Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hope of the New Year

Here is a fact you may not know. I am sentimental. Very sentimental!

Perhaps nothing makes that point quite as much as the small gift tag from Christmas 1992 that I have tucked away in a drawer. As I remember, this tag was not attached to a very memorable gift.  But this tag is in my mother's own handwriting.  It simply says To Bonnie, Love Mom and Dad.  She passed away the following February.  This tag marks the last of the forty Christmases we shared together.

So it comes as no surprise to my family that I tend to become sentimental, okay, pensive as New Year's Eve approaches.  I want to hold on to those precious memories of the past twelve months, and yet, I long for the fresh start the New Year brings.  I have to confess that in my desire to learn from my past mistakes, I often take them to heart a little too much ~ rehashing them again and again in my mind.

I want this year ~ 2010 ~ to be a redemptive one year!

How will God redeem my failings and transform me into a better wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend, and mentor?

With all honesty, I am very hopeful this New Year's Eve.  I am relying on His power that redeems all things to Himself. I am resting in His promise to restore and reshape me for His good pleasure; to re-establish my path; and to renew my thoughts with His thoughts.

As I read the prayers of the Daily Office for December 31st, it included the wonderful story of the healing of the crippled man found in The Gospel of John. Here is the story in the Apostle John's words as it appears in the Book of Common Prayer:

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids ~ blind, lame, and paralyzed ~ waiting for the moving of the water; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. ~ John 5:1-15

What an incredible story of transformation! Jesus not only restored this man’s health, but redeemed his future ~ Take up your bed and walk . . . sin no more!  The man did not leave his bed behind, but took it with him, perhaps as a reminder of the transformation he had experienced.  The man obeyed and took those first courageous steps of faith as he walked out into the city of Jerusalem on his own two feet ~ for perhaps the first time!  The man was truly transformed ~ from the inside out as he was encouraged to sin no more.

And yet, as I re-read the story, I find Jesus' question to the man a little strange.  Why would Jesus ask a man who had been invalid for 38 years if he wants to be healed?  Isn't the answer pretty obvious?  I think Jesus asks the question because Jesus knows that lifestyles are hard to change.  We tend to be quite comfortable, thank you with how we use our time, how we spend our resources, and how we treat one another.  In many ways, we have become invalids ~ stuck in our own bed of old habits and traditions.

I want this story of redemption found in John 5, to be my New Year’s story!  I want Jesus to restore to health to those areas of my life that He knows need healing.  I want Him to redeem my future.   May I Him with all of it, and be willing to take some courageous steps of faith as I walk where He leads me and become who He wants me to be!

Yes, I am quite hopeful this New Year's Eve ~ as I fix my gaze on the His redeeming love ~ that 2010 will be a redemptive year .




A Picture That's Worth A Thousand Words

Okay, so I didn't mean a thousand words. But this morning my friend Robin posted this photo on her Facebook profile after a recent day in the snow.  My mind immediately filled with words inspired by this tiny pine tree in the snow.







I hope this picture encourages you in the 'winters' of life ~ to know that He is able to produce in us a life that brings Him glory and draws others to His kingdom - no matter what.

What words does this picture say to you as you consider the new year?

Photo by Robin Manuszak 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Empty Chair

Do you have an empty chair at your table?

We found ourselves with an empty chair in our home almost fourteen years ago. Dinner time became such a severe reminder of our grief. We always set four plates at each meal. We each had our place at the table. Then, in a matter of 30 short hours, our family was forever changed by Scott's accident.

There were times early on that I instinctively included Scott in the count as we set the table for special occasions ~ oblivious of my mistake until someone graciously made me aware of it. It was just normal to count Scott among the guests, especially at holidays and birthday celebrations. But the normal we had always known was never to be again.

As Christmas draws near, I am aware that many homes have an empty chair as families prepare to celebrate the season. Many may be feeling this void for the first time; some have faced it for years. Setting the Christmas table can be as much a holiday tradition as trimming the tree ~ deciding who sits next to whom, and making the table a place that invites everyone to nourish their bodies and their souls as they participate in the family traditions.

My heart is heavy for those of you who have empty chairs this Christmas. Some of you, like me, have an empty chair because you have placed someone precious in the arms of God. Some are praying even now for their runaway to come home and take their place at the table. Some have a loved one serving in the military in far off places. And yes, there are some families who harbor unresolved conflicts and those empty chairs serve as a reminder of broken relationships which need to be mended.

My cousin has not lost a child to death but he has three empty chairs this Christmas, and he is definitely feeling the void. He shared a wonderful idea with me this morning. His son, daughter-in-law, and  granddaughter are missionaries serving in Europe and they will not be home for the holidays. So my cousin purchased large picture frames to hold recent photographs of his son’s family. This year, my cousin is placing the frames around the home to include in spirit those who cannot come home in person.

Well, I am considering including Scott once again in the count this year. I am thinking about setting a place at his empty chair.  I really think I want to make our memories of Scott a part of the celebration. In reality, no one who gathers around our table is unaware of the void created by Scott's death. So why not create a new normal? Why not set a place for him? Why not?

Yes, this Christmas there will be an empty chair and a place setting with a photograph of Scott as part of our table setting. We will remember and laugh at Christmases past, like the year he coined the term glassables for those ornaments that could break. We may shed some tears at what might have been as we long to experience a reunion with him once again. But I am convinced, when the meal is finished and we push our chairs away from the table, we will have smiles on our faces because Scott’s chair was pulled up to the table one.more.time, and we treasured what he brought to our lives.

Do you have an empty chair at your table?

Why not set a place for someone, add a photograph, and speak the name?

Why not nourish your soul this Christmas with some precious memory work?

Why not?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Egyptian Wisdom

Last weekend we visited the de Young Museum in San Francisco to view the King Tut and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs Exhibition.

It was an amazing display of wealth and power which filled many galleries in the museum.  As I walked through the exhibit, I was aware of the empty hope the Egyptians had in eternal life.

The final gallery was a display of the actual treasures found in the Boy King's sarcophagus.  Amid the cache of gold and jewels, I noticed a nugget of wisdom ~ an Egyptian proverb written on the wall above the display.  It read ~

To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.

This powerful proverb resonates well with me as I reflect on my own grief journey, and the journey of others who hope to experience peace with loss.  

To speak the name of the dead is to stir the memories we treasure; to rouse the precious hours, months or years we had together; to address the void that is so very present, no matter how skilled we have become at suppressing or denying it.

To speak the name of the dead restores the relationship in our hearts and keeps them a part of us.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'll Be Home for Christmas

In 1943, a new Christmas carol ~ I'll Be Home for Christmas ~ raced to the top of the charts.  Think about that year in the life of America.  We were in the midst of World War II.  Soldiers, far from home on the front lines, could only dream of being home for Christmas.  Their families, gathered around the Christmas tree, longed for their loved ones to be home at this most wonderful time of the year.

Today, the message of the song remains the same ~ there is a desire to be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.

I'm sure the song elicits a range of emotions.  Some will head home to the smell of grandma's cookies and to find their stockings still hung by the chimney with care.  Others will gather together with relatives coming from near and far.

But for many, the song truly depicts just a dream. Christmas 2010, finds children wondering which 'home' they will be in for Christmas as divorce has divided their family.  The current economic hardships have left many families out on the streets, where home is where ever they can find a place to lay their head. Unresolved conflict will keep some families from coming together in the same home, even at Christmas.

For those who find themselves on a journey of grief, this song elicits both dreams and memories ~ I dream about the way things should be and cling to the memories of the way things used to be at Christmas time.  To be completely honest here, it took more than 10 years after Scott died before I could listen to this song without tears filling my eyes.  I longed for Scott to walk through my door and be home for Christmas.  I wanted things to be like they were in Christmases past.  I repeated the last line of the song again and again ~ If only in my dreams ~ long after the music stopped.

What finally transformed my thinking was when I realized the song's attempt to create a picture-perfect scene for the hearer.  Now before you think me a Grinch, please hear me out.  I know the song brings warm thoughts and precious memories for many of you.  It did for me at one time; I believe it will again someday.  But the song also creates many assumptions about the holiday and the experiences it brings. When someone's reality falls short of this wonderful Christmas scene, what remains are thoughts of disappointment and regret. Look at the lyrics ~
I'll be home for Christmas;
You can count on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree.

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love-light gleams.
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams.

Here is the assumptions I hear ~

Assumption #1:  We each have a home to which to return ~ a significant, memorable place where you and yours gather for Christmas.  For some, their home was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Assumption #2:  The weather will cooperate to produce a White Christmas ~ another one of Bing's famous recordings.

Assumption #3:  There will be presents under the tree ~ regardless of the balance in one's bank account.

Assumption #4:  A home is filled with so much love that it creates a love that glows.

Assumption #5:  Circumstances and surroundings are what makes Christmas special.

No, my heart is not two-sizes-too-small!  Believe me, when it comes to being sentimental, I am right near the top of the list.  (I have the closets and boxes full of treasured items to prove it!)  But if I have learned anything on my own journey of grief it is this ~ most of us live in an assumptive world.  And our assumptive world almost always disappoint us.

Christmas never was about being home or snow or presents on the tree.  It is kind of ironic when you think about it.  Christmas is the time to remember the Christ Child who left his home in heaven to be born in a manager.  Christmas is not about dreaming and wishing you were somewhere other than where you are right now.  Christmas is filled with promise and hope.  For it is the very Babe of Bethlehem who has secured an eternal home to everyone who believes.

This Christmas,

may you find

your home

in Him.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wet Cement

I was working with wet cement again today. Yep.

And it's not the first time I have worked with this material. I've been in the business for 32 years, to be exact.

The trouble I find working with cement is the potential for it to harden into something I never intended it to become. Sure, I have the mold in mind, but sometimes I just get caught up in accomplishing the job that I forget about what I hoped I would create. Try as I will to control all the elements, I usually find myself trying to smooth out the deep impressions I hope do not leave a permanent mark. But I have learned that most of my mistakes are ~ as they say ~ set in concrete.

Now, before you decide that you would never, ever allow me to lay concrete for your patio, let me explain.

Today I hired my three grandchildren to help me stuff, stamp and address my Christmas cards. We send out almost 200 cards each year and many hands make the work light!

Kaitlyn has assisted me with this project for the past few years. At 9 ½ years old, she can nearly do it all! Kyle is almost 8 years old. He is eager to help but needs a predictable task to keep up his confidence. And then there is Jack! He is 5 ½ years old and full of energy. He thinks he can do it all, but in reality, he requires something that cannot be ruined by bouts of impulsivity. (I think I said that diplomatically, don’t you?)

We really had fun working together. I shared with them about some of the people the cards were addressed to: lifelong friends from elementary, junior high and high school; first, second and third cousins; co-workers; and people with whom we just like to stay in touch.

But I must admit, there were times I really could have lost it this afternoon! I mean really ~ many of our friends will receive our Christmas picture with finger smudges all over it as the photos just did not seem to slide in the envelopes very easily for the boys. A few of the envelopes are badly wrinkled. Some people will receive cards with our return address stamped upside-down. And . . . let’s just say that Jack now knows that the United States Post Office requires ALL postage to be in the top right hand corner – and NO WHERE ELSE on the envelope!

Yes, there were many times I really wanted to take over the tasks I had delegated to them. I could have made the Christmas cards more important than their feelings or self-esteem. I could have taken the joy right out of working together by needing everything to be just so.

But tucked away in my mind is the message found in a wonderful book by Anne Ortlund.  Back in 1977 as I awaited the birth of our first child ~ Kaitlyn, Kyle and Jack's mom, Amy ~ I read Anne's book, Children are Wet Cement. Anne talks about how children are so impressionable ~ like wet cement. As parents ~ and grandparents ~ there is little doubt that we love and value each child. We visualize what we hope each one to become. Yet in the stress of the day, in our rush to accomplish all we think we must get done, in our desire to have everything turn out right, or with our pride on the line, we forget how moldable and vulnerable each child is. The words we use, the tones we add, those sighs we are so quick to express ~ all have the potential of leaving lasting impressions.

Yep ~ I was working with wet cement today.

Eager little hands that wanted to help me stuff, stamp and address my Christmas cards. The potential was there for me to turn the experience into something I never intended it to become. This time, I kept the mold in mind. This time, I did not rush the job. And I am proud to say, the permanent mark left on all of our hearts was love.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Hope of Advent

What were those weeks and months like for Mary as her body began to reveal that she was with child?

I'm sure she heard the whispers; she noticed the heads turning away to avoid eye contact with her. What gave her the courage to carry this Child in the face of such disgrace?
What were her thoughts as she traveled with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, being great with child?

The journey must have been physically difficult and emotionally demanding. What was the source of her comfort along this predetermined path?
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Worshippers around the world will light the first candle ~ the Candle of Hope, as we recognize that our longings, our desires and our hope are found in the Babe of Bethlehem.

Mary was most likely well aware of the writings of the prophets. Perhaps she found great courage in the words of Isaiah ~

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
Possibly she received comfort as she focused not on the pain of the present but on the promise and potential found in the Child she carried.

In His name the nations will put their hope.
Hope ~ the anticipation of a good yet to come.

As I come alongside individuals desperately seeking peace with loss, HOPE is fundamental. It is perhaps the essential value for survival ~ a source of courage and comfort ~ as one negotiates a pathway of grief. Hope brings into view a purpose for living in the face of loss. Hope enlightens our awareness that a relationship of memory creates a legacy to be embraced. Hope conveys anticipation that we can be transformed and not destroyed by our loss.

Hope ~ the anticipation of a good yet to come.

May today's Candle of Hope illuminate for you a good yet to come.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Scott's Garden ~ A Healing Place

Early on in my grief journey, I knew I wanted to create a memorial garden in our backyard. I knew I needed a physical place to embrace my memories of Scott. A sacred place to cradle his ashes. A living place to celebrate his life.

Although my desire from the beginning was to create a place of remembering, it took us almost five years to find the energy to create Scott’s Garden. The lethargy of grief is very real ~ often impeding travelers along the journey from moving forward, even toward a healing place.

I remember some of my thoughts as we worked to clear out the overgrowth that had crept into our side yard. The task was difficult ~ down on my hands and knees in the dirt, pulling up the weeds that clung to the ground. I remember thinking ~

I am not done being Scott’s mom. How I long to fix your favorite meals, wash your soccer uniform, help you with homework, spend time talking and laughing with you. Oh, how I wanted my job back.
And then I realized what a healing place Scott’s Garden was to be. Each sprig of spurge I pulled up by the roots was indeed an act of love, an investment in what had been, and a tribute to his short sixteen years of life with us. Each flower and tree we planted became a testament to life.

There have been many lessons learned as we transformed this plot of yard into Scott’s Garden.

This past week as we celebrated Scott’s 30th birthday, we worked in the garden with our daughter Amy and our three grandchildren. Although we cannot give Scott actual presents, we chose to purchase new plants for his garden.

And as we dug around the soil to find the best place to plant the newest signs of life, we uncovered dormant bulbs from lilies set out at Easter time. I shared with my grandchildren the excitement and symbolism of these bulbs.

For there in Scott’s Garden where we grieve with hope ~ remembering his death and celebrating his life ~ there was the promise of reunion. Jesus said in John 12:24-25 ~

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

So, here in Scott’s Garden, I recognize that I am still Scott’s mom as I cherish my relationship of memory with him. Here among the dormant bulbs and pruned roses of winter, I embrace my sorrow that he is not here. And as I stand back and recognize the beauty of God’s creation, I rejoice in the hope of that blessed reunion that is to come.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Scott

Tomorrow ~ November 23rd ~ is Scott’s birthday. He would be 30 years old.

To be perfectly honest, while I rest in the assurance of where he is, I wrestle with the reality that he is not here.

Tonight, my heart cries out for Scott to be present in our lives. My ears long to hear his voice. My arms ache to hug him.

I struggle to envision what he might look like, all grown up. I can only see him as he was ~ a fair-haired, freckle-faced teenager . . . with a contagious laugh and smile! I remember one of the first things our grief counselor told us in those early days after Scott’s accident ~ You will forever be the parents of sixteen year old boy. I did not understand it then, but I know it all too well now.

I have been on this journey of grief long enough to know that I really cannot fight the emotions, or bury the sorrows. So today, I surrendered to my grief. I allowed the tears to come to the surface. What deep wisdom is contained in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 ~ Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

In anticipation of Scott’s birthday, Tony and I drove to one of our favorite local nurseries this afternoon. We thoughtfully selected new plants to add color and life to Scott’s memorial garden in our side yard.

Amy and our grandchildren ~ Kaitlyn, Kyle and Jack ~ will join us in Uncle Scott’s Garden tomorrow. We will prune back the perennials and place in the soil each new sign of life. Our work will be a labor of love as we strive to not lose heart. As we toil to bring beauty to what is seen, we long to bring into focus what is unseen, what is eternal.

In this small way we celebrate the life of our precious Scott and give thanks for the sixteen years we had with him. All the while, we cling to the hope of our blessed reunion when there will be no more sorrow, no more tears, and no more goodbyes.

Happy Birthday, Scott ~ I love you!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November 17th

Have you ever heard a song on the radio ~ and instantly you remember where you were and who you were with when you first heard it?

Perhaps you have walked past a bakery and the sweet aroma sends you right back to a special time in your childhood.

Memories are such a powerful force in our lives. They can fill us with fear, move us to tears or bring joy to our heart. For those who grieve, memories can be a sweet retreat ~ a place to go as we treasure and renew the relationship with someone who is no longer present in our life.

I witnessed the power of memory this week as my nieces and nephew shared together memories of their dad. Ray died seventeen years ago, yet each year my nieces and nephew remember him on his birthday. (If you read my blog, you know that one’s death does not change one’s date of birth. It may seem like a matter of semantics but it really matters to those who love. Ray’s birthday is, was and always will be November 17th.)

I was blessed to participate in their exchange on Facebook. It began with a comment of tenderness and sorrow ~ Happy Birthday, Daddy. I love you and miss you. Then, each shared a funny remembrance of their dad. They recognized their regrets for the things they cannot experience with him today ~ like watching him be a fun grandfather to his grandchildren.

I am proud of you, Kevin, Kara and Kelly, for your willingness to transform the relationship with your dad from a relationship of presence to one of memory. It demonstrates your great love for him and the value you place on redeeming the future.

Memory is where the proof of life is stored.
Norman Cousins

Friday, November 13, 2009

He Still Speaks

During the weeks following Scott's death, I struggled to make sense of the countless emotions which had taken residence within me. I read books on grief and hope, on suffering and grace as I attempted to bring some meaning to this tremendous loss I had experienced.

One book I read was by a bereaved mother who also lost her teenage son in an accident. I sadly do not recall much about her story but the title of her book remains vivid in my mind. Roses in December has become somewhat metaphorical of a precious part of my grief journey that I discovered while reading in the Book of Hebrews.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is known as the Hall of Faith ~ where tremendous examples of faithful living in difficult times are shared from the Old Testament. There in Hebrews 11:4, right along with the heroes of our faith, are listed the names of Cain and Abel. I often wondered how a chapter which focuses on faithful living would list the names of a) Cain, a brother who murdered his sibling and did not live faithfully, and b) Abel, who died as a young man. As I dwelt on this verse, I began to understand some of the mystery of redeeming the loss of my own son.

There is was ~ just a half of verse, actually, that has become a source of joy and hope to me. Hebrews 11:4b states ~
And through his faith, though he died,
he still speaks.

Just like unexpected blossoms in the winter and beauty among ashes, God brings value to our loss as we hear others speak of how Scott’s life, although cut short by death, touched their lives. I received just such a bouquet yesterday!

A classmate of Scott's ~ Immanuel High School Class of 1998 ~ found me on Facebook. She is married and lives with her husband and their three beautiful daughters in southern California. In her message to request my FB friendship, she wrote:

I became a trauma nurse because I couldn't help Scott the day he was injured . . . I save lives every day in his honor, maybe to make myself feel better for not knowing what to do that day, or maybe because that's the way it was designed to be. I have always wanted to find you and tell you that Scott is saving lives . . . through people that are still here like me. You may not know all of us anymore, but we are out here doing the work! Recently, I was given the opportunity to teach others how to become nurses at a college level. This should yield crops of life-savers, and I am so excited that thousands of lives will be saved because of my experience with your son.
Stories like this make the words of the Hebrews passage live again for me. Her words are truly like roses in December, giving off the sweet fragrance of life, eternal life. We cannot change the fact that we carry this burden of grief. But God is continually gracious to give us a glimpse of His bigger picture ~ one with eternal value ~ that allows us to understand how those who are gone, through faith, still speak of His faithfulness.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Two Dozen Red Roses

Thirty-six years ago today, November 10, 1973, I worked the afternoon shift at the JC Penney store in the Lakewood Mall.  To my surprise, when I arrived home from work there were TWO ~ not one, but TWO DOZEN red roses waiting for me.  The card enclosed with the flowers read:

Tonight is going to be very, very, very special!
Love, Tony

Tony and I have known each other most of our lives ~ my earliest memories of him go back to age five.  We grew up in the same southern California town, attended the same church and saw each other at children's meeting, social events and gatherings.  My dad was his third grade Sunday School teacher.  His mom was my sister's Sunday School teacher.  We knew each other for many years when we began dating in 1970.

After three years of dating, I knew that the roses ~ the TWO DOZEN red roses ~ meant only one thing: that night I would be asked to become Mrs. Tony Redfern!  He reserved a table at The Gate of Spain restaurant on the top floor of a building along the Santa Monica coastline.  He paid the maitre d' for a window table.  After our meal, he pulled a handkerchief, with my engagement ring tied to it, from inside his coat pocket (he said he was so afraid of losing it)!  And he asked me Will you marry me?

So tonight, like every November 10th over the last 36 years, Tony asked me out on a date!  It will be a tender time ~ maybe even tearful time ~ as we celebrate the decision we made to make a lifetime commitment to one another thirty-six years ago, and the faithfulness of God to carry us through the best of times and the worst of times.

Thanks for asking me ~ my answer is still YES!

I am so proud to be Mrs. Tony Redfern!

I love you!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Time Travel

Time travel ~ that’s what it feels like when I find myself suddenly, once again, surrounded with the pain and reality of Scott’s death.

It always amazes me how fast I can go there.

This morning I decided not to go to church. I have fought this flu bug for almost two weeks and I decided to give myself an extra day of rest. So I poured myself a cup of coffee, sat down on the couch, and turned on the TV.

A woman was speaking to a sanctuary filled with parishioners. (I recognized the church right away; the glass windows surrounding the sanctuary were a sure giveaway.) I really did not intend to keep listen to her, but she was very engaging and the story just kept pouring out of her. I did not hear all the details but her story was about the faith of children who prayed for a miracle. She was an administrator at a Christian elementary school and she asked all the students to pray for a young friend who was having surgery for a brain tumor. The results of the surgery were not good. She shared how she had to go back to those students to tell them that their little friend was not going to get better ~ the little girl had been placed on life support. Doctors saw no signs of life and were advising the parents to turn off the machines.

The children couldn’t understand why they should stop praying. They believed in a God of miracles and were going to pray anyway. The next day, the doctors told the little girl’s parents that they saw a small hint of life in their daughter. Then the next day, they saw more life, and so on, until the little girl made a dramatic recovery.

And in that instant, I was overcome with doubt. In a matter of seconds, I traveled back in time. I was standing next to Scott’s bed at the medical center. I was holding his unresponsive hand. The nurses were coming in and out to check for any changes in his condition. His chest would rise and fall with each vent from the respirator, but there were no signs of life in him.

Scott did not recover. He was declared brain dead. He became an organ donor.

As I sat there on my couch this morning, I found myself once again questioning brain death and comas and vegetative states. It is personally very difficult for me to hear of someone who was declared brain dead and then wakes up after who-knows-how-many-years. Perhaps what complicates this for me is that these terms (brain death, coma, vegetative state) are used interchangeably so often by the media and those sharing these stories of recovery.

So once again I found myself wrestling with our decision. I went to the computer ~ again ~ and googled brain death. So many of the events of Scott’s final hours came into my mind as I fought against feelings of despair.

The statement from the neurosurgeon who first admitted Scott’s airlifted body ~ I see not life in your son.
The maxillofacial surgeon who operated on Scott for more than six hours ~ I literally just closed him up; I did all I could.
The 100+ high school students ~ many on their knees in the hallways ~ praying for a miracle.
The CT scan that was performed ~ convincing two neurosurgeons to declare Scott brain dead.
The blood flow test we demanded ~ and not one drop of dye went past Scott’s brain stem.

It is not that I don’t rejoice with the speaker this morning. I am so grateful that even one family did not have to live with the grief of losing a child!

What I want to say is that I believe in a God of miracles, too . Sometimes we do not receive the miracle we ask for. I truly wanted my son to survive. I still wish I could somehow have my son back. But that was not the miracle I received.

The miracle I received was grace ~ deeper and wider and higher than I ever knew before.

A grace that has the strength to carry me when I am weary.
A grace that is tender enough to catch all my tears in a bottle.
A grace that draws near to my broken heart.
A grace that transforms mourning into dancing.
A grace that guarantees a time to come when there will be no more tears, no more death, no more goodbyes.

And then it happens again ~ His grace transports me with those everlasting arms and gives me the courage to face the realities of life, and brings me the hope of a blessed reunion.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Revelation 21:4

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Silent Malignancy

I have a friend whom I have known for about 50 years. (Yes, it may be hard for some of you to believe that I am old enough to have known a friend for almost 50 years. It’s a fact!)

My friend is actually a little older than I am. As a young teen, she lived nearby and occasionally babysat my sister and I (poor thing ~ not that I was a terrible kid ~ but I did have my moments). Then, as newlyweds, she and her husband were sponsors in my high school youth group at church.

They have remained young at heart ~ staying active, enjoying traveling, appreciating art ~ and still in love after all these years. So it came as quite a shock this past spring, when her husband was diagnosed with a tumor ~ a large malignant tumor near his kidney and in close proximity to his aorta ~ that remains inoperable. As a healthy man, he experienced no discomfort, no signs that these cancerous cells were growing inside of him. If he had not gone in for a routine physical, they had no reason to suspect the presence of the tumor.

Over the past few months, he has undergone tests, scans, countless appointments with specialists and massive doses of chemotherapy. He lost his full head of hair. His body reacted to the chemo treatments and began to retain fluids. His energy level dropped to limited activity around the house. The good news is that the tumor did shrink. He no longer requires chemotherapy, and his energy level has improved to almost where it was before the treatments. The bad news is that the tumor did not shrink enough. He is scheduled to begin radiation treatments in a little while.

My friend keeps an online journal of their journey with cancer. One of her entries this week truly made me stop and think ~ how well am I?

Here is a summary of her entry . . .

It is almost hard to remember the days when he felt the effects of chemo; to recall how hard it was during those endless days and nights. He feels so normal now. We almost forget that he still has a malignant tumor in his body. There is no pain, no sign of it that he can feel or know, or be reminded that it is there. These last eight months that we have been on this journey have been experienced because the doctor told him he had a problem.  He never knew ~ and still would not know simply by how he feels ~ that he has a tumor which will kill him. This is really rather stunning when you think about it. How can there be something deadly in one’s body and have no idea it is there?

But it is still there, lurking in the dark, waiting for us to forget; to leave it alone so it can grow back and take over ~ how sinister! It reminds me of how attitudes and thoughts can take over in our spiritual lives ~ small or big, quietly yet deadly ~ growing . . . hoping to take over our minds and hearts if we are not watchful and prayerful about how we live and breathe, always asking God to show us those areas where we need His care and healing to remove them, to make our spiritual health intact, to live and grow in Him and bring glory to Him through our life.

Her words reach deep within my soul!

Sometimes I think we are quite good at masking reality. Denial, at the moment, may seem an easier path. But like any cancer ~ cells of unrighteousness and unforgiveness, of anger and disappointment, of hurt and envy ~ will fester and multiply. The Great Physician desires to heal us ~ redeem us ~ in every fiber of our being. His Spirit scans our mind, our heart and our soul, and reveals the thoughts and attitudes that seek to destroy our peace with God, our relationships, and ultimately, our very purpose for living.

I am reminded of the story in John 5 when Jesus visits Jerusalem. He passes by a pool where the blind, lame and paralyzed lay ~ each hoping for someone to come and meet their needs. Jesus approaches a man who has been an invalid for 38 years and asks him, "Do you want to get well?" It sure seems like a redundant question to ask someone who has been sick all of his life if he wants to get well. But Jesus knows our tendency to not deal with hard issues ~ thoughts and attitudes we choose to ignore. Jesus looks at what life could be if we are willing to face these silent malignancies that hold us back from the abundant life he truly desires us to live.

Jesus also knew wellness was going to cost this man. The invalid would no longer be carried everywhere; no longer have food brought to him. A well man would need to accept responsibility for his life.

Oh, to have eyes that see and ears that hear His offer of healing. I pray we take the first steps to redeem the future . . . acknowledge there may an area of the heart ~ a silent malignancy ~ which needs to be restored. 

Do you want to get well?

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
Matthew 13:16

Monday, November 2, 2009

No November!

For the majority of my career as a teacher ~ 20 of my 25 years, to be exact ~ I spent my days with five and six year olds.   Gotta' love kindergartners and first graders! When the calendar in the classroom changed to November, the following poem was always a part of our fall celebration.  It came to mind today as I noticed the date. 

No green grass
No blue sky
No bare feet
Going by
No birds
No bees
No fall leaves
On bare trees

Although November brings many changes to my heart and the world around me, it is a blessing and comfort to know that the God who created the changes that mark each season, holds me in His everlasting arms.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What Word Are You?

I recently enjoyed a good read sent to me by my son-in-law, Jeff. I really connected with the short article entitled Can You Sum Up Your Life's Message in Just One Word?

The author, Bradley J. Moore, encourages his readers to find a word ~ one word ~ that is an appropriate descriptor of all the time and effort and passion one spends to integrate one’s faith into the day-to-day world. Although written to those in the business world, I believe it is an interesting challenge for anyone of faith to consider. What one word best describes how we live out our faith as teachers, parents, friends, electricians, dentists . . . you fill in the blank?

The article reminds me of a post I noticed recently on Facebook: Let's see how honest FB friends are. . . . Leave a ONE WORD comment that you think describes me. It can only be one word. No more. Then copy and paste this on your wall so that I may leave a word about you.

When I first saw that post on FB, a word did come to mind - RISKY. This innocent appeal could very well serve up a dose of in-your-face reality, quite difficult to swallow.

Seeking to find one word to express the integration of my beliefs into my daily world requires the answering of a few essential questions. Is there true integration of my faith across all areas of my life? Am I living a life of integrity or one filled with duplicity? Does my walk match my talk?

For me to find just one word to describe my life assumes that I live a life of integrity. Integrity is more than simply being someone who speaks the truth, although that is certainly a major element of its meaning. Living a life of integrity means that my life ~ the integration of my faith beliefs and my actions ~ is not divided, conflicting, or contradictory. What I say I believe is confirmed by my actions, aspirations, achievements and acquisitions.

The rub in finding a single descriptor comes when our lives are characterized by duplicity. The ancient Hebrews had an idiom that expresses the notion of living a life of integrity or duplicity. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. In other words, let your inward yes ~ what you believe, be the same as your outward yes ~ how you live out what you believe.

The question in Mr. Moore’s article presupposes a foundation of integrity. One word ~ no contradictions, no opposing life styles, no duplicity.  One word ~  a single descriptor that communicates how we allow what we believe on the inside to influence how we live out our lives on the outside. In essence, it is faith gone public.

What word are you?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Remembering Kade

Remembering Sweet Kade Visser

Born to Jessica and Travis on August 28, 2007
Placed into the arms of His Heavenly Father October 28, 2007

Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
Proverbs 29:11
May we continue to see Your glory
as we await the blessed reunion with our sons

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Changing Lens

The chill of fall is definitely here. I feel it creeping in under the doors and moving through me to envelope my heart once again.

Perhaps it's the seasonal soccer games that cause me to take the first steps along this pathway. As I watch my grandsons at their weekly games, I am instantly there. And I know it is not always a conscious choice I make . . . to go to thoughts of Scott. It is just a natural place to be. So when Jack so proudly defended his goal, when he repeatedly kicked the ball away from the box, it just came out. Go, Scott! On the sidelines of the soccer field my thoughts inexplicably go to how life was, how life could have been . . . and

Perhaps it's in knowing what the chill of fall brings. It is inevitable ~ cooler nights and shortened days will escort in the grip of winter. It is easy for me to find myself emotionally, mentally, and socially preparing to close down for another winter of grief as the shadows of my sorrow stretch long across the landscape of my heart.

The chill outside brings the awareness that my winter of grief will soon be upon me. Just as the cooler days drive me deep into my closet to drag out my sweaters and jeans, so too I begin to consider how to protect my heart from the harsh realities that so readily seem to consume me.

Honestly, it is only by changing the lens through which I look at this season that brings warmth to my grieving heart. The Apostle Paul writes in II Corinthians 5 that this earthly tent of ours ~ the mortal body ~ will one day be torn down. And when that happens, he writes, that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Did you see that? Can you bring the contrast of those words into focus? When this mortal body is no more, we are not swallowed up by death. We are swallowed up by life.

Changing lens does not mean that the brutal force of winter will not be present in my life. The seasons of grief are quite predictable to those who mourn. But this new lens illuminates the fact that the chill of fall and the hard freeze of winter, also brings the hope of life ~ in the warming days of spring ~ and forever in eternity.

(Photo courtesy of my cousin, Bev Henry.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

I recently became a book reviewer for Thomas Nelson Publishing.  From time to time you will find a book review here on my blog.  Here is my first one.

Life will never be the same for the folks who live in one small Gulf Coast town. The transformation of these individuals begins the day Jones arrives. By his own admission, Jones is a noticer - "It is my gift." Jones not only knows everyone’s name – he mysteriously knows everyone’s life story. He knows the events and players many have hidden from view. Although his gift brings new perspective and hope, in the back of everyone’s mind remain many questions: Who is Jones? Where did he come from? When will he show up? How does he know so much about the people he meets?

The beauty of The Noticer is its ability to connect with the life of the reader. The experiences of the people Jones encounters are not unique – most people have events and individuals in their past that play a role – in positive and negative ways.

Although I think the book had a few too many scenarios, I enjoyed the story line and getting to know the characters. Jones brought many new perspectives into focus for me as I carry his thoughts on the purpose for living – “If your purpose has not yet been fulfilled, then the most important part of your life has not yet been lived.” His words on forgiveness, trust and respect resonate well with my soul and my work as a mediator – “Forgiveness is about the past. Trust and respect are about the future.”

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Parting Gifts

Badger's Parting Gifts is one of my favorite books to read to children to help them understand death and loss.  It is a story about the day Badger dies.  His friends from the forest are all so sad.  Then one of them has an idea!  Perhaps if they thought of all the gifts Badger left them, it may help them with their grief.  One by one, the animal friends remembered Badger ~ something he taught them to do or a new way of looking at life.  It is a lovely example of transforming the relationship with those we love who pass away.

Every summer, since the 1996, the year of Scott's passing, in the Redfern backyard, we receive some of Scott's parting gifts.

This story really begins when Scott was seven years old.  He wanted a box turtle and he wanted to name it 'Bubba'.  Scott worked very hard to earn the $40 he needed to buy Bubba.  He built a cool deck with wheels to hold Bubba's glass aquarium.  He kept Bubba in his bedroom at night, and each morning he would roll Bubba out to the sunlight that came in our sliding glass door during the day.

One day we bought a book about box turtles.  Much to our surprise, we discovered that Bubba was not a 'Bubba'Who knew?  This didn't bother Scott.  He simply changed her name to Bubbette!

It was not long before Scott earned more money and decided he would shop for another turtle ~ one he could really name, Bubba.  Scott took care of Bubba and Bubbette.  He built a raised garden in our backyard when he was about thirteen years old.  He loved to add elements to the turtle's habitat - like shelters made out of broken clay pots and strawberry plants to give them shade and eats.  Scott would gather snails from the yard and watch Bubba and Bubbette devour them!

Then in the spring of 1996, just about three months after Scott died, we were weeding the raised bed when we noticed Bubbette digging a deep hole with her back legs.  She was able to dig a hole about six inches deep with her short three inch legs.  And then, as if we were watching a nature show on PBS, she laid five eggs in the hole.  And just like that, she filled in the hole with the pile of dirt she has removed from it.

This ritual has continued each summer since 1996.  In fact, Bubbette sometimes lays up to three batches of eggs.  If we happen to see her laying them, we mark the area with some small stakes.  Then we wait.  It is odd, but Bubbette normally lays the first batch around the end of May, near Memorial Day.  We normally see the first hatchlings sometime around the start of September, near Labor Day.  It is almost like clock-work!

Our turtle book tells us it is hard to raise turtles from eggs.  Most eggs born in captivity do not hatch.  They must have the perfect humidity as well as soft enough soil for the babies to dig out of their earthen womb.  Yet, each summer we have new babies.  That is why I believe the baby turtles to be some of Scott's parting gifts.  He never saw Bubbette lay eggs.  He never held a tiny hatchling ~ some no bigger around than a nickel.  But each year, as September comes, we experience the joy of Scott's parting gifts.

Here are two babies we found this week ~ eight babies in all hatched this summer.  Bubba and Bubbette have outlived Scott.  These babies will outlive me!  Scott's niece and nephews will continue to receive parting gifts each summer and share the memory of Uncle Scott for years to come!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rogue Waves

Tony and I do not watch much TV.  First of all, we only have basic cable - no premium channels, no TIVO, no DVR - so our choices are usually slim.  Secondly, there does not seem to be much on TV these days that encourages us in our daily lives. Lastly, we do not have too many evenings when we are home with absolutely nothing to do. 

Once in a while, as we surf through the channels, we come upon a show called Deadliest Catch ~ about the men and women who make their living fishing the depths of the world's oceans.  It has some amazing footage of these vessels, the crew and what they encounter.  It actually can make one sea-sick just by watching.

The work on these ships is tough, the weather is fierce and the living conditions are cramped.  As if these realities were not enough, there is another threat for those tough enough to hold down this job.  There is the possibility of rogue waves ~ waves that seemingly come out of nowhere and have measured upward to 100 feet tall!

Scientists are still working to understand completely what causes these killer waves to occur.  One theory is that these giant walls of water form when strong winds push against the ocean current, or when swells react to the rise and fall of the seafloor. It may also be that smaller waves converge at the same place and time to combine into a monster wave.  Can you imagine how many little waves it would take to come together to build at just the right time, in the same place, to become a rogue wave?

Whatever the cause, rogue waves are rarely predictable.  They rise up spontaneously, without warning.   Captains and crew members of ships have little warning except the visual image of a wall of water coming toward them.  And by then, it is often too late. 

Although I live with both feet firmly planted on dry land, I often find myself facing killer waves - situations, circumstances, events and at times, personalities - that seem to come out of nowhere, with little to no warning.  And like an oceanic scientist, I find myself trying to figure out what just hit me and why!

Sometimes I find myself in a place where I have allowed too many little things to just build.  Am I the only one who keeps saying 'yes' to things and then finds myself over-committed, way in over my head? (pun intended)  Other times, I may sense life taking me one direction, and I fight against it, like a fierce wind pushing against the ocean's current, only to find the pressure of the current wins in the end.  And I am left treading water rather than swimming with the flow.  It seems I can look back (with 20/20 vision, of course) and see how I could have predicted the wave, planned for the wave, and maybe even avoided the wave.

But there are times in my life when - without any warning - I am hit by a rogue wave . . . a monster, killer wave. It comes out of nowhere.  And I feel like I am drowning.  I'm sure you have been hit by them too.  The phone call that tells of a fatal accident.  The diagnosis that means life will never be the same.  The devastation left by the wildfires.  The layoff.  The foreclosure. 

Life . . . at times, it can feel like a rogue wave ~ sucking us under, towing us into the deep where we can't stand, swallowing us, taking our breath away. 

The day before our home was hit with the massive rogue wave of 1996, my husband, Tony, was teaching an adult group at our local church.  There were no indications that a monster wave was in the making.  No way to know what the next day held for us.  Yet, Tony's text for that morning in early February was a passage in the New Testament about when Jesus' disciples were gripped with fear as their small boat was tossed around by the winds and the waves on the Sea of Galilee. 

To illustrate his point, Tony drew a small boat on the white board.  He added waves crashing over the sides of the boat, and 'stick figures' of disciples yelling out from the boat.  Then he drew a rock, just below the water line, holding the boat steady.  Tony commented, "Even in the midst of the storm, Jesus is our rock, holding us as we ride out the waves."  I think every person in the room that morning will always remember that drawing.

Just 24 hours later, our boat was fighting to stay upright against a killer wave.  We were taking on water fast.  We were drowning in our own tears.  We could hardly breathe.  And yet, we survived the loss of our precious son.

Jesus said to his disciples that day on the stormy sea, "Oh, you of little faith!  Have you not learned anything . . .?"  Jesus had proved His power and strength ~ to keep them, hold them, provide for them ~ and yet, they did not remember His faithfulness in this time of need.

When rogue waves are looming off on the horizon and it is as if a towering wall of water is ready to overtake us, let us call out in our weakness from our small boats to the One who made the seas, who calms the winds, who holds our very lives in His hands in the midst of the storm.  He remains our hope.  Our rock.  Our cleft in the storms of life.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

His Slot is Full

Tucked away in the inside cover of my Daytimer is a short article I clipped from a Compassionate Friends newsletter thirteen years ago. It is ~ I must admit ~ a sorry-looking piece of paper. The edges are crumbled and torn. But the words printed on that small scrap of paper are of great value to me.

It was not long after Scott died that I found the article. It was written by a grieving father who had lost his teenage son. The father was responding to an innocent question often asked of parents after the death of a child. Will you have another child?

Many wrestle to find an answer. As I companion young moms and dads on their grief journey, some share about the confusing emotions tied to that question.

~ Will having another child appear
as if we are replacing our precious child?
~ If we have another child
won't we have new fears of losing another child?
~ What if having another child
causes us to forget the child we lost?

One young mom shared with me the fear that gripped her when she found out she was expecting again after the loss of her baby to SIDS. Babies who die of SIDS leave may unanswered questions for parents. There are few known causes and a multitude of medical conditions that create the possibility for an infant to die of SIDS. And this mom, like many others, expressed honest, heart-wrenching emotion ~ how would she ever experience peace, knowing she could lose this precious one as well?

Some parents ~ their empty arms too much to bear ~ choose to have another child right away. (Let me say, there is no right time to have another child - every one's grief journey is unique.) Yet, the birth of another precious baby will not take away the pain of losing a child. It may provide comfort for those who grieve. It may fill empty days with the joy of new life. But it will not take away the hole left in one's heart by the death of one's child.

And that brings me back to that scrap of paper, the article which so well explains that hole left in one's heart after the death of a child. Yet, it also teaches us about the sacredness of that hole, that slot, as the author calls it.

His Slot is Full

Yesterday, a young teacher, a man who had known
Olin, Kathy and me over the years,
asked if we thought of having additional children,
and if we did, would they fill Olin's slot,
that empty space in our lives.
I answered as best I could -
that those parts of us that love are never empty.
Save but for the space they physically filled,
our children live, both spiritually and in us.
While I live, Olin is as recent as the moment,
alive and laughing, forever seventeen.
There are many slots in our hearts for others,
but his is filled.
What I have and he took,
what he gave and I took
will never be lost.
Love is there
beyond the dust and ashes that awaits us all.
There will always be room for others,
but he has left no slot to fill.
Even amidst the pain and the sorrow,
it was never empty.
(Don Hackett, Hingham, MA)

After thirteen years of traveling my own grief road I can tell you that Scott's slot ~ the hole left in my heart by his sudden death at a young age ~ is still there, but IT.IS.FILLED! Filled with memories that feed my heart and soul on days when his absence still envelopes me.

These precious memories fill Scott's place in my heart and allow me to maintain a relationship of memory with my dear son. Friends who are close continue to make deposits into his slot as they retell stories and let me know they have not forgotten.

It is all part of living with grief.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Made In HIS Image

Kimberly Claire, a former neighbor and childhood friend of our daughter Amy, is on staff at Scum of the Earth Church in Denver, Colorado. Interesting name for a church, don’t you think? The name comes from the passage in 1 Corinthians 4:12-14 (ESV) that reads . . .

. . . and we labor, working with our own hands.
When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;
When slandered, we entreat.
We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world,
The refuse of all things.
I do not write these things to make you ashamed,
But to admonish you as my beloved children.

Mike Sares is the pastor of Scum. Recently he offered this post in their church newsletter, Rubbish (nice touch in keeping with the theme). Mike wrote:

It has been said that ever since God created us in His own image, we have more than reciprocated. It would be sad if it weren’t so humorous. We are ever prone to make God look, act and feel like a human, In the old movie, The Ten Commandments, they used Charlton Heston’s voice for the voice of God talking to Moses (played by Charlton as well). Perhaps they did that because that is how God sounds to people – just like themselves! Greek and Norse mythologies are about gods behaving like men and women complete with our own petty jealousies, capriciousness, and immorality. To this day, we all project our inconsistencies upon God; God likes the people we like, puts up with the ones we put up with, ridicules the ones we ridicule, and way too often tells us exactly what we want to hear, I am afraid! (The song by Mark Heard, Everybody Loves a Holy War, is all about this as well.)

The God of the Bible exhibits amazing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control toward a human race that not only distorts His image, but treats people in ways He would never intend. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, God intends to form that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in us through His Spirit (see Galatians 5:22). Be on the lookout for the times when this “re-creation” is happening. Allow God to make you into His image, not visa-versa.

I don’t know if those words speak to you, but Pastor Sares’ words shout to me. I think my own responses ~ in times of stress, disappointment or working with difficult people ~ make the image of God I display for all to see look more like an image from those House of Mirrors, where the reflections are bent and distorted. Oh, that I would reflect His true image laid out in Galatians to a world that needs redeeming.

I am reminded of the many passages where we are told ~ not suggested ~ but commanded to image God’s character. You have probably read the pattern of words in verses like . . .

Just as I am ____ (fill in one of God’s character qualities),
So be ____ (the same character quality).

We are told in 1 Peter 1:14-16 . . .

As obedient children, do not conform
To the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do
For it is written:
“Be holy, because I am holy.”

This passage, and the many others like it, do not offer some magical formula to reflect His character, His image. No hoops to jump through; no level of greatness to achieve. These passages simply say ~ just be like Him. The only requirement is a willingness to allow His spirit to transform us to reflect His image for the world to see.

I pray that I will begin to consider my attitudes, affections and aspirations. I pray that God will not sound like me and that I will hear His voice and reflect His image to those around me. I can think of no better way to Redeem the Future than to reflect the image of God who offers comfort, hope and a future to all who follow Him.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mixed Emotions

We spent a fun filled week at Hume Lake this summer. Amy and Jeff, along with Kaitlyn, Kyle and Jack,shared the week with us.

Tony and I have spent at least one week each summer at Hume Lake for most of our 35 years of marriage. My family vacationed there in the 50's when I was a little girl, and I went to high school summer camp there in the 60's. Hume Lake is full of memories and brings many emotions to mind.

Amid all the fun of making new memories with my grandchildren, there are many linking objects - a normal part of one's grief journey. There are so many things and places that remind me of the 16 years we had with Scott. Tony went to Father-Son and Father-Daughter Retreats many times with the kids as they were growing up. Scott made the decision to make Christ the Lord of his life at Hume during one of those times with Tony. He made a commitment to be a tool for Christ his last summer at Hume.

We are grateful for friends who allow us to stay in their cabin each year. It too is filled with memories - as we summered and wintered there with family and friends. Tucking Kyle and Jack into bed upstairs one night, I told them, "You know, Uncle Scott slept right here in these beds when he was your age!" Their big eyes and wide grins were precious. How I wish Scott was here to meet his nephews and niece.

We took Kaitlyn, Kyle and Jack fishing one morning. Even the lake weed they reeled in linked me to Scott. He and his buddies were given "lake weed duty" by Dayn (camp dean and future youth pastor to Scott and Amy). Scott spent his free time one afternoon pulling lake weeds from the boat channel as a consequence for some of his ingenious pranks.

One morning we drove up to Buck Rock. We climbed the 172 wooden stairs that cling to that huge rock that stands at 8,500 feet. It was Kaitlyn and Kyle's first trip to the top to the fire lookout station. Scott's ashes went off the landing at Buck Rock.

The pile of rocks, placed there 13 years ago as an Ebenezer, are still there - a testament that we do not grieve alone. It was precious as Kaitlyn and Kyle helped me pick wild flowers to place on the pile of stones that are a memorial to Scott and represent the emotions of so many friends and family.

Kaitlyn's eyes filled with tears as she laid more flowers on the stones. She has such a tender heart. I remember when she was about five years old and we met with friends at this Ebenezer to begin the memorial bike ride. I was holding Kaitlyn's hand as we walked to this pile of stones to remember Scott before the ride. As the riders took off, Kaitlyn turned to me and said, "But where is he?" "Who?" I asked. She replied, "Uncle Scott - I thought he was going to be here today." That was the day she began to understand how we often groan in these earthly vessels to be reunited with our loved ones for all of eternity.

And quite honestly, groan is a good descriptor. I always enjoy my week at Hume, don't get me wrong. I love making new memories, and savor the old ones. But several times during our week at Hume, I found myself fighting back many emotions - sorrow in Scott's absence, thankfulness for the years we had him, and at times - protest, that Scott should be here to enjoy this with us, to be present with his niece and nephews, to ride the Buck Rock ride with Tony one.more.time.