Monday, April 30, 2012

The Bigger Story..............

Today Luke and I were sitting on a bench eating Yo Yogurt and trying to have a "normal" conversation.  Can talking about the death of your brother and son ever be "normal"?    We have been forced to realize, it is now our "normal".  It was actually a very precious time.  We talked about how we were going to keep Ryan's memory alive by continuing to tell Ryan stories, celebrate his birthday, celebrate the joy he brought, and continues to bring.  We realized telling Ryan stories are not what causes us to get choked up....those make us laugh.   What causes tears are the stories we hear about how his death has caused heart changes.  That chokes us up because that is the "Bigger Story".  These stories are the reason we believe Ryan was called home to be with his Savior.

I must be honest....Luke and I also talked about how when we look at "Our Story" vs "The Big Story" our thoughts bring us to wondering why Ryan's life had to be used to wake people up.  I don't think you will be surprised that our thoughts take us there.   I shared with Luke that today these thoughts reminded me of how Mary, Jesus' mother must have felt.  I am in no way comparing Ryan to Jesus, but rather comparing how two mothers lost a son for the good of others.  And that is truly what I believe.  Ryan's death has brought good to others.  Let me share some of "The Bigger Story";

  • New families  coming to church because they attended Ryan's funeral
  • Hearts turned toward God
  • Bible Studies starting up
  • Mentoring relationships started
  • Re commitments to God
  • Eyes opened to a life of hope and faith
  • More to come.............

So what really grips our hearts is "The Bigger Story" because this is what we know Ryan is dancing in heaven about.  When stories are shared I can almost hear the little tinkle of a bell like in the movie, 'It Is A Wonderful Life' when an angel got its wings.  Every time there is a tinkle I can see Ryan giving Jesus a high five and doing a happy dance.  I KNOW that he is more than happy to be the sacrifice in order for lives to be changed, hope to be found and faith to be strengthened.  That was the passion of his life on earth and the joy of his heart in heaven.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Living with reality..............

Three weeks since Ryan died.  Yesterday I was sitting at the counter eating lunch with Luke, and Ryan's Bible was sitting there.  Luke has taken it as his.  I love that.  I opened it up and there was a piece of paper in it.  I am not sure if it is Ryan's handwriting or someone elses but it had a number of paragraphs on it with the names of the various people Ryan was in Thailand with and under the name was a brief paragraph.  My eyes went right to the paragraph with Ryan's name above it and this is what it said:

God is preparing you to be a warrior but a warrior needs armor.  Don't take your armor off.  Constantly be putting your armor on. Ephesians 6:10-20, Josh 1:9.

Does this sound familiar?  This is exactly what I wrote about on my blog yesterday morning.  I read this in the afternoon.  Yes, I got the chills and my eyes teared up as I felt God affirming me that Ryan and I are linked.  His passions are my passions and I am speaking what Ryan would be speaking if he were still alive.

I usually go to bed and think, "I probably won't write my blog tomorrow as I don't have a thing to say."  But then I wake up or go through part of the day and thoughts just come and I cannot help but put them down.  This morning I woke at about 3:30 a.m. with tears in the corners of my eyes.  I don't remember dreaming, they were just there.  My mind went right to the the thought that our family is probably at that stage of grief where facing reality is a daily occurrence.  Yesterday was filled with realities.  Thank goodness I felt the strength of God's spirit in me as I faced and battled these realities:

  • Ryan is really gone. We are without our brother and son to walk side by side with. This reality will hit us over and over again.
  • Reality that our house is in a place of grieving and each one of our journeys of grief is going to look different and need different moments of compassion and patience, understanding and maybe even forgiveness.
  • Reality that while our home has generally been an outward focused home we need to allow ourselves an inward focus for a while.  Our focus has to be on how to create a safe place to work through our grief, eliminating unnecessary stresses.
  • Reality that on days when no one in our home feels up for the battle, we must rely on family and friends.  We are so grateful we have them to count on.
  • Reality that we will now walk with a heightened sense of the importance of not squandering relationships and opportunities and wasting the precious time we have right now.  Ryan lived fully and with a spirit of joy.......and yet he is gone.  Others live lazily and with no purpose and in friction and anger and un-forgiveness with those around them....and yet they are still here. What a waste of life.  Oh that we would understand the gift of "life"!
These are some of the realities that hit just yesterday.  Seems like a lot.  Yet, I felt God's hand in mine as I came upon each one.  My sandals of peace and shield of faith and sword of God's Word came in very handy.

Yesterday someone asked me if I felt I would live with a "muted joy" from here on out.  I told them I'm not planning on it.  Another paragraph on Ryan's sheet was this:

Dancing, laughing, joy will be your strength.  This will be how you get through the hard times.  Psalm 4:7, Isaiah 55:12

Psalm 4:7

Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.

Isaiah 55:12

 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field 
will clap their hands. 

I am not bursting with joy and song and clapping my hands right now....but this is His I know it will come.  His promises to me have never returned void.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I am a warrior...............

Duet;20,3. And He shall say to them, "Hear Oh Israel. "Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint. Do not be afraid; and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you!

The last couple of days have been hard.  In fact, I woke up this morning with the sense that I had just been in a battle and that I was still in battle. I think it all came together in my head as I watched my husband get up early on this Saturday morning to meet with his "Battle Buddy" (that is what they are calling it); someone to walk through life with, praying supporting and encouraging.  Another piece of understanding came when a sweet friend posted the above scripture on my blog yesterday. It didn't dawn on me until I woke this morning that "a battle" is exactly what I am fighting; a battle against the fallout of pain; depression, anger, confusion, irritation, sadness, loss and victimization.  All of these descriptors are part of what pain can produce.  It is natural for them to come and they are the crux of what pain is.  I'm sure some of you who have experienced pain could add a few more descriptors. As I said yesterday, they can come out of nowhere.  They are not manufactured.  So what do I do with the fallout of pain?

When we think of physical pain we have all heard, "No pain, no gain!"  Ryan  lived that way physically.  He loved to push himself to his physical limit.  I've learned more about him in his death through friends and reading through his journals and bible and even documents he was writing on his computer.  What I've seen is a young man that accepted physical, emotional and spiritual pain as a way to grow and push himself as well.  He was always moving forward to grow and learn and BE more for Jesus.  If pain was a part of that, so be it.  So now, as his mom, I find myself walking in the worst pain I've ever experienced.  What will I do with that pain?  

Will I allow my pain to be a tool of depression, anger, confusion, irritation, sadness, loss and victimization? Or, will I allow it to be a tool of growth and strength?  How about, BOTH!?  When depression, anger, confusion, and all those supposed negative descriptors sit at my door trying to break in my life why not use them to create strength.  If I didn't have to battle them, if I didn't have to take on the weight of the pain, I wouldn't have opportunities to become stronger. 

So today as I walk out my bedroom door recognizing the battle I am in and purposing (It is so important to purpose and not walk blindly) to see my pain for what it is; an opportunity for strength.  Today I take up my:

  • Helmet of Salvation
  • Shield of Faith
  • Belt of Truth
  • Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (peace),
  • Sword of the spirit/word of God
  • Breastplate of righteousness

Each one of these pieces of armor will help me walk in strength.  I envision myself with the words Salvation, Faith, Truth, Peace, Word of God, Righteousness tattooed all over my body instead of Death, Doubt, Lies, Turmoil, The World and living for my "self".  I acknowledge that without the tools that make up God's strength, I am lost and weak.  I know what I am going to purpose to do with the pain.  I will use it to create strength, not weakness. I am a warrior, equipped for battle.


Ephesians 6:11-18

11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Friday, April 27, 2012

We've fallen...but we will get back up........

For those that read my blog yesterday you know that I spoke of going up the ladder, or falling down, and that I was purposing to move up.  Well as much as I purpose things, it doesn't always happen that way because we live in a fallen world.  Sometimes we are at the mercy of our circumstances. 

Last night we had situations that caused us to fall down a few rungs on the ladder.  As always, in the dark of the night, situations seem bleaker and the darkness loves to consume.  I will admit, I cried myself to sleep.  But this morning we feel refreshed and are taking steps to get ourselves back up at least one rung on the ladder.  Any progress is progress....right? 

Ryan used to put 10 lb weights on each ankle and run up Pikes Peak.  Each time he ran it faster.  He had incredible physical stamina.  He definitely got that from his Dad.  Well I feel like we are running up Pikes Peak with huge weights on our ankles.  The weights try to keep us at the bottom.   You can't always control being flung to the bottom, but you can control how long you stay there.  Together, Tom and I are pulling each other up, one rung at a time, as the Lord reaches down and gives us the strength.  I can't imagine doing this alone.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10

8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sucker Punched.......................

Sucker punched is my new word for the feeling that comes over me out of nowhere.  The last 48 hrs have been rough.  It has been a challenge to be a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker when I feel like I've lost my breathe and it is taking all my strength to step forward when I've been sucker punched.  The good news is that my husband, children, parents, sisters, friends and co-workers have been so understanding and patient.  I am blessed.

I've been thinking a lot about how to move forward knowing the sucker punches will continue to come for a while.  Perhaps lessening in intensity and frequency with time.  I can't avoid them, so how can I function through them?  Amazingly (but not really) in my "Jesus Calling" devotional this morning I read,

"If you encounter a problem with no immediate solution, your response to that situation will take you either up or down. You can lash out at the difficulty, resenting it and feeling sorry for yourself.  This will take you down into a pit of self-pity.  Alternatively, the problem can be a ladder, enabling you to climb up and see your life in God's perspective." 

AMAZING TRUTH!  This has been my thought process over the last 48 hrs.  How am I going to respond to the sucker punches that will certainly come?  I acknowledge the pain is real and justified.  But for me, what isn't justified is the self-pity that could consume me if I let it.  There have been many who have walked my journey before; and some even more tragic.  Just think of all the daily loss in other countries.  Death is a part of every day life, yet people are able to move forward.  So I can do this too.  But ONLY in God's strength.

2 Corinthians 4:16

"Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

So, each day I am going to purpose to move up the ladder and not down.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A roller coaster ride like no other...............

It is an up and down journey.  Will probably be for a while.  The reality now sinking in as the fog of the "event" of Ryan's death is lifting we seem to be able to feel more. I've never been one to really live on the fringe of my feelings so this is a new journey for me. I am amazed at how strong I can feel one moment and then in an instant I can be brought down to tears and sadness.  I've never been on a roller coaster ride like this before.  I've never liked roller coasters.  But this is where I find myself and I am determined to learn all I can through it.

A verse that I've often quoted and clung to about circumstances in life and what I'm able to handle is:

I Corinthians 10:1 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 

This verse has given me the faith that God will not give me more than I can handle.  In my new state of really understanding and being aware of God's promises I see this verse differently.  This verse talks about temptation (or testing).  It doesn't promise us He won't give us more than we can handle.  In fact, I'm thinking God gives us more than we can handle often.  This is what keeps us in need of Him and relying on the Holy Spirit's strength.  The temptation comes in how I will respond to the circumstances around me; rely on my own strength, or rely on God's presence.  I've never needed God's strength and guidance more.  If I walk through this journey thinking "God thinks I can handle this so I will", then I'm not relying on His power, but my own.

Don't get me wrong.  In the times when my tears overcome me I don't see that as giving into weakness, but rather allowing the Lord to comfort me in my sorrow.  Pretending the pain isn't there isn't what God is calling us to.  But rather, allowing Him to be our comfort and strength during those times.

So I step in to today recognizing this situation is too big for me.  It is more than I can handle on my own.  I am purposing to walk through the valleys and the highs in the power of His strength, recognizing my grave weakness.

 My hope is in the LORD who will renew my strength. I will soar on wings like eagles; I will run and not grow weary, I will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Monday, April 23, 2012

Looking for Ryan..........

I had such a beautiful weekend.  Alone for the first time in a while.  Tom and the boys went to the WVC Men's retreat and Amanda was at a friends.  Sandy (our dog) and I had many quiet moments together just sitting and reflecting.  Sunday morning Sandy and I went for a walk. For the first time since Ryan's death I felt I was seeing the world around me.  For the last two weeks all I have been able to see is what is right in front of me.  I'm not fond of living like that but recognize it is part of this journey, so I will cut myself some slack.  I feel as though I am coming out of a fog and now have the ability to look around and "see". 

Sandy and I were sauntering through the park and I started having this conversation with God.  "So Lord, how does this work?  Will Ryan try to whisper in my ear through a puff of wind?  Will I see him in the mountains or the trees?  Is that him soaring above me?"  I've never been here before so I don't know how it works to have someone die and want to be able to just feel a "touch" from them one more time.  As we were walking there was a huge bird circling above and just in front of us.  It kept circling and circling.  I thought, well, maybe I should sit on this bench and see what happens.  I sat down, not taking my eyes of the bird and........ the bird took off.  I hope you can feel me smiling through these words.  I thought it was kind of funny.  I smiled up into the cloudless sky and felt the Lord say to me, "Precious child....don't look for Ryan, look for Me.  Only I can give you the rest and comfort you are looking for." 

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

I finished my walk seeing the beauty before me, not looking for Ryan, but looking and finding God's comfort and peace. When I got home the Lord had a special gift for me.  I decided to clean up my room that had become a dumping ground for all Ryan's things in the last two weeks.  As I was moving things around I found Ryan's journal that he often took notes in during church and when doing his own reading.  I decided to take it out on my patio and read through it.   I was feeling strong enough.  What a blessing.  I found Ryan.  He was right in the pages of his journal.  As I was reading through his writings I realized something amazing.  The things he had written so passionately about in his journal were the things that I have been writing about in my blogs.  I got the chills as it dawned on me that Ryan is a part of me and we are in sink about the things of the Lord. I don't need to go looking for him, I will always have him with me in my heart and in my passions. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Why am I not screaming mad...........

A much better day. What a glorious day in Colorado Springs; sun shining, birds singing, lawn mowers purring, people out hiking. This is the kind of day that would fill Ryan with pure joy. I can only imagine he would have been out climbing and signing on this stunning day, gathering anyone who would want to go with him...... But he is having days like this every day as he walks beside Jesus. He is blessed. And this is why I cannot be screaming mad.  Why would I NOT want day after day of pure joy for my son.  To wish him back here on this fallen land would be simply selfish.  And yet, my heart cannot help but be selfish when I look at my own story; the story of missing a son.
I sat on my back patio today (my happy place)  swinging on my swing, enjoying the blooming trees, listening to the birds, and looking into the beautiful blue sky with its dappling of clouds.  I have had many conversations with Ryan on that patio. Just four weeks ago he and I sat out there alone, talking about his giftings and how God might want to use them.  He told me that day he was thankful for a mom like me who cared so deeply but gave him space to be who he was meant to be.  I will forever be thankful for being given the opportunity of parenting this boy whom I loved fiercely, but learned early on to place in God's capable hands.  If I hadn't learned that lessen back then, the place I find myself in now would be so much more painful.
I finished reading today, "A Grief Observed", by C.S. Lewis.  Once again a statement he made caught my attention.  "If any house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it was a house of cards."  I'm so grateful that we are finding our house was not made of a house of cards but rather on a firm foundation of God's promises.  Suffering has a way of identifying one's foundation.  I'm praying that whoever is reading this blog is taking stock of their foundation so that when it is tested, it stands firm.
"These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
 But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards." Matthew 7:24-27 (The Message)

Ryan was ready and excited to be with Jesus.  He said it often.  He spent his days gathering up others to join him some day and encouraged others to live with that excitement.  The other day I was on my back porch with my Dad and I had this overwhelming sense that Ryan wasn't really gone, just on his final mission trip.  He would be there eternally.  He is there continuing to gather up souls to join him by impacting lives, even in his death.  So this is why I cannot be screaming mad. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

And so it begins.........

Ah, today was kind of a hard one.  Perhaps it was exhaustion from yesterday's events, perhaps it is just part of the process or realizing, it is real.  My baby is gone.  

Now that the events following Ryan's death are over, the company is gone and we have gone back to work and school, we are stepping into each moment wondering if this is what "normal" feels like.   If this is normal than it is filled with moments that catch me off guard.  I'm feeling good and strong and then out of nowhere my mind is filled with a picture of Ryan in his casket, or Ryan just off the mountain, or Ryan walking through the door or standing next to me doing worship.  Tonight my dad and I went to see Mirror, Mirror.  There was a line in the movie that made me think how Ryan would have made a woman joke about that.  A vise gripped my chest and I immediately started tearing up. Is this what it is going to be like?  Probably.  Loss is real and it is o.k. to miss something that meant so much.  I'm learning that it will become about what I do with that loss. 

Today on the way home from work I was stuck in traffic and all of a sudden, in the quiet of the car I just started tearing up.  The quiet is what gets me.  It allows the thoughts to crowd in and the visions of the past to fill my mind.  Then, "Whatever You're Doing" by Sanctus Real came on and the chorus really spoke to me: 

"Whatever you're doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but now I can see
This something bigger than me
Larger than life something heavenly
Something heavenly."

By Jodi Shen Lewis
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings  Psalm 17:8

This IS something bigger than me and I must keep my eye on the bigger story.  I'm asking God to cover me in the shadow of His wings and guide me down this journey of grief.  If I step outside His covering, that is when grief could so easily consume me.  In Jesus, I purpose to not let that be the case but to stay under the shadow of His wings.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Waves of mercy....

Artwork by my wonderful friend
Jodi Shen Lewis
I am so blessed to have a friend who paints my heart before I even know it.  I believe God is working in her life to come along side me and capture my story.  The interesting thing is she is in Vail and I am in Colorado Springs and we haven't spoken since the day after the funeral.  Again, God is good.

Waves of God's mercy....what does that mean?   I am no theologian and don't pretend to have the gift of knowledge when it comes to interpreting the scriptures.  But what I do have is life experience allowing God's word to fill my life and direct it. 

When I think of mercy I understand it to be the act of being given or giving something that is undeserved.  How do I attach that to my grief? What part of this is undeserved?   I'm trying to wrap my head around this.  Bare with me as I process this. 

Unfortunately we live in a fallen world and sin and suffering are part of that fall.  God did not plan it that way, but from day one He has given man a choice and man chose to fall into "self".  Genesis 3:1-6. He has not forced anything on us.  We chose. We continue to choose.

I look at the woman in the picture Jodi created and this woman is kneeling, bowing before the Lord and is receiving His mercy in waves.  That is me.  I am choosing to bow at His feet through this.  I am no more deserving of His grace and mercy than anyone else...but I am choosing to reach for it moment by moment instead of the alternative.  We all know what the alternative looks like.  We have seen others choose it, chosen it ourselves and seen the writhing  pain and black hole it produces. I want what Isaiah spoke of in Chapter 3, " a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair".  This is what I want for me and my family and all those who are grieving.

Not only do I choose to fall at His feet, but I purpose to move forward for my other children.  They are still very much alive and have so much ahead of them.  Going to Luke's game last Sunday was the first in those steps.  Here is a picture of Luke making the final 3 pointer of the game.  It felt so good to cheer.

  This morning Amanda and I chose to speak at the Light Of Hope CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) fundraiser.  We had been scheduled to do this a while ago.  We decided God would give us what we needed to pull off the event.  He did, and we were blessed.  We both spoke and Amanda sang "Beautiful", by Mercy Me.  Was it easy?  Nope! A few tears were shed. But we did it because we are purposing to move forward with our grief and allow God to wash over us with His grace and mercy as we move.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Truth or Falsehood tested......

I am astounded at what God is doing.  I can't even keep up with the responses to this blog. Over 30,000 views.  How can that be?  Why do people care what I have to say?

I am a simple woman, wife, mom, daughter, sister, co-worker, friend, who has been placed in a situation of having to live out her faith in a way she never has before.  I read today a statement C.S. Lewis made in his book, "A Grief Observed", that hit home to what I believe is happening; "You never  know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life or death to you."  Yes!  I got to quote C.S. Lewis and actually understand what he was saying.  I understand it better than I ever thought I could.

Painting by my friend
Shen Jodi Goldman-Lewis
She painted Ryan's portrait at the funeral.   
All that I've learned and thought I believed has been driven home by the death of our Ryan.  The Scriptures I have memorized throughout the years and quoted to others are becoming more real than ever.   I have been forced to look at them with new eyes and ask myself, "Do I still believe them?" 

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

So, do I still believe these verses when my heart is broken and my life has been altered so fiercely?  I can honestly say, "YES!".  Is that because I am special, or unique, or have a closer connection to the Lord?  Absolutely not.  I am no different than you.  We all have the same access to God's provisions. However, perhaps my simple thinking allows me the ability to accept His promises without over thinking them.  Maybe my simple faith allows me the ability to take Him at His word. God's words are becoming the life-line that they were meant to be. They are giving me strength to look at the "whole story" and not just "my story".  They are allowing me to see the good taking place beyond my own circumstances.  They are allowing me to feel the joy of my son's life in absence as much as in his presence.  They are allowing me to find joy, even in the pain. I will continue to trust that what God offers, He will provide. I trust what I believe because it has become a matter of life or death to me. 

So I ask you to NOT be impressed by me and my simple faith, but rather the One that promises and fulfills His promises in me, Jesus Christ.  Any strength you see in me comes from the One whom strengthens me, moment by moment.  Any strength you see in me is available to you too.  But you must believe in the power of the Cross to unleash all He offers.

1 Corinthians 1:18

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Keeping it Real......

I'm not going to lie.  Yesterday was hard.  I started out feeling so rested and strong but as I moved through the day the life seemed to be sucked right out of me.  It was a day of going through Ryan's paperwork, cancelling credit cards, cancelling his phone, going through his things......a day of pain.  I had to say the words, "My son died" over and over and at no point did it get easier.  The words would just get caught in my throat.  But even in the pain, God sent some blessings.

Blessing 1: I walked into the Apple Store to get a new User Id for Ryan's computer.  I stepped up to the counter and started saying, "I need to get a new User Id for this computer as it was my son's and....he died."  The words came out choked and tears started to flow.  The young man at the counter said, "Are you Ryan's mom?"  I looked up in amazement and asked if he knew Ryan.  He said, "I go to Woodmen Valley Chapel and my wife is reading your blog."   The vice on my heart loosened and I looked into his caring eyes and was able to continue.  Thank you Jesus for letting Tyler meet me at the counter.

Blessing 2: I took my mom to my Chiropractor today as her back has seized up.  No wonder with all the stress.  My precious Dr. Christie took care of my mother and came out and sat beside me and shared that she too had gone through a similar situation when she was 15.  We sat and teared up together and talked about Ryan as he was one of her regulars.  She had fixed him up when he fell off a ladder and when he took other falls.  Yes, there were many opportunities for Ryan to leave us in the past.  Thank you Dr. Christie for taking such good care of our family and being a friend along the way.

Blessing 3: The principal and two school councilors came by today and offered support to Amanda and Luke to get them through the end of the year.  The school has been so incredible. They had provided a couple buses of kids to come to the funeral.  I was remiss in asking how that happened and who organized it, but we felt honored they allowed academics to stop in order to celebrate the life and death of one of their past students.  We live in such a supportive community.

Blessing 4: After they left I had to escape down to Ryan's room for some alone time and just plain grieving.  As I laid on his bed crying I looked over at his bookshelf and there hidden amongst the great books was the book I have been looking for since his death, "The Four Loves", by C.S. Lewis.  This is the book he read over and over.  I thought it had been lost.  As I ran my finger over its' warn and highlighted pages I couldn't help but recognize it as a gift from God on this very hard day.  I once again tried to start reading it.  As we shared at the funeral, I had tried this summer so that Ryan and I could discuss it...but to no avail.  I couldn't get past the Introduction.  Ryan had laughed with me about this and thanked me for trying.  As I tried again today  I kept looking for notes Ryan might have written to help me understand the great meaning he received from it.  I believe I am destined to get the cliff notes.......I will not give up trying to understand it.  My heart is being sculpted in such a deeper way that I believe it will happen.

Blessing 5:  My sweet friend Wendy Wise brought us a wonderful meal that I actually ate.  As you can imagine my appetite has not been great.  Others have eaten the food provided, I just haven't had an appetite.  The linguine and chocolate cake were just what my soul needed.

Blessing 6: My husband is a rock.  He seems to know what I need before I need it.  We grieve together, we hug, we weep, we move foreword.  I am so grateful to be walking down this path with him.

Blessing 7:  My daughter took to cleaning the house today.  We usually live in a pretty tidy home and it has been chaos for over a week.  It was a blessing to have my kitchen tidied and the floors cleaned.  Something seemingly so little, but meant so much and gave me a sense of order.

Blessing 8:  Luke and his buddies are planning a Bible Study as so many of his friends are longing for more.  Need I say more.......

It has been my plan to move forward this week and put one foot in front of the other toward "normal".  Grief is exhausting.  I'm not sure I will be able to accomplish all I set out to do, but I'm taking one day at a time. The kids are going back to school today.  Tom is going to attempt to study for his final Appraisal test, I am going to prepare myself to go to work tomorrow.  We will see where the day takes us.  God is our provision and our strength.  He will lead us through this foggy path we are on and help us discern the next step.

Thank you for your continued prayers and will not be a short journey for us.

Isaiah 58:11  I will always show you where to go.  I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones.  You'll be like a well-watered garden,  a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,  rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

Joy amongst the pain........

Another great night's sleep.  My heart is blessed and my body is feeling rested and I know this is only because of two things; the fervent prayers of my friends, family and strangers and the strength from my Savior who has always promised me that "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13.

I want to share with you an experience Tom and I had yesterday.  Actually, we had three of them. 

First, we took Amanda and Luke to the Woodmen Valley Church service to allow them to hear an incredible service about whether there is Life After Death. Our understanding of the afterlife affects how we live in the here and now. Their brother lived without fear and with exuberance and confidence because he new he was Heaven bound, and he was excited to get there some day.  John 3:36 The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him. Ryan believed with his whole heart. Pastor Jimmy Dodd used Ryan's life and death as an example of how and why we need to live in the security of the Cross.  Ryan didn't get to run a marathon, but a 10k.  He ran his 10k well.  There were tears in the service, but joy in our hearts celebrating Ryan's confidence in his Life After Death.

Second, we took our first step back into "normalcy" and went and watched Luke play basketball. Oh how it thrilled my heart to see him laughing and exerting and smiling.  What thrilled me more was to hear the crowd cheering for him, supporting him and loving on him.  Such wonderful people God has surrounded us with.  Yes, there were a few tears that welled up knowing Ryan would never be joining us to annoy the refs any more.  But there was still joy amongst the pain.

Third, one of Ryan's friends asked us to come to youth group last night as he was going to be sharing some things about Ryan.  I was personally so exhausted (that seems to happen from out of no where these days) but decided to go as Luke was taking two of his buddies from school and I just felt my rest could wait a little longer.  WHAT AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE!  The worship was amazing.  Ben Essels, one of Ryan's friends, did an awesome job.  Music has always been a big part of my worship, but now the words of so many songs have such a deeper meaning.  I wonder if I will ever be able to worship without tears again.  I'm thinking this is o.k.  Stu Davis, the youth pastor who walked us through Ryan's death and burial and friend to Ryan, spoke at FUSION, the youth service.  They were scheduled to start a new three part series on RADICAL Faith.  Ryan's name was mentioned numerous times and part of his blog from when he was in New Zealand with YWAM was read.

"We MUST know God and make Him known. we can no longer be OK with mediocrity and accept that because we are miles away from others we can not share His word. in fact, it is quite the opposite! there are people right in your town to which you can minister. DO NOT LET THE OPPORTUNITY PASS!!!! live each day like it could be your, or your neighbor’s, last! we do not know the hour God will call us home. so we CAN’T put anything off till tomorrow. i can no longer be scared to share my faith! i must be alive with a passion for God and his people. i/we must change the way the world views Christians. i/we can no longer be self -absorbed, judgmental people. we must be a pipe through which God’s forgiveness flows. a mirror image of God’s love. our lives must reflect his mercy towards others. everything must reflect Him. our art should reflect his creation. our music should be praises to him. no word should pass our lips that is not glorifying to Him"

To access the whole blog:

Stu was calling each of the FUSION students, and himself, to live a radical life for Christ.  No more mediocrity.  No more calling yourself a Christian yet living in the world's weakness.  It was a revival and he gave a calling to rise up and accept the kind of Christianity Christ called us too.  The kind in Luke 14:25-27  One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one's own self!—can't be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple.  I'm going to say, it was just amazing. I was in tears. It confirmed exactly what I said in my blog yesterday....God is calling us to leave everything at the door for Him....everything.   Just like He left everything for us and gave us His son to die on the cross for our sins.  I can tell you right now that having had to give Him something no parent wants to give....we can do what He is calling us to do.  But ONLY in His strength.  Only in His strength can I receive joy in watching what Ryan's death has brought. 

I saw Luke walk out of that building last night with joy in his step.  He shared that he can see why God took Ryan and left him behind.   He feels he has a purpose of helping to encourage and build up those impacted by Ryan's death.  What a gift from the Lord.  My son is walking in the newness of hope!  There is joy amongst the pain.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Did I really mean everything?

When I was 7 I gave my life to Jesus.  When I was 16 I gave him total control. 

Many are asking, what does that really mean and why I would you want someone or something to have control of your life?  My answer is simple.  Because if I hadn't and I didn't, I would be swallowed up in this very situation I find myself in today.  Who wouldn't grieve and scream and be mad and unconsolable that their son of 20 was snatched out of this world and removed forever? 

Mark 8:35 says, If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it." 

My life would be sinking right now if I hadn't given it up all those years ago, if I hadn't chosen death of my "self" and life in Jesus.  These are the days when I am clinging to the Cross. Clinging through the storm because I cannot do this on my own. 

There is still sadness that I will never hear Ryan come through the door and smell him and his "essential oils" before I see him.  There is still sadness that I will never see his smile light up the room.  There is still sadness that I will never have to say, "Really Ryan?"  There is still sadness that I will never receive another of his larger than life hugs.  But that sadness will not overcome me because there is hope and confidence trailing right behind the sadness, waiting to swallow it up.

Last night I was singing a worship song in church about "giving Him everything". It dawned on me that I have said those words and sang those songs for many, many years now. I have had three major times in my life when I have had to decide whether I really meant them.  Each time has increased with its' intensity.  The first was in regards to a school for Ryan that seemed so perfect and was shut down only days before it was to start.  It seems so trivial now, but at the time it was a huge release to the Lord of trusting His plan.  The second was when my husband had a stroke at 48.  Out of the blue...he was totally healthy...and I found myself in the emergency room with my husband who was paralyzed on one half of his body.  I remember crying out to the Lord and saying, "Lord, I don't know if I can do this!"  At that very moment I felt His spirit wash over me and say, "For I know the plans I have for you Gail, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11  Tom is totally recovered from that stroke but we have learned MUCH through the trials that followed.  Now I find myself in the most intense situation of trusting those words of commitment and "giving it all".  Did I mean my son's life?  Did I really mean everything?

As we finished up worship last night I realized I WAS able to say that I did mean everything.  I was able to do it in that moment and I will purpose to do it in every other moment.  Because in trusting Him with everything, I receive life. Through Jesus' strength and wisdom Tom and I have modeled and lived out that trust to our children.  And because we have done that my son is walking with Jesus at this very moment.  Think what this day would mean if we hadn't.  Think what this day would mean if Ryan hadn't received a life in Jesus. Now THAT would be something to mourn.

My niece Libby said it so eloquently at the funeral, Death = Life. (Romans 6) Because I chose death to myself and my own sin-separating, self-centered path I can walk in the fullness of a life with Jesus even though physical death surrounds me.  Because Ryan chose death years ago, he walked fearlessly and with a solid hope in his future.  Hope in Jesus and life with Him.  And now for him he is experiencing 2 Corintians 5:1 "For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands."

I feel compelled to bring it hard this morning to other believers in Christ and ask, "Do you really mean it?"  Will you allow brokenness to consume you when you are called to really give Him everything?  I pray not.  Because that is a dishonor to the strength that He has to offer and speaks to how much we have really given Him.

To those who have never given their life to Jesus and still insist that your control is working for you, I would ask that you take a good look at your life.  Does death have sting for you?  Does the idea of dieing frighten you fiercely?  It should, but it doesn't have to.  Allow God to remove the sting of death and encompass you with Life ETERNAL! 

John 3:16  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

If death still has a sting and you live local, please come to Woodmen Valley Chapel today and hear about how it doesn't have to grip you in fear any longer.  Services are at 9, 11:15 and 6 pm tonight.    If you do not live locally and don't know where to go, find a Bible and start Reading John Chapter 3, then Romans 6, then Matthew 5....and on.  His words will not return void in your life.  Choosing to maintain your own control, and create your own path....THAT is what will return void.

I love you all and are praying for your hearts to hear these words this morning.

Still moving forward

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Today I will choose JOY.........

This is the portrait my friend painted during the funeral.  Jodi knew Ryan since he was five.  She captured the swirl and vibrance of his life.  She will be offering posters at costs down the road.  I'll keep you posted.

The day of the Wake my sisters and I and my friend Susan were cramming in our car to go to the mall to get our toes done, yes, I know Ryan would have thought that was ridiculous, but we were in need of some pampering.  Ryan wasn't right about EVERYTHING!  :)  Anyway, one of my sisters had left her devotional, 'Jesus Calling', on the dashboard. I decided we all needed a bit of inspiration and opened it up to that day's devotion: "Trust me in every detail of your life.  Nothing is random in My kingdom.  Everything that happens fits into a pattern for good, to thoe who love me. Instead of trying to analyze the intricacies of the pattern, focus your energy on trusting Me and thanking Me at all times.  Nothing is wasted when you walk close to Me.  Even your mistakes and sins can be recycled into something good, through My transforming grace."  As you can imagine, when I was done reading there wasn't a dry eye in the car.  God heard my cry on the first day of my blog and affirmed me through this devotion that I was hearing Him and trusting Him as He planned.  He affirmed my heart.

A snippet of today's devotion said "I knew what I was doing when I divided time into twenty-four-hour segments.  I understand human frailty, and I know that you can bear the weight of only one day at a time.  Do not worry about tomorrow or get  stuck in the past.  There is abundant Life in My Presence today."  Can you believe God's perfection?  How many of us needed to hear that today?  

I was sitting on the couch yesterday and looked up at the wall across from me.  On the wall hung my painting I did a couple months back when my family spent a night at 'Paint The Town' with some of our wonderful family friends.  I felt compelled that night to paint my heart, which often is..."Today I will choose joy!"  As I looked at the wall and read those words I was gripped with the reality of those words.  Those words would be harder to do than ever, and would be the primal cry of my heart for a very long time.  When pain and sorrow grip me, I will purpose to CHOOSE joy.  That does not mean I will not allow the feelings to wash over me.  But will CHOOSE not to let them consume me.  God's grace and joy will be my compass and my comfort.  

Friday, April 13, 2012

Blessed be His name......

Ryan's workmates from
Dirksen Construction made his coffin

Friends leaving messages
of love.
As unconventional as it gets.
Resting among the mountains he loved.
Mom leaving her rock for the Carina
a mound of stones to direct a path-
   Ryan's Carin

Goodbye is not forever my son.

Big breath...heavy is finished.  The rush to celebrate Ryan's life well and in a way that he would want is over.  Ryan's outer body is buried in love and his soul is dancing with Jesus.  As you can imagine, we experienced extreme highs and lows yesterday.  But overall, it was a day of celebration.  I think Ryan was giving us one of his huge smiles saying, "Good job Dad and Mom.  You did the best you could within the confines of the world's conventions."

I was so extremely blessed with the hundreds of people that came out to celebrate Ryan's life.  I hear there were hundreds.  I hear there were a few buses of kids from Ryan and Luke's high school.  I say "hear", because I was so shored up by the Lord that I really only saw the immediate area around me.  One of Ryan's friends from Canada brought me some "Happy Tea" she and Ryan loved.  I'm not sure what was in it, but I do know I felt an inner strength through the day that was definitely from my Savior, and maybe a little Happy Tea.  Thanks Natalie.

The worship during Ryan's funeral was, for me, an out of body experience. I felt so close to my Jesus, and my son.  I now wish I would have turned around to see if others felt the same thing.  I pray they did.  But for me, I felt Ryan dancing along side of me, raising his hands and praising our Lord, unashamed.  Some of you are asking how I could be praising the Lord when he took my son.  I can and I did and I will.  We sang a song that I have wept through many times in my life, "Blessed be Your Name."  There is a phrase that says, "He gives and takes away, He gives and takes away.  My heart will CHOOSE to say, blessed be your name." There have been so many times in my life when my heart has been broken, torn, confused, joyful, etc....but no matter what my heart has felt, I purpose to CHOOSE to say, "Blessed be His name".  Why would I do that?  Because, what is the alternative? Depression, giving up, sinking, despair.....these are all words I want as little part of as possible.  I cannot manufacture the kind of strength this journey is going to require of me.  So no way would I rely on myself to get me through.  Why not allow myself to be shored up and strengthened.  It seems like a no brainer to me.

I want you to know that because I am relying on God's strength this doesn't mean I won't allow my heart to feel the loss.  I am confident I can grieve and feel strengthened at the same time.  Last night Tom and I had our first moment of being in a "normal" conversation with someone and then realizing, "Oh, Ryan was going to help us put on a new roof this summer."  Yes, our eyes teared up, our hearts felt that vise come over us, but we felt it and then moved on.  That is going to be the choice we will have to continually make.  Some days it will be easier than others. 

Tom and I attend Woodmen Valley Chapel (WVC).  I cannot tell you how incredible the support and love we have received from them has been.  More shoring up from the Lord.  WVC has been diving into the many tough questions of Christianity.  Wouldn't you know, this Sunday's topic is, "Is there life after death?"  Of course that is the topic for this Sunday.  That is how God works.  They have asked if they could share Ryan's story during this service.  I believe they took video of Ryan's funeral and will be showing parts of it.  We didn't bat an eye and said we would be honored.  Hundreds of people were impacted by Ryan's death and life at the funeral and wake.  Thousands will be impacted now through WVC's 5 services this weekend.  We couldn't be more honored and thrilled.

If you are dealing with this question, please attend one of these services.  And please, keep sharing your stories with us.  I already know of lives that were changed.  We need to keep hearing the impact God is making on people's lives through our son's life, and death.

Thank you friends.  We love you all.  Those we know and those we don't.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Ripple Effect..............

Yesterday was an incredible day.  It was filled with extreme highs and lows.  I started out strong and that was good, because much strength was required. 

It felt as though we were preparing for a wedding with all the day's details, yet my heart lurched at the idea of going to the celebration.  But I continued to put one step in front of the other, doing what was required.   

The hardest part of the day was going to the funeral home to pick up Ryan's personal items, delivering the pillow and blanket he would forever lay his head and body on, and watching the delivery of his coffin that his wonderful co-workers from Derkson Construction made.  The coffin is beautiful and was made with such love and care.  But it was hard to enjoy the beauty when I knew what it's final destination would be.  As we drove home I knew a houseful of wonderful, loving relatives would await me and my heart just felt more and more compressed.  My resolve of strength I felt in the morning was quickly fading.  I decided it was a good time for everyone to go and find their rock to bring to Ryan's graveside so that I could regroup and shore up my strength again.....for the Wake was ahead.  I am so grateful for understanding family as they quickly scurried and gave me the space my heart was requiring.

After a bit of rest we headed to the Wake at the Sports Climbing Center.  I had a sense this would be an easier event than the funeral, but I had no idea the sense of celebration and affirmation it would bring.  The place was packed.  I regret I did not get to speak to everyone.  I'm told I shouldn't feel bad about that, but it truly fills me up to hug those that loved Ryan and love our family.  There were people there from all over.  People who just had to come and celebrate Ryan's life. Yes, there were some tears...but mainly smiles and laughter as person, after person, after person shared their stories of Ryan and the impact he had on their lives.  He made impact through his smile, his daily texts, his humour, his word.... his heart.  I just kept thinking, "RIPPLE".  His life had a ripple effect as he lived his life fully.  It was a good reminder that each one of our lives have a ripple effect.  Our choices don't just impact us.  How we choose to live out our laughter, our sorrow, our anger, our joy, all ripples into the world making impact.  I was able to walk out of the climbing center last night with a peaceful heart.  My son, while not perfect, chose to use his life to impact the world with encouragement, laughter, and depth of heart.  Is there anything more a mom could have asked for?

I've sat here a bit wondering if I should share this next part.  But my mantra these past few days has been, "It is what it is and I want to be reel."  One of my son's friends has been wrestling with what caused Ryan's accident.  There have been all sorts of theories and the one we had been told is that a pin broke or slipped out, which caused his fall.  It didn't really set well with some that had climbed with him and knew his abilities.  One of his friends decided to make the accent and retrace his steps.  What he found is that the pin was intact.  His other friends examined his equipment and saw that nothing had broken or frayed...everything was as it should be.  Our only conclusion is that it was a divine moment.  It was a moment where Ryan's Saviour said, "Son, your life can now do more good with you by my side."  Some of you may real from that conclusion.  Some may wonder how that could be a loving God.  But this mom's heart finds much peace in that.  My son did not make a mistake, it wasn't an accident or an error in judgement.......God chose him to make a HUGE ripple effect in this world.  As one of Ryan's sweet friends said, "Ryan fell down, to go up".

So grieve with me only momentarily but then allow this event to have the impact that was intended.  Don't put off tomorrow what God wants to do in your heart today.

P.S.  I know there will be hard days ahead. I'm not kidding myself.  But as one mom shared with me yesterday....on those hard days I will cling to the "Whole Story" of why his absence is necessary.  I will allow the pain of the absence of life but will purpose to live in the glory of the reason for the absence.