Saturday, June 30, 2012

Practicing peace...............

Taken from our driveway on the day the fire entered the city.
I'm sitting here thinking that I should have something to say after a week like we have had.  But I'm exhausted.  My brain is a bit numb.  Colorado Springs Waldo Canyon Fire; 16,000 acres burned, 346 homes destroyed, more than 35,000 people to evacuate, 2 die and the fire still burns after 6 days.   I didn't lose a home, but I know those who have. In our church alone there were 74 families that lost their homes and 203 homes sustained some far.  512 members were displaced; all this just in one church. We have a family living with us and they didn't lose a home, but they still cannot return to their home.  They wait grateful they still have a home, but the unknown can be exhausting. How do I wrap my head around more devastation? Just 12 weeks ago I lost one of the things I held most precious, my oldest son.

With all the chaos spinning around me in the last two months there has been one thought that has continued to swarm through my mind, "....the peace that surpasses ALL understanding is just waiting for me."  How does one obtain or maintain that kind of peace amongst the storms of life?  Finding that kind of peace brings real freedom; freedom from needing to control all that spins around me.

I was reading Philippians 4:6-9 the other day and I realized why I have had this incredible peace through Ryan's death and through these crazy fires; because I have been "practicing peace".

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Freedom to receive peace in the darkness
As I put into practice filling my mind with God's truths and believing that what He promises will hold true, I receive that peace that surpasses ALL understanding.

It is a moment by moment, day by day choice I must make to practice peace. 

And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.  
John 8:32

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The core of my identity...........................

Time on my "Happy Place Patio" this a.m. before the world woke up and the day went into full gear.  Morning doves singing, trees whispering, warm breeze blowing by, and Ryan's Bible.  I haven't looked through it in a while but as I opened it this morning the pages still carried the aroma of him.  What a blessing it has been to still have his aroma lingering; the kind you can smell and the spiritual and character aroma.  Yes, I still get that grip in my stomach when I smell him and tears may form, but I never want to lose it.  

As I page through his bible and smell his aroma I also get a very clear reminder of the things that were important to him as he developed his spiritual and character aroma by looking at what he underlined throughout his bible.  It is as if he were journaling.

"The very credentials people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness.

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. 

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made.  But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.  Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've go my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward--to Jesus.  I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back."

Yes, these are actual words from Philippians 3:7-14 in The Message.  But it could be Ryan writing this.  It makes me think....does my life reflect scripture?  Could people find a passage now or when I'm gone and say, "That is what Gail was about!"  I pray so and I purpose so.  I don't want to spend the rest of my life in a place of 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Who is around the corner................

I sit here 10 weeks after my son died and my heart is light and filled with joy. How can I say that?  Dare I say that?  I dare and I will.  This can only be because of one thing; God is around the corner.

Tonight as I sat amongst 24 people in my living room hearing their voices raised in loud songs of praise and hearing their stories of how God is moving in their lives....I wept with tears of joy, not sadness.  Some of Ryan's friends started a "Closer" group and we have been meeting  in our home for 3 weeks.  Every Thursday my living room is filled with his friends, some new friends and some of Tom and my friends.  We are drawn together by two common denominators; Ryan's death and God's love.  What God is doing is nothing other than miraculous. 

Tonight we had a time of sharing stories of times when we felt God's touch.  The stories were amazing.  I was reminded of the time when I think God first breathed into me, "I am here for you.  I will always be here for you."  When I was 21 I was headed to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.  Two weeks before school started I got a call from a singing group I had auditioned for 6 months earlier.  I thought they had forgotten about me.  They had lost my contact info. Despite my college plans I decided to abandon school and tour with this traveling singing group, New Dawn Singers, for a year.  I had to fly into Atlantic City and meet these people I only met once.  When I walked into the small terminal, there was no one there to meet me.  I was alone, in a strange city and had no clue what to do.  I had been sitting there for about half an hour and I decided to remain calm and write in my journal.  As I was journaling my fears I had this sudden wash of peace come over me and I heard the Lord say, "But I am here with you daughter, I'll always be with you."  Peace set in.  At that very moment a guy rushed into the airport and yelled, "Is there a Gail Maher here?" I waved my hand and took off with this band of strangers in a green carpeted van.  But the Lord was with me and has been ever since.  

Tonight as we were sitting in the living room I felt that gentle voice again say, "I'm still with you. Situations change, people change in your life......but I will provide new people and new circumstances and I will be in those people and circumstances...look for me.  Even in the pain, I am there."  I have been seeing Him through this entire journey of grief.  He is in my friends who have been by my side as needed.  He is in my new friends that have come into my life and brought a new sense of joy and friendship.  He is in my workmates who are patient with me as I get my focus back and who love me and make me laugh.  He is in my husband who gently loves and supports me on the good and bad days.  He is in my children who.  He is in Ryan's friends and other young people who give me hugs, make me smile and share their lives with us.  He is in my parents and siblings and other family members who love so deeply.  I could go on and on.....He is everywhere.   Because God is always around the corner, I can sit here 10 weeks after Ryan's death and have a light heart and joy in my spirit.

I can have a light heart and joyful spirit and still miss my son and weep at missing him.  I am realizing that these things that seem to contradict each other, can co-exist.  They can co-exist because God is always around the corner.  He meets me every time.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Take every thought captive..........

Can't sleep tonight for some reason.  It is a hot night and I suppose that and the busyness of the week and weekend didn't allow me to sit and think too much so once I'm mind won't stop processing. The words that won't let me sleep tonight are "take every thought captive".  How I live out this phrase on a daily basis has brought me strength or weakness, happiness or sadness, progress or setbacks.  Since Ryan died I have realized how important this phrase has been to my healing.

My very sweet niece is living with us this summer and she and I have had some wonderfully thought provoking conversations.  Through her questions I realize that how I have chosen to think about a situation has determined the outcome. One area has been how Ryan actually died.  There is still some mystery to what really happened and what caused his rope to dislodge.  But I have chosen to grab those thoughts that might keep me stuck in his death and on my island of emotion and focus rather on how his death has impacted lives and what his life with Jesus might look like.  My knowing what exactly happened isn't going to make him come back, it will just keep me focused on what I couldn't control.  I can't impact the past but I can make a difference in the future

Another area where I have had to take my thoughts captive has been allowing sadness to creep in over what might have been; Ryan's wedding, his children, all the things a mom looks forward to with her children.  But  again, I cannot control what might have been but I can impact what is.  I have other children that are and will bring much.  This is where my mind must focus.  And, I love that we have stayed connected with Ryan's friends, loving on them and encouraging them; watching them move forward in life towards all the things Ryan would have been moving toward.  This doesn't make me sad or wanting, it fills me with joy to see them loving Jesus, processing life and wanting God's best. So I focus on, what is.

And then there is the big one that many get stuck on....WHY?  But I choose to take that thought captive and focus again, on what is and what will be.  I trust my Heavenly Father for the past, present and future.  I'm just so grateful he entrusted me with Ryan's life in the past and with his death in the future.

This idea about "taking every thought captive" comes from:

2 Corinthians 10:3-6.  I love The Message translation.   

 3-6The world is unprincipled. It's dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn't fight fair. But we don't live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren't for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

I love the idea of having an arsenal of tools for clearing the ground of obstructions and building a life of obedience and maturity.  I am in a daily battle and how I respond with my thoughts impacts my healing.  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Abide my beloved daughter.........

Daughter, beloved, abide.........These three words  have been swirling around in my head since my last blog.  I say swirl because I haven't had much time to process them as life doesn't wait for continues to move and we must move with it.  But today is the day I will let them sink in.  I knew I was going to need some time to really process these words because of the impact they were going to have on my life.

These three words; daughter, beloved, abide, were brought into my life in the last couple weeks through three different means.  Daughter was whispered into my ear by one of our pastors at Woodmen Valley Chapel.  I was asking prayer for the ability to "Do Ryan's death well" and he simply said, "I'm going to pray that you will simply allow yourself to just be His daughter."   Man, was I washed in peace; it sounded like so much less work, and I was tired. Focus on being loved vs "doing" sounded great!  As my own children rely on me for unconditional love, boundaries, acceptance, I can rely on my Savior and know that He is without my shortcomings as a parent; He is without flaws.  As I love my children with an intense love, Christ loves me even more with His perfect love. So as His daughter I can rest in Him with complete confidence.


"I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)


"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."  (John 3:16)

I have some idea of what it means to sacrifice your son for others. I don't compare Ryan to Jesus in any way, but I do know what it feels like to lose your son for a greater purpose.  I have an inkling of the depth of love that this would take.  Jesus' death was much more painful, long and excruciating and I CANNOT imagine the pain that came from watching this take place.  But God did this for me.  He did this so I can have eternal life.  He did this for Ryan who is now experiencing that eternal life in full color.  He did this for everyone. 

The second word; beloved (be-loved), came to me in a devotion at work.  My co-worker was sharing what he was learning about truly being Christ's beloved. As I heard that word, peace just washed over me.  I looked up what the word "beloved" means.  In Greek beloved is "agapetos" which means "loved with agape" - love that is deep, active, self-sacrificing and absolutely unconditionalit doesn't have to be earned.   I may never fully comprehend the love of God, but for today I can be encouraged that I have been called beloved” and will continue to move toward understanding and receiving more of His kind of love for in learning to receive this love I believe it will allow me to trust God even when everything falls apart.  I want my core identity to be as God's beloved.


"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is"(I John 3:1)

"And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."  Colossians 3:12

The third word, abide, came to me in a devotion I read and again, it resonated so deeply with me. When I think of "abiding in Christ" I picture an intimate, close relationship and not just a superficial acquaintance. It requires KNOWING God so that I can know what it means to be LIKE Him and to think like Him.  He will not make me think like Him.  It is an action on my part. I have to determine to "...bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5)  I have to choose to abide. It doesn't matter what my circumstances are, I can still abide in him if I choose to.  It takes practice to abide but practice makes perfect!


"Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children."(Ephesians 5:5)

"I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

I'm sensing a theme here...Abide, my beloved daughter.

So instead of making it my job to "Do Ryan's death well" I am going to attempt to make it my practice to abide as His beloved daughter and let Him do the work.

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Happy Place.........

It's Friday night and the kids are off doing their thing with their wonderful friends. I'm sitting in my "Happy Place", listening to the hum of lawn mowers, the whisper of the wind, typing my thoughts on Ryan's computer and listening to Ryan's Pandora music; not bad music son, not bad music.   My heart is happy.  How can that be after just eight weeks since my son went to be with Jesus? I think I'm feeling  this inner joy because I know Ryan is feeling this kind of joy 24/7.  He is in his "Happy Place" for eternity; what a blessed boy.

I get so much joy and peace out on my patio.  I told Libby I'm sure that the joy I will find in Heaven will include sitting on a porch swing in Heaven, chatting with Jesus.  I'll be asking Him all the hard questions I've pondered.  Of course, the first one will be, "Was there really no better way to draw others to you than bringing my son to live with you?"  I'm guessing His answer will be, "No, my daughter.  Thank you for loving him so well so that he could love others and serve me so well."  Wow!  That sentence choked me up.  I think that really WAS from the Lord. Even though I now sit here with tears brimming on the edge of my eyes I still feel God's peace.  I have this overwhelming sense that as I sit in my "Happy Place" my son is forever in his and why would I want anything else for him?  I want to be there too!  

But Ryan was in his "Happy Place" while he lived here on earth too.  His life was a "Happy Place".  That is why so many people were drawn to him. He found his joy in loving his Jesus and shinning that love on others.  That didn't mean his life was perfect; it was filled with imperfections and he would be appalled if we didn't remember that he was a flawed human in need of a Savior.  His happiness came from loving his Lord deeply and "...pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God had called him heavenward in Christ Jesus." Phil 3:14.  I know this is where I am finding my "Happy Place" even while walking in grief.  It isn't in the perfection around me for the there is none.  It isn't in things being "just right" in my world because things are not "just right" and never will be.  My "Happy Place" comes when I press toward my Savior and don't have to have all the answers but walk in forgiveness, grace, faith and trust.  This is the only way I can be in a "Happy Place" amongst the journey of grief.   Once again, I am choosing a life of joy rather than a life filled with anger and bitterness.

Last night Ryan's friend, Isaiah, held a gathering at our home.  The purpose was to draw closer to one another as we grieve our friend, brother, son, as well as, fill our home with love and joy this summer.  He is such a very precious friend and we are so grateful for him.  Again, God met our need before we knew we needed it.  We will be having this every Thursday during the summer.  I believe after a few meetings it will not be about our loss, but rather our gain in building relationships with one another and with our Savior.  All ages are welcome.  Last night Isaiah asked, "If God would allow us one more moment with Ryan, what do you think Ryan would want to tell us?"; what a great question.  All I could think is that he would give us all a different message because this journey we are on is such an individual journey.  For me I think he would whisper in my ear as he gave me a big hug, "You are loving Jesus well mom.  But don't forget to allow Him to just love on you!  When you do that, I'm loving on you too!"   Sheesh, more tears brimming....I think that was from the Lord too.

So my readers, I ask you.....If Ryan, whom you knew or didn't know personally, came down for one more brief moment....what would he whisper in your ear?  What do you believe God wants for you so that you too can live in your "Happy Place"?  Because I know, that is what that whisper would be about.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What I know about the journey of grief...............

I really knew nothing of grief prior to April 7, 2012.  Yes, I had grandparents die and yes, that was sad.  But it seemed the natural order of things and they had lived their lives fully and were more than willing to be in the presence of the Lord.  I also didn't have the privilege of living close to them throughout the last 25 years so the absence did not seem so life shattering.  On April 7, 2012 I was catapulted into grief with no warning.  I lost my child that was formed from me, my first born, my son that should have outlived me according to the order of life. I have received a crash course on grief.  It has been a little over two months and it seems like a lifetime; at the same time it feels like just yesterday he was standing in my dining room.  I've been pondering what I've learned about grief in this time frame:

  • Grief sucks; it's stupid.  I'm allowed to say those words.
  • Grief is personal; no two people grieve the same.  Recognizing this can preserve AND strengthen relationships.
  • Grief is a journey; it takes time.  However, our choices often determine how long we stay in a particular stage.  We can allow the "spirit of grief" to attach to us and pull us down, or pass through us with the passing of time.
  • Grief is exhausting.  Don't expect the level of accomplishment prior to grief.
  • Grief surrounds you in a cloud of mystery and confusion.  Friends and family need to step in and just "do".  Even after two months I'm not prepared to say, "This is what I need".  This annoys me.  Tom and I realized recently that there are friends that we haven't seen much or since the funeral.  We know this isn't because they don't care, but rather they are waiting for us to let them know when we need something.  We are just not there yet.  We still don't know what we need....except our son.  However, I am starting to see other people's needs and that feels good.  I think this is a good sign.
  • Grief brings emotions you never knew you had.  I honestly believe I've cried more in the last two months than I have my entire life.  Again, I do not enjoy this part.  But the release of tears is healthy as it keeps things from being bottled up and I do feel a sense of relief afterward.  I'm just wondering how many more tears could possibly be in my bottle.
  • Grief is not an excuse for bad behaviors, but one should understand why behaviors might be different than before.  There are pools of emotions that live at the surface and it is hard to always manage them well when you live in a state of confusion and exhaustion.
  • Grief is a balance of pressing forward and resting in Him.
    •  Philippians 3:13, thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead
    • Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me all who labor and are heavy laden AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For I’m gently and lowly in heart, AND YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light"
This is the list of things I know about grief so far.  Acknowledging these things has helped me process what I've experienced in the last two months. 

A wonderful friend of mine sent me a quote that really resonated with me, "God doesn't protect us from that which He can perfect us with".  I wasn't protected from this event and to make make it worth the pain I will allow Him to work on perfecting me through this journey. What a waste to become weaker instead of stronger.  And that's my choice.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Heaven is a place..................

The other day when Tom and I were on our hike at Glen Eyrie we had our first moment of having to answer the question, "How many kids do you have?" We were chatting with some girls and it was an innocent question, but stopped us in our tracks.  I said, "Three!"  Tom quickly corrected me and said, "No, we have two."  I turned to him with tears forming and said, "No, we have one living in Heaven, one  just graduated from high school and one going to be a sophomore."  This is a conversation I had had in my head and with another mom whose child was living in Heaven now....but had not had with Tom yet. Once the girls left we finished that conversation and agreed that it is a natural response to say we have two living children, but we still have three children.

I have always been confident that when I die I would complete my life in Heaven.  I know this because at eight I "...confessed with my mouth that Jesus was my Lord and ever since have believed in my heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and I was saved"  Romans 2:8-9   Because "God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" John 3:16.  This has been the bedrock of my faith and yet, I have never really given Heaven a lot of thought. It was just the beautiful place I knew I would end up based on what scripture says and the outcome of my choices.  If I'm honest, I think I took Heaven for granted. I'm sorry, Lord. Now, my mind is heavenward often.  Why did it did it take the death of Ryan to get me to really think about Heaven?  I guess this is part of "making it worth the pain."  Now I'm very conscious of the fact that Heaven is a place and Ryan is living in that place.

John 14:1-4  "Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust also in me.  In my Father's house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going."

There are a ton of scriptures that talk about the "place" called Heaven and I plan on spending some time this summer understanding them more.  So if Heaven is a place, then I can confidently say that my son is now living in that place.  He is there because he too confessed with his mouth and believed in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and was saved.  Oh how thankful I am that we gave Ryan these things to treasure in his heart and that he received them.  Because of this we can now know we will see him again someday.  Our story with Ryan isn't over....just paused until we meet up in his current place or residence, Heaven.

I'll meet you there!