Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgivings Past

Thanksgiving at our childhood home in Escondido
November 1997
Squeezed like sardines in the TV room
Enjoy the bleach blond Chad and Casey!

Thanksgiving 2002
My Our Parents Home
Bryan is in the back row-far right

Candid moment
Squishing us all in--again!
Regret: I always say I am going to take family photos even if many groan and object to piling on top of each other and forcing a smile. I did not insist in 2007 and now I don't have a picture. Word to the Wise: Snap those digital treasures this Thanksgiving! Make sure you capture the moments on camera as well as in your heart! Me being bossy again!
A couple of times a decade we try and get the extended family all together: 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007. This year, our cousin Jenn is hosting a feast which we won't be joining. My parents requested the holidays be different than in years past so that the pain of missing Bryan will not be as pronounced. I am not sure that is possible but we are attempting. It is an effort at self-preservation or sanity. I pray it helps. No matter what we do, this Thanksgiving will not be as difficult as last year. My brother was self-destructing and keeping everyone away. This year, he is giving thanks to the Father in person :) with no more pain, no more tears. I can be thankful for that.
My mom and I were talking and praying about how to make the holidays sweet without Bryan. He loved this season. It is hard to think of celebrating without his big grin and boyish thrill of pleasure in them. But Thanksgiving and Christmas aren't about Bryan. Mom and I decided that next year, we are going to start a new tradition in Bryan's honor. Maybe sponsoring the family of an incarcerated person? Bryan did that one Christmas. Or taking gifts to the battered Women & Children Shelter? That was a project of his another year. We are going to think about it this year and see if we can come up with a perfect "Bryan Tribute" to keep his love of this time of year alive and meaningful. And to keep the focus on the reason for this season--the Son of God who came to seek and save that which was lost. Lost hope, lost sheep, lost dreams, lost purity, lost moments, lost heart, lost joy, lost marriages, lost homes, Lost. He came to SAVE that which was lost. I am so thankful.

Blessing Tree

Thanksgiving 2007

Bryan's Handprint "leaf"
-My Family
-Our Armed Forces fighting for our freedom!!
-Turkey Sandwiches!
It's Multitude Monday AND it's Thanksgiving vacation. We are so blessed, so thankful! My family is hanging out in our jammies, playing games, drinking cocoa (even though it is 80 degrees outside!) and looking at old photo albums. I love down time--with nothing going on but enjoying each other. We have so much to feel grateful for this year!
This Thursday, we will make a Thankful Tree for 2009. A family tradition where each of us traces our handprint and writes our blessings on a paper leaf and glues it on the paper trunk. Not too classy or craftsy but a treasured keepsake for me nevertheless! I may have been embarrassed to post our Tree in light of all the beautiful and artistic traditions that other families carry out. But I am not embarrassed, I am just so grateful that I have it. I was teary-eyed when the kids unfurled the last Thankful Tree we have with Uncle Bryan's large handprint and his handwritten blessings. I placed my hand over his and was glad for my family.
I spent almost every Thanksgiving with my brother in my 38 years. When he did not come last Thanksgiving, I knew that things were very wrong. Bryan LOVED the holidays and never missed them if it were humanly possible. A few while Bob and I were at Chico State and the Bay area, and last year. Bryan was always there.
My mom is here with me now and she wants to add her blessings to the Multitude Monday list that I have going. Here goes:
240. that God is faithful
241. that He hears and answers prayers
242. Bryan's hands and feet (she did watch them grow from teeny-tiny ones to great BIG size 12s. she felt his soft baby fingers wrap around hers. and then she had to let go as he grew to a man.)
243. being able to listen to music again
244. finding Peace and Hope
245. enjoying old pictures and videos

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Bryan at Rehab feeding goats.

He endured tons of manual labor (feeding goats here) with a smile while he sobered up.

May 2007

I have no sense of time. I have spatial-temporal issues. I can't seem to find my place on the timeline. As I get older, and more life forms depend on me, I realize the blight that my time-challenges make on our lives. I don't wear a watch. I don't use a cell phone. I can never find my purse-sized calendar. Or my purse. I am hopeless.

That is my excuse for why this Multitude Monday posting is happening on Tuesday. I meant to write it last night but I lost track of time. And now it is Tuesday. But I press on, because the only honorable thing a person can do in the face of their weakness is to keep on. Even if I am a day late. Again.

I do all kinds of things to compensate for my time-challenges--sticky notes, leave voice mails for myself, star emails of importance, put time-tickers on my blog, pray, deny, cry. But it is a character weakness I have learned to live with. If you read this blog, you get to live with it too.

Bryan had a half dozen watches. He was timely. Even though he was a single guy, Bryan wasn't known for making the whole family wait for him. Periodically, he changed the plan at the last minute, but for the most part he could be counted on to be on time. For family photos, ballet recitals, Christmas present-opening, etc. I have experience with that other sort of person--you know, the one who doesn't own a watch and has no sense of time. You never know when, or IF, you are going to see that kind of person.

Time. It is so fleeting. My brother has been dead for 11 months. It seems like it was just yesterday that mom, dad, Bryan and I were eating at his favorite Hawaiian BBQ near his house. We had just picked him up from the hospital where he had been taken by ambulance after suffering a long and dreadful seizure. He had nearly bitten his tongue through. It looked awful. He looked awful. I remember thinking to myself, "why are we here? how can he be sipping soup? this is surreal. my brother could have died today." Bryan died 3 months later.

And instead of pressing in, and saying what needed to be said; "Bryan, you are in trouble again. You need help. What can I do to help you?" I ate my teriyaki chicken and made small talk. "he's exhausted. he's just been through the most dreadful thing in his life. where do I begin? he's going to think I am preaching at him. i don't know what to say."

Lost moments. That was the last time my brother and I had an opportunity to really talk. Even though he had been through an excruciating ordeal, even though his tongue was swollen and bruised, even though his heart was breaking but he didn't know how to articulate that, even though we were sitting in busy dive eating fried tempura, I should have seized the moment and said, "i love you too much to watch you self-destruct. the seizure was a HUGE warning light. you need help. you can't see it for yourself, you can't get it for yourself. i am here to help. and i am not going to leave you alone. no matter what. no matter what you say or don't say. i love you and i won't let go."

The holidays are hard for so many people. We forget that. Those of us who are busy, surrounded by people we love, with plenty, and full of good things in our hearts and days--we forget. And we don't make time to think of others who are living a much different reality. Maybe you have a loved one is pretending that they will get it together "later". Maybe you have a neighbor who is spending their first Christmas without his wife. Do you know of a family who is on the verge of losing their home this year? I have people in my life living these realities.
These are the moments to seize: the second to smile, press in, be nosy, insist on dropping off a meal, reach out for a hug even though it seems like you are invading their space, write a note telling her how much you are praying for her, getting on your knees and pleading to God for his life, holding your man and whispering how glad you are to be his, staying up late and listening to a teen prattle about something she finds interesting, reaching across the table in a busy restaurant, holding hands, looking into downcast eyes, and saying, "I love you too much to leave you to yourself. I am here. I am not going away."

Don't let any more moments slip away from you today. Tell the people you love that you won't stop, ever. Forgive the people who have hurt you and look for a way to repay their evil with kindness. Hug, smile, hold hands, write notes, intercede, pursue, reach out, open up, stick your neck out. Don't believe it when people say they just want to be alone. No one really wants to be alone in this fractured, hurting world. I am preaching to myself. I have been given an opportunity to learn from my mistake. I am sharing what I am learning with you. I won't let all this pain be wasted. Learn with me.

Now is the time. Today is the day. Right this minute. I realize I am not God, I can't "fix" people. No matter how much I wanted to, I couldn't save Bryan. Only He can. Only He could. I know that. But we can be the hands and feet and hugs for Jesus to a hurting world. This year, in honor, as a tribute to my brother and his huge bear hugs and bigger grins, I will spend my TIME looking for ways to love those the He has put in my path. Tomorrow isn't guaranteed to me. Or you.
224. praying out loud
225. forgiveness--sapping bitterness of its power
226. fires in the fireplace
227. cuddling around the fire with cozy jammies, pillows, blankets, and love
228. studying girl without any prompting
229. telling the truth even at great personal cost
230. true repentance from 8 yo
231. pleading for wisdom and receiving it
232. clean hair
233. meredith's tortilla soup
234. little hands "creating" even if it means stepping on tiny pieces and damaging soles of feet
235. sobriety, even for a few months
236. answered prayer
237. lost moments redeemed
238. lost souls saved
239. lost hope restored
"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rejoice Always

The reason I didn't post my Multitude Monday list is because our dear friends (we LOVE you guys, Deanne and Brian!) surprised us by taking us to a Todd Agnew and Building 429 concert last night! We were thrilled! But that meant no blog. So first you have to read my excuse (it was a good one) and then I will add to my list!
Ever since we heard Todd Agnew for the first time at Spirit West Coast 2004, Bob and I have been fans. Back then, Todd was barefoot, simple, and truly worshipful. Having an awesome fiddler and cellist with him on stage sealed the deal. He hasn't changed a bit--still barefoot and honest with moving worship. So even though I have heard Building 429's music before, I was mostly excited about seeing Todd in concert again. Another surprise was in store for me last night!

For my record here, Bldg 429 gets it name from Ephesians 4:29:
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths. But only what is helpful for BUILDING others up according to their needs, that is may benefit those who listen."

I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the concert of these four younger guys. They were encouraging! Their rendition of "O Happy Day!" was terrific. Too bad they didn't include it on their new album. I wasn't prepared for the wallop from their song, "Always". I have the song playing now on my playlist if you want to check it out. It isn't the same as listening to it with just piano accompaniment and a room full of other people--but it'll do. At least if you sob, no one will see you! Here are the lyrics that moved me:


Building 429

Friend I don't know where you are
And I don't know where you've been
Maybe you're fighting for your life
Or just about to throw the towel in
But if you're crying out for mercy
If there's no hope left at all
If you've given everything you've got
And you're still about to fall

Well hold on, hold on, hold on
'Cuz I believe always always
Our Savior never fails
Even when all faith is gone
God knows our pain and
His promise will remain
He will be with you always
He will be with you always

As I was listening to the lyrics, I was telling God in my heart, "I am holding on to You, God. I am!" And I sensed His reply (not in words--how could I hear it over the sound of those speakers!) was, "No, I am holding on to you!" God spoke to my heart last night. Has He been speaking to yours?

I sometimes wonder what He was saying to my brother in the last days or hours of his life. This time last year, Bryan was on the fast track to physical peril, and ultimately death. It was a scary thing to witness; athough he did not allow us much opportunity to see him. But I cling to the belief that Bryan was His, and He was with him. Even at the end.

Since the gal who inspired this newly formed habit of mine--to list what I am thankful for on Mondays, to count my blessings, to be mindful of His movement in my life--I have had no trouble adding to my list the easy stuff, the good stuff, the fun stuff, the yummy stuff. But I have yet to include the ugly stuff, the hard stuff, the painful stuff, the confusing stuff, the inexplicable stuff. If you read here, you remember that our family has been reading Pilgrim's Progress, an old tale written centuries ago but still so relevant, so true to the path He has me on this year. I said I couldn't wait to read what John Bunyan's solution was for Christian being entrapped in Despair's Dungeon.

Well, the answer, the key, the way out was to REJOICE! In ALL things, despite our temporal, this-side-of-heaven view of our circumstances. To thank Him and sing His praise. Even when we don't feel like it. And with that obedience, Christian remembered the key of Promise, which opens any door in Doubting Castle! And he was free. Since I want to be free, and I want to obey, I will add some ugly things to my list today:

191. missing brother

192. no pumpkin seeds

193. one less person who will STAND with me here in the battle

194. crying momma

195. crying daddy

196. aching heart

197. missing piece of long-practiced traditions

198. songs that make me sob

199. missing socks

200. quarreling siblings

201. failing again

202. missing the mark, again

203. crushed little heart by my less-than-gentle response

204. mounds of laundry

205. piles of dishes

206. lost history book

207. lost notes with important numbers

208. lost shoe

209. lost library book

210. lost mind

211. lost moments

212. lost family

213. lost friends

214. lost neighbors

215. missing bear hug

216. hungry children in faraway places

217. little girl paralyzed

218. friend losing home

219. husbands struggling to provide for their families

220. lonely, hurting, despairing people alone at Christmas time

221. family celebrating their first Christmas without their beloved Marilyn

222. one woman, the weight of the world--so many burdens for Suzie, all at one time

223. little boy who tries so hard but just can't

"Lord, bring beauty out of these ugly things, somehow. Give me eyes to see Your beauty in them. If not here and now, then someday when Your "I'll Explain Later" becomes NOW. "

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday, Monday

I like having something sweet to do every Monday. I am so glad for this new "tradition". Thinking on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy makes Mondays much more manageable! We had a jam-packed weekend of fun and fellowship and instead of being rested and ready for the start of another week, I was tuckered out. Then I spent some time on the front porch letting the kids jump rope and play while I made my thankful list.
161. a merry heart makes good medicine-proverbs 17:22
162. moving stories; He speaks to me in Words
163. Hope
164. the Holy Spirit--the Hound of Heaven who pursues relentlessly because of Love; He won't let me remain unchanged
165. the smile of success--when student conquers a challenge
166. maples with leaves on fire--Oh the colors of Autumn!
167. clean sheets
168. newlyweds, the bliss of witnessing life begin as One
169. heartfelt talks with friend who cares; no drive to fix or understand, just listens. even sequestered in the office. Thanks Deanne!
170. second-chances for forgetful tooth fairy; thanks for forgiving Aidan
171. reminder notes taped over tooth fairy's pillow
173. races to check the mail first
174. clean car--purely hypothetical here. it has been ages since i haven't referred to my vehicle as the "junk mobile"
175. front-yard baseball: 3 brothers-style. until one gets "out" by being beaned in the head with a whiffle ball. there HAS to be modified rules with only 3 players!
176. early morning scavenger hunts
177. cooperating siblings! jumping rope
178. brown-eyed baby in big brother's cowboy boots
179. peals and squeals of laughter, children enjoying each other
180. Fall Back--an extra hour to get ready for church!
181. gracious friends who open their homes to families with lots of mouths! thanks Limons, Smiths, Hubbs, and Campbells! can't wait to repay the favor
182. computer-savvy friend who volunteer to help me w/my first ebay purchase. thanks sue!
183. knobby knees poking through holey jeans
184. sipping tea on the porch in the shade during PE for the kids
185. baked goods--with PUMPKIN! i love pumpkin!
186. husband's hands in dishwater--sink full of dishes I DIDN'T clean
187. watching grown men conquer the wii, with an audience of teens!
188. homeschooled kids at "Presentation Night", making mommas proud and reassuring daddies that they really are learning something
189. the smell of fresh herbs in the garden
190. good old fashioned cry--cleans the soul

WARNING! Tissues Required-Video Slideshow of Bryan's Life-Sorry the music was muted!