Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Circling the Wagons

It is difficult to even go to the place where I was at this time last year.  The agony of grief was so intense it was impossible to imagine that there would ever be an end to it or a life worth living beyond it.  The pit was deep, slippery and compelling.  I found that there was an undeniable siren call from that abyss that enticed and attracted me.  If you stay in that dark place, you can bury your head and dream of what could have been.  By crawling out, you must face the reality of life.  The complexity of that choice cannot be articulated adequately. 
In recent days I have reviewed the progress made over the past thirteen and a half months.  People said more times that I want to remember that a “new normal” would be found and life would move forward.  Those words might seem to be comforting but they were like a red cloth signaling a bull to me.  The words only bring comfort if you WANT a “new normal.”  As I have written numerous times, my life was amazing and it was agonizing to picture that scenario.  Thus, I questioned and questioned and questioned and was met with profound SILENCE.  The Lord was my very foundation and yet, at the same time, the one I argued with regarding this despised path.  He was so faithful and loved me unreservedly (which totally blows my mind and says everything about HIM).  I suddenly found myself experiencing this “new normal” and was astonished that it had come about even while “rebelling” against it.  Honestly, it was staggering when I experienced a “turning the corner” moment and could acknowledge it.  
Today I turned 58 years old.  Changes in my life are occurring every single day and it is overwhelming to decipher which direction to go.  There has been much deliberation, by me, about my strengths and weaknesses of late and the weaknesses at the top of the list have to be “worry” and “trust issues”(pathetic huh).  Living for TODAY and yet being prepared to move forward, for each and every one of us, is a faith journey.  We must be willing to “step out” and for me, that is a grueling task, the fear of the unknown paralyzing me.  My family and friends should be awarded “medals of honor” for they exemplify, to the letter, what unconditional love and friendship entail.  They have literally “CIRCLED THE WAGONS” around me and loved me back to life.  They have been the hand of Jesus extended and I owe them so much more than can ever be paid back.  They encourage and amaze me on a daily basis and want my happiness above all other.  They give me confidence to “take risks” but to also “take baby steps” as I voyage forward.  There was a day that I considered myself to be a “risk taker” but the challenges of life have made me extremely cautious.  My prayer today is that I seek the wisdom of God in every avenue of my life and know that He will carry me when the road becomes impassible. 
There are no expectations on my part about my future except that every decision I make be a result of prayer and seeking the face of God.  It terrifies me to look beyond TODAY and so I make a commitment to be in quest of the very best God has for me by focusing on this moment and resting my future in HIS very capable hands. 
I love you!
"I know what I'm doing.  I have it all planned out--plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for."  Jeremiah 29, 10b, 11  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Journey Continues - One Year Later

On a Sunday evening, one year ago, I wrote that my best friend was walking on streets of gold.  To be honest, I was in complete shock.  Never was the thought entertained that Dennis would die in that hospital at barely fifty-eight years of age.  He had such faith, there were literally thousands of people praying for him and he was so incredibly effective with sharing himself and the good news of Jesus with everyone.  As I have reflected on the life Dennis and I shared, it has been almost impossible for me to revisit the day he died.  Most of us have discussed what we hope our (or the ones we love) ending moments will be like.  My mind conjures up a tranquil setting with my loved ones praying and singing hymns over me and then I spot angels or even Jesus himself, with arms wide open, there to transport me to my heavenly reward.  That WAS NOT the case with Dennis.  The ICU unit was a chaotic, turbulent and unpeaceful place.  The nurses and doctors were arduously working over him, attempting to stop the ebb of life to no avail.  When I entertain those moments, my heart beats fast and I find myself dissolving into tears, unable to stay there at all.  It is impossible to know if he realized what was happening, if he was afraid or reluctant or sad.  It was heart-breaking.

Well, a year has come and gone and one might ask what it is that I have learned through this inconceivable journey.  That is an easy question to answer.  The unequivocal truth is that I have learned a volume about MYSELF.  Through the most challenging and painful trials that we face in this life, WHO WE ARE comes through loud and clear.  It is hard to face the myriad of imperfections that make up our life but absolutely necessary in order to come through the fire and continue to be productive as a Christ follower.  There are so many things about ME that God was not surprised with when I began to question Him on a daily basis after Dennis died.  He knows me intimately and therefore He KNEW, without a doubt, that I would be a pistol!  He was not surprised or dismayed by me wanting to know WHY, over and over and over and over again.  Those of you who have followed my ramblings are not surprised either :)  My ordeal began with total shock, which turned into the most agonizing, all-consuming pain I have ever experienced.  From there, acceptance (most of the time anyway) that I will never know the answers but also recognizing that it's okay somehow.  God, in his sovereignty, knew the events of my life before I was even born AND the plan He has for my life.  It was ME who doubted everything.  I have been amazed at His intimate nearness and continual presence.  It is overwhelming to acknowledge that this great God has a wonderful path for me when there is so much about me that shouts, "BLEMISHED, FAULTY, WEAK, INADEQUATE." My prayer is that I continue to chisel away at those imperfections and follow God with fervor and zeal.  

Thank you dear family and friends who have been the only reason (outside of God's help) I haven't toppled under the weight of sorrow.  YOU have been God's hand extended to me.  You have stepped in and made all the difference.  YOU have loved me back from the brink of despair.  YOU have encouraged me JUST when I needed it.  YOU have wiped my tears AND cried with me.  YOU have given me the impetus to hang on. YOU have loved me with all of my many faults.

This year has shown me the following truths:
     *Life is not fair
     *Sometimes it is during the most challenging situations of our life that faith develops
     *The Holy Spirit is ALWAYS available to offer assistance, we just need to ask
     *We MUST think supernaturally - to trust when things seem so messed up
     *To choose joy through difficulties
     *To follow God wholeheartedly, even when we are unsure of what is ahead
     *The necessity to look beyond our ever changing circumstances to the One who is the same, 
     *To trust God and rest in his sovereignty

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

Please continue to pray for me as I venture forward.  After this school year is over, I am eligible for retirement but have no idea what my life looks like past the last day of school.  There are many uncertainties about what lies ahead BUT I do know the One who holds my future.  God is my center and I rest in HIM.

I love you!

"Let my cry come right into your presence, God; provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word.  Give my request your personal attention, rescue me on the terms of your promise.  Let praise cascade off my lips; after all, you've taught me the truth about life!  And let your promises ring from my tongue; every order you've given is right.  Put your hand out and steady me since I've chosen to live by your counsel."  Psalm 119: 169-173


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Healing in the Valley of the Sun

Grand Canyon July 2011

I boarded the Allegiant flight with mixed emotions on July 26th, 2011.  For those of you who know me well, you wouldn't be surprised as you know that flying is very low on my list of "favorite things."  It wasn't the flight this time though that troubled me, but the fact that I was going to Arizona to attend General Council and judge Fine Arts without being by Dennis' side.  The exciting prospect was spending almost two weeks with Sara and her college roommate and maid of honor, Amber.  Amber lives and teaches school in Mesa and we were going to spend a week with her, in her new home, sight-see and then on to the hotel for Council the following week. 

 My emotions were raw as I attempted to visualize myself at General Council without Dennis.  We had missed only one Council in the 36 years we were married and it was always such fun to just "sit back" and watch Dennis work his magic with people.  He never forgot a name, a connection or an association and always left with more new friends that you can imagine.  I had been asked to judge Fine Arts "in Dennis' place" this year and it was the most intimidating assignment imaginable.  There is NO FILLING DENNIS' PLACE - PERIOD, but somehow I felt it was imperative that he be represented there.  He had given over 25 years of his life to judging young men and women and pouring into their lives in this venue and therefore it had to be done.  It ended up being a highlight and a very healing time for me.  The young men I judged with, Aaron & Nathan, were so gracious to this "old lady" and incredibly talented and resourceful.  It was such an enjoyable time and I can't wait to judge again :)

My time with Sara was priceless and to have Amber as well made everything perfect.  It was surprising to me that I would fall in love with Arizona.  Yes, it was HOT but a dry heat and who could stay focused on the fieriness of the desert with the beauty that surrounded us?  The mountains, cacti, mesquite, rock formations and unbelievably azure sky with those beautifully inflated clouds took my breath away.  The trip to Sedona and to the Grand Canyon cannot be described by me.  There are no words magnificent enough and no camera that can capture the grandeur and splendor that met our eyes.  I saw Dennis everywhere we went.  He was in the splendor of every sunrise and sunset, in the radiant red soil and the majesty of the Grand Canyon.  While at Council I saw him among friends who surrounded us from when "our story" began in 1971.  I cannot count the number of precious friends who assured me they had prayed for me countless times (as well as many of them sending cards and notes and scriptures to encourage me time and time again).  There were those who were unaware until this past week that Dennis had gone on to his eternal reward and we cried together as their grief journey began right then and there.  At the Memorial Breakfast, it was heartbreaking to watch his name scroll across the screen and yet it proved to be another healing moment as well.  I saw him sitting among the judges and the thousands of students gathered to share talent that represented hard work and commitment of gifts dedicated to the Lord.  I could almost catch the sound of his laugh,  hear his encouraging words and see the smile that lit his face as he shared the wonderment of Evangel University.  He was there as we sat in the Airways arena and watched a group of young people perform "nontraditional" percussion, beating on trash cans and crashing their lids while stomping and twirling (he would have applauded their talent and been the first to say how wonderful it was that they were there in Phoenix celebrating Jesus when they could have been anywhere else but...).  I felt him with me every minute and could feel his smile and his pride in me that I was continuing the vision we had together.  I could very nearly hear him say, "I never doubted for a minute that you would continue to move forward.  I'm so proud of you!" It proved to be a corner turned, a healing time, A MIRACLE. 

Sara & Teena at the Grand Canyon - July, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

Past, Present & Future -

A few months ago, a friend was wearing a necklace that I admired.  It was somewhat like a relaxed "s" shape with three diamonds set in gold.  She explained that it represented the "past, present & future."  What wonderful symbolism. 

My trip to Texas has been a trip down memory lane.  Arrived in Pampa, TX on Friday and visited with my 1972 roomie from Southwestern, Sharon.  We hadn't seen each other for 39 years but we started talking and it was as though we were 18 years old again.  We have followed each other on Facebook but its not the same as good ole fashioned conversation.  We both decided that thirty-nine years is way too long for good friends to be apart.  We conversed about first loves and the disappointments of life.   After leaving Sharon, drove on to Amarillo to stay with my first cousin Barbara.  Barbara was very close to my mother and her daughter Diana and I were very close growing up.  We had such fun talking "nonstop" about events in each of our lives since being together last.  Barbara lost her husband, Harold, when she was 31 and he was 33 so she could relate to where I am.  It just so happened that the Tascosa High School class of 1971 reunion was this weekend.  Didn't want to go by myself but noticed on the schedule of events that the school would be open on Saturday for a tour.  My brother, Floryan, went with me and we toured the school.  It was as though a time machine abducted me and there I was, a senior roaming those long hauls, talking around the locker and kneeling on the "commons" floor as Ms. Willy measured my skirt to rule if it was long enough or not (it certainly wasn't very long :)  Recalled my high school best friend, Jeanne, sliding down the steps next to the office and me laughing at her (and her NOT appreciating it).  I LOVED HIGH SCHOOL and it was great fun to meet some of my classmates again and reminisce about days gone by.  Afterwards, Floryan drove us past our childhood home and the memories that flooded back of neighbors and childhood friends.   Sunday morning found me at my home church.  Dennis and I attended Southwestern with the Pastor and his wife before any of us were married and, of course, there were friends there who have known me my entire life.  I couldn't leave town without stopping at the cemetery to see Mama and Daddy, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins buried there.  What was once an area with few family gravestones in the Marigold section of Memorial Park is now dense with the remains of those I hold so dear.  It is easy to get caught up in the past.  The past for me is where so many of my family members are and is where Dennis has been for close to a year now.  The problem is, to get stuck in the past is never the Lord's will.  We cannot stay there and move forward at the same time.  The past must be left behind even as we cherish, treasure and hold dear those memories.  

The present and future are more difficult.  Those of you who are well acquainted with me, are very aware of how I like to "know" who, where, why, how, etc.  It is the "unknown" that is disconcerting and yet, the Lord tells us to "take no thought of tomorrow."  We aren't to "borrow" trouble.  (Trouble is NOT what I'm wanting to borrow)  When a young child, Mama would sing the song, "Que Sera Sera."  I would ask her to sing it over and over again.  The lyrics are as follows: 

"When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother, what will I be?
Will I be pretty, will I be rich?  Here's what she said to me.

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see, Que Sera Sera,  what will be, will be.

The future isn't mine to see.  Moving onward is a trust journey.  Although plans are made, I MUST live this day to the fullest without anguish or apprehension about my impending destiny.  Dennis' death was so unexpected.  Never did I entertain the thought of walking into the winter of my life without him.  It rocked my world and kindled a fire storm of doubt and fear about my future.  I loved being a wife, partner, companion and best friend.  Can I ever be capable of giving and receiving such love again?  Trust is difficult and my conclusion is that I cannot let my need to understand and "know" separate me from a close daily journey with Christ.  "

"Christ is the lover of my soul, understands me perfectly and loves me eternally."  Sarah Young

"Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.  In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blessing Others - A story of pearls and pumps

My Sara grew up surrounded by people.  Not sure she ever realized how miniature our family really was.  Almost every holiday and special occasion, that was spent in our home, was filled with those who had no where else to be.  There were young couples who couldn't travel "home" for Thanksgiving or Christmas because they were required to work the day before and after the holiday.  There were students financially unable to purchase a ticket overseas to where "home" was.  There were families that didn't have the means or time to get across the country to spend a few days at "home."  There were the older couples, without children of their own, who had no one else to share a special holiday with and didn't want to be "home" alone.  There were elderly friends whose children and grandchildren lived other places and couldn't OR wouldn't see that they had a place to be on special days and "home" seemed at times like a prison.  How painless it was to set a few extra plates to accommodate those who would be by themselves otherwise.  I have incredible memories of Bettye, a widowed lady in her early 80's, who arrived at our house one Christmas noon (picked up and brought by another guest) dressed in her finest, wearing her pearls and pumps.  You would have thought she was attending a State Dinner or High Tea with the Queen of England.  It is impossible, all these years later, to remember how many times Bettye stated that it was the best Christmas she had ever had.  It IS possible to remember how we cried to think that the simple time we spent around the table could have conceivably been her BEST Christmas.  Sara grew up putting puzzles together by the roaring fire Dennis had blazing in the fireplace with people she had never met before that day.  She listened as we took turns around the circle recalling our favorite memories of one holiday or another.  We joined voices with strangers on Christmas Eve's as we walked through nursing homes proclaiming "Joy To the World",  our tears mingling with those residents who were "stuck" in that place all alone.

Any of you who have ever been in our home know how "casual" I entertain.  Dennis was a "people magnet" and couldn't bear the thought of anyone not having somewhere to be.  I always serve buffet style and it is every person for themselves.  Here is the food, GO FOR IT!  You might possibly see the pots and pans piled up near the sink (depending on if there was time to get everything cleared away before the guests started arriving) and me in my apron with spatters of gravy and who knows what else on my face and in my hair.  It concerned me at first that people would be "put off" by my causal ways.  Dennis always assured me that no one cared about that, they were just grateful to be there and have people to share the day with.  You know, he was absolutely right.  No one ever commented about the pots and pans and my spattered hair.  

After so many years of being the one who invited others to my home, I find myself being the one invited by others.  I realize that we tend to be comfortable with our inner circle of family and friends and just don't think to venture out, to enlarge our circle.  Suddenly, it hits me that if other precious friends didn't ask me over on these special occasions, I would be sitting in an empty house by myself.  That is something I can't even fathom - how discouraging and distressing that would be.  A friend on Facebook responded to a post on my wall this week.  I commented on how incredibly blessed by friends who take such care to minister to me and told then that their friendship is priceless.  A friend commented back and said these words:  "You have blessed so many...Reaping time!"  It struck me - the principle of sowing and reaping is true.  WE DO REAP WHAT WE SOW.  Let me make something abundantly clear here, Dennis and I did nothing special.  We are instructed by God to be salt and light, to take care of widows and orphans and "whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them..."  Not a big deal at all UNTIL I am the one in need of being brought into someones circle.

There are precious friends out there who are "doing unto others" with open arms.  Thank you David & Susan who have invited me countless times for every celebration that one can think of and many times for dinner at home.  Thank you Glenn & Fay for planning a birthday dinner, complete with cake and candles, for my Sara two days after her daddy went home to heaven and for my birthday a few weeks later (including my brother and sister-in-law) and for inviting me for every special occasion you can come up with.  Thank you Linda & Mike for your "open door policy" to me and anyone with me and for your prayers and encouragement.  Thank you Chuck & Jo for having me in your home to celebrate Thanksgiving (along with my friend Sherli who was visiting), your dad's birthday and countless other special events including Mother's Day.  Thank you Paul & Kay for including me with "couples" for dinner (it means the world to stay a part of my "old" friend group).  Thank you Bruce & Marsha for having me over so many times I have lost count since our re-acquaintance on President's Day (the first being to celebrate your precious Bethany's birthday).  Thank you Lamar & Jimmie (who have just met me recently) for having me over twice in less than 2 weeks time including Memorial Day and treating me like "one of the kids."  Thank you Rita & Paula for implementing the plan to meet every week for dinner since Dennis died.  Thank you Sandi for making time to meet with me often and to minister to my hurting soul.  Thank you Lois & Jan for always inquiring, if you see me on Sunday, if I have someone to go eat with.  Thank you Sara B. for inviting me numerous times to see a movie or to go eat and for checking on me every single morning at school to make sure I arrived and am okay.  Thank you Peggy for including me in so many special events and keeping in close contact.  Thank you Brenda,  Harold & Kristen for the times you have invited me to special events, picked me up and provided the ticket.  Thank you Lauren, Julianna, Meredith, Desiree, Darrell, Jenna, Zach, JT, Kari, Shawna for being great "kids" to me.  You have cooked, brought flowers, served Mother's Day brunch, cleaned my house and stayed with me during bad weather.  Thank you Bob & Sheryl for how you blessed me when my basement took on water - what would I have done without your hand extended?  I am sure there are others who have been overlooked here but know this:  I love and appreciate you all more than you will ever know.  You have ministered to me through your kindness.

I encourage you to "reach out" to others.  The principle of "sowing and reaping" will bless your life and the lives of your children.

I love you!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Water, Worry & Wonder

The past two weeks have been intensive, to say the least.  Springfield weather is usually so unpredictable and this year has proven to be filled with too much of a good thing.  You can't prepare for it and you certainly never get used to it:)  The area experienced major snowfall in February and record rainfall in April and May.  Over a period of 3 days, we racked up greater than 10 inches of rain that had the ground saturated and people ready to build an ark.  During that period of excess rain, some pesky rivulets decided to make their way into my walk-out basement.  Never have we had any moisture or water so it came as a shock.  It was only in one room but it was just one more "something" in a year filled with excess "somethings!"  Thankfully I had the presence of mind to call a wonderful friend, Bob, who had helped Dennis and I get through our 2007 ice storm ordeal.  He agreed to meet me at the house after school.  In the mean time, I called a company to come to see if there was enough water to require it being extracted and the room dried out.  The company arrived before Bob and determined that there wasn't enough water to require extraction but the pad and carpet did need to be dried out to the tune of almost $500.00 a day.  Thankfully Bob arrived and had the equipment necessary to handle the problem.  My downstairs den resembled a scene out of the movie "ET" with plastic taped up to help in the dry out, furniture here and there and the carpet pulled up and draped.  They could have filmed a video for the song "Redneck Woman" down there as well since I had to empty part of my Christmas closet and there were two Christmas trees, stockings, decorative tins and other "out of season" decor all around.  Bob checked the outside wall to the house to find the culprit that created this mess and found a gutter issue.  Let me tell you, IMMEDIATELY I recognized that the Lord had blessed my life with Bob's help and expertise AND with the verdict.  He brought in a load of dirt, some grass seed and a referral for a gutter man.  The gutter company has repaired the gutters, put up a leaf guard and added a few down spouts.  
There was another MIRACLE that was experienced in these past two weeks that I won't go in to but just let me tell you that it was a MAJOR issue. Someone I have never met and might possibly never meet intervened on my behalf and saved me worry, stress and ultimately money.  This wonderful person may never realize how he was used by God to minister to my life. 

Evangel's graduation week was painful as I watched some of my "kids" pack up and move for good.  It was a privilege to be thanked by countless parents who told me that Dennis and I had such an impact on their children and how grateful they would always be.  Well, it was mutual.  Those precious "kids" of ours poured into us, loved us and allowed us to speak into their lives.  What cherished and treasured memories I have to keep me warm in my old age.  Godspeed Bryan, Brian, J.T., Jonathan, Ben & Joshua.  To cap off my miracles, four precious young ladies invited me to "Mother's Day Brunch" at their house, gave me a card they each wrote in that made me cry and a vase with beautiful flowers.  I was missing my Sara and Jason so much and this was a perfect gesture.  Thank you Lauren, Julianna, Meredith and Desiree.  Love you girls!

It is important for me to share these stories because in the midst of this difficult road, God is showing me that He really does care about my "now" and my future, and that He has everything in my life under control.  Oh how I miss Dennis and his calm, always positive approach to everything.  There isn't a decision made that I don't worry about whether it was the correct one and ask myself what Dennis would do in this situation.  The burdens that we shared for 36 years are now squarely on my shoulders alone and it is unnerving.  I find that even watching the news creates dismay and consternation.  Today on Meet the Press, they were talking about how Medicare is predicted to run out 5 years sooner than they thought, around 2024.  That will be just a couple of years after I am eligible for it.  Oh great!  Then what?  That was my first response and then just as clearly as I thought it, felt the Lord speak to me.  "I AM YOUR SOURCE."  YOU CANNOT DEPEND ON YOUR OWN WAYS OR THE WAYS OF THIS WORLD"  I WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU!"  I turned the TV off and thanked Him while making my way to Sunday School and church, knowing that HE IS FAITHFUL! 

Dear family and friends, thank you for continuing to pray for me.  Never could I have imagined that grief would almost cripple and debilitate me.  Never would have thought that this journey would be such a desolate, bleak, solitary walk.  BUT, Jesus has walked with me through the valley of the shadow of death.  He has cradled, sustained and undergirded me every step of the way.  He has reinforced me and shored me up when I would have collapsed and He is MY FOUNDATION!

"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 on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  --2 Corinthians 4:17-18 

Love you!

Monday, April 25, 2011

He is Risen Indeed!

Easter meant more to me this year than ever before.  There has always been the realization that the death and resurrection of Jesus is the very foundation of Christianity.  I have celebrated this season with gusto my entire life.  Growing up, we prepared for Easter by getting a new spring outfit (for me that included white gloves and a bonnet -girly girl my entire life), dying eggs, usually getting a little chick or duckling, attending the sunrise service and then church service and then dinner with family.  My Mama always connected those "traditions" with the bedrock of why we celebrated Easter at all.  It was ALWAYS brought back to Jesus,  His death and resurrection, and the acknowledgment that because of Him, we became "new creatures" who LIVE FOREVER.  I passed those traditions on to Sara (except for the wildlife).  

This past Easter weekend was full of remembrance and evaluation for me.  There have been many losses through the years and it has always been a comfort  knowing that one day we would all be reunited.  Over the past 15 years, losses have included my Mama and Daddy, Dennis' Mom and Dad, 7 aunts, 5 first cousins and a number of friends.  There was grief and sadness but Dennis and I had each other to lean on, and to remind each other of "our hope" for rejoining those we love.  

Since Dennis' death, to be perfectly candid, I have questioned the very existence of heaven and that hope for reunion.  As close and special as my relationship was with my mother, NOTHING prepared me for the despair I felt with the loss of Dennis.  It was vitally important to "know for sure" that he lived on.  There were moments that I questioned EVERY ELEMENT OF MY BELIEF SYSTEM.  He was so dynamic, significant, critical to "this world" that it was so perplexing to even entertain the thought of why a fair, sovereign God (whom he was working so effectively for) would snatch him without warning.  For what possible purpose would his effective ministry come to an abrupt end?  I cried out to God, begged, pleaded, rationally conversed with ( er....), railed and bawled for a sign that Dennis "LIVED ON" with naught in response.  ONLY SILENCE!  Even in HIS silence,  it is so apparent that God has been faithful to me.  He has used so many people to be His hand extended and to help bring healing to my broken heart. 

Now, a little farther down the road of healing, I come to realize that this is a "faith" journey.  It is most likely that the answers being sought will stay a mystery to me.  The reality of what Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection impact me deeply.  There is so much brokenness in this world and it is absolutely necessary to live by faith and give up seeking answers that really won't change the circumstances.  I am certainly not brandishing any measure of great faith but realize that the power of Christ can work in my fracturable neediness and bring me ever closer to executing the plan He has for my life. My life is forever amended and there is no way to revise that fact.  However, my choice here and now is to hope and trust the Lord to give me direction.  I want to move forward and accomplish everything possible for His glory. 

Trying moments don't stop as you move on, they continue to hit you at such unusual times. An example of this has been the daunting task to choose a grave marker for someone you love intensely. While Sara was still here, we went to look at markers and she leaned toward a double stone with both Dennis' and my information on it.  My friend Sherli mentioned the phrase on the marker for her brother and his wife and it struck the perfect note with us.  The monument company will put both our names and birth dates on the stone and then they will put Dennis' date of death.  The phrase they will also put on the stone is:  HE FINISHED WELL   I have secured a promise from Sara that ONLY IF I too finish my race with faithfulness, living my life abundantly, that they will add upon my death two additional letters so that the stone will read:  THEY FINISHED WELL.  You know, it doesn't really matter at all how you start the race - all that matters is how you finish it.  I am striving to get back on track and finish my race with exhilaration and zeal!

"And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you."  Romans 8:11