Saturday, September 21, 2013


I read a story recently that will always stay with me.  It went something like this. A doctor was writing about his mother, a woman he greatly admired. In her youth, she was beautiful, and at the London Conservatory of Art where she studied, the male students vied for the privilege of painting her. She moved to India with her husband to perform missionary work, and after many years of fulfilling service, her husband suddenly died of blackwater fever. When this doctor saw his mother upon her return she was so disfigured from her grief he vowed never to love a woman so much if that is what love does to a person. Against the advice of her family, she returned to India and found herself again through her missionary work. Her life was one that all of us would consider grueling. The conditions in which she lived and the intense daily physical demands of her work took their toll. At the age of seventy-five, she suffered a major hip fracture. Her son begged her to retire, but she still returned to her precious hill village in India. Her response was, “Why preserve this old body if it's not going to be used where God needs me?”

“For Mother, pain was a frequent companion, as was sacrifice. I say it kindly and in love, but in old age Mother had little of physical beauty left in her. The rugged conditions, combined with the crippling falls and her battles with typhoid, dysentery and malaria had made her a thin, hunched-over old woman. Years of exposure to wind and sun had toughened her facial skin into leather and furrowed it with wrinkles as deep and extensive as any I have seen on a human face. Evelyn Harris of the fancy clothes and the classic profile was a dim memory of the past. Mother knew that as well as anyone – for the last twenty years of her life she refused to keep a mirror in her house. And yet with all the objectivity a son can muster, I can truly say that Evelyn Harris Brand was a beautiful woman, to the very end.”

The last time he saw her in her village, he was left with such a strong impression of her mother's impact on the people she loved and the love they had for her in return. The faces of the people she tirelessly served glowed with trust, affection and total devotion.

“To them, and to me, she was beautiful. Granny Brand had no need for a mirror made of glass and polished chromium; she could see her own reflection in the incandescent faces around her.”

The lesson and legacy she left to her son was that by giving away one's life, that is where one finds it. Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Gandhi's version was, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Both messages are similar and unequivocally true. When one attempts to “find” oneself, they will ultimately fail. I don't believe that we have the capacity to look at ourselves objectively and see what is really there. Granny Brand didn't need mirrors to see herself, because her true value and self-worth were reflected in the faces of those she served and loved. I think that our relationships serve as our mirrors. When we devote ourselves to our spouses and children, our selfless service ignites a small fire within us. The more we serve others, the brighter that light becomes until it fills us completely. And only when we have that sort of backlighting, only then can we start to see who we are. If we don't have family around us to serve and devote our lives to, it is like trying to figure out what we look like without the benefit of a mirror.

I did the soul-searching, trying-to-find-myself thing in my 20s. I lived alone and suffered bouts of depression. It took me awhile, but I did finally figure it out. Finding Christ certainly helped. No, actually it was essential. I was finally happy and whole, but wanting to marry and start a family. I knew that that was the missing part of my life that I needed. And it's no secret to my family and friends that I had the perfect marriage. We served each other tirelessly and selflessly. And by growing our family with three children we were given the opportunity to serve even more. And, oh yes, I have found myself. Even though I am no longer with a spouse, and feel a bit disorientated without having a husband to care for, I am still whole. I continue to serve my children daily, and they continue to ignite my light from within. I remarked often during my husband's cancer journey that, “Thank God my children are small.” Not for their sake, but for mine. The constant demands of caring for three young boys kept me moving. It kept me focused on something outside of my own grief. And I am so very grateful for that. And although I am certainly guilty of looking in the mirror WAY too much to make sure I look okay, I can also see my self-worth in the smiles of my sons. And that is the only reflection that matters.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The First Story

Once upon a time there was a little red-haired girl who didn't go out of her way to find trouble. But, trouble seemed to find her nonetheless. She lived in a lovely neighborhood with lots of friends, a playground, many good climbing trees and plenty of great hiding spots for hide-and-go-seek. A little ways outside of her neighborhood was a creek, and the little red-haired girl loved to go there with her friends. But, once her mother discovered this creek, and learned how far away it actually was, she forbade the little red-haired girl to go there again.

One day the little red-haired girl and her friend decided to take a walk down to the creek. Even though it was forbidden. Well, how was her mother going to find out anyway? The girls swore to keep it a secret, just between them. They made the long walk to the creek, and were surprised to find a large white bucket next to the creek in the grass. In the bucket were dozens of little fish! Where they came from was anybody's guess, and there was no one else around. The girls felt sorry for the little fish, so they decided to set them free and return them to their watery homeland. As they poured the bucket into the creek, the little red-haired girl suddenly had a wonderful idea. What if they brought the fish home to their mothers! Then the mothers would see how good the creek was, and would allow the girls to play at the creek whenever they wanted! The girls agreed that it was a splendid idea, grabbed the bucket and started running alongside the swiftly running creek. The fish were floating down the stream with lighting speed, but the girls were determined to catch as many as they could. The bucket came down into the water again and again as the girls tried to scoop up the fish. One by one, the fish turned the corner and sped away where the girls could not reach them. Still carrying the empty bucket, they saw the very last fish approaching them. The little red-haired girl grabbed the bucket, and crouched onto a rock at the edge of the creek. She stretched as far over as she could to position the bucket right in front of the oncoming fish. She reached and reached when suddenly she lost her footing and SPLASH fell into the creek! She came up gasping for air, as the fish zoomed past and rounded the corner, never to be seen again.

The little red-haired girl pulled herself out of the water, and stood sopping wet while her friend laughed hysterically. The long walk home was even longer as her clothes and hair dripped and her shoes sloshed with every heavy step. But, her heart was even heavier because she new her mother would be furious with the bad choice she had made. With a trembling arm, she knocked on the front door and anxiously waited for her mother to unlock the door. When her mother opened the door, the little red-haired girl looked at her feet, afraid of what was to come. She heard a sound, but it wasn't anger. There was no shouting. Her mother was laughing! This was totally unexpected! The little red-haired girl confessed where she had been, and her mother helped her change into dry clothes. And the little red-haired girl never went to the creek again. Or so her mother thought...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A New Chapter

These are my boys.  My three beautiful boys.  For some reason, in God's Great Wisdom, they are now growing up without their father.  As far as my younger two are aware, Daddy got a little sick.  He had surgery, then he got better.  Then he went to the hospital a couple of times (and to many doctors LOADS of times) over the next 18 months, while life got really unpredictable and crazy.  And then we went to a really neat place called "Hospice" and never came back home.  And they are okay with it all.  When I tried explaining to them that Daddy has gone to Heaven and it's just going to be Mummy now, they stared blankly at me for half a second before asking (in unison), "Can we play Wii now?"  For my nine year old, it's been a bit tougher.  He has known all along, from the very first ER trip when they found that weird thing called a "tumor" in Daddy's brain, all the way up to the night that Daddy died.  He knew what cancer was, and that cancer in the brain is very bad.  In fact, almost everyone with cancer in their brains ends up in Heaven within a couple of years.  He knew about every disappointing MRI and every change in protocol.  And he knew that Daddy was definitely going to Heaven months before he actually did.  But, this amazing boy wanted to trade places with Daddy.  He wanted the tumor instead, because from what he had heard, Heaven was supposed to be AWESOME and he couldn't wait to go!  I think that made Daddy a little sad, but it also helped him not to be so afraid.  And this incredibly brave nine year old was in the room while his Daddy was breathing slower and slower and slower through the night getting ready to go.  Because he wanted to be there.

So here we are, two months later.  Life goes on.  The younger two have continued on without skipping a beat.  And, to be honest, their big brother has managed quite well.  We are finally homeschooling again and fall activities are starting up.  We hit the ground running every morning, and get through every day.  Most days involve a lot of screaming, as Mummy's patience is virtually non-existent at the moment, but we also have a lot of cuddles and the occasional laugh.  Although, Mummy doesn't exactly appreciate the poop-centered humor of the youngest.  But, we are slowly but surely getting there.  We are getting to the place that God has planned for us.  A place where the house is a little cleaner, the kids are a little more educated, Mummy feels a little more rested and becomes a bit more fun again.  One thing we have regained in this house is storytime.  Books had gone out the window for a long time, but we are dusting them off and pulling them out again.  But, I've also had my hand at oral storytelling as well.  Now, this is something I am absolutely abysmal at.  I can't make up stories worth a darn, BUT I can remember crazy and silly things I got up to in my childhood.  So, I've been telling those.  And after a night of telling a few about me, and the very few stories that I've heard about Daddy when he was a boy, I got an idea.  I want to create a book for the boys.  A Book of Golden Stories.  Filled with short stories starring family members.  Real stories.  It's going to take some work.  It's going to take an awful lot of time.  But, I think I need to do this.  I need to do it for them, and for me.  My memory is awful.  Daddy was the one who always remembered every funny story and had to remind me (and even then, I often had no recollection of what he was talking about).  But, when I find a spare moment (in my copious spare time, you know) I am going to try to remember as many stories as I can.  And write them all down.  I'm also going to enlist the help of my parents, sister, extended family, and my husband's family to tell me stories that I may have forgotten or maybe never even heard.  I will put them in a book, but I will also put them here.  I also need to write.  It is a part of me.  Things build up and the only way I can get it all out is by putting fingers to the keyboard.  So, I hope you don't mind, but I will be pouring out my own frustrations, joys, observations, sufferings and celebrations here.  This may come in fits and starts as I am up to my eyeballs in trying to put this family back together.  But, it will come.  Stay tuned.