Wednesday, December 29, 2010

4 words. . .

have been tumbling about in my head the last little while. They are the words that we heard through the Advent season this year:

hope: we are not in a hopeless situation; yes, we grieve, but not as those who have no hope

love: we have been showered with so many expressions of love which speak to us in tangible ways of God's deep love for us

peace: underlying all the daily turmoil, there lies a deep peace - a peace that passes all understanding

joy: Chris Tomlin released a version of "Joy to the World" that we have been singing this season. I found the lyrics of the added refrain resonated deeply within:

Joy, unspeakable joy
An overflowing well, no tongue can tell
Joy, unspeakable joy
Rises in my soul, never lets me go

4 simple words ...

4 deep truths ...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

a rude awakening...

occurred last week. I walked past our Christmas Countdown Snowman and saw to my utter astonishment that Christmas was only 9 days away. What? How could this be possible? In my head I had at least 2 weeks...

The reality is that I have been so busy with all the "stuff" I had completely lost track of how much time had actually passed.

We have been in a season of Advent - a season of preparation - yet it had nearly passed me by. The realization hit me hard. At that moment, I made a decision. I would spend one more day (I had an appointment at a financial institution) dealing with the "stuff" and that would be it for the rest of this season.

I need to take time for heart preparation...

  • to listen

  • to sit in quietness

  • to listen

  • to hear God speak

  • to listen

  • to ponder

  • to listen

  • to understand a little more fully the GIFT that came

  • to listen

  • to pay attention to the little details of the Christmas story

  • to listen

  • to prepare my heart that He might find room there this Christmas

His voice is quiet and it is only in the stillness that He will be heard.... May He find you listening also...

Monday, December 6, 2010

the reality...

is beginning to set in a little...

Things like:
1. decorating the house for Christmas and knowing that Florian won't be home to comment
2. sitting in church and participating Communion... alone
3. realizing that I can't call him to "vent"
4. shopping for Christmas, watching the couples and it hits that I'm... alone
5. no longer being able to check the little box that sits beside the word "married"
6. making decisions... alone

and then there are the girls - they call home and for just a fleeting moment they wonder if Dad will answer the phone... and then they realize....

or we attend Chris' concert and feel keenly that someone is missing...

It's not a lot of fun, these days, to face everything.... alone. It's hard, actually. I miss Florian. I miss his wisdom. I miss his ability to help me work through 'stuff'. I miss the little things... like his help in the kitchen in preparing meals & cleaning up afterward. I miss the big things... like being part of our family at mealtime or attending our son's 4th year Graduation Concert together....

My head says... How could I wish him back? He is in such an amazing place...
My heart says... but I miss him so much....
My head says... it's for our own reasons that we would wish him here
My heart says... but I miss him so much....

and that battle continues to rage.... again.

Once again I find myself in this place where I pray that God... in His graciousness.... would one day put all the pieces back together again....

Friday, November 19, 2010

a roller-coaster day. . .

It started out OK but as the morning wore on I was missing Florian so very much. Simple things like looking for a picture to use on this next month's issue of Conversations (our church newsletter)... my daughter missing her bus and stressing about getting to college in time to write her mid-term... things that I would have used as opportunities to call Florian at work and vent a little or ask his opinion later in the day when he would have been home....

But in the midst of all this, I tried to focus on some God-incidents... ways in which I was seeing God at work on my behalf... simple things like clear lanes when I had to merge into traffic... or traffic lights that would stay green, allowing me ample time to make it through intersections instead of having to stop on icy roads...

My oldest has been really having a hard time this past week - first their washing machine quit working... then one of their cars began to really leak oil - so much so that it really wasn't safe to drive anymore.... They prayed last night and he basically was at his wits' end and prayed that God would just take care of them - make a way for them financially.

Then this morning, my DIL was set to take transit to work and the bus went out of service before finishing the loop... But in all this, I saw God watch over them in such an amazing way. She was left at a location that was only about a 15 minute walk home.... her "boss" gave her the day off...

But the biggest blessing to them was that my son found out today that his boss was going to pay him for all the days these last 2 weeks that he hadn't worked - said it was the least they could do for him. wow. What a gift! What a blessing! Who would have thought?

but most of all... isn't it amazing to see how God is taking care of them?! wow. oh. wow. Thank you Jesus!!

If God will take care of them in such tangible ways, will He not also take care of me? I can't help but believe that He will.

So, I pray... Father, I am weak... I am full of doubt and anxious thoughts threaten to fill my mind... yet in the midst of this, I do want to believe; "help me overcome my unbelief!"* Amen.

* Mark 9:24

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

it's been a week. . .

since Florian went in for surgery.... a week since we were told things were tenuous... a week since we were holding out hour-by-hour... a week since we pleaded with God to miraculously heal... a week since I, once again, committed Florian into God's care...

Last Sunday we met briefly for prayer and following that Florian said, "God gave me a new spiritual heart many years ago; now I am being given the opportunity for a new physical heart". Little did we know just what kind of "heart" God had in mind for him.

Florian didn't ever recover from surgery; he had a heart attack coming out of the procedure and his heart simply could not overcome the stress of the events. He left us Wednesday morning (the 10th) after the medical team worked through the night, throwing everything at him that they had in their arsenal.

We celebrated his life on Saturday (13th) - my prayer remains that the service was not only a celebration of Florian's life but also a clear testimony to what God had done in Florian these last 29 years as he endeavored to live his life in total submission & surrender to the will of God.

And now... Psalm 20 has a different feel to it, but it is what will carry me... carry us... through these next difficult days:

In times of trouble, may the LORD answer your cry.

May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.

May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem.

May he remember all your gifts and look favorably on your burnt offerings.

May he grant your heart's desires and make all your plans succeed.

May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.

May the LORD answer all your prayers.

Florian had a theme song that marked the way he chose to live each day: Rich Mullins, Step By Step. I feel the weight of the mantle as it behooves me now to take the torch that has been passed to me... to continue with the legacy that he left us... to follow Jesus, step by step.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

oh my goodness. . .

I cannot believe that it has been more than 2 months since I last posted... what have I been thinking?!?! or as my dear husband might say to that, "maybe you haven't been?!"

In a nutshell... we've survived minor crises... spent much time traveling back & forth between my folks' and home...

We moved my folks from the acreage into a home in town. It's a strange thing - the house holds memories for me that I have worked to forget. I have been hoping and praying that as it becomes my folks' home I can visit them without always remembering the other. As I think back over the last weeks, I think it's slowly happening - for which I am deeply grateful.

Mid-September we attended a pre-admission clinic... it was just the next step as we moved towards the long awaited surgery for Florian. We anticipated a call within a few weeks indicating that his surgery had been scheduled, but many weeks passed and no such call.

That changed yesterday. The phone rang. Florian looked at the call display and said, "oh oh. This is it." He was right. They informed him that he is scheduled for surgery on Tuesday afternoon - just 4 days from now.

Since then we have switched into high gear: re-scheduling other appointments; letting each of our kids know and answering their anxious questions; a flurry of emails as Florian contacted his work associates. Today the activity continued as we sorted through most of the remaining "stuff" in the garage. Don't get me wrong - we've been working at this all fall, but with the surgery just around the corner, we needed to pick up the pace a little.

Now what? Well, there's still a few things to take care of on Monday but we've done most of what we can do. Now we turn our attention to those things that are really important - the state of our emotions as we face this next step.

How are we really doing with this? Florian is calm. My head says "God is in total control and knows the outcome". My heart ... not so much. There's a long 12" disconnect for me between what my head is saying and what my heart is feeling...

I feel certain that I will come to the place where I am able to believe with my heart also... but for now, I'm not quite there. I know that God is able. I know that God is faithful. I know... I know... I know... yet the battle is raging as I wrestle...

Thanks, dear brother, for your wonderful words of encouragement from Psalm 20. It is what will carry me/us through this week:

In times of trouble, may the LORD answer your cry.

May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.

May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem.

May he remember all your gifts and look favorably on your burnt offerings.

May he grant your heart's desires and make all your plans succeed.

May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.

May the LORD answer all your prayers.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

a parent . . . a child . . .

It's hard to be the parent and watch your kids struggle with all that makes life what it is: decisions for today - decisions that will affect tomorrow - decisions that have consequences (known & unknown) - and to learn what it means to be content. That one is especially hard.

and to learn to trust. God. to place in His Hands their future. A future that has so much opportunity. A future that they can't see. A future that has so much potential. A future that offers no guarantees.

Yet. It's also hard to be the child. To watch the parent age. weak. frail. just shells of who they once were.

It's been an interesting last few months.

We have celebrated and rejoiced greatly as we welcomed a dear young woman into our family. What a great celebration of God's love and of the love of two young adults. A celebration of family. A celebration of blessing. Great memories to cherish and to treasure in a heart that is filled to the brim and overflowing...

At the same time, we've come to a crossroads. The home place is sold. The outbuildings are empty - hollow and mere skeletons of what they once were - of what they once held. Memories flood through my mind as I wander the yard, remembering.

Here we played kick-the-can; we scaled that building; we sat on this rooftop; we drove the scooter here; the lake.... a terrifying and fearful place about which we warned our children - don't try crossing it in winter - the ice is not stable. Don't get too close to the bank - it's steep and the water is deep.

Oh. And these favourite spots where we hid eggs & treats at Easter.

The lilac bush... "Remember when...... ?"

My feet kick the gravel - no longer do I need to worry about whether I'm leaving a trail of scuffling feet. It won't be long now before I'll not drive onto the yard, looking to park my car under the shade of the trees.

My eyes water. My throat tightens. This has been my home. What will it be like to drive to see my folks - but not stop to turn in at the 1st driveway? but to drive on by. Past the 2nd driveway. Into town. To the house that they have now purchased.

I don't like the home they've bought. It's a house that I'm familiar with - a house that holds memories that I'd rather leave behind. Maybe in time those memories will fade. Maybe in time it will become my parent's home. Maybe in time. . .

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I know it's been a long stretch...

since my last entry.

In the same way that rays of sunshine sometimes break through to bring warmth and cheer before once again being hidden by cloud cover, so too the song-less nights have broken and we have experienced short periods of joy as our souls have broken out in a few notes of song.

It's not a sad time but definitely a time of quiet surrender and renewed prayer during the sleepless nights.

For now, this is the journey that is ours. I know we do not walk it alone - and for that, I am so very grateful.

Until next time, we press onward...

Monday, May 10, 2010

how can I sing. . .

when there is no song? Like the Israelites when they were taken captive, sitting beside the rivers of Babylon. They had hung their harps on the branches of the poplar trees and there they sat. How could they sing? (Ps 137:1-4)

The other day my daughter talked to me of feeling the same way. As one of the oldest in the youth group she feels a need to set an example - but she too feels caught in her "dark night of the soul".

I had no answers to give for I too am experiencing my own "dark night". What can I possibly say to her that will reflect authenticity? My inability to give her any guidance hung like a heavy cloud over my already darkened soul.

A few days later I picked up my Bible Study again (Beth Moore's ,Stepping Up: a journey through the Psalms of Ascent). I am ashamed to admit that a 6 week study has taken me nearly 6 months to complete; yet, I marvel at its timeliness for as I picked it up, these words spoke to me:

"Night services were often held in the temple courts in association with the feasts.... Remember how we pictured the lamplights of those small shelters pitched as far as eye could see on the hills surrounding Jerusalem? We may know about the nights o the feasts, but what about the nights of the soul?

By all means, we want to "cry out under" our "load of oppression" and "plead for relief from arm of the powerful" (NIV), but we also want to seek our God and Maker and ask Him to give us songs in our night.

As any song writer of our time and he or she will tell you that clearest and deepest words God grants the soul are often those that come in a dark season of life. One of the dearest treasures in your darkness will be the God-song He will give you if you'll receive it. To stand in the presence of the Lord when you'd rather to go to bed and never get up, and to praise Him in the night when taunting voices tell you to curse Him - these things are nothing less than a battle cry of victory. ...

Don't wait! Praise God the second you don't feel like it The second you feel defeated "Now!" Your tempter tempts you to praise God the least when you need to praise the most. A true psalmist praises his way to victory, knowing it will come because the praise itself renders the first blow to his enemy's brow. God's faithfulness then calls for man's gratefulness. Inherent in the call to 'bless Yahweh' is the cry to thank Him. In Karl Barth's words, "Charis always demands the answer eucharitia. Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth. Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo. Gratitude follows grace as thunder follows lightning."* **

I came to understand three things:
  1. The song must be sung. It may not be "my" song, but we do what we have come to do - and that is to praise Him
  2. In time, I believe that I (and my daughter) will once again have a song to sing that is mine - that is ours
  3. Until that time, there still is a song to be sung. God is faithful. He is unchanging. He is to be praised. It may not be the "song of my soul", but for now we do what we have come to do - and that is to praise Him.

How can I sing? no... I need to change my focus... In consideration of the One to whom we sing, the question that I must ask becomes, "How can I not sing?"

Photo courtesy of John Hutmacher & USDA Forest Service
* Karl Barth. Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1961), 4.
** Beth Moore. Stepping Up (Nashville: Lifeway Press, 2007), 165-166.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

as we anticipate April. . .

I wrote a short reflection for our church newsletter that will be ready for distribution on Sunday.

April showers bring May flowers…. I’m sure we’ll hear this little rhyme many times this month as we eagerly anticipate the warmth and colourful display of spring.

As I thought a little bit more about this, I realized there could be some deeper truths to explore.

Sequence – God’s plan is never our plan. April and showers must come first.

Showers – sometimes they come into our lives as torrents of rain – our umbrella of hope threatens to turn inside out as the winds blow with gale-like ferocity. We tighten our grip and, with tenacious determination, we draw that umbrella a little closer in a desperate effort to keep the rain from drenching us. At other times, the rain is a gentle mist – not enough to really require an umbrella and we step out with anticipation. We turn our faces towards the cool drops and enjoy the cooing mist as the tiny droplets splash across our face.

The earth is dry from its winter season of hibernation. It eagerly soaks up these April showers, regardless of whether they’ve come in torrential downpours or gentle droplets of moisture. They are the life-blood of the May flowers that are to come – of which we wait with eager anticipation.

Can you see a deeper truth here? Sometimes the rains of adversity can threaten to overwhelm us – to turn our umbrella of faith inside out and render it useless, except to catch the rain.

Other times, the rains come as a gentle shower and we relish in the outpouring of God’s grace and tenderness as we welcome the refreshing and renewing showers. Like young children, we frolic in the rain and relish the feeling of carefree abandonment as we find the biggest puddles in which to jump and splash.

Either way, April showers result in beautifully fragrant blossoms in May – flowers of a faith whose roots are stronger and deeper – flowers of faith that now bless others with their fragrance – blossoms that bloom with brilliance as we display God’s incredible faithfulness to us.

May the April showers bring about God’s flowers in May.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

today is the first day of spring

and I noticed that my tulips in the courtyard are up! As the rest of the yard is still sporting remnants of snow, I didn't even think to check this warm corner. At this rate, I'll need to be watering them soon!!

and yet. As wonderful as it is to see these signs of spring, it means for us that we continue to march closer each day to yet another family 'speed bump'.

This next week Florian is scheduled for an angiogram. While we're not concerned about the test at all, it represents for us that we're one step closer to the day that he will undergo heart surgery. We haven't been notified of a scheduled date, but they have suggested that it will be soon... as early as spring.

Well, guess what? Today is the first day of spring which means that it could be any time within the next short while.

Where does that leave us today? really, in no different a space than yesterday or the day before yesterday... or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.... We continue to place ourselves in God's Hands. He continues to shape... to mold... to speak words of assurance... and in turn, we continue to cling to Him knowing that He has us in His precious grip!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

what is "normal". . .

besides (as my husband used to love to say) a setting on the dryer? But since December, he's declared that the word "normal" no longer exists in our family lexicon.

Somehow our family will return to a degree of normalcy but I don't know what that will look like or when it will happen.

My husband's mother passed away two weeks ago - just about a week after my last blog entry. My husband and his brother were called to the hospital just after lunch as she was "unstable". By late afternoon she was gone.

The following week was a flurry of activity... and that flurry won't be over any time soon as we now turn our attention to emptying her apartment and getting it ready for new tenants for month-end.

I realized today that physically I've turned on "auto-pilot", but emotionally I feel numb. I don't have answers that the others want; I don't know when our family will feel any amount "normal" again; I don't know how to be "strong" anymore and I don't know if I want to be either; I don't know how to "fix" our family as it seems that everyone has pulled away into their own world of survival. . .

All of these could work together towards helping us feel somewhat "normal" again... but somehow it won't ever be the same as it once was... and maybe that's OK...

My brother was here early January and he talked about "life defining moments" and how they, as a family, experienced some of those. I understand that the events from these last months definitely have the makings of being one of those "defining moments" for us. The question is, then, What will this "defining moment" look like? How do I/we want to proceed from here? What kind of lasting impact will these events have on our family? When we look back, will we see it as something that pulled us apart? or did it make our family bond stronger?

It somewhat feels like a refining process. If that is what it is, then I want us to come through the fire having a little more of the impurities burned away - reflecting a little more clearly the image of the One who is doing this refining in us. It's not easy. It hurts. It seems to take a long time and we don't necessarily see any immediate results. Yet. In the end, when we look back, I hope we can say it was worth it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

some rambling thoughts

that need a place to land...

Today has been an emotionally hard day.

On the one hand, we're absolutely thrilled that our daughter is home. There is joy in that. I enjoyed sleeping in my own bed last night.

and yet I'm afraid. I want desperately for the antibiotics to do their work - I want desperately for there to now be major progress in healing. But I'm afraid. I'm afraid of another infection - afraid that there will be another "speed bump". I'm running on empty, physically & emotionally, and don't know that I will have strength to face something more.

Florian's Mom also remains in hospital. She's not improving... These last weeks have taken a real toll on Florian as not only was he coming to the hospital to see his daughter, but he was also trying to spend large amounts of time with his Mom who is hospitalized at another facility.

Tonight I feel as though I've hit the wall. I don't know how much more we can handle...

I know that God is in control. I know that He gives us only what we can bear. I know that He will carry us - that "underneath are the everlasting arms". I feel like I'm standing in the river, facing a raging tide that threatens to pull me under.

and yet.

A song that was just playing downstairs by Steven Curtis Chapman is timely.... "His strength is perfect when our strength is gone. He'll carry us when we can't carry on..."

what a precious promise... and as I have been reminded over & over, we are in His precious grip...

Friday, January 22, 2010

it's good to be home . . .

from having been at the hospital once again with my daughter. Fortunately, her stay wasn't as long this time - I/we spent just a week there.

Last week I noticed that the spot where they had put the drain from her spinal fusion was no longer dry. We spent Saturday in ER and by Monday she had undergone yet another surgery. This time the surgeon re-opened her spinal incision to clean out the infection that had lodged there.
The next day, they also ordered some extra x-rays of her thumb/wrist only to discover "hot spots" that indicated something wasn't right. She got a bright neon green cast to stabilize her thumb/wrist in an effort to promote healing.
She is now home not only with the green cast, but she is also sporting a PICC line and wearing/carrying a big black fanny pack that holds the pump and pouch of antibiotics.

I/We have seen enough of hospitals to do us for a l-o-n-g time. As amazing as medical advances and procedures are.... there are still no guarantees and we continue to pray that the Great Physician will touch her body and bring healing.

Yes, it's good to be home... but even more so, it's good to know that ultimately, our daughter is in His hands... the hardest part is to remember that when there seem to be so many speed bumps along the way...

In the meantime, I am so looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

you know the saying . . .

the best laid plans of mice and men... That basically sums up the past few months in our home.

In a nutshell, between the months of October and December, every member of our family has been in a car accident of some degree. The last accident was just days before Christmas when our son tried to take evasive action and instead hit another vehicle. While we are so very thankful that everyone "walked away" from the accident, our daughter sustained severe injuries.

She was hospitalized with 2 fractured vertebrae requiring a spinal fusion of 3 vertebrae. The following morning saw her re-enter the Operating Room as they performed emergency surgery, trying to determine the cause of the fluid in the abdominal cavity. She remained in hospital for 16 days while they (1) waited for enough healing to take place so they could make her back brace and (2) dealt with an infection.

Our plans for Christmas? put on hold while we sat in her hospital room trying to encourage her and keep her company.

Now that she is home, we have had to adjust her pain medication. HomeCare visits take place regularly as they care for her incision.

We are tired. Slowly we will regain strength. Slowly our daughter will recover. Slowly we will return to our daily routines.

But for now. Our best laid plans have gone up in smoke. We realize once again how fragile life is and we remain grateful for the prayers of many across North America who have upheld us in prayer. God is faithful. God is in control.

Although we have no idea of the "why", we trust that God knows and for now.... that is enough.

What an incredible reminder to us that:
  • our children are in God's Hands
  • we really have no control over what happens each day
  • we do have a God who is in control of all things

So where from here? If God wills, we're planning on having our Christmas celebration tomorrow!!!