Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Magical Moments

Allison and Russell Sharing a Magical Moment in 1997

1 John 4:8 NIV
"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

It's a snapshot, one of dozens I took when Allison was a baby hardly old enough to crawl. 

It's faded now. The events surrounding the moment are even fainter memories, but the photo is tangible evidence of an inseparable bond between brother and sister.

She is sprawled full-length on her belly, head raised and tilited sideways. Her mouth agape in a quizzical expression trying to discern meaning from nonsense.  Totally enthralled by her big brother, making funny faces and playing with one of her favorite toys, had she the power of speech, she might have asked, "Bubby, why are you so silly?"

Silliness and laughter and love. God is love. Our family has love. God is a part of the fabric of our lives.

We aren't perfect, and we don't always do or say the right or best things. We have fits of anger and frustration and tears at times, but the fabric of our existence has always been our love for each other.

Life is filled with lovely magical moments like these.

On this 11th Anniversary of a despicable act of hatred and evil, it's nice to remember Love will conquer all in the end.
Help me Lord to always remember your love underscores and fills my life.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

There's No Such Thing as "Junk"

Allie's 7th Grade Science Project: a 3-D DNA Model

Psalm 139:13-14 NIV
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

Genetics research has made a landmark discovery poised to springboard years of research in the fields of DNA study, disease control and the pharmaceutical industry just to name a few. What have scientists discovered?  That no part of our body should be considered "junk".

Here is an excerpt from the article I read tonight on nbc.com:

"Stretches of DNA that we call genes are only a very small piece of what makes the body work. Much more important is the stuff in between the genes - stuff once dismissed as 'junk DNA.' It turns out that junk DNA is what is in control.

So, although the material between genes had been disregarded by researchers for years as mere junk, science has finally figured out there is no "junk" in our core design. In fact, it's the unassuming "stuff" that has been in control of our genetics all along.

At our most basic level, our DNA strands, every minuscule part serves an important role in our existence.

God doesn't make "junk". Not on the small scale and certainly not on the large scale. 

Lest I ever forget the worth of my existence here on Earth, let me continue to remember, I am a child of God: fearfully and wonderfully made!
Lord, thank you for your attention to all details of my life from those I can see to those I can't.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

He Will Heal Warts and All

His Promise

Psalm 147:3
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

"Mom, my foot hurts."  Allison held up her right heal to show me a rough spot. John glanced over my shoulder.

"I think I stepped on something at Deep Creek," she explained.

John and I exchanged a concerned glance with each other. That was a couple weeks ago when she had gone on the church youth camping trip to North Carolina. If she had a splinter, we'd be hard pressed to remove it now.

We soaked her foot in epsom salts, then John attempted to pry the object out with tweezers. No luck.  We tried for a couple more weeks on our own before we admitted defeat and took her to the emergency care center tonight.

We learned she has a plantar's wart. A quick trip to the pharmacy and we found the right medicine. We have begun treating her foot properly and hope to soon put this incident behind us.

I wish we could just as easily go to the store to get ointment for our broken hearts. There isn't a single pill or salve on the market to heal it. Yet, we are beginning to climb out of our cave of solitude.  I can almost see light on the horizon.

Many people still pray for us and reach out to us.  I don't know how we could survive without this support.

They are God's salve. They do God's work. They wrap us up and help heal our wounds.  What they are unable to fix, God will finish in time. 

I like the idea of His binding up my wounds.

Yea--I hurt. I hurt real bad. But with His help, I will find a way to continue to reach out to others despite my personal pain.
Thank you, Lord, for loving me enough to bind up my wounds. I know I will always have a hole in my heart, so I pray you can at least make it not hurt so much.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Repeat as Needed

St. Francis
Rye, New York
October 2010

Isaiah 41:10 NIV
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Suck in a deep breath. Hold it. Exhale slowly. Repeat... Repeat... Repeat...

The panic attacks and hyperventilation aren't as pronounced now as they were six months ago. But I have headaches. Knife-stabbing, brain-squishing throbs in my frontal lobe. I assume this is a side-effect of stress.

I chatted over lunch today with a friend. We sat in a booth at a Japanese restaurant eating rice and beef when one of my former students walked through the door. I love this boy. He is successful and sweet. He hurried over to see me.

"How is Russell doing?" he asked after we had caught up on his life, and I felt my brain pulsate.

Oh, God. He doesn't know! They were friends on my debate team. He and Russell shared many high school moments together. The news is not easy for me to tell.

I arranged what I hoped was a calm expression and explained Russell passed away in January.

He gave his condolences; my mind locked. I smiled, thanked him, and attempted to configure a brave face.

Now, safe at home, my brain constricts.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Slowly now. Lord, let me have a moment where Russell doesn't dominate my thoughts!

Suck in a deep breath. Hold it. Exhale slowly. Repeat... repeat... re..peat....
Lord, hold me up as I go out into the world.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Where Do You Toe the Line?

I Stop for Red Lights!

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."

Tevya, the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof, had just discovered his eldest daughter selected her own husband after he had already arranged for her to marry the village butcher. Modern ways didn't make much sense outside of his traditional view of life, his place in it, and God's expectations for him in his assigned role, yet when he realized how much she loved him, he allowed the engagement.

Then the second daughter approached her father with the idea of marriage, but she was not asking his permission; she only looked for his blessings to marry a man who would take her far from the home she loved. Again, the milkman struggled with this concept, wondering how the world could continue without requiring the father's permission for marriage. Yet when he saw how much they loved each other, he relented and gave both his permission and blessings.

Finally, the third daughter knelt before him, begging him to accept the man she had selected and loved: a man outside his faith and an enemy to their village.  Although this soldier was not like the others and didn't embrace hatred and racism, the request to marry a man outside their faith was too much for Tevya, so he denounced his daughter. She became dead to him when she left home with her love.

Fiddler on the Roof challenges me to decide where I toe the line on my morality as modern life evolves. Do I embrace popular culture and the chipping away of my value system that it encourages, or do I hold on tight to Biblical teachings that have guided me since childhood?

Tevya bent over as far as he could in a changing world. He allowed his daughters to select a spouse of their own, even without his permission. However, when challenged on the basic tenets of his faith, he turned his back on the one begging him to renounce those beliefs.

Tevya's struggle of where to toe the line represents the challenge we all face as we decide where to draw the line when tested to stray off the path God has laid out before us.
Lord, Give me wisdom to discern right from wrong in this ever-changing world.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lori, are you Listening?

Sunset and Clouds over California Coast
June 2012

Job 37:15-17 (The Message Bible)
"Job, are you listening? Have you noticed all this? Stop in your tracks! Take in God's miracle-wonders! Do you have any idea how God does it all, how he makes bright lightning from dark storms, How he piles up the cumulus clouds— all these miracle-wonders of a perfect Mind?"

Summer heat simmered as the sun lowered in the west tonight. Allie and her friend were at a teen meeting for church, and I was on mommy-duty to pick them up.

As I maneuvered through traffic, I noticed eggplant-colored thunderheads clustering in the west.

Rain! Oh, Lord,  please let it rain!

It's not good for me to be alone, even for a twenty-minute drive, because then I have too much time to think. Thinking can lead to bad places, so it was inevitable my mood soon matched the color of the clouds closing in around me.

I shrieked to empty my soul of pain, and then laughed at my foolishness.

Well, that didn't help! 

I slipped deeper into depression just as I caught a spectacular event out of the corner of my eye. I turned west to witness a brillant silver lining streaming around purple storm clouds.

Sure, God--I know--"Look for the Silver Lining!" Big deal. I don't have one right now! 

Any other time, I would have been impressed by the sheer magnitude of the powerful display, but not now. I was too buried under my thoughts.

Finally I reached my exit. As I eased off the highway, I noticed a formation of clouds separate from the others. Huddled in the midst of purple clouds was a small circle of white.  It looked like a hole.

Yea, Lord--You got it! I have a hole in my heart, and it looks like You have a hole in Your clouds.


Is it really 


In the western sky, a perfectly formed purple Valentine leaned slightly on its left side. On the right side of the heart was the white circle of clouds.

I had to turn east to get the girls, so the formation moved behind me. I wanted to watch it more closely, but there was nowhere to stop. I finally turned north, where the formation was on my left behind a tree line. I waited impatiently for a break in the trees and got my chance when I stopped at railroad tracks.

White clouds had vanished. In their place, white sunlight streamed through a circular break in the purple, filling the entire sky with blinding light.

The sun seemed poised to leap through the center of the heart.

Ok, Lord, I get it! I have to fill up the hole in my heart with Your light.

I saw the heart one last time as I drove home with the girls. This time, it was smaller, thinner, leaner and broken through the center.

Yes, God. You know I have a broken heart! It's true-- half my heart is missing.

If I had any doubts God was talking to me tonight, they soon evaporated because I watched in utter amazement as the top left half of the broken heart drifted away to form a lower case letter of the alphabet.

In perfect italics, the purple letter was bold against the azure sky.


r   for Russell.
Lord, thank you for meeting me at my level tonight and speaking to my broken heart.  You have reminded me what I need to do to mend it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Three Words to Remember

Venice Beach, California
June 2012
Mark 4:39 KJV
"And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm."

Venice Beach looked like a setting from a collection of picture postcards the day Allie and I saw it with our friends.

Sunlight glistened off sailboat masts, teens skateboarded, joggers shared narrow paths with bicyclists, and surfers strolled over hot sand carrying surf boards to the waves. Street performers entertained crowds, barkers called out to view eeiry displays hidden behind curtained walls, and the rich aromas of restaurants mingled with sea breezes dancing past us.

In contrast, Tropical Storm Debby is currently making her ominous presence felt in Florida and Georgia. Trees bend to her will, bands of rain create flood waters, and tornadoes have destroyed lives.

Yet it is precisely in an environment similar to this where Jesus displayed his power over the elements of nature. In the matter of three words, "Peace, be still" he caused the storm to cease.

Christ spoke with majesty and authority. He is powerful and on my side! He loves me. He will look out for me.  He can bring that same peace to my stormy soul. 

Three words for me to remember: "Peace, be still!" 

It seems so easy, but I will have to work on it every day.
Lord, help me look to you when I get upset. You can bring peace into my life if I allow you.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Tree

Palm Trees Line the Streets of Beverly Hills
June 2012

2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

My daughter, Allison, and I ran away from home for three weeks. We hid out at our friends' home in Los Angeles.

While exploring the area, we drove to Beverly Hills. It seemed each street we turned down was picture perfect. Neatly landscaped yards opened to impressive cottages of stone and mason work. Streets were lined with tall, straight palms.  We gasped as we drove down Rodeo Drive past the opulent shops opening for the day.  Again, palms dotted our path.

As we turned back to our hosts' home, we passed through West Hollywood where a small tree on the right side of the road was being planted and propped up with stakes.  In a few years, this tree will be as straight and tall and healthy as the ones we just saw in Beverly Hills, I mused.

Those stakes will allow the tree's roots to latch into the soil and grow deep and wide. In the weak condition it's currently in, it could fall over in a storm if not supported.

I understand the tree.

Still weak from the loss of Russell,  I am also in danger of falling over in a severe storm, but prayers from others prop me up until I can grow stronger roots. 

Until then, I have faith that in my weakness, Christ's power lifts me up.
Lord, Thank you for the lesson of the tree. I hope to grow strong and healthy once more through your grace.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

With a Thankful Heart

Baby Lori Posing Beside the Coffee Table
Circa 1961

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV
"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

I don't really recall the awkward, wavering baby steps I took as a toddler, but a faint mark above my brow line reminds me of where I stumbled into the corner of the coffee table and cut open the skin.

Baby steps. Tiny, shaky, trembling steps eventually leading to confident moves. Ballerina leaps, pole vault jumps, and Kentucky Derby speed-racing down the sidewalk.

I am a toddler again. 

Give thanks from a grateful heart, my soul implores.

Thanks? For the death of my son?

No. Never!

It has taken me four months and a painful emotional journey, but in the past two weeks I have taken a turn for better once I understood the message of my soul.

With a thankful heart, I bless God for GIVING me 27 years with my son.

I am grateful. I am thankful.

I'm learning to walk again. If you see me occassionally stumble, forgive me and help me pull myself up. I know I have some new scars, but I will figure this out with my Father's help.
Thank you, Lord, for holding my hand as I learn to walk again.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


My Beautiful Children and Me

Ephesians 6: 2-3 NIV
“Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise— that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

I rounded the hallway corner and stepped into my livingroom only to stop short to absorb the scene. A dozen of my dearest friends and family members were seated in a horseshoe on various chairs gathered from around the house. Others sat on the sofa. All were somber and silent and glanced up as I came into the room.

I felt the need to lighten the mood so began to quip: "What's wrong with everyone? You look like someone died!"  I swallowed the words.  Russell had just died. Oops! How had I repressed that?  Guess I was in denial. 

I still am at times.

Mother's Day is tomorrow, and I am fighting various emotions ranging from anger to sorrow.  Russell has intruded into my dreams this weekend, and all of them make me sad when I awake.

However, this is a weekend to pay tribute to our mothers, and I am blessed to have had a good one, who is always there when I need her.  I love her very much.

Allison is a wonderful daughter to me, and she continues to hover over me keeping a close eye on me. She and I have grown closer since January as we have leaned on each other to get through our grief.

I am proud to be her mother.  I am proud to have been Russell's mother. However, I have learned this year that sometimes mothers have to let go of a child even when they don't want to. I still have within me the need to protect Russell. That is the theme of each sad dream.  However, it is too late for me to help him.  I can, however, still look after my little Allison. Just like my mom tries to look after me.

Motherhood is not a job for the faint-hearted. It is a job for all time. It never ends, even with death.

Dear Lord, bless all mothers and their children each and every day.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Why Was He Sent?

If I could only get my students to follow the leader like these cows!
Sprague River, Oregon
June 2011

Luke 4:43 NIV
“I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

I am the bad guy.  I give spoonfuls of medicine without sugar in it.  I rain on parades. I rock the boat.  I step on cracks without caring about my mother's back. 

It's the season of state writing test preparation, and I am Cassandra of Troy proclaiming truth to my students who in turn mock me.  "What if I don't write the outline? You won't know!"

Twenty-plus years of success as a writing teacher does not win me merit points.  I am a prophet in my hometown; no one believes me.

"Listen," I implore, "if you just do it my way, you will easily meet state standards or exceed them.  The only students I have taught who have failed were too hard-headed to follow my instructions."

Some take this as a personal challenge. I can almost hear their thoughts: Let me be the one not to follow her, and I'll show her I can succeed without her!

I only teach people how to write for success.  Jesus taught people how to live for success! His message leads people to eternal salvation.  And He is so patient!  Today I counted 10, 11, 12 and then threw in the towel, but He doesn't walk away from me when I don't listen--isn't that amazing?

Jesus presented the model of how to live a holy life. Yet so often I do not want to submit to His will.

I would have to humble myself before Him and acknowledge His wisdom above my own.

Otherwise, I could be like my students: reluctant to understand the message, eager to try life my way, and hope for the best in the end.
Dear Lord, help me humble myself before you.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Season of Life

A Time to Blossom

 Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,  a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

It's time to grow again. I have been stagnant in my sorrow for two and a half months, and nothing but misery greeted me there.

Today, as Allison and I rounded our street corner to home, we were stopped short by police cars, the county coroner, and yellow crime scene tape wrapped around our neighbor's house. He died on his front porch apparently trying desperately to enter the house.  As he lost consciousness, he scraped his arm along the tabby exterior of his home.  His dried blood, now a dark brown stain on the house, was a silent testament of the pain he endured at the end.

Life turns on a dime.

My neighbor's sudden death shows me I must continue to write through my pain. I may yet have something to contribute to the world with God's wisdom guiding me. 

It has been difficult to consider returning to this blog, yet I remain confident I am Encircled by the Rainbow of God's loving promises of glories.

The Season of Life is now.
Lord, help me rise to your vision for my life.  I see through the glass darkly. Give me perception to see your truths.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Good Friends

Habakkuk 3:18
"Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation."

Laughter rolls through the house like a spring shower dances on a tin roof. Loud. Boisterous. Rip-roaring belly laughs to split sides and buckle you over.

Oh, God, thank you for laughter. Thank you for the smiles and the too-too-fast talking Allison is carrying on with her friend.  Friends. Oh, God, thank you for good friends who can help us laugh through the darkest of storms.

Just when I thought the house had died, LIFE found its way here again with the love and joy of friendship. 

I leave the door to our bedroom cracked open just to hear the sounds of life--not to tell them it's late and they have to go to sleep. 

Laugh, girls, laugh.  Fill this sorrow-laden house with your teenage joy.
Lord, thank you for good friends who bring us back from the shadow of death.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Time Keeps Flowing like a River to the Sea

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Romans 8:38-39 NIV
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

I held baby Russell in my arms as the swift current propelled us down a gully towards the sea.  We bounced up and down in the murky water, yet I managed to hold his head high, so he could breathe.  As I frantically searched for a way out of the danger, the current forced us into a culvert.  We both went under.  I held my breath and hoped an opening would soon appear.  Instead, we were inside too long.  When I came up for air, he was gone. I had failed to save him.

The dream was so real that even now my lungs ache from holding my breath. I suppose this is one of many dreams I will have where I am unable to save my son.

Allison called early this morning from the slumber party where she had spent the night. She hadn't slept and felt sick. She wanted to come home.  She apologized repeatedly for making us drive for 40 minutes to come get her.  We finally got the message through to her that of course we were coming to bring her home and there is nothing to apologize for.

For me, today was what Morrie Schwartz called "a tension of opposites".  Whereas I could easily help one child, I was powerless to protect the other. I suppose this tension will be within me for some time. 

A friend who lost his son thirty years ago told me last week that only time can help us, but time moves awful slowly.  Week four is beginning, and the numbness, disbelief and despair I feel as a mother is just as poignant as when I first heard the news of his death.

However, God's grace has been apparent to us as we have walked this road.  So many prayers have been offered up for us by complete strangers.  The love that people around the world have sent us is lifting us and getting us up each morning to face the new day. 

I still believe God is good.  My faith, rather than being tested through this experience, has been bolstered and affirmed.  God is holding our heads up above the raging waters of confusion and sorrow.  He is stronger than me, and unlike the outcome of my dream, He won't let us drown or become destroyed due to this event.  It will just take time. 

With God, time is eternity, and He will meet us one day and erase all the pain we feel.
Lord, thank you for keeping me from drowning in my pain.  You are amazing.

Monday, January 30, 2012

One Calorie at a Time, Sweet Jesus!

"All Things Bright and Beautiful"
by Cecil Francis Alexander

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

 Psalm 147:3-5 NIV
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit."

Allison, John and I climbed into the car and drove to the gym. It was the first time since we bought the membership in August 2011 we had gone.  Got to admit John and I aren't exactly fitness gurus.  Allison walks and works out on the Wii Fit, but since Russell died, she hasn't been exercising much.

Allison had a melt down at school today and ended up coming home early. The positive from this is she met her guidance counselor, a wonderful woman who will offer her a safe haven at school when she needs one.  We have also heard from her teachers, all who are praying for us.  They are truly loving people who are supportive of her and us during our grief.

We are trying to make it through the day moment by moment.  I felt that "moment by moment" as I peddled on the stationary bike watching the calories burn one at a time. I worked so hard on that bike and only got to five (yes, 5!) calories before I called it quits...partly because I was tired and mostly because I was bored.  I can't concentrate on anything for any length of time.

But today was a start for us.

Allison learned she has a support group outside her family ready to lift her up. 

John and I are trying to improve our health by spending time with Allison at the gym.

One calorie at a time, Sweet Jesus, and this family will find a way to maneuver through the maze of life with God's Grace even as we miss our precious boy.
Thank you Lord for your faithfulness during this difficult time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Learning to Walk Again

The Full Moon Sets at the Start of a New Day

Isaiah 41:13
"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you."

I am afraid. Afraid of questions I can't answer. Students who mean well will ask me questions that will cause me to cry. Colleagues will whisper behind my back.  I am afraid.

I need to go back to work. I know I can't heal until I establish a routine again. But how will life ever flow as it used to before his death? 

Birds fill the sky during the day, and stars fill the sky at night. I feel empty. I want to feel the freedom of the soaring birds and the light of the stars inside me.

Fear cannot keep me Earthbound. I need to stretch out my soul and face the crowds. I trust God is holding my hand helping me learn how to walk again.
Please Lord, continue to hold my hand. I am weak and afraid of falling.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Grace, Grace, God's Grace

A Staircase to Heaven

John 14:1-4 NIV
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."


A couple years ago I learned a new term: prevenient grace. It is defined as the grace from God that comes before everything I do.

On January 8, 2012, I wrote words that, in my opinion, prepared me for the looming tragedy which was about to unfold on January 13, 2012 with the accidental death of my son. 

At the time, when I wrote the following words, I was overcome with a strange passion to write as I had never known before. The words unfolded effortlessly as if God himself gave them to me.

As I look over this anecdote, I am in awe of God's love for me. I believe He gave me this memory to remind me that death is just the beginning, not the end of life.

I sit in the back seat of a car traveling down a country road in Indiana farmland one summer’s night circa 1966 or ‘67.  I don’t remember. The memory is in black and white for me, so I must have been young.
My grandpa sits next to me, and I snuggle against him. He smells like car grease and pipe tobacco. He wears a white shirt and a small tie. Maybe we have been to church. I don’t know. But now we are on our way to visit somebody sick.
My dad, grandpa’s son, is at the wheel. Mom beside him in the front.  The mood, somber and serious, hangs over us like a dark veil. My throat closes up as stifling heat builds in the car. Even though it is summer and hot, our windows are rolled up because of the dust bowl our tires create driving along the rutted dirt road.  Indiana in the summer was like this when I was young. We visited old people who lived on dirt roads that wound through corn fields.
The veil of darkness settles over us in the car and on the horizon. Dad turns on the car lights and continues to drive. I listen to mom and dad talk. The conversation went something like this:
“She has been sick a long time. It looks like this will be it.”
“She was always good to us.  I’m glad we can see her one last time.”
It is the first time I understood the meaning of “it”.  As a child, death is a difficult concept. People around me had died before, but I didn’t understand what happened. This night, in this car, with the veil of darkness around us and the stifling heat closing my throat, I shuddered in understanding. I gasped to breathe because I had suddenly lost the ability to swallow.
Grandpa sensed my awareness. I don’t know how, but he knew I knew what was going on and could feel fear envelope me.  I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t speak, I was in the dark dust drowning in knowledge I didn’t want.
Then, from the darkness came grandpa’s arm around me. He pulled me close to him. I buried my head in his chest and breathed deep the smells of life. He patted me as I calmed down.  The veil of fear lifted. I could breathe without gasping. My racing heart slowed.
Not a word was spoken, yet we shared a defining moment of my life. The moment I understood the meaning of death. 
Mom and dad continued to talk softly in the front seat.  I remember hills rising and falling around us, the dust, and the darkness.  But mostly, I remember my grandpa’s protective arm keeping me from drowning in the darkness of knowledge.
Lord, help me hold tight to my faith that I will see my loved ones again in paradise with you.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Russell Stewart Gregerson Durham
September 28, 1984-January 13, 2012

John 14:27 NIV
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

When he was born, the doctors told me, "Congratulations, you have given birth to a toddler." Ten pounds of a baby boy had left me trying for six days to deliver him. The joy and relief I felt the first time I held him in my arms was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was so proud to be his mother.

The nurses in the nursery told me, "He won't sleep like the other babies. He looks all around the room, so we put him in a pumpkin seat so he can sit up and watch what we are doing."

He was the one who didn't follow the crowd. He was the one who made his own path in life. He was the one whose endless curiousity about the world around him led him to explore the United States and Italy.

He was a friend to all he knew, and those who knew him loved him. He was big and strong and looked intimidating, yet he had the heart of a kitten. He danced to the Wii with his sister, and listened patiently to her aimless rambles about her high school drama.

He died in a tragic accident this past Friday. He has left a hole in my heart that will never heal. My baby boy was 27, yet it seems like yesterday when I heard the doctors laugh as they delivered him. That laughter followed Russell throughout life as he made others smile everyday with his ironic humor.

One of his co-workers told me her favorite memory of him last summer was when they worked at the pool for a swim meet.  As he discussed preparations with the lifeguards, he mistakenly called the event a track meet.  Without missing a beat, he stopped and said, "Well, I guess it's really not a track meet unless Jesus is coming."

That was my boy. He looked at life from a different perspective than the rest of us.  I will miss it so much.
Lord, help John, Allie and me through this difficult time. Thank you for the family and friends around the world who have wrapped their arms around us and sent up prayers to you on our behalf.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Teenagers! Gotta Love Them!

Teenagers just Like to have Fun!
New Year's Eve 2012

Joshua 1:9 NIV
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

They are teenagers. Teenagers. Teenagers. God love them; help me remember they are rambunctious, buoyant, chatterbox bundles of hyper energy happy to see their friends after a three week break.

They didn't mean to wear out my bad knee, sag my shoulders, or make me yell at them to be quiet.  It was just the first day back to school, and they meant nothing personal by rearranging my seating chart. (Ha--but I figured out their deception with twenty minutes left of class). They only wanted to sit by their best buddies, their cousins, their girlfriend, a boyfriend.

They couldn't help complaining about the room temperature (too hot or cold), the seating arrangement (no--I don't think it's possible to get a circle of twenty-eight desks in this small room), the thickness of the textbook (I'm sorry it "won't work" for you. You still have to keep up with it), or the "banned word list" for writing assignments that includes: stuff, very, and thing.  (I know that list hurts your brain. That's why I gave it to you--to stretch your brain muscle.)

Yes. (Sigh!) The first day of school. A whirling dervish of activity all designed by teenagers to evade a new semester of classwork.

They may have knocked me out today, but, Lord willing, I will recover in time to go back tomorrow. 
Lord, give me strength when my body is weak.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Don't Tell Me They Will Win!

True Victory Comes by being in the Game, not the Final Score.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
Last night I sat on the couch transfixed by a playoff game between my hometown Cincinnati Bengals and the home team Houston Texans.  The first quarter showed my underdog football players could hold their own. They looked strong as they tackled players and broke up passes.

Unfortunately, their luck came to a screeching halt by the second quarter when the Texans took over the lead.

By halftime my legs shook with nerves, my heart raced, and I couldn't tolerate the suspense of the third quarter. I left the room, found my phone, and texted my brother in Cincinnati. "I can't stand the suspense. Tell me they will win."

He replied, "Nope. They will lose. But they had a great season!"

My brother put the game back in perspective for me.

Many times in life the pressure of competition causes me to focus only on the outcome and not on the progress toward goals. 

In the education field, it seems as if the bosses and politicians only want to see the bottom line of test data that will supposedly reflect progress in our students. Too often these folks forget education is a journey; the real victory is not in the test score but in the learning process itself. 

God notices my failures in life. However, like true Bengals fans and teachers who know their students, He sees my progress over time. Furthermore, His grace washes away my failures.

Why can't people be as gracious to each other?

Instead of pointing out each other's flaws, wouldn't it be wonderful to be kind when we see someone struggling? 

The world would change if we lifted each other up in prayer each day.
Lord, Let me pray for others and offer my help to them whenever possible.