Thursday, December 21, 2017

Lost and Loss

I am trying to process my trip to Arizona. I knew my Grandma was close to her end, but couldn’t make it down when she was still in control of her life the way I had last seen her.
In fact, I was faint with hunger when I landed in Tucson but was advised that she had almost passed away as I landed and I had better hurry over.

I arrived as soon as I could manage and she held on for me, but could barely move her eyelids open to see me. She had suffered mini strokes, leaving her unable to share her delightful laugh that bubbled up out of her every time before.
I can still see the sparkle in her light blue eyes as she joyfully filled our lives through her small acts of service. She always took great care with every task and paid attention to the smallest details.

My Aunt brought her guitar to the care center and we sang and played and spent two hours after visiting had ended, singing Christmas carols, hymns she loved, and even some modern worship choruses. We had harmonies, laughter, and sweet fellowship. My sister was still there, having given up a week to be sure my Grandma was being cared for properly (she’s an RN) and she was able to address some major concerns. We harmonized just as we had so many times before. Both my Aunts and their children were also there as well as my Mom and one of my Uncles.

A nurse came by and we asked if we were too loud. She said,”No. You can scream for all I care! You are singing Christian songs!”

There was something special in the room that night. I may never totally understand, but my Grandma was glowing. She had such a relaxed expression in her mouth and her brow was smiling even though she couldn’t open her eyes.

The next morning, she was much different. It was as if she was in a deep coma and couldn’t acknowledge our presence anymore. My Mom and I looked up hymn lyrics in Spanish on our phones and sang for hours. I spent some time alone by my Grandma’s bed, stroking her hair and holding her hands, praying with her.

We went to the small church she had attended for the last 15-20 months. The pastor and his wife drove to my Grandma’s home every week and took her to church. After she fell in October, they visited her faithfully. Another visitor at the center commented to me “You have an amazing pastor. He would play songs on his phone for an hour and sing along, holding the phone by her ear!”

Monday, my Grandma was the same. My Dad flew in, and we spent more time singing at her bedside.
Tuesday she was still stable, so we made the journey south to see my other grandparents. We had almost reached their town when we received the call.

It was hard to process the words. I knew what they meant, but I still cannot digest them.

You see, my Grandma is not lost. I have not lost her. I am experiencing loss, because we are separated by a fathom I cannot cross, but I know where she is. I know that I will get to join her. I have a hope and a joy mixed with a jumble of knots in my stomach and throat.
I am laughing and crying and quiet and wanting to shout and in the midst of all of it, it is well with my soul.

All around me are the jingle bells ringing and bright happy Christmas pictures and lights and I want to lose myself in them and I also want to shut them out.

I last saw her nine years ago and she wasn’t much for long phone calls, so my recent memories are few and far between, but I mailed her photos of my girls every year and tagged her on Facebook so she would be able to keep up.

I won’t tell you that I lost my Grandma, but I am definitely at a loss right now. At a loss for words, I am fine and then I am not. I can breathe, and then I am fighting to keep back the ocean from my eyes and voice.

“Jean was my Grandma, her heart was to love.
 She taught about Jesus, who came from above.
 Her life was the Gospel, she served and she gave.
 She’s on Earth no longer, she’s not in that grave.
 Goodbyes are disgusting and awful and hard.
 They pierce through my heart like a jagged glass shard.
 But someday I’ll join her and we’ll dance and we’ll sing,
 reunited in Heaven and worshipping our King.”


Friday, December 1, 2017

Near: Five Minute Friday

It's Friday! Time for another Five Minute Friday linkup. This week's prompt is "near".


I'll admit, the very first thing I thought with this prompt was the theme song to the movie "Titanic".

"Near, far, wherever you are, I believe that my heart will go on.
We'll stay forever this way, you are here in my heart and my heart will go on and on."

I thought that maybe I could take Celine Dion's vocals and over-spiritualize that chorus, but then I thought that just getting the song stuck in your head was probably enough of an offense. (laughing over here on this side of the screen)

Is God really far away, or is He near?

Eventually another song I sang in worship often during my college days came to mind.
It is scripture based, and draws lyrics from Nehemiah, another prophet, and James.

"Sing for joy to God our strength
Sing for joy to God our strength, our strength

If we call to Him, He will answer us
If we run to Him, He will run to us
If we lift our hands, He will lift us up
Come now praise his name, all you saints of God.

Draw near to Him, he is here with us
Give Him your love, He's in love with us
He will heal our hearts, He will cleanse our hands
If we rend our hearts He will heal our land."
(Sing for Joy by Don Moen)

If you read the actual passage in James, this was a rather harsh rebuke he was issuing in Chapter 4. Not so light and fluffy.

James 4:7-10
"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."

Perhaps, though, when we ignore the Lord, He feels distant to us because we are not focused on the right things. He is near, and we can hide ourselves in the cleft of the rock, and the storms will rage around us and we will get wet, maybe even soaked, but we will not be drowned.
Challenges that are fierce push us, propel us to the feet of God where we cast ourselves on His mercy. He wants us to come to Him, and He will fight our battles for us!

Nearer My God to Thee

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E'en though it be a cross that raise'th me,
Still all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!
Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone.
Yet in my dreams I'd be
Nearer, my God to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!
There let the way appear, steps unto heav'n;
All that Thou sendest me, in mercy given;
Angels to beckon me
Nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!
Then, with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I'll raise;
So by my woes to be
Nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!
Or, if on joyful wing cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I'll fly,
Still all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!
There in my Father's home, safe and at rest,
There in my Savior's love, perfectly blest;
Age after age to be,
Nearer my God to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!
Songwriters: JOHN S HURT

Timer has gone, and I will leave you with two videos. "Sing for Joy" and an amazing, tear-causing Cello version of "Nearer My God to Thee" performed by Stephen Sharp Nelson (The Piano Guys)