I am completely blown away….
You ever see something so beautiful that it stops you in your tracks? You pause, do a double-take, look again to make sure that what you think you saw is truly as amazing as you thought at first glance?
A glorious sunrise ablaze with vibrant colors.
A crisp winter evening, the sky so clear, the stars so bright that the Milky Way reminds you of a river.
I was caught off guard today, derailed when I least expected it. A blogger is dying, and her online community of friends is loving on her in such a way that I couldn’t ignore it. And when I took a little time to double-take, to pause and consider… well, like I said above, I’m blown away.
Sara is her name, though her friends call her “Gitz”, apparently stemming from way back when her dad would tickle her neck and say “gitchy-gitchy-goo”.
I hadn’t read Sara’s blog before, but over the last few days I noticed a continual flow of tweets saying “pray for @gitzengirl” and mentioning that she was getting ready to go “home”. I could no longer ignore the concerned tweets going by, so I finally checked out the situation this morning.
It turns out that Sara Frankl has been suffering with a debilitating, painful disease for over a decade – she’s been homebound for at least 14 years, if I’m not mistaken. And now, her body is shutting down, and her time is very short.
What’s amazing about @gitzengirl is that she hasn’t let the disease define her – “Choose Joy” has been her motto as well as the name of her blog. She’s touched so many lives by sharing joy in spite of her pain, choosing to live, love and think of others first.
How do I know that Sara’s life has touched others? Check out this link to her friend Jessica Turner’s blog post with links to tribute posts from other bloggers. The count is up to 42 linked blogs at the time I’m writing this.
How rare is it for someone to suffer immense pain and use that as a focal point to choose to love others? I know that I become my most selfish, my most irritable when I’m in pain. To suffer beyond what most of us can fathom and yet remain joyful, selfless and loving… it is truly amazing.
I keep thinking of a rose – it gives off the strongest, beautiful fragrance when it is crushed and broken. From what I’ve read, that sums up Sara’s life perfectly.
Hebrews 12:1 was on my mind today as I reflected on “the Gitz” and her impending homecoming:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Two distinct thoughts jumped out at me related to this verse.
First, when we think of “throwing off everything that hinders”, don’t we tend to picture the physical body? I’m struck by the paradoxical image: Sara’s body has been shackled and hindered by disease, but her spirit has been set free and the chains have fallen away.
In contrast, how many of us are healthy physically, able to run, jump, play ball with our kids and do all sort of things we take for granted… but if we had a window into our soul, we would find that that there are still shackles that hold us back, that keep us from being the men and women we’re called to be?
The second thought was related to the “cloud of witnesses”: I’ve always thought of that “cloud” as those that have gone before us in the faith, as though they are watching from heaven, cheering us on. I still think that image holds true.
But today, as I watched the outpouring of love from all the online friends of “Gitzengirl”, I realized that we are a part of that “cloud of witnesses” – we have the opportunity while here on Earth to love, support and encourage those that are ”finishing the race” in front of us.
Occasionally, we see a person who has touched a great many lives of those around them, but I’ve never witnessed such an outpouring of love surrounding someone who was basically a shut-in, forced to live within restricted physical confines for well over a decade.
Sara may have been limited to a confined space physically, but that did not keep her from impacting the world around her through her online connections to the outside world. Her soul ran the race marked before her with relentless abandon, loving all that she could whenever she could.
Sara Frankl – I don’t know you personally, never met or conversed with you on your blog, and in fact only read your blog for the first time this morning. Yet now, I am honored to have made your acquaintance through your blog posts as well as the comments and love poured out on you from your many friends. Thank you for “choosing joy” and loving people in spite of your pain, reflecting the love of your Savior to all that were blessed to know you.
Today, I was stunned by your beauty – the beauty of a soul that looks so much like Jesus.
Welcome home, Gitz!