Monthly Archives: June 2009

Big Enough God

So I ran away from home this morning. Well, I didn’t really run, more a quick walk. And it wasn’t really away from home, it was away from my family. They were parked in the mini-van next to the church. I kid you not.

Ry was still in the church, due out any second, the kids were buckled up after yet another frustratingly exhausting and demoralizing Sunday morning at church. Everyday around here has felt that way lately. I don’t know if it’s Isaac’s transition home from school for the summer, his and Hannah’s transition to spending all day every day with one another, the unfortunate clashing of their disparate developmental stages, their mother’s status as a total, certifiable basket case, or all of the above. Whatever the source, these last couple of weeks have been hard. Really, deep in my soul hard.

This morning I hit a wall.

After another crummy Sunday at church—we’ve been in a crummy pattern for the last two months or so, prior to that Sunday morning was a happy, happy time in our family. . . .After another crummy Sunday at church, I was returning to the minivan after helping close up the church, barring the door (literally), and before I even got within reach of the thing, I could hear it. The whining. The yelling. The he said/she said/mommy solve this problem for us cries. And I hit the wall.

I shut the van doors and kept walking. And walking. And walking. I can’t say for sure but I’m thinking I made it two miles.

Up the hill I stormed, walking as fast as my legs could carry me. Too furious overwhelmed frustrated defeated—I’m not really sure—to form thoughts. Just blind fury, or rage, or I don’t even know if there was anger in it. But it was blind. And it was overpowering.

Down the hill I began to cry out. Why? Why oh why oh why did I agree to have children, God?! I’m sorry. I’m sorry I told you I wanted to have children for you. I shouldn’t have had children. I’m totally incapable of being a mother.

Lee, you know I don’t make mistakes. You know I knew what I was doing when I gave you these children.

Yeah, I know. I know they’re really your children. Your children you’ve given to me for a time to guide and teach. But I just can’t do it. And I don’t know if I really believe that anyway. I mean in my head, yeah, but when it comes to the day-to-day? I’m not so sure. I think I still think I’m responsible for how they turn out. I don’t think I really believe all this stuff I spout off on all the time. I’m just saying it.

Huff, puff, huff . . . Uphill I climb. I just can’t do this I can’t do this I can’t do this. I am such a horrid, horrid mother. I’m doing something horribly wrong. I can’t do this by myself. I can’t make it through the week without my husband I can’t I can’t even do it with him home. I can’t I suck I can’t.

I see daisies on the side of the road. Consider the lilies of the field. Yeah, yeah, don’t worry about tomorrow. Fine, sure. But I can’t even make it through the right now. I know I’m supposed to lean in to you. My grace is sufficient. I know that. I hear that. Maybe I don’t know it. I don’t see how. I don’t hear it, I don’t feel it. I just can’t get through the every moment of every day.

Down the hill I go. Trod trod trodding. I just can’t do it. Fine, don’t worry about tomorrow. I know that. But I can’t do right now. When they’re screaming and whining at each other and Ruth the Wonder Will is yelling NO! at me and screaming at me, what in the world am I doing? What am I raising? Ugh. And look at that big hill, another big hill . . .

Don’t look at the whole hill in front of you. Just look immediately in front of you, just right in front of your feet. Don’t worry that you’re going up hill. Just take every step forward, I will get you over the hill.

Oh. This little two-foot square of asphalt in front of me is not a hill, it’s just a couple of steps to take. I won’t look at the hill in front of me, that way it won’t overwhelm me. Just take the steps to cross this square of asphalt right in front of me. . .

Yes. That’s it. Just the steps right in front of you. I will give you what you need right now, let me worry about where you’re going. These are my children too. I can get them where I want to get them in spite of you. Let me worry about the hill, about the long range. You deal with the moment to moment.

Yeah, but that’s not exactly true. I do have to worry about how these kids are going to make their future decisions, how they’re going to deal with conflict, how they will face the world.

You are not their only influence. You are not in charge of the universe, Little Miss Reformed Girl.

Oh. Well. I don’t want to screw it up. I don’t. I don’t want to turn them away from you because I am loving them so badly all in your name.

Just focus on the steps in front of you. I will get you over the hill.

Wow. I made it up that big hill. It’s flat now. I can breathe more easily. And I hear the tell-tale squeak of my minivan breaks behind me. A kind and gentle man looks out the window and asks if I want a ride.

Then I eavesdrop on a conversation in the back of the minivan.

“God is everywhere Hannah. He could be sitting right here next to us. There’s only one God, but he’s everywhere.”

“Is he over there by the bushes?”

“He could be, you never know.”

“Is he there on the side of the road, next to that dog?”

“Yep. He’s there next to that dog.”

“Maybe he’s taking care of the dog.”

“Sure he’s taking care of the dog. He’s taking care of everybody. You can’t see him, but you know. This you know: that he’s there, he’s always there with you.”

“Isaac, how come we talk to God and he can hear us but we can’t hear him?”

“Well, Hannah, the thing is, sometimes if you’re very quiet and you listen very carefully and you pray to God and you’re very quiet and you listen, you can hear him talking to you. He’s everywhere.”

Even following a renegade mommy as she runs away from home. Even sitting in a dirty smelly minivan with a sweaty mommy and tired children. Speaking to the renegade mommy through the sweet faith of her children. Reminding her both that she’s never out of his reach, and that she must not have been doing such a horrible job after all.

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Sniff . . . Sniffle . . . Sniff-Sniff . . .

Why do my children refuse to blow their noses?  What is the answer to this great riddle?  Was it the nose bulb wielded by an overzealous daddy in the early days?  Are they afraid to lose this precious part of themselves?  Are they genetically predisposed to torturing their mother?

What is it?  What is it and how can I fix it?  Isaac and Hannah both have this aversion.  So far Ruth’s actually been willing to engage in some genuine nose blowing.  Isaac will do it now, but only under extreme duress.  Hannah?  Refuses.  At all cost.

As I write this I am sitting in Hannah and Isaac’s room waiting for Hannah to fall asleep.  She struggled to fall asleep–though I think she may have finally slipped off into the land of nod while I was writing the title of this post–because she got a sniffle.  She doesn’t have a cold or anything, so it’s not like she has the sniffles. No, she just had a random need for a tissue.  But she will not use one.  Ever.  Well, that’s not true, she is willing to wipe her nose with it, she simply refuses to blow her nose into it.

So there she lay, at half-past nine, “Sniff . . . sniff . . . snifflesniff . . . whimper . . . sniff . . .” for fifteen minutes.  While I sat and listened to it.  Yuck.  I didn’t even suggest a tissue because I know it would come across as if I were suggesting we actually remove her nose from her face and she’d get all riled up again.  No.  I just sat here and listened.

And my poor little brain, fizzled out on some sort of random sickness and fever I have at the moment, said, “Hey.  I haven’t written a blog post in a while.  I know.  I’ll write about Hannah’s gross sniffing.”

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen: My life.  Soundtrack produced by a four-year-old and her gross symphony of sniffs and sniffles.

Tune in tomorrow for more tales of putrid bodily fluids and functions.  ‘Bet you can hardly wait!

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Christian Death Revisited

I pretty much said it all in the four posts on death I wrote back during Lent, but on Saturday I was on the receiving end of the blessing that comes in understanding death through Christian, hope-filled eyes.

I attended the memorial service of my friend Jack. Remember that he was a seminary classmate of mine, so unlike with the previous two funerals I attended, this one was in my own tradition, my own flavor. Presbyterian. Decent and in order. It was wonderful. And awful. And wonderful.

First. No remnants of a lifeless earthly body in sight. It is so much easier to envision a glorified body when you’re not staring at a corpse, a box holding a corpse, or a pretty jar of dusty remains.

Second. It was a service of worship. It had all the elements of a Sunday morning worship service, in the usual order. So, for me, that was comforting. In fact it was more than comforting. After few to no worship services without children in tow over the last 7 years, it was glorious simply to be in a worship service by myself!

The thing with this funeral is I needed it. I walked into that room with so many hang-ups, so much grief. I walked in angry that such a man, such a pastor, would go through all it took to complete seminary and be ordained, beginning at the age of 53, and have such a short pastorate. Yes. I said angry. I admit it. I was angry over this thing. This mess. Maybe that’s another post in and of itself: Being Angry with God. Suffice it to say, Saturday morning? I was angry.

I was also guilty. Oodles and oodles and piles and piles of guilt, weighing heavily on my shoulders. I did not reach out to Jack when he was sick. When he needed me. And I think I just unwittingly got to the heart of my problem. I didn’t think he needed me. I looked at myself and didn’t see a whole lot need-worthy: I figured he had all those other people in the presbytery who would reach out to him and care for him. He didn’t need me. I didn’t mean as much to him in seminary as he had meant to me . . . Again. Maybe another post for another day: the things I learned about myself in the wake of my friend’s death. Suffice it to say, Saturday morning? I was guilty. I was guilty for having fallen far, far short of the kind of friend Jack deserved, of the kind of conduct becoming of a future pastor. Conduct becoming of any Christian really.

And I was sad. Just plain sad. I was sad that I wouldn’t see my friend again. I was sad that I had missed out on seeing him recently, so caught up in the day-to-day mommyhood am I. And I was sad for his wife, who is truly so sweet, who now has to figure out a whole new life without her partner and companion of 25 years. I was sad for all of his family and I was sad for the churches he had served. Sad sad sad. We were all going to miss him so much.

So, I walked into that sanctuary a bona fide mess. And what did I encounter there, in that space and time? Good news. Good, good news. In the face of such a tragic story, in the face of raging anger, burdensome guilt, and palpable sadness, I heard Good news. Death is not the end, Jesus Christ is the victor over death and through his faith we have assurance of everlasting life. We have assurance that Jack, while no longer with us, is very much alive. Alive in the Savior who died for him, who rose for him. And we have assurance that this same Savior died for us, rose for us, and prays for us. That as one who is in Christ, I am a new creation right here, right now. My old life, of anger and guilt and sadness, is gone and a new life has begun. Right here. Right now.

In that hour, I was invited to die with Christ once again, to be raised with him once again. Raised to new life. While I shook and sobbed and grieved and owned my every sorrow–not sugar coating it, not glossing over it, not shaming myself for not relying more fully on God’s grace–at the same time my very spirit was renewed. Internally I lay prostrate at the foot of the cross, and then I was raised up. I felt it. I lived it.

I left that funeral still sad over our loss, but sad tempered with joy that my loss was Jack’s gain. Having sobbed my sadness, I was released from the pit, left with some residual dust to wear and own until I’m ready to brush it off completely.

I left that funeral still feeling somewhat guilty, but guilty with a purpose: guilt used not to beat myself over the head repeatedly, but to motivate me to change, to not make this same mistake again. To just suck it up already–the social phobia, the self-loathing–and do the work that God has called me to do: mourn with those who mourn, weep with those who weep. Reach out to those who suffer, never again just turn my back and assume someone else is doing it. I was reminded that the same spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead dwells in me, gives life to my mortal body, can and will empower me, change me, move me to do his will.

And I left that funeral with my anger dissipated. Sitting in that place I was reminded of God’s sovereignty and love. Sovereignty and love. Because those two must always go hand in hand. To understand God’s sovereignty apart from his love is so frightening as we envision an arbitrary despot. But to understand his love apart from his sovereignty is so disheartening, so discouraging as it robs us of strength and power. No, there in that place, at Jack’s memorial service, I was reminded both of God’s sovereignty and of his love. And for that reason, I was able to release some of my anger, and regain some of my trust in the fact that God knows what he’s doing. Notice I said some. I am still a work in progress.

I left that funeral a totally different person than when I went in. I was transformed. I give all glory to the One who met me there that day: the Living Lord who conquered death that I might have life: abundant and eternal. A more fitting closing hymn there could not have been:

There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place, And I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord.

There are sweet expressions on each face, And I know they feel the presence of the Lord.

Sweet Holy Spirit, sweet heavenly Dove, stay right here with us, filling us with your love.

And for these blessings we lift our hearts in praise.

Without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived when we shall leave this place.

Truly it is only in the context of a Christian memorial service where these can be the final words sung. Words chosen by a wife and daughter who deeply adored the one who has died and believed that the service just wouldn’t be right without that song.

I rejoiced in the words, I rejoiced in the revival of my own spirit, and I rejoiced for my friend Jack who has indeed been revived now that he’s left this place. And I look forward to seeing him again.

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Cup of Coffee, Computer, and Screaming Kids . . .

That’s my morning in a nutshell. Really not nearly as nice as a quiet house, a laptop, and a glass of wine.

Well. The coffee is nice. As I was sitting here, once again the thought ran through my head: What in the world did I do before I started drinking coffee? And why did it take so long to start? What about all those lost years? The coffee is very nice indeed.

The computer . . . see how I just called it Computer? So impersonal, so utilitarian. No “purple lap-dwelling companion.” Because it’s not my pretty purple lap-dwelling companion. It’s my husband’s big and black and clunky and not-the-least-bit-shiny computer. It’s essentially his right hand. His cell phone is his left. (He is left handed, so consider that when assigning value.) He never leaves home without his cell phone. Except the day before yesterday. When that anomaly, combined with the neat-and-tidy condition of not one, but two of my downstairs rooms and the complicated, from-scratch dinner concoction I made and had bubbling on the stove, left me concerned that I had three of the four horses of the apocalypse covered right in my very own house. But I digress . . .

Point is, Ry rarely leaves home without his computer. He uses it to work at work, he uses it to work at home, he uses it to work while parked out in front of the library to use their wireless internet, he uses it while he waits for his car to get serviced. It’s his. I don’t feel like I’m violating it or anything, he has no relationship with the thing. It’s just a box. A way for him to work. Consequently it has no personality for me either.

And using it reminds me what a colossal disappointment my own, pretty-in-purple companion has been. I’ve had it 14 months. And I think it has spent 4 (possibly more) of those months completely inoperable. Not 4 months in a row; four months distributed over three episodes. Which makes me think it really has been more than 4 months of failure. My friend arrived so pretty, so pristine. She (yes, apparently, she is a she. Who knew?) represented independence and industry. Finally I could write or do internet stuff whenever I wanted, on my schedule, not Ry’s. I had big dreams.

Alas. They’ve been dashed. Possibly because I’m not as industrious as I’d hoped. But mostly–I’m sure–because even if I were industrious, my purple friend would fail me. Just seize up and turn black. Or cut off her own life support system, refusing to speak to the little square portals of electricity scattered about my house. And she calls herself a friend!!!

Alas alack and woe is I, why’d my purple lap-dwelling companion have to die?

Ha. I’m not sure she’s actually dead. I think she just needs a new life-support cord. And definitely a battery. But at this point I just want to give her the help she apparently is crying out for and just throw her out the window myself. It seems more merciful at this point.

Never buy a computer make a friend based on how pretty she is. Words to live by, my friends. Words to live by. Also I don’t recommend making friends based solely on your husband’s three-minute analysis and no research whatever. Again, I’m just abounding in wisdom this morning. It must be the coffee.

Or. The fact that I’m no longer listening to screaming kids. I’ve banished them to the attic. Cruel, cruel mommy. Oh. Did I not mention the attic is also their bedroom? Possibly not so mean. Well. I guess it depends on how you define banishment and what parenting books you’ve been reading lately. So many parenting philosophies floating through my brain . . .

Don’t even give your kid that inch, lest he take the mile. Don’t ever let your kid out of your sight for one millisecond. Kids’ brains are turning to mush from too much TV, too much direction, too much supervision, not enough free time. You are in control! You are in charge! You are NOT in control! You are NOT in charge! You are in a relationship, you are listening, you are responding. Don’t shame. Do shame so they know what kind of icky creepy worm they are. Beat the spit will out of them on a regular basis so they know they need a Savior and turn to him despite the fact that you’ve demonstrated to them that people with authority over you will only beat the spit will right out of you and don’t even try to reconcile the fact that this wonderful God made you but you’re essentially a stinky heap of dung that needs to be completely overhauled and reshaped entirely to fit one standard mold that all of God’s myriad humans need to be broken shaped into and OH whatever you do, don’t ask me who’s going around whapping me with a stick for my every infraction. Gentle gentle gentle Grace grace grace. Go to work, have your own life. Stay home for a time. Stay home for good. Public school. Private school. Home school. Un-school. . . .

I’m tapped out. I think that about covers it for now.

So I banished the screaming children to the attic. They were screaming and whining and crying happily, all part of their game. I just couldn’t listen to it anymore. It could be the coffee has me edgy, but I’m not willing to explore that right now. It could just be the screaming. And coming off of an inside-all-pouring-rainy-day yesterday. But I told them to take their screaming game upstairs and they happily went. They even asked if the toddler could come. Sure. Take the two year old up two flights of steps to engage in your throwing-each-other-around game two floors above my head where I can’t hear her, let alone see her in case she slams her head and needs a return trip to the ER. I just read this article yesterday about how I shouldn’t be so overprotective of my kids. . . .

Convenient. Maybe it does pay to have a wide variety of perspectives at my disposal after all.

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100 posts in 365 days.

I’m not sure what I expected when I started this blog. I don’t think I expected much of anything. I wanted to write and I wanted someone to read. I have written, and people have read.

But this blogging thing is a strange medium for writing. In all the other contexts in which I’ve written, I’ve known my audience. In fact, that’s Rule Number One in writing: know your audience. Write for your audience. I’ve written for professors of various stripes and beliefs–both in secular and religious settings. I write emails and letters to friends and message board posts to imaginary friends. I write quick little tidbits on Facebook. I write sermons. In each of these cases my first thought is: Who am I writing to? Who are they? What do they want to know? How will they best hear it? What do they need to hear? How can I best explain my thoughts to them?

But then there’s blogging. Despite my early-on inquiry, I have no idea who you people are. Well, I know who some of you are (though not all), but more generally, I don’t know who my audience is, intended or actual. So it tends to leave me feeling like I’m floating in space, trying to talk into a vacuum. I’m left feeling a little uncomfortable, a little unnerved, more than a little vulnerable. And I’m not sure I like it. Though I’m not sure it’s a bad thing, either.

Despite my ambivalence, I have continued to come here and spill my life’s thinkings. I’ve spoken about how if nothing else, writing a blog post gives me a sense of having accomplished something, a sense of productivity. And I really, truly appreciate that about blogging. After I write my thoughts, comb through them (sometimes more, sometimes less) for clarity and typos, pick my tags and categories, and then finally hit that “Publish” button . . . ahhhh. Satisfaction. Productivity. I have made something that is all my own.

But I think I’m looking for more, too. Maybe it’s the teacher in me, or the preacher, but the reception of my ideas is an important part of the product for me. I think I work better, write better, with an assignment. With a goal in mind, a problem to solve, a lesson to give. Instead I feel like I’ve been slogging through this blogging thing, with no direction, no goal.

I’ve read thoughts on blogging. Some say, “Be clear in your purpose and your goal. Decide who you are, what is the function of your blog, and stick to it.” That makes sense to me, that’s generally a step in any writing.

But I’ve also read recommendations to just let your blog be an extension of yourself; let it be an expression of yourself, of whatever interests you. Let it be whatever you want it to be as you go along. And I like that, because my life is all over the place. The title of my blog is Life as I Think It because I have these two parallel universes going on here: the day-to-day things I actually do, and all the thoughts I think simultaneously. And the latter don’t necessarily have anything at all to do with the former. You know that phrase, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans?” For me it is “Life is what happens when you’re busy thinking other thoughts.” So, if my blog is an extension of me, it’s bound to be all over the place, to be what it’s been: sometimes theologizing about the mundane, the life I’m actually living; sometimes theologizing about the big stuff, prompted by something real or imaginary; sometimes going on and on and on about laundry; sometimes cute little things my kids are doing.

And that’s fun.

But there’s still that vacuum factor . . . I still wonder about the reception. I still want feedback. I want to know what other people think about what I think about.

So what’s my point? I’m not sure. . . . This post started out being an attempt to sort out a definite purpose to this blog-thingie. It ended up taking me right back to where I was before. Writing my random thoughts and reflections, throwing them out into the vacuum of cyberspace, hoping for the occasional meteor throwing something back at me.

(I’m not sure that image works . . .)

Anyway, it’s been a fun year, having this blog. If you’ve read this convoluted post all the way through, you really are a friend, whether or not I’ve ever laid eyes on you. Is it wrong for me to tell you to say Hi more often? Is it blogging crazy to say, “Hey! Ask a question or two! Tell me what you want to hear!”? Maybe.

You know what? I think at the end of the day, this whole exercise teaches me that it’s not enough, this cyberworld. No matter the feedback and comments, I think I’m still going to long for more. More faces, more smiles, more head nods, more frowns, even more heads drooping in sleep (that’ll happen when you’re preaching). I think at the end of the day, even I, who spend most of my day wandering in my thoughts, even I need real people. Real people to see and touch (rarely, and only if necessary) and smell (only the freshest varieties) and hear. I wrote about that fact before. I think I’m learning that lesson again.

So, I’m off. I’m off to email my friend who moved away to the other side of the country and who’s coming back for a visit sometime soon. I’m off to find a time I can go see my curmudgeonly friend I had the nerve to move away from. I’m off to see if I can set up some visits with my used-to-be-imaginary-but-now-I’ve-actually-seen-them friends I haven’t seen in a while. I’m off to see if I can find some other imaginary friends to really meet. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll go off and make some new friends. Nearby. Ones I can see and touch (sparingly) and hear and smell (as long as they don’t stink. Or, maybe even if they do).

Yes. Friends. I definitely need those. . . .

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Remembering Jack . . .

A former seminary classmate died Friday night.

And my heart is broken.

I made few friends during my time in seminary. Transferring during the middle of my first year left me without orientation and left me out of sequence for Church History–two missed opportunities for bonding with my classmates. Various other conditions limited my experience of the seminary community. I think, perhaps, married students without children were the most isolated demographic present. We didn’t live in dorms and we didn’t have any kids forcing us to socialize, each couple seemed to have their own little bubble of existence, unless they were of the extroverted variety. That exception certainly didn’t apply to Ry and me.

So, I made very few friends in seminary. However, there was one group of men with whom I really made a connection. Ry and I would always joke while I was in seminary that despite my outer shell as a twenty-something woman, I really was a middle-aged white guy. Going to a (emphasis-on-the-PC) PC(USA) seminary, we were frequently bombarded with exposed to new schools of thought that were intended to release us from the bondage of the Old White Guy School of Theology. The thing is, I really like the Old White Guy School of Theology. At least the Reformed Old White Guy School of Theology. I resisted attempts to win me over to the enlightened ways of feminist theology–despite my gender–or liberation theology or womanist theology. Resisted is an understatement there. Ranted and raged against them is more accurate.

So, during those years, I was blessed to become friends with a group of three other middle-aged white guys. Together we would have lunch in a basement room of our hallowed halls. Laughing, supporting, commiserating over the latest liberal lunacy taking place upstairs, celebrating the triumphs of the Gospel in a sometimes hostile environment. Encouraging one another through the sometimes convoluted call process of the PC(USA), helping one another as we struggled with our academics. Each of us had a spouse, two of us had children at home, all of us had responsibilities in different churches. We were busy as we straddled the stone wall between our school and the rest of our lives. As a result, I didn’t spend a lot of time with these men, but I spent enough to feel like I had found a home, my community. And even as I have lost track of them, I have continued to keep these men in my heart, continuing to lift each of them up in prayer as they have been about the business of the ministry God has called them to these seven years.

Last night I learned that one of these dear men died.

During our combined six years in seminary my husband and I came across a handful of classmates that stood apart from the others. They were men and women who were pastors before they even walked onto campus. Jack was one of those people. And, as with the others, it soon became abundantly clear that the whole Presbyterian ordination process was but mere hoops this man had to jump through in order to be declared what he already was: a pastor, one who cares for others and gently leads them in God’s grace and God’s truth. I watched as he shared that gift with everyone around us. I so appreciated and admired Jack’s ability to speak the Truth: to do so boldly, but—equally important—with grace. He was clearly not a man blowing hot air, but one who had experienced to his core the love and grace of the Living Christ. His life, his bearing, his very being were a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Never was I so grateful for Jack’s kind heart as I was during our senior year. I spent the entirety of that final year pregnant with my first baby. As it so happens, I also spent a two-semester class—Word and Act—with Jack, so I happily saw him regularly that entire year. As I slogged through the first semester of that year, overcome with severe morning (all-day) sickness, Jack would ask me every day, “How are you feeling?” I still can hear his voice: kind, gentle. His was not one of the myriad voices asking the pregnant lady how she’s doing. No. He stopped what he was doing, he looked me in the eye, he asked me, genuinely concerned, “How are you feeling?” And I would share with him how I was feeling, and, frankly, most of the time it was pretty crummy. Yet Jack would have a seemingly unending supply of compassion, reflecting to me my genuine struggle, and leaving me with an encouraging word. Jack was such a kind presence to me throughout those nine months: celebrating with me when the worst of the sickness passed, getting excited for me as the big day approached, and sharing with me along the way little tidbits of advice for what I had to look forward to, after the new baby’s arrival. The advice he shared was so thoughtful. He wasn’t one of those nagging advice-givers that all pregnant women are subjected to. Somehow even his advice hit me just the right way, rooted in genuine concern, in a desire to help. I still recall vividly his recommendations for successfully staying dry while changing my little boy’s diaper. And it worked!

Throughout my pregnancy, what really stood out to me was how much Jack enjoyed reliving the pregnancy and babyhood of his own beloved children. He shared his admiration for his wife’s strength in carrying twins, and he glowed as he talked of his children’s baby days. Looking at him as he shared his stories that were several years old, I knew this was a man who dearly loved his family.

I am so grateful for the gift of having Jack in my life during seminary. I regret not maintaining contact in the years that followed. I lost out on the opportunity to continue to be blessed by such a wonderful brother in Christ, and I missed the opportunity to return to Jack a portion of the compassion and grace he had so freely shared with me. For that I am heartily sorry.

I will continue to keep Jack’s family in my prayers. Jack leaves his wife–they just celebrated their 25th anniversary on March 31st and celebrated a renewal of their wedding vows on Thursday–and a son and daughter, the twins whose babyhoods he so lovingly recalled, now in their twenties. I will pray for Jack’s family not only in these days, but in the weeks and months and even years to come, as Jack continues to come before my mind, and as I know his absence will continue to be felt by them. For even after having known him for such a short time, his death has left a hole in me. I cannot imagine the depths of his family’s grief.

May God comfort them as they mourn. May he turn their eyes toward his Promise that this is not the end, that Christ has won victory over even death, that he will make all things new. That the day will come when there is no longer pain, no longer tears, and all will be restored to new life.

Amen.

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Seven?! Seriously?!

My Boy. He’s seven. As of this past Saturday. Seven. Seven. I’m having trouble wrapping my head around that. At the moment it seems so . . . Old. Mature. Big. I know the day will come when I will look at Ruth, see her as seven and say, Wow. She’s still so little! But in the meantime, my firstborn is hitting a new milestone and I can’t believe how old he’s getting to be.

He is simply great. In so many ways he is exactly the Boy who greeted me seven years ago. With these intense eyes, darting about, determined to figure this place out. “I don’t know where I am, and so far I can’t seem to be able to move much, but I. will. understand and conquer this place. Whatever it is.”

He’s still the Boy who would get excited from his toes to his nose and flap his arms up and down breathlessly when we would put his blankie over his face while he lay on the floor. His blankie is currently a tangle of waffle-weave knots.

He is still the Boy who as a toddler was surely a liquid as he expanded to fill every square millimeter of space available to him.

He is still the Boy who at barely three could walk into a room of grown-ups and assert himself, ask them what they were doing and how he could help.

He is still the Boy who moved non-stop from sunrise to sunset and slept and slept all night long.

Yep. He might be seven. And he might be getting awfully old. But he’s still my Boy. My sweet, sweet Isaac Boy.

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