See You “in the Morning,” Sister-Girl

Lori Ann by Tapman Media

My guys and I traveled to New Orleans the weekend before last–to lay eyes on and touch my sister Lori, to love on her and pray over her. Even though she could not verbally communicate with us, she was responsive. She even opened her eyes briefly. In our prayers for a mighty miracle, we also submitted to Divine Wisdom. There was so much light in her, still so much fight that we walked away, hopeful that we’d see her again the following weekend.

That was not to be.

My sister, Lori, took her last breath a few days after our return, Wednesday night, September 12, just before midnight. And now, I feel like I’m holding my own breath…again.

I am angry. Disappointed. Hurt. Grieving miserably. I wish I could sit this one out and not go through it at all. I draw parallels between Grendel, the monster of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, and cancer, a horrible night-crawler that catches us unaware and snuffs out lives. Jealous over our happiness, our relationships. Our very humanity. And that horrible beast took Lori from us, like it took Karlette five and a half years ago.

One of my nieces texted me yesterday expressing her utter disappointment and anger about Lori’s passing. We were all praying that her desperate situation could become an incredible story of Divine intervention. I assured her that I share her feelings, and encouraged her to give full vent of her anger to God. He can handle it. Furthermore, He’s well acquainted with our grief and He’s just as hurt and angry as we are that we are going through this…AGAIN.

I read and reread the following quote almost daily for several weeks and finally shared it with my mom and sister:

God didn’t set this journey in motion. He’s just as angry as you are that you have to walk this road. But He promises you this: He will walk this road with you. And He will be there for you when you reach the end of it. God loves you.  –from the television series Touched by an Angel

God is a compassionate, loving Father, cradling us and weeping with us. His amazing grace, the blessed hope of Christ’s return to take us Home, preparation for the biggest family reunion ever, and a heavenly future without the suffering and pain of illness and death rescue me from the darkest depths of despair.

I already miss Lori like crazy. She was a good person, who welcomed all into her life and loved them deeply. She loved giving gifts, finding just the right thing. Like Karlette, she loved beautifying her spaces. She spent so much time babysitting many of the nieces and nephews that we can claim she “half raised” them. Her guys and two little girls (her granddaughters) were her heart, but there was so much room for many more.

Though I grieve over the loss of her, I do so with an unshakeable hope, rooted in Christ:

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. –I Thessalonians 4:13-18

“Lavender Tulips for Lori,” by Tapman Media

Praying in the Garden

I found a pleasant surprise as I glanced at my phone just before ending my last class for the week (woohoo!)–a simple, heartwarming message from Kim B, my newest Love Notes pal:

I was praying for you and your sister in my garden.

She enclosed photos of her gorgeous sunflowers (click an image for a closer look]:

The red one!!! Heavenly!

According to a note she sent in July, Kim planted the seeds a little late this year, but as you can see, they’re blooming beautifully. At the end of this emotionally exhausting week they’re my brilliant reminders to continue “facing the sun”.

Her written message telling of praying in the garden has me singing a favorite hymn, “In the Garden.”

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses:
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

The Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson, offers a powerful rendition that deserves a listen:

Be sure to take some time to pray and meditate in the garden this weekend. You’ll experience amazing joy and peace.

I Breathe. Hope.

Hope is a midwife, helping us breathe. Out with the pain. In with the Spirit. Repeat as often as necessary. And again and again. There’s no shortage of oxygen. No shortage of God.  —Jennifer Dukes Lee

I wrote the quote above in my Bible Study journal nearly three years ago. I can’t remember the specific reason why it spoke to me then, but at this moment, I am breathing hope.

We learned that my sister’s cancer metastasized to her brain two weeks ago. Radiation was stopped after a week because it was not preventing the spread of the disease and was only making her weaker. Two days ago, the doctor told her husband, my parents, and my baby sister, “There is no hope for recovery.” Plain and simple. To the point. Not what we want to hear, but the candor we need to activate hope and faith.

The late, great evangelist E.E. Cleveland, in expounding on Hebrews 11:1, told our class of wide-eyed college students many years ago that “faith is belief in the absence of evidence and in the face of contrary evidence.” I’ve never forgotten those words. They are ingrained in my spirit.

So now the faithwork intensifies. Now, we pool our faith and hope and pray and fast and plead for the miracle we know God can perform, if it is His will to do so. Because we cannot just lie down and accept that this is our story…again. We cannot simply accept that this is sweet Lori’s story. Lori with the heart of gold. Lori who has been unflappable. Lori who has found a way to praise God through mind-numbing, excruciating pain. Lori whose faith has been rock-solid, unwavering throughout this entire ordeal.

The doctor did his job. Now, we wait in hope for God to do His.

How can I have such audacious faith that GOD CAN HEAL even metastatic cancer after I’ve already lost one sister to cancer? I believe in miracles and divine interventions. I serve the Most High God who still performs divine acts in the face of human impossibilities.

So I lay all of it on the altar and praise God for what He will do, and if He allows another outcome, He is still God.

I breathe hope.

Full Vent

I’ve been angry lately. Justifiably so. About many things.

Normally, my anger dissipates rather quickly, but this anger has been simmering for some time and is now a full-blown blaze which I can’t easily extinguish.

As I was walking through campus a few days ago alone with my thoughts, the anger flared and I felt it with everything in me. Just as I was beginning to appease myself and reel it in, I was given Divine permission to be angry and to give my anger full vent.

Scripture tells us to “be angry, but do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). People generally get so caught up in the “do not sin” part that they forget that anger is a natural response to life’s injustices. Scripture validates our emotional response to the wrongs committed against us and humanity in general, the altered circumstances when everything was “just fine,” the disruptions in life that are unpleasant, uncomfortable, and plain unfair.

Be angry.

Grammatically speaking, God invites us to be–to welcome anger as a state of [our] being. There is something in the scripture that urges us to feel what we feel fully and to let it momentarily become part of who we are—without apology. Such full in the face immersion in the anger diminishes the magnitude, the awfulness of the thing and we can move toward reconciliation and healing.

I’m generally not a ranter. I don’t get angry enough to cause alarm. I don’t yell (too loudly). I don’t throw things. I don’t threaten and I certainly don’t hit. I’ve been trying to put words (and actions) to what it means for me to give full expression to my anger.

As I figure this out, I’m noting that the biblical parameters give me a lot of room to vent…as long as I do no harm to others or myself. As long as anger is a temporary state of being, resolved by “sundown.”

Be angry [at sin—at immorality, at injustice, at ungodly behavior], yet do not sin; do not let your anger [cause you shame, nor allow it to] last until the sun goes down. And do not give the devil an opportunity [to lead you into sin by holding a grudge, or nurturing anger, or harboring resentment, or cultivating bitterness]. –Ephesians 4:26-27 AMP

 

Gifts for Today

“Hummingbird and Sunflower,” photo by Larry Keller. Click image to view in Flickr.

There is a long narrow table that spans the large window in my home office, made by my hubby, of course. This is where I sit in the early morning, as the sun rises, to spend time with God.  As I study and meditate, I witness nature awakening, and I enjoy the brief encounters with birds, butterflies, and bumblebees that apparently love the zinnias growing just outside the window.

We see many different types of birds in our neighborhood, but I rarely see hummingbirds. I’ve seen them only twice in the six years we’ve lived here, and both times were at my window.

My second visit with a hummingbird was this morning, as I was meditating over Psalm 27. I had just read about the psalmist’s desire “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple” (Psalm 27:4) and was praying the same for myself when the bird dropped by. How apropos! This was no coincidence. It was a subtle affirmation of the beauty of the holiness of the Most High and affirmation of His presence. A gift for today.


Note about today’s image: The photo was captured by Larry Keller who has an amazing Flickr feed filled with birds, deer, and other aspects of nature. Since there were still two more posts to complete “Sunflower Week,” I wanted an image for today that spoke to sunflowers and my early morning visitor. Larry graciously allowed use of his photo for today’s post. There are so many beautiful messages in nature, and I’m grateful for the many photographers who expertly capture what we miss or can’t experience for ourselves. Thank you, Larry, for your art and for your heart. Your photo is another gift for today!

Wrapped in Love and Sunflowers

At the beginning of the year, after being cancer-free for 13 years, my sister Lori, heard the dreaded news–the cancer had returned. Initially, I shared this with just two or three close friends, soliciting their prayers. Out of respect for Lori’s privacy, I hadn’t talked about it much until I spilled to my penfriend Christine B, whose response prompted me to share Lori’s story with a group of my penfriends. They have been more than kind and supportive of me, and I knew they would embrace my sister and let her know that there are people all over the world who are rooting for her, sending her good thoughts, and praying.

Some of them went even further and sent supportive cheer mail my way as well–including three sunflower cards painted just for me!

“Sisters Dancing” by Trang K

Trang watercolored two flowers dancing–a sunflower and a purple tulip–Lori’s favorite flower in her favorite color. Her written note expresses sweetly, as only Trang can:

May you always dance to the sweetness of life in all its glory and fill your heart with everlasting joy and love.

“Time for Watercolor” by Christine B.

With her busy summer schedule, Christine B took the time to watercolor a new cheerful sunflower for my wall.

“A Note of Peace and Love” by Connie F.

Connie’s sunflower brightened a gloomy day. She slipped a beautiful bookmark (to be shared later) and a quote into the envelope with her sunflower:

It’s all about finding the calm in the chaos.  –Donna Karan

Knowing who God is makes horrific trials bearable. Lori is a bit more challenged this time around, but her faith is sure. Sometimes, it seems that worry is all I can do, but from her, I’m learning more and more not to worry. Her path isn’t easy, but through faith and fervent prayer, I can be a calming presence in the chaos of the journey just for her.

To my penfriends–Lori has received your beautiful expressions of love, hope, courage, grace, peace, and faith. We are incredibly moved by your sacred act of giving. Thank you, Christine, Trang, Lisa, Paige, Debra, Jennifer, Lori-Anne, Louise, Arielle, Sheila L, Connie, Suzette, Jacki, Gina, Andrea, Fran, Litsa, and Cricket. You have wrapped our hearts in love and have served as tangible evidence of God.

Hugs to you…

Guest Post: “Woke Up to the News” by K.C. Dulan

Photo by Michel Kwan

We’ve all been touched by suicide. Whether it was the death of someone we know or someone we admire, we’ve felt the coldness of that loss for which the answers never satisfy. We may not understand why, but God knows. He is most intimately connected with us, even when we feel detached from Him. As I mentioned in “He Comes Walking,” He is well-acquainted with human suffering, including the desperate, hopeless suffering that leads to an individual’s taking his or her own life.

In a post that first appeared in Medium on June 8, my friend, K.C. Dulan, ruminates over the whys and hows and urges us to truly see each other and give “rest” in life instead of death.

***   ***   ***

Woke up to the news of another suicide of a high-profile individual.

The second one in a week.

And I wondered; how many more died invisible deaths by suicide in-between the two?

Unseen. Unnamed. Unheard.

Wondered about the “why” as the rate steadily climbs.

Wondered about the “how” — how to make it stop; because the truth is those that are willing to DO something about it are often barely treading water themselves.

And I worry about them all…

The doers.

The grinders.

The healers.

The seers.

The feelers.

The bearers.

The wanderers.

The ones who are not readily seen as broken, but are givers — constantly breaking off pieces of themselves to be consumed by the needs and wants of others until nothing remains.

They DO whatever needs to be done regardless of their own mental or emotional capacity and promise to take care of themselves just as soon as this one more thing is done.

They GRIND, determined not to be average and in pursuit of “greatness” or “success” before they have clearly defined what that truly means…and what it really costs…for themselves.

They HEAL (everyone else). Make us laugh, entertain us, show us the world, teach us to love…they stand in the gap or endure public flogging for standing up. Or sitting down. Or marching. Or taking a knee.

They SEE and accept the brokenness in others but are ashamed and cannot forgive or accept their own.

And they FEEL the wounds and pain of humanity and yearn for others to feel it, too.

They BEAR the burdens of their fellow man…shoulders raw, backs bent from carrying the weight of the world.

They WANDER seeking safety, seeking hope, seeking solutions, seeking solace, seeking peace.

People say it’s a selfish act…

Interestingly committed by those who often give the most of themselves –

The warriors doing battle without the armor of selfishness, narcissism, and individualism on the front lines against hate, apathy, indifference, injustice; refusing to take up space with their own pain and suffering;

Those whose internal, looping tapes – embedded by the unrealistic demands and expectations of others – tell them over and over again that they are NEVER enough. No matter how much they accomplish, it will never be enough.

Those who have been sold the unsustainable lie that they are nothing unless they “stay grindin’” — when the very definition of “grind” is to REDUCE (something) to small particles or powder by crushing it.

Until… “IT” becomes the only way to find rest…

How ironic that we then say

Rest in peace.

Rest in freedom.

Rest in power.

It’s all they ever wanted.

If only we could give it to each other in LIFE instead of in death.

#Pleasedontgo #Pleasestay #Youmatter #Youareenough #Iseeyou

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About the author: K.C. Dulan is oddly optimistic that Love will win. She is the wife of one, mother of three, daughter, sister, friend. She is a quiet warrior who is passionate about family, community, faith, and justice.