Saturday, April 30, 2016

five things I learned in April

Every month I learn new stuff. Stuff that's fun, and stuff that matters.

So here's a quick reflection on April.

1. Grade school orchestra concerts are beautifully terrible.

My older grandson plays the bass. He's the only kid in the orchestra that plays it, and he loves and is quite good at it. For real, not just my Nini-pride talking I promise. So of course we go to all his concerts and I have eyes only for him even as my ears are completely assaulted with all the learners.

Actually I knew this fact once upon a time, when my own kids took their turn at learning new instruments, but I had forgotten the magnitude of terrible awe of a concert.

2. I have to have a hip replacement in July.

OK so this is bad news. I didn't want to hear it. I resisted going to the doctor because I knew it was coming. And since I had my other hip replaced about three years ago, I don't have the bliss of ignorance this time. Recovery will be easier because I know what to expect, and it will be awful because I know what's coming. Boo.

3. Re-reading Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman has been really good for me

The truth is that I flipped back to the beginning and immediately started over because I just knew that I had missed stuff. That I needed to ruminate more slowly on much of what she has to say there, because I devoured it the first time.

 Simply Tuesday

And indeed I was right. I'm learning the depths of moving small through this world that wants big and exciting and fast.

4. My youngest grandson's growing vocabulary is increasingly hilarious.

Suffice it to say he gets some of his consonants wrong. And he loves trucks.

5. Sometimes grief hits you like a ton of bricks when you least expect it.

Like, 11 years later. And it's confusing and exhausting and I'm pretty sure I'm processing the loss of "my" children in a way I never have and so the delayed grief is coming in waves.




Mary Ann

All these beautiful children found then lost. I was deeply connected to each one and I am so so sad.

And that's some of what I found out in April. It was a wonderful and difficult month.

How about you? What did you learn in April?


Monday, April 18, 2016

on grief ... for when someone is missing

This weekend was the prom in a little town in Iowa. A time of excitement and joy, for the prom-goers and for their families.

But for my friend Sara, it was a time of grief and longing and loss. Because Anna was missing.

Last August, Anna went for a ride with a friend. That's all. But what she didn't do is put on her seat belt. And a sheriff's deputy came knocking on Sara's door, with the worst possible news, news that ushered Sara and her family into a storm of grief and pain.

Anna was on the cusp of her senior year in high school, had turned 17 only a couple of weeks before. She was thriving and full of life and no one could have imagined life without her.

When I talk to her mama, she remembers the good and weeps in her pain. Her life is a mixture of the mundane and the impossible, a life of missing what was and what never will be, now.

No prom.

No graduation.

No college, marriage, children.

No growing into that special mother and adult-daughter relationship that I take for granted and she can never experience.

Anna and Sara

Because no seat belt.

A seat belt could have saved her life and the life of the friend she was with.

A few weeks ago, Sara wrote me a long letter detailing the events of last summer. Her oldest son graduated from Air Force boot camp on July 23rd, Anna celebrated her 17th birthday on July 28th by going out bowling with her friends. She was on the fast track to her senior year in high school.

She died a week later. At the scene. Because no seat belt.

With Sara's letter came a box full of beautiful things, cool stuff that I love, a gift that I was expecting but yet one that I could never have expected.

She writes:

"I have started this letter several times, get started and decide NO too much info and throw it away, throw it away and start over."

I couldn't have been more honored to read that letter. Although I never met her Anna, Sara shared the essence of this sweet girl with me, and I am grateful.

She goes on with an account of the summer, the high of seeing her son Nathan graduate from high school and boot camp. The celebrations, the birthdays, the joy, the promise. And the devastation of August. 

Then she says this:

"Anna and I always liked to play with junk type stuff ... we went to several shows to sell it ... so this is my/our stuff that I am sending you. I don't have the heart right now to continue with that so I am hoping that it will be useful to you and your husband!"

You see, my hubby and I have a little booth at an antique store, and she was sending me some cool stuff that we might be able to use. But I was stunned at the magnitude of the gift.

She gave me a piece of herself, and a piece of Anna. She entrusted me with memories, memories of joy and memories of pain.

I was overwhelmed and I wept desperately for her loss. I called her, and inexplicably, she comforted me.

When we talk, now, she explains how alone she feels, how it's hard to accept that life has just gone on. That the sun keeps shining and other people have moved back into their own worlds and she is left longing, wanting what she can't have.

She goes to concerts that are dedicated to Anna.

She went to the prom march that Anna's friends were in.

She has planned a gathering on graduation weekend.

She weeps.

And yet, she realizes that even in her own grief, others are also grieving. 

Her sons.

Marshall and Nathan

Anna's friends "shouldn't have to go through this. It's too hard." And so she continues to reach out to them, ministering to them with a strength I can't begin to understand.

And we agree that our only hope is heaven. Outside of the great sacrifice of Jesus, outside of the resurrection that ushers us into eternal life when we believe, there is no hope at all.

Even still, she regrets not having a chance to say goodbye. Not painting Anna's fingernails before the funeral. Sometimes she's angry. Often she's overwhelmed. 

Because no seat belt.

A seat belt could have saved her life.

I'm begging you. Kids, don't put the car in gear without your seat belt. Parents, watch to be sure. Friends, don't let your friends move an inch without snapping it into place.

Please, buckle up for Anna. Always. The time is now.

Please, get to know Jesus. The time is now.

For Sara,

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

for when beauty is missing

Maybe you're living in the ashes, just now.

Ashes of loss and grief.
Ashes of depression, sickness.
Ashes of failure.
Ashes of hurt.

And you can't see a way out, over or through them. Sometimes we sit in the ashes, heads down, emotions swirling, pain winning the battle for our souls.

There's nothing beautiful about ashes. They are remnants of what once was, never to be again, because ashes can't be remade into any resemblance of what was. Ashes are always ashes.

But look at what I just learned:

Ashes improve root health and strengthen plants, helping them resist all kinds of stresses. But only if theyre buried first.

Ashes clean silver jewelry. But only if they are remade into paste first.

Beauty doesn't rise from the ashes, but ashes can be exchanged for beauty.

The Old Testament promised that Jesus will bring good news to the afflicted, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. He will comfort all those who mourn, "giving them a garland of beauty instead of ashes." (Isaiah 61:1-3).

The Hebrew word for ashes is "epher." The Hebrew word for beauty is "pheer."

Can you see it? If you move just one letter, ashes are replaced with beauty.

An exchange.

Probably this will take time. Certainly it won't be easy. Sometimes the ashes are all we see. But there's hope, there. A hope we can cling to, a truth that cannot be shaken. A promise from the God who loves us like crazy that He can and will redeem even the most painful pasts, presents, and futures.

With love,

Saturday, April 2, 2016

well hello April! Some stuff happened in March.

Whew! March flew by me like a flash, and here we are in April.

What was I up to?

Here's the best part of the month, by heaps and mounds: Spring Break.

I had dates and hung out with these beauties for days and I can't think of any other way I'd rather spend my time.

And then this happened, which might have taken a fair amount of my time this month:

It's a BOOK, ya'll! A little one that I put together from a lot of the material I've written on here over the past year-ish. Look back up there in the top right corner, and there's even an official looking badge! You can click on it to get more information.

And last but not least, this is on the not-too-distant horizon:


Actually, it's my left hip this time. I'm not all that surprised, but still. It's a bit of a bummer. And I think maybe ignorance was bliss the first time around.  But hey, bright side, silver lining, and all that - I bet I'll get some good writing time in while I'm recovering.

There was lots more stuff in March, of course, little stuff and bigger stuff, just like you had. Warmer weather (sort of, it's Kansas for heaven's sake) and extra daylight has done me good. 

What did March look like for you?

Back soon,