I’d gotten to Virginia Beach earlier than I anticipated. Since my former roommate and host wasn’t home, I decided to meet a former coworker in the parking lot of the place I once worked.
After catching up a bit, I noticed a car in the parking lot, “Oh hey, isn’t that TJ’s car?” I said remembering the time he came over to help my roommate and I move a futon.
I turned to look back at my former coworker who stared back at me like a deer in the headlights…
Today, I want to introduce to you Lauren Pearson. TJ’s wife and now dear friend. I have been amazed at her transparency and grace during the last four years. Please welcome Lauren Pearson.
In November of 2017, less than two months after our wedding, my husband TJ was hospitalized for the first time. After performing a surgical biopsy, the ENT oncologist found me in the waiting room and told me that my beloved husband had stage IV throat cancer for the second time, as well as a blood clot in his jugular vein that was causing a lot of discomfort. TJ was in the ICU for several days before we were released to go home and begin an eleven month journey that would ultimately end in his death only a month after our first anniversary. So many horribly hard lessons were learned during the course of the journey, but some lessons weren’t learned until long after he was gone.
That first week in the hospital, I left TJ’s side one morning to go to the chapel to pray. Someone had just emailed me and said that Pat Robertson was going to pray for him on the 700 Club that morning, and I sat on the chapel floor to watch the clip, tears pouring down my face. “TJ Pearson. He’s one of our own,” Pat said gently as he prayed for his faithful employee, asking God to spare TJ’s life.
From somewhere deep inside of me, the song “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” came to mind as I watched my husband being prayed for on national television. Laying on the hospital chapel floor, I sang it over and over again and wept and wept. I could barely get out the words, and I didn’t care who heard me in the busy hallway on the other side of the door. I had to remind myself that Jesus was still worthy of my trust.
Back up in the ICU, I wrapped my arms around my beloved husband and sang the song over him. He needed to be reminded, too, though his faith was so often stronger than mine.
Months later, I sat alone in the painful silence of my living room. The funeral was over. The leave of absence from work had ended. Life was back to “normal,” whatever that means, and I was alone. From somewhere deep inside of me, the hymn came back, but now thinking about it made me feel betrayed. Could it really be sweet to trust in Jesus? As I sat at the piano in my living room, the song began to pour out of me, but this time it came out as a lament. I meant the words, but I also meant the cries that came forth as the interlude of the song took on a new, haunting melody.
It may be sweet to trust in Jesus, but sometimes life itself is the very opposite of sweet. Sometimes our hearts are broken. Sometimes we weep on hospital floors. Sometimes we even lose the one who we love most in all the world, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t still very much worth trusting. I have learned that there are times to weep and there are times to rejoice, but sometimes there are also moments when the two come forth simultaneously and there’s no way of knowing where one ends and the other begins. If there is one thing I know, it’s that Jesus is okay with us expressing both emotions. That is exactly what He did when Lazarus died. He declared the truth, but He also wept. He spoke about the spiritual reality of what was happening while also experiencing the full weight of the moment in the natural. I believe that He asks us to do the same.
The exercise of trusting Jesus through pain instead of running away from Him is a daily one, but it’s the only way to keep moving forward. May we learn to trust Him daily, no matter how much it hurts. He is there both to empower us to trust and to hold us in our sorrow.
My coworker eventually told me that TJ had passed away I stood there in shock. TJ and I had worked together several times on remote shoots. I knew he’d gotten married. When I found out he passed away I knew I needed to meet Lauren. I got her number through friends and told her I was in town if she was able to meet. She graciously met me. That was the only face to face interaction I’ve had with Lauren but we have remained in communication.
I asked Lauren to write a little of her story because it’s out of her loss that her album, “magnificent desolation” was birthed. I listened in awe when I put on her music.
I know more than anything she would want TJ back over an album but instead of letting her grief destroy her she’s allowed it to remake her. Please check out her CD. I promise you will be so glad you do. Thank you, Lauren. I’m so grateful and honored to know you. I know TJ would be so proud of you. Keep changing the world one note, one chord, and one song at a time.
I spent the entire afternoon getting ready, but I have been preparing for months. I have so many expectations, and my heart is nearly swelling out of my chest.
I stepped into the car, waiting for the driver to move, yet something is wrong. Finally, the driver apologizes, “I’m sorry, miss, there is something wrong with the car.”
“Oh,” I say, hearing all the disappointment in my heart speak. “I hope you can get it fixed.”
“Me too,” he says, stepping out of the car to look under the hood of the car.
I wait in the back, staring out the window. As I stare, I see a car go by that looks like mine. Hmm, I think to myself. They must be headed to the dance too.
I look down at my light pink silk dress and take in its beauty, still optimistic about what is to come. I smile, thinking of the fine food that will be there, the decorations, and the guests. I drift away in my imagination before a grunt from the front of my vehicle startled me back to reality. I realize I’m still not moving. It’s getting a little hot, I think. Suddenly, something passes beyond me. I look out the window to see two more cars pass.
Oh, everyone’s going to get there before me! I cry out to my own heart.
I step out to ask my driver what the Dilemma is. “Well, I’ve blown the front gasket. Unfortunately, this car isn’t going anywhere.”
I try to hide my look of horror. “You mean I need to find another ride?” “Yes, ma’am. I need to call a tow truck and then make sure they get my car to the right shop.”
“Oh… okay… I understand.” I say, turning back to get into the car to get my purse, which I left in the back seat. I open the door, grab my purse, pull my cellphone out, and call a few friends, all of whom are also supposed to attend the dance. A voicemail for one. And an “I’m already here” from another and a text from a third, “I just arrived. Sorry!”
I plop down in the back seat with the door open, feeling utterly defeated. Will I ever make it? I scroll through webpages to find a taxi service. I call and hear the news that the fastest car that can get me is 45 minutes away. I try desperately to hold back tears as I make the reservation.
I get off the phone, and suddenly my tear-stained cheeks have not only messed up my foundation but also left temporary water droplets on my silky dress.
It’s okay, I tell myself. It’s only 45 minutes. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that late.
After what feels like a lifetime, the cab picks me up, and I’m on my way to the dance! Everyone was there before me. I wished I could have to say I was fashionably late, but my hair looked stringy from being in the humidity, and my makeup showed the retouches I made due to my tears and now red nose.
I walk in and let out a sigh of relief. I made it. What happened earlier is now behind me! Just enjoy tonight.
As I makemy way into the room, I notice all the couples dancing. They look like they’re gliding. Other couples are giggling and chatting off to the side. Everyone looks comfortable with each other. My head sinks. I feel so incredibly behind. I think to myself.
I try to make eye contact with everyone I pass and greet, but everyone looks a little preoccupied. I sit in a chair near the dance floor, waiting for someone to come ask me to dance, but no one does.
Isn’t this what I’m supposed to be doing?! Or should I ask someone to dance with me?
I sit there fidgeting in my chair while rubbing my thumbs together. The frustration begins to build. Maybe I should eat. Perhaps I’ll meet someone there.
I walk over to the buffet table, looking for someone to be there getting seconds or maybe thirds at this point. There’s one guy at the table. So, I greet him. He looks up, nods and grabs his desired food item, and walks away.
Ugh! This night is all wrong!It’s all wrong. Why did I even come?! It’s too late. I got here too late.
Feeling out of place and disheartened, I go back with my plate of food to the seat I was sitting in only to find it preoccupied with a happy couple. I roll my eyes and find another chair on the other side of the dance floor. While grumpily munching on my food, I can’t help but be envious of a couple I see captivated with each other, moving together like water and swaying like a reed in a gentle wind.
I finish my food and head to the trash to discard the remaining bits and pieces on my plate. While there, a young man in a jumpsuit says hello. I say hello simply because of the manners my parents taught me, and then I quickly walk away. I put my plate where everyone else stacked their plates nearly an hour ago.
The night feels ruined. until I hear a small whisper, “Go dance…”
What?! No way! Not by myself!
The voice speaks again, “You’ve been preparing for months for this dance. Don’t waste your chance.” I shot back, “But, I’m supposed to have a partner!”
“Just give it a shot.” The voice said once again.
My knees shaky. My palms sweating. A clear sign I was about to do something everything within me did not want to do.
As I made my way to the dance floor and put on foot on it, the music stopped. Of course it would!!! Isaid to myself while letting out an internal scream.
The DJ came on and said, “we will be taking a little break and will resume again after dessert. Frustrated with having gotten my courage up and now being too full from dinner just a few minutes ago, I sat back in my chair. The frustration now hung on me like a 50lbs weight. There was no denying its presence on me.
The desserts were served and savored by all, and soon the music resumed. Yet, my frustration was still there. I got up out of my chair to attempt my dance alone, but the thought embarrassed me. I decided to get some air. As I walked away from the music, my old familiar tears came flowing down. Nothing is what I thought it would be. I thought I was going to meet someone, eat with someone, and dance with someone. And the only one around me is me.
With my shattered expectations came the breaking of my heart. I wanted to run away. I thought about calling the taxi back, but I actually didn’t have the money, and my pre-scheduled ride home wouldn’t be here for another hour and a half.
“Face the music and go dance. Don’t waste the time you spent practicing.” The voice said.
I sniffled, wiped my nose with the back of my hand, and headed inside. I freshened up in the ladies’ room, put on my brave face, and made my debut. At first, people stared blankly. I felt like I was in a dark room, and I had lit a match. All I could feel was everyone’s eyes on me. I closed my eyes and pretended I had a man leading me in the foxtrot.
Slow, quick, quick, slow, I repeated to myself. With each step, my heart fell into a rhythm, and my frustration began to melt away. I finally found myself lost in the music. Just then, I felt someone grab my hand and place their hand around my side, and slide until it stopped at my shoulder blade; I startled.
My eyes caught eyes with a handsome man in front of me. Immediately, he picks up where I am, and we are dancing. Slow, quick, quick, slow. But after a few trots his steps become faster than mine, and my excitement turns into stress trying to keep up with him. His grip becomes firmer, and although we finish the first dance, I am spent. I thank him as he asks for another dance. I can’t. I need to catch my breath, I say.
He nods, kisses my hand, and lets me go. I walk over to the cooler, and a few people comment on the last dance. Isn’t he a great dancer? Was the comment most repeated. I furred my brow, shrug my shoulders and continue to the water.
I turn around to see this same man dancing just as intensely with another girl. Suddenly, I realize this was also the same guy from the couple I had been so captivated with initially. Oh well, at least I dared to dance.
I decide to sit this next dance out. A few more songs play as I worked up more courage to dance again. Finally, I took a deep breath and stepped on the dance floor.
It was the quickstep. The beauty of this dance was synchronization with your partner — which I was lacking, but I stepped out.
To keep out of the way of the couples, I hugged the border of the dance floor closely. Feeling very self-aware of my absent partner, I told myself to keep breathing. Then, as I did a spin, I misstepped and went right off the dance floor; I was about to lose my step when a strong arm caught me. he smiled and then said, “may I?”
We got on the dance floor with the other couples and no longer needed the comfort of the border. We finished the dance superbly. As with all the dances, the room applauded those on the floor. My partner looked at me, nodded his head, and walked off the floor. Clearly making a statement that he set out what he meant, and there was no more.
Embarrassed not to be escorted off the dance floor, I quickly hasten my step to find my seat — my safety net. I looked multiple times at my last partner to see if he would change his mind. But there was zero indication of that. So once again, I was alone. And my favorite dance would close out the night — the waltz.
As badly as my pride wanted to sit this one out, my heart wanted this dance so badly. Well, I’ve gotten up the courage twice already. What’s one more time? I say to myself as I take the floor once more. Feeling even more intensely the stares from the crowd, I close my eyes and swayed with each step of the music. Within a matter of seconds, I am lost in my own head and the only one dancing in the room. Yes, this night had not gone as I planned. I’ve been a step behind all night, and although I’ve had some partners, they never felt right.
The waltz soon came to an end. Everyone hugged and slowly said their goodbye as they departed the room. Once again, there was an issue with my ride. The family who was supposed to pick me up had a family emergency and hadn’t gotten around to calling me, so I somehow convince a cab driver to pick me up, and I’d pay him once I arrived at home. Reluctantly, he agreed.
One by one, the guests leave until I am alone again. Instead of my dress and makeup catching everyone’s eye, it was my party of one that had been in the spotlight. Maybe not to everyone but definitely in my own heart. I sat down on the curb. I sighed out of relief for getting through such a rocky night.
Just then, I heard music that sounded familiar. But where was it coming from? I stood up to follow the sound. It was coming from inside the building. The same building I had desperately wanted to exit, just half an hour earlier.
There was a disco ball, and Glenn Miller’s, In the Mood, was playing. I couldn’t see anyone on the dance floor, but I heard a rustling in the corner. But I couldn’t make out who it was. I didn’t want to intrude, but I was also curious. So I hugged the corners of the room closely.
The rustling stopped. But because it was dark, I couldn’t make out if the person had left. Suddenly I heard someone behind me clearing their throat. I about jumped out of my skin.
“Care to dance?” The voice said. Still not able to make out the face, I grabbed his hands. They were thick and strong. He wasn’t what I was used to in a partner, but he was strong, and his form made him easy to follow. He wasn’t too fast or too slow. He also was attentive, but his dress was not what you would expect. He was the janitor who had greeted me earlier in the night. The only one that made me feel welcomed and the only one I internally turned my nose up at.
I was confused. How was this guy, who I never expected to dance, able to lead me better than anyone I had ever danced with before?
We were totally in sync. We were not impeding each other. Instead, we were making one another shine. He was not who I expected but exactly who I needed.
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11
A lot has been going on in the last few months, which is why I haven’t been posting. It’s not because I don’t want to; other things have taken precedence.
Although I have been busy, a concept that keeps echoing through my mind. There have been people in my circle and things that I’m involved with that have needed more help than usual.
I was walking one night asking God why particular doors remained closed while others areas have multiple doors open. What I was really asking for is a more simple life. But then, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I was living the life I asked for years ago, so I paused and thought. Suddenly a song that I used to sing as a child came flooding back to the forefront of my mind and then out through my lips.
“Make me a servant, humble and meek. Lord, let me lift up those who are weak and may the prayer of my heart always be. Make me a servant. Make me a servant. Make me a servant today.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks. A servant doesn’t always know what they will do until the day or the moment of need — they are just there to serve. When situations arise, and I’m called upon, I need to be ready to go, give or be. I need to be available for whatever, whenever the Master calls.
Since then, the concept of servanthood keeps coming up. In my reading in Romans, the book opens with, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.”
I was also reminded of these verses:
John 12:26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Luke 22:27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
Philippians 2:5-8 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Too often, I think I need to have my whole life planned out to sound better. I want others to know where I’m going because in a world where we have everything at our fingertips; we should know where we are going, right?! But, the more important thing to know who we are and whose we are, and that will dictated what we do and where we go.
If God is calling the shots, things won’t always make sense, but one thing I know is that my God has been faithful — in the good and the bad. He gave His Son Jesus who poured out His life for mine, and it is a privilege (that doesn’t always mean easy) to serve Him and be of use to Him, NOT because of anything that I can do but because His example has changed me. I want to be known by Him and to be known by others that I belong to Him.
1 Corinthians 4:1-2, “A person should think of us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of the mysteries of God. In this regard, it is required that managers be found faithful.”
While wrapping up this post, I remembered one more thing. We could attain numerous titles: CEO, President, Nurse, Lieutenant, Commander, Captain, Doctor, Professor, Advancement Director, but of all the titles there are, the one I hope Jesus will welcome me with will be… “well done, good and faithful servant.”
Keep the course. Dwell on truth and live your life as servants.