Thursday, October 19, 2017

JUST YESTERDAY









































Wasn´t it just yesterday I held you in my arms
and stared at wondrous newborn perfection?
Wasn´t it just yesterday we sang & giggled & danced,
read books & made huge messes in the kitchen?
Wasn´t it just yesterday your Dad pushed you on a swing in the plaza
higher than all the other kids?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that we walked you to school
where you began to forge your thinking as your own?
Wasn´t it just yesterday you prayed so sincerely,
adored & bossed your little sister and avidly used two languages?
Wasn´t it only yesterday that you wanted to be baptized in Buenos Aires
before our big move to Casablanca?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that you showed so much character in difficult transition
that I said to your father when you were only eight that you are braver than I?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that we arrived to Spain where you made lifelong friends,
welcomed your baby brother, explored music and art and spiritual community?
Wasn´t it just yesterday you developed increased passion in literature, languages &
far away places?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that you shared secrets & laughter & a million memories,
merging your soul with your sister´s?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that conversations deepened with your Dad
as you travelled together?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that you could play endless games of cards with your brother
and then just as naturally engross him in topics way beyond his years?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that you graduated from high school, planned out a gap year in France
and brought a spiritual revolution back to our home & to Málaga?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that I left you at your university with newfound international friends
and then watched you grow & flourish & extend your wings?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that you challenged the thinking & spirituality of others,
opened your home to anyone & increasingly grew in passion for the Middle East?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that your beautiful personality was maturing,
a blending of deep, genuine, funny and interesting?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that our relationship began to turn peer
and you were teaching me things about my own self?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that you would invade the kitchen & cook up a foreign storm
complete with French music and a sexy, flamenco apron?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that you packed your bags for six months in Lebanon,
embarking on your first real international solo job & research for your senior year?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that your Dad & I listened by skype to your adventures & insights,
wondering Who Is This Girl We Raised?!
Wasn´t it just yesterday that after many challenges, amazing relationships & learning
you came back home to the place & people you said always grounded you?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

And wasn´t it just yesterday that God suddenly put you on a much different journey
and through the shock you embraced His purposes for you?
Wasn´t it just yesterday we spent months fighting for your life, praying for miracles
and reveling in so much love poured out on us, an ordinary family?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that the moment of ultimate sacrifice came to us:
release you back to the One who loved you first?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that we said good-bye, cried for months
and couldn´t figure out how to live without you?
Wasn´t it just yesterday we wrestled & mourned & celebrated & remembered
all the while questioning: How could this be real?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that your family was thrust into grief
as your last chapter on earth was sealed & you went to your eternal home?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

No, it´s been three years.

Three years of wrestling & questions, of insights & doubts, of receiving comfort & feeling desolate.  Three years of tears & learning, tentatively comforting each other, pushing our way through fatigue & depression.
Three years of searching for the right healthy outlets, the true listeners, the acceptance of styles and paces of grief among us.
Three years of trying to balance honoring you while moving on.
Three years of trying to learn something very, very hard: How to do life without you?

It seems it will take us the rest of our lives.

For your life, your person & the memories formed are so near, so real, so precious.
They all feel like it was...just yesterday.

Wasn´t it just yesterday?







Saturday, October 14, 2017

EVERY TEAR, A PRAYER




























Every tear, a prayer
Every breath, a call
Every turning inward, a question.

Every step, courage
Every artistic outlet, release
Every remembrance, love-agony.

Every cut on the heart,
Every jarring to the bone,
Every aching of a muscle,
a joining with the Man of Sorrows.

Every word, every deed
Every emotion, every day
Every soul-battle, every laying down of the sword,
a search for The Presence.

Every day, an absence
Every week, a yearning
Every month, a counting,
a prisoner to eternity´s curtain.

O Eternal One who knows all things!
Can you not align all of these pains & dilemmas
under your shield and send them marching far from me?
Can you not change me without suffering?
You have an infinite number of tools!
Why is This Crushing the only thing
able to produce The Fragrance?

For I see that you love...The Fragrance.
the kind that only sacred tears produce
the kind that only searing emotions laid before The Shepherd produce
the kind that love & grief approaching the altar of a Savior produce
the kind that soul-questions brought to the Scarred Feet of a King produce.

But for now,
Every tear, a prayer.


Friday, June 30, 2017

GRADUATIONS







Graduations are proud affairs. They represent so much hard work, sacrifice, money, separation, maturing, and growth in a myriad of areas - and I am not just talking about the student! So when a young person graduates, the ones who have cheered them on and sacrificed in different arenas on their journey, love to gather to celebrate with them.

Besides their parents, there is no one on earth who influenced Dani and Jordan's lives more than their sister. So when they both celebrated distinct graduations this June, I was overcome with missing Jenna. She should have been there, smiling and radiant, pride unabashedly revealed, yelling "Guapa!!"  "Guapo!!" as they walked forward. It was a time for family and she was missing.

Sometimes I imagine her watching from heaven.  Other days I am unsure that once in such a spectacular place will there be any interest in looking back at earth. I waver between my thoughts about how much love God has and how much he has given to us for each other especially in family...how could that not be eternally enduring and capable of transcending heaven and earth? Why would Jenna still not track with us when there has been so much love between us? There are so many things I do not know.

I do know that while we all keep moving forward in life, there are many days when there is an unexpected catch in our breath at a memory, a photo, a note, a song, an event. There are tears because there has been love. It will always be so. She is still so very present in our decisions and thoughts, in our celebrations and hard times. Sometimes I yearn for her advice with a sibling. Sometimes I long for her easy company in the kitchen. Sometimes I can't stand the thought of a root beer float without her! Sometimes I need to have a long, deep talk with her. Sometimes I am overcome at the privilege of having given birth to such a spectacular human being.

I am proud of Dani and Jordan and who they are becoming. Jenna would be, too. Surely she is their #1 fan in heaven, cheering them on as part of their "cloud of witnesses." 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

YOU SAY (A REALIST'S WALK THROUGH PSALM 91)




























Lord, you say you are a refuge and a fortress,
that you will save me from snares and pestilence.
But life does not feel safe.
Pitfalls and illness have definitely touched me,
they have assaulted me.
They have confused and hurt me.
Where is the refuge?

Lord, you say you will cover me,
that your faithfulness will be my shield and rampart.
But painful things have come.
The shield and rampart did not stop them
There is an ugly hole where they exploded wildly and penetrated.
I am wounded and vulnerable.
Where is the covering?

Lord, you say a thousand may fall,
that even ten thousand may fall, but not come near me.
But it has come near me.
Crises have come like insistent, crashing waves.
Things are falling all around me!
I am felled, drowned.
Where is the standing?

Lord, you say if I make the Most High my dwelling,
that no harm will overtake me, no disaster come near.
But loss has shadowed me.
The High dwelling is invisible to me;
It has not sheltered me from many things.
I am overwhelmed and overcome.
Where is the haven?

Lord, there is too much mystery for me today.
I do not understand your words.
I do not understand your ways.
Will it take eternity to rest in these paradoxes?
Will it take eternity to help me understand?
Will it take eternity to understand your version of safety?

Lord, you say if I love you, you will rescue me.
That if I acknowledge your name, you will protect me.
I need this reality today.
I need this mysterious blending of love and rescue,
of acknowledgement and protection.
Please meet me in my hesitant yet earnest cry.
For there is no other refuge,
there are no other safe arms,
no other feathered wings,
on this earth for me
apart from you.

Lord, you say...so many things.
Help me in my unbelief.
Walk me gently through the polarities, the dichotomies, the antitheses, the enigmas, the complexities of spiritual life on this earth.
Guard me tenderly and with compassion -
for you know my humanity,
and understand my fragility,
and you say you will be with me.

You say you will show me salvation.
Open my eyes to what this looks like to you.
Reveal the contours of your versions and visions of deliverance...
And I will rest there.
I will cover myself with that fresh understanding...
For in your rendition of refuge there is certainly a covering for me.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

LOVE IN A BRICK


























Dedicated to the amazing VCC work team who labored 
this week on the Mirador de Jenna at Monte Olivos camp, Córdoba, Spain.


Love handled each brick
touched each stone
stirred mortar
& shoveled sand.

Affection was poured 
into buckets & wheelbarrows
troweled in cement
sponged over grout.

Endearment floated with dust
onto faces & hands
silted on skill
hazed over craftsmanship.

Mission pushed bodies
beyond fatigue & complaint
passionate teamwork 
focused in holy purpose.

Sacrifice coursed through service
consolidated into fence posts
positioned in stones
envisioned in the garden to come.

Tenderness met me
in tear, song & prayer
lingered over conversations
infused work & rest.

Worship took form
standing or kneeling
teaching or learning
directing or following.

Devotion embodied
in glistening love-sweat
in the honoring of excellence
in loving labor, in skill.

Reverence reflected
in the mess, in the weariness
beauty in blessing
& love in a brick.



How could I ever find words to express the humbling experience of watching two teachers, one retired career counselor, a personal trainer, a brilliant computer technician, a women´s ministry leader, a marriage & family therapist and a leadership consultant doing the kind of back-breaking work we just did for five days?  There was only one professional bricklayer among us! (And he had the patience of Job.)  I am incredulous at your love and sacrifice for our family project honoring Jenna and for your vision for what this place can be for all those who pass through Monte Olivos camp. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.



Photo by:  Marc Falardeau

Friday, April 14, 2017

FRIDAY TO SUNDAY'S GRIEF WALK





The walk between Good Friday and Easter Sunday has various parallels to the grief journey.  They are both of very different lengths yet there is an informal correlation to the classic stages of grief (which may or may not be everyone´s experience).  On Friday there is a passage through darkness, pain and death, followed by Saturday´s quiet loneliness, never ending questions and slowness of the passing of time and Sunday´s hope at the end.  I believe only those who choose to focus on - or at least try to be open to - Sunday´s reality and meaning will make it through their grief.

Friday is dark.  It is full of agony, pain, injustice, confusion, crowds and some bad decisions.  For the ones who loved Jesus, there were probably plenty of other tearful ones around them sharing their grief.  There were also lots of other difficult emotions like shame & guilt, confusion, anger, utter disbelief & shock.  It was not a day anyone would soon forget. It was also a day which marked forever all of His disciples; they would never again be the same.  Even history was divided by this extraordinary day.   It is a day consummate with the heaviness of grief while at the same time laden with deep meaning.

Saturday was quiet.  Most had gone to their homes Friday night.  Some of the disciples met together but the crowds were gone...everyone turning over yesterday´s events and questions in their minds.  The disappointment of those who had followed Jesus hung gloomily in the air.  They thought He would be their King!  How did everything go so very wrong?  Saturday is full of questions, anger, the rehearsing of events in their mind, loneliness, disillusionment and quiet.  Time passes very slowly on Saturday.

The classic stages (or interweaving phases) are shock/denial, anger, dialogue & bargaining, depression & detachment and acceptance.  We see these reflected in the characters´ emotions and dialogue in the gospel narrations of Christ´s death, burial and resurrection.

Those who determine to stay open to the hope of Sunday make it through their grief (not that it is ever actually over).  Without the hope and power of Sunday´s resurrection, we would live continuously in the horror of Friday´s death events or the interminable, confused waiting of Saturday.  Having a resurrection before us is our only hope!  There is only one hope in grief - that the Redeemer will somehow redeem death.

Getting from Friday to Sunday in heartbroken pain is an enormous task.  Believing for Sunday´s hope takes emotional energy and there isn´t much of that when you are trudging through continual sadness so heavy you can hardly move. But we who grieve must keep walking and waiting, day by day, step by step.  There is no other way to receive healing, to see light again, to make peace with God, to embrace hope.  

Those who have travelled through Friday and Saturday intentionally will be the ones to appreciate and treasure the power and healing of Sunday.  

May your ¨walk¨ this weekend be full of meaning.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

EVERY DAY IS OCTOBER THE 19TH





























How do you spend the anniversary of a death?  Is ¨anniversary¨ even the right word?  Isn´t that word overly celebratory being it´s in the family of birthdays, weddings and other such happy events?

Some people have asked us what we will do that day and it really touches me that they remember the date with us.  But it still doesn´t make knowing how to answer it any easier.

Others in our shoes seem to know exactly what they want to do:  go to the cemetery and lay flowers, host a commemorative event, visit the last place they saw their loved one alive or take a journal to a solitary place and grieve alone.  I respect all of these choices and have done almost all of them at some point myself.  Why do I not seem to know what to do on a date of such importance?

I was skyping with my daughter last weekend and I asked her if she had anything special she was planning for the 19th.  She said with some melancholy that it was a normal day of back to back classes at university and that she thought the best way to honor her sister was by doing what she loves - dance.  (She´s a dance major.)  She dearly misses her sister´s presence as she grows and matures as a dancer and know that this is what she would want her to keep doing.  She said she may get away another day to the beach (one of their favorite places) and journal.  Then she sighed and said, ¨After all, Mom, every day is October the 19th

That´s when it hit me!  If every day is a day that I miss her, think of her, wonder about her, grieve about her absence in our lives, what is October the 19th? If every day my heart catches at her photo, an old favorite song, a note from a friend of hers, the tenderness in a sibling´s voice recounting a memory, October the 19th is just another day of remembering this great loss.

Don´t get me wrong, the date is a significant one  - I can feel it unconsciously in my spirit approaching even if there is no calendar in front of me.  We have made it through two years without her.  We are learning - very reluctantly - to live without her.  But grieving is no respecter of calendars... grieving is day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, sometimes breath by breath.  And that´s why I now understand:  Every day is October the 19th.

I suppose that October the 19th is somehow more formal, more official.  You may grieve alone a lot of days, but that is a day when others may still remember and join you.  It weighs more than other days.  It´s written down, it´s recorded.  In history.  There was a starting point recorded for the world and now there is a stopping point recorded for all time.  She was born, she lived, she died.  She made a difference.  She mattered.  She was here. But now she is gone.  Her days on this earth were appointed by her Maker.  And October the 19th marks that point.

But not another day goes by that that empty space does not resonate poignantly in my heart. 




Photo by:  Peter