Joy, Faith, & Hope

by Linda Everhart


It can be so easy to put a little joy in your heart or give a friend or even a stranger a smile because you know God is your strength. Psalm 28:7 says that "the Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped, therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth: and with my song will I praise him." My life wasn't always this way. I grew up on a farm in Kansas. Dad would always say "times were tight" and we did without. I can remember getting up on cold, cold mornings starting the wood stove because it had gone out during the night. Everyday we hauled in fresh water and heated it on the stove for dishes and bathes. On a farm there was always work to be done, and Sunday was just like any other day of the week. "Make hay while the sun shines" was our motto; and, the more kids you had the more work could be done. I was the oldest of five, which made me the built-in-babysitter, chief cook, and bottle washer. By the time my youngest sister, Lori, came along there was 14 years difference in our ages.


Lori was what changed all of our lives. She was kind, sweet, and loving. The most remarkable thing about her was that she understood God at her tender years far better than we did. When she started school, she began begging the family to take her to church. Before we knew it, she had us all going on a regular basis. That included our father who had never attended church. Watching him sit in church while the sun was shining was a real shock to all of us.


When Lori wanted to accept God in her life, that event also became a family affair: everyone was baptized. Little did we know that all of this was leading up to a great tragedy, and that she would be a witness to every one of us.


Lori had two dolls she played with, one she named Faith and the other Hope. One evening when Lori was nine and our family was together, we had an opportunity to listen to a conversation between Lori and her dolls. She told us in her child-like play that one of her dolls was going to die; that there was no medicine or miracle that would cure it. Her time with her dolls was so touching that she had us speechless and in tears. It didn't seem like a small child's play, it was more on the side of prophetic.


Within a month those two dolls, Faith and Hope, and

her memory were all we had to cling to after she had left our lives.


That day that tore our hearts apart started like most summer days. By early afternoon storm clouds had begun gathering. In Kansas a summer rain can quickly turn into a fierce thunderstorm in one area yet provide a gentle rain in another. I was living away from home at that time, and with my cousin and a neighbor we were forced to seek shelter due to the sighting of a tornado. As we watched the cloud formation of high winds meeting and short funnels disappearing as quickly as they formed, my cousin made a statement I'll never forget. She said if she should die that day it would be like Jesus coming down and taking her home with Him. Shortly thereafter I received my telephone call from home.


Mom had just been released from the hospital after having major surgery. In between the rain showers, Lori decided to go out and play. Before she went outside, she gave our mother a POWER FOR LIVING. Mother read of another mother's story of giving her young child up to God. Just as she finished reading that article, she heard Lori's last scream outside her bedroom window.


The rain had left things wet including a piece of tin on the ground used to repair the house. A power line leading to the house had frayed from rubbing against the flashing. The flashing ran across the top of the house to the back touching a ground cable, which dangled loose touching the wet tin on the ground. On one side of the tin laid the ball Lori was playing with and Lori was found lying on the tin with the live electric wire across her chest. She was electrocuted trying to cross the tin.


When Lori left this world for a better one, she left her family with a legacy of faith and hope. Later, as we gathered in Mother's bedroom still in shock and disbelief, we found a message from Lori written at a happier time. Taped on the wall on heart-shaped construction paper was the message "Receive strength from the Lord". Many years have gone by since then and my heart has mended. I have let the Lord put joy back in my life, but I'll never forget the gift Lori gave to us. Each day I ask for strength, carry a little joy in my heart, and still have faith and hope.