Faith, family, Uncategorized

Looking Through Kid-Goggles

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Years ago, my young son and I attended the funeral of a lovely, young cousin, who was taken from her family far too soon.

 

Her funeral service was one of the first I had ever attended which struck me more as a celebration of who she was and the impact her life had left on all those who knew her. The atmosphere was uplifting and the center stage was adorned with her picture and several clusters of balloons. Among the tears and sadness, there was laughter and smiles and love, because that is the kind of young woman she was.

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My son was about 7 or 8 years of age at this time, and we sat waiting for the service to begin, amongst the many, many people who had come that day.

 

My son tapped me on the arm and quietly asked, “Mom, why are there smiley faces on all those balloons?”

 

I turned my gaze toward the stage, and much to my surprise, there were indeed smiley faces on each and every one of those balloons, as the helium-filled spheres stood tall and proud, radiating the room with their happiness! The lights in the room had reflected in such a way, that a bright, shiny smile landed perfectly on every balloon, as if they were sharing the same bright, full-of-life smile with which this young person had won the hearts of all those who loved her.

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Talk about a new perspective! 

 

 

Previously, my eyes simply saw a display of colored balloons. But my little boy, whose eyes still saw the world through his innocent, untarnished scope, saw smiley faces!

 

My mind and my heart were instantly stirred with this new view. I could no longer look at the balloons and just see balloons. Every time I looked, there they were. Smiley faces! 

 

I silently thanked God for this wonderful gift, which imparted a new sense of peace on this celebration of life. After the service, we were given index cards on which to share a special memory of this beautiful young woman. I wrote down this unnoticed moment, hoping it would bring a little bit of joy to her family.
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Perhaps no one else in that entire room saw the reflections of light at just that precise angle in order to notice the smiley faces.

 

Or perhaps, their eyes, like mine, could no longer easily discern this childlike viewpoint. Just like in the beloved tale of Peter Pan, by the time that coveted objective of adulthood is attained, the magic of childhood imagination becomes clouded with the cares and woes of life.

 

God surely knew this about mankind, as He found it note-worthy enough to include a reminder in His written Word, imploring His followers to be mindful of their perspective on the kingdom of heaven.

“People were bringing children to Him so that He would touch and bless them, but the disciples reprimanded them and discouraged them [from coming].  But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and He said to them, “Allow the children to come to Me; do not forbid them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever does not receive and welcome the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”  And He took the children [one by one] in His arms and blessed them [with kind, encouraging words], placing His hands on them.

Mark 10:13-16 (AMP)

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We as adults sometimes think we have it all figured out… and some days, we find out in the most humbling way that we indeed have a lot left to learn about life. So many things skew our perspective and filter it all in the most unpleasant ways.

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May each of us learn to take a step back, set aside the political, social and pre-set ideals of what it all should look like, and put on our ‘kid goggles‘. 

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Faith, family, Uncategorized

A Different Portrait of Father’s Day

As we celebrate Father’s Day, I cannot help but think about what that means to me. Like many of you, the portrait of Father’s Day, for me, looks different from the heartwarming pictures we see on social media or on television and advertising. Most parents have some of those moments of perfect parenthood and we wish it could always be that way and that all of our children’s memories of us would be full of happiness and joy.

 

If you can look at those perfect pictures and say “that’s what it was like for me!”, I am so happy for you! What a wonderful gift! However, my picture just looked different.

My intention for sharing these thoughts are not to paint a dishonorable image of my Dad.  I loved my Dad very, very much. There is not one perfect parent, be it mother or father, who can boast of a mistake-free, picture-perfect run at parenthood. Not one.

 

Rather, my wish in this is that the message of redemption sinks deep into the hearts of all those who still ache with regret, and who re-live in their minds all the ‘what if’s’.

 

Everyone has their own portrait of fatherhood, painted with their own experiences, losses, relationships, and perspective. I am so sorry if the thought of that stings your heart. I fully understand that for many, the memories are wrought with pain and indifference. Those hurts are some of the hardest to heal, but I know that God is able to do just that, for He has eased the sting in my own heart.

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My father made choices which separated him from his children. I have to believe that in the 40 years that he was away from us, that he too, contemplated the ‘what if’s’ at least a time or two. And even still, I always loved him.

 

During those years, life went on for us, and for him. I don’t believe it was ever in God’s plan for families to be separated. He knows how important both mothers and fathers are in the roles He created. But even though circumstances and sin bring corruption, God loves us so much that He brings beauty from the remaining ashes.

 

In spite of the choices that were made, God gave us a good life here. I was happy, healthy, and I had my family surrounding me and we loved one another. God was always there and we made it through.

 

The very beginning of my portrait of fatherhood wasn’t nice to look at. There was no indication of beauty or promise.  But you see, in the end, that plain, ugly canvas became a lovely picture. Not perfect, and not the stuff dreams are made of, but beautiful just the same. Because when God adds His touch of redemption to the portrait, it becomes a work of art. 

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In the last 15 years or so of his life, my Dad chose to move to Washington to be near us. We made new memories, shared life together, some of our children were able to know their Grandpa from the very start. They will always remember when Grandpa played Santa Claus, and the times he made them feel special.

 

 

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Some of our most special times were when we sang together as a family, and in music ministry. The years we shared with him were a blessing to us, and to him, and brought some needed restoration.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

 

None of us could go back and re-do the past, not even my Dad.  Though that loss was something each of us would have to grieve in our own way, and never would we be able to have the kind of relationship with him that many others have had with their fathers, we were given enough time to paint a different kind of picture. It would never be the ‘perfect one’, but it would be ours. It was a gift, and in the end, it became a portrait of God’s redemptive love.

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“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

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Whether you are the child who still aches for something you never had, or the father who carries the weight of regrets, know that it is never too late to seek redemption and forgiveness.  Some things can’t be erased and undone, and there will come a time when you will have to uncover those hurts, feel the sting, and allow healing to take place. It will be hard, but it will be ok.

Then, pick up that paintbrush, and begin to add beauty and color to your picture.

 

 

 

Faith, family, Uncategorized

The Day I Said Goodbye to My Sister-Revisited

img_3822Image may contain: 1 person, hat, closeup and outdoorImage may contain: 1 person, hat, closeup and outdoorImage may contain: 1 person, hat, closeup and outdoorImage may contain: 1 person, hat, closeup and outdoorImage may contain: 1 person, hat, closeup and outdoorImage may contain: 1 person, hat, closeup and outdoorIt’s been 9 years since my family lost our sister. She battled with her disease for many, many years, until that day when she succumbed to medical complications. We miss her.

 

It is this story which inspired me to begin this blog about one year ago, igniting a love for writing that I didn’t know I had within me.

 

So, during this anniversary month for both of these, I’m re-sharing this glimpse into the day that we all said goodbye to Cynthia, my sister.

 

See the source image

May is Lupus Awareness Month

To learn more about this disease, visit:

Lupus Foundation of America

 

 

 

Originally published on May 25, 2017:

I was at work on Thursday in May of 2009 when I received the call. Cynthia was at the hospital and it didn’t look good. She was in bad shape and it was time to call the family in. I immediately left for Yakima, where she had been taken.

 

It wasn’t the first time we had been afraid we would lose her. In all the many years in which she battled chronic, debilitating illness, there were a couple times that I made that dreaded drive, worried that I would have to say my goodbyes, but praying all along the way that God would spare her and bring her through. And He did.

 
But this time was different. There was urgency in this call. So I went and it was not good.
Other family members were already there with her, my sisters, my Mom. It was a troubling sight, seeing her struggling for life. Little was to be done.

 

She was admitted to a room and as the day wore on, the family gathered and waited. It was a harsh reality, a first for our family. Being from a large, very close family of 8 siblings, and later, many foster children who we called brothers and sisters, we certainly had our share of tragedy and troubles, but we had not lost one of our 8. We were all heartbroken.

 

The atmosphere was quiet, but even in this time of grief and waiting for an end we were not ready to see come, my wonderful family found comfort in being there together, still finding little things which held some remnant of joy. We all sat in vigil through the night. Medication had quieted our dear sister, but the expected outcome did not change.

 
After a long, restless night, Friday came and we continued waiting through the morning. All of my siblings who lived in the area were there, their spouses, some of my nieces and nephews, my Mother and my Dad.
Later in the morning, there were some ever so subtle signs that maybe again, Cynthia was going to pull through. Small, faint signs of hope.
So in light of that, some of us went home for a while to rest.

 

When I got to my home in Prosser, and because I felt a deep sense of peace, my husband, children and I decided to go to town, in the opposite direction from where my sister and family were. I can’t say why I felt that way, because Cynthia was still in the hospital and certainly not well at all, but I felt like it was ok to go.

 

We had something to eat, and was at Walmart shopping, when I got a call from my sister Gwen. “Robin, you need to come. It won’t be long.”
A deep urgency hit me and I knew we had to go NOW!

 
Oh, why did I go to town?! Why did I feel like I should go an extra 25-30 miles away from where Cynthia was? I knew I would be pushing it. I had to go all the way back to Prosser, drop off Andy and the kids (we lived 5 miles outside of town), then drive another 35-40 miles to Yakima, and across the city to the hospital.

 

Praying all the way, I left Prosser, got on the freeway and pushed the speedometer as far as I dared, knowing that getting pulled over would only lengthen the already pressed time it was going to take to get there.

 

I prayed out loud all the way, crying, begging God to literally make time slow down so I could get there before she passed! I wanted to be there, I knew everyone was there. My family! This is what we do! We gather together for each other!

 
I listened to Christian music cd’s the whole way, just trying to breathe through my weeping and focus on driving safely and getting there!
Then, as I approached Yakima…..God gave me a gift.

 

About 8 minutes before I got to the hospital, I heard a song on the cd and the lyrics caught my heart. It went like this:

 

I hear music, no one’s singing
No one’s playing, I hear music

 

I am dancing, in the stillness
In the silence, I hear music

 

I hear music, no one’s singing
No one’s playing, I hear music

 

I am resting, in the stillness
In the silence, I hear music

 

Carried on the wings of Your Spirit
Bowing at Your holy feet
The symphony of worship, now I hear it
Waves of peace are washing over me
Your tenderness unspeakably sweet

 

I am singing, deep within me
You sing with me, I hear music

 

In the stillness, in the silence
In Your presence, I hear music

 

By Allen Asbury “I Hear Music”

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You can find this song online and I highly recommend it. It’s a beautiful song.

 
When I finally pulled into the hospital parking lot, my heart beat faster than ever. I just had to take the elevator up to her room, and hopefully, I won’t be too late.
But as I approached the elevator door, a family member stood there and said she had passed away. No!! I didn’t make it! My heart sunk with regret!

 

I went upstairs and entered a solemn room. As the many members of my family were there trying to come to terms with this first-time-felt loss, my other sisters were gathered around her bed in the quiet moments following her passing.

 

Cynthia, my sister, who had suffered through so much in her short 53 years here, and through it all, always held her child-like love for Jesus, was now with Him. Her once contorted, crippled hands now lay so softly, as I took them into my own and said goodbye. We always knew that someday, this time would come. But today was that day.

 
I grieved the loss of my sister, but also was heartbroken that I was not there. Everyone was there, except for me. I didn’t understand why and I struggled with that for a long time until someone later helped me understand that maybe God had a reason for keeping me away, that it was for my benefit. Maybe it would have been too difficult for me. I don’t know, but I couldn’t, and cannot, change the way it happened. I trust that God knew what I did not.

 

But I do believe with all my heart, that at the moment Cynthia entered into heaven and met her Jesus face to face, this specific song played for me to hear. The time it played and the time she died coincided, and I felt that God allowed me to share in that moment in a different way.

 

As I heard the tender lyrics, I knew. Go back and read them again. Can’t you just picture it?! This song is about someone who is ever so gently leaving this earthly life and is entering into the presence of God! Carried by His Spirit! Bowing before His feet! Heaven standing still in silence because one of God’s children has come home! And it is so quiet that all you can hear is the music of heaven, and it sounds like a symphony!

 
So even though I did not stand by Cynthia’s bedside as she left this world, I felt it in my heart as I heard these words.

 
A precious gift. An everlasting consolation, until we meet again my dear sister.