Thursday, December 25, 2014

As the End Draws Near: A Tribute to Roger

As another Christmas Day came to a close, the sun buried itself beneath the horizon and a dark shadow crept across the sky, another darkness crept into my heart.  It's one of those quiet, dull feelings that creep in and fill the inside with a haze.  This Christmas will probably be Missy's Grandpa's last and that covers everything with a blanket of sadness.

None of us are going to make it out of here alive.  I know that.  We all know that, but it still doesn't seem to help dull the pain.  It just doesn't seem right.  Roger has meant so much to so many of us.  Why him? Why now? 

I can still remember it like it was yesterday, a few years ago standing outside on a Spring night with Roger looking at baby chickens.  I had just received a report that my CAT Scan showed a spot, which meant my cancer may had returned.  Roger and I spoke of it briefly.  I don't even remember what was said.  What could be said at that point.  What I can remember though, is that I felt loved, I felt accepted and I felt like I wasn't carrying the burden and the fear myself.  A couple tears streaked down his face, and I knew that no matter what, it was going to be ok, because I wasn't alone.  My cancer hadn't returned as the Scan showed a false result, but little did we know at the time, Roger was going to begin his own battle with cancer soon after.

I don't remember when I first met Roger, but it feels like he's always been in my life.  From what I'm guessing, I felt like I was family from the moment I met him.  It doesn't matter if you're blue, brown, black, or white; if you're Democrat, Republican or Independent;  if you're loud, quiet, short, tall, skinny or fat, tattoos, piercings; it really doesn't matter.  From my experience, if you're breathing and you meet Roger, you're accepted.  Roger has a way of making you feel loved and accepted and making you feel welcome in his home.   7 years ago, when I faced the most challenging time of my life with cancer, anxiety, depression and addiction, nothing meant more to me than to feel loved and accepted.  Just to know that I still had people behind me no matter what.  As others' distrust and judgement was apparent with just one look, my relationship with Roger and Janie never blinked.  I was loved, I was accepted, and I was supported.  Those who know Roger well know what I'm talking about.  If you screwed up, no matter how bad, you were not going to find judgement from Roger.  You would find Love, you would find Acceptance and you would find Support.  Damn, I wish I could learn how to accept and love others like that!!

So, as the end draws near and we spend our last Christmas with Roger, what are we supposed to do with this?  A few months ago, in the presence of friends and family, and with the purchase of a $4.99 plastic pool, Roger professed his trust in Jesus as his Lord and Savior and was baptized in that plastic pool.  It was unconventional, it was a little crazy, but man I loved it.  It was one of the most beautiful things that I've ever witnessed.  2000 years ago today, give or take a few years, this guy Jesus was born and he changed everything.  No longer did we have to be perfect to find God, but now we were loved, we were accepted and we were supported, if we would just lay down our pride and say that we need a Savior.

As the end draws near for Roger, and we get ready to say goodbye, because of the baby boy who was born today, we can face this ending with hope, knowing that this ending is only a new beginning....

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Vision that Inspired Broken: A New Beginning

I can vividly remember it as the worst night of my life and the night that I accepted my brokenness and cried out to God.  As I finally surrendered, and realized I couldn't do it on my own, a silhouette of the following vision began to appear in my mind, first faint with few details, but over the following couple of months, became very detailed and clear.  This vision helped guide me out of the fog and into God's light.  It's effect was so vivid and profound, that it stays with me today as I face new challenges and obstacles on my life's journey. 

To set the stage, anxiety (the birds) crept into my life in my late teens and early 20's and began to grow into  a constant state of anxiety and almost daily panic attacks by the time I started pharmacy school.  Ironically, I found relief in a pill and thought I had my problem solved.  In reality, the pills (the snake) masked the problem and allowed it to grow and fester beneath the surface.   Just a few years later, I found myself with two giant problems to contend with and nowhere to turn.


I was walking down an old dirt road with the sun shining warm on my shoulders and without a care in the world.  Suddenly, without warning, a large, loud, obnoxious ugly black bird flew into my side screaming in my ear and sinking its teeth in my side.  I bent down in pain and looked up astonished as it all happened so fast.  As I was looking around from side to side, another bird flew into my back and bit me in the back.  I quickly flipped around and another one flew in.  Pretty soon, I was knelt down in the fetal position trying to cover my entire body praying that the birds didn't find an opening and that the pain would go away.

Next, I heard a slithering sound coming from my right.  I glanced over to find a giant, colorful snake looking right at me.  At first I was startled by him as well, but then he began to talk in a calm, comforting voice, and slither up over my foot.  As the snake began to wrap it's warm, strong, comforting body around mine, the menacing birds, began to swoop in and then swoop back away trying to stay away from the snake.  The snake continued to wrap it's body around me tight, but comforting.  As it's body contracted,  it made me feel strong as I could now stand up again.  My body was still limp, but it's coils provided me support and gave me comfort.  I looked around and saw birds all around us, but they stayed a few feet away.  The snake would not allow them to swoop in and bite me.  As the snake finally got its entire body wrapped around me, not leaving even an inch of my skin exposed to the outside world, its head slowly turned to mine and looked me straight in the eyes.  It gave me a nice, soft smile.  It then began to get tighter and tighter around my body as its face began to turn stern.  My relaxed body, almost limp from being fully protected by the snake started to squirm as the tight squeeze became uncomfortable.  The more I squirmed the tighter it squeezed.  By this time its face was outright ugly and grotesque-looking and it squeezed tighter and tighter to the point that I could hardly breath.  I looked to the right and left and found no help insight as now the black birds came flying back into me with a vengeance biting 10 times harder than before.  Then, the snake opened its mouth wide and began to move into my neck to bury its teeth in my carotid artery going for the kill.

With desperation and knowing that death was near, I closed my eyes and pointed my head off to the right trying to daydream of better days.  Suddenly, the clouds split open and a huge plank came crashing down landing next to me.  As the dust settled and I looked up the plank, I saw a beautiful glowing light pouring down the plank toward me.  On the side closest to me, the plank came down to the ground, but the other side of the plank was held firmly in the sky with two gigantic hands.  As I looked closer, I saw that the plank actually was two perpendicular planks shaped like a cross.  Each side of the cross sat firmly in a large red crater in the middle of each hand with red blood dripping down to the ground.  Those hands were the hands of Jesus.

Once the light hit me, in an instant, the snake cringed in disbelief, screaming out in agony as the constriction of its body lost all of its power and became nothing more than a garden hose lightly wrapped around my body and the birds flew to the ground burying their own heads in the dirt trying to protect themselves from the light.  Although the light was piercing and destructive to the snake and the birds, it shined brightly on me lighting up the dark world around me and filling me with strength in my muscles and bones and warmth in my veins.  It breathed new life into my lungs.  I took a quick glance around, picked up my belongings and began my journey up the plank.  The snake and the birds continue to follow behind me trying to hide their heads in my shadow.  They get closer if I turn around and walk back down the plank, which I inevitably do from time to time,  but as long as I keep my feet planted firmly and continue walking upward toward the light, they can never touch me again.


What are the birds and the snake in your life?  Have you ever had a problem, thought you had a solution, but then the solution became a bigger problem than the original problem?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Just One Small Step Beyond FEAR

One more step and he may fall to his death.  But if he turns back now, the entire mission was for nothing.  What would you do?

In one of the final scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones is standing at the edge of a cliff.  He's near the end of his journey and knows that he needs to keep going, but there's nowhere to go.  He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and takes a step.  As quickly as his balance shifts forward, a step appears and he's on solid ground. In an instant, when he took that step of faith, his path forward became clear.  He continued his journey with that one small step beyond the fear.

In my experience, God often works this way.  We are brought to points in our lives where he says: "Ok, you claim to have faith.  You claim to believe in me.  Now prove it.  Take that step forward even though you don't know where it's leading you.  Trust me.  When you get there, I will be there and show you the next step after that.  Don't be afraid of the future.  I've been there, I'm going there, and I'm already there waiting for you."

I've spent many years of my life plagued by fear.  Fear of the future.  Fear of the unknown.  Every time I would come to a situation that caused me great fear, I would become paralyzed, and shrivel away in defeat.  And each time I backed down to fear, my world got a little smaller and my frustration a little greater.  My fears became a self-consuming spider web as it engulfed entire areas of my life and left me in a constant state of anxiety and panic. 

I've realized since those difficult days that the Good Life happens just one small step beyond fear.  Victory happens just one small step beyond fear.  Love happens just one small step beyond fear.  Freedom happens just one small step beyond fear.  When I come to those cliffs in my life where it seems the next step is more than I can handle and my mind tells me to turn back, I close my eyes and take a small step of faith.  Without exception, when I've taken that next step in faith, beyond the fear, the path becomes clear again. 

So what is the secret to move forward beyond the fear.  It just takes a tiny little seed of faith.  Real faith.  The kind of faith that leads you just one small step beyond fear.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Walking with Devan: An Unexpected Journey

As we hopefully come to the end of one of the most difficult couple of months that we've ever had with Devan, I find myself exhausted, bewildered and struggling to make sense of it all.  I beg God for answers and bury my head in my hands as the answer is the same as it's always been.  KEEP GOING FORWARD. 

When I come to these points in our journey, I regularly revisit a poem that we came across shortly after Devan's diagnosis of autism.  Yes, our journey looks different than many, but it doesn't mean it's not beautiful, exciting and exactly how God planned it to be.  KEEP GOING FORWARD we will and slowly unwrap the magnificent gift that God blessed us with almost 8 years ago.

The poem is called WELCOME TO HOLLAND.  I hope you enjoy it.

Welcome to Holland
Emily Perl Kingsley.
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.