Saturday, December 18, 2010

During this moment in my personal history, I have found it incredibly difficult to focus on the Virgin Birth, but rather my focus has been placed on the death of Jesus.

Perhaps my own personal suffering has caused me to look further than the birth, and see the death and how painful it really was. Yes, we've all read the doctor's reports on how physically aunguising the death of Christ on the Cross was, but we neglect the emotional and mental aunguish as its too close to home, to hard, to think about Him as He walked up to Jerusalem, as He was betrayed by a kiss that mean friendship, kinship and love.

Why? Because we've walked through it all this year, Andrew and I. We've had the kiss of greeting turn into betrayel, we've walked up to Jerusalem with Andrew's family, not physically, but metaphysically, knowing that the painful walk would only turn into a more painful end. We have breathed the words, "It is finished." We too, have watched a loved one drink the sour wine and suffer.

And so the words that comfort me come from the book of Isaiah in chapter 53.

3 He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.

Even when others turn their backs on us, He knows how we feel.

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows[a] that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!

When we have troubles caused by other people's sins, we can know He too was acused of the same.

5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.

Pain so that ours could be salved.

6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.

7 He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
8 Unjustly condemned,
he was led away.[b]
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.[c]
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
9 He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave.

Ultimate rejection so that we could be accepted. Paradox of paradoxes.

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.

May our sufferings be as Jesus', and may many come to see His righteousness as we act out His love and Holiness.

If it were not for this, all would have been in vain. May we decrease so He increases this Season of reflection. With His stripes, we have been healed. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Last week we had our monthly English service, and one of our church members, Peter Jones, spoke.

His passage from Luke was when Peter encounters Jesus in realife, by the Lake of Galilee and Peter is pretty discouraged. Jesus says, Throw out the the nets, and Peter says, Man, we didn't even get a minnow last night.

Its not terribly far from how I feel regarding these last two years. In 2008, Andrew and I did a whirlwind travel of the Eastern US, and we didn't see a whole lot of financial results, even though a lot were promised. Instead,we limped back to Spain on a lot of broken promises, and the news of Penny's cancer in her bones this time, not just her breast.

And for a year a half we bumped back and forth from Spain to Atlanta to Atlanta to Spain, with a few brief moments in Chicago, but not as many as I would have liked. If you've read my blogs from last Thanksgiving/Christmas, you saw how I personally wrestled with going back to Atlanta, and not to Chicago or even staying in Granada for a quieter Christmas.

When we finally returned to Granada mid-February, all we wanted was soul rest. Not just phyiscal rest, and yes, we were tired, but soul rest. This winter and spring passed in a long, dull dream. I don't remember much, and Andrew remembers less, but we took it one day at a time, as we still are.

However, we woke up, or so it felt like, after Emma's wedding, or perhaps that's what woke us. We returned to Granada tired, but feeling different in our souls. Our Fourth of July party was the first time we really wanted to actually have people in our home and have a good time. Apparently we had such a good time we made our neighbors jealous!

Again, August was difficult and I realized we needed more soul rest. After vacation, we sprinted up to England and found it. With green pastures both phsyically and metaphorically, we returned to Granada yet a little more renewed.

This fall to put it mildly has still been a massive challenge. There are still days that grief overrides all, and numbness or pain set back in. Yet, there are other days we wake up and say, lets go..and we go. Our emotional resources are limited, yet increasing.

But, I still have this nagging sense of fishing all night, and not really having much to show for it. Penny's victorious passing was not the victory that we as humans think when someone battles cancer. My bank account, although having seen more money this year than in several years, again is empty. My papers, that I"ve worked so hard to get, still are "en tramite" in process. Andrew is still finding his niche, and he's come a massive distance. There are conflicts still in process to be resolved, and reconciliation in certain areas is still really needed.

So, last week I prayed. I pray the same today. I want to see the nets full. I want to know God's holiness again. I want to be overwhlemed by who He is. I want to see God's personal touch. I want Him to come sit in my boat.

Slowly, it's begun. Andrew got his medicine for 6 euros instead of 60. We received work for 2 different intense translations. Another student has signed up to take classes from Andrew. But I still want to see the nets full, not just with my bank account, but in my life. Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Only in Granada.....

Last night, we were coming home from the gym after a long day and a good workout. I had taught 4 hourss of English classes,and then drove in from where I teach to meet Andrew at the gym. He had taken the bus into town, gone to prayer meeting and then joined me.

After lots of swimming and a few minutes in the spa....we walked out the door about 11 (not late for Spain) and were on our way home dreaming of bread and cheese and yogurt and fruit for dinner, when all the sudden BAM, someone hits us from behind as we waited for our turn on the roundabout. We both turned around and SURPRISE! Its a waiter from a local cafe Andrew and I frequent on Sunday mornings.

Fortunately the worst damage was only a broken headlight on his car, and we have scarcely a bump on alls well that ends well. The waiter was grateful and I won't be surprised if the next coffee we have at the cafe is "on the house".

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I can see from my stats that I've got people from all over the world reading this blog. I'd love to hear from you, how you found my blog, and why you read it....Could you comment or send me a note? jambilee at I'd love to hear from you.

Hugs to you all, even though I may not know you.....

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I can see from my status updates on Facebook that many of my friends have been as excited as I am to see the Chilean miners slowly pulled out one by one from their underground existence. I thought I wasn't going to cry the first time I watched one emerge from the Phoneix, until I read the back of his tshirt.

Roughly translated, it says on the front, Thank you Lord, and on the sleeve, Jesus. On the back, it says something like, "Because He holds in His hands, the depths of the earth. And the heights of the mountains are also his.

To HIM be the honor and the glory."

I cried. What a fitting statement, as they are pulled from the lowest depths of the earth known to man, and as they come out of the little capsule dubbed Phoneix, to these beautiful, but harsh mountains that tower over them. No matter where they go, they are in God's hands.

One miner stated how he had seen the Devil and instead, taken God's hand. The commentators over and over kept remarking on their solid attitude, that there was an unshakeable confidence that all is well. The physchologist that I watched last night on CNN kept saying, they shouldn't be this stable.....he couldn't get over the fact that they had something more than they expected.

Isn't this faith? In the midst of WORST case scenarios, God's hand still sustaining us? What a powerful testimony this 33 men have, and I hope that their use their new found celebrity status not just to get stuff, but for His glory. This story has touched all, even Steve Jobs sent them Ipods and Manchester United wants to fly them to come see a game. The world will try and take advantage of them, and wants to capitalize on their new found faith, but I hope the faith keeps shinning so brightly, like it did yesterday as they left the dark and miry pit for life.

I couldn't help but also think, is this what death is like for the believer? This whole life we only see things dimly, grimily, like the miners in the pit. As we strap in and leave this earth, we are greeted by those who love us most, bursting into His Heights and His light. I think we are going to need a lot more than Oakly Sunglasses on that. Thinking on that, it gave me a good dose of hope, one I'd needed. Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Written by a friend.

The ache of sorrow in my breast,
The hurt that gnaws deep at my chest.

I must confess...

I feel like nothing is made right
Oh where, oh where is the light

Here I stand again it seems
Taken back to horrors dreams

O death you wheeled your power free
Yet I look for life found upon the Tree

Still my heart will feel the sting
And miss our loved ones set free to sing

Our lives entwined there too short a duration,
I trust, will one day be rejoined in joyous celebration!

All tears and fears will be washed away,
As we sit together on that happy day.

Yet now as I say my last goodbyes
I must confess...I still feel....

The ache of sorrow in my breast,
The hurt that gnaws deep at my chest.

--- Isaac Ring, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

A lighter hearted post...

Tuesday evening we headed back from the UK to our home in Granada after a few days of wonderful time with friends in the Oxford area. We took the train from Pangbourne to Reading, enjoyed a half hour break with some wonderful enormous coffees and took the hour and half long train to Gatwick airport.

After checking in, and walking through security, we saw our plane was delayed a half hour. I had planned that we would arrive mostly on time and have over and hr to pick up bags etc, and then take a cab to the bus station in the South of Madrid, and then the 5 hr overnight bus ride home. Yes, it was the slow boat to China as my aunt Debbie says, but it was cheap, and that saved us over 150 dollars to do it that way.

Needless to say,we were delayed out of Gatwick and arrived in Madrid at 12:45 in the morning and we had only 45 minutes to get out of the plane, get our two bags, grab a cab and then make the last overnight bus at 1:30 in the morning.

AS we descended from the plane on steps to a waiting bus, Andrew groaned, "We aren't going to make it." I was already on the handy Blackberry chatting with my mum in the States asking her to help me find out exactly when the last bus was and which one of the two major bus stations it left from. I groaned when I realized it was the south bus station, about twice the distance from the Avenida America station closer to the city center.

We grabbed our bags as soon as they came out after having run ahead to go through passport control first. I told Andrew "RUN" and we ran through as fast as we could to the front of the Taxi Cab line. AS we threw bags into the trunk, we breathlessly asked the cabbie at 1:17 if he could get us to the bus station. He in typical Madrileno fashion, said, "No pasa nada, 10 minutes."

He drove so fast we laughed most of the way there from sheer nervousness. I had to pay him with a credit card, so I threw Andrew out and I paid whilst Andrew ran into the bus station to buy the bus tickets. It was a machine and Andrew is horrible at such things, and the security guard was patiently coaching him through it by the time I burst through the stations doors. We bought the tickets, clattered down the steps and RAN across the bus station to clamber aboard the last bus that night to Granada. The driver was having his last cigarette so we had a moment to throw the bags underneath and then madly climb aboard.

For the next half hour we laughed at the impossibility of it all. But to me, it was just proof that God really wanted us home that am, so we could rest and start back up again. Sometimes we want everything to run perfectly in life, no delays, no running madly across half of Madrid to get the bus. But I think sometimes God likes to keep us on the edge of our seats, waiting breathlessly so we don't miss His miracles, small or big. Those were small miracles, but all together they formed a big one to show me, He's in control and I'm not.

Monday, September 13, 2010

This week we wandered to Oxford. Strange you say, why Oxford, England? Simply put, its cooler here, we like it here and finally, but most importantly, some Very Dear Friends live here.

It has been several months since Andrew's mom slipped into the next life, and this long months have been hard, and difficult and painful and poignant in so many ways. There have been tears and laughter, moments of its so hard to talk you choke up, and lots of moments for me personally, sitting in church, in prayer meeting, in worship practice, in church service, where I soaked it all up like a sponge and squeezed it all dry by the time I came back a few minutes later.

Never have I so dreadfully needed my own faith in the Next Life. And so wandering onward to Oxford, we have been with friends, no, really, family, that have reinforced our desire and faith for the next life.

We have needed desperately this step away from Granada, even though we love and miss our church family in that incredible, passion town when we are gone, we needed for our own sakes and their own sakes to step away, to recharge and refresh, so that when we returned, we would be better, healthier and encouraged people again.

Oxford is delightfully green, and surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and lots of farms and villages that feel like you've stepped back into time unless you run across a Bentley or BMW that whizzes past you instead of a horse drawn cart that you somehow fully expected to see.

The city and its awe inspiring spires, its bustling streets and anxious and worried professors and students are soothing to our harried souls. Its warm and comforting coffeeshops, meat pie shops (YES!) and bookshops remind us the world is much, much bigger and scarier and welcoming and rejecting and desperately needy for salt and light. We leave the city wanting more and hoping to return.

And after countless cups of coffee and tea, fruit and vegetables along with wonderful cooked meals...after learning what roasted marrow was, and enjoying it full, and long, rambling walks and some very wonderful and enlightening conversations and processing through the laughter and pain of this last year, we are ready to go back to the dusty, still rather hot streets of Granada, continue onward in the Sacred and Secular, and hope yet again this year as we pray..."May Your Kingdom Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven."

For those of you who find this blog per chance, and wish to know more, write me a comment, and I'll happy return it as soon as I can. I hope this year as I wander, you can wander with me, and see God's Kingdom come to our little corner of the earth.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

We all want "meaning" to our jobs, all the more so when they seem lacking in meaning. I mean, what in the grand scheme of life can a secretary, or receptionist, or sales clerk, or waitress, or whatever you want to fill in the black, can contribute to the grand and glorious tapestry of life?

I've been all of those, secretary, receptionist, sales clerk and waitress. I've been told I can't wear backless shoes because it might hurt me or worse yet, offend a client. I've had trays of food and too many half empty glasses of liquid tumble from my hands. I've answered calls and said, "I'm sorry, Jim...(or Don or whoever) isn't available, would you like his voicemail?" Again and again and again until your toes and brain and knees are numb from your conservative shoes, or stupid clients, or your countless times of traipsing up the stairs in the smoking section of the restaurant.

And I've cursed at the copier, made too many trips to the toilet cuz of too much coffee to try and unnumb the brain, and been so bored filing my nails sounds exciting.

But now, I don't struggle so much with the bordeom with the menial tasks, but I wonder, do my efforts of translation, grammar exercises, pronunciation drills mean anything? Can I get my class as a whole to say Spaghetti instead of ESpaghetti?

A beer commercial says, Experience the Extraordinary. We want to drive the Lambrghini instead of the Ford,go to the Bahamas instead of the beach closest to us, drink imported beer when we can't even afford Coca Cola, wear the Gucci Boots when Target is what is in our closet. We want to experience it to the fullest, and menial jobs don't seem like the highway to happiness.

And we sure as heck don't want to pay our credit cards, write the checks to the electricity company, and deal with a landlord. We want to be a rock on our own island and have a fluffy drink next to our hammock and have it all.

But, we know we can't.

So, when it all goes awry, when the systems don't work they way you were told they were, when you get stung by a bee on the way down the stairs, what do you do?

Last thing on my list today, was my overwhelming desire to praise. Praise God for what? I knew I was supposed to, even in the crap of it all, and so I did it cuz I knew it was right, even though it didn't feel like I should. Why should I praise God for a house with no electricity, for crossed communication, a bee sting on my hand, and no desire to do anything and desire to do everything that couldn't be done.

But I did. And in a good Christian article, my lights would come back on in my house ASAP. my bills would be paid by some anonymous donor, and everything would be good.

Didn't happen. But I remembered that even though life is hard, and evil things happen, God is still good, and God. A friend prayed for me, others were happy to see me, and small victories were won in relationships that have been difficult in the past. And somehow, I heard a voice singing, and it was mine, and it said, He is Exalted, and I'm not, and that's good.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I have a friend that speaks several languages, one heavily accented by the other so that you are sure he's not an American, and I've known him forever.

He used to come back to the US armed with a massive map of the tiny town where they live, and would show it to all of us and say, "Please pray for my city." And when Andrew and I wandered to see his part of the world, he took us to the top of the hill overlooking his town and said, "Let's pray".

I secretly thought he was nuts.

But there's something about what he does, that sticks in your mind and as we crested the hill today, and suddenly Granada was spread out underneath us like a large blanket covering the valley, I thought, "Let's pray."

All through our few days away, I unplugged from life as best as possible. I read books watching movies read blogs and all like a drowning woman gasping for her last breath. We had some friends come visit and we watched movies, and swam together and ate fish and shrimp and tiny octopuses by the seaside.

And then, as I drove him, my heart beat faster till the moment we crested the hill, and it stopped as I saw it all over again. At the very place where the Moorish King Boabdil wept in 1492 over the loss of the city and its renowned palace, the Alhambra, my breath was again taken away.

And before I even enter my tiny flat that Andrew and I call home sweet home, we are informed that the power was cut due to the fact that I didn't pay an electricity bill. Welcome home to a place so beautiful it takes your brother a way, to a place in the world so overwhelmed by the kingdom of darkness your light and life get snuffed out if you don't take care of it, and a place where we long to see God's Kingdom established.

So, find a map, spread it out, pray for this city. Pray for us to be salt and light. Pray for peace. Pray for patience, as the kingdom of God grows like a tree and expands like yeast in bread. Pray for His light to be turned on and be shone brightly in this town. May He become God of this city...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This continues in the theme of important events throughout the last four years. This is in no way in chronological order, but this is just another event that God used in both Andrew and my lives.

Two and a half years ago, Andrew and I had been officially voted in by the church to work with the youth, alongside the pastor's wife Esther. One of the young ladies, a doctorate student in the university of Granada, suggested that we attend a youth conference called ContraCorriente, which means, Against the flow.

Founded by Pastor Mark Jobe, an American who grew us as a Spanish MK, this youth conference is a sort of mini Urbana or Passion conference, directed at Spanish youth. 2 years ago it was held in a town called Priego de Cordoba, about 2 hours away from Granada in the middle of rolling hills covered in millions of olive trees.

We had speakers, music, concerts, workshops and more. We camped that weekend, and our tent and cooking spot because the hang out spot for not only the 5 youth we brought to the conference, but to other people that became new friends. Andrew seems to always attract missionary kids, they love to find him and pour out their hearts. He did a lot of informal counseling that weekend.

But, I get ahead of myself. There were a number of speakers, and Mark Jobe spoke on healing and letting Jesus heal you. I had been dealing with a lot of grief and pain from my grandmothers death and the stamp she had had on my life. As he spoke and then prayed, I felt the Lord working in my heart. I ended sitting on the floor for a long time (no chairs in the venue) and just praying for healing. I believe a lot happened there for me.

And for Andrew, there was a speaker that was an American, raised in the UK, that now has his own band. The band was incredible, and even though they didn't speak or sing any Spanish, the power of God was evident in the band, and also in his sermon.

He spoke simply on being salt and light, and told us how he had been able to be salt and light. He and his band are willing to go into bars and pubs into the darkest corners of the UK, and sing about Jesus in striking and honest way. His sermon was powerful and Andrew said, "I want to be the salt and light as I share the gospel. I want to be the salt, that disappears and brings out the God flavor in others." These statements from Trey's sermon both struck us, and as the last two years have unfolded, we've endeavored to do so in every aspect of live that has been thrown at us.

And the five youth, what happened to them? They were so encouraged by the fact that over 500 youth from around Spain had gathered together. To you, that sounds like a small number, but to us here in Spain, this is huge. Guille, the pastors son, got so excited seeing the different creative events, that he started a step group. This is a specific type of dance that uses body percussion, stamping, clapping and other elements. This group is called Paso a Paso, and they have now perfomed numerous times in Granada and other places, all to bring glory to God. The reactions they receive when they street perform are amazing, they always have a crowd, and afterwards they pause and give glory to God.

This is just the beginning of the results we've seen from one little conference.We were greatly encouraged as were the youth, and our faith grew so much, that we lost our shame in the Gospel. Pray for us as now, we share the gospel wherever we go, that we will be like Light, shining through the darkness and like Salt, disappearing and bringing out the God flavor in others.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In a day and era when fundamentalism is wrong and tolerance is good, Its strange to be who I am.

I live in a different country because of who I am and what I believe. I believe God is love and showed us His love in wrapping His Son in space and time. He came, He saw and He sacrificed, so that we could be united together. I live where I live so I can be evidence of God's love, by loving others as much as He loved me. Its a tough act to follow...this taking up the cross of love and walking through the streets every day.

Its tough because I have to adapt as fully as I can to a culture that's alien to my own. So, how do I be "100 percent" or as close to it as I can in this culture, but still not be "100 percent" because if I was, that would mean adapting to the sins of this place too.

In this place, you use shame and embarrassment as tools to manipulate other people. How do I show Christ's love without falling into their traps?

In this place, family is so important that nothing else matters when the family needs you. How do I show God's love when I live 6000 miles away from my family?

In this place, tolerance and godlessness are the religion. Everything goes, nothing really matters as long as you fit into society. How do I fit into society, loving as Christ loved? He loved the woman at the well, the gentile women with the ill daughter, the centurion with great faith, the woman with the issue of blood? He loved Saul so much to see him become Paul, he loved Cornelius so much to send dreams from heaven, He loved the Enunch on the road so much to transport Phillip to share the do I follow Him and love them?

Finally, in this place, the Christians have bunkered down for a long time...they are afraid to share their victorious faith that they know. They desperately long for their family and friends to understand the victory and freedom they have experienced in their hearts, but they often lack the courage to live it openly, for fear of shame and embarrassment. The only places they feel "free" to be 100 percent themselves is on Sunday morning in church and Wednesday night in prayer meeting. The other however many hours of the week, its easier for them to live with the light under the bushel because when they let it shine, the rhinos try to come and stamp it out. How do I shine my light and encourage the believers to do the same?

After seven years, I have more questions than answers. This summer, I seek answers. May I come to know Him more deeply, and see Him more clearly, so that He is the Answer. I've seen methods fail, missionaries get discouraged and go home, the darkness is thick here. I watched others wash out, others get physically ill, others crumble and move away to lighter places. My cry this summer is, show us the Answer. Give us the faith to stay on, and the courage to say no to all the temptations to leave.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I called my dad tonight, just to hear his voice for a minute. He was at work, curing cancer. It helps me know that he's still there, even though the phone call got dropped as I heard him talking geeky cancer zapping talk with a co worker.

He's a mad scientist, a geek, someone who wears pocket protectors and a lab jacket to work with his name embroidered into the lapel, but he's a wonderful geek, my Dad.

He's got a ton of sayings, very quotable, not all of the appropiate, but the longer I live I know the days are longer in the summer cuz its hotter, and I've applied that logic to say, that's why the gas goes up in price, the euro/dollar exchange gets worse, and the food prices go up, cause things expand when they get hot, and since its summer, of course all those things would happen.

Somehow Dad and Mom managed to raise us all with massive love and compassion, no matter how much we got spanked, we knew it hurt Dad so much more than it hurt us.

I was with my friend April tonight, wishing she could have seen us as we crammed into the bathroom on a hot night cuz the tile and bathtub was cooler than the house, and it was a private place for us to chill out and talk. Her boyfriend came in and was like, "what are you two doing in here?" and it was nice to lay in the tub and talk to April while she trimmed her toenails. Somehow it brought back some memories I'd forgotten about.

I miss my fam here. I miss the fact that we can't all cram into the smallest room on the smallest bed and drink coffee late and talk about life, love, and happiness. I miss them so much I even did the "mom" voice to April so she could hear what we sound like when we imitate mom.

I miss you guys. I have missed you for some time. I'm here, sitting in the tub, wishing we could talk. Send me some emails, texts, or whatever. My email goes to my phone now, yah, I've got a Blackberry, so I can keep up better. Write on my wall on Facebook, send me a smoke signal, post some pics, so at least we can know where we are at. Love you and btw, the bathroom is a cool place to hang out.
Oye, hijo mío, el silencio.
Es un silencio ondulado,
un silencio,
donde resbalan valles y ecos
y que inclinan las frentes
hacia el suelo.

Listen, my son, the silence.
Is a silence that comes in waves,
a silence,
where it slips across the valleys, and echoes,
and makes all fall fall facedown to the floor.

F. Garcia Lorca,
My Translation
La elipse de un grito,
va de monte
a monte.

Desde los olivos,
será un arco iris negro
sobre la noche azul.


Como un arco de viola,
el grito ha hecho vibrar
largas cuerdas del viento.


(Las gentes de las cuevas
asoman sus velones)


The Ellipse of Scream goes from mountain to mountain.

From the olive trees, its like a black rainbow against the blue night.


Like a viola bow, the scream vibrates the long strings of the wind.


The cave people look out their windows...AHHHHHHHHHHH

Friday, July 30, 2010

Returning to Creativity.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I know that I've not written on this for a long time, and that I've had a couple of friends ask for a new post.

I've geuninely tried. I've done a lot of thinking, washing dishes, taking a shower, swimming laps at the pool (why does all my thinking have to be associated with water?) and I've yet to come up with some words that when pulled together tie up the last six months of feeling, thinking, crying, praying, or not being able to pray, as grief has taken a toll on my husband and his family, and on me as well.

Grief is a journey, most of the time you in which you keep asking yourself the question, "Are we there yet?" or better yet like the Spanish kids ask.."How much is left?"

I think that's an interesting question, "How much is left..." because its not really asking have we finished the journey, but how much more do we have to go. And that's what its felt like...

There are moments, where that's all we've been able to feel. Can we get to the other side of pain? and how much is left until we get there?

It's really easy to get swallowed up in grief, and we've let ourselves have our moments where we gently close the door, and not answer the phone, and cry for a little while, or just feel, or just talk, or just be quiet. Our schedule has been lighter this last several months, and its permitted us a morning or an afternoon or an evening once or twice or even three times a week where we've just "been".

It is easy to feel guilty about "being"but we've had some wonderful friends that have counseled about the need of being, of sitting at Jesus' feet like Mary, and just breathing, absorbing, and feeling. Sometimes we've not even been able to pray out loud, or form prayers even in our brains, but He knows, He listens, and gently has held us under the shadow of His wings.

On the physical side, we have returned to regular exercise and its been a massive help. We've eaten better, healthier, more protein, more often. This helps. And slowly, over the last month, we've wanted to do those "normal" things that bring us immense joy. We threw a loud, happy, joyous, fourth of July party that was like a small piece of heaven on earth. It was so fun, our own neighbors were jealous, and we now have energy to think about throwing another party, this time to show more love to this little funny neighborhood in Granada that we call home.

Slowly, slowly, into new life. Not all who wander about find it in the phyiscal realm. But, we are not lost.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

This is from Henri Nouwen's The Road to Daybreak: When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How do you condense a whole month into a few words? Especially a month as I've just had with so many details that swim about in your head, it makes it dizzy just to wake up in the morning?

The other side of pain, a new body, that's what Penny Leonhard has experienced this month, and I wish I could sit down and have a cup of tea with her, so that she could tell me what its like. What is it like to have no more pain and suffering, no more tears and joyful reunions with loved ones? What is it like to be removed from time and space, and see Him seated with us? What is it like to look into His eyes and understand it was ALL worth it?

But, this lifetime is characterized by the wait, and if you ever feel that sense of "are we there yet?" its because that's what part of our lifetime entails. My friends David and Kate Sunday are going through a time of waiting, as they waited first to see what Kate was sick with, then what type of cancer she had, and finally, they wait to see if the chemo and surgery will actually work.

In one of their blogs, David put an excerpt from a book that talked about waiting, and what we look forward too, but often too how we so weary in waiting.

As we returned to Atlanta after only 15 days of being back in Spain for New years, we realized that we would have to wait. Mom was very sick and was very different than when we saw her at Christmas. She was limited at Christmas, in pain, but could control her pa with the methadone and morphine. She was still able to go to Walmart, shopping and lunch with the girls and Andrew, enjoy Christmas Eve service with the entire fam and had a wonderful time on Christmas morning as we opened presents together.

But when we returned after only 15 days of absence, she was significantly worse. She could just recognize us, and say Hello. Her vocabulary consisted of things that "Thank you" "Excuse me" and most importantly to us "I love you".

She did perk up for a couple of days, and during that time had a wonderful conversation with Andrew. It was their last.

Her last week she slowly slipped away from us, physically and mentally. One of the last things she said to me in her bedside was as I took her hand, "Oh, that feels so warm." It was really hard to let go of her hand, and I walked away crying.

The last day, we all knew it was her last. I went into her room, and even though in Spanish, I sang her the simple song that says...

Who can separate us from the Love of God?

Nor life nor death, nor the highest or lowest places, nor the angels or demons, or any other thing, can separate us from God's love!

I don't know if she heard me. I hope she did.

That evening, as I kissed her goodnight, it felt as if she was already gone. I hugged Dad with tears. We went to bed.

4 hours later, Dad woke us with a knock on the door saying, "Mama is with Jesus." And like that, she left us.

I walked into her room. Her body was there, covered to her face. I didn't wear my glasses. All I could think was, "A new body." I said the words out loud and left. It was finished.

The nurse came,and confirmed it. The funeral home took her away. During those three hours of waiting for the funeral home, we sat together, clutched each other and cried and laughed. Christy and I declared we needed big breakfasts, and I went to buy eggs and bacon, while she made Mom's coffee cake.

After two days of details, funeral home arrangements, and hundreds of phone calls,we were ready for the wave of visitors. My parents, Christy's parents, the Rings, and hundreds more came to hold us up. The three families, Soens, Linds, and Rings, became a tripod of support. They have all known loss. They knew that we needed hugs and tears, food and time away from certain moments. They took care of us right then and there. Others continue when they left, and will continue.

The viewings were incredible. We had over 300 people come to visit. Thank you for your love.

The day before Penny passed away, her kids finished a book of memory and tribute with photos, essays and mementos of love. As Ken pressed "send" we were informed it would take 10 days. Ken still paid for 2 day shipping, and on the day of the viewing, it arrived. We were so thrilled. Before Penny passed, we showed her a rough draft. She loved it.

The funeral was brilliant. It was a moment where heaven touched earth and with tears and moments of majesty, we felt God's glory. As the choir sang, Bill stood in a moment of honor, and we scrambled to our feet to join him. There will be moments in heaven where we cannot lift our faces, and others where we stand in honor of Him. This funeral, we lifted our faces and stood to honor Him. A memory to treasure always. Through our tears, we still saw Light, and it helps us carry on.

At the graveside, no one of the family could speak. I'd been thinking about that for a long time, and I felt I could so I did. I didn't do it for me, I did it for them. I talked about how Penny's eulogy wasn't important, because it lived in her children. Andy carries her hugs of love, Ken her list making abilities, Mike her smarts, and the girls her huge amount of love she poured into everyone. I thanked everyone for their love and help and support. We sang, This world is not my Home. Andrew's baritone rang out to lead us. It was right and good.

I get ahead of myself. As we slowly made our way to the graveside, we had over 30 cars in a wonderful procession. Two motorcycle cops stopped traffic in all directions and most cars on the other side of the road stopped in respect. It was amazing to us and encouraging that so many people without even knowing us stopped for a moment of honor. Ceremony is important and it helps us begin healing, and this moment shines in our memories.

We returned to the church for a hot lunch. We sat at a table, my parents and my brother Tim, Andrew, Mike and Isaac. Tim told a joke, and we laughed. We knew that things were just beginning again and it was good.

We had closed the service by singing, Great is Thy Faithfulness. When we returned for church the next morning, the orchestra started with a prelude, and of course, it was Great is Thy Faithfulness.

And so, I end for now. This has been part of my process. I've not written all the details, some are just for us. But I close with this.

So many details were perfect. The verse I clung to this last year was a promise for us, and He completed it. Isaiah 57: 1-2 say

1 The righteous perish,
and no one ponders it in his heart;
devout men are taken away,
and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
to be spared from evil.

2 Those who walk uprightly
enter into peace;
they find rest as they lie in death.

Thank God for the peace we all have, even in our valley of tears, He has taken those tears and is changing them now into springs of joy.

Friday, January 01, 2010

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love.”

Washington Irving

2009, a year of tears. I've been looking for a title for a while, and I think I finally came up with it.

Andrew and I have both faced a lot of grief. Grief over situations like a friend's divorce. Grief over betrayal, deceit and sad situations. And finally, grief of watching Andrew's mother slowly fade away.

As the New Year rang in last night, I sat at a table with some of my dearest friends and family here in Granada. Together, we all felt the heaviness of the last year, and breathed a few prayers of hope for the New Year.

Some of my hope came back when one friend blessed the city of Granada, and asked God to continue to bring His blessing. You could feel again, what I have felt often this year, the spiritual tension, the spiritual battle for Granada.

Tomorrow Granada as a city celebrates the Taking of Granada, or the moment when the Catholic kings took back the city from the Moors. But now, with all the political tensions of this century, the city council is trying to soften the blow, and not make it seem like a celebration of Christianity but remembering the past when three religions came and lived together in Granada.

The tears I have wept this year over personal and ministry situations have been far more than I ever want to admit. But my tears are for grief and love. I have grieved over situations in my family and in Andrew's family. I have wept over Granada. But in the same moment, I love my family. I love Andrew's family and I love this incredible city.

May we see this year, and others to come, as years of blessing. May our tears be turned into Springs of Joy. May they be unspeakable messengers of His love.