Does It Ever Get Easier

Larry in Jesus' LapMy husband has been gone from this mortal life for 8 years today.  Nine years ago today we first heard the word ‘cancer’ after his first of four brain surgeries to remove the tumor.  We were also told he had, statistically speaking, 13 months to live.  He lived exactly 12 months from that horrible day.

I recently had a widow ask me when it gets easier.  She is nearing the one year mark and her pain is still such a fresh wound.  I wanted to comfort her by saying that the ache of grief will get better in time.  But does it?  Does it ever really get easier?  For me the answer is, No.  It does not get easier, just more familiar.

I still wake up wishing Larry was next to me.  I still go to bed wishing I could hear him snoring.  I still talk to him, tell him about my day and how the kids are doing.  I still know that there is an emptiness in my life that only he could fill.  The ache is still there and it always will be.  It is the silent companion of my every moment.

What has changed is that I no longer feel guilty for laughing.  It’s been quite a few years since I’ve cringed at myself for enjoying life.  That isn’t what Larry would want me to do and it is not honoring to a man who squeezed the most out of life, even when he was sick.  I’m not afraid to make changes, even big ones like moving from the middle of the country to the east coast.  I do still wish that he was here to take care of the details of life that I most definitely don’t like to deal with but I’m still trying.

Larry’s favorite verse was Hebrews 12:1.  He lived by it.  He ran with perseverance, the life God laid out for him.  I’m striving to do the same.

So I guess maybe it does get easier, if only easier to live with.  I’ve learned to make my own shadow albeit a timid one.

My Little Buddy

OK, so we have this new puppy.  We’ve had him for about 3 months now.  His name is Buddy.  Buddy isn’t really a dog, he’s a small horse.

I’ve always had toy poodles, Annie is 5 pounds and CoCo is 6 pounds.  My son Wade decided that we needed a dog that was bigger than my feet.  Buddy is a golden-doodle, his mama was a golden retriever and his daddy was a standard poodle.  At 5 months Buddy weighs easily 70 lbs and his paws are bigger than my feet.

Buddy is a dork.  (He should have been named Gilligan). He’s the only dog I’ve ever seen with a comb-over.  He hasn’t figured out yet that he isn’t the same size as the toy poodles, so he tries to act like the toy-poodles.  There is no part of my lap that can hold this beastie, but he tries anyway.  Buddy also picks fights with CoCo, but she can take him down!  Annie just snarls at him and he leaves her alone.  There’s nothing funnier than watching Buddy fall off the couch because a 6 pound toy poodle got the best of him.

Buddy has intestinal issues, that means that he has to have special food and he eats like a horse (pun intended).  He is also the most ADD dog I’ve ever seen.  He’s a spaz with no coordination and no traction on the hard wood floor.  He rearranges the furniture every day with his slipping and sliding.

Buddy thinks that Noah is a chew toy, mostly because every time Buddy gets close to Noah he starts to squeal – Noah squeals, not Buddy.  Buddy loves to rough house with Noah.  Noah loves to rough house with Buddy, until Buddy nips him in the bud, literally.

Taking Buddy for a walk is quite the adventure.  Making it back home with no face plants or wiped out knees is a miracle.  Dislocated shoulders are also a great possibility.

Buddy has started doing something though that has touched my heart.  He follows me wherever I am in the house and lays down on my feet.  It’s so cute and so not convenient to have a horse head lying on your feet, but that is how Buddy tells me he loves me.  And even though I complain about Buddy a lot, I love him too.

Will You Marry Me?

2 Peter 3:11

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Message version of verses 3 & 4 read:

3-4Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust. o the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I don’t know about you, but I love invitations.  Most of the time.  Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers (especially if the baby is there too!).  I love all of these life events.

Seventeen years ago I received the most exciting invitation this side of heaven.  On March 3, 1995 Larry Brandon invited me to be his wife.  I was living in Denver at the time and one night during our daily phone conversations Larry asked me why I hadn’t moved to Michigan yet.  I informed him that I had not yet been invited.  A week or so later he flew me to Michigan for the weekend and in the parking lot of the Bay City Saginaw airport Larry gave me an invitation that he’d made on the computer and printed out for me.

It read:

Although we haven’t known each other very long

My feelings for you can’t be wrong

Please agree to be a part

of my of heart

and of my life

Take this ring and be my wife



I was so excited.  This wonderful man who I’d only known 5 1/2 weeks (no I don’t recommend this, but….) was inviting me to share his life in the most intimate way possible.  Two months later we were married and the nearly 15 years that we were together we the best years of my life.  Our love for each other was the stuff that Fairy Tales wish they were made of.  Yeah, it was that good.  Until cancer cut our happily ever after too short.

This intimacy is only a foretaste of the invitation we have received from Jesus Christ.  Jesus loves us so much that He paid the ultimate cost, the ransom required for us to have a relationship with God.  He longs for us to know and desire Him as much as He desires us.  Jesus is inviting us to know His Father as He does, up close and personal.  Not just for a few temporal years on this earth, but for all eternity.  Happily Ever After has nothing on this invitation!

This picture was taken right after our wedding ceremony. When Jesus looks at us, there is more love in his eyes than there is Larry's eyes. WOW!!!

Put on Your Sunday Clothes

Mighty to Save video

Isaiah 61:10 – 12

10 I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.

The first medical clinic day was in a remote mountain village.  Remote being a vertical term.  The drive took well over 2 hours, but we traveled less than 40 miles over roads that at times were not even trails.  How the driver knew where to go I will never know.  This was a village that had seen few if any white people.

The first thing I noticed was their clothing.  These people showed up in their very best clothing to stand in line all day to speak to someone about their physical needs.  All of the women wore traditional Mayan garments of hand-woven skirts and hand embroidered blouses.  Even the old women had their hair braided with colorful ribbons.  What were we wearing?  Jeans, t-shirts, sweats.  I wonder what they thought about our clothing?  I wondered then at the level of respect and honor they showed us that we did not show them.  I hadn’t even brought nice clothes along.  I felt so humbled by their attire and what it represented.  I’ve rarely ever seen such beautiful craftsmanship.

Breaking the ice with this village was a bit more difficult than it had been at the village where we’d built the houses.  These villagers had no reason to trust us beyond the words spoken to them by the native employees of the mission base.  It didn’t take too long to coax the children into games of catch, jump rope, frisbee, coloring and nail polish.  I had taken along some yarn and a crochet hook and decided to see what would happen if I sat down and started to crochet.  A simple rosette bracelet took about 5 minutes to work up.  After I got started a couple of grandmas came over to see what I was up to.  When I gave the first one away to one of them I was soon flocked with mammas, grandmas and girls who wanted a bracelet.  I kept working on them until it got too dark to see.  As I was sitting there surrounded by women in beautiful hand crafted clothes, children laughing and chasing the members of the team, Guatemalan men standing around keeping a watchful yet entertained eye on their family members and the beauty of the Guatemalan mountains around us… I couldn’t stop thinking about my grandmother.  Grandma taught me how to crochet when I was 9-years-old.  I wonder if she ever dreamed that I would be sitting in a tiny Guatemalan village crocheting rosette bracelets to show a bit of Jesus’ love.  I doubt it, but I’m sure she was smiling that day!

After the sun went down the movie came out.  The Jesus movie.  For many of them this was the first time they’d ever seen a movie at all.  After the movie Hermanos Jesus got up to preach about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We didn’t need to understand his words to be touched by his passion for his Savior.  When he gave out the opportunity for Salvation, nearly the entire village came forward to receive this priceless gift.  The energy in that small one room school was even more overwhelming than it had been at the home dedications.  The lights seemed to glow brighter, the tears that gathered in every eye glimmered with the hope of the cross.  Hugs and prayers and smiles and joy.  The mission director told us later that one of them came to him and requested more leadership and discipleship.  God is so amazing.

To Be Continued………

Hello, my name is………

He Knows My Name video

Isaiah 61:7

7 Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.

Today I’m going to back up a bit and fill in some of the details.  Details with names like Heidi, Linda, Henry, Willy, Yenifer, Elder, and Dolce Maria.  Details with smiles, tears, giggles and hands.  Lots of hands.  Hands reaching and holding, leading and helping, praying and preparing.  Hands with arms that hug and hold on.

Heidi is a beautiful 17-year-old wife and mama.  Her 14-month-old son Austin is an adorable little chubba with soft black curls.  The team that Noah and I were on built the home for Heidi and her husband Anabel and their son.  Heidi was somewhat shy, but determined to help out however she could with her new home.  She was often working with one hand while holding Austin on her hip.  Heidi’s joy and gentle pride in her new home was far greater than my joy in my new home.  We were blessed and privileged to be a part of their lives and kneel with them as the committed their lives to Jesus Christ in a moment so powerful that I cannot even begin to find the words for it.  Heidi was as much a gift to us as we were to her.

You can see a picture of Heidi, Anabel and Austin in yesterday’s post.

Linda is my little scarf.  Her favorite place was in my arms with her arms wrapped around my neck and her head on my shoulder.  Her sweet whispers for “dolce” or sweets were more often rewarded with a kiss on her cheek than actual candy.  Mostly because as soon as one child had a piece of candy you were swarmed by the rest of the children in the village and the candy was soon gone.  We each had one or two children who we became attached to emotionally.  Linda was mine.  She would come take my hand, regardless of what I was doing, and pull me somewhere in the village to show me what I could not understand.  The love and trust that Linda poured into me during those few days were a gift beyond measure.  Linda’s family had already received their house and they never missed a discipleship meeting.  When we gathered around to pray for the houses little Linda was right beside me with her hands on the houses as well.  A tiny little wisp of a girl with more power in her simple prayers than the rest of us put together.

Henry, oh Henry!  Henry is a deaf and mute little boy that the mission nurse has unofficially adopted.  He was cast aside by the village and Erin was told not to bother with him because he was nothing.  Erin is now referred to as his “white mama”.  For someone who can’t speak, Henry made sure that he was well known by all of us.  He has no trouble communicating what he wants.  Henry loves to draw.  He will cover every tiny space on the small pieces of paper he can find with pictures and tug at your hand to show you his artistry.  I would not be surprised at all if I see Henry’s artwork on display in museums one day.  He is quite a gifted artist.

Willy is an adorable little boy with a huge smile and ginormous sweet tooth.  I don’t really know any details about Willy’s life, I just know Willy.  Everyone knew Willy and Willy made sure that he made each of us smile.  Willy was Noah’s favorite while we were there.  He loved playing with Willy.

Yenifer is absolutely beautiful!  She is maybe three years old at most.  Beautiful eyes the color of chocolate pudding.  A smile that would light up your soul.  Soft black hair that always seemed to be attempting to caress her kissable cheeks.  The first two days anyone could pick Yenifer up and carry her around.  She giggled and hugged freely.  The third day Yenifer was fine as long as none of us picked her up.  As soon as one of us tried she would start to cry very loudly.  The common remark when holding Yenifer was that we all wanted to take her home with us.  Somehow that remark had been translated to Yenifer and she was suddenly terrified that we were going to take her away from her family.  We all felt terrible.  She had been so full of joy until she felt threatened.  These children were all full of joy at the simplest things that we never think twice about.   Seeing themselves on our cameras was something they never tired of.   If we had been able to bring them home with us we would destroy them.  In our desire to give them the world we would remove from them their contagious joy and replace it with the same restless boredom that our own children have.  Thank God we could not bring Yenfier home with us.  Her light needs to shine!

Elder is a 19-year-old young man who should be strong and vibrant.  His body has been so invaded by the parasites present in the water supply that his kidneys are shutting down and he can no longer even walk.  Elder’s family was one of the four families that our teams built houses for.   For Elder this new home was amazing.  He could now see during the daylight hours and there would be the possibility of a cross breeze to cool his feverish body with the window and door on their new house.  There was a tangible energy surrounding the house when the team was inside as the Gospel was presented, almost as if the house itself were preparing to receive Jesus Christ.  The team members who were in with the family had tears in their eyes as they described Elder’s hands reaching for heaven to receive the love of the Savior.  This was the final dedication of homes and at the end we all packed in to the room as much as we could to pray for Elder and his family, all of them now our family as well; adopted children of the one true God.

Dolce Maria….. Sweet Marie.  While we were in Guatemala the orphanage that is attached to the mission base received a new guest in the form of a 2 week old premie baby girl.  I’ve seen baby dolls that were bigger than Dolce.  If she had been born in the U.S. she would still be in an incubator in a hospital until she weighed enough to bring her home.  This sweet baby is blessed beyond what she will ever know.  She is in the care of loving, committed Christians who will raise her in a veritable castle.  The conditions at the base are so far beyond what she would have experienced had she not been brought here.  Holding the little peanut was a nightly competition. 🙂

These are but a few of the “details” of the trip.  I cannot sufficiently express the gifts I received …. in the details.

To Be Continued…….

Restoring Places Long Devastated

Until the Whole World Hears

March 6, 2012

Daily Devotions written by Shelley Brandon, Grief and Encouragement Coach

Isaiah 61: 4 – 6

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

The village that we worked in building houses is situated on land that was once a thriving but now abandoned plantation.  Few of the original concrete buildings remain.  Anyone who had been fortunate enough to claim one was blessed indeed.  Most of the dwellings were mere shanties thrown together with rusted scrap metal.  No light, no window, a blanket for a door, dirt the only floor.  The floors were swept every morning by women who carefully tended their meager homes, grateful for some type of shelter from the elements.

The homes that we built for them were smaller than my bedroom.  One 8’x10’ room with one window, a plastic skylight in the center of the metal roof, a real metal door, cement floor, dry-walled inside and cement board with stucco on the outside made a home.  A metal awning in front for a covered porch nearly doubled the living space.  Most of their days are spent outdoors and this awning provided both shelter and shade.  This modest building was more than most of these families has ever known.  The simple gifts we brought along for the families were for them more extravagant and overwhelming than any Christmas I’ve ever experienced.  Tears of gratitude and joy filled their eyes as their new homes were dedicated to them.  Tears of overwhelming humility filled ours.

As each home was dedicated, the team that built the dwelling went inside with the family, the mission directors and a Guatemalan Pastor named Hermanos Jesus (does it get any cooler than that???  Sir Jesus!)  The other teams surrounded the house in a human chain of prayer.  As Hermanos Jesus presented each family with the Gospel of Jesus we all prayed for the Holy Spirit to break through the bond of Mayan religion that had been co-mingled with Catholicism into a warped and twisted belief system that had glass-topped coffins in the churches with a wax Jesus inside.  In two of the houses that bond was broken!! In another it was cracked as the mother committed her life to Jesus in spite of the controlling fear that had been instilled into her children by her absent husband. The fourth family was not yet ready to make the commitment, but did not outright reject our Savior asking that the evangelism team come back to talk with them more.  This evangelism team held discipleship meetings in the village every week.  They would not be forgotten.

We weren’t prepared for the spiritual battle that we’d been warned about.  Everything from the noise of the village children, dogs fighting with each other near us that had been napping together earlier, loud music from somewhere that had not been heard all week, a Pepsi truck driving back and forth on the narrow dirt road trying to sell his sodas to the villagers and some guy with a P.A. system on his truck verbally running his own commercial for whatever it was that he was trying to sell.  Anything that could distract us from our prayer vigil was used against us, even the weather.  The only rain we encountered all week fell in those few hours.  Our mission for the eternal destination of the wonderful people was under attack.  When the distractions became too much, we sang.  Any song we could remember the words to we sang, from Jesus Loves Me to Revelation Song.  I have never been so spiritually exhausted as I was when we were finished but I have never been so content in the moment either.

To Be Continued…….Image

Now You go….

March 5, 2012

Devotions written by Shelley Brandon, Grief and Encouragement Coach

Isaiah 61

The Year of the LORD’s Favor

Moses with Radiant Face (1638 painting by José...
Image via Wikipedia

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins

and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,

and in their riches you will boast.

Every night in Guatemala, after we ate and cleaned up, we had a time of praise & worship and devotions.  In the mornings before we left we were each to spend time alone with God.  It was during the personal time with God that my eyes were brought to Isaiah 61.  I was floored by the first verses and continued to feel my jaw sagging to my feet as I continued to read the entire chapter.  This was my personal devotion during the whole trip and it will be my focus this week as well.

The first verse brought to mind Moses when he was talking to God through the combustible bush, I could almost hear Him whispering to me, “I have heard the cries of my people in Guatemala and I’ve come down to help them….. now you go and do my work.”  I felt so inadequate and small compared to the enormity of the needs there.  I’m sure Moses felt like he was ready to conquer the world and shouted out, “CHARGE!” Or not.  I heard Ken Davis say once that the part of Moses should have been played by Martin Short.  If that’s the case then I’ve got to be the I Love Lucy version, “Whaaaaaaaaaa!”

At the same time I was also very hopeful and felt the stirrings of something I’d not felt in a long time.  Life.  In the hours spent in the sun, at the base of an active volcano called “Fuego” or fire, I felt life in my achy, sweaty, dirty veins.  I’m sadly overweight and prone to migraines, but each day I knew that I had a purpose.

And I was not alone.  For the first time in more than two years I was surrounded by new friends every moment of every day.  Community.  We were not created for isolation.  In the villages I found a new meaning to community.  These beautiful people had more community than I’ve ever known.  It wasn’t just a matter of meeting with your neighbors for coffee; it was so much more than that.  They were dependent on each other for the very necessities of life.  I’ve never personally experienced that level of poverty and I’ve never been blessed with level of joy.

To Be Continued…….

I’m not sure you heard what I thought you were saying….

I’ve always loved to read.  I also love to write.  Grammar… not so much and I’m very thankful for Spell Check.  Something else I’m not so thrilled with is the way modern technology creates an environment for misunderstanding.  As if we didn’t have enough trouble with that already.

Email is a wonderful invention.  Instant letters, what could be better than that?  Except that sentences get shorter, words get abbreviated and thoughts misinterpreted.  Rather than the long, wonderful letters of the past that described in great detail the life and thoughts of the sender, emails are getting shorter and shorter.  Long emails are usually skimmed at best and to make matters even more complicated the FWD: junk emails cram our virtual mailboxes so full that important emails can get deleted in a mass ‘delete’.  SPAM used to refer to a canned meat (?) product – now it’s the majority of the emails in my inbox, equally unappealing and often carry computer viruses and malware.  Don’t think you can eat with malware.  Emails have also left my physical mailbox filled with nothing more than junk mail (tangible SPAM, but not the meat) and bills.  Yuck!

Texting has degraded the art of writing even farther.  Now whole phrases are reduced to a mere few letters.  LOL used to be the only thing you could say when a giant sucker was stuffed in your mouth and the word lollipop was impossible to say, now it means you are ‘laughing out loud’.   How many of us are actually ‘laughing out loud’ when we type that into our phones?  A chuckle maybe, but real laughter?  Too many of us ( I’m really guilty here ) have come to prefer texting to actual conversations.  I’m phone shy, always have been.  For me texting is easier, safer.  Except that it is way too easy to misunderstand texts and blow them way out of proportion.  (again, guilty)  Arguments can arise out of a few misplaced words.  Intentions and mood are rarely expressed properly in texts.  It takes real words and real sentences to create communication, both of which are usually missing in texts.  And don’t get me started about vowels!

Social networking is another wonderful creation.  I love Facebook!  Twitter I haven’t quite figured out yet, not enough space.  Facebook has been my lifeline for nearly three years now, ever since my late husband got sick.  When we were in Germany for his alternative cancer treatments I don’t think I could have survived without Facebook.  The link to my friends and family, their prayers communicated to us through this magical thing called a wall, kept me going everyday while I watched my husband get continually sicker day after day.  Facebook can also be evil… those little games will draw you in and invade your mind, sucking the life out of living.  (Did I say guilty yet? If not I need to.)  Facebook can also get you into debates, arguments and misunderstandings when you try to read between lines that aren’t even there.  The posts of others can rile emotions when they should be ignored.   ( um, guilty).

Our lives will never be the same with the technology that continues to make the world a smaller place to live.  Lives that once intertwined with family and neighborhood now sit in isolation and surf.  The art of handwritten communication is being replaced with typing and poor abbreviations.  Our children may never know the excitement of receiving a long-awaited letter or card being hand delivered by a postal carrier.  The skills of personal communication are being reduced to electronic communication.  I wonder if we will eventually forget how to write with a pen, maybe even forget how to speak altogether?  Thank God that we can still go to Ken Davis’ Dynamic Communicators Workshop to brush up on speaking!  You really should check it out!  I had a wonderful time there!!

Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a text to answer and I really must check my emails… LOL!

The beat goes on and on and on and on……..

The rhythm of life.  We each have our own beat to this dance called living.  Some of us are a waltz, others a cha-cha-cha.  Still others dance to a syncopated beat that no one else can quite catch on to.  The beat will change many times, flowing with the changing seasons of our life.  No matter what season you’re in or even if you’ve asked the drummer to stop, the beat goes on.  Life does not stop just because we have no desire to continue the dance.  The beat will go on, day after day, year after year.

This has been a season of change for me.  Not unwelcome change at all, but changes that must come as the beat continues.  Changes that remind me yet again that I am physically alone.

May 14 was a very special day of change.  My oldest son graduated from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.  My husband’s parents tagged along as Noah and I drove the 15 hour trip from Michigan to Lynchburg.  This trip was not a comfortable one for me, I’m not used to being the person in charge of the trip.  That’s Larry’s job.  We got there safely in spite of the torrential rain, car rattling thunder and lightning that made you flinch when we were in southern Ohio.  We found the hotel, we found Drew, we found the stadium where graduation was held.  It was a beautiful day in spite of the nearly constant drizzle that threatened to release the rain.  Liberty had purchased 30,000 rain ponchos to hand out though, so commencement proceeded as planned. What a wonderful day it was.  We found Drew in the lineup and exchanged ear to ear smiles as he walked past us.  Pride threatened to beat a hole in my chest as I watched this handsome young man walk up to receive his diploma.  Pride that co-mingled with an intense sorrow.  Once again I asked God, “Why?”  How is it that I came to be the only parent present on this, the most important day of his life so far?  My heart screamed, “NO!  His Mama and his Dad should be here too!  This isn’t right God, it’s not fair!  He deserves to have all of his parents here to celebrate with him, not just me.  I’m a poor substitute for all that he’s lost in his short 22 years.”  God was silent, he’d heard it all from me before.  Drew followed us home after graduation and one week after he received his diploma, I drove my son to the airport so he could fly to India for the summer.  A small taste of what it will be like when he moves there after graduating from grad school.  Not quite the same as putting him on the bus to go to school.  Change.

June 10 was another very special day of change.  On June 10 my other oldest son (both 22) got married to his beautiful Katie.  After a week of 90+ temps, the wedding day gave way to pouring rain.  All day it rained off and on.  I spent the day getting ready with all of Katie’s bridesmaids and her mother.  Laughter, hair, makeup, a bit of champagne… lots of fun!   I was okay until I put my dress on and couldn’t get the zipper up all the way.  Extreme contortions were required to finish the maneuver.  A moment that always causes me to miss my Larry.  At the chapel I went back to spend a few minutes with my handsome son Wade before the ceremony started.  To say he was nervous would compare to  calling a bald eagle a mosquito.   I wanted so badly to be able to impart some last words of wisdom to him, but all I could think about was the little boy who tentatively called Larry, “dad” the day after we were married.  The boy who grew up with 2 dads, but came to know not long ago that great love made this dad his father.  I was so happy for Wade and Katie, starting their new life together and my heart was breaking, … again.

At the reception there were still more reminders of the incessant beating of the rhythm of life.  The most touching and perhaps the most painful of all were my parents.  It took a lot for my father to get here.  He doesn’t get around too well these days.  Watching these two people whom I love so dearly, I was touched with overwhelming love and heart stabbing jealousy at the same time.  I watched as my mother tenderly raised the champagne glass to my father’s lips so that he could toast the bride and groom. I watched her feed him first before ever touching her own meal.  Jealousy would seem to be a misplaced emotion here.  My mother and father have been married 57 years and this is an achievement that I will never reach.  Larry and I had a goal of 50 years, we made it to 14 1/2  before cancer stole him from me.

Watching my parents brought to mind the changing beat as well.  My mother and father have always loved to dance, and I have always loved to watch them.  They would glide across the floor so effortlessly, as if they were one being.  This is also something that I have never achieved.  Through the years their dance has slowed some, but now that my daddy can only get around with a walker their dancing days are over.  This too caused me moments of sorrow.  These days they dance to the rhythm of doctors’ appointments and rehab.  A pretty slow beat.

Today is Father’s Day.  I’m at home alone with my youngest son.  He’s understandably angry at the calendar for allowing this day to roll around again now that his dad is gone.  He’s kneeling on the couch with all of the dogs, collectively looking out the window for signs of life,  jealous of all the celebrations going on around him.  The beat goes on, even though he’s yelling at the drummer to stop.

Reminds me of one of my favorite Matthew West songs:

“Stop the world I wanna get out, I need an escape away from this crowd just to hear you, talk to me.  Stop the world I’m ready to listen, show me a sign,  just give me vision of heaven, that I can hold on to.  Stop the world I need some time with You.”

The beat does go on, we can not stop it, we can not change the rhythm.  All we can do is learn a new step to work into the dance.  Perhaps one that includes some knee time… away from the crowd… listening to the One who provides the dance.  The One who never allows us to be completely alone.

The View is Pretty Good From Both Sides of the Hill

My daddy always says that you can tell you’re over the hill when you double your age and don’t expect to live that long.  That being said, I’m pretty sure I’m at the top – or maybe just a wee bit over the top – of the hill right now.  I’m 47.  Pretty sure I won’t live longer than 94.  If I don’t get my behind off the couch, I won’t get close.  My husband died at 47.  We didn’t know that he was at the bottom of his hill though.

I’m not sure how I got to the top of the hill.  I sure don’t remember the climb, I’m no good at climbing.  Ask my daddy.  My days of mountain climbing ended the last time I said, “Carry me daddy!” and daddy said, “I can’t pick you up any more, you’re 12.”  He had to walk back down with me and miss the rest of the climb.  He wasn’t happy with me that day.  Needless to say I wasn’t invited to go along after that.  The climb to the top of the “Life Hill” isn’t very steep, I didn’t even break a sweat and that doesn’t take much.  But here I am, at the top and officially MIDDLE AGED.

I don’t feel ‘Middle Aged’.  I don’t feel 18 anymore either.  I was looking at some old photos the other day and ran across some from my High School graduation.  What happened to that optimistic girl with stars in her eyes and the whole world in front of her?  She had such wonderful dreams… she would marry Prince charming, live in a charming cottage, raise loving, adoring children, and live happily ever after… Nothing bad would ever happen to her because those things only happen to other people.

Wrong.  She wasn’t expecting things like divorce, abuse, single parenthood, second marriage, blended family, cancer, widowhood, single parenthood again, money issues… Bad things do happen.  They happen to everyone, not just other people.  But she (I)  have some positives that grew and blossomed out of all those bad things.  A stronger relationship with Jesus Christ, a deep reliance on my heavenly Father, a strength born of surviving experiences, resilience, compassion, mercy, I’m sure there are others that I haven’t even discovered yet.  I know that the road that led me to Larry was necessary to mold me into the woman who was perfect for Larry.  I know that the road I’ve had to travel with Larry’s illness and since his death is necessary to mold me into the woman who is perfect for the purpose that God has for my future.

I’m on the top of the Life-Hill and from where I stand, the view is pretty good from both sides.

Romans 2:3 (The Message)

God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.