There is something profound about being the only one left in one's biological family of origin. Some years I think about it more than others, but this past week I have very aware that nine years ago my brother and I spent our last day together. It was August 5,2005 - two months and 27 days before he would get LOST in the Montana Mountains and die of hypothermia before they found him. And when I visit his family in Montana, he is not there where he is supposed to be. Instead, his hat hangs on the wall. A good friend suggested I was more aware of it now that both of my parents are gone. And my pondering led me to be more acutely aware that while I am surrounded by my own family now and many nurturing friendships, no one alive knows me "when . . . ." Rayna Vaught Godfrey, PhD, a licensed psychologist says: "...there is a part of ourselves missing after the death of a sibling. Such a death leaves a seemingly unfillable hole, both within us and within our families. This is magnified for those who lose their ONLY SIBLING and no longer have someone who shares their histories who can reminisce with them and can validate their family narratives." Last night someone asked me how I felt about that. I said mostly sad. And glad I had a lovely last day with my brother. And it seems important to honor this truth by sharing it here. And inviting you to remember it with me by reading about the last day I spent with my brother, Gordon Eugene Longenecker. CLICK HERE Linking with Barbie Swihart and The Weekend Brew. Lisha Epperson and Give Me Grace Community
“Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10 Sometimes what my soul needs is to sit quietly. Absorbing the sounds of rippling water, I have no agenda no prayer requests. I have been eyeing this quiet nook a couple times a week, all summer long. Often I have considered how I might get back in there and just sit and be quiet. Today I can't resist and from my spot at the foot of the tree, I find what I am looking for. Joining today with Barbie Swihart and "The Weekend Brew" Lisha Epperson and "Give Me Grace" Kelly Woodford and "Unforced Rhythms"
Of our three grown children and their families, two of them live within a ½ hour of our home. And one of them has lived all their married life in Philadelphia andnow they are moving to the Portland, Oregon area with their 4 boys. Recently I wrote a prayer to God in my journal. (A lot of time my journaling is simply “praying at the point of a pen” as my mentor/Spiritual director/friend, Shirley always says.) Lord, My mind has been racing double-time even here as I relax on my blanket by the lake surrounded by the sweet fragrance of clover. Todd and his family are moving across the country in a few days And it’s hard And I support them As they follow your heart for them. Some of my friends think it’s just going west instead of east. "Not that much further" they say. Well, as a matter of fact, it's a LOT further. Clackamas, a SE suburb of Portland is 4 times as far! And every day is closer to the time I must stand at the airport and wave goodbye to them Lord, you know the passion I have for our family to stay connected, how I see my grandchildren as my ministry. a priority in the remaining years you give me. But right now I am floating above the emotion of it all, the reality of what this means. I won’t see them 4-5 times a year anymore They will only come once a year, not twice. And floating makes it easier to manage for now but reality will hit. And I need a sense of your presence as I navigate this change. And so I remain here on the blanket, by the lake. And the breeze blows. And there it is again… The sweet fragrance of clover. Considered a weed in the home owners yard, welcomed at the park it becomes a symbol of God sweet presence in the middle of all the changes. And I pick a bouquet of clover. It sits on my window sill all week so I don’t forget. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Today: I drop them off at the airport I stop at the lake and pick more clover on the way home. Now…… The John Deere tractor is here And they are not. And the rocking chair is empty And the house is loudly silent. And clover sits on my window sill again, so I remember. Linking with Lisha Epperson and "Give Me Grace." Lisha is one of the regular Blogs I read. Follow this link and take a look Unforced Rhythms, a new community I have discovered and can relate to.
There it was,
right in front of me.
in the waning daylight
and brilliant yellow lilies
And all I could think of were the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:28 & 29
the lilies of the field,
how they grow:
they neither toil
yet I tell you,
in all his glory
was not arrayed
like one of these.”
I am reminded once again.
Even in uncertain times,
when what seems like Plan A doesn’t work
through no fault of my own
and still has a plan.
And so I wait
following his leading.
I will . . . ..
Wait for the LORD;
Psalm 27:1 – Be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD
From my chair a good 50 yards away I see it – a bright red spot in the middle of the mess of algae along the shore of the lake.
They tell me they don’t put chemicals in the lake anymore, so while the fish are coming back and the lake is actually healthier in many ways, the algae is taking over. A team of college students from Concordia College are here during the summer, pulling out the algae and hauling it away – looks like this end needs a little attention again. Walking closer I see it is a bright red fishing floaty thing -- with apologies to my fishing friends who would know what this is! There it was, a spot of color, even beauty in the middle of the mess. It reminds me of how God shows up in the middle of my messes. When all that I can see is ugly, Grace appears.
One of my dear friends gave me the book, Grace Happens Here by Max Lucado, in which he calls grace unexpected and undeserved I created the above image to help me focus on the truth of GRACE and remind me to watch for it. Maybe GRACE is always unexpected. Lest I start to think I deserve it.
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Proverbs 20:7 (The Message) God-loyal people, living honest lives make it much easier for their children.
Today is the first Father’s day without my dad. I knew this day would come and used to wonder how I'd every survive. The grace in this loss is that I had him for a long time. He was not taken from me early and I am grateful. I remember finding this photo some years ago and thought what a handsome man he was – downright cute. No wonder my mother lost her heart to him! It’s one of my very favorite. Here is is teaching at a Bible camp along the shore of Blue Lake, Alabama. In the early 90’s I was challenged to “bless” my parents while they were living instead of waiting until they were gone and then read something at a funeral service when they could not hear me. Here is the blessing I wrote for my father. From your integrity, I learned to trust you and others. Many are reaching their potential because you believe in them and I am too, because you believe in me. Special treatment from others surprises you. You don’t take advantage of your success and position. That’s why it is so much fun doing things for you. Even when I was a child, you always knew when something was bothering me and took the time to ask. That’s how I have learned to be sensitive of others. You have taught me to enjoy life wherever I am Dixie, Alabama nestled in he beautiful pine forests of South Alabama exploring the back roads of Illinois the Big Sky, the wide open spaces and mountains of Montana the waterfront in Racine, Wisconsin(Ever the optimist, you were positive if we just waited, the weather would clear and the Air Show would begin. The most exciting thing that happened that day was the Coast Guard helicopter that flew by.) Lake Michigan, the crowded streets and the city lights of downtown Chicago You always found places to enjoy, people to meet and fun things to do. You have taught me to laugh I love how you tell a good joke as you laugh hilariously about it. These gifts and many more you have given to me. I love you and thank you for the part you have played in making me the wife, mother, grandmother and friend I am today. In remembering you on this Father’s Day, I am acutely aware of the truth of this paraphrase of Proverbs 20:7 (The Message) God-loyal people, living honest lives make it much easier for their children. Dad, in another week, your “east coast family people” as you called them when you prayed) will remember and celebrate you in another memorial service in Marietta Pennsylvania at Community Bible Church, your “home church.” You’d probably be amazed at all the attention and wonder what all the fuss was about! linking this weekend with: Lisha Epperson and GiveMeGrace Barbie Swihart and The Weekend Brew Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story
Losing an elderly parent "when it's time" . . . It’s a strange unpredictable mix of feelings It's hard to file these feelings into folders marked Grief Gladness Relief Sadness It's more like the "curious blend" I referenced here on this blog a couple of weeks ago the day after my dad died. Confusing at best, it became more confusing when people with loving intent began to tell me how I was going to feel. It seemed like they knew. After talking about this with my counselor, he gave me invaluable advice, saying, “Carol, you get to have this day's experience." I remind myself of this as I move slowly through my days taking time to be, feeling the feelings, refusing to judge them. So on mornings when all I know is it feels good to eat breakfast together on the patio again, or when I sit in the swing in the evening and the tears come freely, I remind myself, "I get to have this day's experience." And then I think about how God is not only GOOD he also DELIGHTS in me. Zephaniah 3:17 Your GOD is present among you, a strong Warrior there to save you. Happy to have you back, he’ll calm you with his love and delight you with his songs. And I am comforted. Oh and the next time I am with one who is grieving the loss of an elderly parent, I think I'll say something like "You'll probably feel a lot of things. Just know, you get to have this day's experience. Every.Day." Linking with Lisha Epperson The Weekend Brew
This morning the reading from Psalms was this passage from Psalm 19 and I remembered the displays of God's greatness I have seen at my lake. And I share them here with Lishsa Epperson and the "Give Me Grace" Community. Psalm 19:1-4 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech;
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. God's way of speaking, burrows into my heart and into my soul always, but especially in these days
Generation after generation
This we will do.
It is up to us now to tell of God’s mighty acts.
LORD, You have given us a rich heritage
Psalm 61:5b Thou hast given us the heritage of those who fear the Lord. Today my dad is in heaven. After being ill just one day, he is gone. He loved his God and he loved preaching. In short - He Loved.The.Ministry. Several years ago he told me: “I have never quite gotten over it that God called me to the ministry.” That he would get to preach God's love and grace and mentor others to love his God was a wonder he never quite understood. But how grateful he was for what he called “the privilege.” Today I remember a writer I discovered a few years and and one of his poems, entitled "I Teeter on the Brink of Endings." The closing lines put into words how this grateful daughter feels today, as one of the recipients of that heritage - and as she transitions from this intense season of caregiving. In silence, Lord, I feel now the curious blend of grief and gladness in me over the endings that the ticking and whirling of things brings; and I listen for your leading to help me faithfully move on through the fear of my time of letting go so the timeless may take hold of me. from Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder. Linking today with Barbie Swihart and the Weekend Brew Lisha Epperson, Give me Grace Community (formerly the Sunday Community)