All posts by Ginger

The Hard Road

This week has been a hard road to travel, filled with hurt and disappointment and faith shakers.  I’ve seen hard days before, to be sure.   And this week just seems to add more upon more with each passing day.

The week began as we learned of fires in Gatlinburg.  We have a precious aunt and uncle there who live in a beautiful mountain home.  When you watch the news about troubles around the country, your interest is peaked when you know someone in that community.  And you always wait and pray that they will be unaffected.  This was not the case.  Our family members were forced to flee their mountain community as the fires threatened.  Overnight they learned that their beautiful home was lost in the fire – a fire deliberately started by arsonists.  Our family members were safe in a local hospital as our uncle awaited surgery.  But the next day we learned that the anticipated surgery held an unanticipated result as he was forced to lose his leg in the procedure.  And my heart aches.

Throughout the week I have waited for news of another surgery. This for my thirty-something niece.  For the last five months she has bravely faced tests, biopsies, and an array of medical chemicals in an effort to ready her for surgery in her battle against breast cancer. SHE IS THIRTY-SOMETHING!  She should be forging her career and developing her relationships, not battling cancer!  And yet this is what her world looks like for now.  And my heart is breaking.

And then we hear more tragic news this week – the shooting death of a young man who was not only a local hero, but a personal friend to my children.  All the facts are not known yet, but it appears that either one of the men involved could have stopped this from happening.  Either of them could have chosen to simply turn their cars down another street to avoid the incident.  But instead things escalated beyond the point of no return.  Nobody should be shot and killed in a dispute over somebody’s driving habits!  Nobody should feel like their life is in danger from the person who stopped next to them at the intersection!  This was stupid, senseless, tragic and avoidable!  And now two lives are ruined, two families are devastated and a whole community is shattered.  And my heart is broken.

When are we going to stop this?  Yes, there are things in life we can’t control, like tough medical conditions and health challenges.  But there are so many things that we do have control over – like our tempers and our actions and the fact that what we do ripples through the community and affects those around us.  And I admit, some days I’m losing my faith.  Not my faith in God – the one and only true God whom I serve and whose essence is love.  But my faith in mankind, in the people living in this world.  When are going to stop only thinking of ourselves and our need to be the biggest, the best, the fastest, the loudest, the winner.  Every time we push our way around to make sure we’re the top of the heap, we ignore all those we’ve trampled over and stomped down to get there.

Is it really so important?  Important enough to take someone’s life and to kill the dreams of a community?  Just to satisfy ourselves?  I’d love to ask those involved in the shooting – “Was it worth it? Whatever the argument was about, was it worth it to destroy two lives over?”  And to the arsonists – “Was it worth it? Was satisfying your need so important that it was worth destroying lives, property and an entire community?”  This has been a week that leaves me shaking my head. I just don’t understand.

When life can be so fragile and fleeting …
When each person and each day is a thing to be loved and cherished…
When every action we take affects the lives of those around us and we become aware that some actions have lifetime consequences …
Shouldn’t we take the chance to breathe deeply and let the anger and selfishness pass, before we do something that can’t be undone?

Goodbye Magnum

Many years ago a precious friend gave Michael the nickname “Magnum”.  I think it was a great description of a big guy with a big personality and a big heart.  So when we found the property that would eventually become our land that Michael loved, there was no better name for it than Magnum Farms.

As we bought these 250 acres, we found much of it criss-crossed by barbed-wire fencing and overgrown tree lines.  Michael had a vision of something different and he set out to clean it up and dress it up.  As the years passed he and his crew dressed it into more of a park, with rolling pasture land and four ponds filled with fish and the occasional alligator.  His long term vision was that there would be about a dozen cottages scattered across the acreage to be used as quiet places of retreat for those in ministry needing a place of respite.  Unfortunately he was not able to see that happen.

Now comes the time to say goodbye to Magnum Farms.  Those close to Michael and I know that this farm was always Michael’s dream.  I am the city girl and he was the country-loving boy. (Think Eva Gabor and Eddie Albert in Green Acres.)  Even though that was the case, and in spite of some of the hard memories I’ve relayed, I loved coming here.  But I loved it because Michael was here.  And if given the chance I’d still be coming up here with him — because wherever he went, I was going too.

If Michael was still alive, we’d still be coming to the farm and I wouldn’t be saying another goodbye.  But he isn’t.  And I am.  This somehow seems like just another in a long list of goodbyes.

So as I leave I know that this place will no longer be Magnum Farms; it will be known by another name.  But a bit of Michael has left an imprint here.  Whether it’s the dozens of peach trees he loved so much, or the blueberry bushes and blackberry vines he planted to please his wife.  Or maybe it’s the care he took to make sure the land was in better condition than when he bought it.  And we can’t forget the incredible farmhouse he built on top of the hill – the big stone fireplace for him, the little fireplace with the punched tin panels for me, the porches to catch the breeze, the windows across three sides of our bedroom so he could see the sun rise.  All these things will stay behind as I move on.

And I guess this is how it is meant to be.  For who among us can really call the land our own.  It is only by God’s grace that we are allowed to tend it for a short time.

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains,                                                         The world, and those who dwell in it.          Psalm 24:1 




Memories from Magnum

Even though we’ve only owned the farm for about seven years, there’s certainly no shortage of memories here.  As I sit at the kitchen table looking out over the pasture, there are so many things that come to mind. I remember Michael and his crew clearing the underbrush and pulling down the old fences; finding old bones from cows and other assorted animals; stocking the ponds and then fishing in the freezing cold; salvaging enough firewood to fill up the old barn; picking wild blackberries while avoiding snakes; following trails through the state park that is our neighbor and helping the park rangers find campers who’d lost their way and wandered over to our property.

We’ve had so many visitors here and Michael always enjoyed showing them around.  There have been kids and families who came by to feed and visit with the cows and donkeys.  College and seminary presidents who stopped in for lunch and a four wheeler ride.  Girlfriends for slumber parties and fellas for camping trips. Parents and grandchildren to fish the ponds.  And lots of friends here just for porch-sittin’.

There have been dreadful times.  My heart aches as I remember.  Like the time we were just beginning to build the farmhouse.  It was the day after Thanksgiving when Michael fell and hit his knee on the brick ledge.  There was blood everywhere!  The workers picked him up and put him in the back of my car. I’ll never forget holding his leg up in the air trying to stop the bleeding as Andrew raced us to the emergency room miles away.

And then there was the last winter we were here when he fell on some ice and his leg was trapped under the four wheeler.  I still remember the exact spot on the side of the house and running to the gate to let the ambulance in.  I remember the policemen who came and the look on the EMT’s face when he cut his pants leg to see the damage.  And I remember the drive in the police car to the local hospital, followed by the long drive back alone to NOLA that night as I followed the ambulance carrying Michael.

The hardest memory is one I still can’t seem to speak the words to describe.  One afternoon late in the fall Michael went out to check on things and I stayed back at the house.  A few hours went by and it began to get dark and cold.  I tried to call his phone several times but there was never any answer and I couldn’t see any sign of him from the house, even with the binoculars.  I called and called to him from the porch but there was no answer.

Finally I decided to set out in my SUV to find him.  For about an hour I drove across the acreage looking for him, stopping every few minutes, turning off the engine and sounding the horn to see if he would respond.  Again and again there would be nothing but silence.  At last I thought I heard a voice calling in the dark.  I drove a little in that direction and did it again.  Turn off the engine.  Sound the horn.  Yep, I heard him calling.  It took several more tries before I finally could understand him and make my way to where he was.  He had been feeding the animals and fallen in the pasture.  His cell phone had been left in the four wheeler.  I finally had to call our policeman friend to come help me get him back home to the house.  Even as I write this my throat closes up when I think about how scared I was when I couldn’t find him.   When we finally got home I wanted to scream I was so angry, but I couldn’t speak I was so scared.  But he needed me to take care of him.  So that’s what I did.

There are so many good memories too.  Lots of quiet nights; just the two of us; old married folks content to just be in the same room together; knowing that we loved each other without condition or regret.

One of the best memories here for Michael and for our family was our only Thanksgiving spent here.  The house had only been finished a few months and our families were gracious enough to travel the hundred miles to share Thanksgiving here.  The twenty-five or so of us had a great day.  There was food as far as you could see.  Lots of laughter and silliness and family pictures.  We both enjoyed having all of our siblings here.  After lunch it was time for skeet shooting over the pond, four wheeler rides, sitting by the fire and rocking on the porch.  It was a grand day.  And as it turned out it was the last Thanksgiving for my mom and dad, and for Michael too.

My heart aches as I sit here in this place.  It will always be filled with Michael — his hard work, his enjoyment and his unfinished plans for the future.



The Second

Today marks the second anniversary of Michael’s passing from this life to his eternal life.  Today is the end of two years — 24 months, 731 days, 17,544 hours — since we’ve seen him smile, heard his heart beat, gazed into those beautiful baby blue eyes that he was so proud of.  And it’s been a day filled with many remembrances and emotions.

I know my children have each remembered their dad and marked this anniversary in their own way and in their own place, as we now live in four different cities hundreds of miles apart.  For me, of course, I remembered him today, but then not one of the last 731 days has passed that I haven’t thought of him — of what he would say about this world and the state of things around us, of what he has missed in milestones, of what he would be doing at the farm and around the country as our kids make their own lives.

As these two years have passed I have learned so much.  I have learned to live life and endure grief in my own unique way and timing.  I’ve learned that grief is like a fingerprint, in that it has many universal characteristics and yet no two experiences are identical.  I’ve learned that while the early days and weeks were sometimes paralyzing, the demands of this life push you to do what needs to be done; and eventually, with the grace of God, you are strong enough again to not only respond to life, but to initiate  an active role for yourself again.  A role that looks different than before, but still reveals the heart of who you are and who God intends for you to become.

I’ve learned that many of the cliches that I so vehemently ranted against in the early weeks after Michael’s death are actually based in truth.  And I’m sorry if my rants hurt feelings of those around me.  I just think I wasn’t ready to hear or accept many of them.  Thankfully God has carried me through the roughest days, quieted so many unanswerable questions in my mind and softened the aches of my heart.

I’ve learned that family and friends are irreplaceable (actually I already knew this),  and that without them I would not have been able to move through these last months.  I know no other person on earth that has been as blessed as I to have people support and encourage me day after day.  I continue to receive calls, cards and emails from folks who knew Michael and want to reach out to tell me of their admiration, respect and love for him.  And I am always left feeling so proud to be able to call him mine.

So this week, to mark this second anniversary, I have spent the days with wonderful friends, enjoying great meals and conversations filled with remembering and laughter.  I have not spent the day at the cemetery or crying tears.  There are of course days when his absence is especially felt and the tears still make their occasional appearance.  But today I have spent most of my time and energy sitting on the floor, reading books, singing songs, and swinging.  Because I can think of no better way to remember Michael’s past life than to spend time with the future of our family – our beautiful grandson.

May your lives be blessed with the grace of God, the love of family and friends, and the prospect of rich days ahead.  Thanks for reading along.



And Suddenly, It’s Here

I knew when THEY started dating six years ago that it was a possibility.  But SHE was going off to college in Texas to become a nurse and HE was headed for boot camp.  So, why worry about what might happen.  They were just dating.  And so young.  And both had commitments to follow through on.
I knew when HE came to ask Michael and me for permission to propose that this was a real possibility.  But the engagement would be for 18 months, and HE was stationed conveniently close by.  There was so much excitement about wedding plans and setting up a new home that there hardly seemed time to ponder about such things.
I knew when THEY said their vows a year ago that HE was scheduled to receive a new assignment.  THEY talked about adventures in new places, far and near.  THEY wondered where and when and how life would change when THEY finally got their orders.  But it was all speculative.  And SHE had landed a great job in a local hospital.
I knew when those orders came in the spring time that it really would happen – THEY really would move and find a new place to live.  And in the process THEY would discover new jobs and opportunities, friends and churches, neighborhoods and pastimes.
I knew when we travelled 1400 miles north eight weeks ago that it was getting closer.  I was honored to tag along to help THEM search out a new place to live and different surprises in their new city.  THEY discovered there would be new challenges to face – like subfreezing temperatures, snow tires, hilly streets and houses with basements.
I knew when the moving van loaded their furniture and all their belongings two weeks ago, that it was going to be a reality soon.  But for the next few weeks THEY would move in with me and we’d have time to laugh and visit and talk about all the things coming up.
I knew that HE had three more days to work at his old assignment and THEY would be leaving at the end of the week.  So I began to prepare my heart.  Then HE came in, in the middle of the first day, and said – “I’m finished. Let’s go.”  The military officers had decided that HE was finished a few days early.

And my heart sank because this was it.  It was real.
So here we are.  One last hug.  One last kiss.  One last “I love you”.
And suddenly, it’s here – and THEY are gone.

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Moving Up, Moving Over, Moving On

All living things move.  I remember learning this in my high school and college science classes.  The movement may be incredibly small or imperceptibly slow, but the movement is there.   And so my family finds itself in a place of movement.
One daughter and son are moving UP – moving to a new northern home, over 1300 miles away, courtesy of the United States Coast Guard.  It’s an exciting time that they’ve anticipated for several years, and will probably be their home for the next three years.  For them this will mean new jobs, new friends, new church and new routines.  Not to mention new weather.  Rather than eight months of heat they will be living in eight months of cold temperatures.  There will be snow tires and snow plows in their future, and they will be trading in their flip-flops for snow boots.
Another daughter and son are moving OVER – moving over to the next county to a brand new home.  It’s an exciting time to move into a home they’ve been working on for the last year, after lots of planning and budgeting and thousands of decisions.  It’s a dream come true as they’ve outgrown their current home.  For them this will mean a new neighborhood and some new routines, but the luxury of keeping their same jobs, church and friends.  It will be nice that they remain only a two hour drive away.
For all of us, we are moving ON – moving on to a life of new milestones and memory-making.  As we approach the second anniversary of Michael’s death, we look forward more often than we look back.  More and more we create family memories that Michael is not a part of.  Family vacations and celebrations which he cannot attend.  New experiences that we would love to have him here for – for his humor and his wisdom, for his uncanny way of putting people together to accomplish the goals before us.  But the choice was not ours.  Yes, we are moving on.
(Just for the record, if someone had said to me a year ago that “life goes on”, I may have punched them in the nose.  Just go back to some of my early blog rants about the things people say if you want to hear my outrage.)
Yes, it’s true.  Live goes on and we move on.  It’s not that we have forgotten the ones we love or no longer miss them.  We certainly do miss their presence with us.  But we carry them in our minds and hearts everywhere we go.  We sometimes talk to them as if they are here, and we imagine how they would respond in different situations.
It’s not the same, and it’s not what we would choose.  But we are living creatures and all living creatures move.

In Other Words

In the last few months I’ve gone back to studying the Bible.  I’ve not returned to the exact same methods I used in years past.  It’s been a more casual setting with new and old friends from a variety of backgrounds.  And I’m learning so much.  I think most importantly over the last few months I am gaining a new appreciation for scripture, and it’s coming from two distinct experiences.

The first situation is happening right in my own living room.  Each week a group of friends is gathering for study, discussion, sharing and plenty of laughter as we study together.  In the process of coming together, several members of our group mentioned that they didn’t have a Bible of their own.  After talking about it within the group they each went out and bought a new Bible to read and bring each week when we gathered together.  For many of them, this is their first personal copy of the Bible.  We’ve talked about how the Bible was written, its contents, different versions, how to find things, and how to use it.  And they are so excited.  Each week they are reading and learning things they’d never heard before.  As for me, I confess that in recent years I have become quite accustomed to using the electronic Bible I’ve downloaded on my phone and on my tablet.  And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with this (I do love the convenience), I have a new appreciation for the feeling of the pages in my hands, for the sound I hear when turning the thin paper, and going through the names of the books in my head as I look up a verse.  It’s been like being reacquainted with an old friend; especially as I reread so many old notes from past sermons and studies.

The second situation is going on thousands of miles away.  Last month I had the opportunity to attend a conference dealing with Bible translation.  Now this isn’t a discussion of the New American Standard versus the King James Version.  This is the process whereby the scriptures are translated into the languages of people around the world.  And the things I learned were amazing.  Like, the fact that there are almost 7,000 known languages in the world.  And of these languages, nearly 3,300 have no Bible in their own language.  There are millions of people around the world that not only don’t have a Bible, but are unable to have a Bible in their language because it simply doesn’t exist!  In addition to the 3,300+ languages that have no Bible, there are another 2,000 known languages that have only a portion of the New Testament translated.  Can you imagine?

What’s more — traditionally the Bible translation process has taken approximately 25 years to complete in a new language, at a cost of about 2 million dollars.  About 20 years ago some changes were made in how to best accomplish this task and the process was revised so that a new translation would take only about 10 years to complete at a cost of $200,000.  Great progress!  But in the last three years, as a result of technology and the local churches getting involved in translating into their own heart languages, some translations are taking as little as a few months or even weeks to complete a New Testament in their local language.  This is amazing!  Because of these latest advances, it is very possible that all the known languages of the world could have a Bible translation available to them by the year 2025!  How incredible is that!

And so, I have come to a new personal appreciation for having a Bible to read.  It’s my “go- to” place to seek wisdom and to be uplifted.  Whether it’s an electronic image on a screen, a pocket New Testament or an old leather bound red-letter edition, I’m more and more grateful that I have the privilege to read these words, hide them in my heart and be comforted by their message.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.   Revelation 7:9

Returning to Old Routines

I’ve never been trained in grief counseling or the stages of grief.  I only know what I’ve learned through my own experience.  But I’ve also learned that my experience is not unique.

I’m not sure if grief ever completely goes away.  It seems to me that it comes in waves.  Most days the waves are small and just lap at your feet – just enough to let you never forget.  And then somedays the waves are larger and they rock you, make you feel off balance and you struggle to stand upright.  Then there are the BIG waves – the tidal waves, the tsunamis.  These are the kinds of waves surfers search for – the kind that can move land masses and have dangerous undertow that you drown in.  And even if you get to come up for air you’re not sure you have the strength to swim to the shore.

While I’m not sure that the waves ever end, thankfully, they don’t come as frequently as they once did.  And you learn to dip your toes in the water just enough to enjoy the familiar sensations and the memories that come with them.

It’s been almost twenty-one months that Michael has been gone.  It’s been longer than that since he was here in this house, or at our vacation spots or favorite restaurants.  Throughout this time I’ve found myself learning new things, searching for new experiences and wondering who I would be when I one day grew up.  And so often I find myself feeling as though I’m living someone else’s life.  But it’s amazing how life turns you around, and then around again, and you find yourself in many of the same places — sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously.

Like when you’ve decided on a new hairstyle and each time you go into the hairdresser she helps you to make adjustments for longer or short, lighter or dark, etc.  And then on one visit as you ask her to snip a little here and there, you hear her say, “Yes, We’ve been here before.”  And you look up in the mirror to see that you’ve managed to return to the same haircut you’ve had most of your last two decades.  Oh, well.

And then you consciously think you’ll return to a ministry you’ve been a part of for over twenty years — leading Bible studies.  You think this will be different though.  You go for a different venue, different topics and literature, and a different group.  You put yourself out there, wondering if there will be any response.  It’s been over two years since you’ve done this and you’re feeling so incapable and kind of sick to your stomach and that this was probably a big mistake.  You’ve known that God gifted you in this area before and yet you wonder if that gift was for another time and not for now.

And then in your door walk a dozen wonderful people who actually look forward to seeing you each week.  They bring great encouragement and enthusiasm to your life and treat you with love and respect.  Suddenly you remember why you did this for all those years.  The thoughts that maybe God had given you this gift for some other time in your life falls away, and you remember what it’s like to share His word with others and be a part of learning and growing together.  And the laughter and hugs shared between you will carry you for days ahead knowing that you are a part of God’s plan for each of us to grow together as His body.

And here you are – back to a distantly familiar practice.  Back to feelings of joy and encouragement that you haven’t felt in a long time – finally returning to old routines.

More Than Either Or

On this Easter weekend, I have naturally been thinking of Jesus’ last days.  The highs and lows of his time with his family and disciples.  The drama and horror of his trial and death.  The burial process.  And how his family and disciples must have felt in those last days.  They didn’t know how the story would play out, like we do.  They had expected an earthly political king, leading an earthly government in which all things would be set right over their civil and religious adversaries.  But instead of victory, they were given defeat.  Instead of dancing, they mourned and hid.  Historically, their possibilities were to either be a victorious nation under their new ruling king, or to lose their one chance to be free from the tyranny of worldly leaders.  They didn’t see any other possible conclusion – because they knew only what was happening in the moment, not what God had planned for Sunday morning.

When I think back to the last days of Michael’s life there are several things I recall.  Among them is the long night beforehand.  The night before he died I already knew of his decision to discontinue his medical treatment.  The kids had come and gone from the hospital, each one having a chance to speak to him and hear of his decision.  I stayed in his ICU room for the night.  There was no sleeping.  But as I laid there all night I prayed.  I prayed over and over again asking God for one of two things – that Michael would either change his mind, or that God would simply stop his beating heart (he had already agreed to a Do Not Resuscitate order days before).  I knew that if neither of these things happened during the night, in the morning I would have to tell the doctors of his wishes to discontinue all treatment and support.  And I couldn’t bear the thought, couldn’t imagine the strength, couldn’t conceive of how I would be able to go on without him, knowing that I was the one to convey these decisions for him.

The next morning, when the team of doctors came in, they asked if the kids and I would like to discuss Michael’s case there in the room or down the hall in a conference room.  Michael was awake and I asked him if he would prefer we go to the conference room down the hall, thinking he would nod one way or the other.  Instead, Michael looked right at me and mouthed the words, “I’ll tell them myself.”  And he proceeded to relay his feelings, his plans and his wishes for the hours ahead.

I retell this story because each time I think about that morning, that encounter with the doctors and Michael, I am reminded that too often I give God my either/or situation.  I lay things out to God – whatever my need or dilemma is – and tell Him about the possible solutions.  Will God choose either left or right?  Will God say either go or stay?  And much like the disciples some two thousand years ago, I can only see the present with my limited eyes.  I don’t appreciate the additional possibilities that God may have in mind.  Instead of my options for a way to avoid my nightmare, God steps in to give Michael the strength to tell the doctors himself how he wants to proceed.  Instead of the disciples’ ideas of being new world leaders or being hopelessly lost, God steps in to raise Christ from the dead, offering freedom and forgiveness to all the world.  Who saw that coming?

So here’s the lesson I’m learning today.  Don’t sell God short.  Don’t box Him in with option A or B.  Just when I start thinking I have all the possible alternatives figured out, is when God shows me that He is infinitely greater, He is infinitely smarter and He is sovereign over all my worries and fears.  He has solutions that haven’t even occurred to me yet, because I can only see the present.  But He sees all the pieces – from my past, my present and my future.  He works and weaves them together for my best when I trust and rely on Him.  And as I ponder how this week’s problems will possibly resolve themselves, I am reminded that God’s solution may not even be something that I’ve thought of yet.  But it will definitely be the exact solution to fit me where I am and move me to where He wants me to be.

Universal Mourning

One year ago today I posted to this blog asking “Why?”  So many why’s with no answers.

Today I met a young Israeli Jewish man.  He was the same age as my youngest child, born in 1992.  When he was five years old, his 14 year old sister was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber as she left her school.  Several others were killed or injured.  He is now a student at Tel Aviv University but has spent three years as a soldier.  I heard him ask “why?”  He is forever changed by her death.

Also, today I met a Palestinian Muslim woman.  She is a school teacher and mother of six children.  Years ago, her brother was killed, shot by an Israeli soldier.  I do not know all the details surrounding his death.  A few weeks later, another brother, in the depth of his grief, threw himself off a five story building to commit suicide.  She mourns and is forever changed by their deaths.

The interesting part of today was not so much meeting this man and woman.  The interesting part was meeting them together.  They came together to tell their story.  They traveled difficult roads to be in Bethlehem together — the man crossing behind a forbidden border; the woman traveling four hours because she is forbidden to drive on certain roads.  They sat side by side, hugged each other, encouraged one another.

They’ve both been a part of a bereavement group for many years and together they work to tell their story.  There was no hostility between them.  No harsh looks.  No barbed comments or blame.  The Israeli Jew didn’t hate the Palestinian Muslim.  And the woman didn’t look to exact her vengeance on him.  Somehow, each has been able to see that they share so much.  They share loss.  They share having no answers to the “why” questions.  They don’t relate to each other politically or nationally.  They relate to each other as two people who are human and feel sadness, incredulity and even anger.  Yet they refuse to share revenge or retaliation.

Somehow, these individuals have been able to do what powerful governments cannot.  They are living in peace with one another, even helping each other and setting the example for others.   She does not see him as a soldier.  He does not see her as a terrorist.  Each wants the other to have a place to live in this land in peace.  While they say they refuse to forgive, their hearts clearly have undergone a process of transformation which plays out in the way they choose to live their lives.   They choose to live in peace.

They do not find the answers to their “why” questions, but their mourning is used for a higher cause.

Written 3/9/16
Sent from my iPad


Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

For many years I’ve heard the phrase “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”.  I’ve seen it on signs and billboards, bumper stickers and bookmarks.  Each time I’ve thought about the difficulties of the Israeli Jews living in a city under very difficult circumstances, having fought several wars over the last hundred years to be able to have a country of their own — a land that God promised them thousands of years ago.

This is my sixth trip to Israel and Jerusalem.  On my last trip, about a year ago, I met for the first time some Palestinian Muslims and Christians.  It helped me to see a bigger picture than I’ve ever seen before, and to begin to realize the complexity of the situation.  When I wrote an entry to this blog on April 1, 2015, I said:

My best understanding is that God gave Israel a land.  He promised it to Abraham back in Genesis.  And He said the land would be theirs forever.  Forever means forever.  But, can no one else live in the land with the Jewish people?  After all, God’s purpose for choosing them wasn’t just so they could be land owners.  He chose them to bring people to him.  To share their faith in God.  God who forgives us when we repent and trust Him.  How can they bring the world to God if they are isolated in a land?

For the first time last year I began to see Israel as not occupied just by the Jewish people, but Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians.  OK, I thought, this is pie in the sky — and certainly no one who lives here would be in favor of this.  But on this trip, twice I have heard local residents speak of this very thing.  The Palestinian Muslim cab driver who drove us from the airport spoke of everyone living together in peace.  And then an Israeli/American Jewish museum guide said the same things – we can all live side by side in this place.

This is AMAZING to me.  Never have I been taught anything about the land being shared by Jews, Muslims and Christians.  Never have I heard a news report about mixed neighborhoods cooperating and cohabitating without incident.  Yet I’m hearing it from local people on the street.

Now I know I paint a simple picture.  There is still much to overcome and many hurtful histories to be forgiven.  But maybe, just maybe, there is hope for peace in Jerusalem.  Not just a peaceful place for Jews to live in Jerusalem.  But peace between varying peoples, ideologies and faiths as they live in this world city.

So now when I see and hear the phrase “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”, I will be praying not just for a peaceful place for the Israeli Jews to live, but for a city to become a home to Jews, Muslims and Christians who live side by side in tolerance, kindness and peace — an example to the rest of the world.

I believe God loves every person, regardless of labels we place on ourselves or others. Now God, help us to love each other.
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My Valentine

In February, 1976, Michael and I, 19 and 18 years old, attended a Valentine’s banquet at one of our local churches.  We went with friends, and it was simple and similar to banquets I’ve attended many times over the years.  I don’t remember much about the food or decorations.  I do remember wearing a white eyelet halter gown, the same one I had worn to my senior prom about eight months earlier.

I also don’t remember who spoke at the banquet, but I do remember what he spoke about.  The message was on the three different words used for love in the Bible.  There’s eros, for erotic or sexual love, and phileo, for brotherly love or the love of friends.  And then there’s agape love – the highest form of love; the unselfish love that seeks the other person’s best interest, even if it means sacrificing yourself.  This is the love God has for us and that we should learn to have for one another.

Now by this time, Michael and I had been dating about five months.  We had already professed our love to each other (he said it first, by the way), and we were talking about one day getting married (though it wouldn’t happen for more than two years).  But on the ride home from that banquet, Michael said the most incredible thing to me.  He said, “I love you with agape love.”  Now maybe that doesn’t sound like the most romantic thing ever said, and maybe no one has ever said those words to you.  But I still remember them distinctly, even forty years later.  The other thing I remember about that conversation was that I didn’t say anything in response.  I couldn’t.  While I loved Michael, I knew I didn’t love him with that same agape love that he was professing.  Maybe I was young, or immature, or maybe I was in shock and didn’t understand the meaning of these things — but I just said nothing.  Thankfully, as time passed, our love grew, and I was able and am still able to say that I love him with agape love.  But back in 1976, I wasn’t able to return his love in quite the same way.

As this weekend marks Valentine’s Day, I am reminded from every direction of couples and love and gifts and all the other forms of saying “I Love You” that we see in the stores.  Michael was always a great one to give gifts at Valentine’s Day — not just to me but to our daughters as well.  I do not recall a Valentine’s Day when he didn’t send me flowers – usually a dozen (or more) roses for me and a single long stem rose was sent to each of my girls.  He would usually go find one of those heart-shaped boxes of candy for each of us, and of course, he would bring one to his mom as well.   We didn’t necessarily try to go out on Valentine’s weekend because so many others would be doing that; besides he was pretty consistent about us having a date night most weeks, anyway.

As I look around, I don’t feel jealous of the candy boxes and floral deliveries.  Of course, I love both, but it’s just not the same.  It doesn’t make me sad or blue.  I can order flowers myself and pick up my favorite candy anytime.  What I can’t do is create the time for Michael and I to spend together again.  We can’t have another date night, watch TV together at home while falling asleep on the sofa, or take a ride together to no place in particular.  I type these words, not with tears, or even a lump in my throat.  But just with the acceptance of what life now looks like.  It would be easy to shake my fist at all the commercialism and wish that the weekend for couples would quickly be finished.  But, in fact, I always enjoyed Valentine’s Day in years passed.  So why should my children and the rest of the world not get to enjoy their lives as part of a couple too.

I will add, though, that more and more I’m seeing that the most important things in this life fall into two categories — loving God and loving others.  When my final day and my final breath comes, nothing else will matter except the relationship I have with God.  And as I go through each day, the fact that God loves me should radiate out of my life and be seen in the way I love others.  So may I encourage you, especially as you go through this Valentine’s weekend, to make sure that others around you know that you love them.  Because I can buy my own flowers and candy,  but I cannot spend time together with my love again. I will not find his mushy sentimental Hallmark card on my pillow when I wake in the morning.  I cannot hear his voice or hold his hand.  But don’t feel sorry for me.  You just be sure to do these things for the ones you love.


No Tears Monday

Today I face another milestone without Michael – his 59th birthday.  I’ve watched the date on the calendar get closer and closer.  I’ve thought back to his last few birthdays – his last three, in particular, each one spent in a hospital room.  But I’ve decided that there should be no tears on his birthday.  I instead choose to celebrate him rather than mourn him today.  With that in mind, I thought I’d share a story that Andrew recalled for me recently.

Several years ago, Michael bought tickets for him and Andrew to go to a basketball game – the New Orleans Hornets, at the time.  He had planned it to be an evening for just the two of them to enjoy, even though for Michael to drive downtown, through all the pre-game traffic, park and then WALK to the Arena was a real test of his patience.  But they got there, found their appointed seats and got ready to enjoy the game.

A few minutes into the game Michael decided they needed some refreshments and decided to stand up, make his way down the aisle and over to the concession stand.  What he didn’t know was that when he had sat down in the seat, the seat handle had somehow managed to get stuck inside the pocket of his khaki pants.  When Michael hurriedly stood up, Andrew says he felt the seats strangely lurch forward.  The seat handle and his pants’ pocket struggled but his khakis lost the fight.  Suddenly Michael was standing there with his pants ripped from the pocket down to his knee.

“Are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”  I promise you this is what he said, but only because he didn’t want everybody to hear the words going through his mind.  Andrew immediately got a glimpse of what had happened and reports being mortified.  But what Michael said next will forever go down in our family’s history.  “Let’s go get some nachos.”

And Michael proceeded to walk to the concession stand with his pants ripped wide open, exposing not only his leg, but his signature white boxers as well.  “Dad!”, Andrew said, “Your pants are all ripped!”  “I know.  But I don’t think they sell any here in my size.  And I paid good money for these tickets!”  And so Michael proceeded not only to enjoy his nachos and the rest of the basketball game, but a good stiff breeze as well.

I tell this story to show you the kind of man I celebrate today.  A man who didn’t let the little inconveniences of life keep him from enjoying time with his family.  A man who made up for his lack of fashion sense with his great sense of humor.  A man whose legacy is to help us laugh at ourselves and the curveballs life sometimes throws at us.

So as Michael has another birthday, I plan to celebrate!  With friends and family and laughter and good food.  There will be no time for mourning this Monday.  And no tears – except, of course, from laughter.

Happy Birthday Michael!  I love you and miss you every day.

Overcoming the Stereotype

It’s amazing that when I think of stereotypes I don’t usually think of myself.  But more and more often I find that I too am the object of stereotyping.  Have you thought of the stereotype of a widow?  I’m usually confronted with one of two expectations.  First there’s the picture of a dowdy matron, always dressed in black, grim, solemn, quiet, often bitter  — a sad, dried up old lady.  Or there’s the other stereotype of the widow – a woman on the make, flirting and making every move to snag another man.

I’m not going through the rest of my life wearing black and standing quietly on the side lines.  It’s true I’m old-fashioned about a lot of things and I’ve been known to be unfashionable as well.  But I’m not going to face life grim and grumpy, never laughing or having fun.

As for the second stereotype — there’s got to be a way to live so that I can be social, active and having fun, without the assumption that I’m looking for a man to fill my time and desires.  So that others don’t see me as on the prowl (which I personally find to be quite funny).  And yet there are certainly times when I’d rather be part of a 2 than a 1.  I’m definitely learning to be content in my singleness, but it is a process to find the balance between desiring what you once had and accepting where you are today.

There’s got to be a place between the two stereotypes.  A place where I can be me – the same me that was married for 36 years, the same me that loved to laugh and be with people.  And yet, a place where I can also be the new me — the me that doesn’t have a partner to move through life with.

Yes, I feel like there’s a new me.  I feel like I now have a second life.  While I would have never chosen this (I liked my first life just fine, thank you), this is what I now have.  A second life.  A second life to make choices and decisions about.   A second life to try new things and have new adventures.  A second life to do some things differently than I did the first time.   Given this second life, I hope I’ll be better about making certain decisions – that I’ll do a better job than I did the first time.

How do you overcome stereotypes?   Except, to not be one.

What’s In a Name?

Michael and I became engaged when I was only 19 years old.  And while there were a lot of changing roles for women at the time, one thing I never thought twice about was taking his name when we got married.  I know not everyone chooses to do this, for various reasons, and that’s certainly an individual choice.  But for me it was never a question – I was proud to take his name then and have always been proud to be a Moskau.  In fact we got married six months before I graduated from college, so even my college diploma is in the name of Moskau.

But sometimes now, I wonder if my name should still be Moskau.  I mean, Michael’s not here anymore.  Am I no longer a Moskau?

It’s strange.  I know lots of women who divorce and take their maiden name again.  I completely understand this.  It’s usually a reflection of their wanting to distance themselves from that person or that relationship.  But I don’t want to distance myself from Michael or the relationship we had.  Yet, it still nags at me – Am I still a Moskau?

I was a Weaver for the first twenty years of my life and I’m proud of that.  In fact I’m still proud to be a Weaver.  And yet to take the name Weaver again also seems not to fit.  I’ve been a Moskau for thirty-eight years.  All of my professional career I’ve been known as a Moskau.  Legally my name is Moskau.  I am the mother of three children whose names are Moskau.  The majority of my friends know me by the name Moskau.  And yet some days the name Moskau seems to be something that is no longer who I am.  It was Michael’s name, and mine only by virtue of being married to him.

So, if I’m not a Moskau, and if Weaver doesn’t quite fit, what am I now?
Just one more quandary that I sometimes find myself in …

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”                                                                  Shakespeare