All posts by Ginger

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.
Sent from my iPad

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

Looking Back

Last week I wrote about looking forward into the new year.  But this week I’ve spent a lot of time looking back.  Not just looking back to 2015, but looking waaayyy back.  Because this week I’ve had the privilege to spend time with the people I grew up with as a child and as a teenager.

These are the kids who were my first friends.  We played together day after day until we were finally old enough to go to school.  Our neighborhood was newly developed and each small home was occupied by its original owner – a young married couple having babies.  In the early years our street was unpaved and there were drainage ditches along each side of the road.  While this may sound unappealing or unhealthy to some, it merely provided a place for us to imagine adventures as we played.  We never tired of watching for cars and then jumping into the dry ditches to hide from them.

The days were spent running from one yard to another, swinging on swings, catching lightning bugs and mosquito hawks (a.k.a. fireflies and dragonflies), searching for doodle bugs and water bugs and catching uncountable numbers of lizards.  We would run through the laundry hanging from the line in the back yard.  And the chain link fences separating the yards were really quite useless as we thought nothing of jumping over them in a few seconds.

We didn’t know what air-conditioning was at the time and could sometimes overhear our neighbors’ business.  We could especially enjoy one of our neighbor’s beautiful baritone voice as he would sing a block away.

There would be great excitement when a family would buy some new appliance – a washer or refrigerator.  Not that we kids cared about the appliance, but the large box was full of endless possibilities for play.

As the years passed we went to various schools by day, but every afternoon we were back outside to play and talk and continue our friendships.  These are the kids I grew out of childhood and became a teenager with.  Playing games and catching bugs evolved into playing records and catching each other.  By one count our little neighborhood numbered fifty teenagers back then.  Most Friday and Saturday nights were spent in someone’s garage playing the latest 45’s, dancing and discussing who had a crush on who this week.  These are the kids who shared my high school dances with me.  These are the kids who shared rides in cars, “spin-the-bottle”, teenage anguish and acne with me.  These are the kids who shared secrets with me – secrets we still hold close today.

Today these kids are in their sixth and seventh decades of life.  We are more likely to be caring for our parents than for our own kids, at least for those who still have parents living.  We are becoming in-laws and grandparents with each passing year, and sadly there are a few of us missing.  We have multiple professional careers, own a wide variety of businesses and are easing our way into retirement.  Some still live in that old part of town that didn’t even have a name when we played there; most have moved to other places.  But when we gather together we are still kids.  We laugh about the way things were, we tell stories on each other, and amazingly we slip right back into those old roles and behaviors we displayed decades ago.  We look at old pictures and ask “Who’s that?”, only to be told it is us – and then we laugh even louder.

So, yes, this week I’ve been looking back.  But not in a sad way.  Yes, there’s a sweet sentimental feeling to these old memories, but mostly there’s thankfulness.  Thankfulness for people who have known me through all my seasons of life and yet still want to get together to love, encourage and support each other through another year.

With much love to the Moss Lane Gang!!

Looking Forward

Over the last week I’ve been reading people’s reviews of 2015 and anticipation of 2016 and I find myself looking forward as well.  It’s interesting to me that I look forward to a new year because I recall last year not wanting a new year to start.  To move from 2014 to 2015 was something I didn’t want to happen if I’d had the choice.  For 2014 held Michael and it would be the last year he was present in.  I didn’t want to move to a new year that he would have no part of.  But, as usual, I had no say in the matter and life continued.

So, indeed, I’m a little surprised and a little proud of myself to be able to say that I do look forward to 2016 and all that it will offer.  The prospect of change, while it still makes me a little nervous and rattled, doesn’t seem to strike fear or dread in me like it once did.  So this is what I see in the coming year.

In 2016, I want to challenge myself to do some new things.  I hope to read more, write more and get back into studying Scripture like I once did so faithfully.  I hope to get back into leading a small group seeking to grow in their faith and understanding of God’s work and purposes.  I don’t want or expect it to look like it once did.  But I do want to get back to it.

In 2016, I want to travel to new and exciting places.  Right now I have three trips on my calendar to places and events I haven’t been a part of before – some will be by myself and some with family and friends.  I have some other ideas of things I’d like to do to stretch my wings and my comfort zone; I’ll let God show me how much and when I will be able to experience those things.

In 2016, I want to be healthier.  It’s a daily, no hourly, struggle for me.  I’ve gotten pretty good at being consistent with exercise, but it wouldn’t take much for me to sit on the sofa with a good book all day.  Unfortunately I love food, in way too many forms.  So I need to constantly keep myself accountable – and I’ve not been real successful at this.  And for someone who is otherwise very healthy, I don’t want to neglect the opportunity to stay that way.

In 2016, I want to spend more time with my family.  Of course, I have the most wonderful grandson ever – and I don’t want to miss so many important milestones in his life.  But I also see the busy lives of my children and the many opportunities ahead of them in the coming years.  I want to be there to help, to celebrate, to navigate and to love them through every change, move and twist that comes their way.  And I want to deepen the relationships with my extended family as well.

In 2016, I want to be a better friend.  I want to appreciate, celebrate and support each of the precious friends I now have.  And I’m greedy – I want more friends to learn from and enjoy life with.  With each passing month and year I feel more aware of our precious time together slipping away, and I don’t want to take that for granted.

In 2016, I want to love more.  I want to be quicker to tell others that I love them.  I want to be more open-hearted (is that a word?).  I want to stop building walls and start tearing down some long-standing ones.  I don’t want to pause because I’m shy or vulnerable or afraid I might get hurt.  I want to love without hesitation, without judgement and without fear of rejection.  I want to love like Jesus did.  I want to love like Jesus still does.

Well, it looks like quite a list of things to look forward to.  But I must tell you there’s more I’m looking forward to – beyond 2016.  I’m looking forward to heaven.  I’m looking forward to not being afraid of the things in this world.  I’m looking forward to living in peace with those around me.  I’m looking forward to being in harmony with those around me.  I’m looking forward to an end to theological arguments and debating who’s right and who’s wrong.  I’m looking forward to no longer being in competition with other believers because my church or their denomination is bigger, better, or holier than some other one.  I’m looking forward to people cheering for one another and encouraging each other without jealousy or envy or any sense of satisfaction when someone else doesn’t succeed.  I’m looking forward to no longer struggling with the demands of my flesh and my ego.

With God’s help, may some of the changes in my own life make earth look a little like heaven in 2016.

You Are Loved

Several years ago, on Good Friday, our pastor announced that our church would be open all day for anyone who would like to spend time in quiet prayer and meditation.  I had not taken advantage of this before and decided that this would be the time to do it.  I wish I could say my prayer life is characterized by strength and consistency, but in fact it is more likely to be weak and sporadic.  So I determined that I would plan to go to the church, spend time in prayer and wait.  More than talking to God I wanted to hear from God.  I planned to wait as long as necessary.

The church was dim, with music playing softly and communion was available to anyone who chose to partake.  There were only a few others there when I arrived.  I found a place by myself and sat quietly to pray.  In my mind I moved through my normal ritual of prayer.  (Do you have that too?  A customary way of beginning and moving through the things you want to say to God.)  As I made my way through this routine, I told God that I wanted to hear from Him.  I was willing to stay as long as necessary and to listen to whatever He wanted to say.  More than ever I just wanted to hear from God.  It wasn’t a matter of proving my faith, but a matter of wanting to hear and experience something from God – something fresh, something reassuring.

I confess that as I sat there — silent, waiting — the voices in my head continued to run on.  (Why are there so many voices in my head?  So many thoughts and ideas running in various directions.)  As each one spoke up I chose to quiet it, to gently sweep it aside for another time.  This was a time for listening only.  As the minutes passed the voices grew fewer and quieter, until finally — silence.  I don’t know how long I sat in the silence of my mind – the time was not important.  The being available and the being open to God is what was important.

And then it happened.  He spoke.  He spoke as clearly to me as though He was sitting in the next chair.  His voice was audible to my heart.  He said, “You are loved.”  Just that quickly.  Just that simply.  Just that beautifully.  You cannot imagine what it was like (or perhaps you can).  “You are loved” He said.  What assurance.  What comfort.  What peace and warmth flowed into my heart.  Here I was, ready to hear anything He had to say.  And He chose to say, “You are loved.”  He didn’t say, “You are a sinner”, though I am.  He didn’t list the areas of my life that need to be worked on, cleaned up or improved.  He didn’t scold me for my weak and inconsistent prayer life.  He could have said all these things and more.  But in my most available moment to hear from Him, He chose to tell me that I am loved.  Even as I write this it brings tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat.

So why do I bring this up now?  In fact, it is the Christmas season, not Easter.  We are hurrying around with all the details we require of ourselves during the holidays while trying to remember the reason for the season.  We can all recite John 3:16 – God gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life.  But don’t forget how that verse begins – For God so loved the world.  Jesus came because God loves me.  I am loved.  Everything He has done is because He loves.  Everything He will do is because He loves.

You are loved.


It seems true that the first year is the most difficult.  The first holidays and the first time you pass those special days are the hardest.  Perhaps because you’re not sure you’ll make it.  Not sure if you’ll be able to get out of bed.  Not sure if you’ll be able to breathe.  But you do.  And then comes the second set of days and milestones and you manage to live through those too.

As I move through the advent season this year – the season of waiting and hoping – I wait and hope as well.  I wait for the coming of Christ and I hope in the promises He made the first time he came.  But my waiting and hoping cannot be done in a vacuum.

John 10:10 tells me that Christ came to give me life and life more abundantly.  I know that Michael is not dead; he lives with Christ.  And so my waiting and my hope is in the coming again of Christ and that I will see Michael (and so many other loved ones) again.  I know that Michael’s life now is so much greater than anything I know and he is experiencing an abundance that I can only imagine.

But I also know that this life of abundance is available to me now.  Not only life, but abundant life.  It’s true that my heart still aches because Michael isn’t here and sometimes the tears still fall.  But I will not go through life wearing black.  I will not isolate myself from the world and spend my days in mourning.  I will not perpetuate sadness to those around me when the world provides more than enough sadness of its own.  I do not visit his grave daily to wait and have long conversations with him there.  To live this way wouldn’t honor the life Michael and I shared.  It wouldn’t be an example to my children of how to live once I am gone.  It wouldn’t be consistent with the life that Christ came and died so that I could have.

For everything there is a season.  And I will not live the rest of my life stuck in one season of sadness.  I miss Michael today and I think I will miss him every day for as long as I live here on earth.  But I will not go through life looking downcast and avoiding the celebrations.  I choose to celebrate and laugh.  I choose to be a part of my family’s milestones and  to pursue the adventures ahead.  I choose life.  I choose the life and the abundance that God has provided through the sacrifice of His Son.  May I never discount all that He came to do for me by being stuck in a season of mourning and sadness.

Good Job Michael!

I had an interesting phone call this week.  It was from a gentleman from whom we have leased a building for over 25 years.  He called about some business matters but the conversation quickly turned to Michael.

He was telling me how sorry he was to hear about Michael’s death and that he couldn’t believe he didn’t know about it until recently.  “I think about Michael every day”, he said.  “Really! Every day!”  I must admit I was a bit surprised.   I know that through the years Michael had befriended the man in addition to doing business with him.  But I didn’t know he would have been that affected in his daily life.  He went on to tell me this story.

“I’m Catholic,” he said.  “I was raised Catholic and go to a Catholic church.  But, like most Catholics, I never read the Bible or had my own copy.  Several years ago Michael gave me a Bible, one of the ones that’s easy to read.  I read a little of it.  Then I thought I should take a class to learn more about it.  I took a ten week class where we met each week and watched a video, then sat around and discussed it.  After that I took a class about the Old Testament and then a class about the New Testament.  For the last two-and-a-half years I’ve been studying and reading my Bible.  The more I read it the more I know that what it says is true.  That’s why I think about Michael every day.”

Now don’t take all of this man’s observations as my own.  But I have to tell you, in that moment, I was so proud.  So proud of Michael who took the initiative to give this man a Bible.  I’m sure he prayed about it, both before and after he gave it to him.  And even though Michael’s not here, that Bible is still here, still leading this man in the word of God, still moving in his heart and in his life to bring him closer to God.  We never know what impact our actions can have on others, even after we’re gone.

I must admit – after I ended my phone call with this gentleman, I looked up and said out loud,  “You did good, Michael. You did real good.”


It’s been over 18 months since Michael died.  There have been so many emotions, up and down and all over the place.  But now comes a new one.

These last weeks I’ve been preparing to speak to a local group of ladies.  Today I sat down to put all my thoughts together.  As I did I came to an unexpected realization.  I am at peace.

Now I don’t know what the different stages of grief are.  I have stubbornly refused to read up on them and have set aside all the books people have so graciously sent to me on the subject.  So I don’t know if this is “normal” or not.  I just know that as I worked through writing today on a different subject I realized that I am now at peace.  It doesn’t change my circumstances.  I still look at his grave marker and the empty side of the bed and wonder how it is possible that I am here and he isn’t.  I still think of him every day and miss him every minute.  And yet God has given me peace.  Surely, this is His peace which surpasses all understanding.

Minister to Ministers


Years ago, Michael and I became good friends with a young pastor and his wife at our church.  We talked, shared meals and movies, laughed and became very close.  So much so, that we were crushed when we learned they were moving on to another church.  Before they left, this young pastor’s wife told me one day that she believed Michael and I had a ministry to ministers.  At the time I brushed her off.  But as the years have passed I do believe God revealed this to her.

Over the years Michael and I have had the privilege to know so many folks whom God has called into full or part-time ministry.  Some were senior pastors, some music ministers, some youth or education, and some missionaries.  Some we knew for a short season, while others we have known and kept in touch with for decades.  October is generally designated Pastor or Clergy Appreciation month.  Well, I missed October, but I thought I might offer what I’ve learned and observed regarding how to have a relationship with  ministers.

First, contrary to what many may think, ministers are people just like you and me.  They need friends.  They need down-time and they need an ear to listen (not just during the Sunday morning sermon).  Make friends with the ministers in your church.  Though they know a lot of people, most would tell you that they have few close friends.  Perhaps it’s because of their position, but most people in the congregation never take the time or put in the effort to reach out and build a close friendship with them.  You’re missing out!  Or perhaps you don’t really want to get to know them?  Perhaps you don’t really want them to get to know you?

Second, they need a social life.  And I don’t just mean what happens in fellowship hall.  Call them.  Invite them over.  Most of us assume that pastors and their families have invitations for every night of the week –WRONG!  Many times they are sitting home alone wondering why they didn’t get invited to the same parties everyone else got invited to.  Relax around them and treat them the same as your other friends.  Most pastors will tell you that the room suddenly grows cold and silent when people learn of their vocation.

Third, they need to not be judged.  I’m not talking about serious sin issues here.  I’m talking about the trivial stuff we deal with everyday — how are their kids dressed, what is her hair like, what school do the kids attend, what kind of car do they drive.  Are these really important matters?  Be yourself and let them be themselves too.  My mom  told me years ago about a pastor’s wife who was short, overweight, her house was messy and her kids were too.  My mom always said that was her favorite pastor’s wife of all that she had known because she was just like my mom.  Forget the little stuff and accept them for who they are and appreciate that they will do the same for you.

Fourth, they need forgiveness.  They’re not perfect.  In fact, some of them have made some really dumb mistakes.  Unfortunately, when they make these bad decisions they are under the scrutiny of every body in the congregation.  We need to forgive them.  Forgive them of the little things and of the big things.  Forgive them when they misspeak, when they judge, when they overeat/drink/talk.  Forgive them like you expect them to forgive you.  I know we tend to hold ministers to a higher standard – I get that.  But they have feet of clay just like everyone else.

Finally, support them.  Of course, yes, financially, with your tithes and offerings.   But also with your encouragement.  Rally behind them any chance you get.  It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they say.  Question and discuss the things you don’t agree on; but do it respectfully, not antagonizing and bickering in public. (I wish this was one I could say I’ve always obeyed myself.) Encourage others to speak individually and respectfully as well.  We should be able to talk about anything to one another as Christians, if we say it respectfully.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;                Romans 12:10-11




Windows Down

This time of year, every few days we get a cool front and the air is fresh and crisp.  Michael would always say to me, “this is my dear’s kind of weather” because he knew how much I enjoyed these days after a long hot summer.  Sometimes he’d ask me to go out and get the morning paper.  When I’d come in empty-handed because I couldn’t find it, I’d see him already reading it.  He’d smile and say “don’t it feel gooood out there?”.  And so often we’d go for a ride in the car, to no place in particular, with the windows down, just to enjoy the day.

Now I know lots of folks who would never ride around with the windows down for fear of messing up their hair.  But that never bothered me.  As a matter of fact, it’s become one of my “philosophies of life” —  I’d rather arrive somewhere with my hair messed up, than miss out on feeling the wind as I drove to get there.  And when we did arrive Michael would always be the one to tell me if my hair was sticking up or out.  Not that he cared; but he knew that I appreciated the help.

That same philosophy has bled over into other areas of my life as well.  Like not minding a few dirty dishes in the sink.  Or some finger prints on the windows.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do like my house to be clean.  And I have great friends whom I so admire because their homes are always so neat and put-together, and their appearance is always to a T.  But somehow I just have never gotten myself worked up enough to fuss over these things.  I’d rather be busy doing fun stuff – like reading a book, taking a walk, watching a movie, cleaning my purse, having a root canal – most anything overrules housework for me.  ( I recently had a friend tell me she thought we would get along well because I invited her over when I had dirty dishes in the sink.)

These days the cool mornings remind me especially of Michael.  And I miss how anxious he would be to get up to the farm and work in the pastures.  How he’d love to see the hay all baled up in big rolls.  And how he’d gather the firewood and stack it as high as he could reach in anticipation of those fires he would build for me.  And I miss our drives to nowhere in particular with the windows down.

So if you see me around town, at church or out to dinner and my hair is a little mussed — just know that I’ve been riding with the windows down.