Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wacky Wednesday -- A Basketball Christmas Carol

Remember a few posts back when I said this was the "most wonderful time of the year" ... in reference to basketball season?  Well, here's a perfect combination of basketball and Christmas.  Enjoy!  :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- "Giving Tuesday"

So, we've survived Black Friday (no, I didn't take part in the madness!), Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.  I thought we were done with all these post-Thanksgiving "holidays".  But I've been hearing all day on K-LOVE Radio and Facebook and Twitter that today is "Giving Tuesday."  Who invents these things?

Well, I don't know who came up with the Giving Tuesday idea, but I kind of like it.  It's the perfect opportunity to tell you how you can help support the ministry of While We're Waiting.

If you're new to the blog, you're probably not familiar with While We're Waiting.  WWW is a nonprofit ministry to bereaved parents, co-founded by my husband and me and our good friends, Larry and Janice Brown.  My husband and I lost our 17-year-old daughter, Hannah, to cancer in February of 2009, and the Browns lost their 34-year-old son, Adam, in action in Afghanistan in March of 2010.

Early on in our grief journey, we found that nothing was more helpful to us in the healing process than spending time with other Christian couples who had lost children.  One Sunday after church, we had lunch with the Browns, and we discovered that we had a similar desire to help bring families who had lost children together.  Three hours later, we left that booth in Cotija's Mexican Restaurant with a God-given dream of a ministry in which we would host retreats for bereaved parents.  By the time we left the restaurant that day, we already had a location planned, dates picked out, and a name for this fledgling ministry.

Since that day in late 2010, we've had four weekend-long retreats for parents, two weekend-long retreats just for Dads, and six one-day mini-retreats for Moms.  At these retreats, we share our children's stories, lift each other up in prayer, and encourage each other as we seek to live well while we're waiting to be reunited with our kids in Heaven one day.  We have seen broken hearts begin to mend and a number of lives changed forever.  And this is not due to anything we've done.  God's presence has been so evident at each one of these events, and His hand is clearly on this ministry.  He even helped us achieve nonprofit 501(c)(3) status earlier this year, without the assistance of an accountant or an attorney.  Believe me, that is nothing short of a miracle!

When we first started our retreats, we charged the attendees a minimal fee.  We quickly abandoned that idea, and we now offer our events at no charge.  We couldn't stand the thought of a lack of finances keeping anyone from coming to a retreat.  A voluntary love offering is collected at each one, and thanks to the generosity of our attendees, we've always pretty much broken even.

The ministry of While We're Waiting is expanding in our outreach to bereaved parents.  We've started a  private Facebook page where Christian parents who have lost children can support each other, encourage each other, and pray for each other.  (If you are a bereaved parent, search for it at "While We're Waiting--Support for Bereaved Parents" and request to join.)  We have begun sending "condolence packages" to newly bereaved parents which include items that we found helpful to us as we started our grief journey.  (If you know someone we could send one to, click here to send me an email.)  We also have a dream of starting "While We're Waiting" monthly support groups around Arkansas, and someday around the country.  Do you realize that there is nothing like that (that we are aware of) specifically designed for Christian parents who have lost children?  There are secular groups, like Compassionate Friends and Bereaved Parents USA ... but nothing faith-based.  I could go on and on ... I am so passionate about what God is doing with this ministry!

I've never been any good at fundraising.  When my kids used to have to do fundraisers for school, we'd hit up the grandparents, and then I'd buy whatever else they had to sell myself.  I couldn't stand to ask people to spend their hard-earned money for wrapping paper, or popcorn, or whatever other little trinkets they were selling.  I'm still pretty uncomfortable with the whole fundraising idea.  But funds will be needed as the ministry grows.

Do not donate to While We're Waiting if it would cause you to give less to your local church, which is where I feel our first responsibility lies in our giving.  And we wouldn't want you to give less to any other ministry or missionary that you may already be supporting.  But if God has blessed you, and you have an abundance this year and would like to donate some of it to a worthy cause, we'd be grateful if you'd consider WWW.

So, if you'd like to participate in "Giving Tuesday" -- although I realize that by the time most of you read this, it will actually be Wednesday -- please consider making a tax-deductible donation to While We're Waiting.  You can do so by going to the While We're Waiting website and clicking on the "To Donate" tab.  You can be assured that we will be good stewards, and that every penny you give will go directly to the ministry.  Thank you so much!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Mourning -- Miss Havisham

If you're a regular reader of the blog, you know I've been reading through the classics on my treadmill in the mornings.  I have really enjoyed discovering these books.  You know, if I had been assigned to read these books in high school or college, I think I would have hated them.  But now, as an adult, I'm loving them.  The quality of the writing, the depth of the plots, and the richness of the character development completely eclipses anything being written today ... in my humble opinion, of course.

My most recent read was "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens. Yet another amazing work of literature.  I was particularly intrigued by one character ... Miss Havisham.  Miss Havisham lives in a decrepit old mansion, and requests that a young boy, Pip, be brought in to entertain her.  Pip is escorted into the mansion by a beautiful young lady named Estella, and trails behind her through several gloomy passages and up a dark staircase, with only a single candle to light the way.  Estella leaves him alone at the door of a room, which he nervously enters.  It was a dressing room, well lit by wax candles, but without a hint of daylight in it.  Sitting at the dressing table is Miss Havisham, and here is how Pip describes her...

"She was dressed in rich materials -- satins, and lace, and silks -- all of white.  Her shoes were white.  And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white.  Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table.  Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks, were scattered about.  She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on -- the other was on the table near her hand -- her veil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a Prayer-Book all confusedly heaped about the looking-glass.

It was not in the first few moments that I saw all these things, though I saw more of them in the first moments than might be supposed.  But I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre and was faded and yellow.  I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes.  I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose had shrunk to skin and bone.  Once, I had been taken to see some ghastly waxwork at the Fair, representing I know not what impossible personage lying in state.  Once, I had been taken to one of our old marsh churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress that had been dug out of a vault under the church pavement.  Now, waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me.  I should have cried out, if I could."

Have you got the picture in your mind?  As Pip looks around a little more, he notices that Miss Havisham's watch has stopped at twenty minutes to nine, and that a clock in the room has stopped at twenty minutes to nine, as has every other clock in the house.  He observes that the shoe on the dressing table, though yellowed, had never been worn, and that Miss Havisham's silk stocking on that foot had been trodden ragged.  On a subsequent visit, he enters an adjoining room and discovers a long table with an object upon it so covered with mold and cobwebs, it was unidentifiable.  It was crawling with spiders and black beetles ... and Miss Havisham explained to Pip that it was her wedding cake.

You can probably guess what happened.  Miss Havisham had been jilted on her wedding day, at precisely twenty minutes 'til nine ... and she had never moved forward from that moment.  Her life basically ended right there.  She was alive, but she wasn't living.

I guess Miss Havisham's character intrigued me because I could so totally relate to her.  I "get" her.  I remember when Hannah left for Heaven, it felt like time had completely stopped.  As if every clock in the world had stopped at 2:31 p.m., never to be re-started.  As we made the drive home from Little Rock on that day, it was so surreal to see all the other people just driving along the interstate, going about their everyday activities, as if nothing had happened.  Didn't they know that life as I knew it had just ended?

I can't tell you how tempting it was to just sit at my dressing table wearing my wedding dress in the weeks and months after Hannah's death.  I'm not a naturally social person anyway, and it was hard, so hard, to step back out into the world again.  It's still not always easy.  Good thing my husband is such an extrovert and tends to drag me along with him most of the time, or I might still be sitting there with one shoe on and one shoe off.

As the story goes along in "Great Expectations", we find that Miss Havisham is a bitter, angry, pathetic character, who has spent her miserable life manipulating people to do her bidding.  Her life is a complete and utter waste.

And that's exactly why we can't just stop the clocks when a devastating loss happens in our lives.  How would that be honoring to our Lord, or even to the loved one whom we've lost?  Do we really want our suffering (and our child's suffering) just go to waste?  Or do we want to grow from it, learn from it, and become a better person because of it?  We have to decide what we're going to do while we're waiting ... sit at the dressing table and gradually turn yellow from lack of use ... or put on that other shoe and get busy for the kingdom of God?

Can we do that on our own?  No, it's only through the grace of God and by His strength that we can brush away the cobwebs, sweep the moldy cake crumbs off the table, and step back out into the sunshine.  The Bridegroom is there and He's patiently waiting ... We just have to be willing to reach up and take His hand.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday -- Thinking about Thanksgiving

My heart has been heavy this week as I've thought of all my new "While We're Waiting" friends who are facing their first holiday without a precious child.  I wish so badly there was something I could do or say that would somehow make it easier, or that there was a way I could make it all just go away.  Unfortunately, there's really not anything that anyone can do or say to make it all better or to somehow turn back the clock to happier times.  The only way to get through these days is to just face them head on, knowing that God is still there, He is still faithful, and His promises are still true.

Last night, I looked back at the blog post I wrote as we were approaching our first Thanksgiving without Hannah.  I remember that I was absolutely dreading the day, and to be honest, it really was tough.  But we got through it, by the grace of God, and each Thanksgiving since then has gotten better.

The post I wrote that first Thanksgiving contained a story I had received by email.  That simple story encouraged me then, and it still encourages me now.  I share that post with you today in hopes that it may encourage you as well.

Though it is sometimes very, very hard ... let's try to be thankful for the thorns.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wacky Wednesday -- The Kids' Table

I ran across this on Facebook this week, and just had to pass it along.  I have to admit, sometimes I miss sitting at the kids' table!  :)

Let us all be thankful for our blessings tomorrow ... at whichever table you find yourself sitting!  (Click on the picture to enlarge it.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Free-For-All Friday -- Back to Basketball!

It's the most wonderful time of the year ...

No ... not Thanksgiving ... or Christmas.  It's basketball season!  :)

OK, so that's a little tongue-in-cheek.  Basketball season is not really the most wonderful time of the year ... but it is pretty awesome.  Especially since Bethany is a senior this year, and I absolutely love to watch her play.  Her team made it to the Elite Eight in last year's state tournament, and I foresee another trip to state this year.  They have four returning starters, all seniors, a crackerjack junior starter, and a talented bench.

During basketball season, life in the Sullivan household gets a little crazy.  But it's a good kind of crazy.  We're busy, busy, busy ... running from one gym to another sometimes two or three nights a week ... and generally spending the entire evening there once we arrive.  But we have the best conversations on the way home ... about the referees, the other team's post player, the people in the crowd, and how many times Bethany got fouled.  And Bethany gets fouled a lot, at six feet tall and playing under the basket.  Last night, she was 8 for 8 on free throws, and finished the night with sixteen points.  Oh, sorry ... was that shameless parental bragging?  Of course, that was purely unintentional.  Please forgive me.  ;)

The other nice thing about the busy-ness of basketball season is how much it makes me appreciate a quiet evening at home.  Like tonight ... just me and Lacee (our Westie), a warm blanket on the couch, and "You've Got Mail" on TV.  Seriously ... Is there any better movie to watch on an evening at home alone?  Never mind that I can nearly quote it word for word ... I never get tired of it.  "Bouquets of sharpened pencils" ... ahhhhh.

I wonder sometimes what life will be like when Bethany is gone to college next year.  What will we do with ourselves when it's just the two of us?  I have a feeling my love for basketball will wane when my girl is no longer out on the floor in her bright orange high-tops.  We keep teasing Bethany that we're going to get an apartment in Fayetteville so we can come up and spend every weekend with her.  She always laughs kind of nervously whenever I say that, like she's half afraid we're actually going to do it!

Guess that's enough for tonight ... Joe's about to go to the Shop Around the Corner and meet Kathleen for the first time, and I think I'll go check the classifieds for apartments in Fayetteville ...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ten on the Tenth -- Surviving the Holidays After the Loss of a Child

Yes ... It's the 11th, I know ... Believe it or not, I actually started this post on the 9th, and I just now finished it!

At our While We're Waiting retreat last weekend, there were five couples who had yet to experience a holiday season without one of their precious children (or their only child), so, as you can imagine, this was a major topic of discussion.  My heart broke for these folks, knowing what they are facing in the months ahead.

I remember how I felt in September of 2009.  I did not want to live through the next three months, which included Hannah's 18th birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  I don't mean that I wanted to die (at least, not most of the time) ... I just didn't want to "live" those months.  Somehow, I just wanted to jump straight from September to January.  I just could not see how I was going to make it through those days.

Why are the holidays so incredibly hard for a family who's lost a child?  Several reasons ... Family gatherings magnify the absence of the child, holiday traditions that once brought joy are now fraught with pain and loss, tensions may arise among extended family members as everyone's emotions are raw, and Christmas shopping with one less person on the list is unspeakably painful.  There is a certain expectation of how we are supposed to feel and behave during the holiday season, and when you've lost a child, it can be difficult (if not impossible) to muster up the emotional stamina to play that role.  I can remember feeling like if one more person told me to have a "Happy Thanksgiving" or "Merry Christmas", I was gonna pop 'em in the nose.  Hey, I'm just keeping it real.

So, tonight I'm going to share a few things that we've found have worked for us over the last four years of celebrating the holidays without our girl.  Not that we've got it all figured out, or that we are able to breeze through the holidays now without difficulty.  And just because these things have worked for us, doesn't necessarily mean they'll work for other families.  Most of these things we've figured out through trial and error over the past few years; unfortunately, it seems that each family must go through that process for itself.  But, just maybe something I list here could help someone else with the process.

So, without further ado, here's this month's Ten on the Tenth ... Surviving the Holidays After the Loss of a Child.

1.  This is the one time in the life of your family that it's okay to be "selfish."  Please don't misunderstand me on this ... what I mean is, at this very vulnerable time, it is important to put the needs of your family first.  Extended family can pull you in many different directions, and that may be okay ... you may get a lot of comfort from spending time with extended family.  But you may also need to spend time focusing on just your immediate family, without the hustle and bustle of a large family gathering.  Maybe some of both is what you need.  The important thing is to figure out what will be best for your family, and do it.  Extended family members may or may not understand your needs ... but it's most important to put the needs of your immediately family first.

2.  Communicate!  Husbands and wives and surviving siblings need to talk to each other about what they want to do about the holidays.  We didn't do that on our first Thanksgiving without Hannah ... we just kind of went with the extended family flow without even discussing how we felt about it ... and it was a horrible day.  So before Christmas came around, the three of us spent a lot of time talking about how we were going to handle that day.  We came up with a plan ... and it went much better.

3.  For us, it worked well to follow Bethany's lead that first Christmas.  If it had just been Brad and I, we probably wouldn't have celebrated Christmas at all.  I know we would not have put up a Christmas tree, nor would we have done any decorating.  But we didn't want to take Christmas away from Bethany, so we let her tell us what she wanted to do, and we pretty much did that.  She wanted to keep some things the same, and she wanted to do some things differently.  For example, we had always had an artificial tree, and that year, she decided she wanted us to have a real tree.  And, you know, that helped.  Instead of the drudgery of digging out the box, bending all the branches into shape, and putting that old tree together, the three of us went out, picked out a real tree, brought it home, and put it up.  We also went out and bought a bunch of new ornaments, letting her pick most of them out.  We mixed those in with our older, more sentimental ornaments as we decorated the tree.  It made her happy, which in turn made it more bearable for us.

4.  Realize that extended family members probably do not understand what you're going through.  They want to understand, they're sincerely trying to understand, and they would do anything to make things better for you.  But they can't.  They don't live everyday with that empty bedroom and the empty chair at the supper table.  Their lives have gone on with relatively little change in day-to-day life.  But they love you and they are hurting too.  We can make the holidays easier by lowering our expectations of them, and by extending them grace when they say or do the wrong things.  Because, most likely, they will ... but they can't help it.

5.  Keep the holidays separate.  In our culture today, it seems that we basically celebrate "Hallowsgivingmas" ... running Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all together into one big three-month long observance.  You've seen the Christmas trees up in Walmart before Halloween is over ... We all have!  Ugh!  I've always hated that, but I really started hating it that first holiday season after Hannah went to Heaven.  I could only handle one holiday at a time emotionally.  It took every ounce of my emotional stamina to make it through Thanksgiving ... no way could I even think about Christmas at that point.  I needed time to recover and build my strength back up before I could prepare for Christmas.  I used to like to set the Christmas tree up on Thanksgiving afternoon or at least that weekend.  Not anymore.  I want a very clear division between my holidays, and I know that is a result of that first year without Hannah.

6.  Do something to include your child in your holiday celebration.  That first year, we asked our extended family members on the Sullivan side to write down in a card something they had done that year in Hannah's memory (such as making a donation to a charity, or sharing her story with someone who needed encouragement).  After all the presents had been opened and the Christmas chaos had settled down a bit, that stack of cards was pulled out from under the tree, opened one-by-one, and read aloud by Bethany.  It was a way of including Hannah in our celebration ... almost as if we were giving her presents.  Now, we have two Christmas trees at home, one decorated with our usual ornaments, and one covered with "JOY" ornaments, in memory of Hannah "Our Joy."  All year long, I delight in finding "JOY" items to add to it.  Knowing that we've got that tree to decorate gives me a reason to actually look forward to digging out the Christmas stuff once again.

7.  One of the hardest things about Christmas is having one less person to buy gifts for.  It can be so incredibly painful to walk into the stores and walk past all those things that would make such perfect gifts for your son or daughter who is no longer here.  Well, how about this idea?  Go ahead and buy some of those gifts, then donate them to your church nursery or to an Angel Tree child.  Hang up your child's Christmas stocking and fill it up with small gifts, then put those gifts in an Operation Christmas Child box and have it sent to a child on the other side of the world.  Doing something like this may help ease some of the pain related to the shopping aspect of Christmas.

8.  You can't run away from the pain.  Some families choose to get away for the holidays ... maybe going on a trip to a tropical destination or a heading to the mountains.  And sometimes doing something completely different like that can indeed help.  But just keep in mind that the pain will follow.  We can hide from it, we can run from it, we can pretend to ignore it ... but eventually, we must go through it.  Sometimes facing it head on is the best thing to do.

9.  Be patient with yourself.  You have suffered a terrible, devastating loss, and you are not only affected emotionally by it, you are affected physically, as well.  This is one holiday season when you don't need to feel like you have to "do it all."  I think we women are especially vulnerable to this ... we feel that we have to please everyone ... we have to cook, clean, shop, decorate, wrap, send cards, sing in the Christmas cantata, and keep a smile on our face while we do it all.  Don't do that to yourself.  Simplify.  If you don't have the energy to haul out all those boxes of decorations ... don't.  If you can't muster up the strength to fight the crowds at the grocery store and cook a big dinner ... call a caterer or a local restaurant and have them prepare the holiday meal for you.  Or let someone else in the family take care of all the cooking this year.  If you don't have the stamina to go to all those holiday parties and events ... don't feel like you have to.  Take the time you need for yourself and your family.  And be sure to get adequate rest ... I discovered early on that my grief was much harder to handle when I was fatigued.  And then I was really no good to anybody, especially my family.

10.  Take time to focus on what these holidays are really all about.  Thanksgiving was really tough for me that first year.  I'm so glad that for once, we didn't go around the table and all have to say what we were thankful for.  I'm really not sure I could have come up with anything that first year.  In fact, I probably would've left the table.  Again, I'm just keeping it real.  But, now that I can think more clearly, I can see that, even though my oldest daughter is not here with me, there is still so much to be thankful for ... the years we had with her, the fact that she is eternally healed in Heaven, and the knowledge that I will get to spend eternity with her.  And that's in addition to the day-to-day blessings I receive from my Heavenly Father.  And Christmas!  Christmas is everything!  I mean, where would we be if God had not sent His own Son, knowing full well that He was going to die a horrible, painful death on the cross?  Christmas is the source of all joy ... and the whole reason why we will be reunited with our children again if both we and they have accepted the gift of Jesus Christ.  Remembering that is how we survive Christmas!

I'll leave you with one final word of encouragement.  It gets better.  This will be our fourth holiday season since Hannah went to be with Jesus, and each one has gotten easier.  And I've come to believe that if you consciously apply yourself to seeking out the joy in the season (though it may seem so hard to find at times), God will honor that effort by bringing healing to your life.  These are His holidays, after all, and we honor Him by honoring them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tell About It Tuesday -- While We're Waiting Weekend for Bereaved Parents

Ephesians 3:20-21 says, "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen."

I posted that Scripture after our very first While We're Waiting Weekend for Bereaved Parents, and I just had to post it again after our fourth one, because nothing could more adequately capture my feelings about this event.

We had our largest group ever, and what an amazing group of Moms and Dads it was.  Every group has its own personality, and this one was no different.  These were some of the bravest folks I've ever met.  Five of our couples/singles had lost their children within the last ten months ... and one of these was only seven weeks out.  One single Mom came without knowing a single soul.  One couple flew across the country to be a part of the weekend.  See what I mean?  These people were brave.

I'm not going to share the stories of their children.  The stories shared at While We're Waiting Weekends are sacred.  But these stories were told through tears and even occasional smiles, as parent after parent introduced us to their child, and then shared how they came to be with Jesus.  Among a group of parents who could uniquely understand, they shared their struggles and their victories upon the road of grief.  They were encouraged, prayed for, and loved on.

Our conversations were rich and meaningful.  There was no small talk.  Who has time for small talk when there are issues of eternal significance to discuss?  A few comments really stood out to me, and I wrote them down...
  • "I've been a believer more than half my life, but now I'm an experiencer."
  • "I thought that it wasn't normal to experience peace after my loss ... but then I realized that the peace of God isn't normal."
  • "The final piece has been put into the puzzle -- My son's puzzle is complete."
  • "As long as the sun is on my face and I can feel the wind, I know God is with me."
  • And from a dad who accepted Christ after the death of his daughter -- "What's sixty years here on earth without her compared to an eternity in Heaven with my daughter?"
My favorite quote of the weekend may have come from Donna May (aka "Mama May").  She said, "God says, 'I want you to be strong, but you don't have to be stronger than Me.'"  I needed to hear that one.

As always, the weekend is best illustrated through pictures, so here you go.  

Family Farm is a beautiful place any time of year, but I think it's particularly gorgeous in the fall.  So inviting ... 

Each parent brings a photograph of their child to share.  Look at these beautiful kids ...

Things kicked off Friday evening with dinner.  Some sweet ladies from Mountainside Methodist in Hot Springs Village came and decorated our tables and served us a delicious dinner.

 After some sharing time on Friday evening and a rousing Pickleball match, we all headed to bed.  We were up bright and early the next morning for a delicious breakfast buffet, and some more sharing time.  Then it was time to head out to the barnyard to feed the animals.

Throughout the day, we took breaks from our sharing sessions by doing outdoor activities.  A few brave folks rode the country-style carousel ...

Nearly everybody tried out Slide Mountain ...

We even had one of our sessions outside, at Salvation Station ...

Saturday evening we had a special treat, when Chef Franklin Dye prepared a five-course gourmet meal for our enjoyment.  

The sweet ladies from Mountainside Methodist came back to wait on us and make us feel pampered...

If you've followed my blog for my while, you know I always have to post pictures of our dinner for all the "foodies" out there.  And the descriptions were provided by Chef Franklin ... no way could I come up with all of that on my own!

The appetizer was slices of potatoes with cubed potatoes, pepper jack cheese, bacon bits, sour cream and topped with pork rinds...

The salad was a bed of Romaine lettuce topped with tortilla chips, mesquite grilled shrimp, chorizo sausage, tomatoes, and finished with jalapeno ranch dressing...

The intermezzo is always my favorite part of the meal.  Well, that, and the dessert, of course.  This time it was tasty lemon sorbet on a lemon slice.

Our entree was red roasted potatoes with honey and mustard glazed pork loin, spaghetti vegetables of turnips, diakon, and carrots, with a balsamic glaze...

And our yummy dessert was cornmeal pie drizzled with caramel.  It tasted like pecan pie without the pecans, which is exactly how I like my pecan pie.  :)

With their permission, I'd like to share some comments from a few of the parents who attended:

"I was reluctant to attend because I didn't really know what to expect.  I'm very grateful that I did come.  I've gained so much knowledge and hope from this weekend.  I'm glad that I was able to come.  I am leaving with so much hope.  I know it will be difficult, but I have tools that will help me."

"Amazing weekend.  We were scared to death only being 7 weeks out from our son's journey to Heaven.  We had been in a complete fog -- emotions running wild.  While others tried to help, they had not experienced our pain.  But, getting here, seeing the evident love of others in our situation, listening to everyone's story really helped.  It was heart-wrenching, but awesome evidence of God's love for us.  Being around others in similar situations (however unfortunate) really helped and blessed us."

"Thanks for the opportunity to share and to see hope again and to laugh together, the opportunity to form friendships, and to see a bigger picture that weaves us all together."

"What an amazing ministry of love and service to others who are suffering such a unique loss.  This weekend was a step forward.  It opened the door to conversation and healing."

I'll close this post with a picture of our group.  I can't tell you what these people came to mean to me just over the course of a weekend.  I will never forget their children, and my life has been forever changed and enriched by the time we spent together.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday -- What Am I Thinking About?

So, what am I thinking about tonight?  I'm glad you asked...

  • I'm thinking about the fact that I early voted today makes me feel like the election is already over.    It's silly, but when I got home tonight and flipped on the TV and the pundits were talking about the polls, the thought actually crossed my mind ... "Why are they still talking about that?  The election is over."  Maybe I just need to get more sleep.
  • I'm thinking about how, as I was leaving the courthouse, I saw one of Hannah's high school friends in line to vote.  She was excited to be voting in her first presidential election ... and Hannah would have been absolutely ecstatic to be voting in her first presidential election.  Sigh.
  • I'm thinking about how much I've been missing Hannah lately.  I don't know if it's because her birthday just passed, or because the holidays are coming up, or if it's just because as I watch Bethany grow up, I'm realizing how much I missed out on with her.  
  • Speaking of Bethany ... I'm thinking about how much she has grown up just over the last few months.  Right before my eyes, she's turning into a dedicated student and a deeply committed athlete.  Yes, I realize it's about time, since she is a senior this year.  Last night I listened to her clearly and concisely explain her political persuasions to a friend over the phone.  I had no idea she had put so much thought into the subject.  Her sister would be so proud.  :)
  • I'm thinking that there's just not much on TV worth watching.  I did catch a little bit of Duck Dynasty last night, though ... and, as much as I hate to admit it, I kind of liked it.  Hey, it beats Swamp People.
  • But mostly, tonight, I'm thinking about what's coming up this weekend.  By this time tomorrow evening, our fourth While We're Waiting Weekend for Bereaved Parents will be well underway.  I'm so excited.  We have the biggest group we've ever had coming, and what a wonderful group it's going to be.  I cannot wait to see what God has in store.  Check in next week for some great pictures of our time together.  And if you think about it over the weekend, please lift this group of moms and dads up in prayer.