Monday, October 21, 2013

A New Season

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens... Ecclesiastes 3:1

With the arrival of Fall my family and I find ourselves faced with another challenge: stepping into a new season without our beloved Jay. Something as simple as a gray day, or walking past a store window with a Thanksgiving display, can set off an unexpected reminder that were moving forward without him by our side, and it hurts. Moving in and out of seasons represents another form of saying goodbye--and yet seasons have their purpose.

About five years ago we officially started a family tradition of going to Oak Glen to kick off the arrival of Fall. Every year it was the same routine; we'd start with a picnic followed by a hike, and end up at Riley's Farm for pie, pumpkin fudge, a walk through the petting zoo and other activities they had going on at the time. It was the kind of family event that we'd talk about all year long, and it was something we all felt very committed to. Every year just seemed to get better, and better. As the kids grew older, these traditions became increasingly important to Jay and I because we knew they would be getting busy with their 'adult' lives, but the Oak Glen trip was sacred ground. No matter what, everyone made sure they wouldn't miss this day. It had become special to all of us. It was an anchor that kept us close despite our busy and growing lives. 

One of our most memorable trips to Oak Glen was two years ago in 2011. Although we had many, this one truly was special. It started out like any of our other trips with the first stop being the old schoolhouse for our traditional picnic which was always the same--sub sandwiches, salads, chips, and cokes--and then we'd head out for our hike to Los Rios ranch to walk it all off. This year after our picnic, my parents decided to drive to Los Rios Ranch with their friends Larry and Sue instead of doing the hike...but not us. That would break tradition!  Besides, we so looked forward to that beautiful hike every year so we went our separate ways and decided we'd meet up with them on the other side. This turned out to be a beautifully orchestrated gift from the Lord because anymore it was very rare that just the six of us would all be together at once. There we were--our family core on this beautiful hike, and it felt so good. At one point Jay and I lingered back watching the kids walk and goof off, and we both just smiled at each other. We didn't have to say a word, we knew what each other was thinking. 

As we got to the other side of our hike ending up at Los Rios Ranch we couldn't find my parents.The protocol would typically be to head back to our car and drive over to Riley's Farm- assuming they'd be going there as well- so we could all have our traditional apple pie dessert, but we were all so famished after our hike that we couldn't wait and decided to break tradition (gasp!) and eat at Los Rios Ranch instead. We headed into the store to get our pie, and if I remember correctly they were out of pie (gasp again!). We ended up getting an apple crisp instead. Again, it didn't matter much since we were all so famished, and the next thing I knew we were all sitting under the shade of a tree, each with a fork in hand, and we went at it. No plates, just the apple crisp, us, and six forks! That crisp was gone within minutes as we attacked it using our forks as weapons to ward off other forks from coming into our apple crisp territory. Turns out breaking traditions can be very rewarding. 

After resting a bit we needed to hike back to our cars so we could finish out the day at Riley's Farm before it got too late. Along the hike there was this beautiful tree that was fallen over and it was a perfect setting for a family picture. Jay had been learning how to use the self timer on his camera phone and he wanted to try it out so that we could all be in it so we waited patiently -not really- while he figured it out. Eventually he got it to work, and we were able to capture the day and it's meaning, in one shot. It was one of those moments you can't plan because they're not ours to plan--they're gifts from God. There we were, a whole family. That's the power of redemption! That's the power of a very real and loving God. 

When Jay got home that day he posted our new family picture on his Facebook wall and he wrote one word--"Wow..."

When Jay passed away this past July our dear friend John messaged me and asked if we'd be home because he wanted to bring something by. I responded to him that I was in San Antonio and that I wouldn't be back until the next day, but that my son Ryan would be there. John said that would be fine; he just wanted to drop something off.

The next day my daughter Danielle and I arrived home late and were exhausted from a very long day of travel. My son Ryan was still awake going through all of the many photos that we needed to sort through to have ready for the day of Jay's funeral. Everyone was so busy with their own assignments and there seemed to be no relief in sight. Then Ryan reminded me that John came by and dropped something off. He lead me to the refrigerator and can you imagine what was inside? Apple crisp from Oak Glen! John knew nothing about our apple crisp story; he said he just felt like bringing it over, but what a precious gift he brought us! He was used by God to remind us that our Lord intimately knows us and cares about the details of our needs, and the details of our lives. That apple crisp was a beautiful detail, of a beautiful memory, of a beautiful day. 

Seasons have their purpose and I'm grateful for that one. I don't want a Fall without Jay, but I will step into my new season trusting God with the details of my life--every time I do, He gives me a "wow..." 

God is good... 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Reckless State of Mind

I'm a pretty conservative person. I like to play it safe for the most part, but when Jay passed away, I felt this strange recklessness inside.  Typically I'm afraid to fly but when we had to go to San Antonio Texas to be with Jay and bring him home, I had no fear at all about getting on the plane. Even though I had some of my family with me, I figured that if anything went wrong--and the plane went down--we'd all just be getting a ticket to paradise. I wasn't the only one feeling this way. My son Ryan told me he was feeling pretty reckless as well. He said he felt like he could make himself a cape and head out to fight crime (he's a Batman fan). The point is that we were experiencing the reality that our lives come to an end and that there's nothing we can do about it. We were experiencing a confidence we had in our afterlife that stemmed from a certainty we had about where Jay was.

The Heavens are real. Our God has made us a home and nothing on this earth can affect that truth. Philippians 1:21 says it all: Paul says, "To me to live is Christ, to die is gain". Me and my son Ryan were feeling a recklessness because of  God's promises and developing a better understanding of His eternal plan. Heck, somebody sew me a cape!!

Being in this "reckless" state of mind had me feeling pretty good. I went from playing it safe to throwing caution to the wind--and I liked it! For years I had talked about getting a tattoo and now that I was in this new mindset, the time felt right. My kids had heard me talk about it for years. So much so, that everyone was pretty much convinced that it was an empty threat kind of thing. Jay wasn't always supportive of my idea to get a tattoo but over time, he liked the idea and, in fact, wanted to give me one on my birthday. The truth is that I was all talk, that is until now. I never knew what I wanted or where I would place it, but finally I had all that figured out and It was time! My son set the appointment and I waited anxiously to go. I was pretty...whats the word? Amped!

When we arrived at the tattoo shop, I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face. Under normal circumstances walking into a place like this would have been intimidating to me, but now I was fearless. There was this chair I was to sit in and it was pretty cool looking; I'm not gonna lie, I was feeling pretty tough. I showed the guy my design, he worked with it a bit, and then it was time. I barred down as he took to my wrist and starting doing his work with his tools. Before I knew it, it was over. The whole process took less than 15 minutes and afterwards I was on a major high. I was so excited! As I went to bed that night it stung a bit and I thought about how Jay would be reacting to my new tattoo. I could see that smile he would make when he was tickled inside. Kind of a smirkey, crooked, grin. I felt good. I fell asleep with the same kind of smirkey, crooked, grin just thinking about it, and thinking about him. 

When I woke up the next morning the first thing I felt was the stinging on my wrist from my bold and reckless act the night before. Slowly I rose my arm up and as my tattoo came into sight I literally could hear the silent scream in my head-"I have a tattoo!!" Panic soon set in as thoughts raced through my mind. "Oh my gosh, I'm going to have this on me for the rest of my life!" "What will this look like when I'm 80?!" "It's too loopy!" I sprung up from my bed and was immediately pacing. Yes, I could still see Jay with that smirky grin--only now It was more of an, "I told you so" kind of grin. Within minutes I was downstairs googling tattoo removal. I even called a place to get price quotes. So much for feeling tough! So much for feeling fearless!

Eventually I calmed down and I'm happy to say that I have now come to adore my tattoo. I mean really, I kind of don't have a choice, but it has grown on me. It's special because it has such a precious meaning to me and it's a reminder to me that I'm a fighter. A fighter for what matters--a fighter for faith.

Jesus told a doubting Thomas "because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed". My husband and I used to tell our children that faith is believing with your heart what you can't see with your eyes.  A more adult explanation of faith is this: "Faith is not a certainty based on physical perception, but is trust grounded in insight into the reality of God, what God is capable of doing... Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."Arland J Hultgren  

We are called to walk by faith, not by sight [2 Corinthians 5:7]. It's not easy. Forces work against the believer to make them quit and lose hope, to tire and give up. But never give up! God promises to guide us on this journey as He reveals His truths with each step that we take. It's a continual and infinite work until the day we go home and is only possible by-- believing with your heart what you can't see with your eyes. If you believe with the faith of a child, you'll find the strength of a warrior inside. 

"God thank you for your holy spirit that guides us, teaches us, strengthens us, equips us, and does in us what we can't do for ourselves. Help us, your children, to rise up and be the warriors you want us to be". Amen

God is good...