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.