Thursday, July 5, 2018

     It's funny how the same sight and sound can evoke such starkly different emotions. In war-torn countries, the roar of a fighter jet fills people with terror and they instinctively want to run for cover. Conversely, there's hardly a sound in the world that makes my heart swell with pride and comforts me like the familiar roar of a fighter jet. 
     My dad was a fighter pilot and for a few fortunate years we lived close enough to his base that he could surprise us with personal fly overs. We’d hear the roar of his jet and excitedly run out to watch him. He’d fly upside down close enough for us to see his face, he’d twirl straight up into the sky, then come flying straight down, before finally arcing up and away and back to the base. With all those awe inspiring maneuvers it’s no surprise that the sight and sound of a fighter jet fills me with such nostalgia for my dad and an astonishing burst of love for my country.
     Our little boy Brett is severely physically and mentally impaired. He is blind and will never walk or talk. He is completely dependent on us. 
     He was almost four years old the last time I attempted to travel with him. All was good until about a half hour into the flight when he developed a hideous case of diarrhea. It oozed out of his diaper, getting all over us, on his clothes and on my clothes. I struggled to get him into the lavatory to try and clean us up, but even if he’d been able to stand on his own, I wouldn't have been able to do much. We reeked. I felt horrible for the passengers seated around us. 
     I thought it’d be a lovely time to experience a slow decompression. The masks would drop, people could put them around their nose and mouth, breathe normally, know that they are getting oxygen even if the bag does not inflate and best of all…get relief from the pungent stench emanating from us.
     Not knowing what else to do, I held Brett with his poor tummy ache and stared out the window. Telling myself this would surely go down as one of the worst days of my life, I suddenly spotted a fighter jet right below us. It was so close! I watched it until it arced gracefully up, out and away. I thought of my dad and even whispered, "Dad?" 
     Just thinking about how sorry my dad would feel for me opened up the flood gates and tears of self pity streamed down my face. My dad died before he knew anything about Brett. I don't really think my dad can see me—isn’t he now exempt from pain and sorrow? And wouldn't it make him sad to see me? Sad to see his little grandson? 
     Still, the glimpse of that fighter jet flitting through the sky comforted me, made me think that whether my earthly father can see me or not, my Heavenly Father does see me, and He won't let anything overwhelm me. I am in His tender care—always and forever. The pure conviction of God's personal love for me at that moment gave me a rush of joy that's difficult to describe. Sadly, I don't often feel that depth of joy. But the joy was real and it was enough to assure me I wasn't alone. 

     There is no doubt in my mind that God placed that fighter jet in our air space that day. A tangent reminder that He is with me, He loves me and is plenty capable of providing miraculous signs to spur me on in times of despair. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

I once offered Caitlin and Dane ten dollars if they could name the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit. They'd learned a little jingle about them at Bible camp. They sang the jingle. Didn't miss a one. Twenty bucks gone—just like that. 

I never learned the little jingle and still can't rattle them off like they can. Let’s see…”Love, joy, peace patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and…self control." One is escaping me. 

Upon looking it up, I realize it is kindness, possibly signifying it’s the one I lack the most. Maybe I thought goodness and kindness were basically the same. But I think kindness requires action. Kindness is proactive, it looks for ways to ease burdens, to encourage, to defend, to provide.

My Bob has kindness in spades. The first time I witnessed his kind heart was at youth group in junior high, an age where being popular is the end all and be all. An age where kids can be brutal (even "church" kids). Sadly, there's usually at least one kid that's an easy target, and it's usually a witty, popular kid who hits that target. They hit it so perfectly most find it hard not to snicker. It takes a certain amount of courage to step up and defend him. But Bob did and who knows the difference he may have made in that lonely kid's life?

Bob’s eyes are always open to see where a little kindness will make a difference. He’s constantly affirming, giving, calling or praying for those in need.

Seeing people being unkind to others sucks the life right out of us. It’s awful. 

Bob often says how thankful he is that we never have to worry about anyone hurting Brett's feelings. When our kids are hurting, Bob can hardly stand it, so having to watch people make fun of Brett and hurting his feelings would be unbearable…but thankfully, Brett is blissfully unaware.

Thinking of Bob this Father’s Day, I’m especially thankful for his boundless kindness. He’s simply the best! 

Happy Father’s Day!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Today marks six months of my life without my mom. Six months to the day, she left us to join dozens of her beloveds’ in heaven. As much as I miss her, I take comfort knowing she is now happier than she has ever been.  

As sick as she was, she never lost her sense of humor. I can honestly say (even on her worst days) she always found something to laugh about.

No one could lift me out of a slump like she could. I’m doing my best to emulate all the wonderful traits I treasured the most…her eternal optimism, humor, gratitude and selflessness. 

She was a beautiful woman inside and out. She always took care to look her best for my dad, regularly getting herself fixed up before he came home from work. Her desire to look good on the outside is the one thing (and I’m not so certain it’s a good thing) I did inherit from her.

Through some cruel stroke of fate, I wasn't born with curly hair. My parents and siblings all have curls, but much to my mom's dismay, no such luck for me. As soon as I grew enough straight hair to wind around a curler, my mom created curls for me. Though there were nights when I begged to go to bed without my "cur-wers," it was a rare night that Dippity-Do and "cur-wers" weren't part of my bedtime routine. If people got a gander of me after I'd been swimming, they were shocked I didn't really have curly hair (a poser!). I'd overheard my mom tell people I was "just as pretty on the inside."  I didn't feel like I passed muster without curly hair. I wanted to tell their shocked faces that I was still pretty on the inside, even without the curls. Sadly, focusing on being "pretty on the inside" has not been a guiding principle in my life.

The last time I needed to get my passport renewed, knowing I would be looking at it for the next ten years, I made sure I got dolled up for the picture. Despite my efforts to the contrary, my picture was devastating. Good heavens! I looked like I’d aged thirty years! My mom said it was no wonder— I'd been "put through the mill.”  Well, who knew "the mill" could wreak such havoc? To add insult to injury, as I was checking out, an insensitive beast of a man mistook Brett for my grandson. At that point, I wanted to go sit in the car and have myself a good cry.

I am disappointed that looking old and being mistaken for my son's grandmother derailed me like it did.

Even though I think my mom was at least partly responsible for my somewhat unhealthy focus on the outer me, she was fully responsible for the fact that I know Who and What I need to focus on above all else—Jesus. On my lowest days she steered my thoughts to Him, to His promises, to His abounding love and amazing grace. She knew every word to hundreds of hymns and she clung to the Biblical promises packed into all those old songs.  I know I often relied too much on my mom's advice, but the most important decision of my life had to be made by me alone, and I chose Christ...and for that I am eternally grateful.

                                      "Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
                                      Look full in His wonderful face,
                            And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
                                     In the light of His glory and grace."

Thursday, April 26, 2018

I believe the fact that we are born with a sense of how things ought to be is evidence that God exists and that we’re living in a fallen world.

My friend Stacey’s daughter Alisha (like Brett) was born with severe disabilities. Sometimes Alisha giggles for no apparent reason. Often this involuntary giggling occurs at inappropriate times, times when they wish she would remain quiet, like during their meal time prayers.

Stacey tells of a time when her son Caleb was only five years old and became a tad irritated with her giggling during their prayers. When the prayer ended, he asked, "Why did you get her anyway?" (implying she hadn't been one of their better decisions) 

When they told him they’d gotten her before him, he asked exasperatedly, “Well then why doesn’t God just heal her up?" 

Caleb had never known a life without Alisha. It was only as he got a little older that he began to realize how much easier their life would be if God would just "heal her up.” 

I don’t know why God allowed Alisha and Brett to be born with severe disabilities or why He doesn't just “heal them up.” I can only share that I choose to trust in God's Word and His promises, to acknowledge that as far as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than my ways and His thoughts higher than my thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9) 

Of course there have been blessings unveiled in some of the difficulties, but the sharp ache of Brett not being what I think he ought to be never goes away entirely and sometimes it's overwhelming in its intensity. 

The apostle Paul's claim that he was "perplexed but not in despair" (2 Cor. 4) epitomize how I feel about Brett. I take great comfort in the fact that if Paul (of all people!) never got to a state of being un-perplexed, then I can be certain I'll never arrive there—and that's okay— because, like Paul goes on to say, "We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18) 

We can't see the eternal glory that Alisha and Brett are achieving here on earth but we can live "perplexed but not in despair" knowing they will be perfect and whole for all eternity.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

When my cousin Jen and I were little we spent many nights at our grandma's house, getting into all kinds of mischief and laughing ourselves silly. 

We were allowed to play anywhere—as long as we stayed away from the river. But surely Grandma wouldn’t care if we just got close enough to look at it. So look at it we did, and we could hardly believe our eyes when we spotted an old grocery cart halfway submerged in the water. Why it would be just the thing for Grandma! She had a bad knee and when we went grocery shopping she always said how much easier it was to walk with a cart. Why, with her very own cart she'd be able to walk everywhere!

With those thoughts in mind, we scrambled excitedly down the river bank and painstakingly hauled the cart out of the nasty, polluted water. We craftily wheeled it behind the garage and set about getting it spiffed up. After we'd fastidiously gotten all the river muck off of it, we walked down to Northside hardware and used our candy money to buy a can of metallic gold spray paint. 

When it was finally ready to be presented, we led Grandma out by the hand, making her promise to keep her eyes closed. When she opened her eyes we expected a squeal of delight, instead I don't think we'd ever done anything to aggravate her more.

"Where did you girls get that? Why, people will think I stole it! Take it right back where you found it!”

Back to the Rouge River?? Since we weren't supposed to be anywhere near the Rouge River we could hardly tell her we got it out of the river. 

We tried telling her how nice it would be—she’d be able to walk everywhere. She wasn’t seeing the beauty of it, she was just desperate to have it off her property.

I admit there was a certain amount of pleasure giving our bright gold cart a big push and watching it careen down the river bank and splash back into the filthy water. But who could forget the image of the Indian chief paddling through polluted water with a tear running down his cheek? Everyone was supposed to give a hoot and not pollute, but Grandma did say take it back where we found it, so there you go, it had to be done.

Beauty certainly is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? What we saw as a beautiful ticket to freedom, Grandma saw as an ugly contraption that would only serve to label her as a common criminal. 

We are all guilty at times times of caring too much what other people think of us, when all that really matters is what God thinks of us. I used to think my Grandma cared way too much what “the neighbors” would think, but the older I got the more I started caring, too. My dad used to say, “You’d be surprised how little they think of you at all.” I don’t know of anyone who cared less about what mere man thought about him than my dad did.

Ever since my mom left us for her eternal home, I’ve been reminiscing about those who preceded her. I know one day I will be able to laugh with my grandma about this story. I love thinking of her with her perfect glorious body with absolutely no need for a golden grocery cart to lean on. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

I am not a basketball fan (I couldn't name a single Piston's player if a gun was held to my head). But I have to admit, I have gotten into this whole March Madness thing.

A pastor was talking about his brackets, how his four year old son wanted to pick a team, too. His son picked the team he thought had a doggie as a mascot (Loyola), because he liked doggies. Who would ever guess the "doggie's" team would make it to the final four? As much as I like rooting for underdogs, especial one featuring a precious, old nun who's been a faithful fan for decades--"Go, Blue!"

I am a football fan, as frustrating as that is. An apt Lion's joke: Two avid Lion' fans were sent to hell, but they weren't miserable, and the devil wanted to know why.

"We're from Michigan, we like the heat." So the devil made it ten times hotter. They still enjoyed it, so the devil made it freezing cold instead.

When he went to check on the fans they were exuberant...chest bumping and running all over the place. The devil was stunned, "How can you be happy with everything freezing over?"

Their answer? "Hell froze over, which can only mean one thing...the Lions won the Super Bowl!"

I'm a Tiger's fan, too. My son tells me he thinks they'll be the worst team in the MLB this year. Ugh.

All kidding aside, the greatest victory of all time is celebrated on this day, Good Friday. I used to wonder why it's referred to as "good." What could possibly be good about the brutal crucifixion of Jesus?

The goodness is in Jesus' final words, "It is finished." (John 19:30) The three most powerful and freeing words ever spoken. My Bible says the word "finished" is the same as "paid in full."

"For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Last week I had the sweet opportunity to fly to New York and fly back with Caitlin and our new grandson, Brooks.

Of course, being the ditz I am, I messed up right out of the gate. As I eagerly await to get my hands on my grand baby, Caitlin is waiting patiently in line in security. When she finally makes it up to the security guard, she's told Brooks needs his own boarding pass (even though he flies for free). Caitlin is justifiably exasperated. Didn’t she ask me over and over if she needed to have something for Brooks?  Yes, but I never had to have anything for my babies. Didn’t it occur to me that things may have changed a bit after 911?

Anyway, my ignorance causes us to miss our flight. “Oh well, live and learn,” I sigh.

I would venture to guess “live and learn” might be one of the most despised phrases Caitlin hears that come out of my mouth. She’s had a life time of watching me "live and learn" almost everything the hard way. I add another one of my favorites, “Everything happens for a reason, maybe a deathly ill person was on that first flight.”

She concedes it really is no big deal, she's hungry anyway, we can enjoy a leisurely lunch while we wait for the next flight.

Caitlin is very careful to limit Brooks exposure to germs. Everything and everyone needs to be abundantly sanitized. My poor Caitlin. She not only has to endure me not having it all together, she also needs to watch me like a hawk because I doubt there’s a person on the planet who cares less about germs than I do.

Thankfully, Brooks is oblivious to the mayhem and my unmindfulness of our germ filled world. He takes everything in with his big blue eyes, contentedly cooing and smiling, opening his mouth wide open with glee. I can barely take my eyes off of him, I’m completely smitten. I do have to admit, if I keep my face in his for too long, his smile fades, his bottom lip protrudes and he begins to look like he’s never seen anything more horrifying. Of course as soon as his oh, so beloved mama’s face re-appears he reverts back to his cooing, wiggly, happy self again.

Our return flight to New York goes beautifully. Brooks is just as much of an angel on this flight as he was on his first flight. Unfortunately, in the LaGuardia airport bathroom (of all places!), I drop the tent-like thinga-ma-jigger Caitlin uses for nursing. Horrors! I nervously whisk it up like a scarf out of a magician’s hat and try to convince Caitlin it surely qualifies for the five second rule…heavens, it touched the floor less than one second.

I’m in awe of what a wonderful mother Caitlin is, a natural. How in the world could I have produced such a extraordinary person? Probably years of watching my un-togetherness, made her vow to be nothing like me. 

Bob and I have never been more proud of our Caitlin, and couldn’t be more in love with little Brooks. We are so thankful for our sweet visit and are looking forward to many more.