Thursday, May 26, 2011

Holding Hands

Friends of Friends of Friends


Of a great need

We are all holding hands

And climbing,

Not loving is a letting go.


The terrain around here

Is Far Too

Dangerous For That.

~ Rumi

Monday, May 23, 2011

Remembering Joey

 a bouquet at the wall, his memorial spot on Maui

 Love written in the sand

flowers in the waters where his ashes were scattered

A Maui sunset. We love you, Joey.

 These photos were sent by several of our Maui friends as they honored Joey's memory yesterday. We were so touched by them. There is nothing so comforting as others remembering your precious child, who is so sadly gone from the world. We had an outpouring of love and support yesterday, and it meant everything to us.

The anniversary days are so difficult to get through. It's like being tossed in the dryer and being tumbled up, over and around again, tumbled emotionally, losing our equilibrium (that we have worked so hard to gain), while filled with the soaking weight of deep sorrow. It's strange and crazy. When those days come, we just hang on to one another tightly. It must be walked through, and it can't be done alone.

Beautiful Rachel joined us, flying in from California on Thursday. We all gathered at the farm for the weekend. We sat outside and watched the dogs, and lazily fished in the pond, and snacked from a big bountiful basket that a dear friend had dropped off on our porch, and simply chit-chatted together. We watched videos of years gone by, and witnessed once again the love that Joey poured on each one of us while he was here with us. He had such a big, generous, loving heart. We went to church on Sunday morning, and were deeply comforted by our pastor's incredible message on Heaven. It couldn't have been timed more perfectly. It gave us a lot of strength, and a feeling of being cared for at a most fragile time.

We made Eggs Benedict after church in honor of Joey. It was his favorite breakfast/brunch. Hollandaise sauce is a two-man operation, and Rachel and I shared the task with one of us rapidly whisking the mixture while the other drizzled butter into it. JoAnne poached the eggs, Jaime grilled the Canadian bacon, and Drew made the English muffins. After labor intensive preparations, we all sat down to eat it with our eyes rolling  back in our heads in culinary pleasure! Joey would have been in taste-bud ecstasy!

Last night we went to Ruth's Chris for dinner. Joey loved a great meal. We all dressed up for the occasion. Chase wore Uncle JJ's suit and looked so handsome in it, almost filling it up!. We had reserved our own room for the occasion and the staff knew it was a memorial dinner. They were quite sensitive and solicitous. We had an empty place setting at the table where Joey would have sat. We were there for four hours and  pretty much closed the place down. We each shared a memory of Joey that we never want to forget. We shared how we have changed in the past three years. We shared the sorrow and tears of having to bear with the loss of someone so intrinsic to our existence. Our youngest, Aidan, wept like it was the day Joey died. It all came back to him mid-sentence, in a fresh rush of pain, and we all cried along with him.

We received many supportive messages and texts from friends. They do so help to alleviate the lonely feeling of grief, and we thank you all from our hearts for walking with us.

Three years. It feels like a lifetime of loss and heartbreak. We are stronger than we were even a year ago. We have learned to carry the weight of grief, like a backpack on each of our shoulders. It rarely comes off, and only tends to do that in a holy place, like a cathedral or out in nature, but it is a more bearable load.  On anniversaries, it is so heavy, it must be shared. We appreciate you all for sharing it with us.

If Joey were in Australia, we would be constantly thinking about Australia. We would read the news and look at pictures of that place with new eyes, seeing Joey there. We would wear the clothing of Australia, root for its teams, and feel a connection to the place. But he's in Heaven, so Heaven is where our thoughts go. There are no pictures, but there is one in our mind's eye, and we look at  that one often. We dream of the place where he lives now, and know he is content. He is missing us as well, but also reassuring us that one day it will wipe every tear from our eyes. We await that day and live in this world more lightly now.

We love you, beautiful son. Love you so. Carry you with us now, wherever we go. Miss you terrible. Look to the day of reunion with our hearts and souls. Love you forever.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Comforting Scriptures for the Bereaved

I am missing my son terribly as this anniversary approaches. This morning I am preaching to myself. Scripture is such a comfort when I am beside myself with grief and longing. My son is alive, though the separation is difficult. But he is alive and well and we will be reunited.

Philippians 1:21
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (NIV)

Death for the believer brings a better life than this earthly existence.

Revelation 14:13

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” (NLT)

Those who die in the Lord are blessed. That means happy. They rest (as in "vacation"), they are rewarded for the good they did. And my son did so much good.

Psalm 116:15

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (NIV)

God is tender toward his children when they die, and the bereaved who are left behind. The pain is not inconsequential to God.

Romans 14:8

If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (NIV)

We belong to him, in life and in death. We are never out of His hand or heart. God's relationship with us is steady.

Philippians 3:20-21

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (NIV)

Heaven is our true home. The earthly life is preparation for the life to come, not an end in itself. The best is yet to come. And He says our bodies will be like his resurrected body.

John 11:25-26

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (NIV)

Anyone who believes in Christ never truly dies. They only die to this world. They shed their earthly skin for an eternal body and live fully on the other shore.

I am thankful for the peace and rest that only God can provide. He is my hiding place, my strong tower, my shield, my Savior, and the everlasting arms that hold my son safely for that great day. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Storms that Perfect

This is Pastor Greg Laurie's devotional for today. It spoke to me and I thought it might also speak to you. Greg's son, at the far right in the picture,  was killed in a car accident 2 months after Joey's death. Greg has been a mainstay for me through our common grief for our sons, and his words have often kept me anchored in the storm. Joey's death has profoundly changed me, and I am hoping at least some of that change is for the better.

MONDAY, MAY 16, 2011

Storms that Perfect

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
—James 1:2–4

Some storms in our lives are not the result of our disobedience to God; they are the result of our obedience to Him. A good example of this is Job. What was Job doing wrong when all of those calamities befell him? Nothing. In fact, he was doing so well that God was bragging on him in the presence of the angels and Satan: "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" (Job 1:8).

Then the attacks on Job began. These were allowed by God to bring about change in his life. So Job went through a perfecting storm. James writes, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2–4). The end game of a perfecting storm is to make us more like Christ.

We may think that when a bad thing happens, it will always turn into a good thing, because Romans 8:28 says, "All things work together for good to those who love God. . . . " While there are some bad things that God turns into good things, there are also some bad things that are always bad things. Let's remember the verse that comes after Romans 8:28: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son . . . " (verse 29). (emphasis mine)

God's end game is not to make us happy, but to make us holy. And I believe that if we are holy, we will be happy, ultimately. It is not all about happiness; it is about becoming more like Jesus.

Copyright ©2011 by Harvest Ministries. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, May 13, 2011

That Time Again

We are approaching the third anniversary of Joey's death. Dread fills my soul and we have all gone back into deep mourning. It is entirely involuntary and defies logic and theology. It simply hurts that he's not here, as if the nerve endings that were numb have all been re-awakened by the thrust of a sharp knife.  And though I am convinced Heaven must be the best of all places, I still wish he were here with us. Nothing will ever change that sentiment. The void he left still gapes, empty, lonely and sorrowful. I have hope for the life to come, but this life, I don't think of it in those terms anymore. My dreams for the "good life" died with Joey. Now I leave it to God. My hope is in God. I don't believe we will be disappointed in the end. For now, it's enough to get through our days. To love and be endure the vicissitudes of life... to keep my faith through the keep my eyes on Heaven. Achievement enough.

To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under heaven,
A time to be born and a time to die,
a time to laugh and a time to weep.
A time to dance, a time to mourn.
Ecclesiastes 3

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Joey's Mother's Day Gift to Me

Joey sent me this card on Mother's Day a few years ago. I just found it a few days ago.  It flooded me with warmth and love and made me smile all over again at this now-precious memory. I love his sense of humor. Joey was always teasing me and poking holes in any of my varied neuroses that he thought worthy.

He took this picture when we were attending a fundraiser for the Crisis Pregnancy Center, an organization of which I had been a founder and director when he was growing up. Jim Caviezel, the actor most noted for playing Jesus in the film The Passion of the Christ, was our honored speaker at this event. He is standing to the left of my shoulder (not to be confused with the priest who is standing behind me).

I have an unabashed admiration for Jim Caviezel-- mostly due to his upright character and his bold Christian witness in Hollywood.  Joey loved to tease me about that too--Mama's Crush, he called it.  (I hope it isn't sacrilegious to also note how very handsome Jim Caviezel is!) In this shot, I was sidling up to Jim just for the purpose of stealing a picture with him. I was a groupie, but the shy kind. So rather than talking to him, since I knew I would just stammer, stare and possibly drool, I simply moved close enough for Joey to get this shot!

Months went by and I forgot all about it. The picture showed up on Mother's Day attached to a gift subscription to Dwell magazine. Architecture and housing alternatives were areas of common interest for Joey and I;  hence, this thoughtful gift. I think he wished he had given more, as he refers to himself as an "economad" and the gift subscription as being "humble". I, of course, never felt that way. Like any mother, I loved the thought and care that went into it. I loved it then and love it now. Love every little thing about it.

(Tears, waves of longing, grief pangs, sniff, sniff.) I love you, beautiful son, and miss you so.

Happy Mother's Day to me.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Mama Zebra and her Baby

Grown don't mean nothing to a mother.
A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown?
What's that suppose to mean?
In my heart it don't mean a thing.
~Toni Morrison, Beloved, 1987

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Patriotic Family Dinner

We're a proud military family. My daughters and their husbands have made tremendous sacrifices since 9/11. My grandchildren have had to live without benefit of a father at home for many months at a time, for many years. Before my girls married these two wonderful men, none of us had a clue what they were getting themselves into. But there are no regrets. They love their country and are proud to serve. But yesterday it felt a little more worth the sacrifice.

Papa sat on the lawn at sunset and talked with the grandchildren. They were so young when 9/11 happened. Aidan wasn't even born till two months after. But they knew yesterday was significant, and that their family has played an important role in this chapter of  American history. Our game last night was actually questions about America. Questions such as, "Do you know all the words to the Star-spangled Banner? (not too well) And who wrote it?" (yes!) and "Who were the top three best presidents?" (Washington, Lincoln, and Bush). Stuff like that.

Our dinner table last night. Yeah, we're truly grateful for the red, white and blue. We are a blessed country.

Fruit salad in a watermelon bowl.

Chicken pot pie casserole with a lattice crust, per Aidan's request.

It was a good evening to pause and reflect on the journey they have all been on.

On Saturday night, we went to dinner to celebrate Sean and JoAnne's 17th wedding anniversary.

On the way home in the car, I asked Sean, "Do you think we will ever capture Bin Laden?"
Only God knew what would transpire 24 hours later.

A military marriage...17 amazing achievement. Too many separations, too many readjustments for deployments and re-entries, too many bedtimes without a father to tuck you in, too many birthdays, Christmases and anniversaries alone. That's just part of why they deserve so much gratitude from us all.

We are really proud of our children. They are true American Heroes.

 Isaiah 6:8
 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
   And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Monday, May 02, 2011

Quote of the Day

"This is for you Tom, for you and everyone of your teammates that reside in Heaven. And this is for everyone of the guys on the ground that finished this mission set forth 10 years ago. For every family that has suffered a loss, every family that has been separated by a deployment, everyone killed on 9/11 and every family changed by WAR. This for you, for us, for our country, for our children!!!!!!!!!"

Written on the facebook page by the wife of a deceased Navy SEAL.
 I will keep her anonymous, but I couldn't say it better than this.
My heartfelt gratitude to the American military and their families,  for years of selfless sacrifice to make this day possible. Thanks to everyone of you the world is a safer place tonight.