For several years now, since Kenzie’s passing, I have been receiving invitations to attend musical performances at Kenzie’s high school. The invitations initiated by the high school music director, Ms. Oliver, who is now also my friend. I have gotten to know Mandy over the past seven years after first meeting her at my daughter’s funeral. You see she directed the high school chorus as they sang at Kenzie’s service. The musical performances that she has since invited me to have included plays, variety shows, and spring and winter choral events to name a few. For the first two years she even held a special event in Kenzie’s memory called “Calliope Cafe” where ticket sales went to the Makenzie Goode Memorial Scholarship fund. How grateful I am to her for her presence in the lives of those grieving students. I believe that more than the fundraising aspect of her endeavor, it enabled Kenzie’s peers, in their grief, to face the music by honoring their friend in their own artistic contributions of instrumental music, song and dance. Wow! How brilliant. On a personal note, I have only attended one of these events and have since begged off even after committing, with every excuse imaginable. I have been fearful that it would hurt too much. I was not ready to face the music.
This past week was different in that I agreed to and followed through by attending a choral performance called “Ten Years Together” in recognition of Ms. Oliver’s ten years of teaching music at the school. She recently experienced a loss of her own, as her once high school bestie passed suddenly last month. She explained to me that she wanted to dedicate a song in her friend’s memory as well as Makenzie’s and asked permission to share a picture of my daughter. I agreed but wondered in my own mind how difficult attending this musical program might actually be for me. I decided to face the music on Friday evening. I had no one accompanying me, so I had no one to put on my happy face for. It was just me sitting towards the back of the darkened auditorium waiting for the music to begin. As I sat there alone so many random thoughts entered my mind. I wondered if Kenzie may have sat on any occasion, in the seat that I was seated in. I thought of her friends and that urgent senior meeting that they had been called to on January 29th, in the same auditorium where they were then informed about Kenzie’s accident. I remembered attending in June of 2010, her senior classes’ Awards Night when I had gotten up on stage and passed out scholarships to the senior girls’ varsity soccer team players. That was a painful memory for me recalling that I bit my quivering lip, and held back my own tears as her tear-filled friends came across the stage to shake my hand, hug me and receive their envelope.
So as I sat there, I wondered if her fun-loving spirit was still running through the halls with her infectious laughter. Many emotions came bubbling to the surface, now seven years later. Feelings of immense sadness, and even envy as I looked around me to witness the parents sitting in that auditorium ready to hear and enjoy the music of their own children. I understood that most seated there in the room with me, had never known my daughter nor me, and that they would probably never have to go through this experience. And then for one brief moment I panicked and thought about bolting to the exit, to the outside and on to the soccer field where I could run aimlessIy and perhaps with my mind’s eye kick random shots at the goal. I had the thought that maybe my daughter might even join me out there. And then finally, in my mind, retreating to her memory garden, seated on her bench to engage in one sided conversation with my beautiful daughter. So, finally the music began and as it played on I started to relax and listen as I closed my eyes and marveled at the carefully chosen words for me! The song “Home” by Phillip Phillips was sung by the chorus and I decided at that time to claim the words as my own. At the end of the concert, Ms. Oliver announced her song of dedication for her high school bestfriend and also for our Makenzie. . Before she sang, she explained that the same song was sung in 2010 following Kenzie’s death. The song: “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin. It was perfect and accompanying it was a video presentation of pictures; memories of our sweet girlfriends. ( My daughter was also my best friend).
Sharing this beautiful rendition of Charlie Chaplin’s song “Smile”, sung by Barbara Streisand .
So leaving that concert on Friday night, I was an emotional mess! Even after seven intense years on this emotional journey, i still had tears to shed. I have learned an important lesson however, that God has given us emotions for a reason. To hide from these emotions is to rob oneself of God’s provision for our healing. I have learned that there are several stages to grief and they don’t necessarily come in any specific order, nor any particular time table. But i know for certain that hope can be found when we pray to our loving Father as he walks with us and we face the music. And yes, it’s o.k. to smile.
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again my Savior and my God! ( NLT) Psalm 42:5
Kenzie’s accident site… picture courtesy of Fran Palazzo ( one of Kenzie’s besties)
The thought of giants has consumed me for over a month now. I have heard about giants in the lyrics of the songs that I listen to. Not always named, but as I dwell on the message of the song, the thought comes back to me. I would like to mention here that I pray every week for wisdom and discernment about God’s message and that it will be revealed through my writing. There may be someone who needs to read it and if not, well then I am journaling for my own needs as I meditate on God’s personal message for me! Never knowing what I will blog about each week, this little Godwink ( I suppose) came to me yesterday. Do you remember the movie “Honey I shrunk the Kids”? O.K., so I am calling it my Godwink as I had this compulsion to buy the movie yesterday. My children liked the movie back in the day and so I purchased it for my grandson. Just another silly thought about giants that jumpstarted this week’s post.
So my question is: what is, not who is, the giant in your life? My life? And what are you doing to slay that giant? My thought here is that giants can appear as an insurmountable mountain in our seemingly unattainable achievements in life. That heart wrenching, God given desire in our life that inspires us to be more than we can ever imagine. It’s summit appears so high up in the clouds that it disappears sometimes from our sight as we saunter away in life, the path that God has presented us. Your giant is your “why”, “your why that makes you cry”. But this week another idea has invaded my thoughts in that other giants also can show up as obstacles in our lives, demons if you will, that can create temptation, greed, and even improprieties that prevent us from being all that God has and desires for us. I heard a Bible verse yesterday as I listened to the radio and the verse has stuck with me:
“And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you. It is better for you to lose one of your body parts than to have your whole body go into hell.” Matthew 5:30 (New International Version)
Wow! That hit home with me. Is it possible that while I thought that I was slaying my giant, in pursuit of my God given why, that another giant stood tall in front of me, undetected and preventing God’s best for me? So now what? Is it possible that my path to the summit needs to be recalculated or do I slay that giant now right in front of me, cut it off, and continue on the quest to God’s bigger purpose for my life? I have to say that, for me, it will take so much more than a slingshot to slay this one, as I remember and contemplate the Sunday school story of David and Goliath.
So as I have been inspired with the thought of giants lately, I want to encourage you to find and listen to a song sung by Francesca Battistelli named “Giants Fall” as you will truly be blessed.
Here are some of the lyrics:
Giants Fall By: Francesca Battistelli
Everyone’s telling you To let go of what you’re holding to It’s too late, too far You’re too small, it’s too hard Throwing water on that spark Living deep inside your heart With oceans of reasons The things you’re not seeing But oh, maybe they don’t Know what you know That you’re not alone
Don’t you be afraid Of giants in your way With God you know that anything’s possible So step into the fight He’s right there by your side The stones inside your hand might be too small But watch the giants fall
We could really live like this Can’t you imagine it So bold, so brave With childlike faith Miracles could happen Mountains would start moving So whatever you may face
Don’tyou be afraid Of giants in your way With God you know that anything’s possible So step into the fight He’s right there by your side The stones inside your hand might be too small But watch the giants fall
I watched a link on “Youtube” this morning about the story of David and Goliath from the movie, “The Bible”. I am including it here for you to watch as it will inspire you to seek great things in God’s name, and I want to leave you with this thought:
Just imagine what giant you can slay with God’s provisions in your life. Just watch the giant fall!
As of a few days ago, I have been through seven January’s since our daughter’s passing. My least favorite month of the year. I can’t really explain it, the underlying anxiety that I feel, as it’s nothing that I have experienced with the passing of any other family member. In past years I have re-lived the moments of that day of her accident and consequent death and have had a tendency to gravitate to the sadness. Why? I suppose there are some very deep buried emotions to include guilt, although I know with my head and my heart that I have no responsibility for what happened on that cold January morning. But moms are suppose to be able to fix everything for their children, right? So ,how is it that I can be now smiling from the inside out?
This week I have been connected with friends of the families of two children who have just passed. One of my friends asked me to be available to meet with the mother of her deceased college friend. My other friend agreed to meet with me soon to discuss the loss of her son’s best friend who was his college room mate. She told me that she is at a loss with how to help her son get through this tragedy. So I have to wonder how God will use me in our meeting and conversations, and will I be able to show God’s face to them and His amazing grace. One of the quick messages on my phone that I texted to her was: “I hope you believe in heaven, it is our hope; we will see our children again”. I felt the need to ask my friend this question because she had told me that they are “not a religious group”, and actually even apologized to me for it. I told her not to be sorry but, that my faith had carried me through losing Makenzie. She remarked that she knew, but had never been to church. So I guess that I want to mention here to anyone who does not attend church, that they can still call on God and He will be there for them in the midst of life and its’ circumstances. He will always show up, if we ask. He wants us to call on Him, so that He can comfort us and show us how much he deeply cares and loves us. I know some would question why a loving God would allow tragedy and the loss of such young lives. All that I can say from my own experience, is that accidents and illness happen and that they become an integral part of the bigger plan and lesson that He has for us. It is not something that we necessarily recognize and it may take years for us to understand and willingly grasp how God is using the painful lessons in our life.
Yesterday at work my co-worker stopped me at her desk and told me she was dedicating a song to me and then made me stop and listen to it with her. The song? “Let It Be”, by The Beatles. I can honestly say that I had never really listened to the lyrics in applying them in the context of my own story. I had just chalked it up to those free-spirited souls that want to spread peace, love and harmony in our world. But the words really have contents… christian contents, as it speaks about Mary, the mother of Jesus appearing to comfort us. Here are just some of the lyrics…
“Let It Be” By: Paul McCartney
When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.
And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree,
There will be an answer, let it be.
And though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be,
Let it be, let it be.
Yeah there will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be,
Let it be, let it be.
Yeah there will be an answer, let it be.
And though the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine until tomorrow, let it be.
So, I guess my post this week is to follow-up from my heart break of seven years ago, and to hopefully encourage anyone reading this that your grief will change. I sense a nudge here to share an entry of my journal that I started soon after her death. I was so very sad but prayerfully asking God to show me the way. It’s amazing how He will show up if we only invite Him.
This is what my journal entry says:
” I’m now in week four, coming up on the one month anniversary and so depressed. I have talked to her daily asking her for a sign, to let me know she is still with me, watching over me. Yesterday I went into her room and found her DVD “The Phantom of the Opera”, sitting on her TV. This shocked me. She and I had watched it together several years ago at my sister’s. We both loved it. I bought the movie for her a few years ago at Christmas but she never opened it. It was stored away in the back of all her DVDs. I was shocked to see it had been opened and watched?, but moreover now sitting on her TV. Was this one of her signs for me? I pray daily that God will allow Kenzie to speak to me. Last night when I woke up ( I never wake up in the middle of the night). I sensed that Kenzie was standing at my side of the bed. She spoke to me. In my mind I heard her say: “thank you mama, thankyou mama”. ( in her little girl voice) and then in her (most recent) teenager voice she also told me that I need to go to Kayla. I asked her ( in my mind) if Kayla was in trouble- she said “yes”.
Kenzie with Bestie Kayla.. last home varsity soccer game.
Pictured is Kenz and I at her last home soccer game. Next to pic … my journal
When people ask me for advice on how to get through such a loss I usually encourage journaling. It is a way to receive private therapy sessions in your very own personal time and space. I also encourage prayer. How amazing prayer works, just private conversations with God, our loving creator. And, when friends ask how they can help, enlist their prayers as well.
So here it is seven years later and her loss is still felt but, I can honestly say that with time and through all the Godwinks, from His light that shines on me, I am smiling now from the inside out! Let it be…. let it be.
Our church meeting room has recently taken on a new look. I am not certain if I missed a particular memo or a Sunday sermon that would explain the many doors that stand at the front of our worship sanctuary, but I am intrigued by their presence. So intrigued that I took a picture last Sunday.
As I thought about these doors, it brought me to the thought that the doors could represent the opportunities and the choices that we are given in each day, in the many facets of our lives. Should we knock, ask, and trust? Also at the front of the sanctuary are two very large words on the wall in the background, “I AM”.
The “I AM” has brought me to the thought of the ultimate choice we are given in life: to accept or reject faith in a most amazing God, and our choice to trust Him.
So I started to think about areas in my life when I have made poor choices which led me down a path of decline and at times even personal destruction. I believe with my heart that even the bad choices can work for good if we recognize and grow from the lessons that are there for us. There are so many doors ( opportunities ) that are available to each of us however it is up to us whether we go through those doors after thoughtful contemplation. If we enlist the help of God and His infinite wisdom, through prayer to help us with our decisions, we can go confidently through the door to fulfill our predestined purpose. I love that my mind gives me so many ideas, and concepts to accept or reject as I see signs that I believe are God given. Hints along my way, as I follow my map and God given compass to the treasures He has for me.
Many times I plead with God to close those doors that need not be available to me as my human discernment often chooses the easiest path. But, I think that God wants us to be dependent on Him as any loving father would with his children. He desires for us to ask, wait on his answer and to trust Him.
So how do we know when we should act affirmatively when we are presented with an opportunity or when we sense an urge to make a decision that is a bit uncomfortable or out of our comfort zone? I believe that we should pray for peace, inner peace and follow the signs for the doors that may be opening, and pray, pray, pray that God will intervene to make sense of it all as He shows us.
My husband and I recently had a very big and unsettling decision to make. A door so big that it would change the direction of our lives. We felt called to trust Him and His perfect timing, which we did. Although the outcome was not what we anticipated, I can honestly say I feel at peace knowing that with prayer and submission we did what we could and the door closed. We will pause and wait to see if the door swings open again. Wheww!!! It is comforting to have a heavenly Father that we can call on and place our assurance.
I recall attending a Sunday worship service at Pilgrim Pines years ago when I was a young mother. This place was a favorite place where our family camped in the summertime. The speaker of that service asked members of the audience to provide a word, one word that described Jesus and their relationship to Him. Although I was not bold enough back then to speak about and share my faith, I listened in earnest for what others might share. The one response that stuck in my mind all these years, was the word “Lap”. The woman that offered this one descriptive word explained that she thought of Christ, her heavenly father, as having a giant lap that she could crawl up in as she goes to Him for wisdom, protection and the love that only a heavenly father could offer. I like that! I can picture my relationship with my own dad as a small child and how I would wriggle in beside him in his big recliner chair to sit with him, feeling loved and protected.
Thinking now of all the times that Christ has carried me in my hurt, indecisiveness, and in my risk taking too. He is always there when I stand at the door and knock, always! Even though He allows me to wait sometimes for a bit longer than I prefer, before answering. Trust is huge in every relationship, especially in our relationship with God.
So I wanted to share another door as well. A door that I saw one day on a random noontime walk. It was leaning up in a back hallway as if discarded and there was a computer generated sign taped on it that read: “You Are Here To Serve”. And so I supposed that this was a Godwink intended for me, as I had taken a detour on my walk that day. And so I will walk through that door daily by saying yes to God’s purpose for my life as I serve Him. How about you? What doors have been opened to you lately? What are your plans ? Will you seek God first in whether or not to walk through? And if the door closes, will you graciously go on without resistance trusting that this is His will?
Matthew 7:7-8 “Continue to ask, and God will give to you. Continue to search, and you will find. Continue to knock, and the door will open for you. Yes, whoever continues to ask will receive. Whoever continues to look will find. And whoever continues to knock will have the door opened for them.
Excited to share that New England Donor Services featured Makenzie’s story in their Winter/Spring newsletter that just published. They contacted me back in the fall and invited me to write an article about Kenzie’s life saving gifts.The timing for this publication is good as January is the anniversary month of Kenzie’s death. I feel grateful to be able to honor her and her memory in this way. Here is the piece that I wrote:
You can’t have a perfect day without doing something for someone who’ll never be able to repay you”. John Wooden, Legendary UCLA Basketball Coach -(Public Quote)
Kenzie’s Perfect Day
As I lay here propped up on my daughter’s bed, I write about that fateful January morning as she drove to school nearly seven years ago. Makenzie, our seventeen year old daughter, sister, and best friend walked out of our lives. She suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of her accident hitting snow and ice on her way to school. To say that it was life changing would be an understatement. Gratefully, I can say that as her mom, I have been given an extra chapter to my sweet girl’s story with the abundance of the lifesaving gifts that she gave. The decision to let our daughter go and then to donate her organs was the most difficult and most important decision of all of our lives. I remember telling the transplant coordinator that I NEEDED to hear from the recipients. I asked her to please relay this and she promised that she would.
The first letter came soon and it was good for me as I learned how Kenzie’s liver saved a dad, husband and grandfather. The letter was written by the man’s three sons. I remember the relief I felt to receive it and I instantly sat down and penned a reply and general letter to all of the recipients. The recipients needed to know about my daughter and her life and of how blessed they were to receive such a healthy gift from our daughter a talented young soccer player. I received letters from some of the other recipients that first year, and now have met, become friends, with three of my daughter’s organ recipients. To watch one young adolescent girl blossom as she shared her life with me, was heart- warming, as she shared prom pictures and high- school graduation pictures. I know that she understands the magnitude of Makenzie’s gifts. Another blessing is the friendship that I have with our daughter’s pancreas recipient and his family. I attended the wedding of his eldest daughter which was emotional to witness as this dad proudly walked her down the aisle. Wow! Our daughter truly has made her mark on this world. And finally to know the person who is the caretaker of our beautiful daughter’s heart is incredible. He has her sense of humor and has even remarked that as an x-Marine, he feels emotion like he has never experienced before. I feel lovingly connected to this sweet gentleman.
Pictured is Larry(the caretaker of Kenzie’s heart, his wife Mary, and myself -fall 2016
This life giving decision was made in accordance with how Kenzie lived her life with love and compassion. I thank my daughter and best friend for Kenzie’s best gift that has also evolved me as a person. To experience first-hand the lives that have been changed and to see how she lives on in this world is a miracle. God has used this for His grand purposes to bless so many lives including mine.
Here is my poem about this transformation:
Life was so content in my little world,
I thought I had it all as I had my boy and girl
God called me to change, spun tight in my cocoon
Robbed of life as I knew it, it happened way too soon
Never had I a thought that it would occur one fateful morn
My metamorphosis in life, my faith to be reborn
As the tears fell by the buckets and my soul reached searing pain
He brought me out of sorrow; would not allow my bane
My healing started slowly as i stepped out in my faith
And realized He was using this to bring me to my laith
Joy was granted freely in the God winks that He used
Allowing Kenzie’s presence to keep me smiling and amused
Zebra stripes and purple are frequent treasure finds
Mapping out my course as I find her little dimes
A gift of a distant trip to Barbados we would trek
New friends He called me to share with…. I now realize their affect
“Keep calm cuz I love you mom” her precious note discovered
Her birthday gift to me as she celebrated me, her mother
The treasure finds would bless me, Tree of Life became a sign
I knew the meaning, its’ true origin… His Biblical design
God used her gifts, as well as mine, to lead others and myself to seek Him first
To connect all the puzzle pieces …quenching life’s immeasurable and foremost thirst
As I was called to share the God winks in our book “Wish You A Goode Journey”
It started with a Chinese fortune and continues with her annual soccer tourney
The butterfly His symbol to show me she is near
It was a sign of my metamorphosis, through faith in Christ, exquisitely so dear
Now that our book is written with prayers that it will offer a beam of light
This is a sad and darkened world, may eyes that are blinded be open to his delight.
Death is the cocoon that attempts to hold us from the healing door.
Of heaven’s new mercies, wings gifted, if accepted, will allow one to soar.
WHAT THE CATERPILLAR CALLS THE END OF THE WORLD, THE MASTER CALLS A BUTTERFLY
As I drove into work this morning, my radio and its’ announcer caught my attention. The DJ was talking about faith and asked this question: “how deep is your faith”? Funny thing is that a similar discussion occurred by a different radio announcer just last evening as I was listening to the radio during my drive home after work. So I have to stop and wonder if God is trying to get my attention. As I continued to drive in the darkness this morning, I considered that faith question. Although I ‘d like to think that my faith is rock solid, I entertain thoughts of doubt more times than I care to admit. My wavering faith happens in random circumstances. I should not be doubting our God of the universe nor have any doubt with respect to His provisions and plans for my life. Sometimes I think it stems from my impatience. Waiting for God is good for us. If we believe and allow His perfect plan to unfold, a bounty of blessings are manifested and sometimes only realized retrospectively.
I can relate to it this way as I compare the smaller blessings to individual petals on a blossom of an exquisite flower. By looking closely at each petal one can see intricate texture, design and color and possibly even a hint of fragrance can be detected. But when the blossom is experienced in its fullness only then can it be truly appreciated. Yes, God’s timing and plan are perfect, always.
Lately I have sensed that God is asking me to take on something that seems daunting; beyond my limitations. Have you ever been compelled to try something that requires you to step out in faith and out of your comfort zone? The idea may in some ways seem exhilarating but also overwhelming and even frightening. We are called to trust God in everything and with our very lives. When we ignore or dismiss the call for change out of fear, we actually short change ourselves as we are eliminating the probability of the bigger blessings that God has in store for us.
My Godwink came this morning early as I was driving to work listening to that radio announcer asking the question: how deep is your faith? I started to have a quiet dialogue in my mind with God asking Him about the doubts that I’ve been experiencing regarding the task that I am feeling led to. I asked God if I had been mistaken? As I drove on that dark road I came up behind the car in front of me and saw my Godwink!
I followed this car all the way to work. I got into the wrong lane at the stoplight just so I could snap this picture. I wonder what the driver was thinking!! Ha ha
So I will continue to trust, wait on God, and believe.
In lieu of New Year’s resolutions, some of my business associates and friends are posting on social media their personal word for 2017. Their chosen word is one of significance that they will own for the upcoming year to help facilitate their goals, their passions, and perhaps aid in accountability. Here is my friend Julie’s chosen word.
Julie: I chose my word for 2017!
OBSESSED… Obsessed with God Obsessed with my marriage Obsessed with my family Obsessed with my Business Obsessed with my Budget Obsessed with my Health Obsessed with my friendships! What a Year it will be!!! Reflection of 2016 is complete I am a work in progress… Success is being a step closer each and every day to the Best Version of me God created me to to be!
Thanks Julie, I adore you and your chosen word. I like how you will incorporate it into your life.
So I decided to choose my word for 2017, I choose BELIEVE
*Believe not doubt
*Believe in others and their potential, as well as my own
*Believe that there is good in the world
*Believe that there is hope for our country and our planet
*Believe in God’s calling and purpose in my life
*Believe in and wait patiently for His plan to unfold
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. NIV
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
Is there any better expression to be uttered in recognition of the birth of our savior Jesus? I think on the word Immanuel which means our God is with us. What a most humbling and yet reassuring thought that each of us can hold onto. I reflect on my favorite holiday song which is Immanuel, by Michael Card. I first heard Immanuel when attending a Michael Card concert in December 2009, the month before our Kenzie left us. I have to ask you if you have a favorite song that gives you tingling all over and “goosebumps” when you hear it? This song does that for me. I am so inspired by its’ lyrics as well as the beautiful symphony music that embodies and completes the song. I remember after coming home late from that concert, I downloaded it and ran into Kenzie’s room and woke her up and asked her to listen! She reluctantly obliged as I placed the ear buds to her head; ( gotta add here that she often would ask me to do the same, although I can’t remember her waking me up to listen). She sleepily told me that she liked the song.
When she left this world on January 30, 2010, it was only mere weeks preceding that time when I had shared Immanuel with her. Although it was labeled as a Christmas song, I felt compelled to have it sung at Kenzie’s service. The lyrics spoke to my heart and my hope was to share the same with family and friends.
( sharing below the lyrics, although I hope you will download the song and listen to it, as it is truly amazing).
Immanuel – by Michael Card
A sign shall be given a virgin will conceive A human baby bearing undiminished deity The glory of the nations a light for all to see That hope for all who will embrace His warm reality Immanuel our God is with us And if God is with us who could stand against us Our God is with us Immanuel For all those who live in the shadow of death A glorious light has dawned For all those who stumble in the darkness Behold your light has come Immanuel our God is with us And if God is with us who could stand against us Our God is with us Immanuel So what will be Your answer? Will You hear the call? Of Him who did not spare His son but gave Him for us all On earth there is no power there is no depth or height That could ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Immanuel our God is with us And if God is with us who could stand against us Our God is with us Immanuel
Since I am writing this post at Christmas time, I thought that I could also share a couple of Christmas time memories from when I was much younger. I remember Christmas caroling with our church youth group as we visited homes of the elderly who were referred to us as “shut-ins”. These people who were our audience, would tear up as our little group of unpolished voices sang and they seemed very eager to keep us there for just another minute. They did not want our young faces that lit up the room, to leave. Sometimes we were even offered a cup of hot chocolate as we shared our gift of Christmas cookies with them. As a kid it made me sad to think that there were people so lonely living right there among us, in our small town. People who did not leave the confines of their homes due to their frailty. It was a much needed lesson of compassion that we were learning at a young age. We were being taught the importance of reaching out to others as we blessed them with the gift of ourselves, in the sharing of our time.
I am also recalling quiet evening walks during the month of December. After attending ThursdayTrailblazers meetings, a weekly youth event, I would walk home in the cold and dark of twilight. But, I didn’t mind. It gave me time to think and to listen. I can remember hearing the church bells ringing as a church organist practiced Christmas songs and hymns preparing for an upcoming Sunday worship. I never considered what an imprint the music was leaving on my heart. I believe those songs were ministering to me even as a young girl as if preparing my heart for what was to come. And now a cherished relationship with Christ as my source of peace, strength, joy and hope.
Following Makenzie’s funeral service, I was greeted by a church friend. He commented on the high school chorus’ rendition of Immanuel. This friend expressed to me that he felt it was important that I shared that song with Makenzie’s friends who were most likely feeling very lost and hopeless. He felt confident that our song Immanuel left an imprint on their hearts to encourage them.
Whether it be for a frail and lonely person, or during a cold and dark December walk, or amidst the crumbling of a grieving heart, Immanuel is with us. And if God is with us, who can stand against us?
Revisiting this post from last year …( a post to my angel Makenzie )
Yesterday I posted something for Christmas on Kenzie’s FB page but then later on deleted it … Thinking about it this morning I could not fathom why I removed it. I had posted about The Three Kings and will share it below.. But this is now my realization for perhaps why it was deleted; It was not finished.
This past fall I was introduced to yet another mom, Denyse, who had recently lost her teenage daughter. We have become friends and she is finding her way through this storm by sharing goodness this holiday season, one small gift at a time. She and her other children have been leaving anonymous gift packages in the mailboxes of those who might not receive anything or who may need a lift in their spirits. Imagine! By reaching out to others in such unimaginable saddness, she is finding true blessings. This morning I found a package in my own mailbox. What is so special is that she is a wonderful artist and part of the gift that she left me was self created holiday cards of ” The Three Kings”. I love it. A perfect God wink which makes sense to me now, as I understand why I had deleted my original post. The timing was not right. Now I can share my sentiments to my Kenzie with this picture.
Original artwork by my friend Denyse
Merry Christmas, my sweet daughter. It has not been the same since you left us. I am thinking about the Three Kings and their gifts brought to the newborn King. But I believe it is not about their gifts nor about our material gifts which hold such high expectations in this world today. Christmas is about sharing ourselves: joy, laughter, peace and grace found from within . It is about LOVE. It’s about allowing God to use us for His purpose on this earth until we are called back home to be with Him. I am so glad Kenzie, that you made your beautiful difference by sharing your gifts, so many gifts, in your short life. I long to do the same ! My prayer and hope is that I will make a difference by fulfilling God’s will in using my gifts to offer joy, laughter, peace, grace and LOVE in humility as I walk with Him.
So happy I paid attention to my God nudge this week. For the past couple of months I have had this feeling that I should contact an area Assisted Living establishment in an attempt to visit and set a date to share about my Anti-aging skin care and brain supplement products. As I was taking my noontime walk on Thursday of this week, I got another feeling, a God nudge to make that call. I did and after inquiring, learned there would be a holiday fair there in just two days. After I was connected to the appropriate person, it was decided that there was room for me.
As I’m involved in these events, I never know truly what to expect nor whom God might place in my path for His purpose. Yesterday was no exception. The first woman that made an impact on me was a resident there who was simply admiring my glitter butterflies that I use to decorate my vendor table. Of course! These residents were not interested in skincare nor brain supplement for restoration of their focus, cognitive skills and memory. They were attracted to my butterflies and many wanted to purchase them. That first woman needed to talk so she shared a bit about where she came from and her own Godwinks too. As we got to know one another she revealed that she had been the only caretaker for her husband for the past five years and that he suffered so from his debilitating affliction. I am supposing that Alzheimers Disease may have been his nemesis. She told me that she had only recently become a resident and that her husband passed away just two days before he was to join her there at the assisted living facility. She started to cry and she told me they had been married for 63 years. I got up and I hugged her so tight and encouraged her to think on only the good things including what he must be seeing now and that when the time comes for them to reunite he will not be sick but will meet her as she remembers when he was vibrant and healthy. This woman wrote down her name for me and I think that I will send her a Christmas card and perhaps visit her in the new year.
While sharing my skincare line with other visitors another memorable connection was made. Across from my table was a daughter with her aging mom. Her elderly but spirited mom was dressed as one of Santa’s Elves and her mom was selling all kinds of trinkets that I assume had been acquired over the years. The daughter came over to my table and as we got to know one another, we discovered that we both had children in the same birth years. As we continued to talk I learned that she had attended church once upon a time but had not found a new church home for many years. I thought that I saw in her eyes a longing for friendship and a reconnection to her faith in Christ. I jotted down the name of my church and invited her to come be a part of my beautiful church family. I want to add here that many of my most meaningful and deeply connected friendships are with my church family at Monadnock Covenant. I also offered that she could catch it on live-stream if she wanted a glimpse into our Sunday worship. She commented that she had never heard of such a thing. As we parted I gave her my phone number and encouraged her to be in touch.
My most amazing connection yesterday was with two young girls who passed by my table. Although they were intrigued with my skincare line, they were even more interested in my book which I had lying there with Kenzie’s picture. As I shared with them one of the girls immediately said to me “oh yes!, I am a recipient myself of two organs just this past spring”! As I shared Makenzie’s story, I inquired if she had reached out to the donor family and she said ” I just can’t! I don’t know what to say”! She got very tearful and told me she could not continue our conversation as she was so emotional and they walked away. Later on she came back to my table and she purchased my book and as they were leaving, we hugged and I told her that when she is ready, that I will help her write the letter.
Wow! My day was filled with blessings! Yes, I sold some of my skincare products but what I gained personally from these interactions was immeasurable.
So I was hoping to leave you with this thought; how are you reaching out to our world? Christmas time is perhaps the best time to reach out to those who are vulnerable, hurting, and seeking. You can personally be a messenger of the best gift, the gift of the Prince of Peace.
It has been said over and over again that it is more blessed to give than it is to receive. I have to say from the joy that I receive by reaching out to others that this is truth. When you sense a God nudge, acknowledge it and act on it as it may certainly lead you to a Godwink.
Post Script: This week’s blog post was written early this morning before church. As I attended church later on this morning, I found it interesting that we were celebrating the second Sunday of Advent and the candle of Peace was lit. Today’s message just happened to be about Jesus, Our Prince of Peace.
Sharing this post from last year as I think it touched many and is worthy to share again.
A Christmas Tree of Life
This tree was given by our church youth group in memory of Kenz. That first Christmas it was decorated with butterfly ornaments… one still remains… I will add more this year ?
As I read posts on social media about loss, especially recent loss and about sadness around the holidays, it makes me think of that first Christmas without Kenz. I recall words from a well meaning friend “you will just have to find your new normal”. At the time, the words stung! I did not want a new normal. I had made up my mind that I was not going to have a Christmas tree. After all, Makenzie was such an intricate part of the tradition of putting the tree up. I am, for the most part a procrastinator. I have to feel inspired to do things that matter; but, Kenz always wanted the tree up immediately following Thanksgiving. I could usually delay this with my own reasoning for a couple of weeks but then she would haul off and pull the decorations out of storage and get everything going.. With Christmas music blaring, she would get the tree situated with lights wrapped on it and a few precious handmade ornaments from kindergarten placed strategically front and center (she knew that I would move these sweet little gems to the back to accommodate my own need for synchronicity and perfection). And then she would ditch me! Opened boxes spread all over the living room floor she would find something else to suit her fancy and leave me to finish the job.
Anyway that first Christmas season I was shopping and as I waited in line, a box of purple ornaments summoned me. I actually got out of a very long line at a cash register to retrieve this single box of ornaments and then get to the back of the line to purchase them.
So that first December, Nicole and Ashley came and helped me decorate the most meaningful and precious Christmas tree. In some sense, I consider it my Tree of Life that first Christmas. As they did, I also shared with Nicole and Ashley about Kenzie’s gift of life. It was a very long and tearful afternoon as they poured over the pages of the letters of correspondence that I have exchanged with the recipients. I think we used a full box of tissues that day.
Once word got out about my purple Christmas tree, gifts of ornaments came from so many sweet friends. Purple, zebra, and butterfly ornaments. I was mesmerized by the white lights shining on each special decoration and would sit for hours in the evening transfixed in my own thoughts and place of serenity. Perhaps only a tree Kenzie’s mom could love? That first Christmas I kept that tree up until Valentine’s Day when my husband Bob finally coaxed me, begged me to put it away.
We have celebrated these past five Christmas seasons with this pretty but eclectic Christmas tree. As I started to work on this year’s Christmas tree on the day after Thanksgiving (Kenzie inspired) I did not get too far. Only lights strung on the tree; still pondering what am I waiting for? It just came to me this morning. I will bring out all the old favorites from years gone by and use them this year. Yes, I will take my most precious and cherished handmade ornaments crafted by tiny hands and strategically place them front and center.
Kenzie’s Angel- age 3
Each person’s process of experiencing those first holidays without their loved one is unique. A new normal is unimaginable and even seemingly insurmountable for most of us. Be gentle and patient and kind to yourself and allow the gift; the greatest gift of all “Jesus” to embrace you, love on you, and allow your heart to find peace and comfort. Maybe even joy will be discovered in something as unassuming as a box of purple ornaments or the tracing of a small hand.