Mark it Down

This past Saturday marked one year since my amazing husband died. I wondered how the day would feel. Would I celebrate his one-year heavenly birthday, mourn his loss, look at pictures, relive the horrible day, all of the above, or something else altogether? While we commemorate certain holidays, many life transitions (both the encouraging and the oh-so-hard ones) often pass by us unmarked. Un-commemorated. Unconfronted. I believe this often makes transitions more difficult to pass through, leaving us emotionally stuck.

I note in the Bible how often transitions, big and small, were commemorated. Stones of remembrance were stacked. Feasts were held. Garments were torn. Bread was broken. Altars were built. I find it helpful to mark transitions rather than just letting them slide by. It helps me, although I realize that people have different ways of processing transitions. This is not a “one size fits all” thought process.

I knew I did not want to simply dread this one-year anniversary so in preparation, I talked with God about what might be most helpful. Perhaps the Spirit put some thoughts in my head, but by whatever means they arrived, they were helpful. Saturday was deeply meaningful and special.

I considered that as a family it might help us to “mark” the day. So, on Saturday we each took several hours for a spiritual retreat. We went out in nature, Wyndham’s favorite place to be on this side of heaven. God blessed the day with unseasonably warm, gorgeous weather. One of us went to a riverside, another to the cleft in a rock at the reservoir, and several others to the ocean. I went to our special beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea, a place where we had spent many Mondays walking, praying, talking, dreaming, and planning. It felt more inspiring than sad to be there. As I felt the sun warming my face and the waves gently sliding over the sand I sang, listened to spiritual music, read, journaled, prayed, and listened to learn. We all began our times with an intent to still our hearts–to breathe in as we invited the Spirit to fill our hearts and breathe out the distractions and anxieties. It is truly hard to be so still of heart that we can hear God well. At least it is for me. As we each “retreated,” we reflected and journaled some of the following questions:

  • What do you most remember Papa saying to you that you carry with you? What do you think he would most want to say to you today?
  • What do you think God would want to say to you today?
  • What is at least one way this very hard year has most helped you grow spiritually?
  • What is a scripture or song that has helped sustain you this past year?
  • What are your best memories from this year?
  • What are you most grateful to God for as you think through His work in your life this year?
  • What are a few of your favorite thoughts/hopes about heaven?

This was a helpful, meaningful exercise for me, and for each of us. We also commemorated November 21 as our first annual “Pay it Forward for Papa Day.” In honor of him, we would each decide to do some special good deeds in honor of him. This was fun, meaningful, and fitting.

We ended the night with a several-hour Zoom call where we each shared the meaningful highlights from the day. It was honest, vulnerable, full of laughter, and full of tears. I treasure that time.

I also took a few pictures of my time at the beach. I captured a father and child frolicking hand in hand, sharing pure joy. I felt grateful to have a Father who takes my hand. I accompanied this view with the song “Precious Lord, take my hand…lead me on, let me stand….Through the storms, through the night, lead me on to the light…precious Lord, take my hand, lead me home.” Not sure if the lyrics are correct, but they work for me.

I then saw kayakers set out through the sparkling water to a destination I couldn’t see. This scene reminded me of my new journey…one in which I must trust God because I don’t know exactly where it will take me.

I then noted a young couple who walked toward the water and ever so calmly and gently glided their swimsuit-clad bodies into the ocean without even a second’s hesitation. They walked in as if the ocean was bathwater and floated neck-deep in the frigid 51-degree water. (Yes, I Googled the temperature.) After about ten minutes of their stillness in the water, I lost track of my prayers and tried to remember my college life-saving class techniques just in case I would need to retrieve hypothermic floaters. Fortunately, they calmly and slowly walked back to shore and dabbed themselves with towels. As I had watched them walk into the frigid water without hesitation I thought of the song “Oceans,” and the lyrics spoke to me. Can I walk out that calmly or would I be wailing and screaming with the discomfort?

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.

Though it has been an inexpressibly hard year, perhaps it has been a year where I have grown most. One step at a time. God has greatly blessed me beyond what words can convey. I am deeply grateful. I pray you will have a meaningful Thanksgiving as you count your blessings. 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 113

Wisdom Looks Back to Look Forward

When I write, I often know how I want the piece to begin and end. It’s just those pesky missing chapters or paragraphs in-between that become problematic. So, I look back to previous chapters in order to make progress on the next ones. The chapters yet unwritten.

Today, many of us look back to a life-changing day in the United States eighteen years ago. We know where we were and what we were doing when tragedy struck. We look back and remember.

I will never forget walking through the September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City six years ago and finding a note placed on a memorial wreath by a name etched in concrete. Before this encounter, I had felt a general sadness for those who had fallen; after, it became personal. The note read:

Dear Donald, 

Your children and I miss you more and more each day. Donald (14) plays soccer, golf, and drums in his first year of high school. Lara (14) continues to dance and sing. She was selected to be in the select choir. Connor (11) looks just like you and loves the ocean. He has the same passion for bodyboarding as you did. They speak of you often and wish you were here to see them grow up. As for me, I am very busy running around getting them to all their activities. I miss our life together.

Until we meet again. Love, your wife Jacqueline

On the other side of the letter was another picture with this message:

Every year on your birthday your niece, nephew and children throw a wreath in the ocean in Montauk. This was your favorite place. Everyone misses you.

As tears streamed down my face, remembrance went from “history” to “personal.”

This past week, Wyndham and I looked back through pictures representing memories, as our church celebrated her 40th anniversary. It was inspiring to remember spectacular ways God has changed countless lives. It was also sad, yet inspiring, to look back on the life of a dear friend who passed from this life two weeks ago. Another treasured friend left our house to drive to a place in the mountains—to look back and remember his beloved wife on what would have been their anniversary today. Remembrance is personal.

Though we are living in difficult chapters, we can look back to remember the goodness of our God and his unspeakable blessings in our lives. Though we have shed many tears these last few days simply remembering, they are precious, meaningful tears because they come from love. Remembrance is personal.

Remembrance becomes personal only when names, emotions, and memories are attached to an event we are remembering.

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are merely historical, general events until they are attached to someone whose love captures our hearts. Whose presence we feel. When this happens, remembrance becomes personal and revolutionizes the way we think and live. I owe the meaning and hope in my life to his example, sacrifice, power, words, and his Spirit that lives in me. If my remembrance of Jesus isn’t personal, then he will be a distant historical event observed in a museum, rather than a current life-changing, joy-producing relationship.

Looking back at Jesus’ life and experiencing his presence makes remembrance personal and helps me look forward. Because of his life, I know the way the story ends—and it’s glorious.

When we look back to look forward, the chapters become clearer. They may look blank and scary now, or contain new plot twists we did not intend or wish to write about—but nonetheless, they are part of our story. May we always remember the ending, and faithfully and courageously write (live) new chapters.

As we remember, may we let Jesus’ love inspire us to look forward to the day when there are no more tears, no more death—only life lived in love in the presence of God and all who have given their lives to him.

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;
and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them;
 he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
(Rev 21:2-5)

 

 

 

 

When Remembrance Gets Personal

Reposting from a couple of years ago…because it’s important to remember.

Since I was in New York for a conference during the week of the twelfth anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attack I was “hesitantly eager” to visit the September 11 Memorial.  Upon arrival, the air was crisp and the sky was bright- much like that fateful day twelve years ago.  The upward view of the new World Trade Center tower keenly activated my fear of heights, so  I decided to walk around the memorial pools.

0913131530 I felt sad for the victims and families, but I did not know any of them personally- so my remembrance was rather general in nature.

As I walked by the second pool, my eyes caught sight of a small American flag embedded inside one of the engraved letters (of a victim’s name) in the surrounding wall. 0913131526a  A letter, protected by a plastic sleeve, was attached to this flag.  Curious, I went over close enough to read the letter.   A picture adorned the top of the page followed by these words:

Dear Donald,

   Your children and I miss you more and more each day.   Donald (14) plays soccer, golf and drums in his first year of high school.  Lara (14) continues to dance and sing. She was selected to be in the select choir.  Connor (11) looks just like you and loves the ocean.  He has the same passion for body boarding as you did.  They speak of you often and wish you were here to see them grow up.  As for me, I am very busy running around getting them to all their activities.  I miss our life together.  Until we meet again.

                                                                                                                                                Love, your wife Jacqueline

0913131527

On the other side of the letter was another picture with this message:

Every year on your birthday your niece, nephew and children throw a wreath in the ocean in Montauk.  This was your favorite place.  Everyone misses you. 

By this time, the lump in my0913131527a throat was uncomfortable and the tears welled up in my eyes.  My heart ached for this young wife and mother, who apparently had two-year-old twins and was pregnant with a son when this horrific event happened.  Suddenly, remembrance went from “history” to “personal.”

This morning, as I worshipped with my church family and as the communion trays were passed,  I thought through some familiar scriptures on remembrance.   My mind went to the letter to Donald as I reflected on how remembrance becomes personal only when names, emotions and memories are attached to an event we are remembering.

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are merely historical events until they are attached to someone whose love captures our hearts. When this happens remembrance becomes personal and revolutionizes the way we think and how we live.

I prayed silently as if I were writing him a letter of remembrance.  In this silent letter I tried to somehow express my appreciation for what he has done for me…telling him how much his life, death and resurrection has changed me and how personal he is to me.  I owe the joy I have found in my life to his example, sacrifice, power and words.  My marriage, family, purpose and peace would not be possible without his complete involvement in my life.

It’s so easy to walk around life focusing on distractions that seem to loudly call my name – and forget that everything I hold important stems from a personal relationship with the one who has changed my life forever.

If my remembrance of God isn’t personal, then Jesus will become a distant historical event observed in a museum rather than a current life changing, joy producing relationship.

As I communed with God this morning I thought of Luke 22:19.    And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

How personal and thankful is your remembrance?