Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Perfect Love Drives Out Fear

I'm already sure that I'm going to regret this post.

One of the things I wanted for 2017 was to get back to blogging.  I enjoy writing and it is, for me, very therapeutic.   I compose blog posts in my head about things that I am experiencing...funeral work, family milestones, circumstances that God has placed me in, my thoughts about things happening in our nation and world...and they stay in my head.  Partly because I have very little time to write, but mostly because I overthink each idea.  Would I violate someone else's privacy by writing about our funeral home life?  Would people think I'm prideful if I write about my daughters and what it's like to be a mom to missionaries?  Does anyone really care what I think about anything?

But here I am, getting ready to engage the world wide web on a topic that I am not entirely qualified to discuss.  It's huge, and I'm just a lawyer-turned-homeschool mom from a rural midwest town, up to my eyeballs in laundry and dishes and life.   And yet even from this vantage point, these issues are impossible to ignore.  It is no secret that Facebook (and probably other social media sites, but Facebook is where I am) has been U-G-L-Y of late.  The angry posts, angry responses, nasty memes, and unfriending have left me disheartened, to say the least.  I have refrained almost entirely from responding to anything political on Facebook, whether I agreed or disagreed, because I believe it is a terrible forum for friends to discuss such personal and tender issues. There is so much lost in tone and expression.   I have friends from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs, and I would never want to wound anyone who read my words but misunderstood my heart. 

This morning changed my mind.  Someone I love shared this article.  Someone who I know loves me, and more importantly loves Jesus.  And I cried.  I cried big, sad tears right in front of my kids before I'd even had my first cup of tea.  So this is my response to that post, and to many, many of the other things I've seen shared on Facebook about the refugee issue.

Before I try to explain what I found so upsetting about this article, let me first say two things.  First, I am NOT addressing immigration/refugee policy, except to say that of course I do not support unrestricted entry en mass of refugees from Syria or any other nation.  The idea is foolishness, and I have not actually heard anyone, even the most liberal of my friends, suggest that we should.  My words are not to express an opinion about what the process of allowing refugees should be, but rather what our hearts towards refugees should be, which leads me to my next caveat...

My words are to Christians, to the Church, to those who identify as disciples of Jesus.  If you stumble across this post and are not a believer, you are welcome to read on but I do not expect that you will agree with or even understand where I am coming from.  Jesus is my North Star, the only card in my deck.  I can only consider the issue of refugees, and all other issues through that lens.  My faith will always inform my politics, never the other way around.  

So the article that was the tipping point for so much of the grief that I've been experiencing the last several days... Here is the author's opening answer to his title's question, "What Does the Bible Really Say About Taking in Syrian Refugees?" 


Not what the left, the media and quite a few Christians would have you think.
It's always problematic when you look to the mainstream media and other left-wingers for an understanding of what Scripture says. To listen to them, you'd think Jesus was concerned with little more than sending checks to the poor, installing solar panels on roofs and surrendering to any and all foreign enemies.
That's why it's been easy for those who only crack a Bible when they're looking for something to justify an agenda to claim that "Christian compassion" demands we take in Syrian refugees without regard for the potential threat of ISIS terrorists who slip in among the crowd.

 This paragraph hit me like a punch in the gut.  I do not look to the mainstream media, nor to the left OR the right wing of politics for any understanding of Scripture.  I do not only crack open my Bible to justify any agenda or opinion I hold.  On the contrary, I read and study Scripture often because I want to live and be what it teaches.  And when I encounter something in Scripture that conflicts with what I feel or believe, God's Word wins.  I bend to the truth of Scripture (so imperfectly, but I try), and God forbid that I ever bend his Word to my truth.  The name calling and polarizing on social media is destructive from any source, but it is particularly unbecoming from Christians.  To be sure, believers can and will disagree on a number of things, and disagree vehemently.  We are but fallible and finite mortals trying to comprehend an infallible and infinite God.  We will all swing and miss sometimes, and there is grace for that.  But we should never, ever resort to snarkiness, belittling, or questioning the sincerity or depth of the faith of those we disagree with.  Jesus followers... please stop being rude to one another.  We are family.  The world is watching and we must do better.

The article continues by citing another author's analysis of Romans 13, and drawing parallels to Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan to support his position that America should not admit Syrian refugees (At least I think that's his position.  It's not totally clear to me).  I understand his points, and while I do not find them persuasive enough to change my mind, I choose to agree to disagree.  Because we can do that and be nice about it.

 This is the part that brought me to tears:

The Syrian refugee situation is a tricky conundrum because there surely are many among the group who have no evil intentions and genuninely[sic] need help. America should want to help. But there are ways to do that without risking our own security. It would make more sense for them to be resettled in majority Muslim countries anyway, and we can do a lot of things to support that process.
But the responsibility of government is to protect its people from harm, and the government is well aware of the fact that previous terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by people who slipped in as refugees or asylum-seekers. Knowing full well that this one of the enemy's tactics, and doing absolutely nothing to prevent them from succeeding at it, is not "Christian compassion." It's a dereliction of duty.
We can help and we should. But not by putting ourselves in jeopardy.

(emphasis mine)

Putting aside the fact that not all of the Syrian refugees are Muslim...if you are a Christian, if you believe that those who are Muslim are lost without Christ and have no hope of eternal life without him, how can you possibly want to send these people back to Muslim nations where they have little to no opportunity to hear the gospel?  The very last command Jesus gave us before he returned to Heaven was to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).  How many of us would ever have the opportunity to share our faith in the Muslim world, and yet the refugee crisis has the potential to bring them to us!  Have we even considered the opportunity this would present to be the hands and feet of Christ to desperate, hurting people who not only need shelter, but salvation? To introduce them to true peace, to the Prince of Peace?  People of faith, we should not be fretting about how to keep them out but how fast can we safely and securely get them here!  And do not tell me that we should take care of our own first, because I am firmly persuaded that God does not care about our political borders.  The parable of the Good Samaritan made that clear.  The world is our neighbor.  They are our own. No "us" and "them," just "us."

As to not putting ourselves in jeopardy...most everything that I read in Scripture teaches the opposite. In Matthew 26:24-26  Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?"  Throughout Scripture, we are instructed to deny ourselves and the things of this life and even our life itself, and set our hearts and minds on things eternal...to care more about advancing the Kingdom of Heaven than advancing the kingdom of self.    Here is one of those times when I have to bend myself to Scripture's truth, because honestly...I love my little kingdom, with my farmhouse, my new car, my garden, my pretty things, my friends and family.  These are all wonderful things, but I cannot love them more than I love Jesus, and I cannot let fear of losing them keep me from obeying his call to love and to serve.  And fear is really at the heart of all of this, isn't it?    
 
I confess that I, too, struggle with that fear.  I can imagine that even with all the security screenings, wicked people could enter our country and cause harm.  In my most fearful moments, I can imagine foreign enemies streaming across our borders and laying waste to our homes and business and schools and everything we have.  I imagine the terror and desperation I would feel if I was unable to protect my children from injury, abuse, kidnapping, starvation and even death and the very thought of it makes me physically sick.

And then I remember that parents in Syria have lived and continue to live that nightmare.  For real.
And I am undone.



Fear keeps us from serving in all kinds of ways.  Many of the copy & paste status updates and memes circulating this week have called out those who are sympathetic to the plight of refugees for not caring about a host of other populations of hurting and needy people, such as homeless persons, veterans, homeless veterans, foster children, orphans, trafficking victim, addicts, etc. This is a logical fallacy.  People can care about and advocate for more than one cause.  And as Christians, we must care about all of them, because God does.  But how many of us allow fear to keep us from serving these people?  Fear that bringing foster kids into our homes will negatively affect our own children, or fear that we'll get attached and our hearts will be broken (it happens).  Fear that being friends with a homeless person or addict will make us vulnerable or put us in uncomfortable positions.  Fear that serving will cost us time and money that we would rather spend on ourselves.  Fear is the enemy of obedience and if we let it, it will paralyze us to the point that we are completely ineffective for God.  But we are promised in 1 John 4:8 that "perfect love drives out fear."  Perfect love...not in our own strength, but with the love of God moving through us.  He will equip us with all we need to reach out to the lost and hurting.  His love will drive out our fears.

Friends, I beg you to look at the refugee situation from a different perspective.  Of course we must be wise, but we must not forget that "the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God's sight." (1 Corinthians 3:19)  and that "the foolishness  of God is wiser than man's wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." (1 Corinthians 1:25)  Imagine what could happen if God's people mobilized on behalf of these people who have lost everything.  I've read many challenges that those who want to help the refugees should volunteer to host a Syrian family.  I generally think it's posed as a rhetorical proposition, but if I were given the opportunity to show hospitality, generosity, love and grace to a refugee family?  Sign me up.





 









Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter thoughts



Lives again our glorious King,
Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting?
Alleluia!
Dying once He all doth save,
Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave?
Alleluia!



Easter is my favorite holiday.  Every year, I am more moved by the sacrifice Jesus made so that I might be reconciled with God.

In our line of work, we deal death.  It is, in fact, our livelihood, which is strange in so many ways.  But because it is what we do, I think about death perhaps more than the average person, and I believe that is why Easter becomes more precious to me every year.  

Death is ugly.  It is wrong.  It is a corruption of our Father's plan for us, and it touches us all.  You don't have to be in the funeral business to know that the sights, smells and sounds of dying and death are hard, and sometimes horrific.  Our culture may in many ways market and glamorize violence and death, but the truth is that when a life ends, it is a humbling and heart breaking experience.  

Part of our job is to take death, clean it up, dress it up and make it seem somehow...less dead.  It's a strange business, and while I totally believe in the value of our services in providing closure for those left behind, we cannot change a thing.  Our best efforts cannot change the reality of the grave that waits for us all.

But Jesus did.

Because of Easter, death is defeated.  Our physical bodies will fail, but we do not need fear the grave.  Every single year when I sing these words, a get a lump in my throat and my eyes well with tears.  My mind fills with images of people I have known and loved,  whose weak and broken bodies have failed them, and I know that the grave cannot hold them any more than it held our Lord. 

Where, O death, is now thy sting?

Happy Easter! 


Sunday, March 9, 2014

When a mom goes to Haiti

I am such a wanna-be blogger.  I love writing, and I often have ideas for things that I want to blog about, but by the time I get through a day of homeschooling, cooking, dishes and laundry, I am barely hanging on long enough to get through bedtime stories.  I may glance at the computer wistfully on my way to bed, but that's about as close as I get.  This glamorous life I lead is exhausting.  And I need my beauty sleep.

But I've been home from Haiti for not quite a week, and my head just won't stop spinning. So I'm hoping that by putting some of the jumble of thoughts here, maybe I can get some clarity.  And stop crying at random times.

First things first:  Katie is doing great.  Better than great.  She's had a rough year in some ways, but she is growing closer to God and closer to her missionary family through the trials.  She is surrounded by incredible people.  It is exciting to see the people of talent and passion that God is gathering into that little corner of Haiti, and to think what that community will look like in ten years because of the people he has called to serve there now.  She is amazing in her classroom.  Her students spoke not a word of English when they began school, and many of them had never held a book or pencil.  Now they know their letters, alphabet sounds, numbers, colors, days, months, seasons...in three languages!   She loves them dearly and they adore her.  There is not a doubt in my mind that she is exactly where God has called her to be.


Just look at her with those sweet faces.  I am one proud Momma!


It's hard to understand Haiti.  Hard to describe it.  I was prepared for most of what I saw: the poverty, the garbage, the crumbling buildings and total lack of infrastructure.  I can't say that I really experienced culture shock.  Still, when you see with your own eyes and smell with your own nose and step over filth with your own feet, it provides a perspective that others' words and photographs just can't give.

But here are a few pictures to give an idea, anyway.








What haunts me most, however, is not the garbage I saw.  It's the people.  The ones I really saw.

Let me try to explain.

It came to me this morning in church. Our sermon text was Mark 10:17-31, the story of the Rich Young Man (and no, this is not a blog post where I announce that we are selling everything and moving to Haiti).  In verse 21, it says that "Jesus looked at him and loved him."  He looked at him.  Really saw him, saw his heart, his hopes, his desires, and loved him.  Certainly Jesus, being God, had the ability to see people in a way that I never could. However, when we are intentional about looking at people, when we make eye contact, when we connect with them and engage them, things change.  For both the seen and the seer. 

Port de Paix is a congested city, with people everywhere in tap taps, riding taxis, standing in the street, walking, sitting on porches, looking out windows.  It is easy to let the faces of the people there blur together. It is tempting to look away from the scenes that are ugly, and sometimes strangely difficult to remember that those women leading donkeys and men pushing wheelbarrows are not just part of the third-world scenery,  but real people living their very real, very hard lives.  Walking down the streets, it is possible to see many people without really seeing any of them.

But there were moments when God opened not just my physical eyes, but my spiritual eyes as well, and I had the humbling experience of really seeing the beautiful Haitian people.  One of those times was a visit to House of Hope, a children's home near Port de Paix.  Some of the children were shy at first, but within a few minutes they were basking in the attention of total strangers.  They had a craving to be noticed, to be acknowledged, to be played with, to be held, to have their picture taken...to be seen.



  
I know all too well that a visit from some Americans will have no impact on these kids' circumstances.  They still live where they live.  There is still not enough of anything for them.   But you can see by the looks on their faces that they rejoiced in our brief attentions, in being seen. 

 If we are the hands and feet of Jesus, aren't we also his eyes?  Isn't he El Roi, the God Who Sees Me?  And how can we be his hands and feet if we haven't first seen with his eyes those he loves and would have us serve?

But as I said, seeing changes the seer, too, and this is one of the reasons why I have been reeling through my first week home.

It is one thing to know there are poor people and another thing entirely to know poor people.  To know their names, to kiss their sweet cheeks and have their fingers braid your hair.  And when you see them with Jesus' eyes, you also love them with his heart.  "Jesus looked at him and loved him."  He loves them and now I do, too.  It's so hard to come back to my comfortable, over-indulged life, knowing the situation of not just these children, but others that I came to know and love during our trip.  

I'm trying to figure out how I live here after I've been there.









Wednesday, April 10, 2013




Yesterday, most of the people in my household sported red Xs on their hands.  And this morning, at least two people woke up with a red X on their cheek. :)

The red X is a visual reminder of one of the ugliest truths about our world today.  27 million people live in slavery.  More than at the time of the Civil War.  More than at any other time in history.  The End It Movement is a coalition of abolitionist groups that are seeking to raise awareness of this shameful truth that most of us would rather ignore.

I would rather ignore it.  Statistics are kind of abstract, and numbers are fuzzy for me, so even though for much of my life I've heard phrases like "slave labor" and "sweatshops" and "human trafficking" thrown around, I never really gave it much thought.  Not much real thought, anyway.  But over the last couple of years, God has continued to confront me with the plight of the poor and powerless all over the globe.  He cares deeply for them...men, women and children made in his image...suffering in bondage and disease and poverty.  And because they are his passion, they should be my passion, too.

It is so hard to think about, and some days, I don't.  I get so wrapped up in my own glamorous life of dishes, laundry, and driving to umpteen different activities that I don't give it a thought.  But more and more often, I do think about it.  And I know I'm not alone.  I have this small circle of friends whom God seems to be calling on the same spiritual journey and we keep encouraging (or daring) one another to read these books, to check out these websites, to learn more and it is getting harder and harder to not think about it.  To not think about who made the clothes my kids are wearing.    To not wonder what little child's hands mined the mica so my eyeshadow can sparkle. To not think about who harvested the coffee beans or cocoa beans (chocolate.  why chocolate?)

I have this sick feeling a lot, and I'm not sure if it's a fire in my belly or a developing ulcer, but I the more I read  and the more I learn about 27 million people enslaved, some right here in the United States, the less I can bring myself to ignore it. And there is so much more.  140 million orphans.  22 thousand children who die every day from hunger and preventable disease.  34 million people with HIV, including 3 million children.

It is overwhelming and I feel helpless.  My sphere of influence is so small:  my family, church friends, homeschool group, a couple hundred friends on facebook, and the three or four people who read this blog.  That's it.  I have no great platform, and I am not at all sure that any of my "audience" wants to hear this, anyway.   But as I was reminded in Bible study last night, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22).  And it says over and over again that we are to help the poor, care for the widow and orphan and seek justice for the oppressed.  

"Nothing happens just because we are aware of modern slavery, but nothing will EVER happen until we are." -Gary Haugen, International Justice Mission President & Founder

Anything I do is a drop in the bucket, but if you've ever put a bucket under a dripping ceiling, you also know that drop by drop, eventually the bucket fills and spills over.  All of our drops in a bucket can make a difference in the lives of real people around the world.

A great place to start is www.slaveryfootprint.org.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Doing Christmas Differently

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas!

We had the best Christmas ever.

Not a "perfect" Christmas: the kids were sick, the cards are late, the house was a mess, the decorations were minimal...but the best Christmas, because this year as a family, we really changed our focus.  Christmas was way more about Jesus than us this year.

We did a couple of  things differently.  We started a new tradition.  A couple of years ago, I heard of a Jesse Tree: an advent activity that uses a different ornament with a corresponding devotion for every day leading up to Christmas. I thought it was a great idea, so last year I found a set of patterns for ornaments and started making them.  This year I finished them!


Our Jesse Tree


Isaiah 11:1-9
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;   from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,    the Spirit of counsel and of might, and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
  He will not judge by  what he sees with his eyes or decide by what he hears with his ears;  but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.  Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.  The cow will feed with the bear,   their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.   The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.  They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord  as the waters cover the sea.


Our Jesse Tree devotions were not perfect.  Some nights we got home too late.  At least one night,  we just plain forgot.  But we doubled up, got back on track, and Christmas morning put Baby Jesus at the top of our tree.  I loved pausing at the end of each day with the kids and remembering what we are really celebrating this time of year.


 One other thing that we did differently this Christmas was our gift giving.  It was eight years ago that we decided to scale back our kids' Christmas gifts.  We were about to have baby #4 (sweet little Eleanor), we were living in a very small house on an even smaller budget and it just seemed like a good time to start reigning in the holiday spending.  We went with the "three gifts" idea--Jesus got three gifts, each of our kids got three gifts.  That year I was afraid the kids would be disappointed, and that I would be disappointed, too.  I love giving presents!  But it was really wonderful.  Knowing that they would only get three things, the kids were much more thoughtful about what they asked for, and shopping was much less stressful for me.  It worked well for us.

This year just felt different, though.  I couldn't really put my finger on it, but I am sure it had something to do with this.  We just moved into this house three months ago, and already we are filling it to the brim.  There is so much of our stuff left in Oakland and Chrisman that I need to sort/toss/donate that it makes my head swim everytime I look at it.  My older girls could not give me even one idea of something they would want.  Not one.  I think the lessons they learned about material possessions in Haiti are still working on them.  Elijah's list would be #1 Legos, #2 Legos and #3 Legos, but if you've visited his bedroom, you know that he probably has a sufficient number of plastic blocks already.  Even the little girls were short on gift wishes, and they already have more toys than they can keep picked up.

It was weighing on me...this idea that we must bring all this stuff into our home that we don't need and maybe don't even really want just because it's December 25.  In addition, although this year we could afford to buy presents more easily than we have been able to in other years, is it the best use of what God has blessed us with?  Do we really best honor the gift of Christ by spending a bunch on money on gifts for ourselves?

So Dan and I talked and prayed about it, and came up with what felt like a radical Christmas idea.  We would cut what we normally spent by two-thirds, give each kid one gift plus a stocking, and use the rest of what would have been our Christmas budget to bless others.  When we presented the idea to the kids, their response was overwhelmingly positive.  I have amazing children.  Don't ever let me tell you differently.


On Christmas morning, our tree looked like this:


So someone else could have this:


We found a lady  through WBGL's Random Acts of Christmas who is raising two grandchildren and two nephews.  We had so much fun shopping for them.  I don't know her name, and she doesn't know ours.  That's okay.  It's not about getting credit.  It's about God getting the glory, and my prayer is that she knew from our gifts that God sees her and that he loves her.

Best. Christmas. Ever.

I almost didn't write this because I am afraid it will come across wrong.  The last thing I want is for anyone to read this and feel like I am showing off or judging how others spend their Christmas.  Far from it.  I would be  dishonest if I didn't admit that as I looked at the little line of presents around the tree, I was a bit let down.  Old habits die hard.  But there is so much to do during this time of year, and many, many years I have found myself stressed out, strung out and freaking out about things that really don't matter.  Doing Christmas differently this year really helped our family keep our focus on Christ. It helped me keep my focus on Christ. If anything about your holiday this year made you uneasy or stressed out, I encourage you to pray that next year, God will lead you to ways that can make Him the center of your family's celebration. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Open Hands




Living life with open hands.


That is what has been on my heart lately.

Three weeks after the yard sale, I am still in awe of how God moved in response to our feeble efforts to obey Him.  And I am still in purge mode.  There wasn't nearly enough time to sort though all the excess in our home before the sale.  Bags of items have left the house this week and last, and there is so much more to sort.  It is frustrating and it is freeing.  I do not want to live a life encumbered by stuff.  I am convinced that God is calling our family to simplify, to trust Him for our needs, to give and share all that He has given us.  To live with our hands and our hearts open wide to Him.

Certainly the concept of living with open hands applies to our material possessions.  I am working through that slowly but surely.  However, as I have contemplated this notion of "open hands," I realize that while it is about material possessions, it's not only about material possessions.  God wants us to offer everything in this life that we cherish to Him with open hands.  That encompasses many things, including the people we love.

So while I'm still picking and poking through all our stuff   (almost ready to give it all away all away at this point)  I feel this gentle nudge, "Will you give me them, too?"

Whoa.

I shared a few days ago that my oldest daughter is preparing to graduate, and about her plans to attend school in Colorado this fall, and her desire to return to Haiti as a missionary.  These decisions were not impulsive;  they are the product of much thought, prayer and discussion.  She has asked me many times what I thought she should do, and it would be dishonest if I didn't admit that at least sometimes I was tempted to encourage her to stay home, stay safe, stay with the familiar--not because I think that is where God wants her, but because that is where I want her. But God has helped me to loosen my fingers, open my hands and let Him have her future.  She belongs to Him, not to me.  And as much as I love her, He loves her ever so much more.

My brother deployed to Afghanistan in April.  This is not his first deployment, but it is always hard to see him go.  When people ask, as they often do, if I worry about him, my answer has been pretty much the same...along the lines of "God is God in Afghanistan, just like He is in America.  Not one of us is promised another day no matter where we are or what we are doing. He is in the palm of God's hand no matter where he is. Nothing can happen to him that doesn't pass through God first. "  A good answer, and I meant it.  For real.  And then something happened to him.  Our family received word that my brother had been injured in an explosion.  By God's grace and mercy, his injuries are such that he should make a full recovery, but in those first moments , my instinct was to clench my hands, and to grasp for control of what I could not possibly control. But almost immediately after that, I sensed God moving me to let go, to trust Him with my brother's future...whatever that might mean.  Because my brother belongs to God, and as much as I love him, God loves him ever so much more.

Yesterday a dear friend posted a status on facebook that made me cry for her and made me cry for me again.  She had to say goodbye to a young woman who has been in her home for two years, who she has loved and cared for like her own, and who is now leaving a a hole in their family and a hole in her heart.  My heart aches for my friend as she watches with hope and concern as this beloved daughter-of-her-heart charts her own course.  And it broke my heart all over again for the one who shared a place in our home and family some years ago, and who still holds a large place in my heart and my prayers.  I remember well the pain when he left, and the fear I felt over his future.  I have cheered his successes, but more often  agonized over destructive choices, grieved over lost relationship and spent far too many days filled with  anxiety and worry, my hands in white-knuckled fists as I desperately wanted to fix, to manipulate, to control...when all the time I am being called to let go.    His time in our family was a gift to us, but he wasn't given to me to keep.  He belongs to his Creator, not to me.  I cannot finish writing his story, only his Creator can, and I must trust that His ending will be so much better than I am able to imagine.  So I open my trembling hands, and give him over to the One who loves him ever so much more than I do.

And, as we serve three families this week who are f saying their final goodbyes in this life to ones they loved so dearly, I am reflecting on those in my life whom I love.  I am grateful for the blessings that they are to me, but I know they are not truly mine.  I want to learn to hold them close to my heart, but with open hands; trusting them to our good and gracious Lord, who loves them ever so much more than I ever could.