The times, they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan had this phrase right. Change happens all around us and in us all the time. In our world and in our circles of people, things just don’t stay the same. It is already the month of May. Perhaps you are graduating soon or have kids leaving the nest. You may have several transitions going on in your life. Maybe you are moving, finding a new job, or even getting a new pet. You may be experiencing happy changes or excruciating losses. But certainly, the times, they are a-changin’.

A few months ago, for reasons I don’t really know, I decided to write Wyndham a letter telling him things that have happened since he left this earth. It felt healing. I began by sharing something more light-hearted, but as I began recounting the changes my mouth nearly dropped open, realizing just how much has happened. The letter was long and personal, so am only including some excerpts:

Babe,

So much has happened since you left here. I miss you and think about you every day. I mainly feel deep gratitude because of the kind of man, husband, dad, and papa you were…and I got to be part of it and you as your best friend. Those last few years were so hard I know…traumatic in so many ways. But we did it with the help of God. You stayed grateful, courageous, cheerful, and faithful and amazed me with that. You were quite something and you still speak though you are gone. Now you are free and with God. I’m happy for you and so inspired by your life and death. But oh, how I miss you.

When change happens, even little things…happy and sad things….you are the one I want to tell. You are the one I want to decompress with. Pray with. Laugh with. Sometimes it takes my breath away to realize I can’t do this even though I’m happy for you. There has been a lot of crazy since you left. Go figure. So many transitions.

Very soon after…Tom Brady left the Patriots. I know you would be interested in that. He won a super bowl for Tampa Bay. The Pats and Red Sox stunk the next season, so you didn’t miss much there. They both got better though. He recently retired and unretired. Drama.

And, of all things, we had a global pandemic. For two years!! It was crazy. We couldn’t travel and had to meet virtually for church for nearly two years. Life shut down. Schools didn’t meet and people worked from home. Across the world, we were isolated. We wore masks everywhere until just a few weeks ago, over two years later. You probably have met a number of people who succumbed to Covid.

Your whole family loves you so deeply it can’t be expressed properly. Emma graduated, and began the Northeastern honors college of nursing. She wants to be a nurse practitioner and is currently studying in London. Lexi just got baptized, which was so exciting, and two others are studying the Bible. You would be so proud of all your grandchildren and of our kids..Oh, and I should tell you that Kevin and Melissa are now serving as lead evangelist and women’s ministry leader for the Boston church. So many changes. I’m sorry to tell you that your sister Jane died last February, and Aunt Emma passed a couple months ago. I feel sure you know these things, but it helps me to say them to you. Oh, and sadly, recently Russia invaded Ukraine and it’s ugly and so sad. We had some meaningful times there. Shawn updates in a prayer time every day.

Kind of a big personal change is that I retired. It was a hard decision but the right one. Oh, and I sold our house and moved to Connecticut near Kristen. Real estate has gone crazy. Kristen was my realtor. She’s a good one, no surprise there. The house I found is perfect for me. Amazingly, the house has a studio apartment in the back where Jacob lives. His was a hard transition, but he is doing ok. You would love it here across from the river. I get to walk along the Connecticut River daily with Denver, which he loves. The boats remind me of you. I know this was a good move for me. God has been good to me. I just started a small real estate rental business. Didn’t really plan on that, but the opportunity came. Crazy, I know. 

Also, I graduated before I retired. I felt your smile. I’m now working hard on my doctorate and loving it, as you know. You’ll also be happy to know that “Paul’s Window” got published. Since then, I had the opportunity to do some virtual teaching in several states and countries and was able to spread some of your ashes in Europe while teaching in person. Your encouragement stays with me. I wrote a book about wisdom I learned from you called “Wednesdays with Wyndham.”  I love the cover with you and Denver on the boat. Next was a book on caregiving. I guess life experience lessons are good to share.

I’m doing okay, as I told you I would, but I miss you every day. A lot. It makes me look forward even more to eternity. I don’t know what it will look like for us, but I know it will be special. I would love to feel your hugs and I so want you to know always how much I love you. You gave me the most amazing 45 years. Whenever I am tempted to feel really sad, I remember the incredible blessing you are in my life. I try to make you proud of me, but I know I don’t need to because you love me for me. I realize more than ever our team of equals was quite something special. Thanks for the way you made me feel so loved and respected. I’m trying to reflect Jesus as brightly as I know how…and also your legacy. I wish I could know what you are doing now. If you are resting or fellowshipping and what it is like to live outside the body. Are there fish there?  It’s another dimension I will never grasp here. I know one day this will be, in your words, a mere blip on the screen. Until then. I love you forever.

The times, they are a-changin’. Certainly, all kinds of changes are often difficult, but I believe there are many things to consider to help us navigate them well. Some of these things I have learned the hard way, but most have been through the urgings and workings of God. For a while, I have been taking notes on the topic of transitions, studying scriptures, and reading books in preparation for writing this book. I now offer it with the prayer that it will minister to and encourage you.

The book has seven chapters. The introduction and chapters include: God Is in the Transitions; Transition and Identity; Mourning Transition; Walking Through Candyland; Preparing for Transition; Raise Your Ebenezer: Marking Transitions; Transitions that Overflow; Courage for the Next Steps; Conclusion; and Appendix: Who God Says We Are.

Each chapter is followed by a different person’s transition story— men and women who share their inspiring stories of finding God in transitions. Though their circumstances and ages vary, they all navigate their challenging transitions with honesty and faith. This book would not be the same without their valuable contributions. Thank you Hannah DeSouza, Angela Christoffel, Adam Birr, Judy McCreary, Chris Condon, Alexandra Ghoman, Erika Walton Sitzberger, Amber Effner, and Pam George.

After each chapter, I also include questions and practices for further reflection and application.

I’m including below the back cover copy, along with a few very kind blurbs from early readers. The book can now be pre-ordered. Thank you for all the encouragement you have shown me with my writing. It means a great deal to me and helps me keep going.

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In What Now, God? Finding God in Transitions” Jeanie Shaw digs deep into our hearts and lives using biblical, personal, and contemporary examples while offering wisdom and practical advice for navigating transitions of all kinds. Exploring identity, core values, and transitional habits, she offers insights into both grieving and celebrating change. While vulnerably sharing her transition journeys, she leads us straight to the heart of God, reminding us that we are not alone. After each chapter, voices of men and women, both young and older, share ways they found God in uncertain, transitional times.

Wow, everyone please read this book. As a therapist, I am always looking for books that could be helpful for those I support. What I found was that I needed to read these pages myself. And what an inspiring read it was. Transitions can bring many hardships, hence the diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder is in the diagnostic manual. Jeanie has provided a scripture-filled, Holy Spirit-directed, practical hand up to navigate these kinds of challenging times. And she made me laugh! –Dr. Jennifer Konzen, therapist, author, researcher, professor

Jeanie does a phenomenal job of helping the reader understand that transitions are not only normal and inevitable, but also offer amazing opportunities to receive God’s love, comfort, and support. Grief is often the overlooked component of our spiritual formation, but Jeanie outlines the very intimate way that God can use our pain from transitions to form and mature us, if we are willing. By revealing the Holy Spirit’s invitation to deeper connection, this book most certainly helped me to look at transitions from a fresh perspective and embrace even the most painful transitions in life.—Curtis Reed, Oviedo, FL, Grief Recovery and Transition Coach

In this book, Jeanie has beautifully put into words what all of us have thought, felt, and experienced. She does an outstanding job of showing us how to not just let life happen to us, but instead to let life and its transitions make us into the men and women God wants us to become. This book encourages, instructs, inspires, and comforts. Thank you, Jeanie! —Geri Laing, author of A Life Worth Living, Raising Awesome Kids, and Friends and Lovers

In this wonderful book, Jeanie has invited us into her living room and shared her heart, mind, and soul with us. In doing so, she gifts us with the wisdom that comes only through experiencing heights of joy and depths of sorrow while living in the hands of our ineffable God. Her journey through transitions and the lessons she shares with the reader are life-giving.—Robert Correa, Los Angeles, CA, MDiv

An insightful and excellent writer, Jeanie invites us to walk with her through all kinds of transitions as she points us to the identity we can know in Christ when transitions tempt us to question those identities. I was encouraged, comforted, and challenged…but most of all grateful for the practical suggestions offered to help us prepare for and navigate through transitions. I’m better for having read this book.—Guillermo Adame, San Diego, CA, Financial consultant, elder, former missionary

https://www.ipibooks.com/products/what-now-god-finding-god-in-transitions

 

A Blessing Sandwich

Do you remember God’s first recorded words to humankind? After their creation, Gen 1:28 records, “God blessed them and said to them….”

God’s first communication to His beloved was a blessing. Remember that.

Luke 24:36-53 remains one of my favorite accounts of Jesus. I try to put myself in the scene as two disciples, having just walked and talked with the crucified and resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus, now return from this transforming walk—hearts still burning within. They hurry to their friends, exuberant to let them know that Jesus is indeed, quite alive. During this conversation, Jesus slips in to join the crew in an almost comical conversation. I envision the disciples’ mouths open but speechless…looking at each other thinking what’s happening here? Jesus remains reassuring, vulnerable, and real…Guys…what do I have to do to show you it’s me? Go ahead…touch me…put your hands on my pierced hands and feet…and by the way, what’s in the fridge? It’s been a while since I’ve eaten. I’m really hungry.

The disciples, still flabbergasted, broil a fish and hand it to Jesus who, over said-broiled- fish recounts the entire God-story that Luke manages to record in four impactful verses. Tears fill my eyes as I envision the food and friendship-fed Jesus walking with His friends toward memory-filled Bethany. I can see the love in his eyes and hear the kindness in his voice as He turns to His friends, lifts His hands, looks into their eyes, and blesses them. While He is still blessing them, He ascends, returning home. The disciples’ mouths are again open but speechless. What is happening?

From the beginning to the end…God blesses.

So what were His last words?

His last words were a blessing.

We live in a blessing sandwich. Blessed from beginning to end.

Today is my 68th birthday, and on my birthdays, I take time to recount the contents of my life’s sandwich, held together from beginning to end with God’s blessings. God’s heart to bless feels profound, comforting, and strengthening because the pain of the fallen world also falls between and among the blessings. Ingredients of our “blessing sandwiches” include the joys of sharing broiled fish and friendship as well as touching each other’s scars and brokenness.

Even though my heart overflows with gratitude for God’s lovingkindness, I still wish I could celebrate the day with Wyndham. I feel deep pain for some dear friends who grieve. I feel the loss of my beloved Aunt Emma yesterday. (We spent our very first Christmas with her, and she showed us love again and again.)  I wish I could have spent my birthday morning as planned with Kristen, but a rough case of Covid altered all her plans. I daily remember friends in Kyiv, whose homes I have been blessed to share while I was there, and who currently experience profound loss and trauma.

I can be tempted to put down my blessing sandwich amid such pain and even wonder if I should taste the blessings. It’s a strange contrast of emotions, but I know blessing is God’s intent even through pain. His only desire is our good and He offers blessing upon blessing. Even though sin and the world try to spoil the sandwich, I must continue to taste my blessing sandwich and pack extras to share. God has blessed me more than I could dare ask or imagine. The beauty of His creation, His precious promises, and His sacrifice are always before me as are my family and friendships, including you…blessing upon blessing.

In a few moments, I will put away my computer, get in the car and drive to Boston to witness a great miracle as my third grandchild confesses Jesus as Lord and is baptized.  I could wish for no greater birthday gift.  I live in a blessing sandwich, which God has prepared for each of us. Join me in sharing a piled-so-high-can’t-get-your-mouth-around-it blessing sandwich. 26 Dagwood Sandwiches ideas | dagwood sandwich, sandwiches, wrap sandwiches

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Eph 1:3)

 

Dear Tom Brady, you hurt my feelings. Love, a grandmother

Dear Tom Brady,

You hurt my feelings.

I enjoy football, but to be honest, since I no longer have cable I have only watched part of one football game this season. I know this is heresy to some. However, as a long-time Patriots fan and New England resident, I shed a few tears while reading your retirement posts. And the tears weren’t only because you won’t be playing anymore.

Tom, you hurt my feelings.

I am happy for you and your family. Really. It’s the right move for your family. And I know that in the big (and even little) scheme of things sports will not follow me or anyone else to the grave or thereafter— but you still hurt my feelings.

Why?

Because over the past twenty years I routed for you, defended you through every gate, wore your jersey, and invested time and money in support of you. I bought my grandkids #12 jerseys. My husband loved watching you from his deathbed. He passed away right before you left the Pats. Our family came together and screamed and yelled during each Super Bowl. Thank you for being such a vital part of those times. And, for crying out loud, I even became a Bucs fan when you left the Pats, except for when they played the Patriots. As a grandmother, sometimes to me you were Tommy. I even had a grand-dog named Brady.

But Tom, I wasn’t acknowledged. I don’t mean “I” wasn’t acknowledged, but in your announcement our Patriots Nation, our football community that helped raise and support a goat… was dissed. I’m not angry…just hurt. I have no idea what has gone on behind the scenes but Tommy, we could use some love.

Acknowledgment matters. It’s kind. It’s humble. It’s also good business. I mean, TB12 lives in New England. So please, Tom Brady, if your feelings were hurt remember there are many of us who had nothing to do with that. Our feelings matter, too, and I know you can do better.

With love and appreciation. A grandmother

God Gave Me an Eagle

I moved to Connecticut in July. That is when I first met the goose who lived down by the river. I walk along the Connecticut River daily, and this goose brought me comfort each day. I can’t be sure, but I believe God put him there just for me. You see, he arrived the same time I did, perhaps even to the day. I am not sure. No one knew why he suddenly appeared by the dock at the river near my house or where he came from, but he loved to hang out with people there,

Years ago, I wrote a book about finding a place to belong, addressing issues of identity, loss, rejection, and grief that can often leave us feeling a bit “lost.” Throughout the book, entitled “Understanding Goose,” I inserted various anecdotal stories and facts about geese, based on the true story of a goose that had lost its mate and “adopted” my parents decades ago. Geese have a strong sense of finding their way home, and they also have a mate for life. If they lose their mate, they may “adopt” a human, as if they are looking for a place to call home. I felt like the goose was a hug from God and from Wyndham, reminding me that He knew I had lost my mate and needed a place to call home. I often thanked God for this meaningful gift, as it was comforting, a continual reminder that God was saying, “I am with you here. I know, and I know that you know.” The goose was there for my first three months of transition, and then it was gone. I heard that a woman who rescued wildlife took him to a safe place. He may have been rescued, but he was a safe place for me. I missed seeing him but knew he had served his time there, reminding me that I am never alone.

This morning, I prepared for a Zoom meeting with my doctoral advisor concerning the first chapter of my dissertation. My advisor helps me know how I am doing on my project, gives helpful input, and offers encouragement. In my talk with God beforehand, I told Him how I wished I could have a conversation like that with Him, where I could more concretely hear Him, His feedback, and His encouragement. I told Him how much I appreciate the encouragement He gives, but I felt the need to hear it more clearly from Him. I thanked Him for the goose and the way it had been a “voice of encouragement” to me. I concluded, that after three months, the goose had served its purpose. I thought to myself that it was time for me to fly, and asked God if he would give me an eagle today, for that visible encouragement. I have never seen an eagle on my walks, though through binoculars I saw this one way down the river this summer while on a boat ride.

As I neared the bank of the river, I stopped…just to check. Across the river, I noticed a large bird flying, and while I hoped it might be my answered prayer…I figured it was probably a more common bird, like a hawk. At that moment, the bird turned ninety degrees and flew directly over my head. It was clearly an eagle. I have no explanation why it turned from its path and flew over my head, except for God’s love for me and His encouragement. I could hear God telling me, “I am still with you in your transition, and it’s time to fly.” I then felt tears falling down my face and thanked God for His tender care.

  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
  but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.                (Isaiah 40:29-31)

When Life Becomes a Carnival

I often share about my lovely new town and the peaceful view of the river from my front window. I love to walk my dog through the field across the street, lingering along the shore. I stop to greet the goose that has been my friend since the time I moved here. I think God put that goose there just for me, knowing my affinity for a lone goose that lost its lifelong mate and adopted my parents years ago. This lone goose was to me like an acknowledgment hug from God, reminding me that He never forgets that I lost my mate and He is always with me. Along the way, I breathe in to capture the smell of the falling leaves and freshly cut grass on the nearby soccer fields. I enjoy meeting new people along the way. I love to watch the boats roll by, and in the evening I usually tear up with joy and gratitude as I view the sun setting behind the water. Twice I have seen an eagle on its nest. The serenity of God’s creation feeds my soul as I walk and talk with Him by the river. I count on the peace this walk with God brings me each day.

But, oh my…how quickly things can change! You see, last weekend the carnival rolled into town, across the street from my house. Literally, overnight, my view switched from sunsets and riverfronts to Ferris wheels, tilt-a-whirls, and pirate ship rides. Every time I opened my door my olfactory senses no longer processed falling leaves and freshly cut grass but instead confronted smells of foot-long hot dogs, fried marshmallow-covered-dough-filled-sugar-coated everything imaginable, cotton candy, and other undetermined scents. My new view seemed like full-fledged craziness. Lights and sounds continued into the night and then Sunday evening, it was all gone. I was reminded how in the twinkling of an eye, our surroundings can change from serenity to carnival madness and back again. However, even with the carnival’s departure, it’s not yet exactly the same. I notice remnants of craziness. The grass is now mud and the trash and commodes are yet to be collected.

Life is like this. We experience times of calm and then the big trucks come in and seemingly overnight, dump craziness in our proverbial front yards…Not in the forms of Ferris wheels and pirate ships (well, for me it actually was in this form :-)), but more often with illnesses, difficult news, family trials, disappointments, grief, conflicts, and little things like pandemics. We can have a hard time remembering what serenity looks like and face seemingly overwhelming smells of fear and doubt. Whenever the “life carnival” rolls in, I find I must stay grounded in the reality of truth. The beauty of God’s creation is true. God’s provision is real. His concern for me is real. His empathy with me is real. His promise of eternal life is real. His promise of a new heaven and new earth is real. His comfort is real. He never changes, even when my view does. The carnival, though crazy, is temporary. Even though it happens, He holds my hand as I ride the Ferris wheel. I need that since I abhor heights.

He reminds me that the river is still in the same place, it is just a bit hidden by the surrounding commotion. My identity in Christ doesn’t change with changing circumstances. I take “me” with me both to the river and to the carnival, and Jesus walks with me through both. When my identity comes from God, I can stay grounded whether at the river or in the carnival. Though the trash and commodes may linger awhile, the leaves will still fall, the grass will grow through the mud, the river will still flow, and the sun will continue to rise and set. I must simply remember, notice, and keep walking with Him as He guides me. Even when the carnival was in full force, I walked further, beyond the carnival, and eventually passed its craziness. I once again smelled the grass and saw the river. I just had to keep walking.

You may feel like your life is a carnival, where serenity has been replaced by crazy. My life over the last few years has been filled with difficult transitions that have at times “smelled” like stale foot-long hot dogs and left me spinning on tilt-a-whirls. That combination can prove challenging, believe me. However, I can stay grounded by noticing God in everything as I keep on walking past the carnival, visiting the goose, watching the eagle, speaking to passersby, and witnessing the beautiful consistency of the sunset. I stay grounded knowing that His words are true and that He gives me purpose and identity. I am confident that the peaceful river and the crazy carnival can coexist because God is with me through them all. There truly is a secret of being content. His name is Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-13 (NIV2011)
4  Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
5  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
9  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
10  I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.
11  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
12  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
13  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

 

Transitions – Lots of Them

Transitions happen. Lots of them. Though I didn’t have a choice concerning the last chapter of losing Wyndham, I have certainly felt the Spirit’s urging and presence in moving forward to new chapters. Since that time, among other transitions, I sold my house of thirty-plus years, bought a new home in CT near my youngest daughter, retired from forty-seven years of full-time ministry, and began my doctorate program. While “ministering” is my lifelong lifestyle as an apprentice of Jesus that won’t change, life is different.

 

I have felt hugs from God throughout the transitions, though it has not always been easy. I find I must look for those hugs. For instance: When I put my house on the market, I felt sad. I would miss the park across the street from my house and my nearby “reservoir walk” a little over a mile away, among other things. However, the park by my old house is busier than I like, and I recently encountered a snake on the reservoir walk. Not a fan of snakes, I had postponed my walks there. God gave me a hug…with a house perfect for me in Connecticut, complete with a quiet park across the street where the gorgeous Riverwalk along the Connecticut River begins.  I pinch myself as I walk each day along the river and through town, amazed that God gave me such a beautiful, serene setting near water. I have met many new friends as I walk, many who have recently moved here, lost their husbands, and retired. This is no accident, I am sure. If this is not enough, there is a studio apartment on the property, perfect for Jacob.

The “new” park is quiet, except on one night a week when it becomes a music venue. Perfect!  And if that is not enough of a hug, as I go by the dock and dock house on the river each day, a lone goose greets me. This is particularly meaningful to me, as I wrote in one of my books about a lone goose that “adopted” my parents after losing its mate. Geese have a mate for life, and when they lose their mate they stay alone, sometimes attaching to a person for their new “mate.” Passing this lone goose each day just feels like a hug to me from God, and from Wyndham.

This past week I had the opportunity to teach on “the role of women in the church” at the European School of Missions in Switzerland. I was encouraged and inspired the current graduating class (after beginning 3 years ago) of the School of Missions and their new contributions to the churches in Europe. A few of these students I knew as preteens, so that was special.  It was wonderful to interact with the incoming class as well. It was so meaningful to be with old friends living in Europe…the Kings, LeNoans, Micha, and of course the McGuirks. It was also a treat to spend time with the Ayasses, who were there helping with their grandchildren during much of the time. It was especially inspiring to see the fruits of the love and labor of the young and “older” McGuirks in Paris, and also John and Rachel, who serve the church in Milan.

Teaching energizes me, as I feel it is a calling from God. It was meaningful and fun to teach with Joey Harris. It felt seamless, as we soon realized we had such  congruent interpretations and understandings of the topic. We taught on the subject for about ten hours, including sessions about ways to read and interpret scripture, the author’s style, presuppositions we bring to interpretation, the lenses through which we read (western culture vs. eastern culture, patriarchal culture, and our CoC and ICOC cultures), blinders to our lenses, cultures of Ephesus and Corinth, God’s parameters, transcending principles, specific verses on women in the scriptures, and essential attitudes of humility and unity. We included various group exercises and discussions throughout.

Joey taught for the next couple of days on Old Testament Survey and OT interpretation, which was all outstanding. Kudos to all the students who put their hearts and minds into days of learning in a language that is not their first one.  

My next stop for next week includes my first residency session for my doctoral program, where I meet my professors and cohort and also participate in a guided spiritual retreat. I am super excited to start and am eager to keep learning.

I have much to write about transitions; in fact, much of my research will stem from this topic. While it is good to be home, I am also grateful for so many memories from years past with Wyndham throughout Europe. It seemed fitting to leave some ashes in a river in the Alps. I include a few thoughts describing this time for me.

On the Bridge

We walked this stream before

Flowing waters toward tributaries form 

Crossing the bridge to the other side

Hands entwined, warm to warm

 

These hands hold memories

Carrying ashes, remnants of living

Now stilled by the cool hand of death

As waters below tease of life still giving

 

I stand on this bridge called hope

Connector of life and death that I know

While your ashes find life in the wind

Toward life-giving water, still sparkling below

 

Ashes give birth to life

As the river moves toward the sea

And the bridge, through the Spirit

It still connects you and me.

When Father’s Day Sneaks Up and Kicks You in the Gut

Anticipating Father’s Day is hard for me, and likely for many of you. I enjoy most holidays, but this one always gets me. I miss my husband, who was the safe, wise, and strong place for our kids (and me). I miss my dad, whose huge smile, kidney-chopper hugs, and overflowing Bible verses always made things feel okay. As I watch my grandkids on the ball fields, soccer fields, and tennis courts I picture Wyndham’s countless days of coaching and his constant encouragement for the underdog. He was a dad extraordinaire, sensing when his kids needed his words or hugs. He would so love watching their kids play (and graduate!). They were his pride and joy.

But I’m a lucky one. A blessed one. I had a father who loved me and showed me Jesus, and a husband who loved God wholeheartedly, loved me, and loved his family with a fierce and tender compassion. I guess that’s why it is hard to pass by the cards for Fathers in the stores without purchasing one, or why it’s sad to not think about what I will cook on Sunday.

Some of you never knew an earthly father, had an absent father, an abusive father, or could never measure up to a father’s dysfunctional demands. Wow. That is some kind of hard. I’m so sorry. Some of you lost dads early in your life, and some are watching your father’s health deteriorate before your eyes. It stinks. It really does.

I sometimes feel a little lost approaching this celebratory day. To be honest, I was happy last year to have virtual church on Father’s Day. It made it a little easier. When I feel a little lost in loss, for some reason I find it helpful to plan a special commemoration. I’m not sure why, but it helps me in my losses to commemorate and celebrate. Perhaps it will you, too. So, I plan to “share” a special meal (by myself, by choice) with the dads in my life. I’ll pick up a steak to eat, medium rare, in their honor…because that is what they would enjoy. I’ll probably talk to them a bit, telling them why I love and appreciate them. But then I will turn to another father, to the Father who is always there and who stays with me, even with these weird conversations. He never leaves and he always cares. This is my Father who never dies and is always the same, yesterday, today, and forever. I may detect a tear in his eye, too, because I know he hurts with me. I will thank him for my husband, for my dad, and for my son and sons-in-law who are fabulous dads.

I will then tell him what a good, good Father he is, even though I don’t always understand his goodness. I will thank him for staying with me in the storms, as my solid rock. I will thank him for holding me tightly with his mighty hand and lifting me up from the ashes. I will thank him for holding me close to his heart. I will tell him he is kind, trustworthy, generous, full of love, holy, self-sacrificing, and crazy creative with the world he fashioned. He is a good, good Father. He somehow walks with the living (me) while also walking in another dimension with my physically deceased but spiritually alive husband and dad, who I can no longer see. I believe they are as alive or perhaps more alive than I am, just in a different sphere. He is with them, and he is with me. Of course I can never fully wrap my head around this concept; it is too beautiful for me and beyond human comprehension.

Abba Father, I wish you a wonderful Father’s Day…it is your day, every day. And Wyndham and Dad, know how deeply you are loved…and always remembered. Every day.

A Big Transition…A New Chapter

A thriller, a comedy, a tragedy, poetry, a fairy tale, and a historical narrative all rolled into one. This is the book I am writing as I continue walking “jeaniesjourneys.” Thankfully, God is the author and perfecter of my life story (Heb 12:2), and we are writing this thing together. I’m starting a new chapter. A scary chapter. An exciting chapter. A sad chapter. A happy chapter. A chapter requiring faith. Lots of it.

For a while, I have known I would sell my house. It is time to downsize. Amazingly among ministers, I have been one of the few to stay in a house for a long time, over thirty years. My kids went through their elementary, middle school, and high school years based from this house. My grandchildren have visited my house as newborns and most recently the oldest as a high school graduate. They have slept over, played in the park across the street, and built their own memories. My youngest son, who spent his first twelve years in Romania, walked through the front door of this house as a member of our family in August of ‘98. It is more than a house. It is a home. At our wedding, Sam Laing, who now has his own health challenges, read this poem which now hangs on my wall. heap of living It’s authored by one of my favorite poets, Edgar Guest. I will include several stanzas:

It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home,
A heap o’ sun an’ shadder, an’ ye sometimes have t’ roam
Afore ye really ‘preciate the things ye lef’ behind,
An’ hunger fer ’em somehow, with ’em allus on yer mind.
It don’t make any differunce how rich ye get t’ be,
How much yer chairs an’ tables cost, how great yer luxury;
It ain’t home t’ ye, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow yer soul is sort o’ wrapped round everything.

Ye’ve got t’ weep t’ make it home, ye’ve got t’ sit an’ sigh
An’ watch beside a loved one’s bed, an’ know that Death is nigh;
An’ in the stillness o’ the night t’ see Death’s angel come,
An’ close the eyes o’ her that smiled, an’ leave her sweet voice dumb.
Fer these are scenes that grip the heart, an’ when yer tears are dried,
Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an’ sanctified;
An’ tuggin’ at ye always are the pleasant memories
O’ her that was an’ is no more—ye can’t escape from these.

Ye’ve got t’ sing an’ dance fer years, ye’ve got t’ romp an’ play,
An’ learn t’ love the things ye have by usin’ ’em each day;
Even the roses ’round the porch must blossom year by year
Afore they ‘come a part o’ ye, suggestin’ someone dear
Who used t’ love ’em long ago, an’ trained ’em jes’ t’ run
The way they do, so’s they would get the early mornin’ sun;
Ye’ve got t’ love each brick an’ stone from cellar up t’ dome:
It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home.

Let’s just say there has been a heap of living in this home…by us, and likely by some of you who have sat at our table and in our living room. Joy and laughter have rung within these walls, as has precious time around a loved one’s bed, knowing death is nigh.

It is time for a new chapter, so I put my house on the market for showings last Tuesday. On Thursday, I sold it. my for sale sign

I have learned that home is not really a physical place, rather it is a place of rest in the deepest part of my soul; a place that only God fills. I carry home with me wherever I go. The memories of loved ones and conversations, good food and fun, arguments and conflict resolutions, soul-searching conversations and discovery, the mundane and the thrilling, sickness and health, laughter and tears….the memories are in my heart and will go with me wherever I go all the way to heaven, my ultimate home.

That said, I soon realized the stark reality that selling my home would bring. I would have to land somewhere. I prayed fervently for the best place to land… to cut expenses in preparation for my pending retirement, and to provide meaningful ways to serve and love God and people, helping as many as possible make it to heaven. To be honest, something within me questioned whether I should go to a remote place where I could tell people who did not yet know about the amazing news of Jesus. However, given the fact that I don’t know other languages and that my first priorities next to Jesus are my children and grandchildren, I knew I would stay local and contribute to remote places in other ways.

Local turned out to be about an hour and forty-three minutes from my current home. I plan to move to Connecticut, near my daughter Kristen and her family. She said it was “her turn.” While it is so hard to leave so many I love here and there are so many precious (as well as difficult) memories, I feel the Spirit’s guidance and commendation on this new chapter. Through my wonderful realtor (Kristen), I found the perfect place, ten minutes from her family, that fulfills more wishes for a home than I could imagine. Small enough to be cozy but large enough to host friends and family, full of character and charm, near water and town, and full of so many other “hugs” from God. And, to top it off, there is a studio apartment next to the house—the perfect place for Jacob. We are both excited about our new adventure.

roses in my yard

roses in my new yard, overlooking the park across the street which begins the Riverwalk.

Who knows what all will be written in this new chapter, but with God editing it I am in safe hands. I suppose the upcoming chapters will contain the various genres mentioned above, but thankfully I know how the story ends. Meanwhile, I pray that the heap of living that takes place in my new home will bring joy to many, especially to God. My friend, Susan, who is currently in Connecticut helping her son’s family as he recovers from extensive cancer surgery, rode by my new house while her son was in surgery. Just as she pulled up to my new house, she got the call that the surgery was a success. So, she named my house the “good news house.” I like that name. I think I will stick with that. Please pray for me in this transition as I move to the “good news house.”

150 Naubuc Ave

Link to the Caregivers’ Workshop recordings

Saturday was a great day, with over four hundred registered for the free caregivers’ conference. I deeply appreciate the godly wisdom and raw honesty shared by everyone.

Hopefully, I’ll post more blogs soon, but in the meantime, I will share a link to the recordings from “The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving” workshop.” In a few days, the recordings will also be up on the church website. I will share that link when it is available. You can access the recordings for the entire workshop here:

https://www.hopeworldwidema.org/sacredjourney

You can also purchase the book by the same title here:

The Sacred Journey—Finding God in Caregiving

My heart goes out to all caregivers as you travel your sacred journeys.

 

Welcoming Wednesday: The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving

This is the day to share things! Today I’m thrilled to introduce or remind you of an upcoming free virtual conference and a new book release called “The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving.”

Caregivers, as they pour out physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength, are unsung heroes. But caregivers also need care. They need encouragement, inspiration, courage, comradery, and support.

On March 13, from 11am-1pm EST, the Boston Church and HOPE MA are sponsoring a free virtual workshop, The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving.

The workshop begins with a panel featuring Roger and Marcia Lamb, Jeanie Shaw, Sam Shaw, and Rich and Lisa Fischer as they share Scriptures, insights, and practical habits that helped them find God when at times he felt far. They will discuss ways they discovered anew God’s presence as they walked this sacred caregiving journey.

Breakout classes include: Caring for children who need special care taught by Frank and Rhoda Astone and Peggy Malutinok; Caring for parents and other adults with Rich and Lisa Fischer and Danielle Petruzzi;, caring for a spouse with Carl Christenson and Chantel Cornely; Grief in caregiving with Roger and Marcia Lamb; care for the caregiver with Sam Shaw and Jeanie Shaw; resources in caregiving with Patrice Gattozzi, Anne-Mer Slebodnick, and Maureen McCartney; and financial and legal matters with Guillermo Adame.

Spread the word to caregivers and their families, neighbors, friends, and anyone who wants to become more like Jesus as they care for others.

Register now:

https://zoom.us/…/tJAud-mpqDspEtHgxsDll69i0QroLREcDcfg

And—In conjunction, my brand-new release is now offered now at IPIbook.org, also entitled The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving. This book is a collection of vulnerable, inspirational, and informational stories by caregivers who have found God’s support amid their trials.

Preorder at: https://www.ipibooks.com/products/the-sacred-journey-finding-god-in-caregiving