Without Rain (Things in my Head…now)

Lindsey,

Hi! I just wanted to give you my year’s story:)

I think you know that eight years ago I had a life-threatening brain tumor. My kids were only toddlers, and the surgery was extremely rough, but truly went better than anyone had predicted. I recovered completely without paralysis, but they were unable to get “clear boundaries” because of the tumor’s proximity to a main vein in the brain.

At the 5-year mark, a doctor told me my chances were much less of recurrence, and I could come every 2-3 years. (-which was nice because MRI’s are expensive!) My husband said, “no.” He didn’t see why we wouldn’t check it every year. I think his exact words were, “I have more money and only one wife: you need to go every year.”

So last January I went for my annual scan, and for the first time in 7 years, they called me back that they had found something and I needed to have it rescanned.

The rescan eight weeks later showed more definition, and what looked like growth so they sent me to Duke Neuro-Oncology within a few weeks. The specialist called it a meningioma (same name as last time) and said that growth was questionable but that it was so small (“blueberry” size) he wanted me to wait until this January and then we would decide radiation or surgery.

I’ll skip recording here all of my emotions of screaming Nooooo!! We can just say I didn’t peacefully and joyfully say, “well, to God be the glory!” …at least not at first. I prayed – and asked a few sweet friends to pray – that I would “let go of this basket,” the same as Moses’ mother did, but sometimes I would reel it back in as though attached with fishing line. Every little headache seemed to say I was headed down an old familiar brain tumor path, and I tried to talk myself into thinking it was “all in my head” (pun intended).  Every travel I planned, or commitment I made for this spring was weighed down, wondering if I would be able to follow through with it.  Yet I knew I was as good as dead if I decided to stop living while I waited for the next test.  I had to accept it one day at a time.

“My daily bread…” was something Jesus taught us to ask. (Matt 6:11) As I awaited the long, drawn-out period, I often thought how He didn’t say monthly bread or even weekly bread; He said DAILY bread – so I tried to be satisfied with His daily promises and stop asking for the month or year of provisions to be satisfying.

I made some health changes in hopes I was doing my best to either avoid surgery, or ready my body to endure it.

Last week, my husband and I had the appointment with the Duke Neuro-oncologist. He gave us the great news that the scan showed it was STILL a blueberry; he is not worried about it and thought it might even only be scar tissue. He told me he didn’t need to see me for THREE years!!

I praise God for this fantastic news!! Though I didn’t feel like telling everyone along the way, (some roller coasters are better ridden alone) now I feel like shouting it from the mountaintop!!

While I bask in the joy of answered prayers, and realize the floating feeling of lifted weight I hadn’t realized I was carrying in the “back of my mind,” (pun intended) I found it interesting that I want to shout about THIS one. Yet, I didn’t write blogs about the skin biopsies that came back normal, annual exams that didn’t cause concern or the colds I didn’t get. I am so extra-ecstatic this time, because the “last time” had been a bad diagnosis. “Last time” had been a fast-growing, life-threatening tumor that would likely cause seizures at any moment.  “Last time” the tumor was resting on the main vein, in the area of the nerves for my mouth and eating through a bone used for hearing! “Last time” had led to urgent surgery within two weeks followed by months out of my mom-of-the-home position. Argh! “Last time’s”  stormy season had taken everything I had to dance in the rain. And because of that rain, I GREATLY appreciate the sun I have been given in this great news.

In other words, I guess the rainy days in life remind us of the value in the sun.

  • Ask anyone who has had cancer in the past how much they celebrate the clear scans of remission.
    • Ask anyone who has almost lost a loved one how much more they are drawn to that same person now that the storm is done.
      • Ask anyone who has ever lived without a meal how much they appreciate every morsel today.

Ask anyone who fully depended on daily bread, how grateful they are when the sun comes up!

The rain makes us notice the sun…and appreciate it even more.  I hope it makes us tell God thank you even more as well!

If you are in the storm right now,

…like the person in front of me at the doctor, who was scheduling his next chemotherapy, while his wife and dad watched on…

…like the person behind me in the check-out line of the doctor, who was already paralyzed with an obvious head-surgery scar and sat patiently waiting in her wheelchair…

I am praying for you.

I pray you feel the God who calms the winds and waves right there with you, as He carries you to bright skies ahead.

Thanks for dancing in the sun with me.

Terri

 

Morning by morning, new mercies I see.

Lamentations 3:22-23 King James Version (KJV): 22 It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

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It’s Not Mine

I set the case down next to the sink. No, it might get wet. I thought. I picked it up and put the strap on my shoulder, so the prized possession was resting on my back, safe from water. A woman walked by behind me in the public bathroom and knocked my purse, which knocked the case, pulling the strap from my shoulder as gravity pulled the valuable toward the ground. With Elasto-girl’s flexibility and Jack-Jack’s incredible speed, my hand moved swiftly to grab the strap to avoid the camera hitting, while my purse finished the descent to the dirty floor. Fortunately, it was only my purse and not the camera!

I need to shorten this camera strap, I thought, so it doesn’t fall off again. But wait, it is not mine, so I don’t want to adjust anything in case the owner likes it at that exact length.

I continued babying the camera for the three hours it was in my possession.camera baby

My 12-year-old daughter was in a talent competition, Actors, Models and Talent for Christ, and wanted an actual camera as a prop in one of her acting scenes. We borrowed one from a grandparent of another performer.

I was so nervous to hold the camera. I didn’t want anything to happen to it before it could be used for its purpose in the acting competition. Besides, I pretty much hate borrowing anything…almost ever…because I am afraid I will mess something up.  It is as though my pride can’t handle being the one to hurt something that is not mine.

I wish I treated my life as if it were Someone else’s!

To Whom Does This Belong?

How do I keep forgetting Whose life this is?

My pastor, Stephen Davey of Wisdom for the Heart,  did an illustration not long ago. He brought a man to the front of the church and asked him to give him his wallet. The man did. The pastor then took $20 out of the wallet and handed the man his wallet back – $20 short. The man said, “Thank you.” As we all would expect when someone gives you something back – even though:

  1. It belonged to the man to begin with
  2. The pastor was returning it with less value than it originally had.

His example was an illustration of tithing – how God gives us “a wallet of money” and we give a portion back (sometimes only 10%!), and then act like God should say “thank you,” when really it was 100% His to begin with!

Wallet of Twenty-Four hours

I liked the illustration, and for me, I applied it to my “wallet of time.” I have 24 hours in a walletOfTimeday that God has given me. I am embarrassed to say that sometimes I act like He should say “thank you” if I give “some” of it back, while I try to keep the rest of the time “for me”.

The fact is that all of the hours were His and still are. It is up to me to represent them that way.

It’s funny to me how much I like to compartmentalize life: This hour is for Bible time with God; this hour is for exercise; this hour is for motherhood; this hour is for my husband.  But God sees all the hours! All of the words, all of the thoughts, all of the actions,  all of my all is meant to be used by Him!

I guess I need to treat this life like the camera next to the sink – as a precious possession of Someone else’s- and protect every inch of it, so it is ready to be used when the time of its purpose arrives.

If I recalled Whose life this is, would I guard my brain’s intake more wisely? (Phil 4:8)  Would I use words purposefully (1Thess 5:11)? Would I rest more, eat better, and in general beat my body into submission to what I should be doing? (1Cor 9:27)

What if I took care of all of my possessions – as if they are gifts for His use and not mine? (because they are.) (1Chron 29:14)  What if I used my life as the gift He loaned….and used it for His purposes alone?

In reality, there is no-such thing as a compartmentalized Christian.

“Either you live your life for God’s glory, or you are living for yourself. There is no ground in-between.” – Chris Brady

May God keep us focused on living for His glory…with every hour He graciously puts in our “wallet”,

Terri

(note: Illustrations by my daughter, Christine Brady, age 12)

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Messy Memory Making with Friends

I felt horrible. I couldn’t believe I had done it to them.

I love Christmas cards! They are still up on my bulletin boards now, because the bulletin boards were put on the wall just for that purpose. The cards will likely remain there until replaced next year!

I love the photos – particularly the photos of my friends. (Come on, people! Don’t chicken out from the camera and make your kids get in front of it! I like to see YOU! 🙂 ) I love the plain cards; I love the fancy ones. I love the cards from family, from best friends and from “strangers” whom we met only once overseas in years past.

I actually even enjoy most “Christmas update letters,” because I care what is going on in people’s lives; but I admittedly often wait until after the new year to read some of them.  I have friends who collect the cards in a basket and spend the year taking one card out each day at dinnertime and praying for the family who sent it. Sorry we have never gotten that organized, but I love the idea!

My love for receiving those cards is probably why I felt so horrible about what I did.

I ditched a friend. Hear me out: I have over five thousand contacts in my phone. I know…crazy! I started an electronic address book back in the 90’s (1890’s it feels like!) with my “Palm Pilot,” and have electronically transferred the book with each new device and update. It is my “Roledex” from the 1870’s with a new twist. I never see a reason to delete anyone – because who knows if our paths could cross?

Rather than going through 5,000 contacts to send cards to less than 10% every year, I finally made a Christmas card list of people I think might “want” one. But last year, I noticed a name was missing. (Sorry if your name was missing too! I didn’t mean it!) Since the list was from the year before, it meant that the Kirk and Cassie Birtles family had not received a card from me.

I texted my good friend Cassie: “Did I send you a Christmas card last year?”

“I don’t think so,” she replied.

What? I didn’t send her a card and she didn’t even seem to mind?! She is so kindly unpresumptuous.

That January, her husband let the cat out of the bag in a humorous way. He had me laughing out loud. Apparently, when our card didn’t arrive, they had assumed I had not sent out cards. But when Kirk and Cassie went to a friend’s house, there was the Brady Christmas card prominently displayed, so they deduced that their friend must have ranked more highly with the Bradys than the Birtles did!

Then they went to Kirk’s sister’s house (whom we had befriended through Kirk)- and there was the Brady Christmas card. The story kept getting deeper when they went to Kirk’s parents’ house (whom we befriended through Kirk and his sister) and there, on their fridge, prominently displayed were the Brady kids and parents, wishing all of the other Birtleses a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! All of the Birtleses…except Kirk and Cassie. They were left with a blank fridge. 🙂

Apparently, it happened for two years before I noticed that their name had inadvertently been eliminated from my list of cards.

WHAT A MESS!

I felt horrible.

BradyBunch1It reminded me of what great friends the Birtles truly are:

  • They gave me the benefit of the doubt, assuming the best intentions on my part.
  • They didn’t discuss it behind my back and hope I got the message. (Well – maybe they did and I don’t know, since I wasn’t behind my back.)
  • They didn’t remove me from their Christmas card list; I still got their wishes to have a “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” because their wishes for me told me about their heart, not as payback for my own.

I told them I was so sorry, and made sure their address was on my list! I checked it twice! But then, I decided to try to make it up to them- and make them laugh too.

Fun Friends

I went through my files and found one of our Christmas cards from every year…as long as I have been sending them – since around 1897 🙂 . I wanted to make sure the Birtles family knew they were loved.

I copied each card, put them in separate envelopes and started sending Version 3 them daily at the beginning of December. “Merry Christmas and Happy 1998!” was the first message they received. Next was 1999, 2000 and so on, all the way to “I hope your 2016 is blessed!” in this year’s card.

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2013

However, the company I used to make the cards for this year, Nations Photo Lab, made a mistake on my cards. When I brought the mistake to their attention, their customer service was amazing, and they immediately sent out a new box of Brady Christmas cards…which meant that I had literally hundreds of extra Christmas cards (the mistakes), so I thought it was well worth the postage to send the ENTIRE BOX of HUNDREDS of Brady Christmas cards to the Birtleses for their amusement.

I giggled all eighteen times I walked to my North Carolina mailbox- and hoped they were having as much fun at the Michigan end. Haha!!

Just to top it off, I sent a text around January 4th. to Kirk and Cassie:  Did you get a Christmas card from us this year?????”; I wanted to be sure they weren’t forgotten. 🙂

They replied to my text, “Who is this?”

Haha!

Then, yesterday, the season of Joy was wrapped with a beautiful bow when a package arrived from Michigan. B Pkg

The Birtleses had sweetly modge-podged all of my Christmas cards onto a twenty-four inch letter “B”!!! Yay! It looks beautiful in my house – as if I planned for someone to creatively display all of my past Christmas cards!

Version 2

Version 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My daughter (age 12) immediately asked when she saw the artwork, “Does this mean they used all of the cards we sent, so now they don’t have any pictures of us in their house?”

Bahaha! Maybe we need to send some more!

SUCH. GREAT. FRIENDS!

I like to say:

“Imperfect moments make perfect memories.”

But maybe in this case, it is better said, “Messy moments make magnificent friends.

If it hadn’t started so messy – with my accidental deletion of their name – it never would have ended so memorable! So if you are in the middle of a “mess”…just wait! There may be magnificence in the making!

God bless you and your messy-memory-making with FRIENDS,

Terri

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” – C.S. Lewis

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted; but an enemy multiplies kisses.” –Proverbs 27:6

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The Best Pain Killer

Dear Lindsey,

“DNR” and “DNI” were in bold letters on the bracelets she wore.

DNR: Do not resuscitate.

            DNI: Do not intubate.

Those seem like easy decisions to follow – the wishes of the patient. Those decisions were made by my mother when she was in good health, and working as a registered nurse at a nursing home. She expressed to all of us children that she did not want to be a body lying in a bed with food going in one end and out the other, with no sign of life but the movement of her chest to the beat of the respirator.

A blood clot that likely escaped her fibrillating heart headed to her brain a few weeks ago, causing a massive stroke. While her first stroke with the same cause eighteen months prior left hardly any residual, this one left life-changing ramifications: paralysis. The initial ambulance trip brought good conversation where she had her typically humorous answers to the hospital staff’s hourly questions:

  • Who is president?
    • The wrong guy.
  • Who is this? [pointing to my brother]
    • The one I am mad at. [haha!]

The following days and weeks were not so jovial. She fell into a deep sleep, where answers came no more. She shouted in her sleep, yet when awake, she mumbled with her eyes closed as if straining to communicate with nurses who asked questions. Sometimes she would wake from slumber for their questions, but the mumbled answers through closed eyes seemed disconnected to the woman I call, “Mom.”

  • What year is it?
    • 2000…no 2005.
  • What month is it?
    • October…must be October.

The clock was ticking toward death by starvation. Two weeks was the maximum that the doctors would allow her to receive nutrition from the NG tube. At that point, if the swallow test was not passed (for which she would not even stay awake!), then a more permanent feeding tube would need to be surgically implanted. Is this what she meant by “no tubes” in her wishes? What about the woman who was joking with the doctors the night she arrived at the hospital just ten days before?!

It is difficult living thousands of miles from my family, but tragedy multiplies that pain. I traveled from North Carolina to Colorado. I knew I was optional; God was in control. My dad and brother could make wise decisions without me. But I knew I would feel better if I saw her.

This is one of those times when “the only daughter” (as I am) has a special role of caring. I figured I would massage her head, wash her feet, and whisper in her sleeping ear. I decided to take Christine (age 11) along, since she would be an added blessing to Mom as well as to me. Besides, I want Christine to have experience in caring for the elderly, since I plan to be one some day.

We entered her hospital room, her 12th day. Her paralyzed left side was obvious, even while she slept, yet my heart was grateful for the glimpse of her.

“Mom,” I whispered in her ear and she jolted, so I know she knew I (or someone) was there, despite her closed eyes. Christine stood by my side, as we stared at her limp body.

After praying over priorities, I cancelled my week’s speaking engagements that had been FullSizeRenderplanned for a year. I prayed the audience would understand and be encouraged to live their own lives by God-given priorities if a moment like this ever arose.

As we sat at the hospital hour upon hour, I realized that my octogenarian dad (as well as my older brother and his wife) had been doing just that for the eleven days before I had arrived! Dad took his seat next to Mom’s bed, with crossword book in-hand, just as normally as if it were his own living room. I am afraid he was used to “his” chair. What a blessing to have a 55-year-old marriage to weather these storms, whether my mother was aware of his presence or not. “A true love story never ends” is a sign on their wall at home.

The next day, Christine was weary of the sitting. “Can I sing?” she asked, so innocently. She has a way with spreading smiles anywhere she goes, and though I honestly wasn’t ready to smile, I knew her singing would give it a nudge in the right direction.

“Sure. That would be great.” I said.

Christine stood by her bedside opposite my father and me. She looked at me, and then toward her sleeping grandmother, then began:

“What a friend we have in Jesus IMG_9239 2

All our sins and griefs to bear.

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer.

Oh what peace we often forfeit

Oh what needless pain we bear.

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer.”

Her voice was angelic. It was so light-hearted, as if she didn’t feel the weight of the situation…as if she wasn’t “needlessly bearing the pain” just like the words she sang.

My father asked, “Is Mother singing along?”

I looked at my mom’s sleeping face. “I don’t think so,” I said.

My father’s hearing problem has probably handicapped his communication, but lack of hearing didn’t mean lack of feeling what was going on.

Christine went from one song to the next into Mom’s sleeping ears. “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us,” “How Great Thou Art” and “Amazing Grace.” It was as though she knew my mother would prefer the older hymns to their contemporary counterparts.

Somewhere in the third or fourth song, I noticed Mom’s lips moving, and even heard a groan of low singing.

“She IS singing now!” I said to Dad.

We watched as Mom mouthed the words along with Christine’s voice, sometimes jumping ahead and saying the lyrics to the familiar hymns before Christine got to them. I was happy to see Mom was still with us.

Tough Medical Decisions

My dad took advantage of the “awake” opportunity. He leaned over her bed in a caring position, and spoke directly into her ear, asking her the tough questions at hand.

“If a feeding tube is necessary for you to live, would you want to have the surgery to implant a feeding tube?”

Yes” my mother’s head nodded.

“What about a respirator?” he asked, since the anesthesiologist had warned of her high risk of needing one post surgery.

No” my mother’s head shook decisively.

To be sure she understood the questions and that we understood the answers, he asked her again, and got the same replies.

Phew. A little peace came into my heart, knowing her wishes more precisely for the situation at hand.

The following day, as they prepared Mom for surgery – I bent down to her eye level. I told

painting in the waiting room

painting displayed in the waiting room

her I loved her and would be waiting for her on the other side (though in my heart, I truly didn’t know if I meant heaven or the recovery room). She opened her eyes and smiled. Her lips didn’t move – not even the non-paralyzed side. But she smiled… deeply…with only her eyes…looking at me. Her eyes communicated a depth of love that can be transferred even through one…deep…look. Her smiling eyes said, “I love you. I am proud of you. I am glad you came,” though her lips never changed their sedentary position. Her eyes said it all, and I drank it in. Then her eyes closed again.IMG_8282 (1)

The feeding tube surgery beat the odds…or God beat the medical odds, and Mom – and her fibrillating heart – came through the anesthesia better than predicted. However, if I had thought she was asleep most of the time before the surgery, now she had gone into hibernation! The pain meds combined with the leftover anesthesia to make a sleep cocktail that ended our ability to converse…for what ended up to be the rest of my stay.

What to do when the going gets tough

“Can I sing for other patients?” Christine asked, a couple days later.

You gotta love the heart of that girl! She went from crying over the sight of “GG” being sick, to wondering what “Pop Pop” would do if GG didn’t make it…to asking if she could sing in front of complete strangers.

I couldn’t think of a better way to ease the pain.

Serving others is always the best pain killer!

While one nurse checked my mom’s vitals, I heard her take a phone call from a coworker down the hall, “No, we don’t have a worship service, but we can have a clergy visit him if he wants.”

The nurse hung up, and I smiled at the coincidence – or God-incident.

“I overheard you say that someone is looking for a worship service?” I said to the nurse. “My daughter here was just asking if there are any patients who would like to hear her sing.”

“That would be AMAZING!” the nurse enthusiastically replied. “I’ll meet you at room 32 when I am done here!”

Christine and I left to find room 32.  We waited outside for a minute, because the patient was settling into a chair.

Dressed as if for church, younger than most of the floor’s residents, the patient looked like a civilian, except for the wires which protruded from above the buttons of his shirt. He had what looked like lifelines connected to the machines that whirred behind him.

“Hello!” he said with force – much more volume than we had heard at my mother’s bedside all week. He must have already heard we were coming.

“I just can’t believe this Bible-believing hospital wouldn’t have a worship service on Sunday morning!” he said. “I mean….I go to church every Sunday, why wouldn’t I go today?! Especially today?!”

Christine asked, “Would you like to hear, ‘Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us’?”

“That would be great!” He spoke with enthusiasm – as if finally somebody was going to do something right around here!

He watched her intently, switching to glance at me a few times while she sang.

Her voice quivered a little. She can sing in front of thousands, but the one-on-one attention made her nervous. I cut her off at the third verse, fearing tedium.

“You give me such hope!” he blurted as if anxious to speak. “I mean, what is our country coming to?! All that has happened this week?! And overseas?! And then I see the beautiful picture of youth in front of me, focused on Truth!”

He went on to talk about politics. (with which I agreed!)

And religion. (with which I agreed)

He spoke of his family.

He mentioned his past…and his future. Christine and I silently listened.

“What a blessing you are, Christine!” he said, as if she had done some major deed by singing one song.

I wondered if the real gift had been in her listening, not her singing.

“You want to hear my favorite song?” she asked. Of course he agreed, and her confidence escalated into What a Friend We Have in Jesus with gusto.

His intense stare made me glad she hadn’t sung more of the other song. He was enraptured. I wondered what “griefs he bore” that the song seemed to be carrying away. His face softened and eyes welled.

I quietly sang harmony (below), while lifting prayers (above), deeply worshipping in this stranger’s hospital room.

When she was done, I asked him if he wanted to pray. I honestly don’t know what gave me the gumption at that moment; I am not usually one to hold hands with complete strangers. Nor am I one to put my daughter in front of strangers. I am not a gifted Bible teacher, and don’t feel led to lead men. I suppose the Holy Spirit prodded me to come a little closer…closer to his life.

Christine, the man and I held hands and I spoke words to the God of the universe. What a precious privilege to “carry everything to God in prayer.”

As the short prayer came to a close, I could feel his grasp gain strength while trembling.

“Amen.” I said. I once heard

Prayer is when the weight shifts from our shoulders to His.

I felt that weight shift.

Tears streamed down the man’s suntanned cheeks in giant drops.

“You have blessed my year! I can’t tell you what this has meant to me! What a blessing you are!”

The real message

To recap the message: what a glorious God we serve!

  • “No organized worship service” did not mean “no worship”…and it may have even been more intimate worship the way it happened.
  • The best painkiller is to serve someone else in pain.
  • There are no coincidences, only God-incidents. Without my mother’s illness, we would never have been in this man’s life – nor would any of you know to be praying for him right now.

As for my mom, she has since been released to a skilled nursing facility, where, Lord willing, she will begin her long road to recovery.  Christine and I felt comfortable leaving, and on my dad and brothers’ encouragement, kept our plans for family vacation in Italy the following day. (More on that to come!)

In the mean time, I am looking forward to the next time I see Mom’s smile, while holding onto the memories of many in the past.

Blessings,

Terri

P.S. Thank you for praying for my mother, my father and this patient, Tom. There was a similar “singing” story with another patient on the same hall. Almost identically, with very different backgrounds, the other patient, “Chris,” was tearfully touched by Christine’s singing and the prayer.  Please pray for him as well, since he received a very bad diagnosis the night before Christine walked into his room. He trusts in Christ alone, and according to the doctors, will likely be with Him in heaven soon.

Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

P.P.S. My mother went to be with the Lord eight weeks after the stroke. I celebrate her life in a later post here: My Mom.

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Colorado sunset, June 2015

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Mom and Dad with their first great-grandchild, Adelyn. March, 2015

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Dad and me, Casey’s graduation, May 2015

Soccer Guys and Humble Pie

Have you ever made a mistake in parenting?

Long before he could write, my son Nate loved soccer. If he wasn’t playing soccer, he was

81Tn4mGp+dL._SL1500_watching soccer (or begging to watch soccer as shown by the Post-It notes below). If he wasn’t playing or watching, he was using his “Soccer Guys” to act out field formations that would eventually end up with a “GOOOOAAAAAAALL!” Walking close by his imaginary play, you would usually hear his little 5-yr-old voice narrating the play in a British accent!

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The play in his mind translated well to play on the field. According to the local coach, Image-1 2he was “above” the recreational league for 5-yr-olds and should really come try out for the competitive league. The problem was that the youngest travel league was for 8 and 9-yr-olds. Nate didn’t seem to think that was an obstacle. He began showing his magnificent obsession on the field of giants! (6-yr-old Nate on the U-9 team to the right and below.)

 

 

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His obsession didn’t end there. Every restaurant’s blank placemat was quickly turned into a soccer guy:  legs spread, fingers out (usually twelve fingers!), and the net behind him, often with a dialogue bubble coming out of the mouth saying, “GOOOAAALLLLL!” (I am sure with a British accent.) He seemed so old during league play that his drawings shocked us with his youth.

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He was a monster on the field and a youngster in the house. After completing Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, we had moved to My Father’s World curriculum for first grade. The curriculum used the simple language of small words to write a Bible that my little guy could read all by himself! Having a 2-yr-old and 1-yr-old sister and brother, Nate was usually left to finish his Bible journaling once he and I had done the lessonIMG_6915 together for the day.

“Since you have already read the chapter to me, write a sentence about it and color a picture of what it meant to you,” I often said as I left him to work alone and went to care for his older brother or younger siblings.

His journaling began well: Adam and Eve had a serpent come out of the tree to visit them.

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On the next page, Nate had written, “Cain said, ‘Let’s go for a walk’.”

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Noah’s ark had animal stickers, two by two:

 

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Then I forgot to check the book for several days, and things took a turn:

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I was shocked to open his “Bible Journal” and find pictures of …soccer guys!!! There they were: legs sprawled across the page, fingers (many!) spread and sometimes even a ball in the air!

WHAT?!!! I was livid. It would be bad enough if he had drawn soccer guys in his math notebook, but Bible journal?!! You’ve got to be kidding me!

I had found the mess while I was checking work late at night, and ran it by Chris. He Slide1agreed with my consensus that we needed to crack down HARD on little lies or we would raise an adult who tells big lies. I decided to bring up the subject to my 6-yr-old the next morning, with a clearer, calmer head. My thoughts swam: This was pure deceit. I had heard of deviled eggs, but never before had I applied the adjective to kids! Drawing soccer guys while pretending to be recording in a Bible journal? This was like some scene from the Brady Bunch of the 70’s when Peter hides the comic book and pretends to read history! I don’t care how many points he scores on the field if he can’t score points in character!

What’s on the inside is what matters!

I rehearsed my speech in my head, wanting to turn this boy from his wrong ways while he was still young enough to learn.

“You’re character will be what you choose to make it [and I added: young man!!].” – John Lubbock

“When nobody else is looking, I still see.” – God

“Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” – Proverbs 28:6

“People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1Sam 16:7

 

The next morning, we started homeschool with a one-on-one conversation. I gave him my “SCORING POINTS FOR CHARACTER” speech, and he sat listening intently. I gave him a chance to tell me if he had any times recently when he thought his character was not something he would want God to see.

“I don’t think so,” he said as his bewildered, 6-yr-old, enormous, brown eyes squinted a little.

I brought out the Bible journal, practically ready to jump on him and say, “Thou art the man!!” I opened and turned the pages, telling him how disappointed I was that he was drawing soccer guys instead of illustrating what he had read in the Bible like I had told him.

His tears started to well.

Guilty as charged! I assumed. I was ready to accept his apology and hold hands to pray toward repentance.

His tears burst through his words as he said, “THAT…. IS MOSES!”

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I was shocked when for the first time I noticed a burning bush next to the man I thought was a soccer guy.

“AND THAT IS JACOB…SEE HIS DREAM?” he said, turning the page to an identically looking man next to what I had thought was a soccer ball.

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“And that one is Joseph next to the barn full of grain,” he said, pointing to another “soccer guy” next to a little square, that apparently was not a goal, but a barn.

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I could have died. Or cried. Or both – preferably in that order.

I…FELT… SO… BAD!!!

Next up: one of the most important parenting moves ever:

I said, “I’m sorry,” to my son!

We held hands and prayed for my forgiveness.  The table was turned. The verse: “People look at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart,” (1Sam 16:7) was still applicable. I was indeed “a people” and I just displayed it in full color to my 6-yr-old, since I had only looked at the “appearance”! I hate the taste of humble pie! But I love the results of peace in the relationship.

The Bible says, “Humble yourself and you shall be exalted,” (James 4:10) but I like to say, “Humble yourself or God will do it!”

I showed Chris the pictures later and he laughed hysterically at what we had thought, versus what was reality. Of course, I guess Nate got past the horrible incident and forgave us, because when I got out his old Bible journal this week (now that he is almost 15-yrs-old) and told him the story, he laughed and laughed and laughed, not remembering it at all!

I guess it is a good thing that God judges from the heart, because then He could know that I meant to teach for His glory; however, it served as a good reminder that my heart might be the deviled one some days in this Brady bunch.

Love ya,

Terri

1Peter 5:6 : “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

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If You Give a Sanguine a Marker, She Might Change the World!

C text room wreck

“Everything looks like junk to me and treasure to her!” my husband vented in a text to me, while he was trying to help my daughter finish packing her room for our move across town. Our family’s recent move put us all into fights and flights – where personality differences are most evident.

Bedroom door decor

Bedroom door decor

A flurry of creative design, my sanguine daughter’s bedroom is a sight to behold. I pray daily that I will see God’s design in that “butterfly”, and allow it to fly, while teaching her (age eleven) the necessities of being a future wife and mother who lives on THIS earth, even if her mind lives elsewhere. Today, I found cut up toilet paper inserts, decorated with cupcake papers to create perfect little owls. She also took two advertisement magazines I thought I had discarded and cut them apart to mix and match. The clothing models looked like they were ready to take a rest in Pottery Barn magazine’s color-coordinated beds. Where does she come up with this?!! Look out, world, if she ever finds Pinterest!

The model on this magazine cover is cut out and pasted from a different magazine's ad.

The model on this magazine cover is cut out and pasted from a different magazine’s ad.

So how was she supposed to pack her room? How could she part with toilet paper inserts, advertisement magazines, coffee cans and the rest of what she must have absconded from the recycle bin in the garage?! She told me her room was “completely packed,” so I went to inspect. I found one gigantic box in the middle of her floor, full of those “recyclable treasures,” but not one stitch of clothing was packed; her bed was still made; the toothbrush must have seemed optional along with her school books, because nothing was packed except the “treasures.”

My choleric son (age fourteen), however, was “done packing” exactly oneIMG_5417 half -hour after I had asked him to start. The hallway outside of his room was lined with trash bags, labeled, “throw away.” I think he wanted to save six or seven shirts, and the rest he didn’t think worthy of unpacking in the new house, (or giving as hand-me-downs to his younger brother which I always do) so he wanted them out of his way – choleric style. DONE! (I pray A LOT for his future wife, LOL! And, I filed the clothes away as hand-me-downs.)

Today’s story of my butterfly’s latest flight began because during the packing weeks, she found the brand new markers – black, blue and red – and the way Miss Kristen (who was helping us pack) was using them to label every box as she packed. My daughter wanted to be where there were people – not in her room where she was supposed to be packing; so Butterfly began drawing on the boxes. She was thrilled to have markers with ink (since they hadn’t been lost, and nobody had left the caps off…yet) and she wrote …and wrote….and wrote. I didn’t stop her, because honestly, I knew that if she were with Kristen or me where we were packing, she wasn’t somewhere confiscating the bubblewrap for future crafts.

Butterfly’s writing on the boxes was a little different than Miss Kristen’s or mine. Ours said simply,

“FROM: old living room.

TO: new family room.

CONTENTS: photo albums.”

Butterfly’s messages were more like

“Smile! God is with you!”

“Turn that frown upside down!”

“The sun will come out tomorrow! Look up!”

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I was amused with her continuously encouraging words and wondered who she thought would read them. (Though I was reading them…and they had blessed me already!)

That’s when I noticed her younger brother had picked up on the trend. He drew big smiley faces, or cartoons with talking bubbles, making the readers (including me!) laugh.

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IMG_5454Miss Kristen was uplifted as she packed books…thousands of books…into boxes, each one being decorated as soon as it received its closing tape.

“Who are you writing those messages to?” I asked my daughter as she fluttered from one box to the next.

“Well, aren’t people going to move these boxes?” she asked.

“Yes, we will have movers,” I said.

“Yep, then I think they are the ones who will read it. But really, whoever God wants to read them!” she said with delight as she saw another room full of boxes she had not yet decorated.

I continued working, huffing a little on the inside, debating whether I should force her into aIMG_5451 working mode, instead of a coloring mode, but grateful for her joyous spirit. As a mother, it seems like a constant debate for me: when do I let my task-oriented personality reign, and when should I let them flutter in their own personalities?

Moving day arrived, and our house was covered with the most artistic moving boxes imaginable. The men quickly filled the house, moving box after box onto the truck. Day one was New Year’s Eve, originally planned to move only the piano, but boxes went onto the truck…rode for four miles and then were mixed up and taken by different hands off of the truck. I wondered if the men noticed the messages.

By the time the movers resumed January 2nd, it was an entirely new crew of men. This next crew loaded the truck again with boxes. As darkness fell, they drove four miles and unloaded the same boxes…different hands touching each one.

An underestimation of truck size caused need for yet another day of moving, so another IMG_5453set of men arrived on the third day to load and unload more boxes… and the messages they carried.   As they walked by me in the foyer of the new house, the movers asked me to confirm the destination room of each box they held. I giggled at my 9-yr-old’s jokes on the side of the box, “Two movers walked into a …oops! Watch where you are going!”

Next was the unpacking – as more hands made the work light, and boxes were unpacked one by one. Even I – who had been looking at boxes for weeks – was amused by each of the boxes’ messages. SMILE! Kept going through my head.

When the boxes were unpacked, they were broken down and stacked in enormous piles in the garage. We offered them on Craigslist, and takers came within a couple of hours. The first was moving to Boston. The second was putting their house in storage while they rented, deciding if it would work out to retire in Florida. The third couple was starry eyed about moving to Oregon to start life together. Their dreadlocks and tattoos would probably not have been my daughter’s usual circle of influence, but they took her decorated boxes.

As I walked away from loading the last of the empty boxes into someone else’s car, I was IMG_5456in awe of my daughter’s God-given ability to encourage; she had no selfish ambition in her coloring (although she definitely received joy in the giving process). She has often said her goal is to “Spread Smiles” with her life.

If you give Christine a marker…

She might write some words…

Which will make her brother write…

Which will make her mother smile…

And Miss Kristen will smile…

And the movers who load the first truck will smile…

Which will make their wives smile when they get home…

The boxes will make the other workers smile while they unload the truck…

The unpackers of the boxes will smile while piling the now empty boxes into the garage, where…

More people will smile while they load the boxes into their cars…

Where the boxes will ride to another house to be packed…

And then their movers will smile while they load the boxes onto a new truck…

Where the boxes will ride to Oregon…or Boston…or eventually Florida…

Where the boxes will be unloaded by smiling workers,…

And unpacked by a family in a new place, where hopefully they are reading the words and smiling…

at the influence of a smiling 11-yr-old girl in North Carolina.

 

If you give a sanguine a marker, she just might change the world!

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Smiles,

Terri

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Disposing of my Disposition (Personalities Through the Lens of Me)

Dear Lindsey,

The personality differences have always amused me. I have read many personality plusmarriage books, not because our marriage seems in need, but because I want to be all my husband needs ( 🙂 ). Although I have favorites, (What Did You Expect?, Love and Respect and Becoming the Woman of His Dreams) no books have done so much for my role in my marriage as Personality Plus (Florence Littauer). I could say that this book rivals for top position in all of my parenting books as well. Why? Because my own personality had blinded me, creating a distorted view heading for relational disaster…in most relationships. And don’t marriage and parenting rank as the most important relationships I have?

Though I highly recommend you read the book to get the full extent of how to work well with the personalities surrounding you, the brief summary of characteristics is this:

If we took a set group of people and played Twenty Questions with only yes/no answers, the population would fall into two groups: those who are task-oriented and those who are people-oriented. (Left and Right side of the diagram below.)

Those two groups can then be divided again into two groups: Introverted (enjoying being alone) and extroverted (comes alive in a group of people), shown as the top and bottom of the diagram. I am on the line between these two…depending on how much chocolate and/or sunshine I have had. 🙂

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Of those four created quadrants, there are four personalities:

“Melancholy” is the task-oriented introvert.

  • Strengths: detail-oriented, self-disciplined, can be musicians.
  • Weaknesses: None. (just kidding – I am a Melancholy, and like to think I am perfect!) A Melancholy’s weaknesses are that tasks often get more attention than people’s needs. Can be obsessive-compulsive and inflexible.
  • Motto: “Anything worth doing is worth doing perfectly!”

NOTE: I think it is funny that I wrote about Melancholy first. AND I put it in the top left quadrant – the premier place. I assume it is how we are: we put our own personality in the limelight and then adjust the rest around us!

“Choleric” is the task-oriented extrovert.

  • Strengths: self-driven, gains followers quickly, gets the job done.
  • Weaknesses: Can run over people while “getting the job done.” Can be bossy.
  • Motto: “Get it done…NOW! And Hurry!”

“Phlegmatic” is the people-oriented introvert.

In other words: he or she loves and adores people, but doesn’t need to be in the limelight at all.

  • Strengths: Gets along with everyone, great team player, easy to be with, flexible
  • Weaknesses: Can be lazy, un-dependable or have difficulty making decisions.
  • Motto: “Yes. Unless you prefer no, then no. Why is everybody going so fast?”

“Sanguine” is the people-oriented extrovert.

  • Strengths: A blast to be around! Creative genius! Caring
  • Weaknesses: Loses keys…to the car, to the job, to life. He or she may battle with dishonesty and lack of integrity – when facts are fudged, because frankly, it just makes the story better.
  • Motto: “Wooooo hoooooo!!!!!!!!”

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Of course, even with four groups of personalities, there are unlimited variations. I am mostly melancholy with a lot of sanguine – which means I am split between exact opposite quadrants. One book said I was “dysfunctional.” I always knew I was a “misfit toy”! However, it was the way God made me – and I will do my best with my “dysfunctionality”!

The first time I read the book, it was about ME.  Therefore, I:

  1. Took offense that someone thought I deserved a label.
  2. Recognized a little of myself somewhere in it, and decided maybe the label fit.
  3. Was entertained by how much they knew me.

The second time I read looking for traits of family and coworkers. I realized my mother’s sanguine side is what made her invite the entire church over for lunch…with no notice except that she thought of the idea that day.  Phlegmatic was the friend of my son (since opposites attract!) who wouldn’t tell me whether he wanted mustard or ketchup on his hotdog and instead looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

The third time I read the books I had a goal to diminish my weaknesses and magnify the strengths in those around me. It became a game. Have fun with it! The purpose of the book is not to label someone into a box, but to learn how to best deal with people who are naturally in their own box. If I notice the only people I get along with are Phlegmatics (who get along with everybody!), then I may have a problem! If I realize that I only admire people who fall into the same quadrant as myself, then I better work to expand myself to see strengths in other quadrants! The Bible says we should go into all the world…not “make everybody come into my world.” Don’t read to find out who you are, but read to find out who you can be! I became a better wife and mother when I learned how to not only identify and diminish my weaknesses but truly appreciate the strengths of my husband and kids!

Personality Clashes

How did knowing personalities help my marriage?

I noticed that according to the book, a weakness of my Melancholy personality is that I can be oversensitive, or assume things are about me. (Really? There’s something not about me?! ) Someone can say, “The sky is blue,” and a hyper-melancholy will take insult because she has brown eyes, so the person is obviously saying that he doesn’t like her brown eyes. OK, I exaggerate, but you get the point.

Isn’t it funny that God would marry a Melancholy like myself with a images-1Choleric? Watch the weaknesses line up: If a Choleric “runs over people” and a Melancholy “takes offense at small bumps” I was feeling dead on a highway under a steam roller. How’s that for a marriage?

After studying personalities, I started noticing the phenomenon.

I was cooking one day, obviously, stirring a pot on the stove, when my husband accessed the drawer on the other side of the stove to get out a spoon. He cut in front of me, bumped me backwards, so I obviously had to stop stirring, and he retrieved his spoon, never saying anything, or acknowledging me, and left.

The old me would have been hurt. “He did it on purpose to disrespect me. He obviously thinks cooking is not as important as whatever he is doing. He obviously doesn’t value me. (Aside: ‘Obviously’ was one of my favorite observational words back then, but I learned that “obvious” is not so obvious with other personalities. My common sense was not common – just “mine”!) Maybe I should let him be on his own for dinner tomorrow night, since he obviously doesn’t honor the role of cook?!”

Having the value of these personality books fresh in my arsenal, I said to my husband, “I know you didn’t do that on purpose to hurt me.”

He looked like a deer caught in the headlights.  There was a LONG silent pause while I could see the gears in his brain turning, not sure if those were fighting words or what my intentions were.  Then he gulped and said quietly, “Did what?”

It still makes me laugh. I would have been so offended – assigning motives and planning my next chess move, but the personality delineations explained he wasn’t even playing the game! He was just…getting a spoon…in a choleric way! Ha ha!

A melancholy might have begged the cook’s pardon before reaching to get the properly-sized spoon for the meal.

A sanguine might have bounded in, telling a story, grabbed a fork and come back for the spoon later – if she remembered why she needed a spoon.

A phlegmatic might have sat until the soup was cold before ever implying that he actually would have preferred to have a spoon.

A Choleric took the spoon.

In parenting, I have often realized how my interpretation was making me want to reprimand a child – when there was nothing wrong in his/her heart – only a difference in his/her personality. My sanguine daughter, for example, can drive me crazy with her messy room and lost articles. However, when I recognize her strengths – like the ability to make great art out of junk, or ability to LIGHT UP anybody’s world with her smile – it makes a lost sweater here and there nothing in comparison. Therefore, we have focused on her learning ways to remember where she took off her sweater (to one day help her find her car keys) or how to meet expectations of a clean room without dimming her bright light of a personality that has an amazing effect on our whole house!

At one point I even noticed that I had been using the personality terms in a negative way! UGH!! My kids made me realize it when the Sanguine said to her brother in a fight, “You are SO CHOLERIC!!” Bahaha! I am sure she picked that up from me! No personality is wrong – despite how my “perfect Melancholy” wants to make it seem that way. They are just different…the way God intended!!

When my oldest son was in high school, he complained about his vision, so I took him to the eye doctor for the first time. Of course, they immediately saw a solution in the form of glasses – and we ordered them. Within two weeks the glasses arrived, and I watched them transform his world into something I didn’t even know he was missing. He had never mentioned it. I remember almost crying feeling bad I had no idea that he couldn’t see. (I have never had glasses.) He put on the new specs and walked outside on that bright sunny day and exclaimed, “I CAN SEE!” In the car he asked, “Can we go back and watch every movie I have ever seen AGAIN, so I can really SEE them this time???”

That’s how I felt once I understood how my own personality was clouding my vision to see others. I wish I could go back and see, really SEE every person I had ever met, befriended, done business with, been in class with, or loved…because I feel like I could have made the relationship better.

Correct your vision utilizing personalities and you will see others through lenses for which God created them.

Blessings,

Terri Brady

Romans 12:4-5: “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

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When Pain Mocks the Song – Even in the Christmas Update Letter

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! As I debated on what to write for a Christmas Letter to Lindsey, I thought the actual Brady family update letter might be appropriate…in case you didn’t receive it in the mail yet. 🙂 I changed it a little, but the message is the same: from our house to yours, Merry Christmas!

(If you prefer to skip the personal update and get to the meat of the message – skip down to “Life’s Railroad and the Train of Time.” I won’t be offended. Sometimes I save the Christmas update letters for after Christmas too.)

Dear friends and family

I wanted to give you a joyful update – about Casey’s college choice, Chris’s new position: you know- the “norm” of decking the halls with boughs of blessings – or is it boughs of bragging?

But, it didn’t seem right, and almost seemed fake, since that would allude to perfection that 2014 did not necessarily hold. It just seemed that hiding the struggle wouldn’t give honor to the ones I lost – or those who are in the middle of strife right now.

So here goes: 2014 was an up and down year.

On January 2nd Chris took a new position at our company – a major adjustment in imagesfunction, but not in purpose. The new role brought a massive change to close relationships – like getting on a ship to a new destination, knowing it was directed by God, but bringing tears as you lose sight of the shore.

January 15th was when the call came that Terri’s mother had suffered a heart attack and stroke. We rejoice that she recovered with minimal permanent damage.

Seven days later, on the opening night of Christine’s youth theatre musical another call came from Colorado, this one telling the shocking news of the loss of Terri’s younger brother Mike. Terri spent 10 days in Colorado with her parents, and Chris was able to fly out for the funeral.

A few weeks later, barely out of sight, grief struck again with the short illness and passing of our dear friend and business co-founder, Jackie. Staying for that snowy funeral in Michigan clearly took precedence over our family’s trip to the Cayman Islands, and it was rightfully cancelled. April brought a trip back to Colorado to celebrate Terri’s Uncle Buck and his presentation of WWII Legion of Honor medal, as well as to be introduced to Adelyn, the first great-grandchild for Terri’s parents; Mike would have been a proud grandpa!

June was triumphant as Nate was selected to play Academy level soccer, and Casey’s team took the N.C. state champ title – finishing 2nd in the region in Baton Rouge, LA.

July 25th marked the 98th birthday for Terri’s grandmother in Kansas, now a great-great-grandmother of two 2014 babies! She has 5 “kids” in their 70’s!! Must be a record!

Our summer was filled with lake time. J.R. wowed us with his wakeboard abilities between his Lego masterpieces. Christine showed us that artists could handle the waves as well. Visitors to N.C. were plentiful – friends from Michigan and Florida; family from Pennsylvania and Colorado. We even had a 50th wedding anniversary celebration for Chris’s parents held here! We joked that our guest room needed a revolving door! And we were blessed by all! (Although when Terri’s mother fell down the stairs and broke bones in three places, she might not have felt like a blessing.)

Autumn brought news of Casey’s decision to play soccer for college in South Carolina next fall, paying his own way with athletic and academic scholarships. Wow.

Life’s Railroad for the Train of Time

I used to think that there were years on mountains and years in valleys. Of course now I can see mountain hours, separated by valley hours, or even a joyful mountain moment in the midst of the depth of sorrowful valley moments. I like it best the way author Kay Warren says: “Life is like a set of parallel train tracks, with joy and sorrow running inseparably side-by-side throughout our days.”

Yet, all the while, the train of time still carries us down the middle of the rails toward our destiny.

Often Christmas cards come (and I have written many!) with the updates – telling the joys of the year. But this year, as you can see, had such HIGH highs and LOW lows in the parallel tracks, it seemed strange to only share one side. I am guessing that most people have had years like that. Many are on the “low” right now – not ready to even celebrate Christmas, wondering if there will ever be happiness again. My prayers go to them.

I mean, really, when you look at the news of 2014, it seems odd to be celebrating anything doesn’t it? My house was not the only one who experienced pain – and by far not the worst pain compared to others I know. Many have lost loved ones, received dooming medical news, had diagnoses since last Christmas that ended life before this Christmas! There are words on the TV that don’t necessarily scream “JOY!” : Ferguson, Isis, North Korea, Ebola. You know the list could go on and make a railroad track far worse than my own. But suffering is not a competition. The Lord knows and cares for each inch of the tracks of life that have been laid and knows and cares for how we handle each inch of that track – since everyone handles it differently.

Christmas is a time of joy – when we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Yet I recall that the promise of joy AND sorrow met in the manger that first Christmas. The promise of redemption and eternal life rested in that baby, … yet the sin He would carry away was in the forecast. While He slept beneath the famous guiding star, His future of being mocked, scourged and publicly executed by crucifixion rested in that bed of hay. The miracles making the lame walk, the deaf hear and the blind see rested in that manger…as did the weeping over the loss of a friend, the anger needed to turn over tables and the prayers so strong to cause sweat as drops of blood. I suppose it’s the moments when sorrow’s side of the track seems to be leading that make us truly recognize the value of its parallel Joy if we can see it.

I recently read that the hymn, I heard the Bells on Christmas Day, was written by Longfellow after a not-so-perfect year. Already a widower due to an 1860 fire that took his wife, he found out weeks before Christmas of 1863 that his eldest son was nearly paralyzed at the hand of an enemy in the Civil War. The song’s words weren’t written as the happy song I sing today. They were penned in the agony of grief, on Christmas Day, 1863.

And in despair I bowed my head:

‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,

‘For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.’

 Though I did not walk in his shoes, I can relate to pain that “mocks the songs”. So I hold his next words dearly:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.’

Whether you have had a perfect year, or less-than-so, may you follow a star that leads you to the only “perfect” there is: Christ. Let us bring our gifts, our sorrows, our whole selves, because that is all He asks. May you make room in the inn of your heart in which He may reside forever. And may you know that the destiny at the end of the tracks is in His arms: the Peace that Passes Understanding.  The true JOY of Christmas is knowing that the destiny at the end of the tracks is HEAVEN. The no more crying heaven…The no more darkness heaven…The no more imperfect moments, days or years heaven. But alas, I cannot waste my days on earth – I want others to know!! And hence I write Christmas Update Letters so they will know the reason for my real JOY this Christmas and always!

Blessings to you and your family, Merry Christmas!   

Chris, Terri, Casey, Nate, Christine, and J.R.

2 Cor 4:5-6 For what we preach [should be telling in our Christmas letter] is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord… For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

– THAT is the best Christmas update letter there is!!

“Behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy – for unto you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord!” 

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Don’t Waste It

(Your Cancer, Your Tragedy, Your Problems)

 

The goal of life is not to live long, live healthy, get wealthy and leave all of it to great-great-grandchildren. But isn’t that easy to forget in our busy, goal-oriented lives?

Tragedy close to home

The school buses behind the hearse were a sobering sight. Though the vehicles from Wake Christian Academy said “activity bus,” the funeral was not an “activity” anyone had anticipated. The gravity of the situation stifled the noise on those buses to a Raleigh's Finestsilence they had never known. Even cars unaffected by the buses’ path pulled over in reverence to let the entourage pass. At each stoplight, Raleigh’s finest stood at attention, saluting the grieving students and the hundreds of cars’ drivers in the line that went for miles en route to the cemetery where Madison’s grave awaited.

My son’s classmate, Madison Pearce, did not survive when her car crossed the centerline and hit a truck head-on last Saturday, seven weeks before her seventeenth birthday. Being a small class of 2015 with only seventy-seven students, there was not one who did not know Madison: her smile; her unconditional love; her ability to light up a room. She was the captain of the cheerleaders – whether on the sidelines or just in life. She seemed to personify letting Christ shine.

“Things can change in the blink of an eye,” one of her last Tweets had said. Every student and parent from the school couldn’t agree more…now.

The pastor who spoke at the funeral was Madison’s uncle, Reverend Ben Pearce. He fought the tears just like everyone in the room. I loved what he shared in what must have been the most difficult speech he has ever made, “Don’t let her death be in vain.”

I think in a way, he was saying, “Don’t waste this tragedy.” John Piper had similar sentiments in his sermon, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” which I summarized in the post-script below.

Go ahead and think about what happens when we die, because, we all are dying.

Now is a good time to recognize that we are sinners and deserve Hell, but receiveHope Parkway forgiveness when we ask through Christ alone.

“Mom, it just makes me realize that you never know when you say goodbye if it will be the last time you see someone,” my fourteen-year-old said he learned.

“She is the lucky one; she is in heaven with no more tears, no more pain,” my seventeen-year-old resolved.

As I watched Madison’s parents in the visitation line, I saw them hug each person. They comforted the long line of teenagers whose hearts were broken like their own. “She was so excited to have you singing in Chorale with her again,” the mom comforted when she saw my son. “Oh, I remember your name! You are the ‘smart’ one,” she said to another, repeating words to the teens that Madison must have told her.

The scheduled visitation hours were from 6-8pm, but people stayed – even the grieving family – until well past midnight. They gave as much comfort as they received while the crowd grieved together. Pastor Doug Bookman often says that God does His best work when we are at the end of ourselves. As I saw strength in that family to stand for so many hours: smile, cry, smile, cry and still have something to give to the next person in line, I couldn’t help but see God at work. They were at the “end of themselves” long before the line had even formed.

A friend recently mentioned how wrong it is that people quote, “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle,” because of course He does! He knows we can’t handle it – except through Him. When we cry, “I can’t handle it!” maybe it is just our final battle getting to the “end of ourselves.”

“My tears have fed me day and night; while men have said, ‘Where is your God?’” David wrote in Psalm 42. How real. Tears are real. Grieving is real. It’s what we do with it that could “waste” its purpose.

Bitterness knocks at the door. Answer with trust.

Resentment and anger take their shots. Kick them with praise.

Depression tries to check-in; Tell it that gratitude has already taken that room.

Drugs and alcohol invite to numb the pain; Remind them they only prolong it.

Despair tries to suck us into the black hole, but we can remember what even Madison knew, as her Twitter account quoted a song earlier this year:

“All I know is I’m not home yet, this is not where I belong. Take this world and give me Jesus, this is not where I belong.”

Heaven is not the consolation prize; it’s the destination. Don’t waste the journey.

in love,

Terri

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P.S.  John Piper in his article Don’t Waste Your Cancer, was quoted by a guest pastor, Scott Kellum, at a small church near our lake house. The words were too good not to take notes. The notes were too good not to share. Whether it is cancer, death of a dearly loved one, or another form of storm that hits our lives, the words aptly apply: “Don’t waste it.”

The below list was originally posted as Don’t Waste Your Cancer, but it could be, “Don’t waste your problems,”  “Don’t waste your tragedy,” “Don’t waste your hurt,” or “Don’t waste your today.”

When we truly believe that there’s nothing outside of God’s hands that happens in a believer’s life, this list is incredibly poignant.

Don’t Waste Your Cancer (from John Piper)

  1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.th-1
  2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift. (The blessing comes in what God does for us, with us, and through us.)
  3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your “odds” rather than from your God.
  4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
  5. You will waste your cancer if you think that beating cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ
  6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
  7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepening your loving relationships with others. (Some dig a hole and start pulling in dirt on top of themselves, blocking everyone out.)
  8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope. (Grieving is perfectly legitimate, but not as if we have no victory.)
  9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before. (Today’s the day to make it right with God.)
  10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

Feel free to go back and read that list again, making the substitution of the deepest struggle in your own life, which may not be cancer. “You will waste your…[past hurt] if you…”

Shade in Thorns

Dear Lindsey,

It was spur-of-the-moment for me, but it had been in my daughter Christine’s mind for a week: berry picking.

On my walk one morning last week, I had seen wild blackberries by the side of the road. They weren’t the “normal” small, uncared-for wild berries. These looked as beautiful as the ones sold in grocery stores, although their bushes were clearly in a wild pattern. The berries’ large size was only surpassed by their taste – yum! – a great treat on my walk. I told Christine I would bring her there, and we would bake a pie.

I should know better than to tell a ten-year-old my thoughts without a plan in my calendar for the picking. She begged me daily to go.

We have been blessed with incessant guests at our lakehouse this summer, and I finally realized that I would need to take her even if the guests were present, or we would miss the ripe season altogether.

GG and Pop Pop (my parents) were the chosen participants, and we drove the car to the location, knowing the air conditioning for the 2-mile ride home would be priceless!

I am no stranger to wild blackberry picking. We had hundreds of bushes on our Michigan acreage a few years ago. There, I had dreamed of an invention of bee-keeper type gloves to repel the long, sharp thorns of blackberries, while being dainty enough to pick the soft, sweet berries without damage.

CM & PP pickinWe arrived at the patch bare-handed and began picking with vigor. The bottom of the bowl was covered, and the berries made a different sound when they landed on berries instead of plastic. I could practically taste the pie.

As I tried to reach deeper into the patch, I accidentally slid down the slope, not sure how far it actually was going to take me through the tangled vines. I hoped I wouldn’t land on a snake as I fell! I stopped my fall by sitting on the ground, and thorns pierced my jeans. Oh well, I thought, while I am stopped, I can reach these berries underneath.

Every time I would reach for a berry, it seemed thorns came to life, grabbing my arm more forcefully the further I went into the bush.

I leaned in a little more, and they grabbed my exposed shins under my denim capris.

My dad came down the slope a little behind me, and I reached back to try to catch his fall, but the thorns seemed to notice my movement and make their crown on my head.

“You have a new hair piece!” my dad jested, as I tried to get what felt like an entire bush out of my hair. I looked into the bush and saw hundreds more berries…just a little out of reach from where I sat.

I asked Christine how much was in the bowl, since she stood up the road, still in earshot.  more pickin

“Almost one inch of berries!” she enthusiastically reported.

Less than an inch!

It would take about four inches in the bowl to make a pie.

And the big berries seemed to be already gone. Why did I come!? I don’t have the right clothing for this! This is not worth the effort! A $4 basket of blueberries at the Farmers’ Market sounds better right now, or I could hit the freezer section of the grocery store for an already-made pie!

The worst part is, my thoughts continued, most of these thorn cuts don’t really show up until tomorrow in the shower – when they burn like the dickens! And itch all day!

I looked at my dad, and his four-score-old skin wasn’t handling the thorns either, as blood from his wrist trickled onto his white t-shirt, and wicked in the wetness of his sweat. He continued picking, presumably unaware.

Christine proudly carried the bowl from where she had been working, into our neck of the woods, swiftly sliding down the path, disconnecting the thorns as she said with excitement, “What a great idea! God gave us shade here!”

It wasn’t until that moment that I even noticed that I was no longer in the scorching, North Carolina July sun.

Thank You, God.

Thank You, God for the shade, and thank You for the reminder that in the midst of thorns, there is always something for which to say thank You.

And of course, I thanked Him for my daughter’s bright spirit and ability to bring light (and shade!) onto subjects every day.

 

We made the pie, and enjoyed the making of it. It tasted better than any store-bought berries, or freezer pie could have tasted, because it had the three-generations’ touches for ingredients.  Memories matter. (I suppose the light (or shade) in which we view the memories matters as much as the memories themselves!)

 

May you discipline yourself to notice the shade more than thorns in life.

And of course, enjoy the pie for which you aim!  pie

 

Terri

Matthew 13:7-9: [Jesus said] “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Isaiah 4:6: “And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.”

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