From the BlogSubscribe Now

How to End Gun Violence

free photo/pixabay: user/DomAlberts

Ending gun violence begins before the gun is ever purchased, it begins before there’s a supply and demand. Ending gun violence, ending VIOLENCE: verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual; must begin with exposing fear for what it is: a liar whose tactic is to divide and isolate us, a liar that would lead us to believe in “us vs. them.”

Fear is real because we breed it. We believe something about “others,” ourselves, or a situation that’s simply not true, but we perceive it as truth.

When God made it all, us all included, God said it was, “Good.” Good. Period. When we ascribe anything other than that to ourselves or someone else, we are misaligned with God’s original design.

We have thousands of thoughts go through our heads in a day, but not every one of them is true or real. However, those we entertain, those we welcome or give space to, become real, whether good or bad, healthy or sick, hopeful or jaded, true or false. We are the ones created in the image of God to write and tell and live a better story, a story through the lens of God’s miraculous design, rather than through our limited perspectives.

No one is born an asshole. We become them with the layers and layers of filters that cloud our perception of God’s original design, in the mirror and when we look at the world.

Fear is the ultimate destroyer: the enemy kills, steals, and destroys its unsuspecting prey, people who believe and succumb to fear by isolating, retreating, over-protecting, controlling, projecting fault, and not owning our stuff.

One second ago, Adam and Eve were naked, and it was fine, in fact, it was, “Good.” Then their eyes were opened to the knowledge of good and evil and their perception was that being naked wasn’t fine. Except it still was. God said this “knowledge” would kill them. God never said their nudity was “bad.” But God knew their “fig leaves” wouldn’t suffice in a world where their perception was off, so he fashioned them better clothes. God’s good like that.

I’m so grieved by the heinous sermons and historical movements that have hijacked God’s message of extravagant LOVE for God’s own creation. Man’s religion, each one of them, including systemic state “Christianity”, have attempted to box in the Creator of the Universe, God, the One who designed us and all that is, in caustic doctrine, dogma, and fear-mongering. It’s all come down to heaven and hell destinations, rather than reminding ourselves and everyone else that Jesus came declaring GOOD NEWS: LIFE, as originally designed children of God, NOW, Kingdom Come, sins forgiven, go and live abundantly.

Fear has no power in the presence of Love. And God is Love. Actually, God is perfect love, and perfect love casts off all fear.

So, we have to ask ourselves, “What is true? Am I functioning in fear or love at this moment, toward myself or another?”

Someone asked how they could be a practical point of help during a tragedy like a shooting. Shootings, suicide, rape, assault, violence…no one was born an asshole, remember, so when we live in the Light of God’s love, letting our light shine as a reflection of a bigger love than we could ever contain, darkness has no place.

So how can we help?

Show up BEFORE the shooting.

Show up BEFORE the violence.

Show up BEFORE the belief that isolation and separation are a choice, a safe, protective choice.

Show up without the platitudes and pre-rehearsed sermons and invite our neighbors to dinner.
Show up without words, but just be. Be there. Be present. Sit in the silence. Listen.

Show up BEFORE with authentic love, authentic community, authentic spaces where we don’t let fear win, but where perfect LOVE drives out fear.

Show up without pretense, on each other’s doorsteps, across the backyard fence, across the aisle, with a cup of tea and a gallon of repentance.

Show up with arms unfolded and hands unclenched.

Breathe. Let’s close our eyes and SEE the image of God of the handcrafted human in front of us.

Show up and share a cup of water together, and love each other, in spite of each other, before the assholes of fear and filters begin to layer thick and alter the perception with which we were designed:

The truth about each of us is that we are first all children of God. Treat one another accordingly, not as sinners in the hands of an angry God…God’s not angry. God is grieved over how we wield at one another.

Let’s not confuse our righteous anger with our self-righteousness.

We don’t need guns.

We need community.

We need to gather around tables and break bread, together, confessing we aren’t perfect because we all know we aren’t, and owning our stuff…all of us, not just “them.” WE.

Because if you’re passing me the bread, and I’m receiving it, we can’t be pointing weapons at one another.

And if we’re owning our imperfections, bringing them into the light, their power and strength weaken and are exposed for what they are: attempts to steal, kill, and destroy the Creation that God said was Good, the very Creation we are accountable to steward.

So, in the wake of another campaign season where words were just shy of murder…in the wake of another shooting in a nation that believes the right to own a gun is more important than the right to human life…in the days leading up to holidays that often leave people painfully believing there isn’t room for them at anyone’s table…on another day in America where we’ve forgotten to individually and collectively own our shit and stop pointing fingers, it’s time for our knees to bend, our heads to drop, our eyes to pour out, our hearts to rend at how we’ve treated one another.

And then it’s time to stop the mourning and start living, all up in each other’s business, real time accountability and face to face living, hand in hand, side by side, not divided, not cut into pieces…because there’s room for all of us and we must love and treat each other the way we were designed and the way we want to be treated, not like the assholes we’ve become.

 

It’s a Beautiful Day

Kissing Noah Goodbye, Audrey Imfeld, NILMDTS photographer.

Kissing Noah Goodbye, Audrey Imfeld, NILMDTS photographer.

Eleven years ago, it was bitter cold in Denver, Colorado. 2 or 3 degrees, if I remember right. The chill is still part of my memory, though most of me felt numb.

Jason went out to the parking garage of Children’s Hospital to pull up the car and let it warm up for a few minutes. I stayed behind on the 4th floor where I bundled up our 7 month old son, Noah, for a short drive across town. He had only gone outside one time during his 5 month stay at the hospital… [Read more…]

What If…?

So, I guess if you are reading this morning, you are still here on earth. Awesome! That means you aren’t done and the God who made you isn’t done with you, either.  Not “done with you” like you have a bunch of cleaning up to do type of “done with you” but, if God is real, that in addition to Him creating us and loving us, He also knows how many days we’ll be on this earth.

So, what if He does know the number of our days?  This question is a difficult one to wrap ones head and heart around, especially if we’ve lost someone dear to us.  How can ANY age be the RIGHT age to die?  And how can ANY circumstance be the RIGHT circumstance? What if we stopped judging God’s goodness and love for us through our lens of hurt and pain from death, but rather, what if in light of knowing and accepting God’s love for us, we viewed death a little differently?

I’m not saying death doesn’t hurt.  It hurts like crazy!  I’m going to share something here I’ve never written on the blog.  I felt Noah’s last heartbeats with my tear drenched cheek and I wondered why my own heart kept beating in my chest after he was gone.  Why my brain kept telling my body to pump blood and take in breaths after he died was beyond me, but in that moment I had to trust God sees a bigger picture and it wasn’t my turn to head to eternity.

One last kiss...(photo: Audrey Imfeld, NILMDTS)

One last kiss…(photo: Audrey Imfeld, NILMDTS)

Death is painful for those of us left over.  Sure, some could say I’m crazy for believing there is a God in the first place and that He is good and loves us, especially after losing our son.  But what if being in God’s presence really is more amazing than this broken, beautiful, limited version of living we know down here on earth?  What if being in God’s physical presence really is all that and a bag of chips?  I don’t know.  I’ve never physically died to give you a clear answer but I can tell you my 30+ year fear of death no longer holds me back from living or trusting in God’s love and goodness.

Would you even know how to live fully if you let go of your fear of death?  Would the way you lived and loved in the day to day look any differently? Would we love more richly, with deeper sincerity, messes and all, and worry less, knowing physical death is only a temporary separation from those we love?

I don’t know.  I’m just throwing it out there…imagine a people no longer caged in by the fear of death, but rather freed by God’s unconditional love and Easter resurrection, free to live fully engaged lives, here and now.

What if God’s message is comfort for all who mourn and joy instead of doom?

Scripture: Isaiah 61, The Message

There is a Time for Everything Under the Sun

Our third child didn’t get a baby shower.  Not because historically it’s improper in the book of manners, but because I just didn’t think my heart could handle it.  The last time I had been pregnant with a boy, my friends gathered around me as we ate chocolate and vegetables and artichoke dip, all the while cooing over adorable blue polka dot blankets and all things tender and tiny.  It had been almost four years since I had first become a mom, and with that bit of experience, this time around was a bit sweeter and much more relaxing.  With almost four years of practice under my belt, this was going to be a lot easier, a piece of cake.  I more or less knew how to prepare and what to expect.

I had let my guard down and was burned.  That wasn’t going to happen this time.
My friend recently posted how she had taken almost 1000 pictures of her nephew’s birth, and prior to that, she shared pictures of the shower she hosted for her sister, a celebration of the anticipation of their third child.
I am not one to weep over regrets, but my heart sunk a little.  Why hadn’t I allowed the many who offered to host me a baby shower just do what their hearts wanted to do?  Receiving help is difficult for me.  Pride gets in the way of receiving, because I am a damn strong woman and can do a hell of a lot on my own.  However, I’ve found over time how strength is beautiful in numbers, how relying on God and others is not weakness shown but rather confidence revealed.  Real trust, to the core…an ability to recognize most great masterpieces are made up of more than one color, a brick is solely a brick on its own, and a tree will never grow if the seed isn’t ever planted.

No orchestra is made up on solely one instrument.

And only now, after just having loosely celebrated Ryan’s 3rd birthday (Em was sick, he didn’t knowit was his birthday or what that meant, really, and Jason and I were just home from Spain), am I able to understand it wasn’t out of guilt or feeling sorry for me that my friends, old and new, wanted to host me a shower. 

I realize now that a shower is to celebrate the anticipation of the little life about to enter the world, an opportunity to celebrate the woman carrying that life, the waiting parents, and a space for everyone to rejoice.  
There is a time for everything under the sun.  Pregnancy and the anticipation of a child is a time of celebration.  Only when news otherwise is relayed should the celebration turn into mourning.
There is a time for everything under the sun.


We don’t skip bridal showers because we think the poor couple won’t last past the infamous 7-year itch.  We don’t forgo weddings for the same reason.  There is no guarantee, on any given day, we will all make it to the 89 year old mark, so should we all skip cake and ice cream, all the years leading up to our day?   There is no guarantee, only hope and hard work, if our marriages will, indeed, continue happily ever after.  Just because a woman is pregnant does not mean the baby inside of her is meant for this side of Heaven.
And just because my heart was raw, carrying another son in my womb, unsure of the days to come, jaded a bit from loving and losing, doesn’t mean I should have denied my family and friends the opportunity to anticipate and celebrate the life growing in me and the arrival of our newest family member.
I’m not saying it was right or wrong to deny my friends and family a chance to host a shower for me years ago.  What I am saying is, in my selfish attempt to protect my heart from further heartache and disappointment, I shut down and didn’t even allow those who loved me to show their love faithfully as they had in the past.  They had celebrated with us, and also mourned when it was time.  
Birthdays, showers, anniversaries, holidays.  All of these celebrations, though marked with loss and memories, no matter how distant, are indeed, celebrations.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this 4 years from when my friends offered to throw me a shower, but I felt strongly to share my heart.  Maybe you are fearful to celebrate the anticipation of a child on the way, perhaps you have had adoptions fall through and it’s scary to let your head and heart go there again.  Maybe fear is gripping you as you allow your heart to fall deeply in love again after the loss of a spouse?  I don’t know.

I do know for several months I was fearful Ryan would die, just like his big brother.  And I had really, really, really, really, really fallen in love with Noah.  But I knew Noah was dying, and at the same time, I knew he deserved all my love and I loved him with all of my mommy heart.  I don’t live in fear anymore that Ryan is going to die like his brother.  He will die.  I don’t know when.  God knows the number of our days.  I do know this, however…I have jumped in with both feet in loving Ryan.  The ache and grief of losing his brother does not hang over me as I flip his curls through my fingers, rub noses, snuggle in our favorite chair while reading, and play choo-choo’s in the basement.  I’m in love and it feels really amazing.

Every Single Day is a celebration of the lives around us, even our very own.  Is there someone in your life who needs celebrating today?

The only loss in loving is to look back and realize we never gave it our all.

On Any Given Day

“We’re not keeping quiet, not on your life!  Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.  There’s far more here than meets the eye.  The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow.  But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”  – Scripture remix, The Message, 2Cor4

Perspective.

My earliest memory of “different” is of playing down the road at my friend Michael’s house.  His house had a 6-car garage, each filled with a shiny Corvette.  His house had many rooms.  His basement had a temperature regulated air-hockey room, as well as a pool table and mini-bar.  His dad was rarely home and his mom seemed sad and lonely.

My house was pretty and happy and normal.  I had my own room, a football shaped soap-on-a-rope and a Barbie record player with a microphone.  My sister and I used to make forts in the woods behind our house, pick strawberries, and explore for hours before our much-needed nightly baths, in which I used my soap-on-a-rope, courtesy of the door-to-door Avon lady.  My parents kissed a lot and laughed, we ate dinner as a family, and they took us to the park and to get ice cream cones once in a while.

And yet, America thinks the bigger house in scenario one with the 6-car garage is the goal.

We have some serious First World Problems.

Because, on any given day, what matters is that I grew up loved and by growing up in a loving home, I, in turn, learned how to love, or at least was shown love is what matters.  Sure, there have been times where a granite topped mini-bar in the basement sounded like a good idea, but then, well, then I put it into perspective.  Life does that to you when something real happens.  When something happens over which you have no control…when you did everything you knew to do, yet the outcome wasn’t what you wanted or dreamed of.

On any given day, 25,000 children under the age of 5 pass away.  On any given day, somewhere in the world, a husband or a wife live out the words, “Til death do us part.”  Accidents, natural disasters, sickness, and natural aging all lead to death, on any given day.  And the tragic thing is, as humans we contribute to this heartache by creating scenarios where more sadness is fostered, through wars and abuse and murder and hatred, comparison, bullying, whatever…because there isn’t enough devastation in the world?!

Over the course of the last few months, on any given day, these are just a few of the things about which I talk to God, not understanding, not being able to control or manipulate it, but just going before Him, trusting He sees “The Other 90%” and that He is good and has a plan, despite my limited perspective:

  • A friend who has suffered years of emotional abuse in her marriage
  • A friend who is a single mom, working so hard to support herself and her kid
  • A friend who had to take her mom off life-support
  • A friend who lost her husband and is now raising their kids on her own
  • A friend who has cancer
  • A friend who has gone through a divorce and is starting life new after 20 years
  • A friend whose husband lost his job
  • A friend whose husband is unfaithful
  • Friends who have kids with special needs
  • Friends trying not to grieve while their sick baby is still with them
  • Friends who have lost children
  • All the single mom’s I know whose ex’s are slackers
  • The people I know who are totally jaded by American Christianity, asking God to somehow use messed-up me to show them His love
  • The friend with the terminal illness
  • The one who is struggling with addiction but is afraid to share
  • Friends who are missionaries, living far away from loved ones
  • Friends recovering from bankruptcy
  • Friends struggling with depression
  • My mom who’s going through chemo, again, because the cancer has returned

And these are just a few.  Add to it all the things on your heart and the people in your life and then add to that things that take place in our communities, our countries, and all around the world, and I’d say there is a lot of stuff with which we could feel overwhelmed.

I’m grateful I can take actions to encourage others, though I know I can’t fix it all.  At the same time, I’m also very grateful I don’t run the Universe, but I trust in the One who does, and even though I hate pain and suffering, on any given day He promises to be near to those whose hearts are wrecked…and from experience, He’s not a liar.

*What’s on your prayer list?  Are you overwhelmed by it or is it something you are able to trust God with, on any given day?

SAHM Ships Her Pants in the Big City

Yesterday I woke up sure I was dying of colon cancer.

I actually had all the signs according to the NIH.
 
The last month has proved to be a loose operation around here…and by “around here” specifically I mean me, my toilet, and I.  Almost a month ago I decided to do a Daniel Fast to pray about some specific things in my life and a lot of people in my life, and also to clean up my body a bit.  God put certain people on my heart and my times of study were really rich.  It’s always easier for me to fast while Jason is out of town and since he was headed to India for a week and a half I chose that time frame.  In true anal (huh) fashion, I typed up a schedule of my Daniel Fast, what foods were allowed, pretty much just veggies, and also wanted to be smart and take certain supplements to be sure I was cleaning out impurities as they released over the course of the week and a half.  All I know is, after a few days and some research and re-calculating, I “discovered” (since the evidence wasn’t enough?) that I was ingesting enough fiber for me and my family of 4…and probably your family of 4, as well.

photo courtesy of 4unews.com

Those are times I’m grateful my husband is out of town…I kid you not, I could barely breathe in bed every night.  And I’m not talking about sinus congestion.

Jason got home from India bringing some sort of foreign guest along in his colon.  Poor guy was way more worse off than I was, speaking of “loose operations” and all.  He finally got some meds and he was back in regular business after a couple of days.

Anyway, with him home, once he was able to eat again, I re-introduced fish and a little more lean protein to my “fast”.  And, since he got home prior to the weekend and we had a birthday party and I had been solo with the kids for 10 1/2 straight days and I’d eaten clean all that time and lifted, did Yoga, and hit the treadmill each day, I had a glass of wine on date night.  And some popcorn.  And split a gluten free dessert after dinner, but I was writing a “Trip Advisor” review, so that was important because, of course, no one cares and I’m not getting paid for it…but I was going to go back to clean the next morning.

And I got back to pretty clean/balanced eating but none of my “deposits” had gone back to “normal.”  In fact, at night my liver was hurting so I’d wake up and flip onto my left side to get back to sleep.  This, of course, put Jason in a trapped state, but since he sleeps through most things, I mean, what can you do? 

And then there are a few details I’ll leave out…

Finally I decided to back off my protein powder supplement laden with fiber, as well as my other fibrous supplements, and just let the regular fiber in my veggies do the trick to get me back to a regular pooping kind of girl…not to mention, I was headed to New York City for the upcoming weekend and didn’t want to become familiar, like some old person, with all the restrooms in the City.

This plan worked well.  Over the course of the weekend, walking miles and miles, hanging out with friends, hitting gluten-free foodie restaurants and strolling the tulip lined streets all over the City, I realized my bowels and I were, again, at one with the Universe.  Except for on Sunday evening when I looked and felt 7 months pregnant, without exaggeration, and could not for the life of me figure out what the culprit was because even though I had indulged a little in the City, I still didn’t eat my allergens.  I went to bed that night, sleeping on my left side, holding my baby belly, hoping all would be well in the morning.

The next morning was our day to leave.  We hit a local diner for breakfast and shared blueberries and an omelet.  I don’t eat eggs.  I haven’t had eggs in probably a year and a half because my blood work shows it to be my most extreme allergen.  But I thought, “Eh, it won’t be that big of a deal…it’s cleaner than me eating something like a straight up donut or piece of cheesecake or something…”

We got to the airport, seated on the plane, I fell fast asleep after take off with one of those horrifying open-mouthed plane deep sleeps we’ve all experienced.  All was well with my little world.  About a half an hour prior to landing I woke up because I was 7 months pregnant again.  My baby was raging mad…kicking…wanting out.

I wasn’t quite ready to “deliver” on the plane.

We de-planed and headed to the ladies room, but I guess it was just premature labor.

After a 45 minute drive home, I walked in the door and, let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty…at all…for four days straight.  The first night, in what is shy only a month of 20 years, Jason had to hit the couch for the first time because I was in and out of bed every 4 minutes.  “Hi, I’m home!  I’m sure you are so happy to have me home from NYC, huh?!”

Anyway, thankfully my sister was here during this time and was so very helpful with the kiddos while Jason was at work and I was “in my office.”  He said, “I bet you got food poisoning or something.”  I kept thinking, “I split meals with my friends and none of them are sick so it must just be some hidden allergen.” 

When things slowed a bit I started doing a little research about bowels and guts.  I researched the Mayo’s site, several natural health and infectious disease sites, read a few books on Crohn’s and colitis and inflammatory bowel disease.  I researched the causes, the symptoms, the underlying factors.

Jason said I probably got what he had when he got home from India.

I reminded him of my already tender digestive tract prior to my trip and told him it was more likely a sudden onset of Crohn’s…but deep down, I knew it was colon cancer and I was sad because I had heard two stories of people finding out they had cancer only two weeks prior and they left their families prematurely and my grandma had several inches of her colon removed and my parents have gut stuff and so do my sisters and with all my “fasting and cleansing” and eating clean and chocolate and wine binges, I’d probably jacked up my whole system and I was weeping because I wanted to watch Emily and Ryan grow up to love God and live boldly for Him and I had so much I needed to write down so they would know how much I love them and what kind of people they should marry and that they could be whatever they wanted to be if God was at the center of their lives being honored in it, and I wanted to renew my vows with Jason on our 20th, but now we weren’t going to Spain until August and would I make it until then and had I really left the world a better place than I found it or had I just wasted space and time and talents and there was so much to do if I was going to die, even though I wasn’t afraid of it…

Jason said, “Sweetheart, please just make an appointment with Dr. Snook and Dr. Julie and they can do some tests.  You probably just have a virus or something, but you won’t ever know until you go.  And you need to stop doing research on the Internet for a while.  Like, take a 5 day break or something…I mean it.”  He prayed for me in the kitchen and headed out the door for an overnight to Florida for work.

I got the kids in the car, did carpool, and headed up during rush hour traffic to a last minute appointment my friend had available.  The back pain was worse.  The cancer has spread.  And now nausea.  Last stages.  I was no longer seven months pregnant but rather, skinny from my week of steady trips to the loo.  My doctor friend (who I have known for 10 years and we are very, very close and she knows me all too well) said, “Hey, you look great!  What are you doing?”  I said, “I’ve been shitting in my pants all week non-stop…I’m not sure there’s a secret to it…you just loose weight?!*&%$#”  

She said, “What’s going on?”

I said, “I’m a mess! (*Insert BAWLING…)  I think I have colon cancer or Crohn’s or something…”

She checked me out, did a couple tests and said, “You have a virus…”

And then she said, “You need to take this because this will help, but I’m pulling out the Big Guns…”

And then she prayed for me.  Not just for my guts but for my mind and my train of thought and my heart and some of the details I can’t share here yet and God gave me His peace.

Life is short and I do need to write a few things down for both Emily and Ryan.  But I also need to live right here.  Right now, with INTENTION.

And I don’t know when my life here on Earth is meant to come to an end because I’m not in charge of that but I trust the One who has my days numbered in His grand plan.  I’m taking a break from digestive research even though it’s fascinating and I know from self-experimentation and documented research the benefits of clean eating on disease and health.

But for now, I will live with INTENTION.

My thoughts had become cancerous, not my bowels

I will not allow my head and heart to run on rabbit trails, but when and if I do, I know the One, my loving, steadfast Savior, who remains faithful even when I go darting off.

I guess I just needed the reminder:  It’s the slow and steady tortoise who wins in the end.

*Ever had a crazy “end of the world” kind of day?  You can leave it in the comment section so I don’t feel like the only one, or you can NOT and that’s okay, too…either way, it felt good to write it out…

Have a good weekend!

The "Golden" Years

Santa Fe was good for me.  I drove down by myself because Jason was there for a week and I couldn’t get away that long.  At the library with a napless Ryan in tow,  I randomly chose Billy Graham’s book on CD, “Nearing Home”, “Heaven is for Real” by Burpo, and some Spanish lessons.  (*We’re headed to Spain this summer for our 20th and I need to polish up on my conversational skills.)

On the way down I only listened to Billy’s book.  My grandpa is “nearing home” presently at 96 and 113 lbs.  Reverend Graham said something to the tune of, “it would be dishonest and misleading to say that getting old is ‘golden’ but rather difficult and painful and sometimes lonely.”  The way my gramps has said it is, “The 90’s aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.”  No.  I imagine the 90’s aren’t “all they are cracked up to be.”  I’ll post more on that another day.*

*(The above two paragraphs I wrote yesterday.  This morning my gramps weighed in at 110 and my mom called to tell me he wasn’t bouncing back as he has in the past.)

Before bed last night I told Jason that after Em got off school we’d head over and hang out with my gramps for a bit.  This morning when I came down to the kitchen, this picture caught my eye.

My Aunt, Gramps, and Mom…60-some years ago

I’ve looked at it so many times, but my gaze took in how handsome my gramps was in his younger years.  He was 55 when I was born, so clearly he didn’t look like that guy with the two cuties.  The picture above was taken some time over 60 years ago…that would put my gramps in his 30’s.  He was dapper.  I mean, check out his pocket watch in the mid 1930’s below:

Courting my grandma back in the 1930’s

Though, this is how my gramps is mostly stuck in my head:

Lou and Dot, late 1990’s

That is, until my drive home from Santa Fe, after listening to Billy Graham and his thoughts on “nearing home” and then listening to the little Burpo kid’s comments about heaven and seeing his dad’s “Pop” while he was in heaven.  And the more I see the picture of my gramps with my mom and aunt at the beach, young, healthy, and strong, even though I never knew him then, I’m able to see beyond the wrinkles which have set deep with time, the white crown of hair that’s adorned his head since I was a baby, and the veins and knuckles that mostly make up his hands, and see the man who will welcome me at The Gates one day.  I mean, who really knows?  I haven’t been there…I don’t know exactly how it works…

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know if everything the little Burpo kid says is spot on, but I have a nephew his age (the age he was when he went to heaven) and there’s no freaking way he could know eternal, heavenly, supernaturally discerning things like that without coming face to face with Jesus.

Taken a little over a week ago, specifically on March 13

Because I read the post the mom wrote about not avoiding pictures just because you look like crap….

Grateful my kids have gotten to know my gramps, even if just a little…

I’m not sure the point of this post.  I just need to write.  This morning my gramps was mostly napping, not opening his eyes, and it seemed as if he was dreaming.  I snuggled into his ear for a big kiss and whisper, “Hi Handsome!”, as I always do, and told him things he and I and Jesus know.  His eyes fluttered.  Then, I hoisted my 30 lb toddler over “Grampa You-ie,” as Ry calls him, for a hovering kiss, always on the lips because that’s just Ry’s style, and a “I yuv you, Grampa You-ie” close to his ear.  My gramps opened his eyes, smiled, and puckered for Ryan’s kiss.

I guess I’m the death blogger.  I mean, I’ve written a little about it here over the years.  And, since dying is the leading cause of death in the world, it may be a subject I continue to cover until my last breath…seeing as how we all have it in common and all.

Anyway.

It’s just that he’s my last grandparent.  And we have always been close.  And his hugs have always been my favorite.  And he taught me how to dance for my wedding in his kitchen.  I love him.  And I’ll miss him.

He may not have felt “golden” in his latter years, but my life has been golden knowing him.

Grieving With Others

You know, I was never a fan of funerals and potato salad or dying people or dead ones or death or pretty much anything that had to do with end of life.  As a kid, from grade 3 and then throughout junior high and high school, a friend, classmate, relative, or pet, died, each year.  Super fun, YEAH!

When I was really little, like preschool age, the guy across the street backed over his son.  My mom was gardening and heard him yelling at his big brother (only 4 at the time) that he was supposed to be watching his little brother.  Messed up…

After my friends and I walked home from the bus stop one day, about a half hour later I heard emergency sirens and a helicopter.  My friend, John, who Stacey and Marc and I were just walking with, was in that life chopper, hooked up to machines, on his way to his last breath.  I didn’t go to the funeral.

The first funeral I even remember was my own Grandpa’s.  Enough people had died in my life by then that to actually have to face it and attend a funeral, at age 16, made me nauseous.  I was FREAKED out!  Likely this was due to my own deceitfulness and sneaking I had done in junior high watching “R” Rated horror films while my parents were gone.

What the hell was I thinking?  You name it, my friends and I snuck and saw it.  Children of the Corn, Poltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street, who knows what else…

Jacked up.  Like, totally, completely, utterly EFFFFFF-ed up!

Wow.  To think Hollywood makes money off glorifying death and dying and the underworld.  It’s the unknown that fascinates, but to horrify it?  Dear Lord.

And now I’ve tasted death.  In fact, not only have I soaked my dead son with my tears, but I’ve grieved with others who have done the same.

I’ve kissed death.  It’s bitter.  What if Eve had picked fruit from “The Tree of Life” instead of the tree of the “Knowledge and Evil?”  We never would have tasted the salty bitter emptiness that comes to those of us left this side of Heaven.  We never would have experienced separation from God…

EVE!!!!  #$%^&*(

This month my friend, Carly Marie Dudley in Australia, is hosting “Capture Your Grief” for Pregnancy and Infant Loss.  She’s created a Facebook page for people to share their stories according to the topic of the day.  I headed over there just to check it out.  You know, since it’s been 5+ years since I held Noah, I was just going over to the site to encourage others, probably new moms and losses.  And then I started reading, and just saying, “I’m so sorry for your loss!” and looking at the beautiful lives affected by death and temporary separation, yet heartache, nonetheless.

And then I posted a picture.  Because it was a call for “Pre-Loss” pictures.  And that was easy, because I posted this:

 
It’s a picture of Noah, in my belly, safe and sound.  And it’s utter pregnancy joy on my face, looking at myself for the first time in my life and thinking, “Wow!  I’m beautiful!”  And it’s a gift to my heart because I didn’t know.  All I knew was I would have a son, and I was already in love with him.

Being over at Carly’s Facebook page with all those stories is difficult.  It’s not cupcakes and tequila.  It wrecks me to know other families hearts will know the same pain mine has known.  I knew when Noah was sick, and after he died, that we weren’t the first and wouldn’t be the last.  But there’s still a hope and a wish it could have ended with *us*.

When I saw my Grandpa, lying there in his coffin, hands folded, handsome, eyes closed, with a little too much make up, a peace I had not yet known in my life swept over me.  I remember thinking, “Huh.  That’s not my Gramps.  That’s just his body.  He is with God.  He is at rest.”

Today the call on “Capture the Grief” was to post about a treasured item.

If you’ve read here long, you know I’m not attached to things.  Remember my purge fests?  Anyway, I realized, though, my most treasured item is my Bible.  It’s my most treasured item because, well, it’s my Bible.  Duh.  But, also because the night before we said goodbye to Noah, his nurses brought me ink sheets so we could stamp his feet.  I searched for a clean page in my (at the time) 20 year old Bible.  The only page I could find was opposite the last page.

Revelation 22:20 and “Footprints”

Revelation 22:20  “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.'”

AMEN.  COME, LORD JESUS!

I treasure this for the promise that it is, as well…that life here on Earth is literally but a vapor!

Thoughts on Dying and Living

As I sat across my davenport from a friend, a fellow bereaved mum, I listened to her heart and shared her tears as she told the stories of losing 3 of her grown children.  I will not share her story because it is hers to share…

One thing we talked about, though, was the “How?”

Yesterday as Emily and Ryan and I left a store, there were several emergency vehicles in the next parking row, helping whomever it was who needed help.  There were employees of the store directing traffic in the opposite direction of the situation.  We headed to our car, and as we walked, we prayed for the person laying on the ground.  We also prayed for the rescue team as they cared for the person in need.

As we backed out of our spot and headed up the row I literally had to wait for a woman steering her cart serpentine like down the center of the driving lane, craning her neck, not watching where she was going, but trying to see what was going on in the other parking row.

Really?  Really?

I know the woman was curious as to the “What?” in the situation, like what happened? or how did this happen?  We are curious people.  And we are not bad or wrong for wanting to know.

Heck, when Noah was in the hospital, I asked the question, “But WHY?” for 5+ months.  Not “Why?” like, why me?  why my son?  but, “Ok, so his test results are inconclusive…he is dying…his DNA is normal…but again, he’s dying…why?

Remember “Speed” and the vanilla flavored acting of Keanu Reeves?  The people were all on the bus yelling, “We’re all gonna die!  We’re all gonna die!”

I think of this scene, and many like it being played out in real life around the world under different circumstances, and I do wonder if this is the first realization a person in the scenario has had that they, indeed, are going to die.  

Everyone.  Is.  Going.  To.  Die.

But it’s the “How?” that often catches us off guard, sweeps our legs, and leaves us feeling as if it came out of nowhere.  Because we weren’t ready for it?

And it’s the “When?”, too.  My friend said she asked God about the timing of her children’s deaths.  One in his 20’s, the other two teenagers.  My son was 7 months old.  My friend’s dad was 61.  My friend’s daughter 1 hour.  My friend’s mom in her early 40’s.  My Grandmas in their 90’s.  My father-in-law, 49.  My friend’s husband, 34.

When we read “90” in the obituaries, we don’t really ask why?  We may ask how? but, for the most part, their death isn’t the result of a skiing accident, though anything is possible.

The nature of us, though, wants to know the how? and why? when we read the other ages.

And we are taken aback.  Struck with disbelief in some cases.  Sorting feelings of unfairness and pounding our fists about timing.  “A life cut short.”  “Such a tragedy!”  “They had so much more life to live…”

If God really is Who He says He is, and He really does know the number of our days here on Earth, and He designed us with beauty in mind, and a purpose, and for a display of His splendor…well, this causes me to believe He isn’t taken aback by the how? or the when?

Please understand, I am NOT saying He is the instigator of the how?  Please read Job for further insight here.  I personally believe God left the book of Job in the Bible on purpose so we could see just how sick and twisted the Devil really is at trying to tear our hearts away from the Unconditionally Loving God who created us.  (This will have to be another post entirely.)

What the heck is my point here?

Well, we can live the rest of our lives broken, torn, our hearts tragically ripped open because of our inability to fully ever comprehend the how? and the why? and the when?

Or, we can live the rest of our lives profoundly impacted by the beautiful people we once knew who have gone before us into everlasting life.

And we can carry their hearts, passions, gifts, character, and strengths in our lives as we choose to be better people because of them.

We can celebrate their heroics.  We can allow smiles to grace our faces, even in the midst of sorrow, as we remember something funny they once did, and not feel guilty about it.  We can rejoice that no matter the amount of time, whether in pregnancy or 50+ years later, we were once a “Mom” and will ALWAYS be a mom, no matter where our children dwell.  It will wear the title, “Bereaved, Grieved, Widowed,” and it will have aches, pains, and heart wrenching yearning.

But what if we had never met them in the first place?

As a bereaved parent, a grieved friend, a person who has kissed death on the lips, I don’t want to imagine my life never having known the people I loved who have died.

My life is richer because of them.  

And in pain and grief, there is healing knowing each person we meet on our way truly is a gift to us from the very hand of God, no matter how long they are called to walk the Earth.

*In memory of men I never knew:  Luke Sheets, Stephen Luth, Garrett Coble, and Austin Anderson
*In honor of Hannah Luce AND all the surviving families, friends, and loved ones:  we are constantly praying for you…He still has you here on purpose.  Never give up hope!

Around the World…

…in who knows how many days?

Em and I read a book during homeschool last year about a man in his hot air balloon who raced around the world, a race against the clock.  He wanted to beat a record.

What if there were no time frame?

What if the point was just to see God’s creativity in His big green earth, learn new cultures, eat new foods, love on people, and take in the beauty in the faces of God’s people to the ends of the earth?

I imagine the guy in the balloon who raced around the world missed out on the bigger picture.  Sure, he was the fastest, but did he get to truly experience the trip?

My love continues to grow for a sweet little handsome boy and his family.  They are on an adventure with an unclear time frame. 

Their dream as a family has been to see the world, which is why they named their youngest guy Trek Atlas…and they are living that dream presently in Nicaragua…but it’s a bittersweet adventure because Trek has a fatal condition, and of course, they don’t know the day he no longer will be on the journey this side of Heaven…

I want you to know I met Jarrett and Chelsea.  This isn’t some Internet story for attention from people who don’t really exist.  We ate bacon together.  They are as real as it gets 🙂

I held Trek’s sweet little body in my arms on January 12, 2012.  He’s a real boy, with captivating eyes, who brings so much joy to his family and anyone who is able to meet him.  And I’m not going to lie, I have a crush on him, for reals! 

Jason is headed to Bangladesh today for his dream job, “To help women and children in 3rd world countries…”  He works for Compassion International and is the ministry director of their Child Survival Program.  After receiving world class care for our son, his eyes were opened to health care throughout the rest of the world and he asked God how he could make a difference. 

However, the reality is even the best care in the world was not enough for our son.  And it isn’t for many other children who have incurable diseases, in the first or third world.

Trek Atlas Ingram has one stamp on his passport, thus far.  I’m not sure he’ll ever step foot on the soil of Bangladesh, but a Flat Trek will be headed there for the next week with Jason to bring smiles to cute kids and their moms. 

And the reason Jason will be there in the first place is because his own son, who only lived 7 months on this earth, changed his heart and perspective to what really matters:  Loving God without regrets, living life to the fullest, casting off all restraints…not a bucket list of selfish indulgence but a list of living life that has no beginning and is lived out fully until the end, whenever that may be, all for the Glory of God.

Want to help Trek get stamps on his passport?  You don’t have to actually GO anywhere, but if you live anywhere other than Maui, Colorado, or Nicaragua, then Trek’s never been to your neck of the woods. 

You can get your own Flat Trek with more information here.

You can encourage the family on their Facebook page or on their blogs, here, here, and here.

Thanks for letting me share here about this sweet little guy.  He has really touched my heart and I can’t stop praying for him and his family because it’s just all too familiar…