Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why

Today I will attend the funeral of a classmate. One gone too young finally free of the suffering a hard fought battle with cancer brings. We will celebrate the gift of her life & be happy for her. We will also mourn deeply the loss her children, husband, parents, siblings, family & friends will now carry.

I didn't expect when I began the year blogging about Kathy, that Amy would be home in heaven with her this soon. Nor was I prepared for the layer of grief that would surface hearing the news of her passing. Even with terminal illness, we are never ready. The priceless gift of life is cannot be not fully appreciated. When our numbered days here are over the wish for one more weighs heavily.

Amy had a loving, sweet spirit and was beautiful inside and out. Her laughter was contagious and echoed joy. She was a devoted mother. Today stories will be shared that can be treasured forever. The blessing of her life will shine brightly and in doing so bring comfort to those who know her. In reflecting on the legacy she leaves I was reminded of these words:

"I have not seen so likely an ambassador of love." Shakespeare

Isn't that our goal? To reflect in whatever measure we can God's love. That is the greatest blessing of a life lived in faith. How rich we are to have that luxury. I did not fully appreciate that when Kathy died. I did have a glimpse of it. I recall very clearly the day I learned Kathy was coming home to die. I wandered my way through the day and it was words I found that comforted me; “Love is the reason why we’re here.” I think I'll find that poster and hang it back up.

Death teaches us about life in a way nothing else can. Today I am thankful for the lessons learned in grief.
C.S. Lewis said "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." I can see and hear more clearly today because pain has taught me to appreciate more fully the gift of each day, loved ones and most of all, God who will wipe every tear from our eyes when he welcomes us home.





Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Glue & Other Ties that Bind

Blogging grew out of a compulsion I've had to write and share the amazing things God has done for us. I am convinced the power of prayer is what has bridged the gap for us. The comfort and strength we have found did not come from within. God is so faithful! He has taken care of the big things and little details every day since my husband Paul died very unexpectedly.

We have been overwhelmed by the love and support that has been poured over us. The women of our church were having a retreat when Paul died and they prayed as a group for us. Meals came from the church and the school. The porch was filled with groceries from a still unknown giver. The cards and personal notes we received are like hugs from God himself.

My husband traveled with 'Up with People' years ago and shared an incredible bond with his cast mates. Their support from around the world has been a huge encouragement. One of them happened to be in Israel the week he died and prayed for us at the wailing wall. This was especially significant to me because one of Paul's most recent favorite books had been 'Christianity is Jewish.'

Getting connected through serving and study with groups at church has been a critical part of our spiritual growth. We've been very lucky that the small groups we've been in are places where it's safe to share your struggles & find encouragement not condemnation. If you don't yet have friends to 'pray you through' life's storms, find some ASAP!

This email is the first thing I wrote after Paul died. It was sent to the families of the praise team my daughter's are in at church:

I wanted to thank you all for your prayers. We are truly blessed to be part of such a loving church family. I am certain that the strength we have found these past two days is due to the power of prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I thought I would share some information with you. Paul died very peacefully. He apparently had cardiovascular disease. His arteries were so clogged that his heart and lungs were not getting enough oxygen. He died in the middle of the night and we found him in the morning. The coroner said that even if we had heard him fall and called 911 at the time of death due to the issue they probably would not have been able to do anything. The fact that he went quickly is a blessing.

The praise team has been key in building the faith of both the girls. My favorite verse about worship is "The Lord inhabits the praise of His people." ( this is my paraphrase, I believe it is in Psalms ) The faith our kids have at 7, 12 and 14 is stronger than what I had as a young adult. I believe with all my heart that the time in praise team has drawn them closer to the Lord than they could otherwise be. I wanted to share something Rachel said with you that has been a deep comfort to me. As we were all standing holding each other waiting for the coroner I shared the verse from first Colossians with the kids that in hard times I know Jesus has held me together. 'He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.' Rachel had an awesome paraphrase of it, 'Jesus is the
glue.' We've repeated it several times to each other over the last several days. We have saying that sits on our microwave ' We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.' As much as our loss the heaviest burden we've faced, we know God is there to take it and help us. I am so grateful that the kids truly get that Paul is with our heavenly Father through the gift of our Savior and in Jesus' own words, everything is complete.


We were not meant to do life alone. Unfortunately in our modern world, loneliness seems to be more prevalent than ever. It is ironic that God has used the loneliest time of my life to show me every single day I am not alone. Much of His loving care has been expressed through others. When we don't let other people in, we limit God's ability to work through them and in us.


Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12



Sunday, January 3, 2010

True Love

I was born with the incredible blessing of being in a loving Christian family. Our faith was central to our lives. My mom is a great cook & she enjoyed having our clergy for dinner. That personal contact added a lot to my growing faith. I really didn't know much about other denominations except that they had a lot of misconceptions about Catholics. We all fear the unknown and to me the vast array of protestant churches was perplexing. A church from my hometown was exposed for all sorts of false teaching and worse on Donahue so I was very content to stick with what I knew. That changed however when I met my future husband & visited his Lutheran church. There I got a glimpse of how big the body of Christ is. I became thirsty to learn more about the bible through personal study. Hearing their confirmation youth speak about their faith challenged me to dig deeper.

God has a way of opening doors and leading us to the resources we need. He gave me a huge surprise at a local retreat when one of my favorite author's, Cynthia Heald spoke. I will never forget her sharing that God is only author who shows up every time you read his book. That statement could be the basis of a lifetime of blogs. It may have you thinking I'm nutty to believe that I can personally hear from God when I read the bible. My hope is that you are curious enough to pray & invite God to open your eyes & ears so you experience yourself it's one of 'those things' that is crazy enough to be true! I had personal experience with learning more from hearing different teaching about the same scripture but I didn't know that I could read the same passage and learn something new each time I picked it up.

Cynthia also challenged us to make a habit of reading through the entire bible regularly saying, 'I don't want to meet Obadiah in heaven and not have anything to say when he asks, what did you think of my book?' I've really struggled with reading my bible cover to cover, especially with parts of the Old Testament. I am up late writing because I am excited to share with you an opportunity to see how amazing bible study can be. I'm determined to meet my goal to read the whole bible this year & found a blog/study group that is doing just that. It's interactive & I was just blown away by reading posts of everyone sharing what they learned. Please consider checking it out: http://wendypope.blogspot.com/2008/11/wordly-wise.html

Another resource that radically expanded my understanding of scripture is the book 'Door Posts'. Timothy Botts is a calligrapher and his art makes the word come alive. In his work he shares about the creative process and it helped me learn to think differently about the words & their meaning.
The beauty of God's word is without end. I encourage you to see it for yourself here: http://www.timbotts.com/
http://www.inkwellgreetings.com/store.php/bworcester/pg4339/framed_prints

I’ve found the truth in God's word to be the most powerful healing, strength and hope. If you do not make study of this magnificent text part of your regular reading, I beg you to pick it up again. God’s word has inspired more writing than any other. If we skip over this guide He left us, we cannot truly know Him . Don't cheat yourself by dismissing a letter of love from the one who knit us himself, created the air we breathe and set the stars above us in their place.

One of the things I'm most grateful for on my spiritual journey is meeting my husband . We chose this verse for a reading at our wedding. It's been a prayer and blessing ever since that day. It is also my license plate EPH CH3


... Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

It just doesn't get any better than that dear friends.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Friendship & Daisies

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. ~Albert Schweitzer


Friendship has been key to my journey finding God and learning to see the world in a positive light. Kathy's dad says we were soul sisters, from the very beginning something just clicked. My dearest friends are the ones who can provide a listening ear and allow me to vent. They also intuitively know when I need truth more than empathy. Equally important, they help restore my sense of humor when I'm not yet ready to laugh at some of the crazy predicaments I find myself in. Kathy & I read each other well and switched gears easily in our friendship providing a dependable shelter of encouragement.

After her initial diagnosis but before we knew her cancer would be terminal, Kathy gave me a card with this quote:

“If you have one true friend you have more than your share.” Thomas Fuller

I began collecting quotes when I was in high school and filled journal books with them. I draw great comfort and strength from the wisdom in them. It was Kathy who found the quote below about daisies while she was in the midst of what became a battle for her life. To this day, daisies are my favorite flower. We both tended to take life too seriously & this was a perfect reminder to lighten up.


"If I had my life to live over, I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax; I’d limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I’m one of those people who lived sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after the other, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute. If I had it to do over again, I would travel lighter than I have. If I had my life to live over again, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dance; I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies." Nadine Stair


Cancer redefined for both of us what a 'real problem' is. It also helped us to develop a deep appreciation for the simple joys of life. The storms of my life have made me stronger. When things are at their worst, people and God are at their best. 911 gave us a worldwide example of this truth. Today when circumstances turn dark, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that on the other side of the storm I am weathering there will be a new joy.


Sorrow with his pick, mines the heart,
but he is a cunning workman.
He deepens channels whereby happiness may enter,
and hollows out new chambers for joy to abide when he is gone.
- Unknown

Not everyone has the luxury of a true friend when storms threaten and discourage us. Are you in need a of a best friend? Be warned that friendship requires an investment of time and trust. God can be trusted to use whatever problem you are facing for good. When my best friend moved on, it took me awhile to let someone else in. My prayer for you today is that you get to know the best friend of all, Jesus. 'Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. ' John 15:13

If you don't know him, the link below will provide an introduction:
http://www.proverbs31.org/doyouknowJesus/doYouKnowJesus.php


Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value;

rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. ~C.S. Lewis


copyright Skyblue Creations 2009