A Vigil

A dimly lit room at 2:23 a.m. One tiny lamp on the night stand. A fine-boned beautiful woman is lying comfortably on her bed. Her white hair is tousled, her face and neck wrinkled. She’s in that special place that none of us know. What is she seeing? What is she thinking? There’s been no response for days.

 

The clunk of the oxygen tank beats in a slow rhythm. Slight odors of a damp cloth on her forehead, the lotion standing on the bed stand, the half-eaten bucket of cookies, and the coffee pot on the cart.

 

As I look around the room, I notice things. I’m curious to get a glimpse of what her life was like on this earth during her active days.

 

One of the first objects that popped out at me, was the little orange devotional book sitting on a far table on the other side of the dear lady. Someone “calling” must be a comfort to her or her family members.

There’s a banner on the wall, that says,

“Happy moments, praise God.

Difficult moments, seek God.

Quiet moments, worship God.

Painful moments, trust God.

Every moment, Thank God.”

 

There on the shelf, sits a shiny mother-of-pearl praying hands, and behind that peeks a black and white picture of a smiling young lady and handsome man. They’re looking at each other with shy excited smiles. The man has a corsage on his suit and she has a nice dress, a fancy hat, and a bouquet in her hand with streamers flowing down. There are rows of unlit candles behind them cascading in a diagonal line. It could have been the “going away” picture after their wedding. That young couple might have skipped to their shiny car, only to be chased by their friends, and a “shivaree” may have followed.

 

A vase of purple and white flowers a little past their prime right in front of the black TV screen. She liked flowers…there are several baskets of them scattered around the room. Silk, plastic, and even a bright pink one hanging near her bed.

 

Slightly behind me to my left, is a huge tack board full of pictures. I imagine they’re pictures with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It is plastered with smiling people. Some seem to be her, holding her treasured little ones on her lap. A proud granddaughter donning a cap and gown, as she pulls her grandma close. Boys with soccer balls, football outfits; girls with pink bows, cute hats. A birth announcement of a baby boy. Even a yellow Labrador dog gave his unconditional love. A beautiful young gal who recently married, with a huge handful of red roses. One appears to be a four-generation picture; a mother, with her son, granddaughter, and a great-granddaughter. Many happy occasions captured right there on one bulletin board. Snapshots of a life with loving family members.

 

A picture of a uniformed woman in her early twenties, and an award on the board indicate her service in World War Two. My mind goes to her possible age…has to be in her late eighties. What a brave woman. I silently thank her for serving. It was a much more rare thing for a woman to give herself to the country in the 1940’s in this way than it is now days.

 

 

Oh, the stories this dear woman could tell. I sure hope she lived life to the fullest, laughed often, and told many.

 

 

Occasionally, I set the keyboard to the side to gently touch her shoulder, and speak some words of comfort to her. Her chest still rises and lowers. Her pattern of breathing is not even, but not labored. Two family members have gone to try to sleep a few hours. They knew that volunteers would be by her side through the night. I wonder if they are able to rest. They left their names and numbers on the nightstand. This grand woman is very treasured.

 

If this night is her Journey’s end, may peace and joy await her. It looks like she had a full life. Death is a strange and mysterious time.

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Every Summer Has A Story…

This summer has been such a whirlwind.

As I was sitting for a short break on a street in Chicago back in June, a saying on a shop window was suddenly staring right back at me. Thinking it was so fitting, I snapped a picture of it. Knowing that summer has always been my favorite season of the year, and hoping quite a few adventures were ahead of me, it soon became my “cover photo” on my facebook page.

Every Summer Has A Story

Every Summer Has A Story

 

It certainly has been true again! But this particular one has had so much going on, that I’ve been zipping from here to there and not even taking the time to write those stories.

Many times I’ve sat down to journal with a calendar next to me, so that I could catch up on what has happened during all this busyness. What was I even doing? The calendar often didn’t have that much on it, but the days always filled up with life.

One year ago today, I would have never dreamed I would be sitting in this town, in this house, in this living room, writing this story. My own dog is a visitor tonight, and is sleeping near my feet.

So much has changed in just one year. It’s amazing how God has woven all the intricate details together, to have me in this place at this time. My life has taken so many turns and here I am. My God has been faithful, as always.

Since I was a small child, I knew God was with me. I could feel Him in the breeze as I took those walks to the gullies. I saw Him in nature’s ever-changing, never out of order seasons. I heard Him in the birds. Felt Him through the soft hair of my much-loved cats. Knew His power through the thunderstorms that would shake that farmhouse during the night. Glimpses of Him were everywhere, in everything. Through the good and the bad.

He was there.

Many adventures have unfolded again this year. Some difficult, some mundane, some full of laughter and memories. Moving from the country to the city. Surviving the worst winter in 35 years. Moving twice during the worst winter in 35 years. Finding this home. Going on a cruise to celebrate 30 years of marriage. The second son’s graduation from college. Enjoyable times with friends. A trip out west to research ancestry and meet relatives. So many more to list…  Each of these small sentences could be broken up into thousands of little pieces to tell intricate details. They’re each stories that can be told.

He is here.

My God who has been faithful in the past, will be faithful in the future. It is His character.

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He will be here. He has promised.

What is something that is keeping you very busy this summer?

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A Summer’s Day which burned

Another mundane morning of driver’s training. Three kids. An instructor who said, “go 40 on 40.” His way of attempting to be funny. Long story. Along with many other sayings he used. You would only understand if you grew up in our two-bit town.

So glad to be out of that car. I was leaning against the bars, in front of my high school, waiting for one of my parents to take me home. My shirt and shorts stuck to me and I shifted uncomfortably. My hands had taken on that smell of the iron bars, and they began turning red. I brushed the flecks of silver off onto my shorts.

Just another summer day.  June 23.

Fifteen years old and very self-conscious, I was sure hoping someone would come soon. Often the last one snatched up from every school event. Some kids were laughing nearby.

Audrey and I had gone down the country road the night before. She was riding bike alongside me, as I jogged. We talked and laughed, mocked a few people going by. Normal teenage sister things.

Not far down the road, we decided to come back and listen to some of Audrey’s albums on the record player. She had all these “78” records of new bands. We danced and ate snacks. The daylight lingered and twilight shone into the living room long.

She had gone off to college and left me home that year. In our tumultuous household. So many letters written back and forth. How I longed for that summer of catching up with her. The M.S.U little sister weekend was in the distant past. Now she was here with me- to play tennis, talk about boys, take me out to the movies. Four weeks of idolizing her.

She was my big sister. Only mine.

Plans for the summer. Telling secrets about silly boyfriends I had crushes on. Being eighteen already, made her an expert in my eyes. Many slumber parties in her room. Talking and giggling until my dad’s deep voice would echo up the stairs, with a warning to quiet down. Then we’d giggle some more with our mouths covered, biting our fingers to stifle the noise. What was so funny?

I thought the sun rose and set on her.

 

Fleeting thoughts of the night before ran through my mind again.  I wondered what Audrey and I could do that day, when she got out of work. Maybe we would go to the beach.

Instead of one of my parents driving up, I saw my Aunt and Uncle. They were elderly and never came into my school yard. My Aunt walked straight to me, moving faster than I had ever seen her move. She uttered words that burned deep and changed my life in drastic ways.

Have you had times which are etched so deeply into your mind? Why do you think that happens?

 

 

 

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A flashback to the seven year old…

“In the farmhouse tree swing, I was gently pushing myself forward and backward in a mindless way with my toe, which could barely touch the ground. There was a creaking noise above me, just as my heart was ripping apart in my chest. The rope emitted a faint straw-like smell that wafted through the air. Tiny particles of dust shone through the sunlight as they drifted slowly to the ground. The air was unusually warm for a mid-March day in Michigan. My mouth tasted like a dried up piece of bread.  I was trying to make any sense of the morning’s events. A panicky feeling went through my bones.

 

The sun shone brightly, with barely a cloud in the sky, which seemed like such a mockery of my mood. I wondered why other people in the world would be going by on the road at a high rate of speed, totally oblivious to what had just happened. I was appalled at the birds singing so cheerfully.”

 

Do certain sounds, smells, tastes or sights make you remember things? Do they trigger something for you?

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My dear sons–A Father’s day story

My dear sons, you are young men now.

Working your way through the “puzzles of life”

A few days after Father’s day, your dad will be turning that age. The age of his own dad’s passing-at 51 years young. That big “C” word. The one none of us ever wants to hear.

It seems to be a very significant year. The empty nest. A smaller home. The move into the city…well more like a large town. But it’s all different for us this year. For him.

My young men, please always know that your dad and I are very proud of you. We love you more than you can ever imagine. You will only experience that deep kind of love when you have your own children. The only one who loves you more fiercely than us, is your Heavenly Father.

It’s such a different kind of love than a marriage. It’s a “part of me” love. So rich that it’s ingrained like part of your skin.

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 The day you each were born…

My strong silent man just gazed at his boys with a tear in the corner of his eye. He held you tight. 

Miracles. Dreams. Many years of throwing baseballs, kicking soccer balls, swimming and boating, working, playing and laughing. He tossed you up high in the sky. There were dark and angry days-sad days. Not all perfect, that’s for sure.

Gifts and cards are not on his radar. Calls and visits are treasures.

Time.

Knowing in his heart that he did his best. He was a quiet dad, but tried to express more than his predecessors did. Believe me, that was a big obstacle to work around. Prayers that you have a deep rock solid faith in God as he does. But he’s too humble to say much about that.

He lives it.

The kind of faith that weathers storms in life– They will come. The kind of faith that clings to the Father of Life when it rains hard and cold.

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Giving a hand to a friend. Putting yourself aside. Giving generously and anonymously. Using your gifts to the glory of God. Keep promises. Listen. Stay awhile with someone. That you will be husbands and fathers who love the Lord.

Integrity in your life, marriage and work. Whatever you do, do it unto the Lord.

Friendly wrestling between father and two sons…

We will be here for you. We will always love you. Listen to you. We will love you when we see you taking left turns in life.

His “quiver” was two boys. He is watching to see how far, strong and straight those arrows will fly. (Ref. to Ps. 127:5)

Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. (Ref. to Micah 6:8)

At the end of your life, what else really matters?

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Reflections over the last months…Part 2

October wasn’t finished strangling memy son J was also having heart issues and we checked that out. Diagnosed as Pre-Ventricular Contractions, which many people have, even without having our family heart defect. J and I were both diagnosed years ago, with the LongQT syndrome. So having racing heart and arrhythmia of any kind is very unnerving. But there were really no answers.

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That was finally enough to push us to get my other son, A, genetically tested too. If he was positive for the gene, he should also come with us to Mayo Clinic. Dr. Ackerman is a world wide specialist in LongQT and is published in many books and articles concerning it.

During the Spiritual growth conference, my left upper chest had actual physical pain which I couldn’t explain as my own. It seemed to be in the spiritual realm. Concern for my niece and my J.  As I mentioned to the prayer team, I felt that there were going to be big changes. God was doing mysterious work, and gave me prophecy which I wasn’t sure was good or bad news.

On Monday, two days after the conference was done, a series of events began which seemed to circle on and on for many months. Somebody had pulled a top and it began to spin for months. Suddenly, we had an offer on our home-and a good one. It was Nov. 19. The deal was made, and we were expected to be out of our house by the day after Christmas.

If Cliff didn’t have the dream anymore, then I could no longer enjoy the place either. Too much house, land, and pool. The downsizing decision had been made.

We had looked on-line endlessly with no luck, but this offer could not be passed up and was accepted and sealed. I told Cliff that if he was following God, I could follow him. Then the tension of what to buy, the question of a condo, what to do about my dog, or would we rent? It appeared that almost everything we owned would need to be stored. Being out in the country, cold weather, in a hurry, and many items I wanted to keep.

I was determined not to let this move destroy our last Christmas in this home. Even before Thanksgiving, the house was decorated and the tree up. I asked the boys to make sure they could come one last time.

Day in and day out. Sitting in the middle of three bags or boxes-pack, throw away, and give away. It felt like a bunch of decisions were just thrown into our faces, as if a cold fan was switched on high. Bank meetings, inspections, and looking at houses.

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The weather outside had taken a sudden turn in November along with our life. As white began to cover the earth, I tried to pray and calm myself. Keeping perspective on how blessed we really were. Prayed as I packed, for sick and needy friends. It was just a house. It was not easy for this sentimental gal to do.

When the pressure cooker began to scream, we recommitted to each other. Turning away from each other was sometimes our bad habit during times of stress. The hard work and daily decision to stick together through this as we had throughout the last 29 years.

I was determined to stay organized, and the “teacher in me”, color-coded and labeled every box on all four sides. It was time consuming, but I knew it would pay off in the end. No time to peruse, or get sentimental about anything. Renting a storage unit, that we knew would be needed for a time, no matter where we ended up going. We filled up one…then needed two.

My Kinesiologist is a God-send. Dr. J. helped alleviate much of the anxiety and stiff neck, with his adjustments and supplements.

I had five weeks to pack and get every single thing out of our beloved home. The place we dreamed of, planned and had built. Visited every single night of the building process to sweep, paint and help. The yard which Cliff landscaped and installed the sprinkling system. Our boys grew up there from age 7 and 10.  Worked alongside their dad, begging to drive the lawnmower to disc rake the huge yard.

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In the middle of all this, my niece had a second surgery which seemed to make her situation improve. Being a communicator, I didn’t feel I was nurturing any of my relationships enough. It seemed that all I did was pack, tape and label.

Thanksgiving Day, we received some words that gave us hope and calm amidst the storm.

 

 

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Reflections over the last months…Part 1

BI didn’t like the unknown, or even some of the results…

My husband and I – we’re on the other side of a lot of things. There will be more… That’s the way life is. Every family has dysfunction and disappointments.

While taking a walk the other night I was reflecting. Making a mental list of some of the huge life changes just since September that have happened to me, or those close to me.

A few that stand out- September was the first month in our lives when we were truly “empty nesters.” This time, it would be the real thing. My oldest son bought his own condo. The other son was talking of moving out west after graduation from college. Learning to reconnect on a deeper emotional and spiritual level with each other – alone. That’s work.

That month also brought news of a nephew who had heart surgery. His went fine and he recovered quickly. A visit from a dear friend from Honduras who was a leader with World Vision, which is an organization I’m intricately involved with. That caused a whirlwind reunion weekend with friends who had gone to Honduras together the summer before. Beginning Bible Study Fellowship for another fresh start as I was meeting new friends, and reacquainting with old.

October broke through with glorious color in my country backyard. It also ballooned into a long series of events involving my dear niece, who had heart surgery. Our boat was still in the slip, as the weather was gorgeous and warm.  A few last times on the boat as a sanctuary for the year.

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My niece’s surgery had complications which persisted. Long prayer sessions. My husband and I having discussions about the impending move. My sentimental attachment to our home. Cleaning, cleaning, staging and more cleaning….oh…   Lots of showings and no bites.

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Taking walks along the railroad tracks behind our home, telling my dog Ebony all about it. Apologizing to her. Dogs are a picture of unconditional love. Would we go to a condo, or a home where she could come along? Praying for my niece to improve and imploring every prayer warrior I knew to do the same. Looking up for clarity that didn’t come.

I went to the Breathe Writer’s Conference, but couldn’t even enjoy it and get my heart into it this year. I was laden with anxiety, fear, inadequacy, distraction, and a heavy heart. I was to the point of panic attacks which plagued me.

November came on with a chill. My niece would need a second heart surgery. As I was attending a conference on Spiritual growth, I prayed with the prayer team and had a very strong sense that something very big was about to happen in my life.

Am I the only one who feels like this sometimes? I believe that the more honest you are with people, the more others feel safe to open up too. A lot of this is way out of my comfort zone.

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