Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Time For Understanding

Hello friends,

Soon my girls will be finished with their semester at their university. We will have the entire summer together. It's our favorite thing - just being together. My husband will be able to take a day off here and there, and we have many plans. We will garden, write, and read, just for the love of reading. Who does not love the reading of real books - feeling the pages slip between our fingers; hearing them as they turn; and getting sleepy as dandelion puffs brush across our faces? And what about fireflies as the sun goes down and the moon comes up; the sounds of peepers on the wind; and most of all, just being?

This will be a different season for me. I will be able to breathe outside. You see I'm an asthmatic, and finally, at 62 there is enough medication for me to be able to breath. I also suffer from a type of headache, which makes the sinuses burn up into one's brain, like liquid fire. The tears and nose stream, and outside is an impossible place to be, because anything can set it off. It's called Cluster Headache. None of us knew. But not this year. This year there's a new medicine, and even today, a very hot and dry day, I was able to go outside and breathe.

Most people want to get rid of the dandelions. Seeds beget more dandelions and soon the yard is filled with nothing but dandelions, but, you see, I have been waiting for this day for more than ten years, just to feel the blessed "wish-givers" brush across my face, as I blow them into the wind.

My wish? It has already been fulfilled, this day.

With love,

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Time to Dance

Hello friends,

When tragedy strikes, all seems lost. Immersed in the grief, terrified to allow my children out of my sight, no matter their ages, I often forget to look about me and see the real joys in my life. So here, I'd like to celebrate a few with you.

Early each day my husband awakens me with a tender touch. I have early medications to take, but his smile and his gentle ways make me feel young and full of life. While I am rubbing the sand out of my eyes and counting my pills, he brings me a mug of coffee. That first sip is the best of the day. It's just us. For a moment the world is full of joy, just to be awake and together.

In a few minutes, our daughters may be up, and they wish us a good-morning. They pile on the bed, with cups in hand, and it is then just the four of us. We lift our cups into the air, and we clink, "Tink! I love everyone in this room!" We say. And we mean it.

Everything that happens after that moment is blessed by that love. Joy. Sorrow. Triumph and tragedy. Nothing will have been wasted, because we took that moment to say, "This is our day. This is our time. This is our love. This is our time to dance.

What tomorrow will bring, I cannot know; and sometimes the not knowing is worst of all. But for today, at this moment, I cannot help but thank God for giving us our time to dance.

With love,

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Time to Weep

Hello friends,

This has been a week like no other in Southwestern Virginia, the home of Virginia Tech. So many questions have filled my soul, and we have shed buckets of tears. Although my daughters go to a different school, in another state, no place seems safe anymore. For us, especially so, because we have a connection to Virginia Tech.

My daughter, Helen, spent 3 semesters at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg Virginia. She was accepted into their Engineering Program with highest honors. She spent much of her days inside the building where the carnage took place. That's where all her professors' offices were. She looked forward to being a student of Professor Librescu, the holocaust survivor who laid down his life for his students, so that they could escape. There were other brilliant professors, as well, that she looked forward to working with. It is significant that Professor Librescu was killed on Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a reminder, to me, that holocaust is not far from any of us, at any time.

By the time that Helen entered her third semester, it was obvious that she was unhappy. She was under terrible stress. She was making all A's, but very unhappily. And I believe that we should not only do what we love, but we should also love what we do. There seemed to be little connection, I will say, spiritually, between the students and the teachers at Virginia Tech. While a few of Helen's teachers were wonderful, in other areas many things were overlooked that made Helen feel very unsafe.

It would have been easy for us to say, "Stick it out. Go forward. Let nothing stop you. Stay at Virginia Tech, and conquer your fears." However, in my many visits with Helen, I began to feel an intense pressure of unease. I would wait for her classes to end, and I would wait for her to walk through the door.

What was wrong with me, that I could not quench a burning desire, to bring her home? At the same time our other daughter, Jenny, was attending another university, south of where we live. The teachers and the atmosphere were caring, and her classes were exciting. Very little pressure was put on the students, and there was an open feeling to the entire campus.

I began to ask Helen what she really wanted out of school and her life. I talked with my husband and her. I prayed. Over and over I felt as though God were saying, "Helen doesn't belong here. Bring her home."

Before the next semester Helen was able to transfer to Jenny's university, where her talents are celebrated, and encouragement and "hands on" teaching, are the order of the day. The change has been miraculous. Helen has been so happy, and still is, until the day of the carnage at Virginia Tech.

If Helen had stayed at Virginia Tech; if we had coerced her to stay in the big school with the big name; there is no doubt that Helen would have been in the Engineering Building, that moment, that day. At the time that I was praying and feeling the pressure of God on my heart, I would have moved Heaven and Earth to make her leave Virginia Tech. I was ready to lay down in the driveway, if necessary, to keep her from driving away. I cannot answer why, except that God would not let me leave her there.

I have wrestled with this for three days. Along with my grief at the horror that was perpetrated in twenty minutes in the halls of a building where my daughter would have been, I do know this: I thank God that He is so hard on me. When He puts Godly pressure on me, it is nearly impossible to ignore. I thank Him, because Helen was not there. There is a terrible guilt that comes with that gratitude; the gratitude that makes me say, "Thank you, Lord, that it was not my child."

I'm not sure I know what the message is, except this: when we say good-bye to those we love, when we hug them, we must make every second of that hug count. Hug, love, and pray, as though we have the lips of God pressed to our ear. There may come a time that we will be certain that we do.

With love,

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Time to Gain

Hello friends,

There is a certain irony in focusing on the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. With each measure of time there is an equal and opposite statement, as in "a time to gain, and a time to lose." I could not stop thinking about this, as I once again climbed upon my treadmill and slowly measured my steps, after my last fall. I also considered all the weight that I had lost, before I was put on my new medication. Then I thought about the weight I gained during the time that I could not use my treadmill.

I had walked my way up to 40 minutes of continued walking every day. I had lost 40+ pounds, and I felt like I was never going to see those 40 pounds ever again. Well, that was before the cluster headaches, and that was before this new medication. I gained back nearly 20 pounds. So, I guess you could call that my "time to gain."

Today, I did not run a marathon. I did not leap from a helicopter on my boogie-board, nor land like a gazelle on the frozen snow and ski my way down the side of a mountain. But I began a new journey. My latest fall made speed impossible, in fact, I was slower than I was before, and I had to stop at fifteen minutes, but I began. Now is my "time to lose" again.

I will not get hysterical about this. Other people have bigger problems, and fifteen minutes is still a half a mile more than doing nothing. I think that much of our lives are like this "losing" and "gaining." Wherever we are in this simple wisdom of the Bible, it is still our time. Perhaps it is our time, also, to thoughtfully consider what is worth losing; and in gaining, what are we willing to give up to get there.

Much is made, these days, about "winning." Gaining wealth. I am no expert on wealth, but I do believe I know what it means to be rich -- a hand to hold in the sunset of our lives, the love of our children, friends (if we are so blessed), our pets, and a relationship with God. Those are the things that make us truly rich. Everything else is just "stuff."

With love,

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Time to Contemplate

Hello friends,

This morning I took a "walk-about," not as my Australian friends might, but around my acre parcel of land -- small as compared to the Outback, but large as compared to the suburbs. The last week we have had one killing frost after another. This is after our early spring-like weather in late February and March. Everything was in bloom, more than a month too early -- the daffodils, the tulips, the trees, and especially the Magnolias.

The beautiful Magnolias. I have loved them all my life, always being too poor to afford them or too far north to grow them. Last year we were able to buy two young trees, Magnolia 'Jane,' which were planted late, suffered severe drought and insect pests, and yet, this year they bloomed, in breathtaking velvet-pink shades and with a honey-like fragrance. My daughter Jenny took a hundred pictures, capturing every shade, every graceful curve, and almost capturing its fragrance. Then they were frozen. By the second day, the flowers hung there looking so much like wilted lettuce, brown and unappetizing.

Yesterday, on Easter Sunday, I just sobbed. My entire garden, flush with bloom way too soon, was nothing but a pile of old lettuce, just waiting for warmer weather, so that it could begin to stink. It was a truly "all-about me" moment; and some of it was "all-about-my-mother." The magnolias, especially, were like a tribute to her; loving them all her life, she never had them. My father never understood that she would rather have had plants than crystal; she would rather have planted trees than diamonds. My mother could make anything grow. Plants loved her. She would have loved my magnolias. She would have loved that my husband bought them for me, and she would have been so touched that my daughter, Helen and he picked them out together. To my mother, that is the evidence of a great love.

Later in the evening, we all took out our Bibles and did our Easter study. We read about a young man, Jesus, who died too soon. We read about a perfect God who willingly gave up his life, so that I might sob over my garden. We read about his trial in a garden; and most of all, we read about his resurrection, which guaranteed eternal life for me. We also read about his friends, who had betrayed him, and we read about his followers who still were wrapped in fear. Then we read about His resurrection and unconditional forgiveness, a promise for all humans that salvation is not only possible, but it is freely given to those who believe. Again I sobbed, but this time it was with shame, that I would forget that gardens, too, will resurrect and bloom again.

So, as I walked through my garden this morning, the frost still clinging to the trees, I felt a sense of wonder that a God so great and loving, would come after me and capture my heart. I felt understanding fill my soul, as I realized that I am still God's favored child, much like my precious daughters are to me. He still loves my laugh; and He still turns happily at the sound of my voice.

My garden will bloom again, as will the call of my Savior, once I get past myself and focus on Him.

With love,

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Time to Rest

Hello friends,

Today my walk on my treadmill lasted a full minute and a half. You see, I fell yesterday, while racing behind my Happy Dog, who was hot on a trail. Yes, weenie dogs are trackers, and their noses always rule. I twisted my ankle and pulled muscles that I didn't know I had. Louie, my husband, said, "you'll be resting tomorrow." Like the stubborn nearly 61 year old that I am, I assured him, "oh, I think I'll be all right."

Well, the spasms in my foot, my hip, and my back, after a minute and a half on my treadmill, said, "oh no you're not!" So here I am, talking to you, and admitting to you, "oh no I'm not." I could swear that ten years ago, maybe fifteen, I could bounce back in a night, but no more. That extra eighteen pounds that I gained with my new medication will just have to wait, and I will rest.

It's occurred to me that God wants us to rest. To rest and to think. To realize what we have. In my case, my vanity is involved, and since I'm using the inspiration of Ecclesiastes to write my blog, let me not forget that the second line of Ecclesiastes tells me, "All is vanity." Okay, Lord, I'm listening. Help me to make it through the day. Help me to look into my mirror and see myself as my husband does, a fresh, pretty, lovely woman, inside and out. But most of all, let me see myself as you do, and may I ever see what I hope to see...You in me.

With love,

Email Jaye