Sunday, November 30, 2014


It seems impossible that there should anything lovely about pain.
It seems irrational that there should be anything beautiful surrounding pain.
It seems incoherent that there should be anything precious found in pain.
But I have seen it.

It seems disrespectful that there should be anything appreciated within the pain.
It seems incongruous that there should be anything cherished amidst the pain.
It seems unthinkable that there should be anything sweet to be found around pain.
But I have experienced it.

It seems preposterous that there should be anything hopeful in the devastation of pain.
It seems unreasonable that there should be anything alluring within the repellent that is pain.
It seems unbelievable that there should be anything treasured imbedded in pain.
But I have lived it.

Beauty and pain seem unreasonable partners, infeasible friends.
But is beauty not so exquisite at times that we cry?
Is pain not so productive at times in our character that we rejoice?

In the midst of terrible suffering this year -
of pain, of fatigue, of confusion, of longing,
There have also been very present the sweet moments, loving acts,
touching kindnesses, gifts of comfort from God, unexpected favors and love-deeds.
We have lain in green pastures, tasted clear, refreshing water, been touched by hugs & kisses,
smelled sweet oils of anointing & massage and seen immeasurable, extraordinary encouragement at just the right time.

We have experienced with all of our senses and all of our being
the pain, love and beauty of God in this year.
Unbelievable?  Yes.
Unthinkable?  Yes.
Possible?  Yes.
Interwoven & intertwined,
beauty & pain have visited us -
and we are the better for it.

Photo by: Anna Conti

Monday, November 24, 2014


In spite of this separation from Jenna, there is thankfulness:

God is with us.
We have said innumerable times this year, ¨How do people without God do it?¨
We have a Rock, an Anchor, a Refuge, a ¨very present Help in time of trouble¨.
This whole year is crammed full of His sustaining grace & evident love.
In our brokenness, there is still blessing...

We got to say good-bye well.
We all had an amazing relationship with her.
We were all together with her until the very end.
In the last couple weeks, there was both a flow of forgiveness & appreciation.
There were blessings said to one another.
Nothing was left unsaid.

God took her quietly & peacefully in her sleep.
She was able to be at home.
We had great support here to care for her.
There was grace, so much grace.
The hospital is only 10 min away.
Special people came alongside of us to give of their expertise -
a nurse, a psychologist, a spiritual director, friends, our precious team.

Jenna was so thankful for the rich life she had in 23 years.
We are, too.
She lived a beautiful, love-filled, adventurous life.
She was fulfilling her dreams, not waiting around for them.
Her life was rich in spirituality, family, friends and love of all things ethnic.
She lived to develop her gifts, passions & growing sense of justice.
She would have loved to continue...she fought to continue.
But she recognized a whisper that came to her -
It came to beckon her to her next adventure.

God made the way for us to be together -
The leave of absence granted for Dani,
The flexibility & support of Jordan´s school for him,
Even the timing of Bruce´s sabbatical which although not ideal,
gave him more flexibility to be at home.
When I stepped back from various responsibilities to care for Jenna,
God gave me amazing opportunities through the blog to touch others -
even in a time of personal ¨hiddenness¨.

We are grateful for new windows into Spanish culture this year;
We experienced a compassion, interest and support like never before.
In our need they showed themselves to be faithful friends & neighbors,
They encouraged us in practical and verbal ways.
And in the end, at her death, they showed us how to grieve in community;
they showed up, they cried, they sat with us, they showed love & sadness...
And they always ask, every day they ask.

We thank God for the many who prayed & accompanied us -
The young people of Málaga who gathered multiple times in our home,
Many other friends who came to pray for Jenna.
Special people who had a burden for healing prayed for her.
Friends around the world who prayed - some even strangers.
People passed the word on & groups & families & individuals we didn´t even know
Were banging on heaven´s door for Jenna.
Some people pass through great pain alone.
We were surrounded.

We are thankful for financial provision during this time -
Our insurance company and others who gave for the many holistic expenses.
The churches who helped us fly Dani home or help a couple of Jenna´s friends
fly out here to see her one more time.
For the two friends who developed the donation site so people could give easily online.
Individuals who gave generously just so we ¨could get away¨ or for any need.
God has provided for all our needs.
Everyone has blown us away.
He has blown us away.

We are full of gratefulness that He spoke to us all year,
That He sustained Jenna through such suffering with various verses and visions.
We are indebted to the kindnesses of so many who rallied practical help & who gave help.
We are overflowing with thanks for His presence, His nearness, which has been our good.
I am thankful for strength to remain positive & thankful.
We are thankful for the spiritual encouragement of those who came to sit with us
& just listen to God.
Thankful for His grace over our children and our marriage,
Thankful for crazy friends who came to the hospital and made us laugh,
Thankful we have God on our side, for Him as our Shepherd, that He is in charge.
There is peace in that.

This year as we enter this season of Thanksgiving, we acknowledge with melancholy - no, with an ache that won´t go away - that she won´t be sitting at our table.  But we also acknowledge the many other things we have which are causing our hearts to overflow with gratitude. So, in spite of subdued emotions, we offer our Psalm of Thanksgiving...

¨Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever...¨
Psalm 107:1

Photo by:  Tjololo Photo

Friday, November 21, 2014


I wanted to share a letter we received this week from a friend.  She articulated a number of things that we have struggled with and we thought many of you could also benefit from reading her well thought out words...

Dear Pam, Bruce, Dani & Jordan,

I probably knew Jenna the least well of any of your family friends, but I write this letter to tell you that her passing has had an indelible impact on my life.  I think of her absence from this earth and pray for your family on a daily basis. I cannot imagine how much pain you feel each day to wake up and remember the fact that she is gone.  I wanted to write to you and tell you how much she meant to me and how I have begun to process our fighting for her life in the spiritual realm, followed by her death, with the hopes that these reflections bring any comfort whatsoever to your hearts.

[She said a lot of nice & meaningful things about Jenna which I will put under COLLECTIONS but for now I will skip to the part where she articulates so well the struggle a lot of us have had.]

Jenna´s death has rocked my understanding of prayer and humbled me before God.  I had begun to believe that I had some sort of control over the universe by my prayers and that I understood God´s will enough to know for sure that Jenna´s death was not a part of it.  I believed that if enough people prayed hard enough we could change God´s mind about delivering her from the ravages of cancer right here and now.  I was wrong.

I have been stopped short in my tracks, speechless at the realization that no amount of prayer, however earnest, can alter God´s sovereignty.  No amount of human wisdom can fathom God´s ultimate intentions.  Do I still believe a powerful God exists and that this God is loving toward all of us, even though he did not heal Jenna?  Yes, I do.  But Jenna´s death was so tragic and so earth-shaking, that I have had to stop and seriously consider these questions  I feel I must do so to test the integrity of my own faith and for the benefit of my friends who do not believe, so that I can more sincerely answer their doubts.  You are not alone in any confusion and pain you express and I thank you for sharing it with us, your support network, through your blog and fb posts.  It has blessed us all.

Throughout the process of praying for Jenna, I found solace in the Holy Spirit´s whispering to me over and over again that, ¨it is going to be alright¨, though I clearly misinterpreted this assurance at the time to mean she was going to be healed before our eyes.  I was also deeply moved by the realization (based on facebook comments) that those who participated in praying for her all over the world sensed that ours were powerful prayers.  Before her death, we believed that God was going to channel this power into her earthly healing.  But even at the time, I had a sense that God was doing much more than a work inside Jenna´s body.  He was changing things on an invisible level, where we could not measure our impact, but felt it deeply in our spirits.  I still feel that we were shaking the gates of hell by our prayers.  I stop and ask myself, ¨Is this just wishful thinking?  Am I just grasping at straws to find some redeeming value in what was really just a colossal waste of prayer?¨  My spirit responds vehemently that, ¨NO!  We do not understand what has happened here, but someday we will.¨ In this future hope, I put my doubts to rest and surrender Jenna to God.  It is a wane light I see in that distant sunrise, but it will be bright someday, blindingly so.

I pray that you will be protected from the deepest pain of the withdrawal of a sense of God´s nearness in this time of grief.  May God´s truth surrounding this tragedy grow brighter each day for you and those who witness your family´s grief.  May his glory be multiplied in such a way that all of heaven will remember the toil of your sorrow for what it reaped in the eternal realm.  But for today, may the memories and vivacity of all that was and is Jenna comfort you as you hold one another up.

God´s peace,

Laura (Morris) Saylor

Mark and Joann Morris, the parents of Laura, have graciously lent us their guest house over the years when we´re back in California.  This has been a refuge for us and we have made a myriad of great memories there with them, including long walks/runs with deep conversations like this one! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


¨Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.  Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.¨ *

By Rainer Maria Rilke, German poet

One of the most difficult things to surrender this year has been the desire to understand.  Trying to understand  the whats and whys and how longs of this journey was occupying a lot of my thoughts & energy.  I was obsessing over it.  I finally had to make peace with that because one day I realized that no matter how God-given our desire to understand might be, we are not God (surprise) and are therefore limited in our understanding.  

I don´t know if I´m slower than you or not but it took me a while to get that I can´t possibly comprehend the infinite.  I know, dumb, right?  But I subconsciously kept striving & yearning to understand our life & situation...until I had a wake-up call while reading the truth of Isaiah 55:9:   ¨For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.¨

It turns out His thoughts and plans are not just a little bit different or higher than mine - they are more abysmally different than the heavens from the earth!  This means I have a choice:  trust in His plan without knowing what it is, how long it will last or what it´s purposes are - or not believe in God.  I can´t believe in a God who has infinite power but no kindness.  Nor can I believe in a God who is all kindness but has no power.  How could that be God?  But I do choose to believe in a powerful God of kindness.

I love this idea of living the questions.  So many times we don´t live until we find the answers.  But sometimes the answer is way over our heads or we´re not ready for it (but don´t know it) or we can´t bear it.  But life is so full of questions.  If we are continually waiting for answers we will never live!  Living questions means having to live trusting in Him.  Trusting in His wisdom, His timing, His plans, His demonstrations of love, His decisions on whether and when to give answers.  Can I live in peace with that?  If I can, I can live the questions.

There are many questions in my life right now.  But I think I am just a little bit closer to living in peace with them instead of fighting against them.  Just a little bit closer to living with them instead of waiting impatiently for them.  I think I am just a bit closer to living the questions.  And I pray that someday I will just live right on into the answers...

*Thank you, Kati, for this quote that has been so helpful.

 Photo by:

Friday, November 7, 2014


How long will it take to grieve the past,
the precious days & years
the myriad of memories
the magic of a baby
the close-cheeked hugs of little girls
the years of princesses & drawings & books & cute things said
the decades of schools & friends & birthday parties & trips
the love of animals & music, dancing & silliness
the moments of prayers & tears, secrets & learning, surprises & spontaneity -
they are too many to count...almost too many to remember.
How long to grieve it?
A million years, I think.

How long will it take to grieve her growing-up days?
the passage of time, the changing of schools & homes
the acquisition of languages & cultures, loves & talents
the trips taken together, the laughter shared, the lessons learned
the sibling affection & rivalry, the development of gifts
the guests, the meals, the craziness, the ¨UN¨ that was her comfortable home place.
How long to review the passage to teen, the studies, the friends, phone calls & chatting?
How long to remember one more time the choosing of subjects & friends,  faith & direction?
How long to see her all grown-up & beautiful at a dance or proud at graduation or her fierce loyalty to friends & family & countries?
How long?
A million years, I think.

How many things to be rewound & revisited in the movie of her life...
her launching out to her year in France - her discoveries, her lovely French,
her love of the family she cared for, the spiritual renewal & vision she revolutionized our home with, the independence she learned, the lessons she plowed through.
Then the years at university that she forged with strength & determination,
the assurance of her loves of international studies & leadership,
her relational gifts & her beautiful way of expressing herself, her leading out of her spirituality and her struggles for authentic expressions of faith and body life
What about her intrinsic love of literature & art, music & food and all things ethnic?
How long will that take?
A million years, I think.

How long will it take to lovingly remember her friends, the ones she has loved & created a million memories with in Argentina, Morocco, Spain, France, the US - and around the world?
The globe was their playground!
The world was theirs for the taking!
The coffees and mates, dinners and late night baking caused them to gather -
to gather and talk, wonder, question, laugh, sing, pray, debate, argue, love on, aspire to, dream about, encourage and live with...
The memories of lessons learned, life experiences gained, passions shared, causes fought for, identity solidified, humor recorded,
The shared marks on a heart of an urban term or an overseas term, a conference or rally or concert -
always doing life with those dear to her, whether near or far...
How long will it take for them?
A million years, I think.

How long will it take to grieve the present?
The wonderful unexpected time of having her in our home again, the caring for her, the earnest praying for her,
The deep things God was doing in her, the eagerness for wellness to get on with the beautiful plans He had given her for her life,
The wondering together of what God was going to do, the expectation of what He could do & its ramifications...
And the long will it take to grieve the suffering?
The suffering of this long year, the physical & emotional, social & spiritual suffering for all of us
How long will it take?
A million years, I think.

To miss the sweetness of her hand in her father´s, the smell of oils of her sister´s massage of her hurting body, the kisses & notes of a brother and the love & presence of a mother, always the presence of a mother...
How long will it take to miss the one who looked at me and immediately understood what the Dr. had told me?
How long to reread all the notes, cards, e-mails?
To look again at the artwork, the photos and the precious gifts sent with such love and affection?
How long to watch the reruns in our minds of the family unity we enjoyed this year in spite of her limitations?
Or to savor the preciousness of every minute as we learned to do...
How long will that take?
A million years, I think.

And how long will it take to grieve the future never lived?
The graduation unmet, the overseas Masters never acquired,
the NGO platforms never used to ¨make a difference¨.
The 3 languages never used, the Arabic never perfected,
the Syrian refugees never touched as she so yearned to do.
How long will it take to grieve never watching her fall in love?
To never get to know the wonderful man who would have finally captured her heart?
to never help her plan her wedding day, to not celebrate with her
to not watch her dance the ¨Cinderella Song¨ that she always planned to dance with her father?
How long will it take to grieve not being able to visit her in some cool place and hold our grandchildren & watch them in their multicultural environment?
How long to grieve her sister´s emptiness at moving on without her and her immeasurable loss of her best friend in the rest of life?
To not have her sister near her during university years, to explore the world with, to be present at important life events?
How long to grieve her brother´s growing up through the teenage years without her input and example? To not have her Skype or come home at Christmas or make him an uncle someday?
How long will it take to grieve who she could have been, where she would have gone, who and what she would have influenced?
How long?
A million years, I think.

How long will it take to grieve the past, present & future of someone so precious to me?
I think it may take...a million years.

Photo by: Michael Schaffner

Sunday, November 2, 2014


so full of longing
for the peace of green meadows
for the bubbling melodies of a little girl
for smiles & wildflowers
yes, always the innocence of wildflowers.

so full of pining
for the light & warmth of sunny days
for time & dear ones to soak in it
for the slow & silent passing of time
yes, always the preciousness of time.

so full of hungering
for the smells & tastes of yesterday
for the sharing & toasting of togetherness
for the aromas & zest of flavors that were her,
yes, always the medley of flavors that were her.

so full of yearning
for closeness & earthliness
for certainty & tangibility
for seeing & touching in the flesh
yes, always the reality of touch.

so full of wishing
for a different ending
for a rewriting of the chapter
for fulfillment of prayers both loud & whispered
yes, always the consummation of prayers loud or whispered.

so full of hoping
for fresh perspective
for new realities & traditions
for progressive & therapeutic healing
yes, always the progress of healing.

so full of longing...

Photo by:  Alice Popkorn