We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Day After

Every Sunday, 8:00 a.m. will always have a hallowed place in my heart. Each week I will make it a point to glance at the clock . . . and remember. Remember my wonderful mother who enriched every day of my life in a myriad of ways. 

Sunday, August 11 at 8:00 a.m. marked the day Mom stepped into heaven after a long and weary journey with cancer. Finally home. In the words of David Phelps:
No more night; no more pain;
No more tears, never crying again.
Praises to the great I AM!
  We will live in the light of the risen Lamb!
Friends and family came from Illinois, Georgia, Indiana, New York, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. They brought with them words of comfort. They told stories of how Mom touched their lives. They pressed hope into our hearts with their hugs. Local friends dropped off food. Pastors prayed with us. Many cried with us.

Over forty family members gathered at the cemetery on that cloudless Thursday. Each one quietly placed a flower on the casket, signifying their final good-byes. I'll always remember the spontaneous verses of "Amazing Grace" sung by a family who has experienced the story of God's grace over multiple generations.

But when the last notes die away and loved ones have waved their tearful farewells, what then? What does a family do the day after the services, the cemetery, the formal observances?

Sometimes I think God whispers ideas into our hearts.

At 10:00 a.m. on Friday, ten of us (including little Ty) descended on my parents' home with garden tools, rakes, knee pads, and lunch. Under my dad's direction, we  pulled weeds, trimmed plants, and cut grass. Dad had kept up the yard well during my mom's illness, but the weeds seemed to take advantage of his preoccupation the last couple months of her life. In less than two hours, the flower beds and yard my mom loved so much looked immaculate. Dad looked more than pleased.

Something else happened as we worked in the sunshine. We found a sweet solace in our togetherness. We shared a common cause, a united commitment of loyalty that drew us closer. Perhaps our quiet conversations between the flowering bushes or the visible improvements somehow eased the heaviness. Working together and then sharing lunch in the back yard generated hope, and we all felt a little better. 

As we enter the new normal, we already have have some good memories. I think Mom would have liked our idea, too.

What has helped you and your family in seasons of grief?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Remembering Mom: Lillian Marie Ewert May 30, 1936 - August 11, 2013

You gather a handful of seed, God’s seed, and scatter it wide.
You purposely plant; you carefully cultivate.

Some seed falls among rocks,
          Some amidst thorny patches
          Or on the hardened roadside.
But, by faith, you dip into God’s seed basket again and again.
Often the seed lands on good ground—with promise of harvest.

In time, misty shoots and sun-drenched leaves of faith
          Begin their journey upward.
Tightly closed buds burst
          Into fragrant bright blossoms
          And the ripening fruit of the Spirit.

In the seasons of His choosing, the breath of God
          Carries your handfuls far beyond this field,
          Past the ground you see
          To soils beyond your human reach.

Near and far, God gives the increase.

With gratefulness,
          I tend the garden
          You planted in my heart.

*Based on the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13
Mom with her girls, Barb and Sarah, Easter 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Memorable Monday

Monday began at thirty thousand feet above the midnight outline of Africa, heading due north.

At fifteen years old, our daughter, Elisabeth, found herself leaving behind a rich experience with precious children she would always hold close to her heart. She spent four weeks at Dayspring Children's Village near Mageliesburg, South Africa, a school for disadvantaged children. She worked with first graders during most the school day, listening to them read and guiding them through their paces. She taught piano basics to all who showed an interest and helped the older students with their writing skills. She assisted teachers by making charts, accompanying the little ones on a field trip, and playing the piano for music classes. Every day found her busy and involved.

Her world expanded to include first-hand connections with hurting kids: orphans, those with abusive home situations, those who would have little hope without the influence of a school like Dayspring. She took a close-up look at the many faces of Africa. She saw poverty manifested in tin shacks, small crowded homes, and those selling their wares on street corners. She experienced bustling highways and an upscale shopping mall. She enjoyed two game parks, offering opportunities to see zebras, lions, hippos, giraffes, and more. She observed three separate church settings with vastly different worship styles, all directed to the same great God. She felt the support of the entire Dayspring family as they gathered in a circle to thank her for coming and to pray for her - out loud all at once for quite a long time.

 A memorable story!
As Monday's dawn began to break, the plane pointed its nose toward Paris. Here Elisabeth (and one of her former teachers who has made the trip to Dayspring many times) decided to take advantage of an all-day layover. They took a double decker tour bus to see the sights: the Eiffel Tower, the Arc of Triumph, Notre Dame, etc.

In the late afternoon, they boarded the plane once more, this time headed for Philadelphia. Somewhere, as they flew west, night fell behind them and six hours added themselves to this memorable Monday. By 8:15 p.m. EST, we had our very-much-missed daughter with us again, heading north on the PA Turnpike and hearing stories all the way home!

A day with lots of shared memories, gratefulness for God's safe-keeping, and an appreciation for our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world, especially at a little school among the dry waving grasses of South Africa: Dayspring Children's Village!