A Grief Observed

I came as a witness, the extra listener, to deflect and defend, maybe decide what this grief will look like.

The suited man at the table tells us there are options for this sort of thing. My daughter L holds a tissue, I poise my pen at the paper before me.
Burying a child is a delicate matter and his words are quiet and slow.  I ache inside as W’s eyes glance at the caskets—small, white, simple décor, as if they might hold a child’s christening dress.  But this is not a christening. This is goodbye.
W turns aside, avoiding the display like viewing a deep wound—there is too much pain, and maybe there’s a doctor in the house to bandage the heart.
But it must be done.
The grief care counselor asks him, “Will you be carrying it as we proceed from the chapel  to the graveside?  We could have one of our staff do that for you.”
The ache splinters my heart and I fear any sound from me will come out in sobs.  It is just too much, but the question must be asked.
“I’m not sure,” W replies.  “I’ll have to decide that day.”
We walk through more discussion, more decisions, papers are signed and checks exchanged.

“We can drive you ‘round to the space now so you can choose where he’ll be.”
We slide into leather seats, a single comfort on this brutal, bright day; our friend the counselor speaks loudly with his silence which matches the quiet gray green out the window.
I am stunned at this kindness to my children, his knowing it is all just too much to bear; any conversation would tax their ready tears.
I stare ahead through the glass, trees gliding by as we come to our stop.
Pondering  the markers as we tiptoe between spaces—Tori and Charles, John and Kenny- maybe this counselor is just as torn in two as we. Managing the emotions of broken parents while guiding them to their child’s resting place takes a remarkable kind of human being. 
What a gift he is to brave this biting cold, waving a marker about, landing it “here” as we watch.
His one-of-a-kind manner that validates our needs and responds in a just-right way prompts a desire to hug him like an old friend.  But I resist.
We feel safe and sad, cold and comforted, like being wrapped in a quilt as we watch a flooded home come loose from its foundations.
But there is rebuilding in this tragedy, a glimpse of hope; our grief-helping man knows this.
“Wait til you see this place in the Spring.  The view of the mountain is really spectacular.”
“It’s lovely, really; why, you could even have a picnic right here next to the spot.”
We gather his words like shells, a memory of washed away dreams and shattered hopes, returning home in silence.

The children will rebuild, one plank and beam, one room at a time.

Meanwhile I stand on the shore, eyes on the horizon and trust in the warmth to come. 

This post is from the archives, written in February of 2014 when my daughter and her husband lost their first child at 5 months.  The coming holidays can often be a time of grieving and loss for those with deep heart aches.  Perhaps these ‘me, too’ words can bring a comfort knowing there are others who feel deep pain in the middle of a season where the rest of the world is announcing peace and joy.

When the Voice of Jesus Sounds like the Water Department

I read recently there’s a bit of controversy about Sarah Young’s devotional book ‘Jesus Calling’, that perhaps it’s ‘extra-biblical’, even new-age-y.  The articles I read didn’t cite any of the particular daily devotions, just made rather sweeping statements about the fact she ‘claimed’ to hear from Jesus and wrote down what He said to her in first person.

Mind you, each selection is accompanied by Scripture.
Mind you, many, many of the people I know personally have heard God speaking to them as well through her words. Many, many times.
Mind you, people have been led closer to Jesus as a result of these messages.
But the validity of the message is in question because people claim they actually heard Jesus speaking.
Now let’s consider this—
God first spoke to the prophets and kings directly, in many places. Here’s a verse I happened on in my reading the other night:
II Samuel 2, “After this David inquired of the LORD….and the LORD said to him…”.
Then God shared His message through his son Jesus, who WAS the Word of God—(see the book of John. Start there.)
Then when Jesus left the earth He told His disciples He would send a Comforter—the Holy Spirit—to lead them and guide them into all truth.
The Holy Spirit is still speaking today. Why, as recently as last week–in Washington D.C. of all places.
House Speaker John Boehner heard God after Pope Francis gave his message on Capitol Hill. As he told the press, after ‘saying his prayers’ that night he woke up the next morning and decided to resign his job.

Just like that—because he was fairly confident he heard God say something.  Something very important.

Now, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an audible voice, but a silent ‘knowing’ in his knower, a soul conversation prompted by the tenderness perhaps contributed to by the words from the Pope.
But the way John Boehner shares it, nothing else really mattered after his encounter—the Pope pulled him aside and actually asked the Speaker if he’d pray for His Grace.  
I have a feeling after that, the rest of Mr. Boehner’s life came into sharp perspective, that well, politics weren’t all that really mattered in the big picture.
I too hear God’s voice—Jesus calling, if you will—on pretty much a daily basis. And no, I can’t hear it, but I ‘hear’ it—the words are clear and quick and cut through all the clutter when I’m paying attention.

And sometimes I write down what He says.
I noticed a journal entry from earlier this year:
4:50 a.m. Feb. 9th
“Woke up and prayed in the Spirit a bit and I think I heard God say, “I’m not going to answer your prayers the same way I did in the past–it’s going to be different.”

My margin notes say, “I’ll take different. With a side of wonder.”

I also included some lines from a book I’ve been reading about the Song of Solomon–
Cora MacIravy–p. 202
“It is to know more fully the depth of his love; 
it is to have a greater hunger for Him to be all and in all to us; 
it is to make Him more and more our only consolation and confidant. …
there is nothing small in our lives, 
but everything is important and tells for Eternity.”


Sometimes the Holy Spirit says simple things like, “you left the water running out in the garden”.  (Words He knows will save me a lot of grief and a lot of money because our water bill tripled last month.)
Sometimes He says things like, “Call your sister.”
“Write a note to Sherry.”
“Pray for Linda.”

SO I follow through with the note or the prayer or the call and trust the results to Him. And more often than not, that prayer or note or phone call will touch a life and bring hope and encouragement from me, yes, but ultimately from my Jesus.
He cares for every little thing.
There is nothing small in our lives
Everything tells for Eternity.
I doubt You and I will have a conversation with the Pope probably ever.

I hope you don’t get a personal visit from the Water Department about your water bill. 
(True story—that happened.)

But you can count on a Person who still speaks today, even though you can’t see Him.
His name is Jesus and He is still calling.

Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee for Tell His Story

Catch the Song

I’m so grateful Summer is officially over.  It lasted way too many long, hot, sunshiny days for me. Truly. (I live in the Pacific Northwest. I am allowed to complain about these things.) We did not get our reprieve with refreshing summer rains. There were no soft gray mornings to offset the cloudless days.
And why would I bemoan all that sunshine? It’s just too noisy.  The clear blue skies and bright yellow days are like a music box all wound up—“come out, come play, join the fun!” 

Just when the sound would fade away, the sun would come up with a new day—“hey there, let’s get busy!”
I found myself trying to keep up with all outdoor ‘music’ without a chance to rest and enjoy the sound of the wind and what discoveries I might hear.
Yes, I prefer the slower Fall weather, the subtler sounds of early sunsets, sleepy birds and a non-committal sky—maybe blue, maybe white……ahhhh, maybe orange.  A sky of color that is winding down, not up, that invites me to savor and sit instead.
I’m thankful to have an opportunity to be intentional about listening well, to spending time to listen to the Spirit, to hear God’s voice in the season ahead. 
The challenge? I am easily distracted and influenced by what’s going on around me. The connection of the interwebs makes it oh-so-easy to follow all the other sounds I hear.
I’m anxious to be known.
I want to be in the know.
I just think I need to know.
I check my Facebook page for status updates and photos. Click, click, click. Wandering without thinking over to read someone’s blog post.  All those voices in my head—everyone else’s.
I can’t hear what I’m not listening for.  I want to be intentional about setting aside time to draw near to God to listen to His song for me.  I want to be part of the solution to the world’s pain and brokenness, play a melody that will help people pause, to wonder, to be healed.
I don’t want to be part of a noisy chorus.  My voice will be drowned out.
The latest issue—Planned Parenthood’s selling of aborted babies—the callous killing of unborn children—is filling airspace and webspace and adding to all the noise. Twitter balloons with inflammatory comments, people take sides (I’ve been one of them), Facebook becomes a platform for comments, opinions and comebacks.
I am almost without words to speak to the horror of the issue; in fact, I took a stand several weeks ago.
However it has occurred to me that when there’s an argument, especially around such a volatile issue, when one’s mind is made up, it’s impossible to hear. People are not convinced to change due to an argument or attack.
It’s hands over the ears, “la-la-la”-ing in a sing-song voice, “I can’t hear you,” like a two year old.
I could write about the evils of Planned Parenthood’s practices, how sad I am about their continued funding via the government, how wrong their actions are, illegal, even….and in my world that would all be true.
But you already know that.  You probably agree with me.

I would be preaching to the choir, as they say. And well, all that noise, remember?
Maybe I should consider this—next Saturday morning, after our local PP protest—I could walk across the street to the Starbuck’s, and instead of waving my sign as I pass by the drive-through, I could park the car, walk in and say hello.
While I order my double tall breve, maybe engage in a conversation with the gal at the counter. The one I met last month who’s named after a character in the TV show Dynasty—the girl who’s not married yet.

(I hope she’s not sick and tired of all us protestors, waving our signs, making all that noise. I pray that she’ll hear me.) 
Maybe I can ask how she’s doing, find out if she needs anything for the unborn baby. Make a mental note to return and slip a gift card with her name on it into the Tip Jar.
Maybe I could tell her a corny story about her name—that it reminds of a song I like very much. It’s corny. She might laugh.  

And maybe she’ll listen to the care in between the lines, to the hope in the words, to the possibility of a different story with a different song.
Maybe I can sing her that song; I pray that she’s listening.

Constant, Like the Waves


     The ocean has always been an anchor of home for me—particularly along the Southern California coast.

     I spent all of my growing up and teenage years near there and most of my best memories involve the sand, the sea and the surf.  There is a lot of life wrapped up in those waves.
     However, we’ve lived in Seattle now for over 20 years and my visits to the beach are few and far between. The Washington and Oregon coast do not compare—the water is near frigid even on the hottest days; I can’t remember when I’ve ever ducked under a wave to get completely wet—it’s just not warm enough.
     Standing with my toes at the Northwest water’s edge makes me homesick. Thankfully, I was able to get my toes in the sand this summer as my husband and I traveled to Southern California for an extended vacation, back to our old stomping grounds.  
     Along the way we visited folks from North to South. (We spent the first 18 years of our married lives in Central California and some of our richest treasures are the friends we have there.)
     One of our visits was an overnight with Rocky and Steve, bosom friends with whom we’ve walked through triumph and tragedy together. Our children and grandchildren provide the extra ‘glue’ that joins us via ups and downs and challenges.  We are grateful to Jesus that we are still close friends and still walking in The Way.

     Rocky and I took a walk early the next morning in her old neighborhood down one of my favorite streets. The sidewalks were lined with established homes, landscaped yards with vine-covered fences, the sound of morning sprinklers and birdsong everywhere.
     The fulsome trees shaded us as we walked and talked passing flower pots on porches and the occasional stained glass window.  It was a holy time.

     We returned to breakfast on the front patio, strong coffee accompanying fresh, just-picked-yesterday peaches and toast made with sourdough bread from our favorite bakery.
Before we sat down, Steve beckoned me over to his easy chair and picked up a small book. 
     “I have something to show you,” he said. He was holding a disassembled copy of  Oswald Chambers’ little devotional book, “My Utmost for His Highest.”
     “Jody, I want you to know I still read this book every morning when I have my devotions and I think of you. I ponder the days’ entry, pray for friends, jot a few lines in my journal while I sit here by the window. Every day it’s the same, right here with this book.”
     I was overcome; they were still reading this copy?? Wow. I hardly remembered giving it to them.
But there on the inside cover he showed me these words,
“September 1990
Rocky, Jesus will talk to you every day through this book—
I promise!  I know you’ll hear him speaking to you ‘cause your heart is so open. 
I love you, Jody”
Twenty-five years.  They had been reading that book daily for 25 years.
     “We got a new copy of ‘My Utmost’, Steve continued, “but it’s just not the same.  I write down peoples’ birthdays, the days my grandkids were born, a particular prayer need. It’s all right here, like a diary.”
     The new leather bound volume with its shiny gold lettering sits on an end table—“it hasn’t been used yet,” he said. “The pages are too new and stiff.” 
“I can’t find my way to the days. This falling-apart volume”—he pointed to the loose pages—”still speaks to me after all these years.”
     I thought about all the things that had changed since we left—the burgeoning growth of the city heading north, a complete remodel of the 100 year old high school, a Whole Foods Market where my old grocery store used to be. Sadly even the yard of our old house was unrecognizable.
     But this little book in my friends’ living room, like our friendship and our faith, was steady and constant over all these years.

   When I texted Rocky to have her snap a photo of the inside cover, she typed these words in return: (sadly, the photo did not translate)

     “Here you go. 25 years later we are still reading Oswald.  I gain a different perspective every time I read these pages; it’s as if he penned the words yesterday.
     “This little book also serves as a family record of events–births, deaths, marriages and so on are all recorded on these pages.
     “Steve and I have mended this little book so many times over all these years. Alas! it is beyond repairing. But our new copy doesn’t ‘feel’ like my old friend.  
I will keep my ole’ friend.”
     What a beautiful picture of the anchor that is God’s word, coupled with the sure thing of a long friendship through thick and thin, keeping our “ole’ friends.”
     We’re all worn out around the edges, have life ‘written’ on our skin, and parts of us may be unrecognizable. And yet there is Jesus holding us fast year after year while the waves of time wash over us, in and out, a constant sure thing after all these years.
     Some things never change.


                                           Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee 

& the Tell His Story Community.

Pointer–Where to Find Beauty

I am on day four of a 5 day teaching position in Special Ed (3rd-6th grade) and there aren’t too many spare moments to sit at my desk and write (although the ideas are scribbled in little journals about my house).

I feel anchored while I’m sailing, but the seas have been fast and deep.

I long to keep this space one that rings of beauty and truth that point to my Jesus and to that end I would like to introduce you to Lanier Ivester She writes a remarkable piece, part one of “Creativity–Spiritual Battle and Spiritual Discipline,” about the process of writing (and all the arts, really).

Lanier’s words have stunned me silent–literally left me speechless–especially this piece, “Songless” with their glorious, creative spark of our Creator. She writes primarily online at The Rabbit Room and also has her own online place, Lanier’s Books.

Take some time to read this when  you can.

You will want to be a better writer.

You will want to be a better person.

You will want to be like Jesus.  I promise.

From My Journal #2–Getting Good Grades

Nothing is FINAL
There is always a new day, a new chance

Noting is FATAL
You won’t die; this experience won’t kill you

Nothing is FUTILE
Even if you’ve blown it, you can learn from this; God uses it all.

Bottom line: We have to believe what Jesus says about us 
instead of what we think of ourselves.

From my journal August 29, 2007.
First ‘from my journal’ post is here.