March 29, 1983 — May 20, 2015
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Kimberly, and I am Amanda’s older sister.
Even though today is tragic and such a sad event, I pray that everyone can have hope that she is no longer suffering from the battle here on earth but experiencing a love she never knew. Amanda would have wanted us to celebrate her life and share fond memories with a smile on our face. Let’s not dwell on our significant loss, but instead focus on paying tribute to Amanda’s life.
One thing we all can agree on is that she Loved her children, she loved my children, she loved Brian’s children and she loved Vivian’s children. When going through 1000’s of pictures this week, honestly I think she was mom’s favorite because after she was born, she was in a most of them, I saw how much she enjoyed each one of hers and our babies. She was so drawn to children and they connected with her so easily. Always smiling and laughing with them.
She always had a smile on her face even on her darkest days. One thing she would say is “it’s all good”. Being able to talk to people who knew and loved her over the past 2 weeks shows me how much she made such an impact on their lives.
Many of us know that Amanda struggled with the loss of my father, brother, mother and sister. She had a lot of guilt, pain and grief that she carried around but still wore this mask that everything was ok. After Vivian and Mom died in 2009, it seemed the struggle intensified. She blamed herself, and no matter how much we tried to convince her, she bought into the lie that she could have done something to save them.
The last couple of years have been the hardest for all that love her. To watch her decline and struggle hurt all of us. I personally was a few decisions away from being exactly where she was, using something other than God to ease the pain and hurt inside. We all if we are honest tend to fill the hole in our hearts with something. That hole is intentionally placed there by God, and it is there to remind us that we need to depend on Him for strength, peace and rest, but because of our free will that he has given us, we get to choose what we fill it with. The numbing we tend to use is only temporary and does not bring any kind of peace. It’s destructive and tears us away from knowing the love of God.
I don’t want anyone to leave here tonight not knowing that inspite of Amanda’s daily, even hourly struggle that she did not love God, and know Jesus. She was saved, and accepted Christ at a younger age. But that’s where her battle began. Satan used hurt, pain, and past familiar family coping skills to blind her and lie to her about God’s love for her. His goal is to destroy us here on earth so our testimony about God’s incredible love and sacrifice becomes tarnished. God did not cause this tragedy, but choices made here on Earth by others did. What she endured just to survive breaks my heart, but I know God will use what was intended for harm and evil, for good. He will use this tragedy and other tragedies in our family’s lives to bring something beautiful and good to others. That is where my hope and peace comes from.
Tonight, if you don’t know Christ, I pray you talk to God about that. But if you do know Christ, you have to know that our struggles here are not a question of your salvation but a journey to the “promise land” of peace and rest here on earth. We don’t get saved to just hold our breath and get into heaven. But to live under promises made to us throughout the Bible. The bible is a love story to us.
I have heard a 100 times, how do you deal with so much death and hurt? You are so strong…. The bible tells me when people ask you where does your hope come from, that’s when I’m supposed to tell them about God and what He has done for me and about my journey. Let me tell you, it has been a journey to realize how much God loves me…His love for me never changes no matter my mistakes or decisions. My perception of that Love is what has changed. You only know love and can give love to the measure of how you are loved here, starting with your earthly father and mother. No parent is perfect but how you love your own children starts that journey. I have forgiven my father, because I know he loved us the best he knew how. The love he showed my son Kole and all his other grandchildren still amazes me.
And the fact that I realized that every one of my sins, past present and future, were forgiven at Jesus death on that cross, has given me so much relief from guilt and shame that I wasn’t good enough or strong enough to be Loved. When you realize that, that’s when you can love others unconditional, despite who or where they are on their journey.
The church in general has to become a hospital to the broken. We have to give love and find mercy to give those such as Amanda a safe place to grow. We have to extend grace and love, not rules and regulations, to help them. I personally don’t know what that looks like, but If we see someone broken and hurting, all we have to do is point them to help, it’s their responsibility to get it. We have to show mercy and love. And realize that God’s grace means I’m forgiven and loved even though I did nothing to earn it and sure don’t deserve it. That’s what is so amazing about Grace….given and not earned.
I want to leave you with a quote I read last night as I fell exhausted into bed that nailed my heart’s voice:
“Only where there is mercy is there growth – and hope for change. Mercy is what begs us to be mercifully safe places for the suffering and victimized and abused and all the broken in our families, our communities, our churches, in our aching, breaking world, — so every soul can enlarge and grow strong. The mercy of God is like a womb for the children trafficked, the vulnerable and abused, the suffering who cry soundlessly behind masks. Lay your ear up against any suffering and that’s the beat you can always hear – – the heartbeat of our God, Emmanuel: God always with you”
Thank you for coming tonight and honoring Amanda’s memory and life.