Sunday, August 10, 2014

Update at 8 Months

It doesn't seem possible that it's been 8 months since Annette left this world for her eternal home. But it's definitely real and, so often, surreal. I shared with some friends this week that it feels as if I'm living in someone else's life. My awesome sister, Anissa Lear Powers, responded by saying "you are, it's your new life." Big sisters (and women in general) are so often correct! This is my new life. It's not the life I asked for or wanted or even really like at times...those times when I so easily lose focus of the fact that my life is not really my own.

When I forget that God gave me life, and then I gave control of this life back to Him when I accepted His gift of offering to allow me to have a relationship with Him. I didn't just give Him all the sin (the wrong and selfish things I've done) and allow Him to cover the penalty of all of that for me. Yes, I am glad to continually give those things to Him (especially the penalty part), but I so often try to hold on to and try to control the other things in my life. I try to figure out what my future is going to be like. I attempt to lay it all out in “Joey’s Plan.” But there is a MAJOR flaw in “Joey’s Plan.” My plan so often is dependent on what I can accomplish, what my strength will carry, on what my vision views as “good.” The vision part alone should make me sit up and immediately re-evaluate what I’m doing as I need my tri-focal glasses (yes, TRI!) to read close up, see a computer screen a foot away, and see things clearly at a distance! But, one thing I know about myself, is that I’m a slow learner. My high school football coach, Dick Krohl, use to say to me, “Lear, you are S-L-O-U-G-H!” Fortunately, I’m not quite as slow mentally as I am physically!

I have been learning a lot about myself over the past 8 months. Some things I’ve learned I really don’t like about myself, like how I wasn’t as honest and transparent as I need to be (with others and with myself). Life, as I’ve been reminded, is short. I don’t have time to waste on making my life look like it’s all put together in a pretty little box, with a perfectly tied bow. If you’ve ever received a wrapped gift from me, you will know that I am incapable of wrapping something that looks like that! My cuts are choppy (which I blame on a shortage of the green handled, left-handed scissors in elementary school!), I use way too much tape, the bow will be a little off-centered (if on there at all!)…you get the picture. Well, that’s my life…BUT, what I’m learning is that all this stuff on the outside isn’t that important. It’s what I am doing with all the Lord has blessed me with that matters…period! I know it’s a little uncomfortable to hear what God is doing in me sometimes. It’s not always comfortable for me to share how much I miss the girl I shared more with than any other human for over half of my life. It’s hard for me to accept the fact that I do need to ask for help at times. It’s just plain hard to be alone so often, though I understand that for right now, it is necessary. I’m learning that I can be alone without being lonely (though, I do feel lonely often…it’s definitely a process!). I’m learning that I don’t need to be anxious about the future, because He already has it all planned for me…I simply need to submit to His itinerary and be faithful walking through and being in His plan for my life.

The boys are doing well. Brian and I have spent some very sweet time together this summer, and I have gotten to know him even better and enjoy him even more! Michael is doing very well as he works through his program at the Boy’s Ranch. I miss him, and am so proud that he has made “Phase 2” now, which means we get to speak weekly. I am going to see him this week and we’ll get to spend a few days together.

There is a song by Steven Curtis Chapman that I have probably heard a hundred times, but had not stopped to really listen to until Friday. It came on the radio at just the right time for me, and it speaks so well about where I am in life right now. Give it a listen. Please continue to lift me and the boys up in prayer. Thank you for the many messages, calls and texts you send!

In His Grip, Joey

Sunday, August 3, 2014

From Annette's Celebration of Life Service

Many folks have asked for a copy of what I shared about Annette at her Celebration of Life Service in December. I hadn't been able to read through it and make it as close to what I actually said as possible, until tonight. Great time this evening thinking about her and going back over our life together. Well, here it is:

Who was Annette Lear?

Annette, Ms. Annette, Nettie, Mom, Honey...all are names given to the lady who became my best friend, my wife, and mom to two special boys.

The first time I remember seeing Annette at Lord Fairfax Community College, she was wearing this awesome suede jacket with fringed sleeves…VERY Bon Jovi-ish! Dating her was so much fun and three years seemed to fly by before we were married on May 28, 1994. As a young couple, we had a tremendous amount of things in common, and because of our love for one another, we could appreciate those things that we didn’t have in common. She got me to watch chick-flicks...and like them! “A Walk in the Clouds” became our favorite movie to watch as a couple. She learned to at least “like” sports for me. I was into NASCAR, and she would sit and read while I watched. Then she began paying a little bit of attention, and then it got to the point where she would turn on the NASCAR race first! She would watch the Redskins games with me, and even let me believe each year that it was going to be THE year for them. She encouraged me as I attempted to learn how to become a handyman. She never gave me any grief about stepping through the ceiling in our first home…just a week after moving in! And we both learned to absolutely love the other’s crazy family, many of which are right here today!

Being married to Annette was truly a privilege. We grew together for over 19-1/2 years to be so much more than just husband and wife. We really sought to find joy in our life together even through any trial that came along. I knew that no matter what, my Annette was going to be standing there with me. Through bad decisions, and I made many! Through dumb ideas, and I had many! And through the absolute incredible times that we shared together. She was the first one I wanted to call when I was excited about something, and she was the last one I wanted to see as I went to bed at night.

We loved serving our Lord together...Annette epitomized the phrase “servants heart.” She loved working with young children, leading the pre-k and kindergarten groups at MANY VBS weeks. She loved serving alongside me with the youth. We would talk often about our current youth, the lights that they were and the gifts we saw in them. We loved watching the youth grow up to be Godly young men and women, inviting us to weddings, seeing them start their own families, and praying that some seeds that we planted over our time with them would grow in their lives.

Annette and I discussed while we were dating the shared desire to adopt one day. We ended up adopting our two boys through the foster care system, and wow was she a great mom! In our special family, Annette was mom, social worker, transport coordinator, advocate, and an example to our boys of what a Godly woman, wife and mom is to look like.

Annette was an avid reader. I mean she would read to just read sometimes! But Annette loved Jesus more than she loved anything else, and every part of her life was affected in a positive way because of it. She loved watching people grow in their walks with the Lord, and she had a great Spiritual gift of discernment and would quickly grow tired of anything that was not making the Kingdom grow. She didn’t have time for petty quarrels. She had great compassion for folks, and had a way of sweetly delivering truth from God’s Word, while not destroying someone’s spirit. One of her closest friends said to me: “Annette was one of the few people who could tell me like it is and I still loved her.” And some of you here today, dear friends of hers, she would say a gentle “suck it up and get right with God” to you today!

I could go on and on about my sweet, beautiful, “smokin’ hot,” funny, intelligent, loving and, most importantly, Godly wife, but she would not be happy, because she didn't want to be the center of attention in public, but thank you Annette for loving being the center of my earthly life.

I can tell you that Annette loved her two (actually, three, including me!) boys. She did so much more for us than was ever just necessary.

Michael, she loved you and wanted so much for you to become the man of God that we know you can be. She did not leave or give up on you!

Brian, you and mom had an incredible bond, and she loved being your mom so much for the past 15 plus years. God made you just the way He wants you, and mom loved being your helper and she was the greatest encourager of your life!

Linden and Betty, you guys are such a huge reason why I’m able to so easily share great things about your little girl. Thank you for accepting me into the family, thank you for teaching her and providing a Godly example for her to follow. Linden, you are a strong man, and Annette was so much stronger than she ever thought she was, and she got that from you. Betty, you two shared an incredible bond, and she loved your talks, and baking with you, being a nurse to you, and just being your daughter.

Gene, she loved her big brother, even if you did slam that glass storm door on her arm over 35 years ago! She was so glad when you and Anne were married...both times!

Maddie, you have so many of the same traits that your Aunt Nettie had, and we pray for you often as you have grown into a beautiful young lady. She loved you so much.

I look around this room and see so many faces of people Annette loved, people who made an impact on her life, and I see a room FULL of people who have been impacted by her! I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful I am for the outpouring of love and support from you all. The boys and I absolutely covet your prayers as we begin a new chapter in our lives.

I stand here today a better man for having known Annette. A loved man, having been loved by Annette. And a grieving man, having lost Annette. But I know that she is with her Savior today, talking with so many of those she loved who had gone before her.

I want to share some verses from Proverb 31 that really show who my Annette was at her core:

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. [Annette was worth so much more than any precious jewel!]

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.

She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. [she was always looking out for her family!]

She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her. [WOW, could that girl cook and keep her boys WELL-fed!]

She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. [Annette didn’t buy fields, but we planted many gardens together, and she loved canning those vegetable for her family. She was a small lady, but she was SO strong in the Lord!]

She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. [Annette absolutely loved helping others any way she could! She also made sure that her boys looked their best! Snow? She LOVED snow. This past Sunday, when the hospital moved her to the ICU room, there was a snow covered Evergreen tree right outside her window, and she would have loved watching the snow accumulate on it!]

She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. [Annette made MANY fleece blankets for nieces, nephews, friends, and me(Redskins on one side, Virginia Tech on the other!) I see several faces here today who have benefited from her bed coverings!]

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. [Annette was never worried about what would ultimately happen to her…she KNEW that she was in a right relationship with God! This verse mentions laughing, man, did I love to hear her laugh!!]

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:10-31 ESV) [Annette spoke wisdom, she spoke and lived kindness, she was not an idle person, and her boys indeed called her “blessed.” And I, as her husband for almost twenty years, LOVED to praise her, spoil her, make her laugh, and just live life in Him together. She was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside, and I am truly blessed to have called Annette Lear my wife, my best friend, and my sister in Christ.]