October 29, 2018
LifeCenter Northwest is the organ donation center for our part of the United States. We became closely acquainted with them during the time following our son Josh’s death, including the feature article about him in their annual report and follow-up gatherings of donor and recipient families. I wanted to share some thoughts with you about organ donation.
A team from LifeCenter Northwest which works with donor families at the time that the organs, tissues, etc., are harvested is now offering my book to the families to help them deal with their grief. I am so glad, because that is the purpose of the book, and I always hope that people take away assurance of God’s grace in their troubled lives.
Organ donation is a controversial subject at times, and of course people have the right to their beliefs and choices. However, in my view, research scientists and surgeons are endowed by God with knowledge and skills to make life better for people. That includes new techniques like transplants, which can save lives and reduce pain and other traumas.
We were blessed with the opportunity to meet the young man who received our son’s heart and to listen through a stethoscope to that heart beating in his chest. Six people received major organs, among them large men for whom heart, lungs, and liver are size-specific. The recipient of Josh’s lungs is living a full life after a time when lung disease had him debilitated. Other people received veins, which in two cases saved people from amputations. Others received bone like vertebrae, the answer to pain reduction, as well as skin, eye corneas, tendons, and other parts.
A total of over 100 people have been blessed with donations from Josh, and because their families are affected by their “new” lives as well, those blessings have increased exponentially. We see God’s hand in the whole process and thank Him to have played a part in their work. Josh lives on, and his death becomes an instrument to others’ happiness. Praise the Lord!
October 22, 2018
This Wednesday, October 24, is the fifth anniversary of our son Josh’s death. On that day, one of the best parts of our lives was gone – gone to Heaven and still present in our memories, of course, but gone – from our earthly lives.
Josh lives on in so many ways. As an organ and tissue donor, he sustains people throughout the United States; as the honoree for annual scholarships, many trade school students are helped in his name; and his horse and saddle, among other things, are where we can see and touch them.
However, such is the nature of grief that there are days when these things fail to sustain us. We just want to give him a call or go visit him or invite him here with a big hug. His father would far rather have Josh beside him using that horse and saddle, and I would far rather have him beside me enjoying a good meal at our table rather than just invoking memories of how much he loved a good steak or lasagna.
Wednesday will be a hard day. I will take flowers to the cemetery and then go to the ranch camp where my husband is so that neither of us spends that evening and night alone. We will talk about memories, but a place at the table will be empty and a corner of our hearts – a large corner – will be empty as well.
These are the times when “walking at the speed of light” is the most necessary. Jesus does not question our burdens, He just shares them. He shows us the way to walk on when it would be easier to curl up in a corner and shut out not only the world but Him as well.
This week I pray for His comfort and guidance, for His example in accepting the grief in our lives and reaching out for the joy. I always ask Him to hug Josh for us, to remind Josh how loved he is, whether it is 5 years after his death or many more.
October 15, 2018
A dear minister friend of mine always stops people when they allow themselves to fall into the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” trap. I could have spent more time with my loved one. I would have done things differently if I had known what was coming. I should have ordered my priorities and chosen better.”
Does any of that sound familiar? I fell into that trap last week when I made the decision to be home for awhile and try to refocus. The decision was good, but the process included some backsliding on my part as I considered what had sent me home and began thinking that I “coulda, woulda, shoulda.”
Do we need to look at our mistakes, our misdirection, our mistreatment of people or life? Of course, because we need to be aware that, as George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” However, recognizing errors and sins and working not to repeat them is not the same thing as dwelling on “coulda, woulda, shoulda.”
As I shared in my book Walking at the Speed of Light, true Christian thinking is forward thinking. Jesus invites us to take His yoke upon us, to learn from Him, and to walk with Him. He offers forgiveness and salvation with no looking back, and that journey gives us both healing and meaning.
Notice as you read the writers of the New Testament that none of them dwell on their past sins but look upward and forward to life with Jesus. Paul, for example, admits his horrible past as a persecutor of Christians, but he does so only in the framework of reminding us that if a sinner like him can become an instrument of God’s will, then we can as well.
What do we do when the “coulda, woulda, shouldas” get ahold of us? First, we recognize them, second we ask Jesus to help us put them in their place, and third we turn to sources and actions which redirect our feet, our thoughts, and our hearts.
October 8, 2018
In my book, Walking at the Speed of Light, I emphasize over and over the importance of keeping in step with Jesus, in examining our motives and actions in the “light” of His life and words. As my mother used to say, “Sometimes easier said than done.”
Because I totally believe everything I wrote in that book and everything I confess faith in, that doesn’t mean that the actual following of those beliefs is either easy or totally consistent. One of the qualities which God has endowed many of us with is confidence, and sometimes confidence gets in the way of listening to Jesus’ quiet voice.
When my brother and I were young, we loved Fess Parker as Davy Crockett and were solidly struck by his motto of “Be sure you are right; then go ahead.” That motto sticks with me and gives rise to many actions approached confidently because they start with being sure I am right. The problem becomes being sure that the actions are God’s will, not just mine.
In the last several months, I got on the track of my will. Does that mean that everything I did was not according to God’s will, not in step with Jesus and His Light? No. It just means that the clarity of the Light can be obscured by a focus on my will and my confident decisions. As a result, I was “running around like a chicken with its head cut off,” as my grandma used to say.
Suddenly at the end of September, I realized that what I was being urged by God to do was to go home and stay there awhile. I had been in Europe, I had been around the state doing book signings, I had been in another state with old friends. All of this was good – which is a problem for the Christian. So many things are good – so how do we decipher what is Good related to the Light of the World, not just good in the total picture but good in the present timeline?
The answer was that I had overstepped my confidence and gotten so busy that I left out the quiet time to reflect and pray, read the Bible, and regulate my steps to His, as we need to do over and over. The realization brought me up short and sent me home. I can already feel my batteries being recharged. We cannot be lights for anyone else if our batteries are dead, if our relationship with Jesus is out of step or even worse completely in the dark.
The important thing is to remember that He loves us no matter where we are on our journey.
October 1, 2018
The month of October 2018 marks five years since our precious son died following a vehicle accident. If you have read my book, you know his story and how it lead to my reflections on the Light of the World and what Jesus offers us as we struggle with grief and/or depression.
I have always loved fall, particularly October with all its beauty. But a year after Josh’s death, I wrote this poem for a graduate poetry class, with instructions only to use the phrase “I was wrong.” Yesterday, October’s loveliness was interrupted by a day of snow and freezing temperatures, and the poem came back to me. I wanted to share it with you.
The special season of fall is always followed way too soon by winter, but winter is always followed eventually by spring. The older I get, the more I realize that life moves much like the seasons, from moments of happiness or peace to others of sadness and challenge. But Jesus offers joy no matter what else we are confronting, not temporary happiness like a temporary season but everlasting joy warmed by His love.
Above this sparkling river I have loved so long,
The cottonwoods tossed their golden tresses;
Sturdy trunks thrust from the dark earth,
Sharing treasure that glistened in the autumn sun.
I basked in the beauty, lived to love the sight --
Thoughts fluttering like leaves in the breeze,
Mind and heart drinking in the dappled woods,
Knowing the gold would last and last.
But today driving snow dispels the wonder.
I was wrong.
Yet the current still flows on.
Beautiful boy, born into lives needing brightening,
Became our gentle giant Joshua, “right arm of God”,
Golden in strength, vitality, and wisdom,
Your warm grin treasured by everyone you touched.
I ached for your pains, rejoiced in your delights --
Thoughts so often with you, following your path,
Mind and heart drinking in the wonder of your life,
Knowing someday you would grace old age.
But today gray leaves drop carelessly onto your grave.
I was wrong.
Yet my memories flow on.
I just want to continue to share ideas about grief and life with people who long as I do for comfort and understanding.