Tweet Avery might have only been 11, but she had very specific plans.
She was going to read scripture in church. And play the piano before services began. And help out in Sunday School. And, also, maybe she could help in the kitchen for coffee hour. (She liked helping out in the kitchen.)
She was going to go on mission trips with her youth group, hoping to cuddle orphans and tell young children all about Jesus. (She'd build houses if she had to, but she'd rather work with the little kids.)
She was going to go to college at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, stay in a dorm with her best friend, Katie and compete on the gymnastics team. (Katie's mom was going to send care packages full of chocolate chip cookies and soda.)
After college, she was going to travel to Haiti and save everyone. Because there was this awful earthquake in Haiti and for a while everyone helped... but then the help sort of faded away and Avery was going to make sure that she would go to finish everything that still needed help.
She was going to work in orphanages. Playing with children. Rocking them. Reading to them. Talking to them about Jesus. And I could come to visit her.
In fact, Avery was going to tell everyone about Jesus because, she surmised, "if people knew about Jesus, then they wouldn't feel lonely or afraid anymore."
Avery would tell me of her plans and I would smile. Because she was young and her thoughts were simple and surely she would change her mind a thousand times before she grew up.
Except God didn't want her to change her mind. Or her heart.
This little girl, who would never grow old, would hold Jesus in her heart for ever and ever.
My daughter saw her world as one where Christ reigned with simple rules: be kind. Help others. And, above all, tell people about God.
I received an email a few weeks after Avery's death: "you are Avery's voice; don't silence her." It was a lot of responsibility and kind of scared me, yet I found that the more I told people about who Avery was, what she believed in, about the faith that held her tight, the more my sorrow lifted and joy flooded in.
I spent the minutes, days and weeks after her death repeating Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Those words ran through my head, coursed their way through my veins, encouraged my heart to keep beating.
I can do ALL things... all things? Even this, Lord? Yes. All things. Even this.
Soon, an idea to me. But I shook it away. Yet it kept coming back. Uninvited, it would meet me around corners, before sleep, upon waking, staring back at me in the mirror. I've never "heard" God's voice; not as an actual voice...but for some reason, this idea wouldn't leave me. Was this what people meant when God showed them signs? Or led them to something specific? That tugging of the heartstrings - was that God?
Lord, I'm sorry, but you're mistaken. I'm not cut out for this. I'm ornery and sarcastic. I swear too much and watch R-rated movies. I don't like people.
You do, too, like people. You're just anxious and awkward about meeting them. Stop with the excuses. This is what I am calling you to do.
I went to my sister with this ridiculous idea.
What if we found a way to keep Avery's voice alive? What if we continued to do all the things she wanted to do, but can't do, but other people can do? What if we could find a way to support mission trips? Especially those to Haiti? She loved Haiti. What if we could figure out a way to tell people about Jesus through her love of reading? Donate Christian books to her school or to the library? What if we could find ways - fun, exciting ways, to tell people about Jesus, to plant seeds of faith?
Instead of thinking it was a ridiculous idea my sister only shrugged, "what took you so long?"
Before I knew it, my friend Ginger, my sister Shannon, and I were huddled around a crowded kitchen table, laptops lit, pencils scribbling notes on paper, lists growing as long as my arm.
I turned around and a long-lost classmate of mine was filing necessary paperwork and researching how to do things legally.
I blinked and my cousin had designed an amazing logo. This amazing logo:
And that was it. AVERYday Ministries was born.
Now, the hard work begins. I am filled with worry and doubt and anxieties. Do I even know what I am doing? What if I fail Avery? What if, what I imagine never comes to fruition? What's worse: creating all this only to have it flop? Or not trying at all?
I can do all things.... ALL THINGS... I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Even this. Yes, even this.
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