications. Continued prayers for a miracle.
Three days later, on Monday, January 9, 2012, the Lord chose to heal Christen by calling her home to heaven
She was 29 years old.

No words could adequately describe the pain or grief of the last four months (especially the tremendous loss of a spouse, mother, and daughter, which I cannot pretend to understand nor will I attempt to try). But what I will attempt to share about is the grace of God that Christen grabbed a hold of and walked in on this earth. The grace that remains and is available to anyone who would reach out for it as she so powerfully did.

I am passionate about sharing Christen’s story – a story of grace and truth, of faith and strength. The story of a woman who took God at His Word and found the abundant life that Jesus promises us. The story of a mother who believed it was possible to leave a legacy that exemplifies rivers of grace flowing from an extraordinary God through an ordinary woman. And did.

An amazing truth in the midst of all of the tragedy is that it’s possible for us, too, because of Christ. We may not all be mothers, but there are thousands of children on this earth to whom a legacy of such greatness can be given.

And, as Christen would so often say, it starts with the little things...

This Mother’s Day, besides just honoring Christen’s life with my words, I have chosen to do so with my actions by giving a gift in her memory to As Our Own, a ministry that is very dear to my heart. Some of you may know my burden to spread awareness about human trafficking. Last year at this time, I was introduced to the ministry of As Our Own through a blog post sharing about their Thanks, Mom! campaign. I know reading the entry of a woman honoring her mom and sharing about this ministry was more than significant to me, it was ordained by God. As Our Own rescues vulnerable children in India from certain exploitation and enslavement, caring for them as their own daughters for the rest of their lives. My heart was captivated by the work of this organization – a group of ordinary people leaning into the grace of our extraordinary God to rescue and care for these beautiful girls.

The epidemic of human trafficking is overwhelming, particularly in India. Though the magnitude of this evil is enormous, I have learned over the course of the past year that there are still things I can do, small as they may be. Little things to me but in the hands of God, they are great.

So, in an effort to honor the memory of my precious friend and sister, and honor the legacy she left, I choose to sow a seed into this ministry across the globe that is making a difference in the lives of these children and leaving a legacy…
another legacy that exemplifies rivers of grace.

Maybe you have a friend, who is a mom, who you love dearly the way I loved Christen and you want to bless her with a special giftOr maybe you want to honor your own mother, grandmother, aunt or spiritual mom. Consider giving a donation to As Our Own.

You can follow this link to donate. You will then receive an e-mail for a printable card that explains the gift you’ve made in her name.

A gift of grace...

And God is able to make all grace abound to you,
so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. - 2 Corinthians 9:8

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