5 Minute Friday – DIFFERENT

Today is 5 Minute Friday. It’s been a while since I participated in this link up, but if you don’t know, 5 Minute Fridays are when writers (mostly women) from around the globe all write about one word for 5 minutes, no editing, no second-guessing, just publishing. You can check it out HERE.

This week’s word is DIFFERENT

The new year, 2018, looms right around the corner. For many of us, that means looking at our goals and dreams for the next 12 months, looking at the ways next year will be different. Whether you go all out with colored markers and a special planner (I use Powersheets), or if you just use a plan piece of paper in a $1 notebook, looking at the ways you are going to make 2018 different is exciting and fun.

But for some people, the ways 2018 will be different aren’t fun or exciting. They are just sad and hard and frightening.

In September, my dad passed away after a 4 year fight with cancer. His birthday was on Christmas Eve. This year, everything will be different.

For my mom, 2018 will be nothing like years past. Not only did she lose my dad, but the couple my parents spent the most time with, both of them have passed away. What was once a happy foursome is now down to one person- my mom. This year, everything will be different. 

A church friend lost twins at 23 weeks. Her plans and dreams for 2018 don’t exist anymore.  This year, everything will be different than what she thought it would be. 

Another woman in our church lost her 2 year old grandchild, after that child had been put on hospice, survived and had a liver transplant. She and her family’s year will be so different than what they had prepared for. 

One of my best friends experienced organ rejection this year – after 11 years of doing wonderfully. She is looking at a second lung transplant in 2018, while caring for her toddler son. I’m sure 2018 looks much different than what she thought it would be even six months ago. 

The year 2017 had a lot of really great things it. I could rattle off a list of blessings and beautiful things, but it also was a hard year. It was a year of saying goodbye to loved ones for so many people.

Yet, in our grief or disappointment over how different 2018 looks to what we had dreamed, our hope doesn’t have to be on what was or what we wish things could be. Our hope is firmly anchored in a God who is never different, who is never changing and always faithful.

This past year, this old song’s chorus has been ringing in my head and sprinkled throughout my prayer journal.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker – A Review

We Don’t Always Have to Agree

Several years ago, I read Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker, and while I appreciated her story, I didn’t really agree with all of her theology.

So, I didn’t pick up another of her books until recently. I was in the library, and the title and cover of her latest book, Of Mess and Moxie, leaped out at me.

Being Real

It’s interesting because I just finished Jon Eldredge’s book All Things New which was a reminder that this earth is not our home, and we have so much to look forward to in the next. You can read that review HERE.

Of Mess and Moxie is a celebration of the life we are living right now. It is permission to admit that things can be messed up and it takes a bit of moxie to live on purpose and out loud these days.

While Jen and I probably are still not on the exact same page theologically, reading this book reminded me of something. It reminded me that as believers, even if we can not always 100% agree, we can still learn from each other.

This book was laugh out loud funny at times, and honestly, I wish Jen Hatmaker could be my in real life friend. This is a woman who loves Jesus and loves others and does it well.

I particularly loved the chapter on mothering. It seems like moms are under a tremendous amount of pressure in this day (even more than in decades past) to live up to impossible standards. I loved Jen’s fresh take and the permission she gives moms to stop trying to be perfect or to attain these standards that nobody – except on their instagram feed – can possibly achieve.

I found the entire book refreshing and encouraging and uplifting. If you are looking for a book that is real about the mess of life but also encourages you that you live life well and with intention, check this book out!

 

Why You Need to Fail

I Still Remember My First Taste of Failure

I remember the first time I really felt like I had failed in a big way. I was heading into my senior year, and I didn’t make the cheerleading squad after being on the Varsity for two years.

The worst thing about not making the squad was the total shock. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t make it since the coach kept asking me to demonstrate various jumps and techniques during the tryout period.

I remember staring at the list of those who made it, scanning the it over and over. I was baffled as to why I couldn’t find my name. It took several reads for it to finally sink in. I hadn’t made it.

My senior year suddenly looked completely different than how I had been imagining it.

As I blinked away tears and shrugged on a mask of indifference, my initial sadness was quickly replaced by embarrassment and humiliation. I had failed. I wasn’t a cheerleader anymore.

I had lost part of my identity.

That failure left a lingering taste of bitterness in my mouth, and to this day (I’m 44), I still feel the temptation to try to explain that failure away because it still kind of embarrasses me. Even after all this time, that first taste of failure still stings.

Sometimes Failure Is the  Whole Point

For the past several months, I’ve been reading through the Gospels, and as I came to the end of Luke I came to the familiar story of Peter denying Jesus. I’m sure you’ve heard all the sermons too, right?

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
Growing up in church, I’ve heard a lot of sermons about this particular passage, everything from God’s grace to our fallibility as humans to the fact that satan can only get at us with God’s permission. But there was one thing I never noticed before – Jesus did NOT pray that Simon wouldn’t fail. 
Is it just me or do you find that kind of strange? I mean, wouldn’t it make sense that Jesus would pray that one of His dearest disciples wouldn’t betray Him? Wouldn’t it seem logical that Jesus would pray that Peter would pass the test?

But passing the test wasn’t really the lesson. If you read those verses again, you can see what that lesson was supposed to be: “and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

It wasn’t some kind of huge surprise to Jesus that Peter was going to fail this test rather spectacularly. He TOLD Peter, “Hey, Buddy, I know you have good intentions, but the reality is that you’re going to deny me before the rooster even crows tomorrow morning.”

We Always Seem a Bit Surprised By Failure – But God Isn’t

Peter – the same Peter who a few hours later would whip out his sword and cut off a guy’s ear – couldn’t even fathom denying Jesus. Peter was a fisherman. He was probably big and burly, and he was more than a little rough around the edges. He was probably the guy you did NOT want to pick a fight with. He was brash and impulsive (see the ear thing above). He often stuck his foot in his mouth far enough to choke himself (remember when he rebuked Jesus for saying He was going to die?).

But Jesus knew something that Peter did not. He knew that in order to truly be a servant leader, Peter had to fail and fail big.

It’s not that God doesn’t want us to succeed, but the thing is, as much as we don’t like it, we often learn way more from our failures then we ever do from our successes.

God had big plans for Peter, but He had to get Peter into the right mind set. He had to impress on Peter it wasn’t Peter’s abilities or goodness or leadership skills that were going to make him one of the main leaders in the early church. It was ALL God.

What satan meant for harm, God allowed for Peter’s ultimate good. God allowed satan to sift Peter to get out the bits that were useless.

When farmers process wheat, the first step is sifting it or separating the chaff from the actual grain. The chaff is this kind of dry, scaly stuff that encases the seed or grain. It serves a purpose as the grain is growing, but it’s totally useless and renders the grain inedible once it is time to actually use the grain for food.

It was time for Peter to step to the next level, so God allowed satan to get to Peter. Satan’s purpose was to sideline Peter, but God’s purpose was to soften Peter.

The first thing Jesus prayed for was Peter’s faith

When we fail, it is easy to allow our shame over our failure to keep us from continuing to seek to follow God. After Christ’s death, Peter went back to fishing. He figured Jesus was dead and he was washed up as a disciple because of his failure. Jesus went and found Peter at the shore. He commissioned Peter to go and feed His sheep.

In our own lives this might look like not attending church or not reading our Bibles or praying since, you know, we failed so God must not want any more to do with us.

If that were the case, though, the Bible would be a whole lot shorter. If you comb through its pages, if failure was all it took to sideline God’s saints, there would be precious few on the field of play.

David basically forced himself on another man’s wife and then killed her husband to cover up his misdeeds. Moses killed a man and ran away to the desert, a fugitive. Jacob’s life resembled something out of Jerry Springer with his two wives and their maids. Abraham passed his wife off as his sister and tried to hurry up God’s plan by having a baby with his wife’s maid (and you can see how that turned out!).

Obviously, failure didn’t cancel out faith.

The Second Thing Jesus Did Was Give Direction for After Failure

Jesus told Peter, “and you, once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus knew, not only that Peter would fail, but that he would repent and return from that failure. Peter’s screw up probably gave him a lot more empathy for his brothers and their struggles.

Isn’t it the same in our lives? I remember being a young mother to a toddler son who talked in sentences when he was less than a year old. Not only that, but all I had to do was explain why he shouldn’t do something and he didn’t (of course, I now realize that isn’t the norm!).

I honestly could not figure out what was wrong with other mothers and their bratty kids. I mean – just explain it clearly? How hard was that?

Then I had my second son (you probably see where this is headed), and suddenly, all that false pride I had in my own mothering skills evaporated.

Simply explain why you shouldn’t do something? That guaranteed he’d smile and do exactly that!

Have a reasonable discussion on why he couldn’t do something or have something? He’d throw a flaming fit – usually in public – for maximum mother embarrassment.

I can’t tell you what an unbelievable failure I felt like as a mother as I walked through Kmart one memorable day, while Brody screamed the entire way because I refused to buy him a bouncy ball (because the poor child onlyy had about 100 in his collection).

Did I enjoy these times? NO!

But it certainly taught me a lot. It softened my heart toward other struggling mothers, and allowed me to offer encouragement rather than judgment. It stripped me of my misplaced pride and introduced me to some much needed humility. It made me rely on God for direction and discernment rather than my own perceived abilities.

To this day, I look at my boys and thank God for the work HE has done in their lives. I have a keen awareness that while being a mother brings great responsibility, the outcome isn’t completely up to us. It’s up to God and His plans, His purposes and His timetable.

Failure, no matter what that failure happens to be, has a way of turning our eyes off of ourselves and toward God – if we let it.

I’m not sure what failure you are carrying around with you or how you are allowing it to limit you and keep you from moving forward.

I do know that failure is not a sign that God is done with you. Rather, it might just be a signal that God is preparing you for something way bigger than you can imagine.

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Need Some Hope?

Are you feeling a little hopeless lately?

I know I have. This has been a difficult fall. On a personal level, my father passed away in early September after a four year battle with cancer. You can read about that here and here.

While we were in the hospital with him, the country was hit by not one, but two, hurricanes. Wildfires in the West gobbled up land and houses and lives. There have been people killed in mass shootings and by cars used as weapons.

My Facebook feed was full of finger pointing and anger and hostility.

Even as I write this, one of my best friends is slowly losing her lung function to rejection and is facing a second transplant. She and her husband waited for several years to adopt a little boy. She found out she was in rejection a week after they celebrated his first birthday.

It has all felt rather hopeless and overwhelming and I’ve felt the desire to pull inward and hide in my house, preferably with the covers pulled over my head.

Finding Hope In the Pages Of a Book

Then I went to the library (so many good things in my life start with that phrase!), and as I perused the shelves I came across Jon Eldredge’s latest book, All Things New.

It blew a fresh wind of hope into my heart and mind that I didn’t even realize I desperately needed.

The whole premise behind the book is that we, as believers, have only this vague, shadowy idea of heaven, and to be honest, it sounds kind of boring – like an eternal church service or something.

Eldredge argues that our ultimate home is not heaven, but a restored New Earth where the things we hold dear and love will be restored in their true fullness and beauty. He backs up his assertions with a lot of Scripture, and it’s impossible not to catch the vision he lays out.

The idea is somewhat breathtaking in its scope, this idea of hope in the next life that isn’t just vague. I’ve been reading through the Gospels this spring and summer, and just finished up Luke which was the last one on my list (I read Matthew, John, Mark and then Luke for some reason).

One of the things that stood out to me so clearly was that Jesus had an eternal perspective. While He loved people and had compassion on them and healed their physical bodies, He never lost sight of the importance of their eternal souls. This was incredibly fresh in my mind when my dad passed away. (You can read about my thoughts here).

That is not to say, Eldredge is saying we shouldn’t enjoy and live fully in this life, but we’d all be lying (or just be incredibly young and/or inexperienced), to not know that life can be hard and even brutal sometimes. It can definitely wear us down and make our hope seem anemic at best. It can make being intentional in this life seem pointless and without purpose if we aren’t careful.

As C.S. Lewis said, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most fo the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of hte other world that they have become ineffective in this.”

If we are going to press on in this increasingly difficult and complicated world, we have to have a clear vision and hope for our future. If we want to make a difference here and now, we can’t lose sight of the then and later.

“Much of the transcendent purpose God has for human life can only be properly discerned in light of eternity.”

Gary Black

If you feel short on hope these days, check out All Things New. I promise you it will breathe new life into your tired and worn out hope!

 

The Gift of a Life Well-Lived

First Brush With Death

I was five years old the first time I lost someone I loved. I don’t remember a lot. What I do remember is my grandfather being so cold and shaking.

I ran to get him blankets, but he was shivering so hard, I could hear his false teeth clacking together. I remember running behind a chair in the living room to pray. The chair was striped and velvety; the carpet was thick and cream colored. That was 39 years ago, yet those small details stand out in sharp relief.

I don’t remember my mom telling me my grandfather had died. I just remember looking at my grandfather in the casket and thinking it wasn’t him. All that made my grandfather him was gone: the big, booming laugh; the infectious smile; the twinkle in his eye.

My cousin picked me up and put my face up close to my grandfather’s. He smelled strange and I was scared. I spent the rest of the viewing hours out in the lobby with my Grandma Craig, tapping my patent leather shoes on the flagstone floor.

For over a year, I waited for my grandfather to come back. I kept imagining that he would burst into our house, laughing and saying it was all a joke. I was well into first grade when I finally believe he was really gone.

The Bewilderment of Grief

The next time I lost someone I loved, I was 25 and expecting my first child. As an adult, my experience was far different than when my grandfather died. Grandma Craig – the one who had sat with me in the lobby – was gone.

I remember feeling bewildered. How was I suppose to walk through this? How do you grieve? What does that even look like? Could you be happy about a coming baby and also be sad about the death of someone you loved at the same time?

Since that time, I’ve lost my other grandmother, a few friends, my brother and just recently my father. Even though I am not new to the grieving process, every single time, I still feel that strange bewilderment. How do you do grief?

Every grief is like a trip with a familiar destination, but each time, you travel by a different route.

Grieving Death is Different Than Grieving Tragedy

My brother died only two years ago, so that grief is still fresh and that road is still familiar. I thought I had a handle on this grief process, but grieving my father has been completely different.

With my dad, it felt like the ending of a fully told story. He battled cancer for four years, and I honestly thought he was going to die last year. I truly believe God answered my prayer for more time with him. I don’t know why He chose to answer that prayer since I know others have prayed it and not gotten the same answer. I am just unendingly thankful that He did.

Although I miss my dad terribly, God made it very clear to me that my dad had reached the last page of his story. Even though I didn’t want it to be the end and I didn’t want to close the book on his life, my dad’s life was one that was well-lived and finished well.

At his funeral, as people shared what my dad meant to them, I could see the far reaching ripples that his love of Jesus and his faithful service to Him had created.

It is hard to know that my dad’s story is done, but at the same time, there is a peace and a comfort in knowing someone has run their course well and finished the race. I grieve, but there is a softer edge to this grief.

My brother, on the other hand, took his own life. Instead of coming to the last chapter in his life, I felt as if someone had ripped it out of my hands mid-read. His death left a lot of what ifs and if onlys that still bother me some days.

My brother was intelligent, handsome and outgoing. He never met a stranger, and he honestly talked himself into an untold number of jobs that he really wasn’t qualified for at all. He had so much potential.

His death laid waste to it all before it was time.

It is the difference between a life well-lived and one stolen by mental illness.

It was the difference between the natural cycle of life and tragedy.

The Importance of Finishing Well

I am 44 years old. According to statistics, I’m truly middle-aged. Half of my life is over, and hopefully, if I am not felled by cancer or heart disease or some other disease, half of my life stretches before me.

Maybe it is because of my recent losses.

Maybe it is because of my age.

Maybe it is because I am facing a new season very soon, as my youngest will be a high school senior next year, but I am impressed more and more that I want to finish well.

I want to live my life fully with the right priorities. It’s so easy to get off track and to get caught up in things that really don’t matter, especially in the light of eternity.

I get it – the house isn’t going to clean itself and the groceries aren’t going to travel from the shelves to your fridge on their own. But I don’t want to be so busy doing all my to dos that I forget to really live life.

Choosing To Let Go of the Good

As 2017 slowly ticks down and a new year looms with all its newness and possibilities, I’m trying to slow down, to really listen to what God wants from me this year.

He has very clearly told me to write. I’ve felt it pressed into my heart and whispered in my ear. The thing is, when we say yes to what God calls us to do, we have to say no to a lot of other things – even good things.

What that means in my life is really looking at everything I am involved in and deciding what may be good but isn’t best.

I love Arabah Joy’s blog. Tacked up on the wall next to my desk is a quote from her.

You can’t do all the good things people ask you to do if you want to do the one thing God is calling you to do.

I made that quote into a cute printable and tacked it up by my desk, and yet, I’ve spent a lot of 2017 doing things that are good, but not best. That is going to change in 2018.

Why? Because I want to finish well. I want to reach the end of my life and see “The End,” not chapters I never got around to experiencing because I was too busy doing all the things rather than THE THING God has called me to.

What about you? Are there things you feel called to, but you’ve let busyness or other people’s expectations keep you from?

I’d love to hear about it!

True Love – It’s Not What You Think!

The Anniversary That Wasn’t

This past week, it would have been my parents 54th anniversary. But instead of doing something fun with my dad this past Thursday, my mom spent her anniversary with me at Panera Bread.

With my dad’s death, my mom lost part of herself. How can you not when you’ve lived with someone for 54 years? When you’ve shared life in its ups and down, its joys and griefs, its beauty and ugliness?

 

An Example of a Good Marriage

When you are a kid, you don’t really think about your parents’ marriage, unless it is profoundly unhappy in some way. As a kid, I was oblivious. Sure, my parents fought at times, but I never wondered if they’d stay together.

There was never a doubt they were a couple – not just parents or partners – but two halves of a whole.

Heck, they went on dates before date nights were trendy.

They each had a role, but one was not more important than the other.

My dad led our home with a sweetness of spirit that never took advantage of his leadership role. He was never “the boss” of my mom. They worked together, and my dad listened to what my mom had to say. He recognized her uncanny accuracy and insight about people.

My mom always supported my dad as the family leader, but that didn’t mean that she silently sat in the background or just nodded yes to whatever my dad said. Instead, she pushed and challenged him in all the best ways. I think my dad would honestly say that he would not have been the man he was without my mom.

They served God together. I don’t remember a time when my parents weren’t serving together in some capacity at our church. My dad was a gifted teacher, and my mother is the most organized person you’ll ever meet. She can put an event together with one hand tied behind her back, blindfolded. (I did not inherit this gift, by the way).

They made friends and fellowshipped together. Throughout the years, our home was full of people coming for dinner or holidays or get togethers. My parents were never content to be spectators in life. They were full participants, and they participated not as individuals, but as a couple.

A New Season

So, when my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary rolled around, we celebrated with a big party. People came who hadn’t seen my parents in years. Friends came and shared what my parents meant to them. There was laughter and fun and even a few tears. It was one of those perfect days.

A week later, my dad got a call from the doctor, and just like that, their lives changed. 

Suddenly, their lives consisted of doctors’ appointments two hours away and drugs with long, unpronounceable names and lab results.

And while my parents had shown me what a good marriage looks like over their first 50 years, the last four years showed me what true love REALLY is – not the fizzy, false picture that Hollywood puts out there, but the deep, steady kind of love that says, “I’m always going to be here.” 

My mom never missed one of my dad’s doctor’s appointments – no matter how she felt or how tired she was – even when that meant 12 hour days multiple times a week.

My mom put her legendary organizational skills to work keeping track of the paperwork that goes along with cancer treatments, especially when the VA is involved.

My mom counted out pills and made sure my dad took them on schedule. When taking a pill meant my dad couldn’t eat for a certain amount of time, my mom didn’t eat either.

Three different times, my dad got sick enough that he needed to be in a wheelchair. My mom, who is petite and almost 80 years old, didn’t complain. She just found a lighter wheelchair so she could get it in and out of the trunk herself.

Love Through the Valley

During the last few months of my dad’s life, my mom’s role as caregiver became more challenging and certainly more exhausting.

Instead of just using a wheelchair when they were out and about, it became necessary for my dad to use the wheelchair in the house. My mom wheeled him wherever he wanted to go, whenever he wanted to go.

Everytime my dad got up, my mom had to help him. She would grip his hands. Usually it took about three tries, and on the third, my dad would get to his feet. Then my parents would kiss and smile at each other.

My dad didn’t sleep well, and got up multiple times every night, moving from recliner to bed and back again. My mom went with him. Every. Single. Time. 

By the end, she slept with one hand on his shoulder, afraid he’d wake disorientated and try to get up by himself and fall.

True Love in Real Time

True love is about loving someone more than yourself. Watching my mom care for my dad, I saw what true love was up close and personal.

As giddy, young couples, we say our wedding vows, “In sickness and in health, until death do us part,” but in the excitement and joy of starting a new life together, the idea of sickness and death seems far away. We don’t really think about what it means to walk that out.

What that means is walking through cancer with your husband, caring for him even when you are exhausted yourself.

It means dragging out the wheelchair and getting your very sick husband in the car to go get ice cream because that’s what makes him happy when you really would rather collapse on the couch.

It means walking through the valley of the shadow of death holding his hand, so he doesn’t have to make the journey alone.

It means staying by his side even when you’d rather not watch death coming closer and closer.

True love can be warm and fizzy and sweet, but it can also be hard and tiring and challenging. My parents taught me that whatever form it takes, it’s always beautiful.

Blessings, Rosanne

5 Minute Friday: SUPPORT

It’s Friday which means it’s time for 5 Minute Friday! If you’ve never heard of 5 Minute Friday, that’s when women (and I suppose men, too, if they wanted to) from all over the globe write about one word for 5 minutes – no editing, no stopping, no hesitating – and hit publish. Want to join us? Visit HERE.

 

SUPPORT

 

It’s always so interesting to me how the word for 5 Minute Fridays always seems to dovetail with my life in some way. When I saw the word SUPPORT, I knew I was definitely going to find the 5 minutes to write about it today.

Just 10 days ago, my dad died. It wasn’t sudden, but it was. He had cancer and hadn’t been doing very well. But he had bounced back so many times, we kind of thought he would again. We certainly did not expect him to go into the hospital and on hospice on Saturday and be gone by Wednesday.

Through those days at the hospital, I got to watch the Church support one of its members. After the first day, my Dad went to sleep. He never woke up. So, my mom limited visitors.

That didn’t stop people from texting and calling, wanting to help in some way, asking if they could be the exception to the no visitors rule.

My mom’s pastor and his wife were up every single day. They were a constant presence of comfort and support. Friends came up, offering their presence and more tangible support like food or help running errands.

I got numerous texts and Facebook messages, offering help and support, too. One of my friends brought enough Lee’s chicken for the Duggars!

While it doesn’t erase our family’s loss, support makes that loss more bearable. It gives you the sense that even though you feel adrift on a sea of grief, you aren’t drifting all alone.

Watching the body of Christ as they came to the aid of a sister was a beautiful thing. Watching that just reaffirmed for me that God created us for fellowship. We aren’t meant to do this life alone. It’s just too hard.

 

What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. ~ I John 1:3

Blessings, Rosanne

A Terrible Beauty

Yesterday, September 6, my dad passed from this life into the next and I wasn’t there to see him take that final step. His breathing changed and my mom texted me to tell me to come right away, but he slipped away very quickly.

I’ll be honest – that really bothers me. Since my dad went into the hospital early Saturday morning, I’ve sat in his hospital room a lot. Although he slipped into a deep sleep on Sunday and hasn’t been responsive since Sunday evening, I feel like I have been part of his journey as he was crossing from life to death. It makes me sad to have missed when he took that final step from life into eternity.

My mom said it was a peaceful step. He gave a small smile, breathed out and was gone.

I just wish I had been there to see it. 

As I sat by my dad’s bed these past four days, I’ve been struck by what a struggle it is, both to enter this world and to leave it. Even if the person is ready to go, there is a fight they have to wage for the soul to let go of this physical body.

My dad, for the most part, seemed peaceful and pain free. His breathing was heavy and labored at times, but for the most part, he just slept. At times, it was hard to watch, and I prayed that God would take him home sooner than later.

The nurses said he could probably hear us, so I would talk to him. We played music for him. We held his hands and rubbed his feet. We wanted him to know that even though he had to make this last journey himself, we would be there to keep him company.

As I watched him, I kept wondering what he was thinking and feeling. I kept wondering what was going on for him. Really. Was he scared? Was he uncomfortable? Did he really hear us? Did he wish he could tell us anything? Could he sense Jesus in a special way?

Death is something that has alternately fascinated and terrified people since Adam and Eve bit into that apple. There are many mythologies that have sprung up around that journey from life to death. A lot of those stories picture the person going on that journey over water.

As my dad worked to leave this life, in my mind, I pictured it as a journey over rough waters. That’s probably because I was reading in Luke 8 on Monday, and it was the story of the great storm. The disciples were terrified – which is saying a lot since they were seasoned fishermen – and Jesus was a sleep in the boat.

The disciples always get a lot of flack for their lack of faith, but I have to think my response would have been the same. If you’re honest, yours probably would have been, too. They were fishermen. They knew those waters, and they knew when a storm was deadly.

And Jesus seemed to be unaware of the peril everyone was in.

It felt a lot like we were journeying over stormy seas this week. It felt a lot like Jesus was a bit unaware, as we wondered why God didn’t just take my dad instead of having him work so hard to leave this life.

But just like Jesus knew and was in complete control of every wave and gust of wind on that boat, He was right there in that hospital room, this whole week.

Death has a terrible beauty about it for a believer. It’s hard to lose someone you love, and I know it was hard for my dad to leave us. He worried about my mom, and he was disappointed not to see Brody graduate from high school. At the same time, he was going to be in the presence of God – no more pain or sorrow or treatments or sickness.

My dad is now whole, and more alive than he ever was on this earth. 

I know I wished I could help my dad in some way this week, but I could only be present – a spectator in his final fight.

Jesus was more than a spectator. He was there, right in the boat, with my dad as he crossed that last stormy stretch. He was there, not to wait on the shores to welcome him, but to be right there with him until the boat bumped into the shoreline, to hold his hand as my dad stepped off the boat and onto that heavenly shore. My dad was never alone and neither were we. 

I have no idea what it is like when we take our final breath, but in my mind’s eye, I see waves calming. I see a boat bumping into a shore line.

And there’s a crowd.

As Jesus helps my dad off the boat and onto shore, my brother is waving his arms, whole and healed. My parents’ dear friend Ruthie who passed away a few weeks ago, has a huge smile on her face, eyes shining. Friends and family are there to welcome him into his real home.

I have no idea why I wasn’t able to be with my dad in those final moments, but I trust that Jesus is always in control. I was able to sit with him and talk with him the night before. I got to paint that picture of the crowd waiting for him on that shoreline. I got to assure him he didn’t have to worry about my mom, that we’d take good care of her. I got to tell him I loved him and he was the best dad ever. I have to trust that was enough.

Death is terrible, but it’s beautiful, too, because no matter what our crossing is like, Jesus leads us all the way to the shore. And we know, my dad’s life is just beginning with joy and celebration.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

Psalms 116:15

Blessings, Rosanne

On Waiting for Death

When my brother died, death roared in like a freight train, knocking us all over in its wake. It came so fast and furious, we hardly knew what had hit us, until a couple weeks into the experience.

Now death has come on soft feet, gliding into the room, standing off in the shadows – quiet and patient. 

It’s not that we didn’t expect this to happen to my dad. Eventually. He’s been battling cancer – multiple myeloma to be exact – for almost four years now.

It’s just that you are never really ready. You hope and you pray for the next treatment to work, to give him more good days and weeks and months. You hold your breath as you check lab numbers you didn’t even know existed before cancer got its sharp claws into your loved one.

The thing is, I thought I was going to lose my dad last summer. His numbers spiked, and he was hospitalized for a month.

I remember praying and asking, begging really, God for another year with my dad. I remember telling God how I was not ready to lose my dad yet. I reminded God of Hezekiah and how God gave him more years.

And God answered my prayers.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have that extra year, to have the opportunity to be intentional about spending time with my parents. I know sometimes you aren’t that fortunate.

I’ve lived out when you aren’t that fortunate.

Of course, I hoped I’d have more than a year. I know my dad really, really wants to see my youngest son graduate from high school.

But I had this feeling, deep in my heart, that I’d get my year but probably not much more. I wish I could say how I knew that. I just did.

Even as I saw my dad starting to decline, and I started praying again, it was almost as if I felt God put His fingers gently on my lips to hush me.

My prayers became different.

I started to pray for God’s perfect timing in my dad’s life. I’ve been reading the Gospels this spring and summer, and it’s been interesting and eye opening. All those stories I heard separately in Sunday school have taken on a new, richer meaning when seen together.

And one thing I have been seeing as I read through the Gospels is Jesus both cared deeply for the people in front of Him, but He also never lost sight of eternity and that this world is but a shadow of the glory which is to come.

The sickness of people’s souls mattered much more to Him than their physical illnesses and infirmities. Yes, He healed them. Yes, He had compassion on them. He even wept for them.

But, Jesus never lost sight of what was truly important – eternity and where those souls were spending it.

So, as I’ve prayed (and let’s be honest, cried), I’ve found myself praying for God’s will, not my desire to keep my dad close to me. I’ve found myself opening both my hands and telling God that I trust Him with my dad’s every breath, and I believe that God is so good and so gracious as to orchestrate exactly when his last breath will be.

As I’ve prayed, I’ve been at peace with the fact that God has the bigger picture that I can never see from my human perspective.

As I prayed, God brought to mind a woman I interviewed several years ago who was a glass artist. She would take the sheets of glass and precisely cut them out. While the pieces themselves were beautiful, it was impossible to tell what their final shape would be just from the individual pieces. She’d carefully solder them to an iron frame.

From the back side, it didn’t look like much. You were very aware of each individual piece of glass, but the big picture was lost. However, when you turned it over. Wow! The beauty of that piece of art when all those little pieces were put together was breathtaking.

It was even more awe-inspiring when the light shone through it.

More and more, I’m realizing that my sight is limited to the individual pieces. And even though those individual pieces can be beautiful by themselves, it’s only when they are fitted into the big picture that they find their true meaning and shine to their fullest beauty. So, all I can do is trust God to places those pieces into His grand masterpiece.

It won’t be until God’s glory shines through that I will see and be amazed at the plan God had all along.

I’m not going to lie. Watching my dad diminish physically has been and is hard. Watching as death quietly waits in the wings, drawing ever closer on those soft feet is difficult. Watching the man who used to toss me in the air and walk across the pool on his hands and seemed like an invincible hero hardly able to lift his glass to his mouth is heartbreaking.

But I know that as I and my mom keep this vigil, we’re not alone. And neither is my dad. God is right there. My dad is safely tucked into His loving arms. He is carrying my dad these last difficult steps, and He is holding him oh so close to his heart.

I am reminded that as hard as things are today, we serve a good, loving God who is just waiting for our eternal homecoming to reveal the true, glorious masterpiece He’s made of of each of our lives.

 

This song by Chris Tomlin reminded me of this truth. I’ll leave it here for you to enjoy.

All the Way My Savior Leads Me by Chris Tomlin

 

Blessings, Rosanne

Five Minute Friday – COLLECT

I can’t believe it’s Friday again, can you? It’s amazing to me how the week just flies by lately. Since it is Friday, that means it is time for 5 Minute Friday. For those who don’t know, Five Minute Fridays are where women from all over the globe (literally!) write about one word for five minutes – no editing, no agonizing – just write and hit that publish button. If you want to read more, visit HERE.

 

The word this Friday is COLLECT

What do you collect? I collect stories. It doesn’t matter if they are stories in books or stories of real people. I guess that’s why I chose to major in journalism in college. It was that idea of collecting my own stories, that led me to start a blog in the first. place (back on blogspot). I went back and looked, and I published my very first post on Jan. 17, 2009. That was over 8 years ago!!! So, I’ve been collecting my stories for a really long time!

I started my blog as a way to share what God was teaching me, how He was moving in my life, and to remember the answers to prayer and His blessings. If I went back and read all of my blog posts, I’m sure I’d see this mosaic of God’s goodness and grace in the midst of the everyday mundane and the harder stuff, too.

The truth is, I’ve always been fascinated by people’s stories, and I guess that’s obvious because I can’t tell you how many times complete strangers have shared their stories with me. For instance, there was that time in a coffee shop where I was reading a book. Somebody I didn’t know came up and shared they had just started a band with several other people who suffered from serious mental illness like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

I find people and why they do what they do, to be infinitely fascinating. Looking back, this love of collecting stories isn’t all that unusual. Whenever I go out with my parents, they know the people who work in the restaurants they frequent. They ask about those people’s stories. I’m always a little surprised what people share with them (and me!)

In a culture that seems to isolate people more and more, I think people are desperate to share their stories, to be heard, even if the person listening is a complete stranger.

I collect stories and God has used that to help me really see people.

What do you collect?

Blessings, Rosanne

 

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