The Power of Moments


 

Thanksgiving 2013-0217-1

“Moments are strung together…carefully woven into the tapestry of life.”—Matt Knisely

I recently experienced two powerful moments that have deeply impacted me.

They happened within the same week and I wanted to record them in the hopes that they might serve to light a fire in your heart and wake up something that is asleep in your soul.

*****The first moment concerned my mother. She has lived with us since 2012 and it has been a joy to have her here.

I am not speaking out of line when I tell you that she suffers from severe clinical depression. (She is very open about that fact because she is passionate about making sure that people do not feel shame for taking medication that is necessary to live a rich and productive life).

It alarmed all of us when she suddenly seemed to begin to disappear into herself about a week ago. She became withdrawn, slept quite a bit, looked pale and did not have much to say. An appointment was made with her doctor to address the issue.

The night before she was to see the doctor, we all gathered for dinner around our big table. My husband had grilled some steaks, which is her very favorite food.

(Quick side story: This is a running joke in our family. On the way home from Disney World one year, we stopped at an Outback Steakhouse. Everyone was famished  and my mom ordered the filet. Once it was served to her, she proceeded to make a string of noises that signified her absolute delight in the deliciousness she was experiencing. This  prompted my brother to ask, “Would you like to be alone with your steak?” :) To this day, we tease her about that. The woman loves her steak!).

However, this night was a different story. She exhibited no enthusiasm and ate very little, leaving most of the meat on her plate before going to bed. She did not join in on any of the conversation that swirled all around her.

At one point, our eyes met across the table and there was just nothing there. No sparkle, no joy, just a blank look. The moment passed when she looked away and picked up a piece of bread.

A lump formed in my throat, my eyes burned with tears, and my heart pounded.

“What if she doesn’t come back?” my mind screamed. “She HAS to! I have wasted too many days!”

Too many days when I have been too busy or too tired or too stressed or too distracted to spend time with her, to share a story or a laugh, to take a drive, to cook a meal.

I have been given this time with my one and only mother as a gift! How can I sleepwalk through that?! How can I treat that so lightly?!

I needed to WAKE UP!

And I have. I am delighted to report that the new medication is working and Mom has come back to us!

As I write this blog post, she is happily entertaining fellow widows from our church. It was such a huge joy for me to see her busily setting up the table with her favorite china and teacups earlier today. The sun shone on all the Thanksgiving decorations she has displayed and the lemon cake was proudly displayed on a decorative cake plate.

Mom has a tremendous gift for hospitality and entertaining and it truly is a joy to behold when she shares that gift with others.

I am so incredibly grateful to have her back with us and I am done taking these days which are sheer gift for granted.

Look around your life. Who are you tending to take for granted? Time with our loved ones is a gift. Don’t squander it. Be intentional. Pay attention. Make the effort. Tell them why you love them. Celebrate the moments. This time will not come again.

*****The second powerful moment occurred two nights ago when Mom told me about a conversation she had had with an old friend. This lady had always dreamed about being a writer. She published a few articles in Guideposts, but her big dream was to write a novel. She had joined writer’s groups, and done lots of research on her novel, even went so far as to interview various people on the subject.

But she never did write that book.

And now she is at the end of her life, living in a nursing home and she knows that that dream will never become a reality.

I felt like a bucket of ice cold water had been dumped over me in that moment.

I have a couple of very specific dreams for my life.

I will be 50 years old in a few months.

Have I made some progress to making those dreams a reality? Yes, I have.

However, once again, I was confronted with how much time I have wasted on the non-essentials, acting like I have all the time in the world.

I don’t. And neither do you.

I don’t want to be at the end of my life in a nursing home and have to live with the knowledge that I never achieved my dreams during my short run on this planet.

We ALL have a story to tell. We all have a God-given talent to share with this world. We all have a unique voice. We all have a passion. We all are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10).

I ask you today: What steps are you taking toward your dream? Do you even know what your dream is? If not, it’s time to find out.

Do not let the days go by in a blur. Stop just thinking about your dream and start moving toward it. Set manageable goals. Challenge yourself. Don’t let fear hold you back and steal your dream away from you. What do you have to lose?

This is your chance and today is your day! 

If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.”—Catherine of Siena

Poet Mary Oliver closes her poem The Summer Day with a question that is also the perfect ending for this post:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Power Of Music


CMU Visit-0027

Today, I sat next to Luke in church.

Luke is an adorable five year old whose mother is a dear friend of mine and the worship leader at our church. She sings like an angel and brings joy to everyone her life touches.

Luke was intent on coloring when our pianist began to play “Thy Word.”

He dropped his crayon and turned excitedly to his grandmother. “Mommy sings this song to me every night before I go to sleep!” he announced. Snuggling into his grandmother’s arms, he began to sing loud and clear in that sweet,high-pitched voice that little children posses.

Tears instantly filled my eyes as I listened to his voice blend with the notes on the piano.

It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path

When I feel afraid and think I’ve lost my way
Still, You’re right there beside me
Nothing will I fear as long as You are near
Please be with me to the end

I will not forget Your love for me and yet,
My heart forever is wandering
Jesus be my guide and hold me to Your side
And I will love you to the end.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path.

As we drove home from church, I got to thinking about the power of music.

When I was a teenager, we once had a guest speaker at my youth group.

He talked about how influential music is to our psyche and gave an example that has stuck with me.

It was the 80’s and a new song had come out. It was called “867-5309/Jenny.”

He said, “You will most likely not remember the phone number to the house you grew up in. But you will still remember 867-5309 when you’re 40 because it was set to music.”

He was absolutely right.

I will be 50 years old in four months and I still remember that song title.

Music embeds itself in our minds and hearts and just a few notes of a familiar song can transport us back in time, enveloping us in emotions and memories that bring joy, sadness, longing, regret, or a combination of all.

Jesus created music. (He is singing over your precious life at this very moment. Don’t believe me? Look up Zephaniah 3:17. Go ahead. It’s in the Old Testament, near the back. It will be worth the trip, I promise).

When my kids were little, I sang “There Is A Redeemer” to them every night before they went to sleep.

Each time I hear that beautiful song, my mind instantly takes me back to their rooms, illuminated only by the cheery glow of a nightlight. The scent of soap and bubble bath and shampoo from bath time still clung to their clean skin and they were snuggled in tight with their favorite toy under the blankets. And in that moment in time, a tired mama’s voice rose in song telling the sweetest love story this world will ever know.

There is a Redeemer,
Jesus God’s own Son,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Holy One

Thank You, oh my Father
For giving us your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
Til the work on earth is done

Jesus my Redeemer,
Name above all names
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Holy One

When I stand in glory,
I will see His face,
And there I’ll serve my King forever
In that holy place

And every time my mom visited, she sang “Because He Lives” to them.

God sent His Son,they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove
My Savior lives!

Because He lives,
I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives,
All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives!

Last Christmas, Josh asked my mom for a cross that had Because He Lives engraved on it. (That is the photo at the top of this post).

I know that as my kids make their way in this world, the cold winds of adversity will blow into their lives. It is my prayer that during those times, Jesus will bring those songs to their minds and hearts, and that they will speak His truth to them when they most need to hear it.

That is a beautiful thing.

“Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.”—Maria von Trapp

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Devotions

Hijacking The Dark


 

Sept Morning-0025

Reading Ann Voskamp’s blog post today was a balm for my soul.

She writes, “Grace is never passive. Grace is a hijacker. Grace hijacks the dark…your calling is radically this: Gloriously hijack every darkness with grace….give thanks in the most unlikely places….Why not get really subversive with this giving thanks and go hard after the dark this month: take the dare to write down 1000 gifts in the month of November…(because) daily doxology is how to detox your soul….a personal revolution of gratitude turns everything around.”

She is calling this the “November Niagara Of Thanks.”

I am going to start today. It is the 10th so if I am to record a little over 33 gifts a day, I will need to name 333 graces today. 

And am I ever ready to do it!

This year has been without a doubt the hardest, most exhausting and heartbreaking year I have ever lived.

It has been the wildest ride with my Savior yet. There have been so many moments that my heart has pounded with fear or felt like it was going to break right in two and then shatter into a million tiny shards. There have been times when I felt like I couldn’t even breathe. I have cried buckets of tears. There have been moments when I have had to cling with all my remaining strength to the TRUTH of His Word that says that all is well when my life circumstances scream the opposite. I have asked Him a million questions but have never once questioned His character.

Because I know my Jesus. Having given His very life for me, I can trust Him with everything, even that which I do not understand. As battered and bruised as I am, I am more in love with Him than ever. I know how faithful and good He is. He has spoken His Word and His promises to me over and over again with infinite gentleness and patience.  I am experiencing firsthand His healing touch on my busted up heart.

He sends forth His Word and heals me and rescues me from the pit. (Psalm 107:20).

I have lived that verse this year.

The reason Ann’s post spoke so forcefully to me today is that I am sick of the darkness. It is unrelenting in this season of my life, (and the lives of so many others. People are hurting today as never before. Every single person I know is going through some type of hardship) and like a rush of fresh air—and fresh JOY—Ann reminded me that darkness NEVER gets the last word.

Why?

Because Jesus IS the LIGHT of the world (John 8:12). And He is here, in this place, with me, even as the darkness hovers and threatens to overwhelm.

I do not have to let it.

I can choose to fight back with His  grace and His light and His truth and His power.

So I will pick up my pen and this very day, that pen will become a sword that will slash defiantly at the darkness.

As I write down 333 ways that He is showing His never-ending love to me, His light will flood my soul and chase the darkness away. The enemy will go down in flames like the defeated loser he is and will always be.

I will fight and as I do, He will put the steel back into my soul.

And I will do it all again tomorrow and the next day and the next until by the end of this month, I will have written down 1000 gifts that come from His merciful hand, straight from Heaven to me.

And I will see and experience firsthand how His Light ALWAYS overcomes the darkness. I will rejoice in what will now become a November Niagara Of Thanks.

Join me?

Arise from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you—rise to new life! Shine and be radiant with the glory of the Lord, for your Light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!—Isaiah 60:1

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Devotions

A Teary Sunday Night


Photo credit: cincinnati.com

There is a nor’easter blowing outside our windows tonight. Winter is making an unwelcome early entrance.

In light of the weather, I am watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel. Hearing all that Christmas music has brought back so many wonderful memories of years gone by and I am already looking forward to  all the joy that season brings.

Just a short while ago, I was trading texts with our son Josh, who is a freshman in college. Through my husband’s best friend Mike, he was able to meet the former poet laureate of Pennsylvania this afternoon. He was incredibly inspired and excited.

I loved his Facebook status: “Had a very enlightening meeting with the former Pennsylvania poet laureate this afternoon. I felt absolutely illiterate and underdeveloped as an artist but all I want to do now is work my hardest and achieve whatever  potential I’ve been afforded. I’m excited for the future—feeling determined.” 

This was my happy frame of mind when a headline on Facebook caught my eye.

Lauren Hill Plays First (And Last?) Game.”

Intrigued, I clicked on the story.

And the tears came in torrents. We are talking the ugly cry here.

Lauren Hill is a college freshman, the same age as my son.

She got a basketball scholarship to a college in Ohio and her future looked bright.And then she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and was given only a few months to live.

Now that bright future is clouded with much uncertainty and unbearable sadness.

But Lauren is a fighter; indeed, she refers to herself as a “warrior.” With the help of her parents and coaches, the college agreed to move the first game up by two weeks so she could be well enough to play.

I could not escape the irony as I read that article. (Here is the link).

I had just been getting caught up in the excitement of discussing my son’s dreams with him and now I was reading about a girl his age whose future consists of days rather than years.

I found myself thinking of her parents. I simply cannot imagine what it is like to live in their shoes.

The entire family is focused simply on the present moment, taking nothing for granted.

How many times do I need to be reminded of this?

That tomorrow is not promised?

That my very good God has spread a feast of blessings out for me and how can I sometimes be so blind as to not see?

Oh, this life can be so heartbreaking sometimes. Always mixed in with the beauty is the ugly. A heart this is filled with happiness one moment can be broken in two with pain the next.

We are never so wise as when we open our eyes, stand up, and face life just as it is, living within the tension of “the ugly-beautiful” as Ann Voskamp calls it. Life will never be perfect. The brave accept that and determine to make their lives a treasure hunt, a quest to discover the echoes of Heaven that shimmer and shine in the midst of this dark and fallen earth.

The author of the article on Lauren Hill shared that, “She doesn’t know how tomorrow will go, so she rarely allows her mind to wander too many hours ahead.” (Alyssa Roeinjk).

Wherever you are today, whatever your circumstances, adopt Lauren’s attitude.

Live and love today.

This day spreads out before you like a gift.

Open it. Live it. Face it head on. Celebrate what you can. Pray about what you cannot understand. Laugh. Count your blessings. Make the decision to be fully present. Don’t miss a thing. Be thankful.

Whatever you do, don’t waste it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On Saying Goodbye (Again)


I got he call yesterday morning from my cousin Sarah.

“Uncle Duane died at 6:30 this morning.”

Visit With Duane-0032-2

The news did not come as a surprise but it still felt like a blow to my heart.

Back in February 2013, our family had taken a whirlwind trip to PA to say goodbye to Uncle Duane, as he was given just a short time to live. (I wrote about that here.).

True to form, he survived for 20 more months. Tough to the end.

I had the chance to see him two more times since that day.

Last October, my brother and I made a trip to Pittsburgh and we were thrilled to be able to spend a day with Uncle Duane. We told him we would take him anywhere he wanted to go. He listed several places and as we traveled around town, he repeatedly apologized for “being a bother.”

We assured him many times that this was not a bother for us, but a joy.

And we meant it. Because it was.

Here is a photo that my brother snapped as we walked through Walmart on my way to pick up a new laptop for Duane because he was particularly interested in “joining the Facebook.” He was 87 years old. You gotta love that. :)

Later, Jeff spent nearly two hours setting up a Facebook profile for Uncle Duane and explaining how it all works. He would then receive several phone calls over the next few months with more questions. He never posted a status but he did enjoy getting to see the photos of all his nieces and nephews who he loved so much.

The last time I saw him was in August. He didn’t want me to take his photo because he looked so very frail, so I honored his wishes. Before we went back to New England, my mom and I stopped in to see him at the retirement home where he briefly lived. He was sound asleep and looked so peaceful that we didn’t want to disturb him. So I wrote him a note saying goodbye and said I would call him soon.

He was quite unhappy with us and said he should have awakened him.

I spoke to him several times in his last few months. His health declined rapidly and he spent much time in the hospital. When it became clear that he could no longer live in the retirement home, he was moved to a nursing home. He sounded progressively weaker each time I spoke to him.

Our last conversation was just a couple of weeks ago.  He was comfortably settled in his nursing home room and sounded fairly good, but very tired. I filled him in on all the latest family news, which he was always eager to hear.

As the conversation wound down, he said, “I know that I’m on my way out, Sue. My days are numbered.”

“Well, you’ve had a good, long life, Uncle Duane. I am so glad you are still here, and I am going to miss you terribly when that day comes.”

He agreed that his life had been a good one. Then, “I’m ready to go and see Jesus.”

“I know you are.” Tears filled my eyes at this point. “And my dad is going to be awfully happy to see you again.” I tried to keep my voice light. “Be sure to say hi to him for me.”

“Oh, I surely will.”

I told him I would let him go so he could get some rest and then I said, “I love you very much, Uncle Duane.”

“Well, the feeling is mutual.”

Classic Uncle Duane. My dad’s side of the family loves deeply but saying the words has never come easy to any of them.

There is a void in my life today. I have had my uncle in my life for nearly 50 years. He has always been there for me in so many ways.

I think that when it will hit me the most that he is gone is when the phone doesn’t ring at 12:01 on New Year’s Eve. For as long as I can remember, he called at that exact time every year so that he could be the first to wish us a happy new year.

The phone will be silent this year at that time but we will all be thinking of him and the fact that he is Home and whole and full of joy in the presence of his Savior.

Rest in peace, Uncle Duane.

You were so loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Friends and Family

On The Road Again


My husband, daughter and I just returned from a 3 day whirlwind trip to the Washington, DC area to tour colleges.

DC 1-0094

DC 1-0081

DC 3-0030

 

Here are a few things I have learned as a result of those days:

1) Never, never, never travel through NYC and try to cross the George Washington bridge at rush hour. Those drivers are crazy! Add in an ambulance with sirens blaring trying to get through the gridlock and I nearly had a heart attack on the spot. I specifically recall thinking, “So this is where it all ends” as my life passed before my eyes.

I marveled as my husband remained calm, cool, and collected as he  skillfully navigated the madness. He is definitely someone you want to have around when a crisis hits.

Me, not so much.

2). Washington, DC is a beautiful city.

DC 1-0042

 

DC 3-0021
DC 3-0026
DC 3-0053

 

DC 1-0014

DC 1-0061

I was surprised by how safe we felt walking around the city at night. We were surrounded by families, student groups, fitness enthusiasts, tourists, and guided tours.

DC 1-0085

3). It is the perfect city for our daughter, who is passionate about political science and history.

DC 2-0154

The last time we were there in 2004, she was only 6 years old. She was very excited to see the monument of her favorite president, Abraham Lincoln. She hurried to the area where the Gettysburg Address is carved into the wall. She took a seat on the floor and there she sat, cross-legged, and began to read. When she was done, her dad sat down to join her and they had a good, long talk about Lincoln.

I absolutely love this photo.

JuliaAtLincolnMemorial0000

Fast forward ten years and here they are in the same place…

DC 2-0139

DC 2-0137

DC 2-0145I always get choked up every time I see this monument to such a great man.

Our next stop was to visit the Vietnam and Korean War memorials. My dad was a veteran in the Korean War (Air Force). The statues looked particularly ghostly at night.

DC 2-0167
DC 2-01654). Old friends are such a treasure!

This is my dear friend N.

DC 2-0044

Twenty-five years ago, we worked together as temps at a computer company for the summer. (Which also happened to be the same place that I met my husband!). We bonded so much that she was a bridesmaid in my wedding and we have kept in touch all these years. It had been twelve years since we had last seen each other, but we literally picked up right where we left off. We talked non-stop, commiserated over our role as parents, laughed a lot and reminisced.

It was a joy to have N. meet my daughter, who told me she felt like she was “meeting a celebrity”, as she has heard so much about N over the years.

5). I never want to take another college tour again.

We visited 4 colleges in two days.

DC 2-0005
DC 2-0038
DC 2-0055
DC 2-0130
DC 2-0057
DC 2-0098
DC 3-0003

DC 3-0007

DC 3-0056
DC 3-0064

DC 3-0065The last college we visited was George Mason University.

Who is George Mason you ask?

I had no idea either.

DC 3-0080

I felt better when our tour guide called him “the forgotten founding father.”

Turn out that he was one of the signers of the Constitution. He pushed for the Bill Of Rights, which George Washington didn’t care for, so they had a major falling out. In fact, this statue of George Mason faces away from DC, to illustrate the animosity that Mason felt for Washington.

After taking all the tours, Julia eliminated two and will apply to two.

I already feel weepy thinking about the moment when we will drop her off at college and drive away.

6). I loved the family time we had. It was a gift.

DC 3-0049

Time is moving so fast, like water running through my fingers.  I am trying to enjoy the moments and concentrate on what is truly important.

Right after I snapped this photo of my daughter, these lines from a famous children’s book (one that I read often to both my kids) came to mind:

I’ll love you
forever
I’ll like you
for always,
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.
—Robert Munsch

DC 3-0048I love you Julia and I am so proud of you!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Changing Seasons


My husband and I took a road trip this past weekend to visit our son at his college.

It had been the middle of August since we had dropped him off to begin his new life in another state.

Now, summer had melted away into the brilliance of fall. It was a new season.

CMU Visit-0006

In more ways than one.

My first thought when I saw Josh was, “He is taller!” I had to reach up higher to hug him than I did in August.

My second thought was, “He looks older. He looks like an ADULT for crying out loud!”

And of course, he is an adult.

Then, “He looks tired.”

We never stop being mothers, do we?

We had picked him up to take him out to dinner with Doug’s best friend Mike. Mike is a writer like Josh aspires to be and Josh was anxious to meet him. (They had met a few times before but Josh was a kid. This would be their first meeting as adults).

As we pulled away from the dorm, that is when I began to realize that just like the season had changed from summer to autumn, so our parenting season has changed.

I wasn’t prepared for the fact that our son felt like a stranger.

Not a complete stranger, of course, but there was definitely a certain awkwardness that I wasn’t expecting.

He had been on his own for over two months. We were no longer part of each other’s daily lives and text updates don’t tell much of a story.

So much life had happened since the last time we saw him in person and how does one get caught up on all that?

CMU Visit-0023
CMU Visit-0019

So began that delicate dance that exists between parents and their adult children.

Doug and I had an understanding for this trip: we were simply going to take what Josh gave us. We were not going to pry. We were not going to ask a million questions. We would not give advice. We would let him set the pace.

CMU Visit-0017
CMU Visit-0035

At first, the pace was slow. He didn’t say much, just looked out the window at the passing cityscape and said he was looking forward to getting out the city for awhile.

I began to fill him in on all the happenings in our small town. He smiled in amusement, made a few comments. Then more silence.

“What is happening?” I asked myself.

Gradually, the conversation increased and Josh became more talkative.

We got to the restaurant and before we ordered our food, Josh leaned over, and put his head against mine like he used to do. It was just a single, very brief moment but it made all the difference to me. My heart smiled.

Somewhere in that man-child, my little boy still lives. :)

Doug and I were thrilled to see Josh and Mike instantly connecting, talking about the joys and challenges of being a writer.

That was the turning point for the weekend.

For the next two days, the conversation was easy. We fell into an easy rhythm. The initial awkwardness of gone, much to my relief.

The weekend flew by and it was time to say goodbye again.

CMU Visit-0025

It will be another two months until we see him again.

It was wonderful to get a glimpse into his life at school and into the man that he is becoming.

On the way home, I read an article that a friend had posted on Facebook. It was written by a mom who was explaining why she homeschools her children.

I found myself smiling as I read her article because I could relate.

How grateful I am for those years!

Wherever life takes me or my kids,  there was a time when we spent hours and days and years together. Was everything perfect? Absolutely not. But it is a time in our lives that no one can take away.

And the memories only become sweeter to me as the years go by.

Leave a comment

Filed under Friends and Family