What to Say when Someone Dies…..

This week, very dear friends said good-bye to their teenage daughter here on earth. She may be gone from their presence but they have the calm reassurance that she is fully alive and healed in the presence of Jesus.  Knowing this brings peace and comfort but not having their daughter to hold and see and touch and feel is a devastating loss.  Death is a tricky path to journey. On one hand, relief at your loved one no longer being in pain and yet, so much pain at losing someone you cherish.

Emma~a photo taken in hospital by her mom, Michelle. (borrowed from Instagram)

Emma~a photo taken in hospital by her mom, Michelle. (borrowed from Instagram)

Last fall I read a book by Lisa Elliott. I recommended it then and I cannot recommend it highly enough now. She is very open about her journey through grief as her son fought cancer for a year and ultimately received his healing in the presence of God too. Lisa shares so many practical tips in her book and I thought this was a great time to post some of them. I know people fighting cancer. I know friends who are dealing with palliative care, friends who have just passed away recently, friends and family continuing to grieve months and even years after the deaths of loved ones.

All of us are well-meaning but sometimes we need someone to tell us what to say, what NOT to say and what we can do.  Listen to these words…..really listen. I have been guilty of saying and doing the wrong thing at the wrong time and this is so helpful.

 

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Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback church in California , posted this just this week after continuing to grieve over a month after the death of his son:  

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Another post from Rick Warren:

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The above page is critical…..”LISTEN” . Sometimes that’s all we should be doing.

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I can’t really add anything other than to simplify it and say: Listen. Don’t minimize someone’s loss by sharing your own story of so-and-so who died from the same thing.  Be available but don’t hover. And for goodness’ sake, a family can only handle so much lasagna.  Get creative with meals(gift cards are great).

And lastly, after all the friends go home and the loved one is laid to rest….there is still a hole that remains.  A card a month , 6 months or a year later means a lot. Don’t forget to call and pray.  Grief has no time limits. Just because you go back to your routine doesn’t mean the grieving family does. They now have to find a new routine without their precious daughter, sister, mom, dad, brother, grandpa. Be patient and be there.

Planting Flowers and the Rhythm of Grief

575640_10152843706565531_1400055617_nOn September 20,2012 I posted this about our dear friends in Ontario who were facing the diagnosis of leukemia for their precious Emma Grace.

Yesterday, May 20,2013, Emma received complete and total healing as she flew straight into the arms of Jesus.

My earthly, motherly heart cannot comprehend the depths of despair that her mom is feeling.

My soul bursts with grief and mourning for this family.

In my present condition~human,fleshly, selfish and needy~all that I know is I have all 4 of my children here with me but my friend is feeling the ache of empty arms for not one, but now two precious daughters.  I weep.

It was 16 years ago that we first found out that Michelle was carrying another precious bundle after only a few months earlier experiencing the devastating premature delivery of Claire. I sat in that mournful sanctuary on that day in October 1996 and saw that tiny casket and wondered how God could possibly redeem this.  And yet, He did. Were it not for that horrible loss, Emma would not have been conceived under impossible circumstances.

I visited Michelle in hospital that summer. Bed rest for months while summer heat and life continued outside those walls. We laughed as she shifted in her bed, unable to get up at all for fear of losing this precious life. There were a few times when it seemed like maybe the odds were stacked against her. We prayed. We hoped. We rallied around this young family. And when the first anniversary passed of baby Claire’s passing and the due date drew near, there was that tension of grief and anticipation. How does a mother both mourn the loss of one baby and rejoice at the life within her? A sacrifice of one for another? I was a young mother too and I always marveled at her ability to remain steadfast in grace and hope and the victory of each day. Perhaps that is why, on October 17, 1997 when that baby screamed out her first cries it was the only word that seemed remotely appropriate: Grace.  And so they named her….Emma Grace.

Borrowed from Heaven. Not fair. Not fair at all. Rage and grief. Anger and suffering. Pain and weeping. Why does God only give us a taste and not the whole meal? Why?

Questions.

So few answers.

Thankful for this family to have had 15 and a half years of Grace. But so sad that there aren’t 15 more yet to come.

Today I’m planting flowers. It’s time. It’s warm and I have these empty beds that need to be filled.

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And in 3 months all we will have will be the leftovers of what was. We plant knowing that death will come. We make beauty in the moment knowing that it is temporary. It is this temporary season that brings us eternal joy. We give colour and life and beauty to THIS day knowing that hail, storms, pests, drought could wipe it all out in the blink of an eye. We plant in hope. We plant for  a season. We know that winter will come again and steal it all away.

And yet, I love to feel the earth and let God use me to bring a little beauty to my neighbourhood for such a short time.

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That is what the Stewarts have done. They have allowed God to use them to show us some beauty for a little while. They partnered with the Heavenly Gardner to sow a seed that became a flower that grew and then wilted and fell back into the earth.

We grieve. We mourn. We plant. We water. We cry. We pray. We hope. We live. We wilt and then we die. And so for today…let us live and be beautiful wherever we are planted.

This is the rhythm of sowing and reaping. This is the song of grief and mourning.

Zach died yesterday too. He is teaching a lot of people about living in this moment.

Follow up post: What to Say when Someone Dies…

The Mess of Miracles {And a little Avengers}

Have you ever waited for a miracle? I mean a real, God-supplied, supernatural, no-other-way kind of miracle?  I feel like my life is a series of miracles. All of them waited for, prayed for, hoped for, dreamed about, begged-G0d-for…I have seen many.

The Bible is full of miracles. But if you look closely at every miracle within the pages of God’s Word you will find that miracles rarely come packaged neat and tidy or without side-effects.  In fact, most of the Bible’s miracles have a story before and after that often get missed in the hype.

Take, for example, Eve.  All of the creation story is one miracle after another. God took nothingness and make birds and  fish, flowers and rain, gardens and rivers.  He made stars and light and darkness and lightning.  He created weather and oceans, horses and dragonflies.   I mean, it’s mind-numbing.  The creation story is millions of miracles multiplied.  It’s staggering.

And then there was Adam.  God created a likeness of Himself. A companion.  A caretaker of creation. The highest form of created beings. A communicator.  A lover. A soul-carrying tangible , immortal being.  Amazing. But then…Eve.  Miracle upon miracle to get to a woman.  ( there ought to be some sort of pause here taken for the sheer humor of it all~ even in the Beginning, woman has made an entrance).

So Eve, a miracle.  A created being. Helpmeet for man.  A lover, soul-mate, complimentarian to the only dude. Oh God…what were you thinking?? Just kidding. It’s miraculous. She was created with a uterus and therefore, obviously she was designed to bare children. But his miracle was not finite or simple. And ultimately, Eve succumbed to selfishness, fell out of favour with her Creator, was banished from the Garden , bore children, one of whom would kill the other…..oh dear. Eve.  A miracle….and a mess.

And then there’s Isaac.  One of my favorite all-time miracles.  Abraham and Sarah who waited till their 90s to see the fulfillment of God’s promise to them; a son.  They got impatient along the way. Sarah set up the maid, Hagar , with Abraham and thereby Ishmael was born.  Anyone read anything about the Middle East lately? The descendants of Isaac and the descendants of Ishmael have been duking it out for thousands of years.  But Isaac.  A miracle. How else do you explain a woman in her 90s who had never been pregnant before, giving birth? There is no explanation but God. But Isaac,  Jacob, Joshua….the descendants of Abraham struggled. They struggled to claim their land. The Promised Land. The Holy Land. God set it aside for them. He could have wiped everyone else off the planet and handed it to them. But instead. They wandered the desert for 40 years trying to make a trip that should have taken 2 weeks.  You gotta feel bad for them. I mean, how could they have been SO LOST??

David, a shepherd boy, killed Goliath with a rock.  A giant that an entire army could not defeat.  How?  A miracle. And David spent much of the rest of his life running, hiding, killing, committing adultery, sulking, floundering, and yet still finding favour with the Most High God.  A miracle.  But a mess.

The widowed woman who helped to feed Elijah. She had nothing. There was drought. No rain. No food. No hope.  And God, replenished her tiny bit of oil and tiny bit of flour each day. Just enough to feed her, her son and Elijah. For weeks. God could have provided chicken, cattle, a spring, gold coins.  He can do stuff like that. But He provided….enough. Just enough. And she never got rich.  She probably worried. She likely died poor and maybe even alone. A miracle. But a mess.

Why when we talk about miracles do we act like they’re going to come in like the Avengers, clean up the town and save the day?

Why do we assume that if God provides OUR miracle we’re going to be good to go, happy and carefree for the rest of our days?  Where do we get this from? It’s certainly not Biblical. It seems to me , that God, more often than not, provides JUST what is needed for the moment.  With not much fanfare or bonus material.  Our reliance on Him is key. And if we don’t need faith because we have all we *need*, or maybe if we’re just too greedy , or irresponsible….well, God knows.  And He provides healing, provision, shelter, children, companionship, friendship when He sees fit. In His way. In His timing. And maybe never. And that is the mess we must accept.

For a year, we have been trying to sell our house. I will not go into the boring details of what led us to be in this position. But suffice it to say , we’re WAY PAST needing a miracle.  I just want to move forward. A miracle a year ago would have looked like having a bidding war and getting more than we were asking.  6 months ago, a miracle would have been getting $30,000 less than asking.   A miracle 3 months ago looked like being moved before my son’s grad so that we could celebrate together, under one roof, without the stress of the unknown.  A miracle 6 weeks ago looked like being able to afford a house in Regina at all.  Well, none of those happened.

In fact, we came to a point of letting go of any and all expectations.  And maybe, that was the miracle that we needed all along. You see, we’re consumers. We’re spoiled.  We’re Westerners. We have come to see life through the lens of owning a house, living on a nice street, having nice things, going on vacations, wearing nice clothes and going to a nice church.  We’re nice people and how we look is more important than who we are or WHOSE we are.  And we have lost it all.  In the course of this year, we have lost the ability to have and control where we live. Painful. Sad. Lonely. Horrible, really.

So what does a miracle look like then?  A miracle is something that could not, would not , happen without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, God and Jesus intervening on our behalf. A miracle 6 months ago of our house selling and finding a new one wouldn’t be a miracle at all. It would be the market, doing what it does. It would be us pricing our house to sell and someone coming along and buying. Our miracle now, in financial ruin, in a dried up market, with no buyers and no ability to qualify for a new mortgage….well, the only miracle is the impossible.  And that’s exactly what we got.  There is no other way to describe it or explain it.  We have a house. We are moving at the beginning of August and it is completely surreal because of the fact that it shouldn’t be happening at all. If I told you that we did not rob a bank and we did not sell a child, would you believe me? It’s true. And there is no rhyme or reason for it. Except God.

But that’s not the whole story.  You see, selling our house did not factor into the buying of  a new house. But selling is still necessary. And that’s the messy part.  Getting under one roof and not having an extra mortgage payment is HUGE, but we still have bills to pay.  And we still have the weighty burdens of caring for one house while we’re far from the other. There will be costs. There are stresses and worries that sometimes cloud the fact that we got a miracle!

I wonder if the widow, or David, or Abraham , or Eve ever thought about the miracle behind them and the mess before them?  As wonderful as the miracles are, there’s more to the story. It doesn’t make me not want the miracles. But it makes me rely that much more on the Miracle Giver. If I didn’t have Jesus, it wouldn’t matter.  We said from the beginning, whatever happened we only wanted God to get the Glory. I can’t explain to you why we are getting a house that is half a block from our kids’ school, that is owned by a Christian couple, that has all the rooms we need  and no repairs needed.  I can’t tell you how we qualified, except that God is the GREAT Qualifier of all things good. He sees, He hears, He knows, He responds.  Sure, I’d love a clean slate, no outstanding debts, no bills to pay, no creditors on my tail. Sure, it would be nice if this would have happened a long, LONG time ago.  Yes, I’m sad at what we’ve missed this year as a family. NO, I wouldn’t recommend this kind of separation to any married couple. But you know what?  The miracle AND the mess that come with it are God’s way of teaching us reliance on Him.  And regardless of what miracles we get, don’t get, wish for, never see….HE WILL AVENGE OUR TROUBLE.  (it just might not be the way we think)  After all…the Avengers have been known to make a mess. ;)

John 16:33  (Jesus said,) In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

In Defense of Whitney{Because We All Fall Sometimes}

Whitney Houston was probably the first and likely the only pop star in the 80′s whom I listened to faithfully, knew the words to every song and loved like a sister. She was fresh, full of life, so amazingly talented and she was a Christian.  I found her to be absolutely inspirational.  

Hearing about her death last week was hard. I immediately thought of her mom and her daughter, as so many around the world did.  But I never once doubted where she was. We may be humans here on earth but only because we are bound by our earthly bodies. The minute her heart stopped beating, her spirit was in the presence of Jesus. Of that I am sure.  And I’ll tell you why.   Whitney was a woman of faith, thrust into the spotlight, the limelight and the furious and fast paced world of fame and high expectations.  Look back on any and all interviews that she has done over the past 30 years and you will see a recurring theme: grace and faith.  No matter how high the highs were or how low the lows had taken her, she clung to her faith in God, her assurance of His will in her life and the knowledge of His redeeming love in spite of all of her mistakes and failures.  Many before her and many after her have turned their backs on their church-based roots but Whitney never did. Even up until her last recorded “public show”(which was never intended to be a performance), she claimed the love of Jesus. Who does that? Someone who KNOWS in her heart and her spirit that her only solid foundation is in the loving arms of her Saviour, that’s who.

In the days since her passing, there has been a LOT of media coverage. Over-saturated coverage as is typical for a big-name star.  The networks and news rags are all after one thing: ratings. Because well, ratings equals money.  And this is a heartless, cruel business that is all about money.  Whitney was a casualty of the greed of the business. She is not and was not the cause of it, nor is her death and the reasons behind her death her fault. However, that is how she is currently being portrayed: a drug addicted, spoiled starlit who brought this all on herself.  I am asking you to look at it a different way.  What if Whitney was your sister, your friend, your daughter?? What if you knew her better than anyone else?  I’m going to make some assumptions here. And I hope that you will bear with me.  I don’t claim to be a doctor, a music mogul or a lawyer.  I haven’t sat down with Whitney or her family and I never will.  I’m asking for you to lend me your thoughts and your common sense ponderings.

Whitney was a real person.  A real young girl, who grew up in a singing family and had raw, natural talent.  A talent so unique and special that she couldn’t keep it hidden.  She sang in church and she used her gifts to praise the Lord. In her own words she knew that when she closed her eyes and sang , the Spirit of the Lord came into that church and people were affected. She only ever thought of being a back-up singer.  But of course, she was far too big and talented for that. And so, a record producer heard her, fell in love , got dollar signs in his eyes and signed her.  Her mom warned her about the business but she said, no one can prepare you for how hard it is. Maybe if she would have been a solo contemporary Christian artist it may have been a bit different, but not necessarily.  That fact is, she was signed and signing as a performer is like signing your life away.  You don’t own yourself anymore; the record company does.  You don’t make decisions like “I’m taking this week off” or “I want to sleep in today”.  No, artists have been sued for doing that.  You are owned and you are enslaved to your label and your producer.  I don’t think most of us can truly comprehend the magnitude of that sort of life change on a young 21 year old girl.  The pressure must be overwhelming.

Suddenly, Whitney was forced into a life of concerts, bookings, publicity tours, studio work, vocal lessons and travel.  Did she get to sleep in her own bed for more than a night or two those first few years?  The pressure to perform at 100% all the time, every time must have caught up eventually.  It does with most artists.  And soon, doctors are called in to help with anxiety, fatigue, jet-lag, vocal strain.  Medications are prescribed to sleep, to be alert, to feel energized…and money? Well, it’s flowing and there’s a pill for everything.  It’s innocent at first.  Like taking a Tylenol for a back ache.  I will tell you this as someone who has suffered with chronic pain: one Tylenol here and there doesn’t cut it after a while.  Soon you need more and more frequently too.  You can see where this will lead.  Soon, there needs to be more drugs, harder drugs, more prescriptions and the pressure only continues.  Movies, media and the spotlight never fades.

I will stop there with the assumptions.  I don’t know. You don’t know.  But I can guess and I’ve seen and heard it all before.  Unfortunately, even stars get the blues but for some reason they are held to such a high standard that they are not allowed to fail or to slip.  And one bad photo?? It’s on the front page of every magazine with presumptuous headlines assuming the worst.  I wonder what the headline might say on one of my “bad”days?  I’ve gone to the grocery store looking like the hag from Hell on more than one occasion. I can only imagine what someone might assume from me.  And they’d be wrong .

So, here we are, the night before her funeral.  I love funerals. I really do.  They calm all the stormy waters of looking perfect, feeling great and being pulled together.  Emotions are raw and REAL.  And that is what we all need now: a good dose of reality.  We may never know what happened in that hotel room last Saturday.  It doesn’t matter.  A woman, a mother , a daughter went Home to be with Jesus.  God knows the days of our lives; He has them numbered.  He knows the choices we make , good and bad.  He is fully aware that we are fallen and incapable of perfection but He’s okay with that because He died so that we wouldn’t have to.  There is not one person in this world who can claim that they have it all together.  There are millions of people who take antibiotics that weren’t prescribed for them, too many pain killers , drink too much and don’t eat right.  The exception for us is that  we don’t have cameras following us when we do slip and fall.

It is sad to me that so many people have taken to social media and TV saying that she failed. So many words like drug-addict, junkie and loser.  It’s hurtful , you know? It really is.  Because she represents what could be any one of us.  And she didn’t fall flat on her face. She always got up.  And she ALWAYS looked UP.  She was honest about how hard she had worked to conquer the demons within her and she was honest about how easy it was to fail and fall into those bad habits again.  But she  finished every interview with a smile and a look towards Heaven.  She knew her hope was in the Lord.  And that is her legacy.  For as much as we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, He is strongest in our weaknesses and that is what I see when I look at videos of Whitney Houston.  God Bless her daughter and her family as they mourn.  May they know and feel the resurrecting power of Jesus in these days and weeks ahead and may they be filled with peace knowing that their beloved Nippy is with her Saviour and Lord.

“Guide me thou O Great Jehovah, feed me till I want no more.”‘

And one of my favourites….I look to You:

A Response to Laptop-Shooting-Angry-Dad {Grace}

As of this morning a YouTube video posted last week has now over 25million views. You may have seen it~or if you haven’t, you might want to check it out.

 

I watched this on Tuesday after seeing many friends and family post it to Facebook.  Many of the comments indicated to me that this might be something that would make me laugh, be excited about or want to do a bunch of cyber-highfives to.

Clearly, I’ve never hidden my expectation that my kids are respectful people who do their fair share of work and responsibilities and so I went into the watching of this video probably a bit on the side of the dad before ever having watched it.

I have to say, it was hard for me to get through it all.  I did not feel excited, happy or gleefully ”on side with Daddy’”.  Rather, I felt sick, sad and hurt for him and his daughter.   I cringed as I got through the entire 8 minute rant.  Don’t get me wrong; I totally understand where he’s coming from.  In fact, I’ve been exactly where he is.  Exactly.  I have 4 kids, 2 of whom are now over 16 and we have walked through these waters of disrespect, whining and complaining about duties, FB inappropriateness and public humiliation.  I have 2 more kids coming up in these ranks soon and I have learned something: your kids are fragile.

In fact, their fragility escalates during the formative teen years.  Some kids are more resilient and take their hormone changes in stride but others fight it and struggle for years with boundaries, emotions and feelings of being taken for granted.  I get this teenage daughter.  I feel for her. I’ve been there~both on the receiving end as a parent and on the end of the teen.  She is hurting and she is offended.  Maybe she didn’t handle it well.  How many teen girls do?  Maybe she could have taken a better approach in talking to her parents about her stresses(or perceived stresses) and any unfairness that she feels is being directed her way.  But hear me on this: Teenagers today are not us.  They have not grown up in the world that we grew up in and they have an exponential amount of social pressure that we never had.

Facebook, as much as I love it, is a toxic world for teenage girls.  There is a certain amount of anonymity on there which leads a lot of people to feel they can spout off at any time without fear of repercussion.  Unfortunately for young girls, there are a lot of repercussions, not the least of which is realizing that your hormonal rant given in the heat of the moment will haunt you for the rest of your life because you lacked the self control to wait for a clearer head and more guarded tone with your parents.

Let me just say this to all the parents out there who have not ever had to deal with a child that has acted out in this way or to the parents whose kids are still young and think it will ” never” happen on your watch:  Put yourself in her shoes.  No, I didn’t say pretend this happened in 1985 with YOUR parents, in YOUR house and the way YOU were raised…put YOURSELF in HER shoes.  Pretend you are her, right now with YOU as her parent and her current life as your own.  With her friends, her school, her workload and her consequences.  How would you feel if your dad went on YouTube, smoking his cigarette, full of swagger and attitude(I actually kind of felt like he was nervous and pretty upset too), reading what YOU thought was private and for your friends only.  How would you feel knowing your dad had been on your Facebook account reading everything you had in your inbox?   And now, consider how you would feel, going to school the next day, facing all of your friends, your peers, the kids who already hate you, condescending teachers and unsympathetic family.  Can you imagine?  I cannot fathom the depths of despair this young girl must be in.  And please don’t confuse my sympathy for her with what she wrote.  But seriously, this dad has damaged an already fragile relationship with his daughter.  He is possibly going to regret this more in the future than she will regret ever ranting in the first place.

Dads, Moms,  show your kids the grace that you would expect to be shown.  Yes, you need to discipline, ground and take away privileges.  Yes, there are consequences for what our kids do on FB and in public.  But they are kids and they have their whole lives ahead of them.  We have already established our reputations; our shoulders are broader and we tend to bounce back fairly quickly from embarrassing situations.  A 15 year old girl could be damaged and scarred for life over a “lesson” her dad thought he was teaching her.

I am praying for this family.  I am praying for reconciliation, redemption and grace.  I am not laughing or high-fiving.  I am sad.  And it makes me more upset with all of the people who think this is worthy of praise for this dad. 25million and growing.  It’s no wonder our kids feel alienated, unloved and screwed over.

  • And just as a quick note about Facebook and teens: all of my kids are on FB.  The conditions for us in our house BEFORE they got their accounts was this: They MUST be friends with us, their parents.  If they are going to post things that they would not want us to see or read, then clearly they are not ready to be on Facebook.
  • They must let their friends know that profanity and inappropriate photos will not be tolerated.
  • We regularly go through their friend lists: no person is approved as a friend unless they know them in a personal, face-to-face way.  Friends are only friends if they are people we would have over to our house and are pouring positive support into our lives.
  • FB can be taken away at any time , for any reason if attitudes or actions show they can’t be responsible online
  • At any time I, or their dad, should be able to look in their inbox(with them present) and read any or all messages. Meaning…don’t be bashing friends or family in public OR in private.

It works for us. Our kids have done well and don’t actually post a lot anyways.  And we’ve managed to at least prevent any embarrassing or life-long baggage from coming back to haunt anyone.

 

To the dad in the video: Give your daughter a hug, humble yourself and tell her you are sorry and that you over-reacted in a way that was inappropriate for you and for her.  Tell her that  YOU crossed a line in her privacy and your respect for her. And no matter what she does or says OR posts in the future, you will love her unconditionally and always be that soft place for her to land in a harsh and unforgiving world.

February 14 {The Day a Legend was Born}

He was 52 the year I was born.  I’ve never known my life without him. I’m privileged that way, and so are my kids.

Today, he would have been 93 years on this earth.  Would have.  But his body could not hold him any longer.  It wasn’t big enough or strong enough.  He needed to ride again.  He needed the strength of a white horse~Maybe Silver? beneath his long cowboy legs.  He needed wide open pastures.  The kind that go on forever and ever.  He would always quote the scripture about God owning the cattle on a thousand hills~and he would smile.  I hope that Heaven has a photo album so that when I get there I can see that moment when he smiled at the open range, the cattle and the horses, running freely.

I have no idea how to put into one blog post all that my Grandpa was to me.  I have no clue how to describe to you, the reader, the impact of his life on his family, his friends, those he employed during the ranch years, and the many folks who crossed his path over the past 9 decades.   His presence was large but he was not prideful. Some call him a proud cowboy but I disagree. He was humble and hardworking.  The only things he took pride in were his horses and ranch and his family.  And those were the things that could cause him much pain too~both physical and emotional.

He was a man of his word and I’ve never known anyone to accuse him of lying, cheating or stealing. That simply was not in him and was not acceptable to him either. He lived by the cowboy code.  He was so much a cowboy, he didn’t need a hat or boots(though he wore both) to let everyone know that he was the real deal.  He rode the community pastures in his younger years, participated in more cattle drives than any Western movie producer could create and he ultimately made a very good living rounding up wild horses, often selling them as rodeo stock.

He was authentically old west~horse, chaps and attitude included.

I grew up across the road from him for the first few years of my life and then the last few years, a fairly short drive away.  I have been blessed to have conversations with him about family, heartache, politics and prophecy.  My grandma would always say, ”Oh Len” when he got to talkin’ about how the whole world was corrupt and filled with sin.  She didn’t much care for his soapbox moments but I sure loved them.  I guess maybe he felt like he had a friendly ear when I was around because we sure had quite a few deep discussions. Maybe that’s where I get my love of all things current events and news-y.   One thing you could count on: Grandpa knew the news.  CNN was his favourite channel, and then maybe the weather network or World Junior Hockey if it was on.  We had a common love of the Calgary Flames and he knew many of the players even up until this past season. Iginla was his favourite(can I get a shout out??).   But one thing you wouldn’t see my grandpa watching was frivolous , mindless television. I don’t ever recall it being on. No weekly dramas, sitcoms or movies.  Maybe they did in their later years, but I never saw evidence of it. They would watch various evangelists and Billy Graham was definitely near and dear to my Grandpa’s heart(they are the same age).

The Bible.  He knew it so well. It puts me to shame.  He awakened each day and read it.  During the ranching years, we would visit and breakfast time was not complete without entire passages being read and thoughtful, powerful prayers being lifted.  He prayed for each of his children, grand-children and great-grandchildren by name. He knew us all.  How many men in their 90′s do you know who can tell you the names of their 48 great-grandkids? That was my grandpa.

I knew of Valentine’s Day and we made heart-shaped cards and cookies in the same kitchen where my grandpa prayed those prayers and where Grandma served her family.  But February 14? That was Grandpa’s birthday. And for as long as I’ve been alive, that is what is on my calendar every year.  Grandpa~ the foundation and the pillar of this family.  The man who never strayed from his convictions and never shied away from proclaiming the Gospel.  He loved people and he wanted them to know how much God loved them.

One thing that is particularly special to me is the tender way he spoke of the name of Jesus. He had a reverence rarely seen or heard these days.  To him, the name of his Lord was precious and worthy of all glory and praise. This is my final memory of him.

In the hospital, the week before he passed away, he was developing an infection and fever was causing him discomfort.  In and out of sleep , he began to sing praises.  He was singing hymns and I recognized most.  As weak as he was, his voice with that baritone  strength , filled his entire room.  He was singing louder and louder as the minutes rolled by.  I seriously felt as though he was calling Heaven down to earth.  In between songs he would pray out loud, calling on Jesus;his precious Jesus.  He continued on and repeated ” God in three persons, blessed Trinity”…over and over again.

I wanted to sing with him.  I started with My Jesus I Love Thee.  He quickly joined in although his eyes were closed and I could tell he was in some level of pain.  He sang out and beat me to the lyrics.  He knew every verse~we sang them all.

I will cherish that memory forever, as tears rolled down my cheeks.  Not that I was sad for him or for me but more that I was standing in the presence of one of God’s servants who in spite of pain and old age, continued to sing the praises of his Father.  I believe that is how he entered Heaven a week later: singing unending praise.   And that is the legacy he leaves for us.

 Jesus first. Jesus only. All the way, His Saviour led him.

I have listened to a lot of hymns the past few weeks and have often wondered which ONE best describes my grandpa. I can’t come up with one.  But there is one that comes close to saying it all.

“This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour, all the day long.”

When you don’t feel it~ Praise Anyways

I’m feeling grouchy tonight.  I’ve been trying to figure a way to get myself out of this mood. Being miserable doesn’t achieve anything but more misery.  When I don’t know what to do, I go to the Word.  Even when it doesn’t tell me exactly what I want to hear it still gives me the answers I need.

In the Bible, the Israelites wandered a long time before they got HOME.  I feel their pain. I feel like I’ve been wandering in a desert for a long time and HOME always seems to be just out of reach.  David, as King, decreed that the people should worship and PRAISE as they brought the  Ark of the Covenant to its new HOME in the Temple in Jerusalem.  It’s a wonderful passage to read.  You can almost hear the cymbals and trumpets playing, the drums beating, the voices rising.  It is a symphony of PRAISE to the Lord.   As I read it tonight, I was drawn to one small portion:

1 Chronicles 16:

31Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them!
33 Let the trees of the forest sing,
let them sing for joy before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.

34 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

 

And I realized….I haven’t been watchful of God’s creation around me lately. Usually I am intent upon noticing every detail in the changing seasons and photographing them(to seemingly no end).  But I haven’t been doing that lately.  And  I miss it.

“Let the heavens rejoice”

“let the fields be jubilant”

 

“Let the trees of the forest sing”

his love endures forever. “

Sometimes, I just need to be reminded.

 

 

Day 6~ Adoption, Steve Jobs and the Value of a Life

In the blogger universe it’s important to not be so tied to one’s agenda that you fail to roll with the inevitable sharp turns that this journey, called Life, can throw your way.  This is one such moment.   In my 31 day series on Loving Your Family, I want to convey to you that it is not so important how your kids dress, how well they do in school or how pulled together you all look on Sunday morning, but rather that you accept the fact that none of us are perfect.  Accept it and then capitalize on the small moments~ seize the day, as it were, to DO something that conveys love, acceptance and joy to your family.

Last evening, Oct. 5, 2011 I got a very short news bulletin that Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple and all things “i” had passed away. I am always saddened when I hear that someone so young has died(he was only 56). I feel for the family and friends~ losing someone is never easy. A lot of people get rather nasty when a celebrity or famous person gets so much attention in the media because there are countless others who die and no one sheds a tear or whispers their name.  Let me just say this: EVERY person has a story to tell. EVERY person is a brother, sister, daughter, son, father or mother.  And in the family of humanity, we are all connected.  We mourn and weep because we relate. We are interested because it could be our story or that of someone close to us. Our human-ness is what defines us: made in the image of an Almighty God, our Creator. If we truly believe we are ALL made in His image then of course we are going to be drawn to the story of one.

In amongst all of the posts and blogs, editorials and news stories that came out last night, there was one in particular that struck a cord with me. It was written by “Buzz Bishop”(I have no idea if that is his real name) in Calgary, AB.  I don’t know if he had any idea at the time, what a profound statement he was making about the value of a life but it sure made the point.  Here is an excerpt:

 *****56 years ago a girl got pregnant. Her parents didn’t approve. All of this almost never happened.

In 1954, Abdulfattah John Jandali and Joanne Simpson were a young couple in Wisconsin. Joanne became pregnant and her parents forbid the couple from marrying. Without notice, the Simpsons left for San Francisco where she would give birth to a boy on February 24, 1955. Days later the infant was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs and given the same Steve.

Jobs never spoke about his biological father, but did keep in touch with Joanne Simpson inviting her to some of his family gatherings. In a 1997 New York Times article he appeared grateful for her long-ago decision to have him and put him up for adoption.

 “There was never any acrimony between us,” he says. Yet, biological roots aside, Jobs holds a firm belief that Paul and Clara Jobs were his true parents. A mention of his “adoptive parents” is quickly cut off. “They [were] my parents,” he says emphatically. 

Thank you Steve, but, more importantly thanks to Paul and Clara Jobs for opening their hearts, their homes and their lives.

Without them, we wouldn’t have this.

Disclosure: This subject is close to me. My wife is adopted. All of my life as I know it almost never happened too.****

All of my life(since I was 2) I have been a part of a family of 3 girls. I have maybe one tiny memory of life before my little sister was born but quite honestly, I’ve never known my family without her. I remember the day we picked her up.  She was wrapped in a pink blanket, 2 months old, and full of squishy, cuddly goodness.  My parents never hid the fact that she was adopted. We all knew the word well and as far as I was concerned, adoption was just another way of being born~ like c-section, or at home by midwife, or in a hospital~ normal.

I never introduced my sister or thought of her as “the adopted one”.  I have an older sister and a younger sister~ I am the middle. And to me, that was more of an issue than how any of us came to be in our family.  My sister has had a chance to meet her birth mom and know a bit of the story~ a young teen girl, unmarried and unable to care for a baby.  I can’t imagine my life or the life of our family without one of my sisters in it.  It’s always been the three of us~ always. How could it be anything else?  I am so thankful to the young girl, who in the midst of her fear , made a choice that someday the baby inside her would have a life and would have the opportunity to BE.

Last week, a documentary film was released on the internet in an effort to educate the world about what abortion is and why it is wrong. I encourage everyone to take 33 minutes to watch it~ it is well done and thought provoking.  Say what you will, but the fact is this: babies are being killed for the sake of convenience.  I was watching a lot of comment boards following the release of this film and it always amazes me the arguments people will use in defending the “right for a woman to choose”.  Very often there will be those who say that it is better that a baby not be given a chance to live in order to save them from a “terrible life”. Meaning that a single mother or a low-income family is somehow inferior to a rich, upper class couple raising a child. Hmmm…I was raised for most of my life by a single mother and we were very poor. If my parents would have made that choice based on those issues…..well, the story would be very different, wouldn’t it? You wouldn’t be reading this now, for one.  But beyond that comment I wonder how it is that anyone feels that they are somehow the BEST judge to decide that a child will have “no life” or a “terrible life”??  Steve Jobs’ birth mom , we are thankful, did not make that decision but instead allowed a loving couple to take up where she left off.  Can you imagine your world without iPods, iPhones and the internet?  Maybe someone else would have come along and figured it out eventually, but really, in our lifetime there have been few creative geniuses like him.  I don’t know where Steve Jobs’ heart was at upon his death.  I sure hope that  in his final months or days or hours he sought out the Lord, the Giver of ALL Life and begged for mercy. Mercy because even though he may have been one of the wealthiest men, with one of the greatest technical legacies ever…he was still a man, with sin in his heart , in need of a Saviour. And at the end of all of our lives that is who we are. We are all united in the humanity of our successes and failings.  Choosing Life means choosing Jesus.  John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. “

If you believe that Steve Jobs’ life was worth saving. If you believe that he is a gift to this world. Then you have to believe that every child is a gift with a potential and a future.  I am thankful for my friends and my family whose parents rightly chose that they were precious and valuable.  Where would YOU be without the people around you? Be thankful for all of those who were saved from abortion, saved by adoption and saved by selfless love.

Watch now:

 

 

To see links to the previous 5 days’ posts, click here.

Day 5~ Homesickness and Family Dinner

These are the hard days of parenting. It’s not supposed to be this way: me here and them there.  NO, we’re supposed to be messing up the kitchen together, tripping over each others’ stuff in the hallway, fighting over who gets the shower next.

But reality and wants sometimes do not go hand in hand.  What I need and what I have may be two different things. Half of my family~ 5 hours away~ needing home and safety, Mom and comfort.  It doesn’t really matter that we’re trying to get out of here~ trying to move.  It only matters that wherever we ALL are, that’s home. And right now the thought of that is making some sick. We call it homesickness. It bites us when we least expect it.  “Oh I can handle this”~ a 16 year old son says to his mom.  But , can he? Does he want to? No.   I called the school to let them know that he will not be present in class today.  He will rest and hopefully get himself pulled together by later today and then..we try again.  Try to make the best of a rotten situation.

It didn’t help~ me watching Parenthood last night. Oh I love that show. But it sure does tug at the heartstrings.  Don’t we all just want that same unconditional safe place to land? When things go wrong outside our four walls, isn’t it just nice to know that you can come home and sit down with your family? Sit down, feast and linger.  That’s what I love about family dinners. Laughter, chatting, companionship and most of all….love.

What does your family do to keep the home fires burning? Do you gather once a week? Turn off all the TV’s, electronics, gadgets and just…..linger? Do you? Maybe it’s time to start.  This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving. My kids are so excited for cream pies and turkey and stuffing.  I’m just excited to have us all sit at one table and be thankful.…thankful for us.

And don’t you just love this? … from https://www.facebook.com/foodily

Revolution of Grace

How do I begin?

I’ve been thinking a lot about grace this week~ what it is, what it means.  And I was struck by something almost too obvious(it made me chuckle)~ my name’s literal meaning is “God’s gracious gift”.  I’ve known that my whole life.  Have I lived it? Not really.

Grace: a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment

                          favor or goodwill

                                         mercy; clemency; pardon

Wouldn’t we all like to be the recipients of grace?  The bearers of grace? The givers of grace?

When I hear “grace” I immediately get a reel of pictures whipping through my brain at lightning speed. In amongst those photos are my aunt, who died of breast cancer~ she lived grace; she exuded joy.  I see my daughters flowing effortlessly in their figure skating programs~ unaware that all eyes are on them.   I see my grandmothers hands folded in solemn prayer.  I see Ann.  I don’t know Ann personally , but I count her as my friend.  After reading her book One Thousand Gifts over and over I am just beginning to grasp what eucharisto really is: Our joy plus gratitude equals a life of grace. Powerful words~ a powerful concept.    And most recently, Grace has come to mean “Sara”.  I haven’t been reading her blog long and sadly, there won’t be any more blog posts from her.  Sara is dying.  You can read about it here.  In the arms of Jesus, she is laying her head down and He is healing her in his own perfect way.  Sara has chosen to live with joy instead of sadness and bitterness.  Housebound for the past 3 years she has managed to touch more people than most of us will ever really know.  In fact, in her dying, she is touching more lives.

You see, Sara has learned what most of us will never learn in our entire lives.  She has endured more pain in her frail body than a thousand men would put up with.  She has faced seclusion, loneliness, breathlessness.  In it all she has held on to Jesus.  As much as any one of us would have begged God~ pleaded and bartered, reasoned and whined….Sara has not.  Faith is not believing that you will get what you want when you want it.  Faith is believing that God’s wisdom and ways, His plans and provisions are enough for this moment and that He will see the working out of everything else in His time according to His will. It is tough. So tough especially when pain and death are part of the journey.  But know this: Sara has been fully aware of this walk she’s been taking with her Lord.  She has also been able to teach us all more about joy and grace and eternity than she ever could have in a whole, strong, healthy body.  We don’t always understand why God chooses who He does for tests and trials, but in this case I am more convinced than ever that He gave the world Sara for such a time as this.  Our world is in pain and dying. And we need to learn what it means to choose joy.

I have witnessed in these past few days and weeks a ground swell ~ a rumbling…it is coming from every corner of the earth.  Women standing together in prayer, across the miles ~ over the internet, on beaches, in hotels, in homes and in stadiums~ praying, singing praises and above all , giving thanks ~ you can get in on it here with the women of {in}courage

Something is stirring in the hearts of God’s people.  We are being awakened to a call.  A call to surrender, to have faith and to share grace.  Never before in my lifetime have I witnessed such a deep desire among God’s people to  love, care, share and live grace.  Never.  Until now.  We are on the verge of a revolution.  It is a revolution of grace.

 

~ listen to these songs~ Sara’s voice singing praises and thanks to her Heavenly Father: Who soon will be holding her in His everlasting arms~ you will be moved and touched and filled with grace.

Choosing joy~ like weeds on a sunny day: you pick it and it shines!