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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Salter Goodwin

Lessons Lisa Taught Me

We sat in one of the casual places inside the multi-floored and multi-winged hospital where Lisa had spent too much time. I will never forget the question one of the specialists asked me as we closed our conversation about how to support Lisa in the difficult weeks to come. She leaned toward me and asked, “And what has Lisa taught you?”

I am still trying to answer that question. Where do I begin?

She taught to be a mother. She taught me that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did about it. She was the polishing stone sent to rub against me and find all my sharp edges. And when she did, I had the choice to hide them or address them. I wish I could say I never tried to hide them. However I am glad that in the following specific areas, I am a stronger woman because Lisa taught me what I don’t think I would have learned any other way.

1. Lisa taught me that limitations do not limit

as much as I thought.

Limitations change life, no question about that. They redefine normal. They introduce challenges. But to allow them to limit growth or ministry is a personal choice that Lisa refused to make. Like the rest of us, she never wanted to give up what was comfortable and familiar when new physical losses surfaced. It was how she addressed them that teaches me my lesson. She always asked, “What is God’s purpose for me here?” It makes me wonder when life introduces new limitations to me through age or illness will I make the same choice? Will I allow a new limitation or loss to open new ways to connect with people? That’s what Lisa did with her card ministry. I am still finding out people she sent encouragement cards to. Her world enlarged as she refused to allow limitations to limit God.

2. Lisa taught me that my dreams for her

could never be better than God’s dreams.

This lesson took me a long time to learn. What mother doesn’t believe she has the best dreams for her child? How could a mother’s dreams not find approval from God? It’s not that they were selfish or impossible or unrealistic; my dreams just weren’t God’s. Here’s the problem. Trying to make my dreams come true for Lisa placed the responsibility solely on me to accomplish them. When I surrendered my need to know His dream and just asked for my part in what God was doing; I knew less struggle and more victory. When I realized that it was God’s job to share His dream and my job to help Lisa recognize His work, I affirmed more and criticized less. It is a formula that works for more than children!

3. Lisa taught me that Intellectual intelligence

does not predict spiritual intelligence.

Don’t ask me to explain this. I only know it because I witnessed it. Lisa could never catch up with her peers in academic subjects. She always tested low in compression on reading tests. Math facts were an unsolvable enigma. But she could read God’s Word and apply it to her life in a way that humbled me. She was a master in personalizing scripture. She left multiple journals where her personalized scriptures chronicled her prayers for spiritual growth. Lisa taught me that it’s not what you know about God and the Bible that counts; it’s what you do with it. I will live the rest of my life closing that gap.

4. Lisa taught me that complaining always

prevents joy.

Lisa didn’t complain and we didn’t teach her that. While it may have been a part of her coping with her many struggles, a way to keep that part of her life as far from her awareness as possible; it became one of her strengths. It wasn’t that she tried not to complain. She just didn’t. As a result, she allowed God’s joy in. Of course she had her low moments. Of course frustration and stress overwhelmed her at times, but she lived for the joy of the Lord. In her simple way of putting difficult things together, she decided that if God was allowing this loss or pain, He had a way of using her in it to spread His joy. She wanted to be used by God more than she ever prayed for her healing. I am grateful that I will always remember her joy in the Lord and will use her model to keep me grounded the same way.

Most parents think about the legacy they leave their children because most children outlive their parents and have the opportunity to live that legacy. For me it is backwards. Lisa left me a legacy. To honor the God who gave her life and taught her how to live it, I must use her legacy to teach me the same thing. Living her legacy won’t reproduce her life in me. Instead, it will be my polishing stone to help me live life the way God says will bring purpose and joy, no matter the circumstances that limit or challenge.

Thank you, Lisa!

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