Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mighty Friends

Yesterday, eating lunch with a co-worker, he saved the very best piece of his lunch for his last bite. I remarked to him and others there that my mom used to do the same thing at our supper table.
Mom would cut and trim around a pork chop or a steak so she could savor and anticipate that last good bite. Unfortunately, my dad would also be watching her do this and I can't count the number of times I saw him reach in quickly with his fork, stab her last bite, stuff it in his mouth and then grin at her!
We all always got a huge kick out of watching my mom's pretended outrage as she laughingly yelled at him "You took my ewe lamb!"
The thing is, that as I recalled these memories to my co-workers,..they looked at me with blank or confused looks.

"Ewe lamb?"

Well THEN I told them that the ewe lamb reference was from the story of King David. It was the centerpiece of a story which Nathan the prophet had used to bring about conviction into David's heart about his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah.
They were unfamiliar with the story, so I gave them the condensed version.
Well THEN, I told them that Uriah was one of King David's 30 "Mighty Men", which were known for loving an protecting him. David ended up having him killed!
THEN, because I work with some really manly men, I began to tell some of the cool things about these 30 mighty men of King David's.

(I try to think linear straight thoughts. I really do, but it just doesn't work for me)

Now, since yesterday at lunch, I have been thinking of friends and friendships.

My devotional this morning consisted of transferring some written notes from one bible into another, and I chose to work on the book of Job. When I go back and read my handwritten entries in the margins of my bible, I always recall the learning that took place there. Much of my learning in that great book were lessons on friendship. My opinion from studying Job, is that he did not have very good "Mighty Friends".

I have heard it said that:
"you can go all of our life and only have two or three really close friends in your life.
If you have two or three close friends, then you are blessed indeed."

Well I disagree!

The 30 or so "mighty men" of King David are spoken of at length in II Samuel 23. Those friends came to him as an adult, and it seems that many of them may not have been present when David became King. They were there for a time, and then they were away. No longer friends with him? Don't really know, but I suspect that they all were still very loyal to each other, in spite of time or distance apart.

That's how it is with my friends.
Some friendship were forged in my childhood. Although many are merely acquaintances, some of those childhood relationships are strong until this day.
Some friendships came to me as a teenager, when my social circle began to widen. Most of those relationships have simply "gone away" but a few friendships made there are enjoyable in spite of 30 years of separation.
In my adult life, most of my friendships came from either work or church. Those two places were where I spent the majority of my time and effort, so we had that commonality.
Living life together.

Some friends have stayed with me over my lifespan, and indeed some of them would be in my "mighty three", but I have some newer friends who have changed me for the better and constantly urge me towards God. They, too, would be considered my closest.
I can not imagine living life without either group.

I am grateful to God for childhood friends.
My professional friends are mighty indeed. Gifted with the inspirational combination of mercy and expertise.
I am thankful for the friendships formed while sitting in bleachers and at softball fields watching my girls.
The friendships formed while in my pit of grief I cherish like no other.
I have friends who have wounded me deeply, and I'm sure that I have done my share of inflicting wounds on others. The recollection of both are painful.
Some of my best friendships are with family members.
Some friends are Godly,..some are hell bound.
Crazy I know, but some of my friends don't know me at all (yet!). There are people who I have a huge affection for, but have never met.

One or two close friends makes one rich? I think not!
I am blessed to have been surrounded by "mighty friends" at almost every phase of my life.

I hope my friends never need me to slay 800 people in one day (II Sam 23:8) or kill a lion in a pit on a snowy day ( v 20). If that's their need, then, God help them 'cause I doubt I'd be able.

Lord, help me to be a powerful mighty friend to those I love and to those who love me. Open my eyes to see the needs, and enlarge my Faith so that I can help you meet them.
Make me "mighty"!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I have been thinking of reunions all morning. I wonder why? Of course, anyone who knows me well, remembers that I am often captivated by the entire Heavenly realm,..but this morning, these thoughts are not always about Heavenly reunions.

When I was growing up, we had an old black and white TV in our kitchen on a wire TV stand. It was not on all the time, but only for some specific shows, such as the gospel singing show on Sunday morning called The Gospel Singing Jubilee. (..."Jubilee-ee! Jubilee-ee! Were invited to a happy Jubilee-ee-ee!")

But one time, over a period of days, we watched news footage of the Vietnam POW's being reunited with their families after years of captivity. I could not bring myself to leave the TV when those images were being shown. I was deeply moved to be an observer of such a profoundly emotional moment. The world was allowed to peek directly inside the hearts of lovers, parents, children, brothers, sisters and friends as they experienced the end of such a painful separation.

There are fantastic reunions on TV. Let's see,...there is...
Nemo being reunited with his dad,
Simba and Nala,
Lassie and Timmy (every episode),
Fievel and his dad,
The animals and their owners in the "Incredible Journey".,
there is a reunion of old lovers in an old movie (a favorite of my dad's) but the name eludes me,...
there are so many more!
If anyone reads this and has their own memorable feel-good reunion moment, either real, movie, or anticipated,..consider adding it to the comments so we can share it together!

I recall when Jae and Casey were about 3 years old, they went to Mississippi for a week. It was the longest that we had ever been separated from them. As the time neared when we would go get them from their grandparents, I became literally filled with excited anticipation. I could not wait! I woke up happy that morning, traveled with enthusiasm and arrived at our meeting point early.

As I exited my car, I heard them scream my name and watched as they both ran towards Ralph and I as fast as their little legs would go,..arms straight up. They, too, had been ready for the reunion, and were waiting and watching for us to arrive. There have been many more reunions of our small family, but for me,..few were as memorable as that one.

I do not dream often of Jae Lynn. Other moms have good dreams of their children who have died, but most of my dreams of her are unspeakably painful,...the accident, cemeteries, big trucks, etc... But one dream, even though it too was painful when I awoke, was all about a reunion with her. In this dream, I was called to an office and told that the entire wreck had been a mistake and she was "right here".
And there she was.
Right there.
As I embraced her and held tight to her, it felt as if I could finally breathe after having been held under water. My relief was greater than most emotions I have experienced awake.

In Heaven, I will see and embrace those I love. Our separation has been forced, and I suspect that our reunion will be noisy and emotional. In my study of I and II Peter, he constantly reminds us to keep our focus on our eternal future. I do try to do that, but my mind usually wanders back to what surely will occur near the beginning of eternity,....and that is,...the reunions.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Closed roads

Note the time. Gggrrr.....

You see, I have just been through the awful-est time. Actually, my middle daughter, Casey has been through the awful-est time and I had to observe from afar. Here at 2 a.m., she is finally in her bed at college, and I am too wound up to sleep here at home.

Casey has enjoyed a four-day weekend here but was told by her daddy about 3:30 this afternoon to "get on the road!" because there was a possibility of a winter storm. Off she went into the cold but sunshiny afternoon. However, about 35 miles from her destination, high upon one of the Interstate 540 bridges, she was stopped along with hundreds of other travelers because of icy roads.
From 60 mph to 0 mph.
From dry roads to ice-covered roads.
Completely stopped with the motor turned off.
And turned on again occasionally for some heat.
Luckily for her she had a coat, boots, a blanket and even food in her car. (Unfortunately there was no bathroom!)

The news at 10:00 announced that they had "closed I-540" because it was impassable due to bad road conditions.
Closed it?
How can you close a road when it is packed full of drivers?

The State Highway Patrol told us around 11 p.m. that if she was in distress she could call 911 and they would send a helicopter to get her out. I informed him that she was not in distress yet, but that I was. He seemed to believe me since he had evidently already spoken with about 100 other parents who also had kids on this full, but closed freeway.

Finally,...about 1:30 a.m., she pulled onto her campus.
Stretched to her limits physically, emotionally and mentally.
Her next big effort would be to get to her dorm which is on the opposite side of campus from where she must park.

Now the University Police have cautioned young females time and time again about walking alone on campus. "Call us!" they say! "Be safe!"
Even the drunks are encouraged to call the police for a "safe ride".

However, tonight,.. the police officer informed her that the "safe-ride" time frame had expired and that she would need to get there on her own. I didn't get exactly what he said to her because she was crying as she was walking.

So, in the dark icy rain, carrying multiple bags, Casey finished her trip walking uphill about a mile. This entire 3.5 hour trip had turned into a 10 hour nightmare, and her voice held more exhaustion than I have ever heard from her.

If I knew that Police officers name, I would drive up there tonight and slap him nekkid.

Here's the deal:
That police officer could have turned that entire trip around for her. He could have picked her up, commiserated with her about the trip and dropped her off at the door. She would have still been spent, but she probably would have also felt cared for and supported on her arrival. What in the cotton-picking heck was he doing at 1:30 in the morning that was more important than her?

The University is lean mean educating machine, but it loses sight of the kids.
She's a little fish in a big pond.
She said she hates the campus and I told her I did too.

I tell ya,....there is really only one place we belong and that is,...... home.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Unread Letters

When a letter is sent to someone, it actually means very little if the recipient does not read it. The content may be extremely important, but does it does matter if it never gets opened and read? The letter to my girls was probably read by several people, but not by the two people it was addressed to.
Casey and Abby know my heart. My message is not new. I tell them the same things in person and try to do it often, but a written word is sometimes much more powerful.

It's an easy thing for them to forget who and what they are as they face their day to day culture. Schedules, relationships, school work, and other things scream for their attention.

Often my ideas seem to be out-dated and yes, even irrelevant.
"You know mom, that things are different these days."

The fact that they don't read my blog does not mean that they don't love me. Of course they do! They are satisfied though, with different forms of communication.

I find myself desperate to make them hear,.. and take to heart,..my message. Eventually, as I usually do, I will speak to them the exact same things that I wrote in the letter.

As usual, I considered how this all was similar to my relationship with Christ. My Father has His heartfelt life changing message written directly to and especially for little ole' me.
Ready for me to open it and read.

Yet, I can go for days at a time without even opening His letter.

I am doing better than I used to, but still need more. Even a small amount of time spent reading His letters has a profound impact on me. His encouraging words change my thoughts and my daily responses to people and situations. Even though the things I read are not new.

One of my patients told me this morning that he needed his birthday suit ironed because it was full of wrinkles. Oh how I can identify with his funny statement! However, it is comforting to know from 2nd Peter, that our birthday suits may wrinkle, but our hearts grow more beautiful as we follow Christ.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A letter to my girls

Dear Casey and Abby,

Here we are in a weekend which just happens to be the end of one semester and the beginning of the next. Grades have been earned, scores are posted, and this Monday you get to start over with a new slate of classes, teachers (sometimes) and hopes. Your daddy and I are proud of both of you and will continue to support you as you sit through the grind of an education. Some people talk about the thrill of learning,..but we know that oftentimes the tedium of the classroom far outweighs the joy of learning.

One of my resolutions this year was not related to school work at all. It is to encourage both of you to live your life stronger for God. My encouragement comes not because either of you are living a life of sin, but more because I have been convicted recently that this "taking up my cross daily" business is pretty hard work. If God's will was all clearly spelled out for you, following Him may be easier. Instead, He asks you, no, He longs and desires that you be Faithful to His word.

Communicating with Him through the Bible and prayer is when you will find the way to the joy and abundant life that He promises. It's not rocket science. They do not seem to be a flashy way to success, but trust your mom here,...they work.

When either of you leave for any reason through our kitchen door to go out, I always call out to you my love and concern "I love you!" "Please be careful!"
You and I know full well the meaning of those parting words.

What if God Himself were sending you out our kitchen door? He may call out things like:

"Don't forget to love those who you come into contact with today! Especially those who are hurting or are unlovely!"

"Be on guard Casey and Abby, you can not imagine how bad Satan wants to attack you"

"I am waiting right here girls for you to call out. If you need me, I will there instantly!"

"People everywhere are watching you. Please know that you are a direct reflection of Me"

"Look in the mirror and check your heart!"

God's plans for your life are way bigger than mine.

Heaven is closer than you think.

Fear nothing when you are following Him closely, and be terrified when you are not.

Your daddy and I love you with all that we are.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Soul deficiencies

Note the time of this post. It is early. Especially since I have already been up for over a couple of hours. It is a good thing for you, my few readers, that I do not write the moment that I find myself unable to sleep. The thoughts that often drive me out of sleep and ultimately out of the bed are often ones which would condemn me to the closest nut house.

ONE of the subjects on my bitty mind this night has been related to my work. You see, my small Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit is undergoing a National inspection/re-certification process which must be done every few years so that we are "Credentialed".
"Good enough for Medicare funds".

Basically, we are given a 20 page, 10 font document filled with hundreds of requirements, details and legal-speak which must demonstrate our daily work and prove that we are following all the National standards that have been set forth by the AACVPRA.
Yes, that's right...The AACVPRA. All of those letters represent a group of people whom we have never met, yet who will decide whether we are fit to deliver care at the North Little Rock Hospital.
We have been working for weeks to put together one notebook which holds examples of our work, examples of our forms, and the answers to all of the questions which they have asked. We will send this huge important document to this group of strangers who will then hold our professional fate in their hands for weeks before they let us know if we have any "deficiencies".
We are scared to death.
But we need their input to survive in health care.

I wish there was a place to go where I could get a list of requirements for me for a fruitful Godly life. One list of must-do's and specific examples which explain what my life should look like. Yes,..yes,..I KNOW I have the Bible, but to me, the examples there are confusing and leave a lot to the interpretation.
One great Bible character may do something one way and God is pleased.
Another great character does things a different way and God is pleased.
Then there may be a greater Bible character who does something and God is not pleased.

I have struggled for almost 4 years with this whole "will of God" thing. My searching for God's will has often been about the past, but now,..now I find that I am concerned for the future of me and those I love.
There is much at stake. I must get this right.

There are times when I feel like I am making progress on becoming "qualified", and then I come across another situation which makes me think I don't have a clue what I am doing in the Christ-following business.

I wish sometimes that I would just be given a list of deficiencies that I have and then I would know what to fix.
I know many of them all too well, but is there something large or small that I don't see?
There must be.

I get up in the morning thinking "I am going to change the world".
But after a few hours, I find myself feeling and thinking " I am going to bed as soon as I am able".

Philippians 4:6-7(the Message)
Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will settle you down.

I think those two verses will be my plan for my 30 minute ride into work.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sleeping in Jae's bed

It has been a long time since I slept in her bed. I used to go there often, nightly in fact, in the days and weeks after her accident. I felt closer to her there, and it was filled with so many of the physical things which she held dear. I still feel close to here there in that purple and green room.

When I spoke last summer at the Bereaved Parent National Gathering,..I recall visiting with another one of the presenters. This wonderful man had been a regular speaker with the organization for years, and is highly educated and esteemed. In our conversation, I mentioned in passing that I had not done anything to Jae's room since her accident. He let me finish what I was saying, but then her drew me back to my earlier statement. I can not recall his exact words, but he basically asked if I knew that "not re-decorating a child's room is a sign of poor coping? It often means that you are not moving on".

Do tell.
Well I have a word for him and the rest of "those people" who say I am not coping well with the death of my oldest child.
Shut up.

I can lay in her bed at night and see the fluorescent stick-on stars that we applied to the ceiling.

I laid there last night and recalled the made-up bedtime stories about a mouse named Coco who lived under our barn. (Coco was almost a part of our family. He used to hop aboard the bumper of our Dodge Caravan and go everywhere we went.)

I laid there and recalled the time she had taken us through an emotional eventful night of getting our car stuck in the mud behind the church, then covering her daddy in mud as he tried to get it out of the mud, then him making her wash the car at 10:00 at night because IT was covered in mud, and then her making peace with him about it all. She had messed up, gotten in trouble, and had then experienced the wonderful feeling of grace and forgiveness. It was one of mine and her most tender tuck-in times.
16 years old.

I laid there and recalled the bedtime when she was 10. We had watched an episode of "Boy Meets World", and this particular episode had been pretty frank about sex. As I tucked her in that night, she asked me a question about it. I began to explain some things to her and she pulled the covers over her head and squeaked "No! No! I don't want to talk about this!!"

Sounds of her bedroom used to include the noisy doorknob, her eye-glasses clinking as she took them off, her warbly singing, her cell phone "Rumba" ring, her dresser drawers going out and in, her headboard which is loose and bangs against the wall, and, of course, the sounds of a cheerleader practicing her stunts.

Then there was the time she began to talk about her grades in Algebra and began to hyperventilate. I had to get a bag for her to breathe in and everything.

I laid on her bed last night and recalled 100 more memories than what I have written here.

Right there in the dark,..me, blankey and mousey, stared at those ceiling stars and missed her with a quiet longing that I have grown accustomed to.

I imagine it may be like enjoying the beauty and sound of this world, but then becoming irreversibly blind and deaf. I don't know.

Her room is always clean now.
Her junk drawer, to my great comfort, still smells like her.
Her clothes are in the closet and her shoes are by the door. If someone goes in there and moves things around, it is no big deal.
The room is not a shrine.
It is my oldest daughter's bedroom.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


New Years Resolutions.
Something vague to talk about in passing.
Realistic goals without a plan for achievement.
No specific process to ensure success.

There are things I want done in this next 365 days. Actually less than that, since it's the 5th of Jan. But we can add a day since it's a leap year!
A good friend (thank you K.) informed me with a wave of her hand that my two resolutions were too "vague" "Not specific enough" "Those won't take me anywhere" "Not personal enough".

Well alrighty then!
I have made some more.
Of course I have some more!
I have deep desires every single day of the year to do things better. Don't we all?

A teenager once gave a short devotional at our church and I will never forget one of the things he said: You should never be afraid to do what God wants you to do,..but you better always be afraid when you are NOT obeying Him".

It feels good to have a plan. Or at least to refocus my attention to what I really consider important.
What are my priorities in life?
Am I neglecting any of them?
What is keeping me from doing what I need to do?

Last time that I really made the list of priorities, it set in motion a career change.
I hope that doesn't happen this time.