His Last Mile

His Last Mile

It was a day that began like all of the others, for my Grandpa. I imagine he turned back the covers, and slowly put his feet to the floor. Without thinking, he put one step in front of the other…. down the short hall to the kitchen. He may have checked on a load of laundry he accidentally left in the dryer. Grandma would never go for that! He had better turn it back on to fluff the clothes again.

Taking a few more steps, he is in the kitchen where so many memories come to mind. He can almost hear the laughter of the grandkids at Christmas as they run through, on their way out the door for some football in the snow. He smiles as he looks at the table and remembers it set for the perfect breakfast.

For some reason, everything seems nostalgic today. Then he looks at the clock and realizes, he had better hurry and get ready. He wants to pick Grandma up at the nursing home a few minutes early today.

You see, today is a bit special because he has been asked to speak at church. He makes sure his notes are in his Bible. A few minutes later, he is out the door, and starting the van. He stops by his favorite donut shop, and says hi to everyone there, and as he leaves, says a prayer under his breath for the man sitting alone at the counter, and for the weary cashier who is learning to be a single mom.

He arrives to pick up my Grandma and she gives him a kiss on the cheek while patting his other cheek and somehow today….it reminds him of the first time she kissed him. She asked him to check the back of her hair, and he fumbles around with the pins and the flower, and puts everything in its place. There, pretty as a picture!

He places his weary hands on the wheelchair, and with one foot in front of the other…he pushes his wife of almost 60 years down the long hall. He says Good Morning to a few people…asks them how they are doing. He smiles at the nurse behind the desk and says “I am going to take Betty out for lunch today, so we’ll be back later this afternoon.” With a quick wave, he rolls my Grandma out the door and onto the waiting lift to put her in the van.

On the way to church, they talk a little bit, but he is already thinking about how he is going to say some of the things that God has put on his heart to talk about. Just a simple life testimony, which is what he has decided to do. But, he wants to make it count. It has to touch someone…that is his prayer.

They turn in to the parking lot, he shuts off the engine and gets Grandma, and begins his walk up the ramp….one foot in front of the other, he prays as he walks…wondering who will be there today that needs to hear his testimony?

The door opens, and his friend of many years is there to welcome them in. He finds his way to their seat, gets settled in and then takes a seat, just to rest and think for a few minutes before church starts. He looks around and his mind wanders. He can recall like it was yesterday…laying the carpet in this beloved church. His eyes look up and he wishes he could maybe pull his banjo out today. So many good time were had, playing his banjo with the worship band.

The church starts to fill up, the service begins. He is soon lost in the words to one of his favorite songs. Today is a good day. He can feel it from somewhere deep inside. After a few more songs, it’s time for him to speak. The Pastor calls his name.

He takes a deep breath, grabs his notes and puts one foot in front of the other…and makes his way to the front. As he rests his hands on the pulpit, it’s like he felt God’s hands resting on his shoulders. He begins to speak, and Oh, does he speak. Gentle, with love, with humor, he tells his story.

About half way through, the Hands he felt on his shoulders, now are taking his own hands, and are leading him one foot in front of the other….. to a place that he has dreamed of for so long. Wasn’t he just singing “Oh, I Want To See Him?”

He wishes he could tell his family and friends goodbye, but then he smiles and remembers…his notes. They will tell everyone goodbye….they will finish his story.

And so….he takes the Hand of His Maker, and puts one foot in front of the other…..he is home.

A week or so later, his pastor read the rest of Grandpas notes at his homecoming service. It was one of my most cherished times in God’s presence. One of my Grandpa’s favorite songs was The Last Mile, and I have often thought of his last mile…and decided to share how I imagine his day went. It makes me realize that every day, every decision, every word, and every step we take should be for the good of others.

We often let the cares, stresses or even busyness of life take over, and we forget just why we are here. It may be to fluff some clothes in a dryer, it may be cooking dinner, it may be saying hello to the clerk at the dry cleaners, it may be punching a clock, it may be dispensing medicine, it may be sending the kids off to school in time.

When your feet hit the floor tomorrow, and you put one foot in front of the other, and are off to your busy day…may you touch the lives of all those whose paths you cross.

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Crossing Oceans

A few weeks ago, after a particularly frustrating day and situation, I ran across this quote.
“There comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who won’t jump puddles for you.”

Immediately I had this momentary desire to post this on Facebook. In perfect passive aggressive vague-booking style. 🙂
Then I hit “discard post”.

I understand and am sympathetic to the meaning behind this quote, but for some reason, I decided not to post it.
A few days later I would begin to see why.

This past Sunday during church I saw my phone light up with a call from my brother.
He was calling to let me know that our childhood friend Mike has suddenly passed away.

I felt like I was hit in the gut.

I still had his text messages on my phone from a few days earlier. This can’t be real. Please God….

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Over the next few days the memories of all the years spun round and round in my head. I re-read our conversations, I hummed the first song I ever remembered him writing, I prayed for his sweet Momma, who I have always called my second Mom, for his Dad, his fiancé Alli, and his brothers who adore and love him like crazy!
Within a day or so, I began to see this huge outpouring of love to Mikes family. I mean huge.

People were calling, texting, opening their homes, traveling, taking off work and school, volunteering, saying “I love you”, and sharing memory after memory via social media, phone calls and texts.

It was during one of my trips down memory lane that I thought to myself…if only Mike could see how loved he is.

Did he even realize how much he influenced people?

Did he know that hearts would physically ache because he wasn’t sitting across the table?

Did he know ears would try their best to remember the last time they heard the strings of his new Martin being played by his hands?

Did he know when we said we were proud of him, we really meant it?

Did he know that we would cross oceans for one more conversation, one more laugh, one more hug?

Did he know that last night there would be standing room only as we said farewell?

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I realized last night that it matters not what someone will do or not do for me. Its true, they may never even jump a puddle.

That’s ok.

I decided I will do my best to always cross the ocean.

It may be an ocean of unforgiveness.

It may be an ocean of pain and regret.

It may be an ocean of low self worth.

It may be an ocean of selfishness.

It may be an ocean of loneliness.

Why will I cross it?

Because of love.

Because of a perfect love that crossed a great divide for me and for you.

Because of love that promises to never fail. Even when we do.

Because of the love I saw last night in a little white country church that sat on top of a hill.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13:7-8

Why I Didn’t Cry

Why I Didn’t Cry

imageToday I saw excited little learners make their way through the school doors. For some it was their first First Day, for others, it was a day to see some old friends in a new classroom.

I noticed refreshed teachers, full of smiles, welcoming the kiddos and ready to hear tales of summer fun!

I couldn’t help but notice the brave faces of some of the Mommas. They were trying so hard not to cry in front of the ones they cherish.

You want them to grow and learn and explore and love life, but a part of you wants to snuggle up on the couch and watch another Shaun the Sheep or go to the park or story time at the library.

I can’t believe 2 of mine started 1st grade and my littlest started kindergarten today. It’s unreal.

I remember as if it were yesterday the exact moment I first saw them, held them, kissed them, and promised to love them forever!

I cried lots of tears last year and always thought I would be even worse when this day came. But I wasn’t.

I thought about this a lot today and realized why, for me, there were no tears today.

Over the last 4 years since Charlie was first diagnosed with a rare cancer, I have learned so much from her.

That first week in the hospital while they were frantically trying to find a diagnosis, they poked and prodded her daily.
I wanted to yell at someone and sit on the floor and cry, but she would give the nurses a smile, even say thank you and then want to play.

I took my cues from her.

The first day of chemo, I was so worried about her port placement surgery and thinking she would be scared. She went right to the nurse and waved to me over her shoulder as they took her to surgery. She was telling me it was ok. I walked to the waiting room, grabbed a coffee and settled in.

I took my cues from her.

There were many many nights after she had drifted off to sleep, I would cry. Not just a few tears, but the ones where your chest hurts. I saw this beautiful girl so full of love and like and kindness and I wanted to take all the pain and struggles from her.
Then she would wake with a big smile, a “good morning Mommy”, and be ready to face the day! I hugged her close and peace settled in.

I took my cues from her.

Over the next 3 years, through countless tests, scans, port access, fevers, hospitalizations, 3 chemos, steroids, distressed liver, blot clot, relapse and shots for a year, this girl shined!

She beat the odds.

She laughed when most would cry.

She beat up cancer. (Her words!) 🙂

Today when Charlie boldly walked into school on her first day of kindergarten, she was beaming from ear to ear.

I insisted on at least walking her to her class.

So…for a day I had long anticipated to be filled with tears and separation anxiety, there could only be a big smile on my face as she waved goodbye over her shoulder and I left her class room.

I walked down the hall thinking…..we made it baby girl. I pulled out my keys, put my sunglasses on and not a tear was shed.

Once again….I took my cues from her.

Change

DSC00780Today, one of my littles walked in the house and I saw it. Her eyes. They spoke words her lips would not form.

I have seen that look before…in a strangers eyes, a new co-workers eyes, and even my own as the mirror dared just a passing glance.

Change. A simple word with so many complexities.

It is often wrapped in beautiful papers, words have been scripted on the finest parchment, and the bow has been meticulously looped and tied with care. But with the precious gift of change there are usually moments, days and for some…. long seasons of wistfulness and reflection.

I called it a gift because of my own frame of reference. I will be the first to proclaim that I do NOT covet change! Quite the contrary. J There is true comfort in using the same coffee cup each day, sitting in the same chair, with the same blanket, and quietly contemplating life, reading the words of the One who loves me and triple checking my calendar. Yet, I have found the gift of change has brought new friendships, strengthened old ones, stretched me out of my comfort zone, and opened unexpected doors.

Back to my little munchkin. You see, we moved to a new house this past week. The kiddos were part of the house hunting process all along and they were so excited and filled with anticipation. The first couple of nights they stayed up way too late. Full of giggles and silliness. They adore their new rooms, love riding bikes in the cul-de-sac and have thoroughly enjoyed playing with some of their classmates and new friends in the neighborhood. We have met many of our neighbors and have felt welcomed.

Yet tonight, she missed the familiar. The back yard gate she knew she could walk through at any time, the little friend who was always ready to play, the boundaries she had been used to, the friend who is like a big sister, the lights and sounds of the house she has known since a toddler.

I saw the look. We talked. We laughed. We hugged. I reassured her that those things were not lost, just different.

She took a deep breath and jumped up to play some more. What teachers these sweet girls are to me.

I sat in the dark quiet of my new living room for a long time after they were all sound asleep. I wondered about all of the many people who, even tonight…. saw the look in a mirror as they walked by. I pray that they know that what they had is not lost. It may be different, but not lost.

I made myself go buy a few coffee cups at a second hand store the other day. The one I happen to be using now has this scripture on it. “The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace”. Romans 15:13

Change. There will be good days and not so good days but God can and WILL fill you with all joy and peace. And one day very soon…the new of today with be the comfort and familiar of yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Beautiful Crimson

Yesterday I found myself at the ER again because I hadn’t been able to eat or drink since Sunday, and I had these 2 pesky bruises around my eyes that was concerning me.
The staff was so kind and said their job that day was to get me feeling better and on my way.

The doctor was one of the nicest I have met in a long time. He interrupted me towards the end of my chief complaint to….get this….validate what I was saying and then took time to explain.

The dehydration I knew about. I needed IV fluids. Like yesterday.
Then he started to explain about the eye bruising. First of all, it’s common with a head injury. He even had a fancy name for it. Whew. I wasn’t leaking brain fluid into my eyelids as I had thought!

He went on to say that some of my symptoms of headache/nausea may last just a few more days or several weeks. Then he said this…which has stuck with me. “Blood inside the vessel is a beautiful thing, but when even a drop gets outside the vessel it becomes an irritant”.

That is so true!!! Except at Calvary. The blood became even more beautiful outside of “the vessel”. It looked at the ugliness of sin, sickness, disease, hatred, evil and then it covered all of that in pure beautiful crimson.

I didn’t deserve it. He gave his life for me because He loved me. You may not feel like you deserve it, but guess what….He loves YOU so much. You may think your life is an ugly mess. He sees beautiful…..
John 3:16

The Beach, the Mountains and His Rest

Yesterday I saw a picture of white sand, the bluest of water and Adirondack chairs that said “Somewhere is an empty beach chair with my name on it”. I instantly saved it to my phone for future daydreaming. Of lounging in the chair that said Rhonda. 🙂

The beach draws me. The scent of ocean, candles, seagrass, sunscreen, and my beloved coffee beckons me to come and rest.
When I take the time to save, plan, pack, and make the journey….it is there that I drop my bags to the wide plank wood floor and exhale.

Your idea of rest may not be a beach. Maybe, like my better half, all you need is an ultralight, fresh streams, a Panther Martin, and the mountains of Colorado.

Every now and then we all need take our weary selves to our happy place. Whether it’s a beach, a bustling city, the mountains, a golf course, camping, Italy or our own back deck……we make it happen. The rest doesn’t just automatically come to us. Bummer.

Why is it then that when our hearts and souls are in need of emotional and spiritual rest, we often expect it to just happen?

We pray for it. Sometimes. And then wait for it to arrive and get frustrated when after 2 or 3 days we are still running ragged, fighting with those closest to us, distracted by life’s cares and wonder why the heavens are seemingly silent.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I don’t know about you but I have been so guilty of only reading the second half of this beautiful passage. I get it that He knows I have heavy burdens that make me weary and He is the rest I need. What I often overlook is the “Come to me” part.

Just like I plan, put it in my calendar and take the time to make the beach journey…..I need to hear His words that beckon. Come to Me.

And do you know what is really awesome? He says “Come to Me….and I WILL.
Not….I might…
If you pray enough….
If I find you deserving…
If you have made good and wise choices this week…
And on and on.

His Word is clear and precise.

I will give you rest.

One of my favorite hymns….

“Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

Yes, I am sure there is a beach chair with my name on it and at some point this year I will curl up in it. But even better, the One who made the sand, filled the sea, makes the sun rise each day…He has my name on His hands.

He is always reaching for me. He is always reaching for you.

My load of cares, worries, disappointments, frustrations, baggage, fears, expectations, busyness, and exhaustion can all be eased off my shoulders.

He only asks….Come to Me.

“See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands….” Isaiah 49:16

Peace on Earth

This has always been my favorite time of the year. It seems that strangers are a little kinder, smiles are a little softer and eyes are a little brighter. At least the eyes of my 3 girly-girls at the thought of the magical!

There is something about the scents of Christmas, the food, the laughter, the games around the table, the lights on the tree, and the music. Oh how I love the music!

One of the most quoted scriptures around this time is Luke 2:14. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Peace on earth. We see that phrase everywhere. It’s on greeting cards, candles, gift bags, home decor and even junk mail. What does that really mean?

Most often we think of “world peace”, but sadly know we are so very far from that. Yet it was declared. Peace on earth.

I woke up today thinking of many who will not start this day with much peace as the world defines it. There will be no dressing festive and grabbing a coffee as you spend the day filling your arms with packages for your loved ones. No, your day will be worlds away from the ideal.

To the Mom who woke up to sounds of beeping and alarms from the machines hooked up to her precious one. You feel as if there is no air in your lungs at times. You wonder about the days to come.

Peace on earth.

To the Dad who spends too much time worrying about how his family will survive financially. You wish you could just wrestle with your kiddos instead of wrestling with the anxiety of the responsibility to just make ends meet.

Peace on earth.

To the one who tries to avoid looking at the empty chair at the dinner table. You are begging God to help you get through the holidays and hope you can smile for the sake of those you love who are still with you.

Peace on earth.

To the couple who has everything. Jobs. House. Cars. Clothes. Decor. Fine dining. Most people envy you….yet last night you fell asleep in tears. Again. You long for completeness. You pray for healing.

Peace on earth.

John 14:27 says….”Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

You see, I think that is what the true miracle if this season is. It’s not the wonderful traditions we all hold dear. It’s not anything we will find wrapped with a pretty ribbon under our tree. It won’t be found tucked in our stocking with care.
It’s the gift of peace. The real kind. Peace that you can’t quite explain. It shows up at the most unexpected times.

It’s at those times we stand a little taller, take a deep breath in, smile at a memory, relax for a few moments, and hear His gentle words again….”My peace I give you.”

It’s then that although circumstance haven’t changed, your heart has. It’s content.

You are not alone, He does hear you, it’s going to be ok.

You know beyond a doubt that there truly is Peace on earth.

 

A Broken Picket Fence

Miracle on 34th street is one of my favorite movies! The best part is when they drive up to the house and there it is…as perfect as little Susan imagined! I would grab a Kleenex and think to myself…..one day. And mine will even have a picket fence in front. 🙂

A few years ago, “one day” happened in our world but it wasn’t at all like I had anticipated.

We had always wanted to foster and adopt. We talked about it way before we ever knew there would be no miniature “us” running around the house. It was a sad day to hear the news but we were truly ok with it. My heart goes out to the many hurting today for the same reason. We were ok, but it still hurt to the core.

For the next several years, as life took over and dreams were filed away like yesterday’s mail, we still knew our “one day” would come.
September of 2008 was when it all got serious. 🙂 I left my profession of 22 years. We took an anniversary trip to the beach. Ahhhhh. My happy place.

We began taking a foster/adoptive classes at DHS each Thursday night for 10 weeks. During those classes, we experienced laughter, fear, empathy, smiles, tears, reassurance and heartbreak.

One of most odd questions on a form asked us to describe how we pictured our family. We assumed it would be one of different ages, likes and dislikes, an array of skin tones and maybe even accents and dialect that was not like our own. The most important thing to us was knowing this was actually going to happen! Our house which had been relatively quiet for 18 years was about to change!

When I expressed concern over how I would be emotionally if and when any of the children left our home, I had a dear friend and mentor tell me this. “Yes, your heart will be shattered into a thousand pieces but just remember its either your heart that gets broken or theirs.” That messed me up. Truly.

It all became a little clearer that day. The day I realized our family unit may never look ideal. We may not have years to pour into someone’s life. Then again, we might. Whether its a lifetime, years, months, days or even just a night, we get to be a safe haven for someone who needs it. I was thankful, humbled and a little nervous for the home the Great Architect was designing for us.

As the months passed by, our picket fence became a little scratched up , there were holes in it, some pieces of wood became wobbly and unsteady. The same latch on the gate we grabbed with enthusiasm to welcome someone with smiles and excitement, was the latch we gripped to hold ourselves up as we watched them leave. We had tears. Our hearts would ache desperately for things to just be different.
We decided early on to love on the kiddos that were placed with us….and not hold them at arms length.

As God would have it, 3 of the little ones placed in our arms needed a forever home. Yes we knew it wouldn’t be easy, but is Love supposed to be easy?

Love says yes when self screams no. Love gives when self needs.
Love stays when self wants to adventure out.
Love is content when self whispers for more

Find the good in a chaotic day. Laugh when you want to explode. Speak peace when surrounded by life’s noise. Cry when you need to….it’s really ok. Our Creator has a bottle full of your tears with your name on it. And He treasures it.

Be free to embrace your reality and see it for the gift it is. All of it. The beauty, the mess, the joys, the mistakes, and even a worn down picket fence that has seen better days…..

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lessons from a 3 Year Old

Sometimes when I am winding down at the end of the day, it is with too many thoughts,mental notes, lists for the next day, cleaning, throwing in an extra load of laundry, picking up toys….you get the picture. Just the end of a day in the life of a mom. 🙂 Tonight was different for me.

I have been sitting here thinking about God’s love for us. For me. For my family. For my girls. For my friends. For sick babies. For lonely people. For widows. For the unwanted. For the shameful. For the grateful.

The past few weeks I have given much thought about the values I want my girls to grow up with. I want them really love people, but in order to do that, they need to know they are genuinely and unconditionally loved by us as their parents, but more importantly realize the love of their Heavenly Father.

That’s a tough order. With 3 toddlers, all 3 and under, all-girl, and all-drama, I can assure you there are many days we are just making it through the day!  I gave my oldest pizza for breakfast last week, I let my middle child watch way to many repeat episodes of Curious George, I spoil our baby girl on a daily basis. I get frustrated and impatient too much it seems.

But there is that old saying….”It takes a village to raise a child”. Today, I witnessed that saying. I have been attending a MOPS group near my house for the past few weeks. Today, we had a wonderful speaker talking about sibling relationships…great stuff! Afterwards, when picking up my kiddos from their respective classes, Dakota (our 3 and half year old) needed to make a trip to the little girls room. I almost didn’t take her…she likes to check out all the bathrooms in public places (mostly the mirrors and soap) so I thought it was just one of her cute little manipulations. I am so glad I took her!

As we walked down the hallway, all of a sudden she got the biggest, most radiant smile I have seen in a long time. She stretched her little arms out as far as she could and at the top of her very strong lungs yelled “GOD LOVES ME!!!! JESUS HUGS ME!!!” She was absolutely giddy. I was absolutely choked up.

Thank you to whoever taught her that. Maybe it wasn’t even said…but it was shown.

As I sat here thinking of how great His love is for us, an old hymn came on…Mercy Me singing…”The Love of God is greater far than tongue or pen could ever tell….”, then another “How Deep the Father’s Love….”   I then thought of several people that had crossed my mind today.

The sweet little girl who lost her battle today with cancer….my friend wrote that she went into the arms of Jesus.
“God loves me. Jesus hugs me.”

A playmate that gets left out and tries so hard to just fit in.
“God loves me. Jesus hugs me.”

A friend who has had way too many losses and hardships recently.
“God loves me. Jesus hugs me.”

The many, many lonely kids who will go to sleep without a kind word or goodnight hug. They are waiting for someone to love them…call them family.
“God loves me. Jesus hugs me.”

Scriptures declare God loves…timeless lyrics have been written that beautifully convey that love, but today I saw it in a squealing, excited, bright-eyed, fiesty little girl who had been hugged by Jesus and wasn’t afraid to let the whole world know it!

I am learning that as a parent that some of lifes greatest lessons are not ones I will teach my children, but ones they will teach me.

Psalm 8:2 From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise…….