A Secure Hold

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Today is a “birthday” of sorts. One year ago today one email began the documentation of life changing events. Today marks the one year anniversary of a diagnosis that would leave the Fabian family changed forever as well as the first posting of  “Colonel Chronicles”.

365 days really does sound like a long time but, in some ways, it literally feels like last week. Then at other times if feels like an eternity.

I ended the first edition of Colonel Chronicles on May 4, 2011  with the following words:

But at the end of the day…
* Our God is still good.
* Our God loves my Dad more than I do. (hard to believe…but very true)
* Our God promises to never forsake us.
* I believe that God can and will be glorified through this no matter what.
* There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, no more fear.
* I have the best friends in the world.
* I can and will continue to pray for a miracle.
I like to reflect. I like to ponder. I like to think. I like to learn. What good would a life lesson be if I it simply turned into an anniversary and memories?
But at the end of this year….
* Our God is still good.
* Our God loves my Dad more than I do. (not as hard to believe as it was a year ago.)
* God has been glorified through this in too many ways to type. I believe He will continue to use this for His glory.
* There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, no more fear. You can read about it in Revelation 21:4
* I have the best friends in the world.
* God gave us many miracles and continues to do so.
Not profound. Not highly intellectual. Just from the heart and full of truth.
My Dad’s devotion book says this today…
“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls…”Hebrews 6:19
“Jesus is the constant connection between you and the Father – always representing you to Him, and helping you to understand what He is doing. He is the perfect minister to your soul because He provides unbroken communication between you and the Creator.  Jesus never waivers – even when everything around you is sinking. Therefore, take this hope as an anchor for your soul today. Jesus has a secure hold on you. And because of Him, you have smooth sailing with God.”
Dear God, thank you that you are my sure anchor and that I don’t have to drown in my circumstances. I praise you. Amen.

Maundy Thursday

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Spring Break 2011 was cut short (by our choice) so we could go home to check on Dad. He was struggling with shingles (or so we thought) and we were just anxious to be home with him. Riverland Hills Baptist Church (my parent’s church in Columbia, SC) had an annual Maundy Thursday service planned. Dad was to serve as deacon at this service and Mom sang in the choir.

We breezed into the driveway from Surfside at the same time Dad whipped around the corner in that red Honda Accord. He had been to work. He got out of the car, said hello, hugs for us all, and then said “I have to go lie down for 20 minutes until it is time to go. I am so tired.”   He asked me to wake him up in 20 minutes. This was definitely out of character for him. I did wake him up and we made it to church on time. It was very clear to me that the shingles were really zapping his energy. Obviously he felt terrible.

I hold in my hand the church bulletin from the Maundy Thursday service at RHBC 2011. I also have Dad’s deacon notes from that night.

“Thursday of Holy Week is called Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” probably derives from the Latin mandatum, “commandment.”  Jesus commanded His disciples to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19) The emphasis on this day is to remember and celebrate the final supper Jesus shared with His disciples. Jesus’ body and blood was the price paid for re-establishing a right relationship between God and humanity.”

The service was very moving. Music elements such as “How Deep the Father’s Love”, “At the Name of Jesus”, “Behold the Lamb”, and “Adoration Medley” filled the large room as voices reached to the heavens. We had The Lord’s Supper as we focused on the blood and body of Christ.

There was a very moving element that had each person walk to the front of the church to a very large wooden cross. Each person had the opportunity to use a hammer to put a large carpenter nail in that cross. The symbolism of this is a way to remember what Christ did for each of us was beyond powerful.

I remember the sound the most. The large room was completely quiet. All you heard was alternating hammers pounding nails into wood.

As the service unfolded, seven symbolic candles, including the central “Christ candle,” were extinguished.  The sanctuary was dark to depict the final hours of Jesus’ life and to dramatize the impact of His death.

When the service concluded worshippers were asked to depart the building in silence. I walked out of the building with my Mom and Dad. No one spoke until we got to our cars.

We were asked to remain silent so our hearts might dwell on the awesomeness of the love that was demonstrated through Christ’s sacrifice.

Let’s continue to do this today…. 

 

All of those “firsts”

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My lack of blogging over the past couple of months certainly shouldn’t indicate my lack of thoughts about a variety of things. I could always say life has been busy or other items have taken priority. There has been a great deal of reflection and processing as I continue to learn to live life without my precious Daddy. I was beginning to wonder if my writing was just for a season. Maybe it was just part of my healing process and had come to a close. But, I kind of doubt it.  I don’t force it. I just write when time and thoughts are plenty.

We seem to have hit that dreaded season of “firsts”. There was Christmas and New Years to celebrate. We didn’t have a hard time celebrating – we just decided to switch it all up and do things differently! Mom and I flew to spend a long weekend (mid December) with Thom and Summer in Indianapolis (it is so really very terribly cold there – how do you people live in that temp?) We had so much fun sightseeing and being together. There really is nothing like getting to hug my brother’s neck. What comfort. This Christmas Day was a first for us as we tossed tradition out the window and spent a week at Disney World for the holidays. What fun it was to be with family in a noncenventional holiday setting! Our annual family reunion at Sea Mist offered some emotional challenges without a key member of the crew but, we stuck together with hugs and tears (and shopping and naps and food) and made the best of a tough situation. I continue to be in awe of how amazing my extended family is. Such caregivers in special and thoughtful ways.

Mom and I went out to dinner for Valentine’s Day in Columbia. We shopped for a few new things for her home and I had a chance to ooh and aaah over some cosmetic (and some structural) changes to her beautiful house! These projects have been a wonderful way for her to give energy to something she loves (creativity, decorating, and “fluffing” a house)  She is also the president of the 150 member choir at Riverland Hills and seems to really enjoy her weekly duties and responsibilities in that position! She is really doing amazingly well. All glory to God!

As April approached I realized that the “firsts” seem to be getting harder. It was last year at Spring Break that we thought Dad had shingles and we could see the affect of that disease on his daily living. Little did we know. I will be blogging about some reflections and thoughts over the next months as we reach a whole new season of grief. Maybe it will help someone. Who knows? Maybe it will just help me.

 

 

The Finish

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I follow a popular tv show where contestants set aside their everyday life for a period of weeks to work toward the goal of getting healthier. I enjoy a friendly competition and love the subject of health and fitness. This show doesn’t stress me out and I can appreciate the personal goals that they set for themselves. 

I particularly look forward to the episode each season where the contestants train for and run a marathon. Now, these are people you would not general think would run a marathon. But, in their quest for health and fitness they take on the challenge. The majority of them reach the goal while amazing the audience…and, I would think, even amazing themselves. 

 This particular episode aired last night. They have been talking it up for weeks now. I looked forward to it and enjoyed watching  it. The end is usually fairly predictable. However, last night was different.  God used it to speak to me in a very personal way.

The camera pans in on the “last stretch”. The runner/walker has literally nothing left to give. The head is hanging, the feet are shuffling, and sweat is pouring. Everything hurts.

And then…she looks up. Her eyes get fixed on the sign that says “FINISH”. She sees a group of people who are clapping and cheering and encouraging. The feet go a little faster. The blank look on her face turns into a half grin. Elbows now bent, pumping those arms a little, stride gets wider, and back gets straighter. 

Then her eyes see her trainer running towards her. He wants to be with her when she crosses the finish line. He comes towards her and she is now running as if she just started! The extra energy boost kicks in and not only is she running but, she is smiling to the point of almost laughing. Thrilled that it is almost over. Ecstatic  that she reached her goal. Overwhelmed that someone would run toward her and finish with her. Shocked that there is a group of people as happy about her finishing as she is.

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! ” Hebrews 12:1-3 (The Message)

Some days, of late, I have felt like each day was that last stretch. It just seems overwhelming to be balancing the emotion of missing my Dad to the point of pure heartbreak while keeping up with my life responsibilities.  When I think I can’t possibly cry anymore – here comes another dadgum tear.

 I guess we never know where we are in the “stretch” of the marathon but, we have to keep going. We have to know and trust that our loving Father is right there. He is running to meet us and cheering us on all the way. He doesn’t want us to quit. He provides a cloud of witnesses that have already “blazed the trail” and are cheering us to the finish line! They are ready with a “high 5” and a hug! 

” but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

I trained for and completed a marathon a few years ago. My Dad was one of my biggest encouragers. He walked about 8 miles with me that day. My Mom walked 4 and a dear friend walked somewhere up in the teens of miles with me. I had aunts and uncles at the finish line and what were they doing? You guessed it! Cheering me on! I guess I could have done it without them. But, having them by my side made the whole process more enjoyable (well, not miles 20-23, there was NOTHING enjoyable about those)

On the days when it seems like it just can’t hurt anymore or you don’t know what to do – lean on God first. And then, lean on those people that God has placed around you… to walk with you, love on you, enourage you, and pray for you. Before you know it, you will look up and see the finish line. There will be smiles, hugs, laughs, and cheers all around! Oh glorious day!

 

 A special thank you to all of you who are praying for me and my family. You are amazing and we want you to know that there are days that you help carry us through…so we can get up and start “running” again the next day. May God truly bless you for your friendship and kindness. You are a blessing.

Sport Coat Pockets

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According to the The Style Guy in GQ magazine “Pockets are functional. Generally, the pockets of suit jackets and sport coats are intended to carry discreet, nonbulky cargo and are not for hand-warming purposes. JFK was often photographed with a hand shoved in his suit-jacket pocket, apparently because he had a cigar in it. His pockets were like ashtrays.”
 
We didn’t find a cigar in those sport coat pockets (much to Thom’s dismay) but, oh what a variety of items we did find!  Five or six of the seven days each week my Dad wore a sport coat.  Navy blue, black, camel hair, leather, wool, seersucker, etc.  He wore them to work and to church. He wore them to weddings, funerals, fancy dinners or social gatherings. He looked good in a sport coat.
 
As we were up early getting ready for the yard sale at my Mom’s house this past weekend it just hit me like a ton of bricks. There was a rack with all of his sports coats.
 
Evidently he was the only man in our immediate circle that wore his size. We tried to find someone to give them to that could use them. All of our men family members and friends are evidently bigger, smaller, shorter, or taller than he was. So, the next best thing is to try to sell them and get a little pocket change.  I was very tempted to keep them all. I thought about bringing them home and just hanging them in a closet. But, then again, I am not one to want to house a museum. So, we must move on.  
 
When cleaning out these pockets we found that he was certainly consistent!  Each coat had hand sanitizer, a black pen, a yellow hilighter (how MANY times will I reference a yellow hilighter?) a handkerchief, some moist wipes, eye glasses cleaner,  and some papers.  Mom found the piece of paper  that he wrote the attendance count from his section of the church on Easter Sunday. (the last day he attended church) I found the bulletin and order of service from the Maundy Thursday service. (the last time I we attended church together)
Who knew that his coat was like a little mini survival kit? He might need to fight some germs, write something down, hilight something, wipe his nose, clean his sticky hands, clean his smudgy glasses, or make a note. Go figure that he was always prepared. Please also note that this was the man that thought you had committed a federal crime if you left home without your wallet. (In hindsight, we probably should have buried him with that wallet. He might have needed it at the pearly gates)  He also made my brother and I have summer homework of memorizing our social security numbers one year. When we were children we even had to have our military ID card in our pockets when playing outside. He always wore a watch, carried 2 cell phones and 2 beepers (don’t ask) and didn’t think you should go anywhere without at least SOME cash. (this always worked in mine and Thom’s favor) Oh yes, The Colonel was prepared!
 
I thought about this for a while and it reminded me of this:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For  we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against  the rulers, against the authorities, against  the cosmic powers over  this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil  in the heavenly places. Therefore  take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore,  having fastened on the belt of truth, and  having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all  the flaming darts of  the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,  praying at all times  in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”  Ephesians 6:10-18
 
God tells us in scripture what we should put on or carry every single day. I am challenged by this to not just have my phone, my wallet, a little bit of cash, hand sanitizer, and my keys.  Those items are so trivial compared to what we really need to survive each day.  I should be making a conscious effort to put these things on every time I leave the house. We sure do battle dark powers at every turn. God gives us the exact protection we need for them. We just have to remember to use them and take them wtih us.
 
I am off to check my Dad’s Bible. I am pretty sure his said “yellow hilighter” after the sword of the spirit. (just kidding) Thanks for the continued reminders Dad!

HOME

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Home. You read that word and something immediately came to your mind. More than likely it was a place. But, it could have been a “feel” , a memory, a smell, or a sound. 

Many people come home as babies to a house that is theirs until they become an adult.  They work their way through school grades, birthday parties, long summer days, Santa visits,  growing out of one set of clothes and into new, watching puppies turn into old family dogs, and seeing the pictures on the walls yellow all while being in the same house.

Others have many houses throughout their childhoods and formative years. Some because of a transient lifestyle or job changes. Some because of broken family situations or economic hardship. Some because of just being ready to “move on up to the east side”.

When you say “home” to an adult it is kind of a “toss up” as to whether or not they visualize their current house or the one they grew up in. Or maybe both.

I have memories of lots of different houses in my 40 years. We moved a lot as we followed the military path God had for our family.  I can recall some addresses, can remember cool features of some of the houses (and some not so cool), can remember some neighbors’ names, can think of some of the cities I would like to visit again, and am just as happy to never visit some again.

When you move a lot you quickly learn that “home” is not the shell of the building structure you abide in. “Home” is the people and traditions, the furniture and the pictures, the books and the linens.  Take all of those things to another city, another state, another country and you can still have “home”. It can quickly look like home. It can quickly feel like home. It can even sound and smell like home.

I have had “home” on my mind a lot lately as this week approaches the first weekend I will be “home” since my Dad died. (which still to this very second doesn’t seem real to even type, much less say) 

 Now before you go thinking that I am not going to win the award for being “daughter of the year” for my lack of visiting Columbia please hear me out. It is football season and I have been with my Mom at my home (near Clemson, GO Tigers!) many weekends. We have also taken some fun trips together. Mom and I have spent a lot of time together. There really hasn’t been an opportunity to go to Columbia until now. So, don’t go thinking that I haven’t seen my Mom since I started back to work.

With that said, I hadn’t really thought much about what it will be like. Until this week. I am trying to be very deliberate in reminding myself each day that it will be different. I have to think about the things that I just take for granted when going home. I don’t want to be caught off guard. I guess I think I can be prepared for such a thing. I know that Dad won’t be coming home from work on Friday to change his clothes and us all head out the door to dinner and a movie. I know if I fall asleep on the couch he won’t be there to say “Somebody is sleepy and needs to go to bed.” I know that he won’t be there to watch college football with on Saturday. I know that he won’t be there to make an ice cream float and “clank” that spoon against the side of the glass getting the last of the whipped cream. I know that when I wake up I won’t hear the low rumble of CNN (or was if FOX news? I think he got “put out” with CNN)  I know that he won’t be ushering in church on Sunday.  There won’t be cut out newspaper articles that he saved for me.  He won’t ask me about work or be there to ask me about my friends.  He won’t carry my bag to the car on Sunday evening when I get ready to leave.

So, one would wonder why I look forward to it? The first obvious reason is because I get to see my Mom! (see? I am in the running for “daughter of the year”!)  But, when I think about home it is all the stuff that comes with it. It is the comfy beds (a “Bettie bed” as my sister in law calls them), the family pictures on the walls, the birds in the backyard, the blankets and the coffee cups. The stories we will tell and the laughter that comes with them. The silly habits and traditions.

Sure. It will be hard. I don’t think I can prepare myself enough. It almost makes me catch my breath. But, it is just another sign of life passing and changing as we know it does. It is a good reminder to me that this earthly home is so temporary. In a literal blink of an eye we can be ushered to our eternal home.  John 14:2 says…”My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? “

I think when we get to heaven we might get a glimpse of what “HOME” really feels like.  Our Father is preparing a place for us at this very time. This place is tailored just for His own.  Makes me think of one of my favorite songs… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=im5SWtR_wqY&feature=related

“Because I said so!”

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Have you ever been around a child that constantly asks “Why?”  After a short amount of time you quickly want to blanket each of the child’s answers with the word “BECAUSE!” and move on. It can be exhausting. When I was growing up I didn’t really question my mom or dad’s judgement (well, not out loud anyway) because the frequent answer from The Colonel was “Because I said so.” To be quite honest that doesn’t really leave much wiggle room for a rebuttal.

I know many of you have read The Colonel Chronicles and you have already heard me describe July 4th weekend for us this year. The more I think about that these days the more I am just convinced that it was a pure miracle from God that The Colonel was able to travel that weekend. Not only did he get to go to the beach and have a good time with his family but, we were even able to make it home for grilled steaks at the house of some of our favorite people on earth! 

As I am reading through my Dad’s devotion book I am paying close attention to the things he hilighted. Yes, it is yellow. That man did love a yellow hilighter. It gives us some insight on what was going on in his head at the time. The entry on July 8th (just a few days after our miracle trip to the beach and the yummy grilled steaks) has this hilighted:

“Yet realize that God has permitted your hardship for a reason – it isn’t random, and God isn’t being unkind.   Though God doesn’t cause all of your troubles, he allows them so you’ll trust him more and discover his abundant life.  God uses everything that comes into your life for good.   So when you cry out to him for wisdom, expect him to answer.   And even if he doesn’t give you understanding immediately, be confident that he has an important reason for all he allows.  

I am going to assume that The Colonel was wondering “why”. I bet he thought about that and prayed about that.

I am certainly moving through the good ol’ stages of grief. But, I have wondered this week, “Why?” I have not been angry or yelled it out (but God would understand it if I did and wouldn’t be mad about it)  but I have just wondered what God’s plan is through all of this. Isn’t is possible that God could accomplish His sovereign plan and still let my Daddy be here? Doesn’t He know how badly our hearts are hurting?  And the answer to all of that is….YES. Yes, yes, yes.

I was in the just the right place and time to catch part of a sermon on the radio last night. The pastor was talking about the storms of life. He said that we could say“I don’t understand it. I don’t like it. I don’t want it. BUT, God, leave me here in this storm, in this dark place, in these rough waters until you have accomplished your ultimate perfect plan.”  Whew – that is big. I made that my prayer. My Mom has said all along, “Lord please don’t waste our grief  and pain.”

God is gently laying His hand on my shoulder and saying  “Because I said so.”  Ok, Lord, I understand that part and I trust You completely. 

“Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens. You have done such wonderful things. Who can compare with you, O God? You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth. You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again.” Psalm 71:19-21