The Circle of Life


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
There is a time for all things. Sometimes, those times just occur simultaneously. It’s been a season of multiple “times” in my life recently. I’ve had times to do all of the things listed above; I feel like the last year has included every activity under heaven. Illness and death, graduation, painful separations from people and places that I love, relocation, new risks, leaving old dreams behind and realizing new ones. And then there is that rare moment when a dream you thought was dead is plopped down in your lap again. Literally.
When I left Chattanooga in July, I thought that I was leaving behind my dream of fostering and adopting. After more than two years of training and several possible placements that went to other homes, I moved to Louisville, terrified at the change to come, but perfectly content being the single girl in a new city. I moved in stages over the next couple of months, slowly bringing what I needed as I needed it.
In April, I had moved into my grandmother’s house, planning to remodel it and live in it with my future kids and my two dogs. I ended up there for about 10 weeks with three dogs and no kids. But this crazy time of crazy times began last November, when my grandmother unexpectedly passed away. I had the honor of spending her last days with her, and on the day before she died, I snapped this photo:
2014-11-24 18.36.42-1When we moved my grandmother to the Hospice unit, we realized she was most comfortable on her side, but she needed a pillow to prop up her arm. My back seat is always full of stuffed animals, so Pooh ended up being the pillow my Nana hugged. I love this picture. It’s a reminder of the love and support I know I always had from all of my grandparents. She is the one stepping into eternity, but it looks like she’s holding me up. It now hangs over my desk at home as a sweet reminder that no matter where I may go, I have a support system that is always holding me up.
My grandmother’s death allowed me to have a space, a home for new life, and when I moved out of her house, I thought that dream had ended, or at least been delayed indefinitely. The last few months, though, life and death have been intricately intertwined, a precious reminder that there are different times in life, and sometimes they really do happen all at once.
Life and death and love and eternity.
Hope.
All powerful words, all captured for me in the image above.
Which is why, when I woke up last Sunday after dozing off while putting Big Sister down for a nap, seeing this took my breath and brought tears to my eyes:
2015-10-24 21.32.23There’s someone else, cuddling Pooh with one hand, and hanging on to me with the other.
One moment is a sweet reminder of memories made and a life well lived, a legacy to uphold.
The other moment is a precious promise, a new and unexpected life to cherish and protect, a generation to whom that legacy will be passed.
The last month has been a whirlwind of preparing my grandmother’s house to be sold to a different young family. Several weekends I have gone back to Chattanooga and have simultaneously closed a chapter with my grandmother and begun writing a new chapter with my own kids. These intertwined times were literally being separated into different boxes, what was being preserved, what will be moving to Kentucky. But the best moments were when those old memories were packed up to come to Louisville for Big Sister and Little Man. Books and toys and highchairs that have been used and loved by generations of kids in my family are being used again. And my Nana would be thrilled to see that.
My worldview recognizes that life is a line; there is a beginning and an end to time itself, and it’s not stopping for anyone. But even while time marches on, the seasons and rhythms of life remain. There are circles and connections, and sometimes the time to laugh and the time to cry may just happen at the same time. Just like spring comes after winter, new life is born out of death, and occasionally, we get to be there to see both the end and the beginning. And both are good.
And by the way, that Pooh has officially been designated a family heirloom.
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On Sharing Life and Death


The thing that hath been, it [is that] which shall be; and that which is done [is] that which shall be done: and [there is] no new [thing] under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9, KJV

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I sleep just like my grandmother. Curled up on my side, one leg stretched out, the other pulled into my chest. A pillow between my arms. I didn’t know that she slept that way until last night, as I watched her curled up in a hospital bed, finally sleeping peacefully. For a little while, she is not consumed with pain.

I share her feisty nature, which is still obvious in spite of the fact that she has wasted away to skin, bones, and the cancer that fills them. That peacefulness was disrupted briefly when Robby the CNA rolled her over and she let him know that he had “messed up the bed.”

I wonder as I wander, just like the gentleman next door, who also paces in his pajamas between his room and the kitchen.

Shared bathrooms between suites. Pajama clad people shuffling, half awake through the halls, in search of coffee. Other people sleeping, oblivious to what’s going on around them. It’s like my college residence hall, only it’s the Hospice unit where my Nana has come for her final days.

One thing that unites all of us who are living is that, one day, we will be living no longer. For all the differences that we think separate us as people, life and death unite us like nothing else.

There is nothing new under the sun. The older I get, the more I see in the now, and the more I learn of the then, the more I recognize that we all have a deep yearning to be different, be unique. We want to be seen and be known.

And we are. Unique. One of a kind. Fearfully and wonderfully made. We are Imago Dei.

The struggle comes, I think, in the fallen desire for our uniqueness to be recognized as better, as right. And so diversity is not celebrated, but scorned. We fail to be unified in our diversity because we fear what we do not know.

As I sit in the quiet, at that moment when the sky is gray and pink with all the anticipation of the coming day, all I can think is, “What am I anticipating today?”

The last day of classes before Thanksgiving break.

The birth of babies.

News of a former coach receiving a life saving transplant.

The day my Nana steps into eternity.

War overseas and rioting at home.

Christmas being provided for mamas and their kids by generous people.

Glimpses of grace.

Words of encouragement.

Hugs. Prayers. Laughter. Family.

There is nothing new under the sun.

But if the best is only possible with the possibility of the worst, bring it on, whatever the day may bring, because each day confirms that we share so much more than we will ever know.

Is God Really Good?


Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; His love endures forever. Psalm 106:1

This has been a tough verse to swallow in the last ten days for my kids at school. There is no goodness in death itself, and it is hard to reconcile an untimely death and a sovereign and omnipotent God. “If God is good then why…” has echoed in their words and in their tears. And, to be honest, it has echoed in my own thoughts and tears as I have pulled together faith and love and steadiness; we must walk our talk, show our faith to those who desperately need to see what faith looks like when they can’t feel it. This means overcoming our feelings with truth.

Though our feelings come and go, his love for us does not… CS Lewis

I pulled out some old notes for a class I am teaching at school, and in the folder there was a small collection of notes dated October 6, 1999. The notes were in my Church History notes from 2006; seminary in Wake Forest is a lifetime away from college at UTC, so I have no doubt these notes were divinely “misplaced” so I would find them today.

I have no idea where I was or who was speaking (which is why I have since become obsessive about documenting notes. The historian in me believes this to be a requirement, and now I know why), but we were apparently discussing the characteristics of God. At this particular time we were discussing God’s goodness, and this one statement, written in my own hand, jumped off the page at me this morning:

“We would never willingly give up our son, but we praise God for the lives changed through his death.” This is a particularly jarring statement at this point in life, considering this anonymous statement echoes the cries of our hearts in the loss of a son, brother, teammate, classmate, friend and student last week.

We can’t understand God’s goodness because we’ve changed good to mean “something that pleases our senses.” But in reality, God and His characteristics are the only things that can define good.

In other words, God is the standard of good, not our desires. If God brings it, it is good, indeed it is best, regardless of our feelings toward the situation.

In the remainder of my notes from this event, there are many verses quoted, followed by one line observations I wrote then and have considered quite a bit today. I do not believe this will be the last day of my life that my heart will need to be reminded of the goodness of God. The italicized portions are the verses and quotes provided by the speaker, the bold statements are the questions and observations I jotted down in 1999.

The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD sustains all who fall And raises up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:8-14

A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good ? No one is good except God alone.” Luke 18:18-19

If God is good, then what he really wants is what’s best for me, right? Can I trust you with my life?

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:16-17

God wants what’s best for me, but not necessarily what’s easy for me.

Those who dive in a sea of affliction bring up a rear pearl. Charles Spurgeon

When we truly trust God, we will not have anxiety or worry.

Now my last observation about trust and worry is much more cut and dry in the mind of the 19 year old who wrote the words than it is in the mind of the 32 year who read the same words today. It’s not either/or; sometimes trust and anxiety occur in overwhelming doses of both/and. But I know that anxiety causes me to either lean more and more on him or more and more on my own devices to relieve the situation. And I also know that the more I cast my anxieties on him, they are lessened, while the more I carry my anxieties on myself, the more they seem to multiply. And sometimes “casting” is a continuous action throughout a day.

Is it your whole life? Do you have a relationship? Trust that God wants what’s good for your life.

THAT is the key. That question: do you trust God? Do you trust that He wants what’s best for you? Do you trust that HE is what’s best for you?

The words, spoken to the ears of an 19 year old in 1999, heard today by the heart of a 32 year old, were delivered by the Spirit at just the right time. May they speak to your heart at just the right time.