I didn’t know we were family

It’s been a rough year around here. And those of you who follow me (thank you so much!), I’m sure you’ve noticed I haven’t been posting nearly as often as I used to. This last year my emotions have been so raw it’s hard to write and on top of that I am extremely empathetic. If you hurt, I hurt. Even if I don’t know you and I see you cry, it’s a safe bet I’ll be crying, too.

A few weeks ago, Facebook came out with a new feature. It wasn’t the thumbs down button we have all been asking for, but it was five (I think) different choices on top of the “like” button. And I am a child of the 90s, I am (on the upper edge) in the generation that was just young enough to get Facebook and MySpace and live journal (if you know how I can get my hands on my live journal these days I’d love to have those words!), but old enough to not ruin my life on social media.

All of these extra options on Facebook seemed so silly to me when they came out. All we asked for was a thumbs down. And I’m old enough, I don’t even know what all those faces stand for. I know that there is a heart for love (over like?) and a laughing out loud one and a sad one. I’m not sure what the other faces are for.

That sad face. The one with the tears and when you press on it, it says sad. That is the face I have used the most these last few days. Well, let’s be honest. These last 24 hours have been the saddest. I can’t even count the times I’ve pressed that sad face today.

We all love in groups. You have those closest to you and then like a ripple when you through a stone in the water your love expands. And you love every ripple, but maybe you love that first ripple more than the fifth or maybe you love all those ripples and can’t even tell the difference between them. I have always known who is in my first ripple. My first ripple is full of all the people who cried with me when Grandpa John died. It is family and friends who should be family.

That first ripple is all I did (could) focus on when Grandpa died. Those were the people who hurt with me. Those were the people who understood what he meant to me. Those were the ones that clung to me as I grieved.

Today I learned about the other rings. Those people who joked around with me. Those people who bought me a drink when we were hanging out. Those people who served me a drink or two too many and then walked me home because they love me and need me to be safe, and I’m safe with them.  Those people who get a kick out of me when I’m not at my best. Those people who aren’t blood but are better and closer to me than some that are blood.

Today we lost a mother. And while I am so close with her husband and son (they are some of my favorite people), I am not blood. And maybe it sounds bad to say, but before today I didn’t know we were family. I didn’t know how much I loved them. I didn’t know how much they meant to me and how much their pain would hurt me.

Oh my goodness. That’s not what I meant. Or maybe it is. I have this group of people, and I have known for a long time that I love them. What I didn’t know before today was how much I loved them. I always thought it was like anyone loves their friends, (although I have little experience with this as well. I have one forever friend (I’m looking at you, Cassidy!). And then today, my friends lost their mother, I thought they were fifth ripple friends, and then I learned they really are first or second ripple friends.

Now, biologically she was only the mother to one of my friends. However, by love she was the mother to most of the people who I am friends with today. I think of that group of kids that were around when I was young. They called my mom Ratmom because there were so many that loved her. Shirley was the Ratmom of my new group of friends.

There are people who lost their mom young, there are people who never knew their mom, there are people whose mom just gave up on them. And Shirley was there for all of them. It didn’t matter if you needed a mom as a child or as an adult, Shirley would be your mom. It didn’t even matter if you thought you didn’t need a mom. If Shirley thought you needed a mom, you got one in her.  And tonight, so many more than she birthed are mourning the loss of their mom.

Tonight I had the chance to look at all these “kids” in a different light. This is my family. I didn’t know before tonight how much I loved every single one of these people. We all come from different places and backgrounds, but when you put us all in the same room, you can’t tell a difference. This is family.

Maybe in this family, I am the third cousin twice removed. But I’m still family. And they are still family. And I would do anything to keep them from the pain they are feeling tonight. But what I can do is laugh with them, and cry with them. We can tell stories and talk nonsense. We will come up with a plan to take care of Dad (this is so familiar and again I am so grateful Grandma has us to ground her).

It seems so silly, but I didn’t know this was family until today. I had no idea how much I loved these people until the pain was knocking on our door. When we (because I know my husband feels it more than I do) say, “is there anything we can do?” What we mean is, cry on our shoulder. Let us buy you a beer. Just know we hurt so much and aren’t blood but wish there was anything we could do. And then remember that the one thing I knew about Shirley was that blood didn’t matter at all.

Those that are family, those that love us, those that we love, remember that every tear you cry, we cry with you. We feel every pain. And maybe it doesn’t make your pain less, but where she is now, there is no pain.

Jesus didn’t need the stone rolled away.

There is something that bothers me a lot when we talk about Easter or when I hear songs about the resurrection. It’s a little thing, a small detail that most people probably don’t even hear. But when we talk about Easter and use this certain phrasing it changes the story.

One of my favorite Christian songs is Glorious Day by Counting Crowns.  They use this phrasing in their song. “One day the grave could conceal Him no longer, one day the stone rolled away from the door. Then He arose over death He had conquered.” Did you hear it? Honestly its just one little word. THEN He arose.

Nope. That’s not how it works. Jesus did not need the stone rolled away so He could leave the tomb. When you use the word then it sounds like Jesus couldn’t leave the tomb unless someone opened the door. We believe He was born to a virgin, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead three days later, but He needed the stone moved so He could get out of the tomb?

Maybe it’s silly how much this one word affects me, but, to me, this changes the story. It opens up room for so much doubt. How could Jesus be the Son of God if He needed the stone moved? He performed miracles but was trapped in the tomb until the stone was moved? Was He trapped in there until an angel of the Lord came down from Heaven and rolled the stone away? (Matthew 28:2)

No. Jesus wasn’t in the tomb when the angel moved the stone. Matthew 28:5-8 says, “But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.'”

The stone was not rolled away so Jesus could come out. Jesus was long gone from the tomb when the stone was rolled away. He was already on His way. He is alive. The stone was rolled away so that we may go in. It was moved so we  could see that the tomb was empty, so we could see the folded cloth and know that Jesus is not there. The stone was moved for us.

The stone was rolled away and we found an empty tomb, not Jesus waiting to get out.

Do you hear the difference that one word makes in the story? Death was already conquered. Jesus had already arose. God had already won, long before the stone was moved. The stone was moved so those who needed to see the empty grave could see it.

I’m not sure why the story gets told as if the stone was rolled away first. Maybe in the songs it just flows nicer that way. Maybe people don’t even realize the way they are phrasing it. Maybe I’m the only one in the whole world who hears it that way. (Although I’m guessing you’ll hear it now even if you never have in the past.) Maybe it shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it does bother me.

Jesus rose from the dead and THEN the stone was rolled away from the tomb. Not the other way around.

 

A letter to Grandma for Her Birthday

Dear Grandma,

I can’t even to begin to imagine how hard these last few months have been for you. From the first hospital visit to today, your whole life has changed. Grandpa was your rock, and I can’t imagine anything that would be harder for you than losing him.

I’ve watched you this last year. I’ve seen the strength you gave him when you had no strength left because you knew he needed those last moments, we needed those last moments before he went to the Father. I know the nights you didn’t sleep because he didn’t sleep. I know that even when he did sleep you laid awake to keep watch over him.

I know how you struggle today to fill your time because he was your time. I know how alone you feel because he was your other half. I know that you never imagined a life without him because he was your life.

And I sat at your table this week. And you watched the boys play their games and we talked about life and everything that had happened in the week since we had seen you. And we even talked about Grandpa a little. Not in any big or hard ways, but just in the natural way he came up in conversation, in how he would react to the world around us. Or how we all think of him every time Purdue plays basketball. (Oh my goodness, he would be madder than my husband in how they have been playing!)

I’m not sure why, but this has been a hard week for me. I miss Grandpa so much right now, maybe even more than the week he died. He was always there to talk to, and sometimes when we talk I imagine how he would react to it. And if I’m struggling this much this week, I can’t even imagine how hard things are for you.

I love Grandpa so much, but I know you love him even more than I can imagine. I can’t imagine losing my husband after 11 years of marriage, and I know that’s only a drop in the bucket after 60. I wish I could tell you how to move on, how to breath in and breath out every day. I wish I could tell you what to do to make each day easier. I wish there was a way I could make each day easier.

And I know (and I know you know) there is a reason God called Grandpa home and left you here with us. And not that I would pick him over you, I’m just selfish enough to want you both here with me now. It makes me want to scream out that it isn’t fair. And we all know that isn’t the way life works. We all have a story to tell and God doesn’t call us home until our story is done, no matter how long or short the story is.

Sunday is your 80th birthday. Maybe that is why Grandpa being gone hurts so much this week. I can just see him trying to convince you that you needed a party and 80 candles on a cake. I can see him rejoicing that God gave us all one more year with you.

And maybe that’s where we all need to be right now. Yes, it hurts so much. Yes, we will continue to cry and miss Grandpa, but his story was told. Your story isn’t finished and we need to continue to tell it. And I thank God for every additional day I have with you, that my boys have with you because your story isn’t finished. And while I didn’t believe, even after he was sick, that Grandpa’s story was coming to an end, I am so thankful for every day we had with him. And I know you are, too.

So know that while you are struggling through this time of change, we are struggling with you. And know that while you are learning how to live without Grandpa, we are too. I know it’s not the same. I know as much as I hurt, you must hurt 1,000 times more. But also know that your story isn’t finished. God still has work for you to do here on earth.

This may be the least happiest birthday letter ever written. And this is probably your least happiest birthday ever. And while we celebrate God giving us another year with you, it’s okay to have tears for the year He didn’t give us with Grandpa.

I’m sorry this letter isn’t more cheery, but I don’t think cheer is what any of us have to give right now. Maybe for your 81st birthday we can be cheery. I love you very, very much. Happy Birthday, Grandma.

 

I’m Sad But I’m Good

Yesterday was a good but hard day. Yesterday we buried Grandpa’s earthly body. There was laughter and tears and the joy of knowing exactly where Grandpa is now and that we will see him again someday.

It was a small graveside service with family. If I would have been the one making decisions, it wasn’t what I would have picked, but Grandpa and Grandma had made the decisions years ago. And it was perfect.  Because Grandpa was a veteran, Grandma was presented with the veteran’s flag in the most touching moment by my brother in his army uniform. It was so moving, and I know how proud Grandpa was of what my brother is giving to his country, the country that Grandpa loved and prayed for every day.

There was a time of sharing, and I wish you all could have heard it. Most of the people who shared were family by love, not blood. Grandpa’s sons-in-law and grandsons-in-law spoke of the way he loved them as if they were born into the family and the way he touched their lives. What a fitting tribute to Grandpa. To him it didn’t matter if you were family by blood or family by love, he loved you the same. Grandpa’s life truly was a life of love.

We are loved by a lot of people, so over and over I get asked (or my husband gets asked) how we are doing. And I wondered if people believe the answer we give. I’m okay. Yes, it’s hard. And yes, I miss Grandpa fiercely. There are tears. On Saturday, I was talking about upcoming stuff and said, “Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa” and then I stopped and realized what I had said. Those times are extra hard. The whole month of November will be hard as Grandpa’s birthday and Grandma and Grandpa’s 60th wedding anniversary passes. But today? Today I am good.

I’m in a strange place right now. As people hear that my grandpa died, I get told they are sorry, but I don’t think they understand. He was more that my grandpa. He was my friend. He was my advisor. As a child, I spent a lot of time with him. It was more than an average granddaughter-grandpa relationship. It wasn’t just once a month that I was with him or just holidays. Grandma and Grandpa were with us a lot growing up.

And it was even more so as an adult. I think that’s unusual for other families. You become an adult and have all this other stuff going on and see your grandparents less than you did as a child. It wasn’t like that for me. For a while, I was with them every week Monday through Friday and then we went to the same church on Sundays. I didn’t lose a grandparent. I lost one of my best friends this week.

These last couple months were the same even when they were different. Before Grandpa got sick, I saw him once a week, like clockwork every Wednesday I was over there with the boys. And that meant not only did I get all that time, my boys got it, too. They are going to have all these amazing memories of the times they spent with Grandpa that seem (at least to me) unusual for great-grandsons/great-grandparents. As a whole family, we are extremely close but these relationships seem even closer than that.

These past few months I had the pleasure of getting to be there a lot. I got to do the little things for Grandpa like make sure the bird feeders were full and that there was corn out for the deer. I got to sit at the table and drink coffee with him. I got to be there as he was shooting BB guns from the patio with hands that would shake and him still do a better job than the rest of us. I got the privilege of sitting quietly while he napped and just listening in case he needed something.

As I just read back over my words, I realized this wasn’t what I was going to write today, but apparently it’s what I needed to say. I guess what I want you to know today is that I am sad but I’m good, too. And when you think of me and that my grandpa died this week, take that average granddaughter-grandpa relationship you think of and multiple it by 10 and you’ll almost understand the relationship I had with an amazing man.

Yesterday Jesus Won

One of the greatest men I've ever had the pleasure of loving

One of the greatest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of loving

Yesterday my grandpa’s battle with brain cancer came to an end. Grandpa didn’t lose and cancer didn’t win. Yesterday Jesus won.

Yesterday morning, Jesus sent an army of angels and took Grandpa home to be with Him.

Grandpa was one of the two most influential men in my life. And the only thing he loved more than Grandma and the rest of his family was his God, the Lord and Savior of his life. Yesterday, Grandpa got to see Him. And it is good.

We are grieving. We do cry. But even Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. (John 11:35) Even knowing that one day Lazarus would be with Him eternally, and knowing that He would raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus wept. Jesus mourned. And in the same way we are mourning and hurting.

There is no doubt in anyone mind where my grandpa is spending eternity. And there will be no pain, no tears, no cancer. It is so good.

Right after I got the phone call yesterday morning, God put a verse on my heart. Psalms 118:24 “Today is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” It gave me such peace. Yes, I still hurt and yes I still cried. But it was the day the Lord had made and we did rejoice and be glad in it.

I think about the time God gave us. He gave us so much time that some people don’t get. We all got those last memories and times to say good-bye, to tell Grandpa that we loved him. And some of them weren’t the memories we were wanting to make this summer, but they were good in their own right.

Monday was the last time I saw him. And we got to make some great memories. Although Grandpa could only sit in his chair out on the patio, he watched as Cameron completed the last project on Grandpa’s list of things that needed to be done. And when we were ready to leave, he told us that he loved us and then asked the boys to tell their dad he said hello. Even at the end, he remembered us all and loved us.

There are going to be many tears and moments of great sadness. But even in those times, we know this is good. Because today, the cancer is defeated. Grandpa’s mind is sharp, and he is spending today with Jesus. And it is good.

Last Sunday at church, the message was about David, having a heart of a champion and about leaving behind a legacy of honoring God. Let me tell you, Grandpa had a heart of a champion and what a legacy he leaves behind. It’s a legacy of loving Jesus with all his heart, of loving his wife and his family, of hard work and compassion, of selflessness and generosity. And over the next few days as we get ready to put Grandpa’s body to rest and tell stories of his life, we will remember that legacy he leaves behind.

His favorite verse was Micah 6:8 “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” That was how Grandpa lived his life and how those of us left behind will honor his memory.

For those of you who know me personally, there will not be a viewing or funeral. Grandpa requested a private, family only graveside service. Thank you for understanding that we will be respecting his wish.

A day of hard questions

Today on our way home the boys and I drove by a graveyard. It had been a while since I’d driven by there and as we got close I slowed down. Just over a year ago we buried my husband’s grandma in that graveyard, and I always think of her when I go by.

She was the first person in my husband’s family that I claimed as my own. I didn’t say my husband’s grandma. She was just Grandma. I may have married into her family, but she always made me feel as one of hers. She was always happy to see us when we stopped by and never seemed to care when the boys acted their age.

As I drove by the graveyard, I couldn’t help but slow down and think of her fondly. I’m not sure if it was my slowing down or if they could just tell I was thinking or maybe it was just the first time they paid attention. Whatever it was the questions started. “Mom, what is that?”

They’ve reached the age where the answer “a graveyard” isn’t enough. I really wasn’t wanting to have a death and burial conversation with them and “Oh, Glorious Day” came on the radio so I was able to buy some time. When the song ended, the youngest says to me, “Will you tell us now?”

There was no putting it off. They had questions and it’s my job to answer them. It was the first BIG QUESTION moment in parenting. They know about death from the dog dying, but they don’t really understand. And trying to explain a body being dead and a soul going to Heaven is not something I think you are ever prepared for.

Apparently I did a good enough job because they seemed satisfied with the answers I gave. I thought I had answered all of the hard questions for a while.

Boy was I wrong.

As the boys got ready for bed, I went to YouTube looking for a good video to go with today’s Worship Wednesday post. I had planned on using NewsBoys “We Believe.” I found a video and started playing it. The youngest told me he loved that song and cuddled close as we listened.

We believe in God the Father
We believe in Jesus Christ
We believe in the Holy Spirit
And He’s given us new life

We believe in the crucifixion
We believe that He conquered death
We believe in the resurrection
And He’s comin’ back again

When the song was over, a whole new set of questions started. Why is God called the Father? What’s the Holy Spirit? I tried to explain that since God made everything He’s like everything’s Daddy, and that Jesus is God’s Son. At the mention of Jesus, they popped up with, “Jesus is a baby.”

I had to laugh. Yes, Jesus was a baby. No, Jesus doesn’t have small hands. His hands can hold the whole world. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to us when He went to Heaven.

I continued to answer their questions the best I could trying to use words that would make sense to a 4 and 6-year-old. And I must have done okay because they seemed satisfied, said their prayers and fell asleep.

And while they may have been satisfied, I wasn’t sure. It was one of those BIG moments in parenting, one of those moments that you don’t want to screw up. Did I use the right words? Did they understand?

I want them to understand. I want them to have a big faith. I want them to believe.

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” Mark 9:42 NKJV

“Then the little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.'” Matthew 19:13-14 NKJV

Have you had a faith talk with small children? What words do you use?

 

You can find all of the Worship Wednesday posts here.