Here’s to loss (and the gains that follow)

Last week, we were in Florida while the rest of the Maritimes dug themselves out from another ‘white-mare’. I am sure it seems to everyone who lives here that there will never be an end to all the snowy, blizzard-y winter weather we have been experiencing over that last two months. Long range- forecasts project that things could continue into April, if things follow along on this riotous path to who knows where. What to do? Well, what our family decided to do was go south- forget our worries, cares and concerns and head to the light. To heat and warmth and sun and parks. Yes, making our way to lots and lots and lots of parks. And of course finding some water along the way, too.

One cannot do without the water in Florida.

So you would think that when you head for a reprieve from reality, that reality would just stay put and not follow you. Funny how life works- unfortunately, this isn’t how it goes down. Reality, when one is vacationing, is just the same old thing it always was- dressed up in different clothes that somehow seem prettier. And to illustrate my point, I will provide a small story.

It was our very first day at Disney. I was a little (understatement) stressed, but mostly trying to remind myself that this was suppose to be fun- because I was on vacation. And vacations are fun (HAHA). So, after getting up early (5:30 a.m.), getting everyone up on schedule and out the door on time, getting there without getting killed in the process (crazy roads) and then manouvering through the parking system, ticket office and fast-pass station without too many hitches (I nearly negated all my own tickets, but that’s another story),… I finally told myself:

“Self, it’s time to relax and enjoy this day!”

So, I took out a pack of gum while standing in line for my first ride, passed it around to our crew of six eager patrons of Disney’s Magic Kingdom and then promptly stuck a stick of gum in my mouth, choosing to chomp on my right side first (as I had just started to heal from surgery on the left side and things were still tender there).

I know you all know what happened next. It was actually something I have nightmares about- that sound of metal on enamel. It is an entirely yucky sound and feeling- and to lose a tooth at the beginning of our stay was disappointing, to say the least. I just found out this afternoon, much to my dismay, that the tooth of which I write is absolutely irreparable.

Such is life.

I tell you all this to really tell you THIS factoid: So yesterday, while we were driving home (and while I was gingerly eating snacks, carefully checking each time with my tongue swiping around my mouth so as to ensure I hadn’t lost another tooth), I heard a news report about Angelina Jolie taking preventative measures to protect herself against cancer. In light of the fact that she has had a double mastectomy along with just undergoing surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes, I started to think about my own situation- the loss of my teeth. Incredibly minor in light of Jolie’s choice to do without. And I started to think about the fact that I am not carrying any longer a full set of pearlie-whites as not so much a disadvantage, something to grieve as a loss: but rather, something to see as a gift I was loaned for a short while, and thus something I can certainly live without now that the gift is taken from me.

Yes, this requires a tremendous amount of perspective! And a little bit of imagination to boot.

Sometimes we choose to live our lives with less so that we can then live out the rest of our lives with more. And living with less does not mean that life cannot be fulfilling and purposeful. Doesn’t mean that one is necessarily worse off than they were the moment before, when they had more. Rather, living with less just means less- not bad or worse or terrible or horrific. Just less.

I have less teeth than I use to. Angelina Jolie has less parts than she use to. You might have less of something to, if you really admitted it. You see, I don’t just have fewer teeth than I use to: I also have less dark brown hair growing on my scalp (oh grey hair, you are not my fave), less elasticity in my skin, less vision and less flexibility in these ole’ muscles. I could go on…

But at this point in my life, with all the loss- I have certainly made some gains- for I have more clarity, more perspective, more perception and more insight than I ever did, even ten years ago. If losing a tooth is a trade-off for even one of those qualities, then I certainly have much to be thankful for.

So, while standing there in that line-up- while I did momentarily grieve the loss of that tooth (okay, I still lapse sometimes into a bit of sorrow), I have also realized that with this loss, I have gained moments I will forever cherish. Moments I would never get back again had I chosen to just sit there and grieve my loss. You see, the reality of this situation was: I was with my family, in a line-up (that would be the longest line-up of the day, but I digress….) at Disney and I was about to ride a roller-coaster. A roller-coaster, people!! This is something I couldn’t do over when I was finally done my pity-party. Not something I could come back to later when I was feeling better. I had to get in the groove and do it NOW. So I made a decision to just press on- and tuck that (expensive) little crown in my purse and FOR-GEDDA-BOUT-IT.

I realized right then and there- and this one thing’s for sure: there is no minimum requirement of teeth necessary for one to get on a roller-coaster and enjoy the day. And with every loss in life, there is always a gain.

So here’s to loss and the gains that follow…because there is always that predictable bit of sunshine to come after the downpour, light that shines brightly after every rain cloud disappears.

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All is Grace

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The sun beckons through the glass of my kitchen windows. We are now on Daylight Savings time and the possibilities seem endless for a low-key Monday evening. I suggest a walk through the field by snowshoe and then call for the girls to resume their igloo building while I finish up a few last-minute errands. I slip on my snowshoes and climb the steep incline to the field where the girls are forming a play-fire from some branches and small evergreens twigs. It is just one of those perfect evenings made for play and whimsy.
Husband and I set out through the field with the sun behind us, the effect of which makes the landscape a tableau of brilliant white as far as the eye can see. The contours of the land are increasingly difficult to navigate and predict, and I find myself catching a snowshoe here and there, nearly tumbling face-first in a less than glamorous free-fall. I steady myself and stay the course, sinking more and more the further we advance with the softer snow drifts.
We walk back to the old tree that marks the land. It has been a marker of the passage of time, but time does take its toll. A large branch has been whiplashed by our fierce winter winds and now lies perpendicular to the stately boughs that still stretch up to the sky. I rest over the branch for a while and gaze pensively off into the distance. Husband stands beside me and we pass the moments in silence.
I find myself thinking more and more about the moments and days and months and years that are quickly passing us by. It seems like five minutes ago that Husband and I first laid eyes on one another. In truth- that moment was 23 years ago. And with two decades and a bit under our belts, you would think we must have found the secret that happy couples ascribe to so as to keep the tenderness alive, keep the fires burning. Think we’d know the answers.
In truth, marriage is hard. It doesn’t get any easier either. But then again, so is life and it doesn’t get easier either.
I read tonight of Kara Tippetts, a beautiful mama and wife who is fighting cancer- but claiming that every day is grace. I think of my own dear warrior friend Wendy Gallant who lost her battle to cancer but has left behind her incredible legacy as a wife, mama, friend, community member and influence. I feel tears fall as I think that the world will be/is emptier for the loss of women like these two. I grieve the change that the passage of seasons brings.
Kara describes death as leaving the party too early. She talks about feeling like a little girl whose Daddy has come to pick her up before the birthday party has officially ended. She says it is not that she is afraid to die- she just isn’t wanting to leave yet. I wonder if this is how my dear Wendy felt. I’m sure she would have asked for just one more day if the suggestion had been offered.
Life is so difficult to comprehend even in its raw, jagged beauty.
I turn to Husband and I wrap my arms around his solid frame. I feel that this is where I need to be right now. Right here. We embrace in the quiet solitude. All is peace. All is grace.
We fight continually for that peace and grace to hold us even as the storms of life rage around our fragile vulnerability. We are so weak- so frail. And yet there is a strength that sustains even in the midst of life’s uncertainties. There is always enough grace for the day.
Grace holds tenderly.
And that is what knits me together in this fading light of the day. That Grace. Felt in a Husband’s embrace. Whispered on the evening breeze- I will always love you- for I always have. And I always will. A Father’s grace- eternal, sustaining and unending.
And it is enough. It is more than enough.

Giving Christmas Away This Year

For the past few weeks, my two youngest children have been talking about what they want for Christmas. The lists began to form about mid-November, a modest collection of this and that. Nothing that would break the bank or Santa’s aching back as he pulls that sack up and of his sleigh. And of course, it’s fun to think about the magic of Christmas at this time of year- writing letters to Santa, browsing through dog-eared copies of the Sear’s Wishbook.

But it is all too easy to get caught up in that holiday hullabaloo- shopping, ticking things off our list. Compiling our lists of wants and needs.

I have been struck this year by the fact that there are people- adults and children the world over, who sadly know that this is their last Christmas spent here on earth. Their last Christmas ever. And with that in mind, I have started to shift my focus to a few of these stories.

Meet Addie Fausett- she’s a little girl much like my own MaryAnne or the little ones I teach in my kindergarten classroom. Except Addie is dying- this is her last Christmas. Due to an unknown illness, she stopped growing when she was 3 and she now weighs all of 23 pounds. Doctors told her Mom last month that she will not last more than the coming year. With that in mind, her family wants to make this Christmas one of the most meaningful ones they have ever had. Because all Addie really wants materialistically this year as a gift is some Christmas cards from all of her friends. There has been a world-wide appeal for Christmas cards for her, as this would be one of the more meaningful gifts a child spending their last Christmas might like to receive.

If you would be interested in sending her a card, here is her address:

Addie Fausett
c/o Tami Fausett
Box 162, Fountain Green, Utah, USA 84632

Meet Cali Griggs- a little girl from Glendale, Arizona. She’s two years-old, and she has terminal cancer. A couple of weeks ago, the doctors gave her one to three months to live, but her parents intuitively believe she won’t even make it until Christmas. All Cali wants this year is to experience Christmas- the lights, the glow, the paper-wrapping, the smells and sounds. The snow. Her community came together in mid-November to create a winter wonderland for her outside her home. “She just wanted to get out and play with everything. She was so happy. And I had to fight it, I was about to cry,” said Greg Griggs, Cali’s father.

And if these stories are not enough to break our hearts, meet Aimee Willett who is 26. She’s a mommy to two precious little boys. She had her first ever, routine PAP test this past year and in June, doctors told her there was cancer and it was inoperable. Doctors have told her that she is unlikely to survive until 2016. This will be her last Christmas

I ask myself: is there something I can do? However small that something might be. Something I can do even within the community in which I live. The school in which I teach. Is there something I can do- both for these precious families as well as for the others who are unknown and living out countless stories much like these three I have shared above?

Don’t we all play a part in making this Christmas an unforgettable one for the people we encounter around us?

I write this piece not to make anyone feel guilty or pressured- only so as to broaden hearts and give us all a deeper awareness of the world around us. I write so as to remind myself and others that this Christmas: we can make it the most meaningful one ever both for ourselves and for others by choosing to think outside our comfort zone- outside our private lives. We can make it meaningful by choosing to extend our love- our care and concern, to the multitude of others in the world around us.

We can GIVE Christmas away this year.

Our lasting hope, our consolation

My dear friend- buried Monday on a beautiful November afternoon. Snow softly falling as if to quell the pain. The hour prior, friends and family crowded into a small country church, four hundred strong to say last goodbyes. To sing and pay tribute to the woman they loved while honoring the God she adored. To bring humble offerings before the One who had held her through it all- knowing that same Dear One stood in God’s very presence even as we mourned. Her beloved family there, lining the rows. Clutching Kleenex in hand, heads bowed in sorrow even as they said final earthly goodbyes to a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt and kindred spirit. Not a dry eye in the place.

What if your blessings come through rain drops What if Your healing comes through tears What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

This life- it is never time enough for those of us who love. We always crave for more. More time, more moments, more memories, more laughter, more hugs, more touch. More opportunity. And when time is up and eternity claims the ones we hold the closest, we wonder: where is the good in all of this? How can good come from so much sorrow?

When friends betray us When darkness seems to win We know that pain reminds this heart That this is not, This is not our home It’s not our home

And this life- it is so hard. So much to bear. I talk to another precious woman, listening as she shares her story of a broken marriage, a baby lost and the hope of any other future babies gone with a medical complication not of her own doing. I talk to others, even as I think back over this past week’s events and wonder: how can we carry on? A colleague killed crossing the road, another three-car pile-up, a mother left to carry the burden of her sister’s accident, a father and mother-in-law struggling with the ravages of Parkinson’s. A father taken, a mother. Disease and death surround us at every turn. And that is just my story- my precious friends with their own stories of sadness to share. It is all too much. One doesn’t have to look very far to see the misery that this life brings. Our own dear family- both immediate and extended- a testament to this truth. So much suffering. So much pain. And I have to wonder, how is all the misery of this life able to become a blessing?

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace Comfort for family, protection while we sleep We pray for healing, for prosperity We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

We pray for the realization of all that we believe would give us joy: an end to cancer, an end to disease. An end to brokenness of any sort. We pray for restoration in marriage, for lengthy lives lived until the grey hairs crown our heads in glory. We pray for an end to all suffering. We pray for inner peace, familial peace, relational peace, world peace. An end to poverty, famine, war and pestilence. We pray for an end to our misery and trouble. We pray.

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love As if every promise from Your word is not enough

And we wonder: where is God? Where is God in all of this? I come across a beautiful message in my Facebook feed from this same dear friend whom I am mourning the loss, a note written to me six years earlier. Who would have known that this message would come back into my present reality and speak to me- as if they were words given to me in my time of sorrow from God Himself. Words offering comfort and hope.She writes:

Hi Lori, I know things are going to work out for all of you, time is a healer and GOD is all powerful, nothing happens without a reason…the healing can start…. Time will bring everything back to where it should be!! …you are a wonderful person, God is not finished with any of us yet, and he is doing a wonderful work in you, it may be a very DIFFICULT time right now, but look how close you have come to God in all of it!! GOD is using you in many ways, some you are not even aware of, HOW EXCITING!!! Just let go and let GOD, he is carrying you and he will never let you go. I was thinking of that song today, it is my favorite and my prayer when I am down, “Draw me close to you, never let me go” I pray that you feel so close to GOD, I love you guys, and am still praying for you all!! Good night my friend! and GOD BLESS YOU.

And all the while, You hear each spoken need Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

What if the heartache of this life was the pathway to understanding? What if the insight we gained, the perspective we were offered- was the open door? What if the purpose of all this pain and sorrow in life was not for it all to end, but for us to endure so as to find the beauty within the pain? What if beauty could truly come through ashes? Joy through mourning? What if every-day, private miracles were just as necessary as public sensations? What if the little moments of victory were our true pursuit? And what if the moments whereby inner strength was gained were as valuable as those moments we derived the sustaining ability necessary to climb physical mountains?

What if life was less about the mountain-top and more about the climb?

And all the while, You hear each desperate plea And long that we’d have faith to believe

I take a walk the day after, last goodbyes already having been spoken; and the brilliant sunset brings me to tears. It is not that I see my precious friend or even Heaven in this earthly vision so much as I see hope. It makes me long for another time, another place. I think of Heaven and Wendy and others who are there. I think of Jesus and I long for home. Long for an end to the aching of this life. A brand new beginning.

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy What if trials of this life The rain, the storms, the hardest nights Are your mercies in disguise

And this is our lasting hope, our consolation: eternity. Forever is such a very long time.