5 Years of Perspective

Today is the 5th anniversary of my big sister Heather’s homegoing. When we were kids, she irritated the tar out of me on a regular basis, taught me about beauty products (note: NEVER use Vaseline for a hot-oil treatment for your hair), was bossy, sang with me loudly in public places (to upset our sister Allison), knew EVERYthing (or so she thought), made me laugh, hurt my feelings, and once wrote a spoof-musical with me in the wee hours of the morning.

When we were grown up, we went for long stretches with hardly any communication, brainstormed gift ideas and event-planned for family celebrations, had sometimes-awkward get-togethers (because aren’t we ALL a little awkward, really?), spent hours in deep conversation, and once got so silly in a fancy steakhouse that we couldn’t stop laughing and our husbands were embarrassed to be seated with us.

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When she got sick with pancreatic cancer, we suddenly talked every week even though we lived 1,000 miles apart. We sat and held hands in doctor’s waiting rooms even though when we were little she would shriek if I dared to touch her in public. We made tacky, inappropriate jokes during chemo treatments because it’s better to laugh than cry sometimes. And we reminded each other that God is God, He is good, and He loves us.

Now that she is gone, I realized that she helped me learn some stuff:

* People are often annoying, but they are important.
* Relationships are hard work, but they are of immeasurable value.
* You don’t always like the people you still choose to love, and that’s okay.
* People can be wrong and it not really matter that much.
* Sometimes an inappropriate joke is actually a statement of faith and hope.
* Family is messy and complicated, but it should not be taken for granted.
* Love — no matter exactly what shape it takes at a given time — is always worth it.
* God is God, He is good, and He loves us.

(See you, Heath….and thanks for the opal ring. I smile every time I wear it.)

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Merry Christmas, Whether You’re Into Christmas or Not

Jesus LoveChristmas depression?  Been there.

Grinchy years?  Yup.  Sometimes there’s a reason the Whos down in Whoville get on your nerves.

Merry-merry years?  Absolutely!  Love ’em!

Whatever kind of Christmas you’re having this year…

Whatever circumstances you are facing while the world is jingling bells and decking halls…

One thing is certain.

JESUS.

He is God.  He is good.  He loves you.

Stand on what’s true.  Ignore the rest if you need to.

And consider yourself hugged (if you’re into that sort of thing).

Merry Christmas!

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Perspective and Thanksgiving


It’s so easy to feel thankful for wonderful things.

It’s easy to express thanks for the nifty stuff.

It’s a choice to “give thanks in all things.” (I Thes. 5:18)

But while I was drinking coffee this morning (something for which I find it VERY easy to be thankful!), I was pondering some weird stuff that I truly FEEL thankful for, and realizing that it’s all in the perspective.

For example:

I am thankful that I am a mother who has buried a child.

In 1996, Beatrice Marie was born with an incomplete central nervous system, cuddled with me for two hours, and then crawled up on Jesus’ lap to stay.

I was NOT thankful to be at her graveside in 1996.

I was NOT thankful to celebrate Christmas without her that year, to see her first birthday come up on the calendar the following July, or to answer the question, “How many kids do you have?”

So why am I truly thankful for this now?

People like to say that time heals all wounds, but that’s a load of hooey. Time turns a whole lot of wounds into festering, gangrenous disasters. So it’s not time that has taken me to a place of thankfulness.

It’s my perspective on the experience.

At the time that she died, I tried really, really hard to have a godly attitude about it. (I tried really hard at everything back then, because I figured God liked me better if I was trying hard enough that I was exhausted all the time. So thankful to have been flooded with grace since then!) I read books on grieving, on losing a child. I participated in an online support group and prayed for others who were grieving and tried to encourage them even while my own heart was bleeding.

And honestly, my externals weren’t half-bad. I avoided whining, stayed positive for the most part, and leaned hard on God for the courage to get pregnant again. (Thankful for that, since it resulted in Jonah’s arrival in 1997!)

My attitude wasn’t bad….my perspective just wasn’t right for thanksgiving.

We often confuse these two things: attitude and perspective.

Attitude:
A settled way of thinking or feeling, typically reflected in a person’s behavior. (dictionary.com)

Perspective:
A mental view or outlook. (ibid)

My attitude was mine to choose; I settled the way I would think about Bebe. I chose to believe that God was trustworthy, and if He took her to Heaven then I would accept that this was ultimately good, whether I ever understood it completely or not.

My perspective was:
UP CLOSE.

I had no choice about that part. I was right smack-dab in front of the little 24-inch casket that held her body. I was in the same room with the baby blankets she did not need, the clothes she would never wear, the toys she’d never cuddle. I was surrounded on all sides by my own body — the postpartum aches and pains, the hormonal surges, the sleeplessness. It was all so close I was going cross-eyed looking at it.

From that perspective, it is impossible to be thankful for the privilege of burying your child. 

You can choose to give thanks to God for His comfort as you grieve, for His trustworthiness in caring for your baby….you can give thanks for SOMEthing from that perspective, but you can’t give thanks for THAT thing yet.

Just like my over-40 eyes find it impossible to decipher the dosage instructions on the bottle of Tylenol in my hand, my soul found it impossible to be thankful for Bebe’s death when it was right at the end of my nose.

Now my perspective is long-range.  Those same over-40 eyes have no problem reading road signs as I drive.  My soul finds it easy to give thanks for all that Bebe’s life and death meant to me and countless others who have crossed my path in special ways because of her.

Here are just a few reasons I am thankful to be a mother who has buried a child:

* I am quick to have compassion on those who are walking through an intensely personal grief.  Whether they are losing a child or walking some other private, no-one-really-understands-but-me road of suffering, I am quick to give them the benefit of the doubt, quick to pray for them, quick to challenge others to respect the private nature of their suffering.

* I am less tightly tethered to my living children than I would have been had Bebe never died.  Yup.  While some mothers CHOOSE to cling more tightly to the others when one child passes away, I CHOSE (attitude) to instead study and learn the truth before me, that no matter how hard I try I cannot guarantee the safety or success of anyone….even if I gave birth to them.  That choice was made not once but many times, and in the early years my perspective was still too near-sighted to see that this would pay off over the long haul; I kept choosing by faith.  But now my perspective allows me to see that facing the ultimate threat to my child (life or death) and losing did not destroy me, and it did not destroy her, either.  I can believe the same for my living children when they encounter really hard stuff.  I don’t have to convince myself that it will ultimately be good no matter what; I have already lived it and seen it to be true.

* I am less bound by time and space than I was before Bebe’s death.  While I know that God is eternal and omnipresent, He always seemed remote.  After I said goodbye to my daughter, I had a strong motivator for digging into these qualities of God and seeking to understand them better.  Missing her made me realize how much I missed Him….because I didn’t really understand His presence with me even as He is seated high above all things of earth.  Realizing how much I missed Him brought me into a deeper hunger for His presence, a hunger He was quite happy to satisfy.

Take stock over a quiet cup of coffee.  What can you say you are now truly thankful for because your changed perspective (over time) has made it possible?

Or ask yourself a hard question:  Is there something for which you COULD be truly thankful but you haven’t allowed your changed perspective to spur you toward a choice to give thanks?

Drama Camp 2012 – More Than a Decade Later

I’ve been mighty quiet here at Perpetually Falling the last couple of weeks. That’s because those two weeks have been spent with the cast of Drama Camp 2012 producing my original play, “More Than A Decade Later.”

Drama Camp is a passion.

This was the 11th camp I’ve done with homeschooled actors. This year for the first time we worked for two weeks instead of one, and it was a great change. I’m so glad God pushed me out of my box of “how we’ve done it before” so that we could see Him do so much more than I even imagined.

Drama Camp is a completely consuming experience, and very little gets done other than that for the two weeks it lasts. But as I gradually re-enter normal life (whatever THAT means!) I will post here about the moments of falling before God’s throne that took my breath away during this camp.

In the meantime, here are links to Facebook videos of later rehearsals of the four choreographed songs that served as “bookends” to each Act of the play. (If you don’t have a FB account, I’m not sure you’ll be able to see them. I believe you have to be logged in to FB to view them. I hope to put them on YouTube soon.)

My amazingly talented daughter Rebekah Groop served as our choreographer. You may feel free to envy me for having a daughter with this much talent if you like. I would tell you how beautiful and fun and smart she is, too, but that would just be unfair to all of you, so I won’t mention it. 🙂

So thankful to have the chance to write a play and produce it with Drama Camp students every year!!

“Hello McFly” by Relient K.
This served as our prologue, and got everyone on stage and brought the audience into the high energy from the starting gate. We were dealing with looking back at things that God had done with our mistakes in the past, and understanding how to take His redemption and wisdom forward with us into the present and the future.

“Lead Me” by Sanctus Real
This showcased my male and female leads who were playing a married couple serving in a fast-growing ministry called “Unlabeled” (the ministry doesn’t exist yet, but God may be bringing it to life….want to find out what the idea is behind it? Click here to visit www.Unlabeled.org!) and trying to balance family vs. organized ministry.

“This is Your Life” by Switchfoot
This opened Act II with a challenge to believers everywhere. There are hurting people who will never darken the doors of our churches. Will we get out of our comfy pews and go to them with the redeeming love of Jesus?

“Strong Enough” by Matthew West
This was the epilogue. We must always stop our efforts long enough to ask if we are working in our own strength or trusting God to do through us what only HE can do.

Thanks to Hannah Joy Thorp, my fantastic niece, production assistant and Dancing Gnome for the videos!

Good – Better – Best: 4th of July Pie

GOOD: Pie.  Pie is good.  Period.

BETTER:  4th of July Pie.  AppleBerry.  And yes, I cut a flag on the top crust and baked it myself!

BEST:  Living in this country with the freedoms we have been given by so many who have bravely protected us!

Happy Independence Day, Everyone!

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Good – Better – Best: Ruby Slippers

Appreciating the stuff of everyday life is important!

GOOD:  Ruby slippers from my 18-year-old son Jake for Mother’s Day.

BETTER:  They fit like a dream.  I click my heels together three times…

BEST:  The note from Jakey duct-taped to the shoebox.

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