I’m Mad.

I found out yesterday that a friend in recovery died. He relapsed, and was found in his car, covered in vomit, in the fetal position. Dead.

I know this is not how you start a blog post. I guess. But I don’t really care.

He was young, and he had boys, and he had a smile that lit up the room.

And he’s dead.

Last Sunday I was helping in the yard, and it was hot. I had been working with the hubs and the boys for hours. The sound of the lawnmower hummed in the background as I pruned and weeded and raked. It was a glorious spring day.

And I was mad. I was mad at the grass and the fact that it made me itchy and that we had run out of bags and that my rose bushes had the audacity to have thorns.

I was mad at our blackberry vine because it needed to be cut back and I was mad at it for that. I was mad at my boys for giggling.

I was mad at the sun for being so hot.

As it happens, others around me felt the madness. This is always the way. Mad doesn’t like to be quiet or sit by itself, so, logically, I got mad at Brian.

I think it was because of the way he asked me about lunch. His tone was wrong and I got mad about that. And he blinked at me a bit which also made me mad and then I stomped inside because I was also mad, it seems, at the ground.

And then I did this:

I said, through gritted teeth: “God I don’t know why, but I am TICKED OFF. Please. Help. Grant me the serenity, Ok? Oh, I don’t even WANT to say the rest of it! I’m SO MAD.”

And then I stood there and waited for some sort of God miracle of goodness and light to come fix it. No such miracle. My dog circled my feet a few times but I felt no better. Still mad.

“Fine. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the FREAKING DIFFERENCE I AM STILL MAD.”

And, as usually happens after the serenity prayer, I stood still with my feelings, and turned them over in my hands, just for a moment. And as I turned them, I saw what I was mad about.

I wanted to take my husband a beer.

Back in the olden days, when I drank, on hot summer days I used to always take the hard working yard husband a beer. This meant, I was a good wife.

It also meant I was ok with beer- it was a harbinger of good will and slaking thirst after hard work in the sun. It was like all those Bud Light commercials with hikers enjoying a beer at the summit because beer is the next thing to Gatorade. It’s got wheat in it. IT’S GOOD FOR YOU.

And that beer that I brought to the husband also meant, evidently this past Sunday, that I was still very much an alcoholic. Because? It had taken up a whole lot of head space and had drug along with it a whole lot of negativity and emotions that don’t really belong anywhere near me anymore.

So, I realized all that in the kitchen on a hot Sunday. And I had to smile because every once in a while I try to tell myself that I am really ok. That surely I’m not an alcoholic. That I’m probably just fine… And that memory of that beer made it all very clear.

I walked out to the husband who was now trying to fix something broken in the garage. I stood in front of him, and said, “I’m sorry.”

He tilted his head to side, all labrador retriever-ish, and said, “Why? What did you break?” And I thought, he doesn’t even realize I was being a putz earlier. I should leave now.

But instead I said this:

I wanted to bring you a beer. I remember how I used to do that. And a part of me wishes I could still do it. We used to do fun things like that.

And he said,

Well,  I miss it too, a little. But not all that much. And we do lots of other fun things now, that we never could have done before. So that’s better.

I totally don’t deserve him. Also, he will make me mad again and he won’t nearly be as cool about it as he was in this post, I promise you. But for now, he said the perfect thing.

I hugged him, and spoke into his sweaty tshirt that smelled like cut grass, “I am so an alcoholic.”

He didn’t answer because I think he was realizing this was one of those Dana moments where it is very very much about my self-therapy, but I’m pretty sure he was thinking,

DAMN STRAIGHT YOU ARE.

So there was all that therapy last Sunday. Because of the sound of a lawn mower and some sun rays.

And then my friend, Jesse dies.

And I guess? I am still mad. Not mad anymore at the wrong people or the memories of long ago, or my own tangled brain.

I know who I’m mad at now. And today my anger feels like a loaded gun.

I hate you, alcohol.

That’s all. Thanks for listening.

An open letter to funerals.

 

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I sat down to write this morning with about sixty ideas on my mind. There’s a lot out there to discuss. First of all, it’s very important that I try to figure out Pokemon Go. Mainly so I can make fun of it.

But yesterday, our family went to a funeral. And I want to talk about it. My dear friends Christy and Karl – well, Karl lost his dad. Rather unexpectedly.

Don’t you kind of hate that? How we say, “lost”? Like, he just wandered off in Walmart, somehow, and we’ve been searching for him over in the pet food section, but really, sweet Jim was just perusing the candy aisle… And it’s all just a big misunderstanding.

This is the permanent “lost.” Jim is dead. Nobody ever says it that way. I know. It sounds harsh. The truth of it, the new-reality of it is harsh too. The world has been de-Jimmed and it’s very hard.

As far as funerals go, this was a tough one.  At one point, Christy, who was asked to sing one of Jim’s favorite hymns, found herself whisper-sobbing the final verse. A few women in the congregation sang  it for her. I just sat there and ugly cried. It was that kind of funeral. This family has been through a lot. That’s kind of like saying that that final trip on the Titanic was stressful. They have dealt with pain and loss and just, well, aching LOSS, and it’s enough. I have received texts from Christy for months, explaining other heartaches. Other losses, and I want to text back, to both God and Christy:  “Enough. ENOUGH! I think you have your QUOTA! God! Are you listening? Enough for them!”

Ok, two problems with this:

  1. Texting doesn’t really adequately do it. When dealing with searing loss and pain a text message is like, offering an alcoholic a cup of tea in rehab. It’s sweet,the thought is kind of there, but mainly it’s JUST NOT REALLY ALL THAT HELPFUL.
  2. God understands “enough” but it’s not like He says, Ok, I will VERY EVENLY SPLIT ALL THE BAD STUFF around with all the people in the world. I know. I kind of wish He would operate that way? But who am I to try and manage God? I can’t remember to pay the utility bill on time.
  3. But, really, would it not be COOL to have a way to text God??? (That’s three things. I know. So, once again, really pounding home that I am not the best candidate for helping manage the world.)

So,  as for my letter to funerals? Well, it would go like this:

Dear Funerals:

You are there to help us understand someone we love has gone. We don’t want to really get it, especially when the loved one has been so, well, here for so many days of our lives. He just called us last weekend, did you know? He had a joke to share. He was here, with us.

And now, he’s not.

And I guess I thank you, funerals, for helping us understand that.

But really? I want to thank you for something else.

The food. I want to thank you for the food.

I know. This makes me sound kind of like a candidate for yet another anonymous recovery group involving lots of eating, but listen. I thank you for the fudgy brownies and the pulled pork and the jello. The jello! I want to thank you for the piles of chips that my kids don’t ever get to eat at home, but get to eat at funerals. Funeral chips. They bless my children, in all their powdered, preservatived cheesy glory. Poor chip-less children.

I thank you for macaroni salad and that weird green pudding thing with the marshmallows. I thank you for coffee in styrofoam cups. I thank you for sloppy joes and lemon bars and for the Boston Cream poke cake that the pastor’s wife makes.

I thank you for lemonade and broccoli with bacon bits and crinkly paper napkins that don’t really do it when your kid is covered in barbecue sauce and cream cheese frosting.

I thank you for the sweet church ladies who cut slices of walnut cake so large they weighed the plates down as people carried them to the table, ready to slide off at any moment, heavy with glistening frosting and nuts and sweetness. I thank you for watermelon and cheesy puffs and cucumbers sliced thin, drenched with onions and sharp vinegar. I thank you for the pies, all the mysterious quivering salads that we try to eat with plastic forks.

I thank you for the look of concentration on my six-year-old’s face as he lifted a vibrating pile of orange Jello to his mouth, brow furrowed as it slips through the tines of the fork, all the while. He keeps trying.

I thank you for funeral food. Because we all sat down and talked, and ate, and Christy and I actually got to take a breath and laugh a little and share a really amazing brownie with homemade fudge frosting that was pretty much the answer to all the world’s problems.

Or not. Fudgy frosting is not the answer. Jesus is. But, for a moment, as we both nibbled at it and discussed our kids and life and parenting and just everything we haven’t been able to because we live far away… I thank you for that brownie. I thank you too for watching Karl and Brian pickup the needle of their friendship and place it right back down again where they left off (after at least two years) and chatter on about God and faith and blessings, even. Blessings. And how God has provided. Even after Karl saw his father go in the ground.

Blessings. The sweetness of the pie, after watching our fathers, and our brothers, go in the ground.

During Jim’s funeral, Karl spoke, and told us, “My dad always told his wife she was pretty,” and tears filled my eyes, up there in the church. And down in the church basement, Brian turned to me as I was shoveling something in my mouth, and said, “You look pretty.”

Probably not, with chocolate frosting competing with the lipstick, but you know. It made my eyes fill up again.Which blew the mascara, and, you know, the pretty thing was highly subjective at that point. But I believed him. I believed him. And I marveled at it – how a funeral of a good man could help me remember the good man sitting next to me.

And how funerals make us remember brothers who have died and how we miss them and how we thank God for them. And all the other things we forget to thank God for, like life, and sobriety, and small annoying children.

And girlfriends, who get our savage sense of humor, no matter what. And accept texts as the main mode of communication.

And, as God is my witness, that poke cake. I will always remember that poke cake and thank God for it. It was just basically holy.*

Thank you, funerals. For helping us to sit and talk over bad coffee for a bit. For helping us see the big picture, after all. That we all end up in a box, draped in flags or memories or both.

And that we are all so very loved. And it will all be okay.

Sincerely,

Momsie.

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It is my brother’s birthday tomorrow. I miss him. And yes, it’s possible I made my friend’s father in law’s funeral all about myself. That’s my thing. I am very, very good at it. But, knowing Christy, she will smile. She’s very patient with me.

*Oh my GOODNESS, DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE? I didn’t even see it MYSELF! I PUNNED but WITHOUT EVEN REALIZING IT. That’s it. I have arrived. Pulitzer material, I tell you.

 

 

Nothing is Wasted.

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Summer is here. This means pool time, a very messy house, late nights for the boys, and for me?

Books. Lots and lots of books.

I have a stack of them next to my bed that is slowly growing and thus slowly leaaaannning to the side because of gravity. Fine. Go forth and multiply, books! You have my blessing.

One of my favorite blogging gigs is reviewing new releases for Beacon Hill Press, a Christian publishing company based out out of Kansas City.

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I just finished Joseph Bentz’s book Nothing is Wasted: How God Redeems What is Broken.

You know, I think God is pretty funny. And by funny, I mean, He always seems to send me stuff right when I really need to hear it. Right? Isn’t God funny that way?

He’s clever, that God.

About a week ago I kind of fell apart on the husband. Things at our house had been kind of hard. Death. Illness. Cancer. Broken relationships. It had been piling on lately, and I had had enough. Like, I just needed to rant a little. And as par for the course in marriage, the spouse was the best option for being the rant-ee. I told Brian, in kind of a wail, that I don’t like our earth. I don’t like what my kids are going to grow up in. I don’t like all the anger and chaos and cancer and politics, and how all of this is terrifically UNFAIR. The world is supposed to be basically likeable, isn’t it?

I mean, isn’t it?

Bentz kind of summed up my thoughts in the very first page:

You’re worried about money. You fret about work. What about the crisis in your family? What about all the sickness among the people you love? Where is your life headed? Even if your life is going well now, you wonder how long it can last. All around you, everything is falling apart… The possibility of disaster lurks in every automobile trip, every medical checkup, every unknown terrorist’s scheme.

I think Bentz and I stay up at night, worrying about the same things.

But then, Bentz added:

“God held out the promise of something eternally good being pulled from the muck of the sin-damaged world.”

I remember reading this and thinking, “Oh, yea. I know. You’re gonna tell us it’s all gonna work for good and Romans 8:28 all over on me. I know. I have heard it before. But tell me, when a brother dies, or an addict picks up again, or a child is hurt, what do we DO with the pain in the meantime? What do we do with it? Just hold it and wait for heaven to make it all better?”

Well my friends, this book does not do tidy. Bentz is willing to ask the really, really messy questions. They are the kind of questions that I ask too, because I am one who is, or was (I’m working on it) addicted to numbing out pain:

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I know. My scribbles are immature and petulant but honest. Don’t we all feel that way, sometimes? What is the point, God?

Along with all those messy questions, Bentz doesn’t provide an easy answer. I wouldn’t trust it if it did. Bentz does not follow with an easy acronym about how life is HARD (Help others! Ask for help! Really don’t give up! D#%@ this sucks!) or such cuteness.  He digs deep. In fact, he uses soil, insects, decaying flesh, and something in chapter 9 he refers to as “melting down to your essential goo” to help us understand. Literally, the next chapter is entitled “Dirt and Muck and other Yucky Things.”

Messy stuff. Really messy stuff.

He tells us about the tiny seed that must, if it’s to produce a plant, die in the soil. And, if the seed is going to die, either way, don’t we want it to count for something?

But then, Bentz really made me smile  because he subtitled this chapter in a way that so sounded like something I would say:

I Like My Seed the Way It Is. (*Insert foot stomp here. Entirely mine.*)

I want to make a prediction. No matter how positive all this talk of seeds and plants may sound at the moment, when you are called on to bury your seed to let it die so it can be transformed into what it was meant to be, you won’t want to do it. Seed burial, rather than seed preservation, is so counterintuitive, and often so painful, that resistence is built into it.

 This is a good book about bad things. Or seemingly bad things. Well, no, really just bad things, like heart break and sickness and circumstances that tear at us. I don’t want to tell you more, because I want you to read it. You will be glad you did.

You will get messy, but you will be glad you did.

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Lean into the curves.

On May 9, two of my friends died. Totally unrelated events. Yes.

It’s sort of a given that I am not a big fan of May 9 anymore. That date is so done. It’s right up there with December 7 – which as we all know is the day before my birthday, but also, did you know? It’s the anniversary of Pearl Harbour, and I have been watching all these World War II documentaries on the Netflixes lately, and I’m done with December 7 now.

Also, 4/20. As a teacher of high school and college English? So done with 4/20. Those of you who are saying, “What? What’s with 4/20? It’s April? A nice, spring day, so what’s the deal?” I envy you. Hang out with some college kids for a bit and experience the total twit-fest that is a classroom on a late afternoon on April 20th, and you know.

Anyhow. Here I am, being all snarky and funny about my friends dying.

Not a funny thing, death. Never, really. Unless, of course, you find yourself grieving two fellows who had biting wit and humor that could slay,  I tell you.

Death came too soon. I wanted more time. I am sure their family feels the same.

My friend Maurice, “Moe” died at the solid age of 89. Moe was in my special group that I belong to, the one where there is bad coffee and lots of talking about recovery. It’s a sort of anonymous thing, but you can find us listed at the beginning of any phone book, if you’re wondering. Moe always sat at the head of the table, the big Don of the group, and he would lecture us to go to meetings and not drink in between. He used to always say, “I’m not better than anyone here. And I’m no worse,” in his gravelly, soft voice. He could have read a page from the dictionary, and we would all sit up a bit straighter and listen and nod. We all adored him.

He was my hero.

I took my boys to his visitation, and told his wife – “See those two boys over there? Yea, the two that are now running up and down the hallway in a totally inappropriate way for a visitation? Anyhow. They are here with me today because of Moe. I am here today because of Moe.

She laid her hand on my cheek and smiled and said, “Thank you for telling me that.” I wiped tears away, and she smiled through some of hers, and it was so good to be able to tell her how I felt.

And then I high tailed it out of there, because my children and visitation services can only last so long together in the same room.

And then there is Carl. Or Doc.

Carl was a professor of English at the college in our town,  and I had the immense pleasure of teaching with him for a few years. I was convinced that he might just be one of the smartest people I have ever known. However, he also had a rather crazed affection for Monty Python and Sponge Bob, which kind of softened the blow of his sharp intellect. Upon first meeting, I could have very well been totally intimidated by him, but within about twenty minutes of our greeting, he had me laughing so hard I was crying.

Doc loaned me The Big Lebowski video. Of course he did. I still have it, and I think I don’t want to return it.

And, he loved my boys. He always made a big deal out of Halloween on our street (I live across from him and his lovely wife, Kristine), which was fine by me, because I think any sort of dress up in Star Wars costumes is worth celebration.

Also, Carl loved cats. Cat people, as all cat people know, are singular folk.

Carl told me once that I should write a book. And, I did what he told me. Carl didn’t mess around with words, so if he told me to take up opera, I would do so.

Carl had a scooter that he would jet around town on, and my god, the man could corner on that thing. I can still see him, hunched down over the handlebars, leaning into the curves and leaving us in his dust.

He was my hero.

And yes, I am sure there is a big lesson here about living life to the fullest and helping others and leaning into the curves and all that but today?

Today, I just really miss them.

 

 

I’ll Be Right Here.

You guys. Soccer moms have it really tough.

I am laying on the couch. Mainly because soccer is outside, and I am never going outside again. There’s pollen out there.  I can no longer deal, I tell you. Watching your little ones push a ball back and forth for an hour amidst vicious attack pollen is KILLING me.

And then, I remembered:

Television. Television fixes everything.

Also: Great Happy Fuzzy Memories, y’all, Netflix is KILLING me.

But in a good way.

 

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1982. I saw this movie with my friend Josie McGlaughlin. I can distinctly remember coming home afterwards, walking into my bedroom and laying down on my bed. The windows were open. It was a summer evening with that magical, slow warm glow that summer evenings do so well. And I laid there, staring at the fluttering curtains, reliving every moment from that movie. Something in it seemed to peel something apart in me. It was just that magical. And yet, just that real.

I can’t really explain what happens when my creative heart dives into something inspiring. It’s like the first time I saw U2 in concert. Or when I first caught Anne Lamott reading from Bird by Bird on CNN Books (yes, I watch CNN Books. A lot. Don’t judge.) Or when I read Alan Rickman’s goodbye letter to his character, Snape, and the Harry Potter movie series.

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Oh guys. This post got all sad. It’s just that, it seems to me, this year hasn’t been fair. Too many deaths of too many bright creative souls. Some of our best storytellers are gone.

And so, the movie E.T.

I was going to watch this movie with my boys. I really was. But they had all headed out for a bike ride because they are annoyingly energetic and they no fear of killer pollen. So, I eyed E.T. waiting for me so patiently in my Netflix cue…I thought I might wait…

Nope. I pushed play. And right there, on my couch, I experienced the five stages of grief as I watched Elliot deal with the terrifying backyard garage. As he freed the frogs and kissed the girl. As he sobbed over E.T.s shriveled, lifeless body.

And as he soared.

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I see the movie now from the eyes of Elliot’s tired mom, finding her way as a single mom with two small kids. Oh, and with an extra terrestrial who has taken up camp in her kid’s closet.

Ya’ll. I’m not gonna lie. The ugly cry happened.

Hosmer, the dog not the player, was the only witness. I think at one time he got up, fetched a tissue, and brought it over. It was just that bad.

E.T. is amazing because it has great heart. And it offers all of us hope, even as we’re sobbing at the end, because E.T. does have to go home.

We know. We know. He has to go home.

When Robin Williams died, I cried. Philip Seymour Hoffman too. I fell in love with Hoffman’s work when he played the nervous, young screenwriter in David Mamet’s awesome movie, State and Main. I found too much of me in Hoffman’s naivete. The crying? It felt a little silly, I guess. I had only known these artists through their work. But they are creative types, and, so, we are linked. They put their work out there for us, and it fed my soul.

David Bowie. Prince. Joey Feek. Glenn Frey. Pat Conroy. Merle Haggard. Michelle McNamara. All have gone home.

And I guess I needed a good cry about it. And, to be comforted, at the movie’s end with its soundtrack that swells in triumph, and hope, that these creative souls’ music and movies and passion and heart, are all still just reminding us,

“I’ll be right here.”

 

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Monday Manuscript – A Story Unfinished

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CC image courtesty of JMC Photos on Flickr

I was honored to be selected as a Beacon Hill Press Off the Shelf Blogger.  When I first got this gig I was thrilled.   I love to read… I love to write… And I have schooled every (or so it seems) teenager in my state about how to pen a book review that is actually interesting.  Beacon Hill Press and I would be a perfect fit!

Then, all this… bad stuff happened.  And grief kicked down the door in my life.  And, as life often has a wicked sense of humor,  it was right at this time that I received in the mail my first book to review:IMG_0190A Story Unfinished.  99 Days with Eliot.  It’s a book about heartbreak, about losing a son, about pain.  Heaven help me.  Literally.

So I had a little conversation with God that went like this:  “Ok. Sir?  Really?  There is no way I can read this right now.  I just lost my brother.  I am a shuffling zombie of grief,  and You want me to honor my commitments by reading this?  Not. Possible.”

I had fully intended to contact Beacon Hill – to send a simple email, explaining my situation, explaining away my responsibility, explaining that my grief trumps their book and raises it by ten gazillion.

But instead (and this is where things get a little bit weird) the book kept… surfacing.  In my messy house where I can’t ever seem to find even a pencil, it kept showing up, on tabletops, on counter tops, at the foot of my bed, by my end table, on my pillow.  At some point that elusive pencil got stuck in there.  And some notepaper.  And one night, all my happy library books had been read, and I had no taste for my glossy magazines, but I needed something to read so I could turn off my brain and sleep, for Pete’s sake.

And here was the book.  Again. So, I read it. In one night.

Well, isn’t that just the thing?  God gives us these assignments, and we think they’re to benefit others, and we think it’s all about something else, when bammo.   The book was for me.

Matt Mooney has written a book about the death of his infant son, Eliot.  Matt and his wife Ginny found out their sweet boy had a genetic disease that doctors said would not see him through delivery.  And yet Eliot was born and lived and fought valiantly and lived mightily for precious 99 days.  His dad and mom fought with him.  And prayed with him, and for him.

And yet, he still had to leave them.

I have a lot of praises for this book.  The writing is vulnerable, focused, and poetic.  It is also at times quite funny, which I simply adored.  The story is organized into three sections:  “The Before,” “The During,”and the “After.”  This is brilliant and kind.  Brilliant because we all can relate – All of us remember truly painful events in our lives as: What We Were Like Before, and What We Are Now.  We cannot help to punctuate it thus.

I started turning down pages whenever I found something powerful.  The whole book.  Dog-eared.

I started turning down pages whenever I found something powerful. I folded the whole book.

But also, A Story Unfinished is kind.  Why?  Because as much as the telling of it was for Mr. Mooney’s journey and healing, it was kind to me.  It showed me After.   It showed me what After can be.  Grief changes us.  Nietzsche says (strongly echoed by those in the greeting card industry) it might make us stronger.  I think ultimately I might not be stronger, just closer to Jesus.  Stronger by association, I guess.  Eliot’s Before and During, but mostly his After carved a part out of my heart that was already feeling sore and sad, but he helped me. I will not forget him.

Life is so hard sometimes.  At one point, there was a tiny, but petulant insistence on my part that since I have Jesus, my life, well, it should be easier.  Aided by Jesus.  I am now not sure this is so.  In fact, sometimes I would argue that our aches and pains can be amplified by our faith due to our connection to the One who knew suffering and sacrifice so intimately.  In this book, Matt wrestles with this idea, and with the pain of it, just as Jacob of the bible wrestled.  If you know the story, you remember, Jacob did walk away, but not with perfect and sweet happy-ending results.  “God wanted to wrestle.  God wanted to give.  But Jacob did not receive only the blessing.  Intertwined with great promise comes a wound.  He walked away with a limp.  His blessing came at a price.  There is no way Jacob could receive the blessing and not receive the limp, though I am certain he would have chosen as much if this option was on the table.  It was not.”

If we really want Jesus, we cannot keep holding on to our comfortable ideas that He will float in and fix and frost over it all.  It’s about to get real, and raw.   Grief does that job very well.

In Eliot I leaned  into my greatest fear and found joy and pain intimately linked together.  If we avoid the route fraught with pain at all costs, then we may end up avoiding the blessing that God has for us as well.  I could not receive Eliot and not also receive the greatest ache I have ever known.  Although I would take away the pain, I would never take away that with which the pain came, and in this way I would take it all again.  The things I pursued came in with the very things I spent my life avoiding.  In this life I limp.”

Because that is what this book is all about.  It is about Christ.  It is about Who He is, and how He loves us. It’s about learning to go through, not around the pain because He asks us to, and He asks us to stay close.  It is about relationship with Him.

In this life, I limp.  But I still say:

“God’s name ever be blessed.”  Job 1:21

If you’d like to read more from Matt’s blog, click here

For Ginny’s blog, click here.

For information on their charitable organization, 99 Balloons, go here.

monday manuscript

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“Anthem”

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see. I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in. You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee. Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in. Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen

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My brother died.  I am so sad I feel as if I am cracked open.  I fix snacks for my toddlers, and tickle them and play, and then the next moment I am bending over, hands on knees, bent with grief, because I forgot he is gone.   Grief is like that, everyone tells me.  I’m not very good at it, but as most have said, “The only way out is through.”  So I’m posting this today because, as my sister says, I’m a writer.  This is how I go through.

Here are some things I loved about my brother:

He had a great voice.  His voice was strong and confident.  It rang out.  It said, ‘I am here and I got this.”

He could reduce me, my sisters, our entire kitchen table to tears with laughter.

He imitated Sylvester the Cat with perfect adorable accuracy.

He could torment pretty much anyone with his humor and we could never get mad because he was spot ON.

He was so handsome.  Richard Gere handsome.

He knew the Hustle and could jive to any song from Saturday Night Fever with SOLID skills.

He would lock me in a head hold any time I got near him.  He was very strong!

I think I was his favorite.  (My sisters all thought this.  We are still not sure who it was… so I’ll claim it since I have the blog.)

He loved planes and was fascinated by them – air shows.  I keep finding pictures of air shows.  He was a kid about it.

He would play football with me when we got together for Thanksgiving.  He never said no.

He loved Jesus.

He loved us.

He wanted his life to be a shout, not a whisper.

He was not perfect, not even close.  He was cracked.  And so very tired, I think, when he died.  Now the light shines in.

He was my big brother.  Everyone should be so lucky.