Life

This Week’s Task – The Obituary

Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Death, Life, Mother, Obituary, Remembrance | 18 comments

cemetary for blog

 

Overwhelmed, challenged, somewhat paralyzed – all feelings I’m struggling with as I labor to draft my mother’s obituary.

How do you sum up someone’s life in 300 – 500 words or less? The task of being factual and still descriptive seems not only challenging but somewhat unfair to the one who has no voice in the matter.

I pealed through online suggestions. Who knew there were rules and basic etiquette to writing an obituary. Once again, I’m faced with the blaring reality that one day someone will have to do this for me.

The examples were fairly generic. The deceased was usually spoken of favorably. Unless a tragedy or illness was to blame, their passing was described as “peaceful”. Along with a few sentences listing achievements or hobbies, the articles were merely simple anecdotal summaries.

I learned our one final published epitaph is nothing more than a short tidy biographical essay with many missing pieces.

We don’t read about the disappointments, failures or tragedies the person encountered over their lifetime, even though they’re usually the very episodes that shape us into who we are. Don’t you think those facts would be the most interesting to read?

How different an obituary would be if the lists were of our personal scars rather than our accomplishments or snippets of our ordinary days. It seems a shame to scan the peaks and miss the seemingly mundane.

We live in a culture that elevates success, especially after someone is gone. The longer our list of degrees and achievements the more notable we are. And when we’re gone, our failures are usually forgotten or downplayed.

Have you ever imagined writing your own obituary now so someone else doesn’t have to do it for you? In some respects, that’s exactly what we’re doing – every single day.

What a different scenario we’ll encounter when we cross from this life to our next. Not one minute will be missing from the perfect records kept on our behalf.

So what do you want said of you? With this – again, I feel overwhelmed, ill-equipped and paralyzed. I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting my life to matter – to be more than a simple statement lost somewhere in a newspaper or public record.

Today I choose to believe the truth:

The truth about who I am.

I was fearfully crafted and not one minute of my life is hidden from God. Psalm 139

The truth about where I’m going.

I will revisit every minute of my life when I leave this life for the next. Romans 14

The truth about what really matters.

Like Jesus, my scars will be turned into marks of beauty. John 20

 

THIS WEEK’S TASK – believe the truth and write a rich narrative for the story of our life, one we’ll be proud to re-read over and over again.

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Death And Living Responsibly

Posted by on Oct 3, 2014 in Death, Hope, Life, Mother, People | 16 comments

clean field 2

 

 

Responsible people understand the value of preparing for their future. For instance, responsible parents create college funds for their children long before they actually need it. Responsible people also open 401K plans early in their career so they can ease into a comfortable retirement when the time is right. But how many people pride themselves in properly preparing for their death ahead of time.

After all, who wants to think about death before you have to? And Hospice – that’s an organization we don’t need to know about until it’s absolutely necessary.

I find it rather interesting that so much of our planning gets invested in a future that may never unfold the way we envisioned it. College funds might disintegrate into emergency cash instead. Or a sudden lay-off end up depleting an entire retirement account. We have no way of knowing, because the future is unpredictable.

It makes me question – what do we really have control over? How many plans shifts into Plan B through circumstances out of our control.

Truth is – the absolute only thing we know for certain every person will face, is death. No one gets out of here alive. So why doesn’t that fact make us better planners?

Sitting by my mother’s side last week as she labored through her end of life experience left me facing the cold reality of my own certainty of death.

I learned death is a natural process of life and not perverse.

I imagine like birth, every end-of-life experience is different – some are more difficult than others. In my mom’s case, apparently she was text book in the progression process. It reminds me of the two distinct birth experiences I had with our kids. Although their births were different as night and day – both still involved labor and both had predictable components imbedded in the process.

Death isn’t something to fear, it’s something to embrace and spend our lifetime preparing for. From the moment we arrive on the planet we’re moving toward one common goal – our end.

The end is not final. Up until the day our breathing stops and our next destination is reached, whether we know it or not, we’re packing for the trip.

Responsible people consider the destination they’re headed toward. I wouldn’t pack shorts and sandals if I planned to vacation in Antarctica. And speaking of packing – I have a much healthier perspective about the importance of “stuff” after last week.

It’s God’s mercy to spare us a future view of our tomorrows. He’s the life giver and Sovereign ruler over our time – for all time.

A few takeaways from last week:

  • Hold loosely to the things of this world, they’re not worth grappling for or hanging onto. They really don’t go with us and usually become tomorrows trash when we’re gone.
  • Invest in knowing the one who holds your future rather than tirelessly planning for a future that might never materialize.
  • Prioritize relationships above things and heart over agendas.
  • And hug your mom – you never know which day will be her last.

 

photo credit

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Gifts From My Mother – Through Life and Her Death

Posted by on Sep 28, 2014 in Death, Gifts, Humility, Life, Love, Mother | 32 comments

#65 Linking of Moments

 

This past week I had the sacred privilege of sitting with my mother while she slowly and bravely made her trek through the valley of death. Watching her tiny frame prepare for its final breath was a holy invitation to reflect and give thanks.

Her body may have been the instrument offered to deliver me into this world, but our shared experiences – both the good and the bad – were God’s favorite tools to shape us both for the next.

She left me plenty of gifts. Besides a great spaghetti recipe, lessons in sewing and proper table manners – I also received deep spiritual gifts I’m convinced I wouldn’t have found any other way. They were more powerful than sermons or books – and delivered straight from our creator to benefit us both.

Through her, I learned about faith and forgiveness. She taught me grace, mercy, service and humility. Through our journey together, I learned to see Christ in all things and in every face.

She confessed to be an atheist most of her life and worked hard to hide the fearful little girl she really was. And yet God chose her to teach me about forgiveness – how it easily flows to mercy. And how fear really can transform into trust. I learned service isn’t an action – it’s communion.

Our relationship caused me to face my own judgmental and religious self. The bright light of God’s resolute love and limitless grace poured out for both of us continues to melt my pious heart.

She was a good mom, a loyal wife, a talented artist and gifted seamstress. But everyone knows the simple kind of life she lived fades easily and for the most part, will remain unsung.

Even though – I am confident her life never, ever went unnoticed or was considered insignificant. I’m also certain it was joyously celebrated by the grand welcoming committee in her Savior’s Kingdom. She will cry no more.

Tears are for me – for those of us left in this temporal world.

I will miss the journey of faith we shared. And I know I will see her again.

 

A special thanks to Emily Snider Re who generously shares her gift of photography with me. I picked her puzzle picture because life is never how it actually seems. We only see a small piece of the bigger plan at any given time and do best when we trust the complete picture will be as it should be.

 

 

 

 

 

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Falls Imminent Arrival

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Life, Mystery, Rain, Seasons | 22 comments

rain gutter for blog post

 

Confirmation of falls imminent arrival came in the form of a gentle rain last night and lingers still.

A soft damp blanket overlays everything – especially showcasing the transitional colors of our fruit trees. A few remaining figs and apples hang waiting to be picked, while surrounding leaves are beginning to let go. Our parched lawn welcomes the unfamiliar moisture.

Birds play in puddles, oblivious of tomorrow. Their songs are joyous, free and inspirational.

Time seems to stand still in the mystery of this glorious space in time we call fall.  It’s subtle, but intentional –  poised to abandon summer  while steadily marching on toward winter.

I smell the pavement and anticipate change.

Could it be the bulk of my days I call life, are much like today – a short pause between the luscious summer of youth and the grand finale of winter?

I see wonder in the merging of drips pouring off my rooftop. It satisfies, nourishes, cleanses, restores and subtly tempts my desire to linger.

In the stillness of this seasonal doorway I remember tomorrows bidding.  Fall is only a transition between my beginning and my end of seasons. Winter will come and go, but new life await beyond these harsh borders.

 

“Listen, you heavens, and I will speak. Hear the words of my mouth. Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. I will proclaim the name of the Lord and praise the greatness of God!” Deuteronomy 32:1-3

 

 

photo credit

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How Do You Describe God?

Posted by on Sep 5, 2014 in Faith, Life, Our Hope, Truth | 18 comments

elephant collage 2

 

Someone recently asked me how I would describe God. My mind immediately went to the ancient parable of the blind men discovering an elephant for the first time.

With great fascination they each grabbed hold of part of the giant beast in order to better understand it. As one man felt its large ear gently waving to keep pests away, the man described the elephant as a soft leathery fan. Another man held onto the elephant’s tail and deduced an elephant is strong and slender like a snake. The man standing beside one of the elephant’s large legs told the others the elephant was like a tree trunk, tall and stately.

The moral of the story of course, is each one was entirely accurate and completely wrong at the same time. Trying to describe God through my limited knowledge and experiences of him is also based on a very minute view of all that he is.

Whether through my comprehension of the Bible or through personal experiences – my understanding is limited at best.

Some days he is like a fan. I feel movement and breeze when I spend time with him. I sense his involvement and intervention in my life. While other days he seems distant and rigid – stately and hard to grab onto.

And just when I think I’ve got it all figured out, things shift and my firm convictions are challenged by what I read or experience. My hold on the tail of truth whips free and I’m left grasping for a better understanding of the God I love.

He is immense to me like the elephant was to the blind men. He is untamable, no matter how long I’ve known him. He will never be fully understood by my finite mind. And yet, he is approachable and within reach.

When I feel blind I choose to stand firm. I wait for his voice, for his touch. I stand firm on the truth I know.

I know his consistent love. I know he is trustworthy. I know him even though I will never fully understand him until I see his full person, when I am free of mine.

So how would I describe him?

He is large, inexplicably large. He is gentle and strong, stronger than any force known to man. He is ever-present, no matter how distant he seems to be – he’s everywhere. He laughs and cries, he speaks and listens. He’s tender and fierce, gracious and just. He’s approachable, reasonable, multilingual and fair. He does more than love, he is love.

He is creative beyond understanding. He speaks without a voice – and yet speaks with a voice every person is able to hear. He never turns his back on the hurting. He hears, heals and patiently waits. His nature is like nothing we have known – and yet we are created in his likeness. He is simply indescribable.

The pursuit of God can never be exhausted – I am convinced there will always be more to discover about him. The tragedy is feeling satisfied with what we already know or dogmatically declaring we know it all.

I can’t help but make an attempt to describe such mystery and wonder. But please don’t take my word – discover for yourself and never, ever become satisfied with what you find.

 

 photo credit – and acknowledgment the original version is much prettier

 

 

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We Are God’s Masterpiece

Posted by on Aug 29, 2014 in Freedom, Life, Our Hope, Truth, Words | 18 comments

wyatt

 

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

 

What a beautiful scripture this is, encouraging us to know who we are through the eyes of the one who created us. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just need to be reminded of this truth.

Deep within every human being is a longing to be loved and accepted. I need to remember this, because for most of us, this is not a reality we easily claim. Instead we look in the mirror and only see faults or reason for comparison. We allow the wrong voices to define who we are.

In some cases it’s our culture. But other times it’s the very people we love who wrongly define who we are. Hurtful words can deceive us into thinking we are unworthy.

Yet God created us to be people of strength and beauty, each with a divine purpose planned by Him before we were born. God alone has the right to define us.

He is the Creator. He is our designer. And this is what he says about you and me, WE ARE:

 

Created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27)

Fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)

Precious and honored in His sight. (Isaiah 43:4)

Redeemed and forgiven. (Ephesians 1:7)

A new creature in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Holy and blameless before God. (Ephesians 1:4, 1 Corinthians 1:30)

Chosen by God. (1 Peter 2:9)

God’s masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)

Created with purpose to do great works for God’s Kingdom. (Ephesians 2:10)

 

Will you believe these words about yourself today? Are you able to look for that same truth in your fellow man today as well?

We are God’s beloved creation, masterfully designed for his use. How absolutely amazing is that!

 

 

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