The Doorbell to Heaven

I sat on the sofa, my face contorted from crying. I didn’t have the scripture memorized but, I knew it existed and was well aware of the general gist of what it said. Statements stirred inside of me like, be glad you suffer, give thanks in every circumstance. There, sitting with my friend, I confessed I wasn’t able to, didn’t know how to, didn’t know if I  could ever keep the commands God gives us in

1Thessolonians 5:28

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

even more so as stated in Romans 5:3-4

Be thankful in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. 

Sitting together, I believe my friend saw herself sitting as me. Realizing, it impossible to bear the unbearable. Altogether impossible to be grateful for the grief. Samantha and her daughter were friends, sharing the same age and the same interests. Always compassionate and slow to speak, she gently said, “Oh, Elizabeth, I think it is a process.” I remember relaxing, having been given grace. She might not have known it but she gave me the gift of time to get to where I needed to be. The point where God calls me to be, for Him and for myself. In that moment that I mentioned, I was sinking in neck deep grief. The waves of emotions lapping all around my jawline often with salty splashes leaping into my mouth, making me choke and gag on the truths that I knew.

For me, the storm has settled from what it was, the ebbing of sad emotions have subsided and the flow of laughter and life have begun. Oh, definitely, there are still those stormy clouds that drift through but, the dark thick all covering ones have begun to break open to new light.

As Thanksgiving approaches, my thoughts turn toward a story I jotted down in my journal several months ago, noteworthy to the point that it needs to be retold and no better time than this.

I was asked to be the stand in mom for a sweet young little one. Her parents would be traveling for the weekend and they asked if she could spend some time with me. I accepted, looking forward to the life of little ones in my home as well, accepting the task to provide transportation for all of her outings.

My special overnight guest had awoken early, eager to share the day with me. When her sister arrived to spend a few hours with us, they really got involved in figuring what there was to do. I gave them free reign of the closet in the hallway that stored the treasures of childhood. They were in and out the door all morning, front yard, back yard, pantry and all over again. All the while, I enjoyed the familiar but almost forgotten sound of the constant opening and closing of doors. The traffic in my house is definitely not what it used to be.

Finally, the sidewalk chalk that sat unused in my closet was now being pressed into the concrete by sweet little fingers on my front driveway. Oh, how I missed these kind of Saturday mornings, uninterrupted, simple, imaginary play. I had my fair share of these times to enjoy but, that had come to a halt when the unimaginable happened.

Those first few sweet hours of freedom stopped when it was time for the first activity. Anna Kate headed to dance class and I was responsible for getting Shelby to school to rehearse for First Communion. This would be the tender part. It required a trip to Samantha’s school, Our Lady of the Lake. Nothing would have stopped me from doing what I was asked but, I knew I would need to shake off some emotions as I stepped into the gymnasium to ensure Shelby got to her proper seating assignment so she could practice.

Often, while out cycling, I consider about stopping at the school. My thinking causes me not to go, wondering whether it is a good time, will the children be outside or the gates closed? What will I do when I get there, cry, stare? Not sure of myself, it was safer not to stop. Up until this time, I hadn’t gotten there.

Knowing I was bringing Shelby, I surrendered to visit the fountain that is there in memory of Samantha.

With Shelby in the backseat, I drove the familiar carpool path, parked the car and begun  my journey to the gym. I know they looked like simple steps, one in front of the other, then the next and then another.

My steps led me to the front doors, but my mind, replayed the day we dedicated

the

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fountain to Samantha’s memory. We were gathered with family and friends, faculty and staff. Protected by white tents and prayed over by priests. I was in awe at the love and care that surrounded me by those at Samantha’s school. For the most part, I was without words.  Until, someone asked me if I had anything I wanted to say. My focus was on the fountain and the dynamic flow of water and what that represented to me. I went on to testify that God’s word was living water to me. I was, in fact a recipient of what it can do for an individual. That scripture saved my soul. Grateful for the words Jesus left to us after His resurrection that filled my heart with hope for the future and to offer peace for the present. I prayed, before those present that the fountain, what it represents and the constant flow of water, would bring life to any that passed by.

After getting Shelby situated, I tucked out of the building and headed towards the fountain. Sneaking down the side steps with my back towards most of the people in the parking lot. I felt somewhat safe. If I fell apart, I had scoped out an alternate route, one not straight throughout the throngs of parents. Avoiding the possibility of others seeing the stream of tears down my cheeks.

Certainly, I could see the fountain in its entirely before I approached up close. I was doing ok as I walked. Shortening the distance, my eyes fixated on the dates. A plaque marked a beginning and an unexpected ending. A name all to familiar. When the water

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in my eyes began to well, and the stinging was to much, to distract myself, I fixed my gaze on the flow of water. Immediately, I lowered my neck, closed my eyes, tucked my chin and rolled my shoulders, positioning myself for prayer. With this stance in place, I began to personally communicate with my Savior. Trust me, I hadn’t planned for the visit to go this way. A quick stop in and see how it goes was what I signed up for. Instead, I found myself in complete, shut out anything else, prayer. Asking God, for all those touched by Samantha’s life or death, that each of them have a closer walk with Him. Thanking Him and offering praise for the gift of the Living Water left to each of us.

At the very second my prayers were said, the bells of the church tower rang as never before. They pealed. The vibrations rung inside of me in such a way that everything about what had just happened became very special. With my head still lowered, a smile began to spread across my face, lifting my cheekbones high and causing my eyes to squint. I lifted my head, snapped a picture and walked away with a skip in my step, knowing my suffering was known to my Savior, I had been heard. Thinking, I had just rung the doorbell to Heaven.

On hindsight, a few months later, I believe that is exactly what happened. When we give thanks, in any and all circumstances our eyes are turned from our problems and ourselves to the Lord, that we might focus on Him. Being grateful delivers us from the domain of darkness.

I hope I don’t get a grade when I get to Heaven, wondering if I’ve done all that I am to do on a timely basis. I don’t have many answers nor, have it all memorized. I only know it works.

May all hearts be full of gratitude, opening the doors to Heaven in each of our lives. Giving thanks and praise to He who saves. Amen

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

 

 

Quotes, Creeds and Other Words of Wisdom

final cathartic quotes image

I’m a nerd and I know it! No longer am I going to hide from my love of words and excitedly looking up their definitions to know their origin and understand their meaning.

Trying to figure out a way to share some of the sentences that have impacted my heart, I researched the word “cathartic”. I thought the word had something to do with “action” (i.e. – catalyst) and healing. Thinking I had the gist but, wanting to assure I was using the word the correct way. Actually, the meaning was better than I thought:

Catharsis (from the Greek κάθαρσις katharsis meaning “purification” or “cleansing”) is the purification and purgation of emotions—especially pity and fear—through art or any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration

Ooooo, I liked it. This word describes what some of the words that I have read had done for me. Alas, the weren’t mine. So, I clarified the word quote:

Quotation is the repetition of one expression as part of another one, particularly when the quoted expression is well-known or explicitly attributed by citation to its original source

Voila, Cathartic Quotes, a spot at JustDoToday.org that allows me to share some of what I have read, that others have said, that had an impact on how I thought which resulted in a purification or renewal of my emotions. Each gathering of words, a grace given, altering my thinking for that day and thereafter. Whether it is a quote, a creed or words of wisdom, I’m going to pass along the reflections of others that helped me along my way.

I knew that how I responded to the accident and functioned as a father would make all the difference in the world to them. They were my “big project.” As it turned out, they were also my redemption, but I didn’t know it at the time.

A Grace Disguised ~ How the Soul Grows Through Grief

Authored by Jerry Sittser

He is Making Me New

This Sunday was like many others, in so many ways! However for me, it was drastically different in a way others couldn’t see.

I sat in our same pew as we always do.  Taking my place, visiting with those that surrounded me. I took part in the customary cadence of worship, as I gave offerings, prayed prayers and learned from my spiritual leaders.  I sung some of the same songs as we have done before. There was one in particular, the band chose to play that initially had a negative reaction in me. It had the potential to cripple me but, it didn’t. On this Sunday, I breathed the words of the song, differently than any other occasion.

In the past, upon hearing it, I went backwards. It was a song we sang at Samantha’s Memorial Service. Those memories although glorious, reopen a painful place. As the first chord was struck, I noticed myself making physical motions, moving my head side to side, in a stiff sort of way. Bending my knees, on my own, so they wouldn’t buckle without notice. Doing this allowed me to spread the stress that wanted to settle in my joints, making them weak and ready to fall apart.  I glanced at Brooke, to ensure she was strong enough to hear it again. She can recognize the tune before I can. I looked at her and knew her spirit was strong enough, enabling her to sing this particular song. Although, it is a tender try; a whisper of the words. Sometimes, not able to finish the stanza, having to take a break between the lines so that emotions don’t overcome.

I started out singing the same way. Reserved because of what “had” happened. Bracing myself for the tears because of the trauma I associate with the singing of this song.

Then, I thought, “No, not today! Do not allow yourself to be brought backwards. Not after all that you have worked on and written. Not even for a minute! Elizabeth, right now, recognize His work within yourself!” I continued to sing,

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

When I go to church, I always sit near the big window that overlooks the Memorial

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St. Timothy United Methodist Church

Garden, where we last had a physical part of Samantha. We buried her ashes very near to where I sit each Sunday. Certain days, I think about this more than others. When I do, there is an unusual awareness that I’m reaching out and surrendering to a place where Samantha already lives. On these occasions my spirituality soars on the wings of eagles. My body is on a pew but my heart is reaching toward Heaven.

Refusing to be pulled toward the past, the battle was being won. I was able to turn my thoughts around and give thanks for the lyrics of this song. My words were more pronounced and my voice firmer and more far reaching. I was singing these words for myself. Knowing by now, Samantha’s ashes had surely turned to dust.  That indeed a garden had grown up from that old ground and hope was springing all around. Encouraged to the point of confession, that He was making “me” new and because of Him beautiful things are being made from the dust of Samantha’s ashes.

P.S. – Thanks for joining me on this new website. It is my prayer to encourage and edify,   provide comfort and compassion, help strengthen and solidify the faith of all those that visit.