When the phone rang this morning, I was sitting at my computer ready to start my day. It was a bit later than usual due to the school cancellation. It was just a normal Monday morning, if you discounted the amazing amount of snow for mid-November around here.
It’s funny how a simple phone call can rock your world.
At about 10:30 this morning, I found out my friend Carla Dysert had been killed in a car accident earlier that morning. The news washed over me in a tide of disbelief.
It felt like all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room.
I knew Carla very peripherally for years as she went to my church, but I started to know her better a few years ago when she began to periodically attend my Sunday school class. Then this summer, when I started volunteering at Guiding Light where she volunteered too, our friendship grew, as I got to know her more deeply.
(Carla is in the pink shirt)
Even hours after I learned of her death, I still am having a hard time believing she is really gone. I think it’s because she was one of those people who were so very alive.
I’ve spent most of today thinking about Carla and what she has meant in my life. I’ve shed a lot of tears – and I’m not much of a crier – as the reality of her loss has settled over me.
As I’ve thought about her though, one thing came clear to me – Carla challenged me. She challenged me by the way she lived. Carla didn’t read God’s Word and think it meant someone else. She believed it was directed at her, and unlike so many of us, she acted on it.
Carla was someone who did what God asked her to do, even if other people thought she was a little, well, odd. I remember her telling me about a time she felt God asking her to claim a college football field. She went down and walked every yard of that field, praying over it. Never mind that everyone thought she might be a little crazy. 🙂
Carla was a big believer in the power of prayer. Her prayer journals were an artistic wonder – notes, small drawings, glued on pictures of those she was praying for papered its pages. She wrote down what she learned from her Bible study times and what she felt God was telling her. She wrote down prayer requests and how God answered and came through. She felt so strongly about journaling, that she was always giving people journals of their own.
Many time, you could find her walking around buildings in downtown Lima, praying over that particular ministry. It didn’t matter to her that people driving by might wonder what in the world she was doing.
When Carla said she’d pray for you, she did. When Carla said she’d do something, she followed through. When Carla thought you were wrong, she told you.
As I cried off and on today, immeasurably sad that my friend was gone and thought about how crushed the many people she touched probably felt, it occurred to me that Carla would probably wonder why I was upset. I can envision her, her blonde head cocked to the side saying in her perpetually upbeat voice, “But Rosanne, why are you upset? God knew I was going to die today. God allowed that so it’s okay.”
And then she’d smile.
The thing that made Carla unique was that she was always listening for God’s voice and she didn’t just listen. She went out and did what He asked, too. She was always looking for the opportunities He put in her path and acting on them.
One of those ways was at her job. Carla worked a lot of hours at Primrose where she was the director, but the reason she spent long hours there wasn’t because she was a workaholic. It was because she spent her days meeting the Primrose residents’ needs, and waiting to do her work until later in the evening.
Carla was also a big believer in God’s Word. She wasn’t about denominations. She’d tell you it’s about God and what the Bible says. She wasn’t about physical church walls. You could find her at our Baptist church as soon as you’d find her attending a street church in the south side of Lima or joining a charismatic church on a mission trip. Carla was about loving people because Jesus loved people.
I’ll be honest and say I wish I understood why God took Carla home today. But I can’t. I wish I could tell you there was some greater purpose, but all I can think is, “It was too soon.”
But I want Carla’s death to mean something. I don’t want her death to just be a tragedy. I want it to call us all to action and to continue her legacy. So, I came up with an idea. I’m calling it the Carla Challenge, and I hope she would get a kick out of this.
The challenge is this – whatever it is you feel God telling you to do, just do it. Put it at the very top of your to do list. Don’t let busyness or fear or doubt or just feeling silly keep you from it. Whatever opportunity God places in your path, take the time to act on it.
Because if anything summed up Carla’s life, it was her ability to listen to what God was telling her, look for the opportunities He placed in her path and act in obedience. No questions. No hesitations. Just do it.
Will you take the Carla Challenge today and keep her legacy alive?