Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Today I'm remembering Myron. One year ago we got a phone call that let us know the world as we knew it had shattered. It had shattered for four children and a beautiful wife. And it shattered for us too.

I've thought about how to spend today. I signed off of Facebook, deciding that there was no way I wanted to face such petty banality on a day like today. I signed off saying I was going to be sitting in the quiet remembering our friend. I wanted to say that I was going to sit in the sadness, but stopped myself feeling like I shouldn't be sitting in the sadness. But that is what it really is. Yes, a year has gone by. A whole big year. But I am still sad. I have laughed and I have continued to live. But sadness still lies behind my eyes and resides in my heart. So yes, I am sitting in the sadness today. And that is okay.

I've wanted to find a way to remember our friend, to honor him in some way. If I accomplish anything, the one thing I want to say at the end of today is that I was kind to my husband. Too often I take him for granted and treat him without kindness. Losing Myron and watching his beautiful wife walk through life on her own has taught me that there are no guarantees how long we will have with the one we love most in this world. And so today I'll remember to treat the one I love most in this world with kindness. At least I hope so.

Today I will remember the good times. I'll remember the talks and the laughter, the prayer times and the sweet times with Myron leading us with his guitar. I'll remember how tight our home group once was, and I'll be thankful for the way they were home for me during the darkest days of my childbirth injury. I'll remember the goofy newlywed game we played at our last home group meeting before the Christmas break, and how we laughed until we cried at the antics dreamt up by Myron and my husband. I'll remember the songs Myron wrote and shared with our group. I'll remember the Larry Norman references. I'll remember the way he held his youngest kids and the pride he had in his eyes as he talked about his eldest child's softball prowess. I'll be thankful for the dream God sent some weeks after Myron died to help me process the domino effect of losses that came afterward. I'll be thankful for the season we had as a group, for the friendships I had in that time, and the way it impacted my life. I had once assumed we'd be together for forever. I know differently now.

Today will not be a day when I focus on the hurt from the losses that came afterward. I've spent a year focusing on those losses and got lost myself in the process. Today I will try not to remember those hurts, at least not with bitterness. It's only been in the past couple of days that I've even begun to accept that those losses really and truly did happen and that they aren't anything I can change or fix. Today is not the day for me to think about stuff like that.

Today is the day I remember Myron. And today is the day I ask Jesus to hold up Myron's family as they sit in their sadness.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dissecting a Why

So the other day we were running errands in the States and doing a fair bit of driving. I don't even remember what the original topic was, but Grasshopper had asked some question about something. After I answered him, he followed it up with his first "why?" and I tried to answer him as satisfactorily as possible. But it wasn't good enough, and after several more "why" pleas, it got down to "Well, because God made it that way."

"But, why did God make it that way?"

"I don't know, Grasshopper. He just did."

"But why?"

I think at this point I decided to at least enjoy the ride.

"Because He wanted you to be curious about it."

"But why?"

"Because you are almost three and it is important to learn to ask questions and be curious when you are almost three."

"But why?"

"Because your brain is growing so fast and you are learning so much, and being curious helps you to learn even more."

"But why?"

"Well, I think God chooses age almost 3 to start your curiosity because it gives Him a chance to work on mommy's character."

"But why?"

"Because I need to develop patience and kindness and the ability to be longsuffering."

"But why?"

"Because those are fruits of the spirit and God says we need those things."

"But why?"

"Because the Bible says that the fruits of the spirit help make life work better. And goodness knows I need more patience."

"But why?"

"Because it doesn't come in a pill and you can't buy it at the store, and you really need those character traits for life."

"But why?"

"For my sanctification apparently."

"But why?"

"Oh look, we're at the border and it's time to get in line."

"Mommy, why do we have to wait our turn?"

Of course, you totally know how the rest of the conversation went. Life with an almost three year old is a unique kind of wonderful and exhausting all at one time.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Boy Compliments

We're in that fun stage with an almost three year old where the talking never ceases and the "why" questions have begun in earnest. It is exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. He is so funny and so fun and just so delightful. Most of the time. Sometimes I look at him and wonder how such a little person could hold so much sweetness.....and so many words.

I came down with something in the night and after the worst was over, I slept the day away. Henry David was on kiddo duty all day long, which meant I got to soak in the tub and read half a book uninterrupted. When I came out with hair wet, fresh from washing, my son said, "Mama, I do like your long hair. I really do like your long hair." The funny thing is that he visibly reacted with delight on Saturday too when I came into the kitchen with two long braids ready to head to the last farmer's market of the season. "Oh, Mama! I do like, I do like, what are those?" "They are braids, Grasshopper." "Oh Mama, I do like your braids very much." What is not to love about this?

Then there are the moments after dinner when he has picked up on a habit of his daddy's that really warm my heart. "Mama, thank you for making that for dinner! That was good!" Interestingly enough, he says this even when he hasn't hardly eaten anything and has decided he doesn't like something. No matter how many calories he ingested, I do love his enthusiastic and sweet gratitude. He's such a fun kid.

He asked me to sit by him at his little table this evening while he was finishing up a snack and some tea his daddy had made him. He does love his tea times with Daddy. "Mama, do you want some tea?" "No thank you, Grasshopper. Mama can't have tea today." "Oh, okay. Do you want to share mine?" "No sweetheart, I can just have some water because I have a yucky tummy, but thank you for wanting to share." "Oh, okay. I do like tea. Daddy made it for me. I do like this cup."

There are moments when I just want him to be quiet so that our little home can experience a moment of silence. "Mama, you mean I can't talk? You mean, I can't talk right now?" The moment of silence never happens as he fills in the spaces with questions in response to my gentle request that he think about giving his tongue a rest. And though I miss my quiet and I miss the solitude, really I have to say that life is so much better with the little boy who compliments and thanks and questions and talks and loves and plays all day and all night long. (Or so he often requests when we tell him it's bedtime.) He won't always be almost three and asking me to "hold my whole body, Mama". So I have to say that I'm grateful for the little boy who follows me around all day, in all of his stages. His little personality is fun to get to know and discover.

He's a precious gift and I just hope I can keep on being a good and patient and kind mama all of his days. In the meantime, the boy compliments do go a long way. ;)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hope of Healing

I've written a bit on this blog about my journey with a birth injury caused by malpractice and the long road to healing that it required. I mostly walked that road alone, for no one really knew how to help or how to properly resource me. Through sheer determination and stubbornness, I found healing in various places. But it always made me wonder about a woman in a similar situation who might not have the same dogged determination to find healing and hope. What would happen to her? Out of that wondering grew a passion and a purpose to help any woman who ever came my way.

I met them on the playground and at the grocery store. And a few even emailed me after reading my story on a birth board I had joined. The one thing all of us held in common besides a traumatic or injurious birth was the fact that we had to walk this road alone and didn't know where to turn for help. Thankfully, women in Canada no longer have to walk that road alone.

A group of amazing women have formed a group called Vancouver Birth Trauma with two main goals in mind: 1. change the face of maternal medicine, and 2. make sure every woman knows her available resources and doesn't feel alone in her plight. The first goal is going to take a long time, because there are many hurdles to cross, not the least of which is the belief of many physicians of "first do no harm to your fellow physician". But the second goal is already getting met each day as more women find out we exist and reach out for help.

I am excited to be a part of this, and passionate about offering every hurting mama who crosses my path a promise of healing and hope that is kept by properly resourcing her with everything from physiotherapy to books to counselors/therapists. I'm putting this post out here in the hopes that a woman finds it and takes us up on our invitation to offer help. Feel free to contact the website (there is even a number for peer counseling), or contact me via the email address found if you click on my profile for this blog. Even if you don't live in Vancouver, we want to offer help and hope and make sure you find the healing you need.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

'Nother Book Recommendation

Some folks we know that I like to call the Faithfuls lent us a copy of the book by Todd Burpo called Heaven Is For Real. It's about Todd's son Colton who has emergency surgery when he's 3. As time passes, he tells his parents things about getting to see Heaven. Some of what he shares is so spot on accurate but absolutely impossible for him to know naturally that it gets his parents realizing this isn't just a little boy's imagination.

I read it in two sittings and with more snot and tears than I'd like to admit publicly. Regardless of your belief system, it's an interesting book. Interestingly enough, the first time my tears got really provoked was while reading about a medical mistake that could have ended his life. Dealing with medical injustice is still a tender spot for me and probably will be for a long while. Then some more tears came when reading about how Colton's parents' experience of their church loving on them impacted how passionate they are about helping people in heartbreaking crises. For me, that's another sore spot in life at the moment. I grew up with that, but haven't exactly experienced that when most needed this past year. So as I read, I had to face my own near-bitterness about it all and once more talk to God about helping me let that go. The rest of the tears came just from hearing this little boy's descriptions and interactions, things of which I can only dream of for now.

Anyway, I'd like you to consider reading it, even if you think the whole Jesus thing a little narrow or crazy. Maybe I'm just a softie, but it touched some parts in my heart that I've had carefully guarded. It's a book that is worth the time it takes to read.

If anything, at least it reminded me that things do get righted in the end. And for the current season of life I'm in, that's peace to a troubled heart.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Today was hard on my heart. Tonight was a gift of joy. Awhile back, feeling the desert dryness of no community, I reached out. Tonight was my first chance to meet the people who reached back. What a gift of hope they gave tonight, the possibility of friendship and connection.

Having a solid community of people who care about each other is vital for a person's well being. Finding that connection is often difficult and takes a lot of time and effort to build strong relationships. But sometimes Someone intervenes and connections are made with ease and it's a whole Kevin Bacon "six degrees of separation" kind of thing.

Tonight, was such a time. Only I think there were only a couple degrees of separation. I'm grateful for the respite tonight provided, excited about what might unfold as relationships form, and peaceful about what the future holds in terms of friendship. For the first time in a long while, I feel hope and the chance for a fresh start in the one department of life that has ALWAYS been the hardest for me.


Last night my little guy was begging me to stay home with him. If my husband hadn't encouraged me firmly to keep my commitment to go teach a bunch of toddlers, I would have totally said yes. Church is a hard place for me to be. I hate that about me. That has never been my story before. I don't want it to be my story now.

But this morning found my little guy snuggled in close to his daddy while I ventured out into the cold morning. My first thought outside my door was wondering what bear slept on our porch and would he please take a shower next time. Actually, I doubt a bear slept there, but it was rather smelly and I jangled my keys all the way to the car in my weak attempt to scare away any four legged fury garbage eaters.

This morning wasn't easy. I was able to ignore my surroundings and put aside the thoughts of "I wish this were more like X".

But then my husband's marathon partner came downstairs and I just had to ask him the question I've been asking all week, "Are we going to do anything together to remember Myron on or near December 28th? Our group - the group that was once as closeknit as a family - hasn't been together in one room since his funeral." The tears slipped out and he gave me a hug and said he'd find out. I went back in the classroom and got myself back together to be all "up" for the kiddos. When I think back on all the things still not really talked out with the people we once counted as our best friends after the loss of a precious friend and good leader, my heart remains broken and cannot fathom healing or restored relationships. But oh, how I want that.

I was happily playing along with kiddos, greeting them with enthusiasm and loving on the ones feeling a bit shy when a friend came downstairs. I mentioned that her daughter had told me about moving to Alberta and asked if there was a target date yet. I've known this was coming, but conveniently kept hoping it wouldn't happen until we were like 90 or something. December 1st. And tears flowed between both of us. I know she is going where she is supposed to be. But I'm sad that yet another friendship is going to be carried out with many miles in between. Why is it that I get to meet these incredible women with adorable kiddos near my son's age and then they move a province or a country away?! At least there is Facebook. Thank goodness for that one way of still getting to "do life" together.

Then, as if my heart could bear anymore, I found out some details about the physical property of our church home and felt most of my hopes come crashing down. Details aren't important, but I've never experienced so much drama, so much constant change, so many dead ends and "no's". I told my husband when I got home that I wanted to write a letter to the man who caused all of this grief. It would say, "You may not be the spawn of satan, but you are certainly his pawn. Thanks so much for making me homeless in yet one more way." Certainly not my most stellar moment as a gracious human being. Thankfully, my husband currently carries enough optimism for both of us.

By the time 11:00 this morning came around, I was shredded emotionally. It would have been nice to have someone, anyone, notice the obviously weeping redhead and smother me with a hug and a "it's going to be okay. It sucks right now, but it will get better." But while Jesus was a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief", His people are less inclined to be comfortable around someone grieving in the middle of a community hall and they let me walk right on by. I was so tempted to reach out to a couple of people, but decided that this one time I needed to not have to do that. This time I needed someone to notice and reach out without me asking. But that didn't happen and it took a few minutes sitting in my locked car before I could see well enough to drive away.

I know that these things won't always be like this. Eventually we'll know if we have a physical home for our church that is actually usable and good, or things will get to the point for our family when we have to make some decisions. Eventually, I will have some good friendships with women that endure and are local and fill me up and are healthy. Eventually, I'll be able to give and fill up others. Eventually, I'll have joy. Eventually, I'll be able to accept this series of losses. Eventually, I will learn how to keep living and moving in a forward direction even those these losses remain a part of my heart.

But today. Well, today sucks. I know not everyone who reads this blog shares my belief in Jesus and a sovereign plan. I know that some probably even question how intelligent or sane I could be to believe in that stuff. But I do. Despite all my periodic attempts to shake it off or try something else, I do still believe in my core that there is Someone who made me who does care and who is involved. I don't understand that Someone. But I do believe that all of this mess is being somehow fashioned into a story that will point to Him and turn out beautifully.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Grief's Gifts & Eyes to See

I read today that grief comes bearing gifts of its own. And those gifts are assumed to be good ones. I believe that is true. But though experience has recently shown that to be true, I find myself blind again. I need eyes to see the gifts that grief brings.

All day long, the words have failed to come. Posts have been written and rewritten. I shelve it all away, thinking that those words have no place on a public blog. At least, not until I can learn to articulate them better. Grief is at the forefront of my thoughts in this season as I wonder how to go through this season that includes an anniversary of perhaps the biggest loss I've ever encountered.

And so I ask for eyes to see the gifts in the grief. For wisdom to accept those gifts. For the grace to appreciate those gifts. For the ability to let go of what keeps me from holding those gifts in my hands. I need all of that and more. But mostly right now, I just need eyes to see.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Luggage Fiascos & Learning to Breathe

Yesterday I traveled home to BC from visiting family and friends in the States. Fortunately, the flight was not full at all, and I discovered that it's possible to lay down completely on three seats with my toddler on my chest after finally getting him to give in and nap. We were both excited to see Henry David, so it was a bit of a bummer to arrive 30 minutes early and have to head down to baggage claim alone, knowing he would not have arrived.

It was an even bigger bummer to discover that one of my suitcases was missing. It was the one full of medicine, our camera, my jewelry, and all my toiletries among other things. I stood in the Southwest baggage office waiting for them to file a report and realized that after the three hour drive home that night I'd have to run out and buy enough supplies to make me presentable for a meeting I had in Vancouver the next day. I was frustrated and my normal melancholy self that assumes the worst and fails to see the positive. I was trying to be gracious but was clearly failing.

They called the airport of my departure to no avail and had no idea where it could have gone. They suggested we wait another three hours for the next flight to see if it had been placed on that one. I declined, knowing we still had a long drive ahead of us and asked about shipping options. Since it would have to cross a border, they told me it could get stuck in customs for weeks. So we made arrangements to have it delivered to a place in Washington near the border and they prepared a travel voucher for me for my trouble. Then the agent got an idea.

She asked me if my bag looked like one she had by the door. She wondered if the party that owned that bag had accidentally taken mine since they had picked up the other nine bags they had checked but had left that one. She tracked down the guy's daughter who called her dad who was still thankfully on airport property. He said he would double check their bags to make sure they belonged to the right people and come to get his bag. He came and said that they had looked, but that all the bags they had belonged to them. I felt like a deflated balloon as that last shred of hope disappeared and I tried to accept that I'd be going home without my suitcase. I felt really vulnerable knowing all it contained and realizing that my privacy could be invaded more than a bit if someone found it and opened it. My husband, our little boy, and I walked to the parking garage and I tried to believe that it would "all be okay" like he said. But inside I was not the most positive redhead on the planet, despite the travel voucher in my pocket.

And then, as we were paying at the kiosk for parking before heading to our car, the same man who had come to get his bag came walking while rolling a suspiciously familiar suitcase behind him. He apologized for accidentally taking my bag and for not discovering the mistake until they were loading their rental vehicle. He said he was from Atlanta and was coming here to do the music for a funeral and that he was only focused on claiming his guitar and had let the other members of his party deal with the bags. I hugged him and told him he had no idea what an answer to prayer he was. I could have cried with relief. And I was in shock that out of all the zillions of places we could have been that we ran into each other at that very moment.

This may seem like some random story, but to me it's a bigger deal. I've been feeling a bit adrift in the world lately, feeling like everyone else is getting great favors from God while we're still waiting. This event was like the bookend on a trip that had functioned as a bit of a mending time in my heart. I had gone to the States devoid of confidence and no longer knowing myself or any of the emotional health I once held dear. A lot of that had to do with friendship issues here in Canada. The last week of my time in the States was spent getting to catch up with one friend after another, some I hadn't seen in nearly 20 years. I left the States remembering that I do indeed have a lot to offer as a friend and feeling like not only my friendship tank had been refilled but that my confidence had gotten a big boost.

This last event of having someone accidentally take my suitcase reminded me that even in frustrating happenings that there may be a greater purpose, a greater gift intended. This may sound silly to some, but to me, it's a silly story that contains an important reminder. I'd been wishing for a simple "favor" from God, something like a sweet gift. He had given me one the night before in the form of a friend who gave me a gift as I walked out of her door, but this gift was different. That gift was pure sweetness and encouragement. This one had me wade into a frustrating situation first. First I had to navigate the apparent loss of something important to me, and the knowledge that it may or may not be found and returned. I didn't know how it would end. But it ended in my bag coming home with me AND a travel voucher that will help us pay for a ticket in the future. To be honest, I felt a little abashed that I'd handled it with little grace and had allowed my frustration to come through so clearly. I wished that I had not been so impatient with the gate agent at the outset and so negative.

I wonder how many life events that look hard or feel incredibly frustrating are really gifts in disguise? That question right there is the big lesson for me. I know that is an area in my life that needs to grow, and this little story illustrates that to me so clearly. I look back on another friend's story and see how true that is, and I wonder just how many events in our lives that seem like bumps in the road are really gifts that are destined to make us richer in a multitude of ways.

And now that I'm back from my meeting in Vancouver with other women who suffered horrible birth traumas, I am reminded that maybe, just maybe, beauty really does grow out of ashes and good gifts really do come out of hard times. None of us would have chosen the stories we have, but I was amazed at how each woman's story is positively shaping her mark on the world. Despite the hellish experiences each of us have gone through, or perhaps more accurately BECAUSE OF THEM, we are each uniquely finding ways to help other women.

Hopefully the next time something hard comes my way I will remember to breathe and look with anticipation and hope at what may come of it instead of spending my time being impatient and declaring that the sky is falling. Robert Benson from Atlanta taught me that, whether he knows it or not.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Little Child Helps Me See?

I've been journaling elsewhere the deep things I can't say, the things I can't share, the specifics of what I only intimate here. And earlier tonight I found myself listing thing after thing that had weighed my shoulders down with resentment bordering on bitterness, sadness teetering on the edge of hopelessness.

Then late this evening as I found myself unable to sleep with sour stomach and sore heart, I got a clue. And this is something I can write here in this place. At least I shall try.

I have a little boy who has no siblings. I am his usual playmate. Sometimes we see other children, and if they are around long enough, Grasshopper ventures out of his shyness to play with them. But most of the time it's just the mama and the boy. And he is constantly saying, "Play, Mama, play!" Only I usually don't want to play. I'm lonely for adult conversation. I want to connect with the world. Talk on the phone. Get on the computer. Or chores beckon me. And the "Just a minute" I learned to dread from my mom's own voice knowing that it really meant "just an eternity, dear" is now coming out of my mouth. Sigh. I should be a better mama. After all, it is my only job.

I tried that tonight. We played cars and trucks and had a Ferrari and an Infinity playing hockey with the occasional Zamboni interruption. He was happy. For once I was fully engaged and not looking for an escape to "better" things, "higher" pursuits.

That is when it dawned on me. And a little child shall lead them.......

My son is echoing the cry of my own heart.

I ask and ask and ask again. Please connect with me. Please spend time processing with me. Please walk with me for even a tiny bit of this journey. And all I get are "no's" and "I'm sorry for your pain" and "have you tried seeing a paid expert to walk with you?" No one has time. They have their own hurts, their own circles, their own whatevers. They wish me warm and well and well fed, but no one actually does anything, takes any action. And the cry of my heart just grows louder and more plaintive and causes sour stomachs and sore hearts when I should be sleeping.

This is what he feels like. This is the ache his little heart feels when all he wants is somebody to be with him. He says, "Sleep with me, Mama. I want somebody to be with me!" Oh son, I know the feeling. You are teaching me.

And so, while I cannot make my ideals come true, I cannot make the people in my community do as I believe they ought, I can make myself be the Mama I ought.

Next time when he asks me to play, I will try my hardest to remember to say, "Yes, son, I'm coming right now." Maybe in the playing, healing will come?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Creative Ways to Avoid Amnesia

I've been reading and soaking up Ann Voskamp's 1,000 Gifts book. The other day I pondered over the chapter about defining blessings and curses. And I thought about how glad I am to find someone else who admits to being like an amnesiac Israelite.

When I was a kid, I used to wonder how they could forget God's instructions and promises so easily. Now I know. I am them.

One moment, I remember God's faithfulness and think that finally I have grasped joy and peace and truth. And the next minute I'm wallowing in despair and stuck in hatred and unforgiveness and shame. Apparently, God knows my propensity to forget and has given me what may be the most creative way to temporarily remember.

I broke or bruised my tailbone the other day when landing at the bottom of a very fun and fast slide in the playground area at a local apple orchard. Five days later, I still have to sit and move in ways that are quite similar to how I had to move when I suffered a traumatic birth injury. It is no picnic, and today especially has been painful. So I emailed the orchard and suggested that maybe they change the landing a bit. They emailed back right away and called me, wanting to bend over backwards to make me happy. I think perhaps they were worried I would sue or be really angry. But I'm not. It was fun to give them grace. Really fun. Perhaps it was because they weren't expecting it. Whatever the case, it was a great feeling to let go of any frustration with the situation and let them completely off the hook, not even taking them up on their offer to give me a gift certificate. The feeling was so great and wonderful that I felt full of sweetness.

My only frustration is that the pain is very similar to what I struggled with when my son was born, and I know a bruised or broken tailbone can take months to heal and needs the help of physiotherapy to fully heal (at least for me with my prior injury). It seemed almost like a "curse". How could it be a blessing? I mean, really.

Awhile later it hit me. God has a funny sense of humor. It actually IS a blessing.

Every single time I move, the pain can be a reminder to snap me out of my amnesia and forgetfulness. The pain can remind me of this instance where I chose to show grace, where I chose to let go. Where I chose not to hate or be angry or vengeful.

Sure, it's just a sore bum. And the areas where I'm most prone to show hate and anger and not let go are a lot more serious than a simple accident at an apple orchard. But the same principle applies.

That person who is making my community life hard? Forgive him. The loss of last year and the struggle to accept that our community looks different? Let go and just love with no expectations. The other heartaches I keep inside that continually remind me that we are on this side of Heaven and not yet Home? Yes, even those get laid down on a daily basis. Sometimes even a moment by moment basis.

And when I give up the right to bitterness, sweetness comes trickling in. If only I can remember to do that.

Apparently, God gifted me with what amounts to a broken bum to help me remember that.

So what delightful gift has He given you lately? You know, the kind that you at first wanted to return as all wrong for you? Could it really be a gift after all?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

While Waiting

Weekends are hard. On one hand, we've looked forward to them all week long because that is when Henry David is home with energy to play and Grasshopper and I miss that part of him all week. On the other hand, it's hard because the days of Friday night to Sunday only highlight the loss of what we once had in terms of close community and serve as reminders of an ugly conflict with someone who has given into evil and refuses to show any grace to a body of believers who just long for peace. So Saturdays are at once a welcome gift of a Sabbath and a hard struggle with melancholy.

But the past two days, there have been brief moments of respite from that hard struggle. Today one of them came during the rare bit of alone time I get on the weekends, a gift from my husband who knows that sanity is maintained when one has a break from the toddler crowd.

I was thinking about some times in my childhood when women who were either single or without children poured into my life and blessed me with some really special memories. For a brief moment, the sadness fled and smiles filled its place. This is what made me smile.....

~ Lenny, a single woman from church, let me stay with her for a weekend in her mobile home. I had never known anyone who lived in one of those before, and it was quite the novelty to see how a long home on wheels parked permanently on a concrete pad was organized into a cozy home. It was also a unique experience because I'd had sleepovers with kids before, but never a grown woman who had no kids and was interested in reaching out to one. We made hard candy, boiling sugar and other ingredients and pouring it out on cookie sheets, waiting until just the perfect time when we broke it with a hammer and sampled the variety of flavors. We cross country skied from her doorway through a field, if I remember correctly. It was gloriously fun to be a kid cross country skiing under the moonlight when I would normally have been in bed.

We've lost touch in the intervening years, but today I thought of Lenny and was grateful for the time she took to invest in a little girl. That weekend was so fun.

~ Miss Jones was my fifth grade teacher. Back in those days I was at the top of my class and routinely got my work done early. She let me paint a whole set for a play the younger kids were doing. I got to do that again later on, but she was the one who did it first. She taught us the most fun crafts too. And for reading, once we achieved a certain number of pages, she would take us out to lunch to our favorite fast food restaurant. (Those were the days before uber strict policies between students and teachers.) She paid for more chicken sandwiches from Wendy's than I can count. I was a motivated reader who probably drained her bank account.

She's also the teacher who knew of two little girls who had been badly burned in separate accidents, and she had us all make special cards to send to brighten their days. She had us memorize the Sermon the Mount. Her teacher's aide wasn't the best (to put it mildly) and some of the kids remain in my memory as bullies, but some of my favorite school memories still took place under her tutelage.

~ My Aunt Anita used to live in a yellow house in the middle of what was basically a forest, at least to my memory. People would park their RV's there to store in the off season. I remember there were train tracks nearby too. She and my uncle didn't have any kids yet, and I loved to go spend the night at their house. She would take me for ice cream near where my uncle worked, and she read the Boxcar Children to me. She had a huge stuffed animal bear that was big enough to sit on. I loved playing with it, though I'm probably largely at fault for its broken back. She let me bake with her and help her with various projects, and when she had her two boys, she was among the first mamas to let me help.

I loved my time at her house. And she's the reason I herded all the neighborhood kids into a group and contrived a way to act out the Boxcar Children. I'm not sure we ever quite achieved acting it out, but setting it up was sure fun.

I'm sure there were other people who invested time and love into me, but these three are the ones I thought of today. It's funny how their investment in a little girl not only made that little girl's day, but it shaped future choices. Many of the things I did as a teacher and the ways I poured my life into other people's children back in my single days can be traced back to these three women and the memories they made with me.

Several amazing women, both young and not so young, come to mind today. Former students, a relative, some friends - all incredible women with lots to offer - are waiting. They are waiting for what they dream to be reality. I hope that as they wait, they can find opportunities like these to make indelible memories with kiddos in their realm of influence. One never knows the fruit that can grow from one little seed of time planted with love and care.

For me, it grew lots of good things that shaped who I became. And today, it grew gratitude that is strong enough to bring in light on what could otherwise be a rather gloomy day. I needed that light today, and I'm grateful that God decided to bring those three women to mind. They sure have brought a smile to my heart.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Another H-less Sara, My Joyful Teacher

I can't remember how I found her, another Sara who spells her name right and is the same age as me. It was probably following some link on the (in)courage site. But something she said caught my attention and I hopped over to her blog and began reading. Pretty soon, I found myself coming back every day, eager to learn from a Sara who can see joy even in the midst of pain. When I am stuck in my melancholy and can't seem to find any light, simply going over to her blog and reading what God has been growing in her heart serves to help me take a deep breath and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The irony of that doesn't escape me. My teacher can't walk anymore. She can't take a deep breath. And yet, that is exactly what her words helped me do each and every time I visited and soaked up her thoughts. And she's flying Home sometime very soon. This past year I noticed changes, like how she moved her bedroom out to her living room. But she explained it all with such joy, such gratitude, such hope, that I ignored the fact that it might mean my teacher was getting sicker. But she was. And all of her words are now written. Until I get to meet her in person on the other side of eternity, her words chronicled on a beautiful blog are my textbook left to guide me.

One of the ways she is still teaching me is illustrated in one of her blog posts from this past January. Since losing our home group leader and admitting that the death of someone other than a grandparent has entered my life, I've been wrestling with a lot of fears. The biggest fear being losing my husband. The idea of living life without him is too much for me, and the fear escalates until the thoughts spiral through my head full of what-ifs. I forget what it feels like to trust that God really plans to keep His promise to never leave me or forsake me. I wonder if I ever have really trusted Him before, if I can trust Him with this most precious part of my life. Then I read what Sara writes.....

"That's when I had to stop and remember something very important.

God gives us what we need when we need it.

Not before. Not after. But during.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
~Hebrews 4:16

There are so many "what if" scenarios that could realistically happen to me. But I can't plan ahead and expect there to be solutions to problems I'm not currently facing. Because God gives us what we need when we need it.

In our time of need.

There has never once been a time in my life when I was faced with a problem that an answer didn't present itself in some form or another. And if God hasn't abandoned me in 37 years, I don't know why I think He would abandon me in the 37 yet to come.

So I'm quitting my chess game before I even learn how to play. I'm going to trust Him. And praise him. And go along for the ride.

I will not let fear have the power.

How about you? Do you trust Him more than your fears?"

Sara has taught me so much. God has used her to begin growing some pretty amazing things inside of me. She speaks and I can listen. I want to hear her heart, knowing that she knows what she's talking about, that she lives it for real each day and doesn't just speak it because it sounds good or wise. I want to be able to come to the end of my life and be able to say like Sara that I trust God with it all too, even my most precious part, even my biggest fears. I'm not there yet. But she's given me a good start and a clear example to follow. And as I make my list of 1,000 Gifts, Sara who can see joy even in the midst of pain is one of my gifts for whom I thank God and find a smile growing alongside the gratitude. I'm going to miss my teacher, but I sure am grateful she has left a beautiful legacy for so many of us.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Our Tears Are Precious To Him

"Whether it’s walking through a door…
or climbing over a fence…
or simply staying right where you are and taking one long moment
to pause
and gaze on the wonder of what was —
with no plan at all but to praise –
may all your wanderings this weekend, kindest friends, be one refreshing adventure of faith." ~ Ann Voskamp

Somehow I knew that little post in my email inbox had a message for me. The title, Weekends are for new seasons, beckoned to me, asking me to open it up and read. So I did. And the part about gazing on the wonder of what was with no plan at all but to praise struck my heart with enough force to burst open a dam of tears that have been waiting, longing to fall if only the right invitation would come to release them.

I could try to write a long post about what is going on in my head and heart, but the simple truth is that I miss the life I knew before December 28, 2010 when we lost a precious friend and leader in our lives. Wonder is exactly the right word. I can look back with a sense of wonder at his life and his family and our little community. They were such good gifts in that season.

In the early weeks that followed and all that happened beyond my understanding, others told me and I told myself to just wait until September to sort things out. September is here and things aren't sorted out. And really? I realize now that I hoped the "sorting out" would include having everything miraculously right itself. The dead would live. The lame would be made whole. The broken would be healed without scar. And all pain would be utterly forgotten. But that's not how it works this side of Heaven for the most part.

September is here and so is the ache in my heart. The respite of summer and the business of planting seeds and tending them was a gift. And that gift has brought me here. To September. Somehow I must find the gift in it, and have no plan at all but to praise. And even if tears come, and they are, it's okay. Because I have a Maker who catches each one and promises to one day wipe all of them forever from our eyes.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

All is Grace and Grace Enough for All of Us

A long time ago I found a blogger named Ann Voskamp. She lives on a farm in Ontario. I love her writing. She has a friend named Shaun Groves. I love his heart. And today I wanted to share his latest project with you. Maybe give it a listen as you work around the kitchen? It's blessing me today, and I wanted to share it with you even if you don't believe as I do. I think it's still a good gift for a sore or tired heart no matter who you are.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

And There's Another Layer to This Onion Called Processing

Just the moment I think life is normal and wonderful again, I hit a bit of a roadblock. But it will be okay. It has to be. (Somehow that last sentence has me hearing it in my head as if Tom Hanks is saying it about Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail, not that I've watched it recently. Anyway...)

So I found out the pessary ointment may have an ingredient that is used in pesticide. Um, wonderful. Not. Whether or not that is actually true, it does have parabens in it, and I'm sensitive to those at times. In this case, quite sensitive. So the ointment is out, and I'm wondering how to make this whole thing work. Using a pessary is not as easy as the doctor made it look. But I'm not giving up because I intend to run and climb and hike.

But I'll be honest and say I had a brief and horrible meltdown on Friday night when this bump in the road had me imagining my future life stuck at home and unable to live like the outdoor girl my husband taught me to be. Somehow, I got really depressed imagining myself spending the rest of my life walking shopping malls, eating at McDonald's, and sitting on the sidelines of anything active. Yeah, I don't understand my imagination either. But it did a darn good job of depressing me.

I was on my way to working through this and getting the wind back in my sails when a woman at church asked me if Grasshopper was my only child and if I planned to have more. Usually the question doesn't bother me, and I just say that I hope we can have more. But for some reason, her question brought up a bunch of fear. Maybe it's because the pessary isn't perfect and perfectly easy after all. Maybe it's because I peed my pants while playing in the sprinkler yesterday, which would never have happened had not childbirth happened first. Maybe it's because as much as I'd like to forget, I'm well aware that c-sections aren't exactly as easy as opening and closing a ziplock bag and can come with complications of their own. Whatever the reason, I found myself looking at yet another layer in this processing of grief and fear.

And I don't have any answers. I'm not sure that I'll be okay with another delivery, or even if I'll get to have another baby. I'm not sure how I'll deal with it if Grasshopper is it. Heck, I'm not sure how I'll deal with it if Grasshopper does get a sibling and I have two kids to love on with all of my heart and keep up with.

All I know is that the layer I met today was mainly fear. And it did a darn good job of trying to paralyze me. I had no idea that fear was a part of the grieving and healing process. But now that I know, you can be sure that I'm going to kick its butt and tell it the Truth when it tries to make itself at home in my heart. The first thing it has to know is that my heart is completely occupied and there are no vacancies, at least not for fear.

Someday, when I get to the end of this story, I hope the original Author will help me understand all these chapters and let me have His view for just a bit so I can see why each chapter was valuable and how He didn't waste any of this. Because He better not waste this. And I know He won't. My favorite pastor in the world has a tattoo on his arm to that effect. If that's not certainty, I don't know what is.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I Just Have To Share

I primarily keep my deepest, most personal thoughts for my private journal these days. The past five years have involved moving to a new country, getting married in my 30's for the first (and only!) time, finding my part in a whole new community of people, getting pregnant, having a horrific birth injury that is only common in third world countries, learning to advocate for myself, going through the loss of a niece to stillbirth, watching my grandparents grow frail, losing a dear friend through a traumatic and sudden accident, losing the closest friendships I had in this new community (at least temporarily), and finding my place all over again in the midst of everything. So you can see why I don't put my heart out here with all of my thoughts and feeling available for everyone to see. A lot has happened in five years, both wonderful and hard.

Today though, well, I have to write about today here. Because maybe someday someone will need it.

Awhile back, my family doctor whom I'd learned to trust and appreciate decided to go back to school to become a palliative care specialist. That meant that I had to put my trust in someone who didn't know my story, who didn't know how long this birth injury journey has been. Thankfully, my family doctor understood how big of a deal it was after all I'd been through and he found a wonderful female family doctor who was willing to fit me into her already full patient load. And that new doctor took the time to meet with me and ask me if I had any concerns regarding this whole birth injury and healing journey.

And that one little question led to today. I got to meet with a gynecologist from South Africa. He's familiar with birth injuries and fistulas. He was also familiar with my story because he'd taken the time to review my records before I ever stepped foot in his office. He asked a few simple questions and I found myself responding as quickly and completely but concisely as I could. After all, I was just there to be fit with a little device that would enable me to run again. But we need to back up a bit.

First of all, this doctor happens to be in the same office building and just down the hall from the former office of the doctor who caused my injury. Though that doctor is no longer in that building, nor is she even practicing full time anymore, the idea of going into that building was not easy. For at least a year post partum, I fantasized about blowing the place up. I was that angry. So it's understandable that it was with some trepidation that I parked and entered that building for the first time in over two years. And as I climbed up the stairs I well remembered having had to crawl up just days after sustaining a fourth degree tear and other complications, I took a deep breath and hoped with all my being that this visit would be a good one that would not include a panic attack. I was proud of myself for having the courage to go there.

Secondly, I was a little bit of a mess today because I was over 20 minutes late for this appointment. I'd been stuck on the only bridge near us for over 45 minutes thanks to construction and people who were too busy to take turns. And I was a stressed out mess afraid of losing a precious appointment with a specialist, well knowing what wait times can be like.

Thankfully, the office staff was amazingly gracious and kind and immediately got me into the doctor's office. As I found myself telling a bit of my story, I was amazed to hear this doctor saying that he believed that things like failure to provide informed consent and failure to follow standard protocol happened during my child's delivery. I've been saying this for 2.5 years, but few have believed me. To hear a gynecologist not only saying it but suggesting that I seek official sanction of those involved was surprising to say the least. For every shred of affirmation or validation I've received in the past has had to be fought for. I've always had to present a passionate and solid argument, trying to win others to my perspective. But this time I barely had to utter a word. He knew my story from my records and he already knew that I'd suffered an injustice, a malpractice really, that led to a horrific injury that could have been prevented with a c-section. He actually said that I'd been given bad legal advice, not to mention inappropriate medical care during and after the delivery. But more importantly than that, he said what no one else has ever said. He said that this was about me as a woman and the injury that happened and should not have happened. Everyone else always focused on the fact that I ended up with a healthy child despite the unfortunate injury to me. But he was bold enough to focus on me and the importance of caring for the health and well-being of the mother as equal to that of the child. (This is hard to articulate, but I'm trying.)

I found out today that this man could have helped me from the beginning of my injury. He could have done the surgical repair, and if it had proven to be too difficult for him, he could have gotten me into see the most skilled Canadian surgeon here within two weeks (someone who was never even on the radar as a specialist I should see). As it was, I waited months to be seen for even a consultation and then had to endure invasive and painful tests that were unnecessary and ineffective. When I described what it was like to go through all of that and how the exams were so rough that all the physiotherapy I'd been doing to retrain my brain and body in the realm of pain memory was undone, he totally understood and mentioned that is why he never sends anyone to that particular surgeon. I don't hold any anger for those who sent me to the specialists in Vancouver, for they were only doing the very best that they knew how. My family doctor had never encountered anyone with my injury and neither had my maternity doctor, so they did the best they could to find a specialist for me by asking around. They just didn't know.

The only thing we can figure is that perhaps the Ob/Gyn who injured me did not refer me to this doctor down the hall from her when my complications first began growing worse because then she would have been found out, and referring me to someone in Vancouver (outside of our local health authority) would protect her from being humiliated or held accountable. I also found out that there are reasons beyond my own story that this Ob/Gyn is not practicing full time. This all made me feel quite vindicated for all the times I tried to share what my experiences were and all the times people thought I was too sensitive. The doctor I saw today could not believe that the Ob who delivered my son via forceps never mentioned the risk of a 4th degree tear or fistulas when seeking my consent, and he was speechless when he heard that they offered me a choice between forceps and a c-section, but then coerced my husband into choosing forceps after I asked for a c-section. He literally could not believe that they refused to accept my choice. But the thing is that he did believe me. He believed every word and he affirmed and validated me for all the hell that I went through.

He also affirmed my decision to seek physiotherapy with a woman trained in uro-gynecology and pelvic floor function. I've come a long way in the past 2.5 years thanks to my physiotherapist. Without her, I would still be unable to carry my son without incontinence, or enjoy marital intimacy without pain. He's the first doctor I've met who knew about it, believed in it, and understood that it's a very real thing to deal with muscle memory and pain memory. He's the first doctor I didn't have to sell on the idea of doing physio instead of surgery. And he operates on women with these issues. Amazing! In fact, it really is amazing that a doctor who primarily works in surgery would work with me to help me find a non-surgical solution for the remaining pelvic floor dysfunction I suffer so I could get back to running and climbing again.

After a long consultation, we finally made it into the exam room where he easily and gently fitted me with a pessary and taught me how to place it and remove it. And then he told me to go run and exercise and make sure it is a good fit. I did exactly that. I ran back and forth along our side yard, disbelieving that I was having no issues. So I went inside and jumped all over our living room, skipping through our suite. Still no issues. I felt like a normal woman who has never given birth, never faced pelvic injury. I still wasn't quite sure it was for real. So I did another test. In fact, I tried the test that is the gold standard. I jumped on the trampoline for quite awhile, stopping only when I was out of breath. If you are a woman who has ever dealt with incontinence, you know what a beautiful and fun gift this is. I haven't been able to jump or run for 2.5 years. My husband and I have a date at our favorite old running spot tomorrow, rain or shine. I can't wait.

I have no regrets for the journey I've been on, for I truly believe that God doesn't waste anything, and I know I've learned so much that will be valuable for others. While I would have loved to have had my fistula fixed quickly and in Canada, I am still and will always be grateful for the amazing surgeon in the States who had compassion on me and operated on me without a fee. I'll always be grateful for my old Ob/Gyn in my former home in the States who walked with me through this and made sure I got good care on his watch. And I'll forever be grateful to the Catholic hospital in the States that lowered our bill and enabled us to pay in full without bankrupting us. I know that the interactions I had with the various staff people in billing were beneficial to them as well as to me. And all of this experience has left me with a knowledge of and a passion for obstetric fistula care in Africa and Haiti. If I'd had my way and had a c-section, I would never have learned about the hundreds of women who suffer this injury without the medical care I've had, and my capacity for compassion and advocacy would never have had an opportunity to grow.

Even though I lost so much time with my child and suffered so many other very real losses because of this injury, I have gained and am gaining a great deal. So even though this isn't the story I would have written for myself, I am confident that it is ending with hope. And that is the best ending to have.

***If this helps anyone at any time now or in the future, this attempt to be so intimately transparent and very authentic will have been worth it. And if you ever need to talk to anyone about a birth injury, incontinence, pelvic floor dysfunction, PTSD related to a birth experience, or any other post partum issues related to a traumatic birth, feel free to view my profile and find my email there. Also, Solace for Mothers is a very helpful resource if you find yourself dealing with a hard birth experience. You'll find just about every kind of story there, everything from women who are ant-hospital/anti-intervention (not like me) to women who are pro-intervention (like me).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Contentment Outside the Rat Race

I was talking to my husband tonight as our child was blissfully falling into a melatonin induced slumber about how grateful I am for what our life looks like at the moment. Honestly, it's the community garden project that our church farm is doing that has provoked this sudden burst of gratitude and contentment.

It has been such an absolute gift to discover the peace and joy that have been filling up my empty soul as I've weeded and planted, watered and fertilized, staked and pruned. It's crazy that a little garden plot lent to me on a hazelnut farm would be the catalyst for so much, but it's true.

When we lost our home group leader in a horrible car crash that injured his family, my world literally changed overnight. I just didn't know it at the time. I had no idea that friendships would change so drastically. And I certainly had no clue that the church I ran to the Sunday after our friend died would suddenly be a source of crippling anxiety just one month later. It wasn't really the church. It was the relationships within the church. The changes to those precious gifts that had once given me a sense of belonging were just too much for me to handle. So I stayed away. One week turned into twelve, and before I knew it, I couldn't remember the last time I'd actually attended. Even when some amazing things happened in my heart to heal me in that broken part at an Easter retreat, I still couldn't screw up the courage to walk back into those doors. I knew it was time, but it was just too hard.

Then came the garden. After awaiting dry weather for what seemed like eons, we finally were given the go ahead to get in there and begin planting. I put in my seeds and plants, having no idea what fruit was in store for me. Sure, maybe I'd get some lettuce or some peas, but something deeper? I had no idea. But it's true. Coming to that little plot of borrowed dirt on the hazelnut farm my church owns gave me the courage to step back into the doors of the hall we rent on Sunday mornings. But it's more than that. The garden plot has given my heart a chance to grow and heal, to find peace and joy again. I know that all I can do is put the plants or seeds in the ground and tend them as best as I know how, and that God really decides what grows and what bears fruit. I cannot make a seed do anything just as I cannot make the sunshine and warmth visit our little spot in BC longer than a day at a time here. (Boy, if I had that ability, you know I'd be using it about now!) In a sense, I'm partnering with God in my little assigned plot. I still don't know if my tomatoes or peppers will ever have enough sunshine or warmth to produce or if that spinach I've planted three times now will ever grow. I don't even know if I'll get more than just that one first harvest of lettuce. Everything must be held loosely at the garden. Even that is teaching me some pretty big internal lessons that maybe I'll be able to put into words someday.

And I've found the contentment and joy permeating other areas of my life too. We live at the back of a little town in a rented suite. We've got trees and moss and slugs in abundance. Our neighborhood is quiet. I have to be intentional about putting my child in social situations, for we could easily stay home all the time and enjoy just our little family save the occasional trip to the grocery store. My life looks very different than it did when I was a busy classical educator balancing Latin lessons with science and math, studying reformed theology and systematically putting everything from books to beliefs in neat little boxes. I don't spend hours at a coffee shop debating the latest doctrinal topics with seminary students, and I'm not busy writing curriculum or helping to plan classes for a mega church. I'm busy doing laundry and trying to keep up with the stuff that gets tracked into our house. I'm busy changing diapers and kissing owies, reading board books and making up games. My life is about making creative dinners, making the bed, planning when I'll plant kale or can peaches or pick raspberries. I have no idea what the latest shows on television might be outside of the little I see mentioned online, and I definitely am not entirely aware of the latest fashions. Yes, I had no idea how much life would change when I moved into marriage and a new country five years ago.

But you know what? I like this life. Sure, there is no disposable income or cute SUV for me to play with. And I don't have to dress up for work. Heck, I don't even have to get out of my pajamas for work. But it's a beautiful life. I never understood how a friend of mine could say, "All I need to know is that Jesus loves me and that I belong to Him." I thought she was crazy. Because obviously, she needed to know about the deep things of theology and doctrine. She needed to know about the latest books or speakers out there. At least, that's what I thought.

Now I'm pretty sure my friend is onto something. The simplicity that has come into my life from moving away from all of that has been rather freeing, maybe even purifying somehow. I was reminded of that when I read about the latest kafuffle (how do you spell that anyway?!) in the evangelical church with a well known theologian and his comment on facebook. Five years ago, that would have mattered. I would have spent hours thinking, conversing, and writing about it. But now? Well, I read about it and then decided that I had other things I'd rather be doing. My husband put it well when he said that we're fixing our eyes on one Person. He's right. In this current season, I've found all the outer trappings of faith and daily life in a bigger town stripped away from me. And I've discovered something I didn't know was missing - a contentment and joy that sometimes surprises me with its sweetness.

I like this current season. I'm grateful for what (and Who) ushered it in. Do I still mourn all that was lost? You bet. But this current season takes that grief and wraps it up in hope and peace. And that's what makes the joy steal back in. That is a gift. And I'm grateful.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Let the Little Children Come

Jesus knew what He was saying when He told his disciples to let the kiddos come to Him. He valued them and loved them and He knew that they had a lot to contribute to the world now, while they were children, and not just later on when they grew up.

I was reminded of this today as a young friend was over for a baking day. She's had a long journey since the last time she was over to help out with my little one and do some baking. I was privileged to talk to her at this leg of her journey and was amazed at the wisdom and growth that she has gained in the midst of one of the biggest heartaches a person could ever face. As we talked about her story and her journey, she sounded like a seasoned counselor as she shared her perspective of grief. Honestly? I could have used this wisdom a long time ago when I was stumbling through trying to make sense of the part of her journey I shared. She knows more at 11 than I did at 36. And she probably has no idea, but she totally blessed me today with her words.

Jesus had it right. He knew we grown-ups would be so much richer for the time spent listening to a child. I sure am. And so is my little boy. He signed "please" the whole way home as he requested that she stay at our house longer after we'd already dropped her off.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

That Sunny Day In A Whole Different World

It seems like a lifetime ago. We were gathered at the home of one our fellow home group members for a picnic to celebrate the beginning of summer and the temporary end of meeting weekly. We were on a big property in the country, surrounded by trees and fields. The kids were all there laughing and playing and exploring. My little guy was being shared and passed around by the adoring girls who loved to love on him. I sat on a blanket and listened to this dad talk about his daughter's softball season and could hear the pride in his voice as he talked about her and the rest of the team he coached. I remember him stretched out on the grass, under the sunshine, with his hat perched a little over his eyes. He and the other guys were chatting about life and sports and things that mattered. He and his wife led our home group and invited us into their home every week.

I remember that man's wife taking her camera and sneaking around the trees to capture the kids playing on film. And when the owner of the property got out her vintage green truck to take the kids to the creek across a field, the man's wife - my friend - went along to capture some more memories. She got a lot of good pictures that day though I haven't seen them all. The smiles on the faces show a carefree innocence devoid of deep pain or loss.

We sat around in chairs and on the grass, talking and laughing, eating and enjoying being together. I remember thinking how grateful I was that this was my group, that these people had become my friends. And I remember thinking that this group was the answer to my prayers and wishes for a group where we could all grow together and do life together here on out. Contentment and gratitude filled me up and I felt a sense of belonging that was precious. Life seemed like it had come together at last, like I had a home. It felt complete. And not for one second did I even imagine anything could change that.

Not six months later though, life changed as we all knew it when the dad who was so proud of his daughter and her softball team died in a horrible car crash that also injured his family and broke all of our hearts. Everything has changed, and the memories that day that I accepted as a matter of course have become more precious than gold or diamonds. The fellowship that I planned on has become pretty much just a memory for now. Maybe one day things will be different and we'll find our place together again. I hope so. But it isn't happening right now. I never knew I could love and appreciate so much and lose the chance to share that.

The next time I make a memory like this, I hope I'll remember to take a moment and say thank you. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your fellowship and for letting me do life with you. Thank you for caring about my life and for letting me care about yours. Thank you for teaching me so much. Thank you for being an example. Just thank you. I'm grateful for you, for your life, for this community we're in together.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


It seems he knows me.
He said my name and knows the name of my husband and child.
But what else he thinks and knows and feels is a mystery.
The only thing I know for sure is that I love him.

Her heart is frail and out of rhythm.
Her mind is sharp though sometimes her vocabulary falters.
She determinedly continues on, strong beyond her body.
She loves and prays and endures.

I am their firstborn grandchild.
Swimming and fishing and playing and crafting are my memories.
They are my prayer warriors and my advice givers.
I do not know how to do this and tears fall from six eyes.

Frailty is not in the original blueprints.
Someday God will make all things new. He promised.
Vocabulary and vigor return.
I'll know how to do that and so will they.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

They Did It

My hubby and his friend completed their marathon on Sunday. It was a beautiful day full of sunshine and breezes. I had a blast with our toddler as we cheered the runners on. There is something about a marathon that is full of profound pictures. I especially love the verse in Hebrews that talks about those who've gone before us to Heaven cheering those of us on who are still journeying through life. I got an earthly glimpse of that Sunday as I watched hundreds of people cheering on the thousands of runners, whether they knew them or not. I also got much food for thought as I watched dozens of senior citizens complete the marathon, some with times that beat men and women 40 years younger. It was a glorious day with a glorious finish, save for the remaining lactic acid that has yet to work its way out of my hubby's legs and the little sunburn that somehow painted my ankles a vibrant shade of hot pink.

I've got lots of thoughts going on and some things I would love to share when I can find words to fit. But for now, I need to get back to bed. Morning with a toddler comes too quickly these days. =)

Saturday, April 30, 2011


In just a few hours, we'll roll out of bed before the sun even thinks about shining and get on our way. My husband and a friend of his are running in a marathon to honor a dear friend who was our home group leader before he died in a horrible wreck just three days after Christmas. He was many things, a runner being one of them. So these two men who loved and respected him are going to be giving their best to run in a marathon to honor him and provide a little something for his wife and four kiddos. I'm praying for a good beginning and a good finish and for no injuries.

This one is for you, Myron. We love you and we miss you more than we can say. But we hope you and Jesus are smiling as you cheer these two zany guys on as they run for you and your family. Oh, and if you have any pull with some guardian angels, this redhead wouldn't mind if you sent a couple to run with these two guys. =)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Heart Stuff

This season has been so challenging, and it's been sorely tempting to hibernate completely. It dawned on me that the mechanisms I was using to cover up the hurt weren't the most helpful, namely copious amounts of melted peanut butter and chocolate. Not even the addition of an apple could really justify that, so I went looking for better methods that weren't so hard on my physical self. So for about a week I read all of my John Buchan books into the wee hours of the morning, losing myself in the pages of World War 1 adventures. But then I ran out of reading material and needed something else.

I decided to try Brennan Manning again. His books are so deep and pithy that I have to be in the right space to really grasp them and have them bear fruit in my life. (It's way easier for me to grasp something profound if it's encased in a bit of fiction rather than philosophy.) Anyway, I decided to pick his book, A Glimpse of Jesus, since the subtitle talked about how Jesus is a stranger to self-hatred, and that seemed like something I could use a little help with these days.

While I don't understand all of what Brennan Manning writes in this book, little bits are jumping up and hitting my heart full force.

The first one that struck me was this: "The church, in all its structures and facets, should contribute to the resolution of self-hatred rather than write another chapter for the script." (page 15)

The church gets blamed for a lot, and I confess to being guilty of blaming it for a lot of things lately. But this resonated as truth in my heart. In the past nearly four months, instead of feeling built up and loved and valued, I've felt quite the opposite. And the funny thing is that most of the experiences of hurt came from parts of the church. Even funnier to me was that the two main experiences of being built up and loved and valued came from two places decidedly apart from the church. I'm a part of the very church I accuse of letting me down, and I realize that the responsibility of doing this also lies with me. And when I look into my own heart, I see lots of places where I could have done a better job of loving and valuing others too. So I guess this means we all have room for lots of improvement.

The next thing Brennan said that really struck me helped me understand why I've been so prone to "paint pictures of Egypt" lately. Here's what he says:

"I can be anointed, prayed over, sermonized to, dialogued with, and exposed to God's unconditional love in books, tracts, and tapes, but this marvelous revelation will fall on ears that do not hear and eyes that do not see, unless some other human being refresh the weariness of my defeated days. Barring prevenient grace, we humans simply will not accept our life and being as God's gracious gift unless someone values us. 'We can only sense ourselves and our world valued and cherished by God when we fell valued and cherished by others.'" (page 35)

That's what I've been missing. That's the biggest reason I've been, to quote Sara Groves, "painting pictures of Egypt". (I'm not saying that my old home is equal to Egypt, but if you know the song, you can understand how this metaphor would fit.)

When I first walked into the doors of my old church home, I was a broken failure of a person. I'd recently been booted out of a job I loved because I was failing to meet certain necessary expectations. It was handled in a very messy manner, leaving me reeling emotionally and feeling about as valued as a piece of garbage on the curb. But I walked into The Crossing that Sunday morning, full of nervous anxiety, ready to visit the church of someone I was dating at the time, not expecting to find it an instant home and hospital for my broken self. But when a pastor named Russ got up and began to talk that day about grace, he did it in such a way that it broke through the pain in my heart and beckoned me to come back to find more healing. So I kept coming. And I got up the courage one day to ask to meet with the discipleship pastor to tell her my story and see where I might fit. And the crazy thing is that she valued me. Even before I could really offer anything of value, she valued me and reiterated that it's really true that Jesus cherishes me. And then she did something even crazier. She invited me to try a few things alongside her. She let me serve, and she kept letting me serve. And with each success or failure in serving, she valued me even more until I found myself believing that I really did have value, that I really did have something incredible to offer from this messy journey of failure and grace that I was on. Before I knew it, I found myself getting to try things like speaking in front of church to share a bit of something I'd written, and writing curriculum for a class of a couple hundred folks. And in between those experiences, I was doing things like serving as a one-on-one caregiver for a child with special needs and making coffee for one of the classes and helping sort through toiletries and food for Hurricane Katrina victims. Those were days of growing in emotional health and really believing that a God named Jesus could love me, the girl who failed to grade papers in a timely manner and couldn't manage to make it to morning prayer meeting at her teaching job because she hated to get up early.

But I've forgotten all of that five years after getting married and moving to another country and another church home. I've forgotten that I really have value, that I'm really lovable. I've forgotten how to stride forward with confidence and take on little or big tasks with competence and creativity. And I know why, and I'm not yet ready to honestly let it go and forgive. That is the crux of all of this. When somebody doesn't value us, not only does it have wide-reaching consequences in how we feel as humans on this planet and as children of God, but it also brings up a need to forgive. And I'm not good at forgiving, especially when nothing has changed and the hurt continues. And while I'm the type to stubbornly insist that I shouldn't have to do this until someone values me, the truth is that not letting go and not forgiving and not focusing on just loving others keeps me stuck. It's rather silly to wait around for someone else to decide to help me get unstuck when making the hard decision to let go and move on would unstick me quite quickly.

And so that is where I'm at. Today I have the choice to get unstuck and to let go of the confusing junk of the past few months and just seek to be a kind and loving and valuing human being for whatever other human Providence puts in my path. This is going to take some work. And today I have the choice to just accept that where I am at now is not at all like where I once called home, and that though there are many things I don't like about it, I have the choice to find and appreciate the good things. Surely, there are good things about it. I have the choice to let go, to appreciate, to reach out, to be the lover of people and valuer I wish to receive. Wish me luck!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Listen to Your Mother

Mamas are all different the world around and yet so very much the same. We love with all we have and all we are. Some talented mamas used their words and put the beauty of motherhood on display last year. I share it with you because I thought you might want to gift yourself with this bit of encouragement just as I did after the dishes were finally finished, the laundry was halfway in process, and the two males in my life were fast asleep in bed.

This is amazing and well worth your time. (click on that link and it will take you to a vimeo video of the Listen to Your Mother performance directed by Ann Imig)

I hope you are as encouraged and blessed as I have been in watching this.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Song for Japan

A friend sent me this YouTube video, and I thought I'd share it with you.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Can I Get a Heck Yeah?

Life lately has been anything but rosy, and I have the melancholy all the way from the top of my head to the tips of my toes to prove it. And while I love Jesus, I have to admit that I'm having a heck of a time loving His Bride at the moment. This is not a new adventure, as I've cycled through these feelings before with different people at different times. So I ride the bad attitude waves, knowing that God will eventually give me the grace and mercy needed to learn to love my fellow humans again. For I remember the truth in what Derek Webb sings, "If you love Me, you will love the Church." (And by Church, he doesn't mean a building or a denomination, but the whole group of people who follow Jesus. Sometimes I get hung up on that part too.)

But here's the deal. It would be a heck of a lot easier to love the Church if we loved each other well and actually treated each other with kindness and sweetness and love and all that. I think that's where I fall off the end of my rope. I'm pretty sensitive, and after one too many times of being treated without kindness or gentleness or whatever it is that I need by someone who claims to follow the same Jesus I try to follow, I start to get tempted to give up on Christians as a whole. And when I see someone else I love being treated like crap by people who should be loving them instead, my penchant for justice comes to the fore and I want to come in with fists swinging. (I'm so dainty like that.) I pendulum between being angry and being sad and hurt. And I can totally picture the illustration my former pastor used years ago when he talked about Jesus in Heaven looking down at us on Earth and saying, "Kids! You're getting it all wrong! You're missing the point."

Lately, I feel like so many people I know are missing the point. And it makes me want to be a hermit. But I know that instead, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, we're called into community even though it's messy. Another blogger gets this too and she expresses it way better than anything I've written here. Plus, she sounds nicer. And I just sound like I have a snarky attitude. (I'm working on it, Mom, I promise!) So without further words from me, here you go.....

This lady says it well.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

There is Something to the Determination of a Child

I watched a little girl walk all over the place today. Two months ago, she was full of broken bones basically from head to toe. One week ago, she was proud to show me how she was just allowed to stand on her own. And now she is walking on her own. As I watched her full of so much determination motor around like a little penguin, I couldn't help but wonder in awe at how much can be accomplished by desire, perseverance, and stubborn determination.

There are so many reasons Jesus told us to be like little children. I'm thinking it's time to figure out how to be more like an eight year old.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


"Yes, my life has meaning. And so it doesn't matter that the day began with me feeling like a nobody who just got stepped on. As it would turn out, my heart feels much differently now. Funny how just a few minutes of someone's time and a few kind words can do that to a person. "

I wrote that in my private journal just before Christmas on a day that had started out rather crappy but was brightened and given a whole new outlook thanks to my doctor taking a few minutes to speak some encouraging words. My husband and I were talking tonight about how a certain situation could have transpired much differently than it has. He asked me what I'd boil it down to. I couldn't pinpoint it yet, but he mentioned that affirmation would have made a world of difference. Affirmation in the way people spoke and acted would indeed have made all the difference. It's a shame it didn't turn out that way.

So I write here in this space and encourage anyone reading to take a moment to add in the kindness and courtesies that make sunshine in someone's life. Use the "please" and "thank you", the "I'm sorry" and the "well done" when you can. Pay attention to the tone of your spoken and written word. Even if you aren't a word person and don't spend the kind of time thinking about semantics that I do, pay attention to how your words can come across to someone not like you. If you're not a highly sensitive person and you are having to work with a highly sensitive person, don't insist that they speak your language. Try to learn a bit of theirs instead. It won't kill you. It might enrich you. When someone shares their heart, listen. When someone shares their perspective, remember that perspective is reality for that person and seek to understand. Keep a soft heart. Don't discount what someone says even if you have a different viewpoint. Even in the midst of your own exhaustion or grief or stress, take a moment to be kind to the person in front of you.

Kindness matters. It can change the world if you let it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thinking About the Future

Since our friend died on December 28th and our whole world changed as we had once known it, I've been doing a lot of thinking. Things like what matters most, relationships, a legacy, taking care to plan for my child in the event something happens to me before he is grown, and other things have filled my thoughts and kept me up at night. But after listening to my friend speak of Heaven and the conversations she is having with her children as they grieve the loss of their daddy, I've been thinking about it too.

The other day, I crossed the border with a friend and stopped at the bookstore to pick up a couple books for our home group. I spent a bit of time looking for this one book on Heaven that my friend had mentioned reading to her kids. While it wasn't in stock, this other book was. It's called Heaven, and it's basically an encyclopedic look at Heaven by Randy Alcorn. It is endorsed by Joni Earickson Tada, among others, so I knew it was probably pretty good. I've read other books by Alcorn and was willing to give this one a try even though it wasn't cheap. So far, it has been totally worth every penny.

He backs up each point with Scripture and explains a lot of history and where we get some of our notions about the afterlife. I'm only now realizing that a lot of what I was taught growing up came from terribly written hymns, silly Baptist school teachers who were more influenced by Plato than they would ever dream, and some other less than stellar resources. What I'm learning about Heaven now actually makes me look forward to going there.

This post totally does not do the book justice at all, but I highly recommend it to anyone whether you have a faith or not. It is fascinating, and if you are at all like me and secretly hope to live in Narnia and be friends with the Beavers one day, I think you'll like this book. I totally dream about seeing the giraffe I met at the St. Louis Zoo this fall when I get there. I hope we are neighbors. =)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Quick Bloggy Note

For my favorite Sarah in the UK and a few others, I am so sorry your comments haven't been showing up. I just found out about them when I was going through some html settings. Though I had set everything to notify me with comments, none were coming into my email inbox, so I just assumed you all were quiet (or that I'd scared you away). =) Anyway, I've hopefully fixed that issue, and now hopefully you won't think I was just ignoring you! Because I wasn't, I promise. =)

Little Birds & the Dark

My husband has a lot in common with the American Dipper. That's a story for perhaps another day, but that is why he calls me Little Bird. Well, for that reason and the fact that I remind him of this little bird he often sees on construction sites. Currently, this Little Bird is prone to running into trees, pecking too much, and forgetting that I have a Heavenly Father who really does care about even the littlest of birds.

Grasshopper came down with a cough and a fever this afternoon. He and his daddy are snuggled under the covers fast asleep and I'm still awake longing for connection, wishing that a simple conversation could take away the pain in my heart. But it's too late to call anyone and because I know sleep is impossible at the moment, I decided to read some of my favorite blogs in hopes that they would have some form of connection, some nugget of hope or truth to shed some light on this dark day. To be perfectly honest, I was ignoring that still small voice that was inviting me to connect with Him and not a phone or a computer. But God loves me despite my looking for His comfort everywhere but Him. God in His infinite mercy led me here, where Angie Smith contributes on occasion.

Check out her post and then come back if you like.

When I got to the paragraph she quotes about how a sparrow cannot learn to sing in the daylight but must instead learn to sing in the darkness, the tears just burst out of me with a cathartic suddenness that only happens when God opens the floodgates Himself. Because that is me. I'm that sparrow. Years ago, I had other beautiful songs to sing. But the season for those songs is over and I've been left wondering what song I'm meant to sing and how I can even begin to learn it. Can a Little Bird really learn to sing in this darkness that seems to prevail despite every attempt to illuminate it? I believe she can. It may take time, and it certainly will take darkness. But if God really made a bird on purpose that needs darkness to discover its song, surely He knows what He's doing in my own dark season.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Quietness & Understanding

In this current season as we are experiencing sorrow and other hard things in our community, we also find ourselves learning some important lessons. I could list so many, but the one that sticks out at me the most involves being wise with our compassion and our words.

As I've read blogs over the years of people going through huge trials, I've often attempted to say something encouraging or helpful. As I watch my friend going through the loss of her husband and writing her beautiful heart out on her blog, I'm also watching people (including me) leave comments. Some are like a balm, soothing and loving. And some make me want to cringe with their presumption. Some even make me want to throw things. And it dawned on me that maybe I've been that type of commenter for others, without ever wanting to be that way or intending to be that way. But maybe I said things that were in fact hurtful simply because I did not have full understanding.

In times of grief we all want to do something, do anything to make the pain go away even a little bit. We do that in our own grief, and we do that when we see others grieving. What I'm learning is the importance of just being. It is hard to just be, but it is sometimes the very best thing to do. If Job's friends had been patient and willing to sit with him and just be for longer than the few days they gave him before they started speaking, I wonder if they too would have been richer for it. One by one, all the people around Job ended up hurting him with their words. They meant well, but their many words failed to show true understanding or even an acknowledgment that sometimes there is no understanding available. Does that make sense?

When I hear someone writing about depression as if it were only a sinful or weak response that could be simply combatted by putting on God's armor, I have a hard time staying silent. Those can be supremely hurtful words to someone who has been on the medical side of depression. Those words are like Job's friends, clueless and pompous, believing in their own compassion, failing to see it was no compassion at all. So when someone grieving mentions that particular topic, the best thing we can do is listen and pray and just be present. If we are in a position to have them consider themselves close to us, then we might ask questions to draw them out, but we should still be careful when making any statements that could feel more like harsh judgments. We have no idea what road they have walked, what wrestlings they have already fought through, what portions are body chemistry and what portions are everything else. We just don't know.

All this I would like to say to one commenter in particular on my friend's blog, but I cannot. So here I am on my public blog writing it out so that my heart can at least let this go. I don't know what my friend is most longing to feel or to hear or even if the comments that strike a nerve in me do the same for her, but for me, I know that I always most long for understanding. And when it cannot be given, I long for presence with quietness. I don't want to be alone in my grief, but neither do I want to have to hear words that sound like clanging gongs.

I don't know how much I'll write over here. Most of my time is spent privately journaling the confusion, grief, pain, and sorrow in a safe place. But if it were possible for the lessons I'm learning to be put into helpful words that were good, beautiful, and true, I might try to put them here. But this could also stay a pretty quiet place too. Only time will tell.

***If you are hungering for a good companion made of words to walk with you in a time of grief, I recommend Jerry Sittser's book, A Grace Disguised. I'm rereading it after several years and finding it packed with gold once again. There are other books by Lewis and Packer and others that are wonderful too, but Sittser's book is in my mind more helpful in the earlier days of grieving than the others.

Monday, January 3, 2011

To Begin Our Year

I haven't felt up for writing here in the last few days. It's not like I write very faithfully or well here often anyway. But sadness hit our lives on the 28th when a dear friend and our home group leader was killed in a car crash that also injured his wife and seriously injured their four children, including one who is my mother's helper and dear to my heart. I've been privately journaling about it, and that has helped. But did want to share one thing here.

When it came to December 31st and the idea that we'd be entering a new year, I was saddened. It dawned on me that I'd been secretly wishing God would give me a year where I could "coast", to quote something Brian Doerksen said in his Today dvd when speaking about his wish for an easy year after a series of hard years. And after the events of the 28th, it was obvious 2011 wasn't beginning at all like a coasting year, but instead it was beginning with intense grief and pain.

My dad, who is one amazing and caring and loving guy, sent me a devotional from some mission's organization that sends him online newsletters. I copied the first part of it below, which I later found out is rather timely because of the movie "The King's Speech" that is about this very king. (We're seeing the movie in a couple of days and I can say I'm looking forward to watching Mr. Darcy, er, I mean, Colin Firth.) Anyway, if you are having a year begin off a bit like mine, this quote and the excerpt from a beautiful poem may just feed your soul like it did mine. So here you go......

Pressing On
by Wye Huxford

It was a nervous, frightful time in England, when, on Christmas Day 1939, King George VI addressed his fellow citizens. One could hardly be critical of people in those days for being nervous and frightful. Hitler was moving into high gear when it came to his goal of taking over Europe - perhaps the whole world. Some have suggested that his speech was the most important Christmas message the royal family in England has even given.

King George closed his speech by quoting a few lines from an otherwise obscure Canadian lady named Minnie Louise Haskins. She had written these lines in a poem titled "The Gate of the Year." Here is what he quoted:

"And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand
of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.'"