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

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

THE WEDDINGS





























The breathtaking bride,
The handsome groom,
The beautiful decor & environment...
The ambience of love & joy,
anticipation, waiting, the vows.
Special moments, funny moments,
tradition, contemporary, memories, spontaneity -
A holy, happy blend.
God´s hand, blessing, faithfulness.
A new beginning, a new generation.
Family...

But it´s not our girl.
It´s not our family.
And in the heart of celebration,
there are quiet tears of loss.
Tears she is absent on her dear friend´s day.
Tears she is once again a missing bridesmaid.
Tears we will never see her fall in love,
walk through that mystery with her.
Her Dad won´t walk her down the aisle
or dance the father-daughter dance they had always planned.
I won´t be by her side in a million bridal secrets,
an accomplice in decisions & delights.
Her siblings won´t watch her romance with wonder
or plan some creative & hilarious surprise for her reception.
We will never know the amazing man
God may have chosen for her.
Today it hurts.

I try to be happy, for it is another´s day!
It is not my day
And I do not want to dampen it.
But my heart is torn -
and there are tears for the beauty,
tears for the joy,
and tears for the one who is absent.




¨Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and rejoicing may end in grief.¨

Proverbs  14:13




Photo by:  Norman M.

Monday, August 15, 2016

AUGUST IS HERS







































In my mind,
August is hers.
Many, many others have an August birthday -
But to this mother,
August means Jenna.

For her first 7 years in Argentina, it was winter.
But when we came to Spain, it was glorious summer -
her favorite season!

Everything about her month was perfect -
sunny, hot, happy, carefree
Full of friends, camps & family vacation.
Late night talks & sleeping in,
The beach, her favorite juicy fruits and ice cream.

Many summers went by...
And eventually we began to be separated by oceans.
It was so hard to not celebrate her in person during those college years!
But we created ways to send love from afar.

Her last August was an indescribable gift to us.
She was feeling good.
Five of her most special international friends
Flew in to spend 10 wonderful days here together.
Her last birthday party was in our front patio-garden...
Magical and memorable.
Full of music, life, precious friends from near and far,
amazing food, the smell of intoxicating jasmine and gifts of love -
songs, dance, poems, cards, paintings.
It was all as it should be...
And she was perfectly happy.

We didn´t know it then,
But she would die 2 months to the day of her birthday -
August 19 to October 19.
We are so glad we made that day so special!
Those bittersweet two months were made up of unforgettable days -
days filled with love & tears,
pain & questions,
prayers & struggles,
waiting & wondering,
surrender.

I wonder:
Can you celebrate a birthday without the person?
Would that be weird?
How should we remember her on her day now that she´s gone?
What should that look like?

How could I not grieve August?
23 Augusts of Jenna.
23 times to celebrate her life, her day.
I celebrate her every day -
but August is different, sacred...
August is hers.

Now August is brimming with other things...
mystery, nostalgia, memories, tears.
A heart made light with the sun,
A heart made heavy with longing...

For August is still hers -
It will always be so.




The lovely photo was taken by Malaga friends and Daniela.