Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Prescription for grief...

Because Anna died the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we like to do something special to remember her on that day.  Last year I spoke cried in front of everyone at church.  This year we were a little more subtle, although Richard did wear his butterfly tie.

After church we went out to eat enchiladas.  
In 2007 when I carried Anna to the table filled with our Thanksgiving feast, she took one look and said, "Why can't we have enchiladas?"  

After lunch we went to Hollywood...Hollywood Cemetery that is.
Since college, I have enjoyed walking around cemeteries.  
It's very peaceful and reflective.  
This was one we had been wanting to visit and it seemed like a good day.

 This tombstone reads "Virginia Johnson Pegram.  Who died in the seventy eighth year of her age; and who for the sake of the living, had borne nobly her grief for the dead."   I found a stone nearby with the names of her husband and son who were apparently killed in the Civil War.  
Borne nobly her grief
I hope that can be said about me.

Here's another monument to a son who died at the age of 29.  Obviously the figure is of a grieving parent.  The inscription says, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." (from 2 Samuel 12:23)

This was one of my favorites.  Of James T. Gray it say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Of his wife Elizabeth it says, "She hath done what she could."
I  don't want to end my life on this earth with a "Well, you did what you could."  
I want a hearty, "Well done!"

We also saw the graves of John Tyler, James Monroe, and Jefferson Davis.  Will wanted to see the graves of some movie stars (Hollywood Cemetery), but this was the best we could do.

Jacob enjoyed taking pictures of the monuments and I enjoyed taking pictures of Jacob.  I like this one because he is not making a weird face.  Of course you can't see his face, but I think the picture somehow captures him.

There was a beautiful chapel/mausoleum overlooking the James River.

I had to set the camera on a bench and use the timer because I didn't want to ask anyone for help.  Some people might think we were strange for taking family photos at the cemetery.  

 Later that night, after leading our GriefShare group, we went home and signed up to sponsor a girl in Ecuador through Compassion International.  
SO, my prescription for grief is... 
go to church, 
think about how short life really is, 
help someone else, 
and eat enchiladas.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Giving Thanks

I can't let you feel sorry for me thinking I was sad all weekend.  Thursday was a perfect Thanksgiving Day. It was full of food, friends, and laughter.  
It started the day before.  I was thankful for all of the help I received.  It was so much fun to get ready for the big day.  Well, I had fun.  It doesn't look like Audra was having too much fun.

A couple of early birds :-)  
Even though I put the turkey in the refrigerator on Saturday, it was still frozen on the inside.  Richard saved the day and helped me get it in the oven in time. 

I know some of you make "real" deal, but one year my sister was in the hospital on Thanksgiving Day (because she broke her leg skydiving) and the rest of us went to a friends house for dinner.  Later, when we took my sister a plate of food, she burst out crying because there wasn't any canned cranberry sauce.  It's been a family tradition ever since.

It's not enough just to be thankful.  It's important to know who to thank.  Everyone had a verse to share.

I even invited a friend for Buttons.  I just forgot to tell Richard.  Putting a male and a female bunny together was both entertaining and educational.

I love having a table full of people!

After dinner it was time for Thanksgiving tattoos.

Audra gave me a butterfly.

Don't worry, it's just temporary!

See the girl in the bottom left of this photo?  That's Letha.  I was her teacher for two years in Kisumu, Kenya.  Now she is a grown-up and I'm a grown-up so we are the same age--weird how that happens!

This is what was left of the pecan/chocolate chip pie that Jacob made.  I didn't get a picture of Audra's oreo pie, but it was good too.

I am thankful for such a good day.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday

Four years ago, Black Friday took on a new meaning for me.  It used to be a day of shopping and excitement.   Yesterday I cried on my morning walk.  I cried on Richard's shoulder.  I avoided putting up Christmas decorations and then got mad at Will for getting everything out of the attic.  I took a nap and didn't want to get out of bed.  I went to see Bill O'Reilly and Dennis Miller, but didn't laugh.  I got through the day, but not well.
 The memories are too painful to remember, but too important to forget.  I can choose to allow my memories to crush me or to remind me that this world is not my home.  What I need to do on Black Friday is renew my commitment to stay changed by my experience.
When the world says, "Hurry!  Buy! You need this! You want this!  You won't have a good Christmas without this!"  I can refuse to get caught up in the frenzy of temporary things and remember that the important things are things I can't buy, can't see, and can't wrap.  Instead of watching the commercials and reading the advertisements I can read God's word and refuse to be distracted by the things of this world.

Yesterday I read in 1 Peter that since Christ suffered, we need to be prepared to suffer as well.  And that he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.  After you have suffered, "You won't spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God." (4:2)  Staying changed is hard.  It's easy to go back to chasing my own desires.  It's easy to self-medicate my pain with food, activity, or more stuff.  It's my nature.  But for me Black Friday is not a day to get more stuff, to eat too much, or to distract myself with frenzied activity.  It is a reminder to focus on the unseen eternal and press on.

The best part of my day yesterday was when the kids showed me the butterflies that someone had put on our bushes (and on this candy cane).  I can think of a handful of people in Oklahoma who would do something like that, but I didn't know I had friends like that in Virginia.  I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In everything give thanks...

I am thankful that 1 Thessalonians 5:18 doesn't say I have to be thankful for all things, but it does say that I need to be thankful in all things.
There are times in life when being thankful is easy.  I wake up and hear the birds singing and I'm thankful.  I kiss my children awake and I'm thankful.  I spend time with friends and I'm thankful.  I snuggle on the couch with my husband and I'm thankful.
There are times in life when being thankful is hard.  It's hard to be thankful when you are lonely.  It's hard to be thankful when you can't have what you want.  It's hard to be thankful when you feel sick or tired.  But if God says to be thankful in all things, there must be things to be thankful for even in the hard times.
When Anna was sick, I  still had things to be thankful for.
I can remember one really bad night when I was curled up with her in the hospital bed--worn out, without hope, and crying.  A nurse came in and stood with me and rubbed my back.
I was not alone and I was thankful.
Another time I remember asking God to provide for my physical needs.  Later that day I went down to the cafeteria and the person in front of me had extra money on her meal ticket so she paid for my lunch.
  I was not alone and I was thankful.
When Anna was first admitted to the children's hospital, I was exploring the oncology hall and found a playroom.  It was old and hardly had any toys, but there was a cabinet in the corner with VCR tapes.  Most of the tapes were old Barney episodes or Disney movies, but one of them happened to be my favorite movie--a 1970's Barbara Streisand film.  It's not a kids movie.  You can't even find a copy in stores, but it was there.
I was not alone, and I was thankful.
You see, even in the darkest times, God is there with us.  He can reach out in any way he chooses--a pat on the back, a stranger buying your lunch, or even sending your favorite movie--to remind you that you are not alone.

"Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there...
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:7-8,11-12)

There is no place you can go that he is not there.  There is no darkness that is too dark for him.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...you are with me. Psalm 23:4 
When you are in that dark place, look for him.  And when you see evidence of him
--in the kindness of strangers,
--in the change of seasons,
--in unexpected blessings,
be thankful.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blood Drive

Anna Salamy
Memorial Blood Drive
November 16, 2011
Northwest Baptist Church
Oklahoma City, OK
Donors will receive their choice of OU or OSU T-shirts and a barbecue dinner.

(Come for the blood.  Stay for the barbecue.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Not Home Yet

This is part of a letter written by a mom to the daughter she lost 11 years ago. ( I don't know the name of the author, but the daughter's name was Samantha Faith.)  It made me look at my loss in a new way...

It isn't that you have missed the life we feel you should have had, you are living the life you were meant to have. It is not you that is missing from where we are, it is us that are missing from where you are. You've achieved the dream I pray for all my children; for their lives to lead them Home. This was the way it was meant to be all along, but somehow, along the way, we made up our minds that parents need to get there first... even though Jesus clearly said "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14) Oh how foolish I have been in not letting you go.

Maybe it's not what we wanted at first, but in the end, if we had wanted what He wanted all along, we would have found peace much sooner than we did.

Now, instead of my heart seeing your shoes missing at the front door, I see my shoes missing beside yours. 

Rather than my heart noticing the empty chair alongside mine at the table, I see the seat you've saved for me at His table.

There are no photos of you missing in God's family photos -- you're where He pictured you to be all along.

It's us who are missing... we're not home.

It was never my place to teach you here on earth;  I could never have taught you as much as you're teaching me.

I no longer see us growing up without you, I see you growing up without us... waiting for our hearts to understand what you've understood all along, waiting for the day until you can teach us about where you've been for the last 11 years.

Not too much longer...