Monday, May 19, 2014


I told Bruce he had to stop the car and let me out.

Because I saw Don standing by the AFC house.

He's back.


This was my challenge awhile ago, to learn the names of the men and women who sit on plastic molded lawn chairs on the front porch of the Victorian house around the corner. Because when the Pharisee asks, "Who is my neighbor?" it smacks of being nice only to those who are like me.

I felt a little scared at first. I started with saying "Hi" and smiling when I saw Don on the sidewalk. Sometimes he shuffled with his head down as if counting the cracks in the sidewalk. Other times he was dressed in a heavy coat despite the warmer weather, carrying a stack of folded clothes.

One day I said, "Hi, my name is Susan - what's yours?"

We never had a long conversation but I learned that he walks to the Clark station every morning for a large bottle of Pepsi. His thick winter hat was knitted by his sister-in-law, Toni. And he really enjoyed the big canister of assorted popcorn that I gave him for Christmas.

One day, he was gone.

And the next day. And the next.

As days turned into weeks, then months, I wondered and prayed. "Dear God, please keep Don safe. Please help him wherever he is."


Bruce stopped the car. I got out and ran down the block.

"Don, it's Susan! I'm so glad you're back!"

Ah, so good to shake the hand of my friend and see his smile again.

He had been in the hospital, and when I told him I'd prayed for him, he said he thought that probably helped.

As I turned to leave, Richard shouted from the park across the street, "HI BARBARA!"

But that's a story for another day.

Thanks, God, for bringing Don back. Let me bring Your light to him.

Sunday, May 18, 2014'

It's strange, grief.

He looked me in the eye and said, "He's gone. Now it's you."

I felt the catch of breath and filling of tears. Three words. "Now it's you."

It's the weight I've felt, the sense of responsibility for leading the family even before he died. It came with taking on their bill paying, advocating for him during hospitalizations, watching to be sure that she wasn't overdoing it in her role as caregiver.

It never felt right from the sense that the roles flipped. Parent became child and child, parent.

It was right, though. It was love in action, and who better than his child to love him in that way? Who better than his wife to love him through the final years?

With my birthday coming, I feel the loss more acutely. On the gray, drizzling Tuesday one week out, I cried most of the way to work.

It's this simple: he's the guy who witnessed my first day in this world. He's the guy who taught me to ride a bike. He's the guy who was proud of me, who I could always count on. He's the guy who told me it was the best sermon he'd ever heard preached, the day I first spoke at church. He's the guy who came to hear me again last summer, when he was so exhausted from the debilitating illness that he didn't think he could make the 45-minute trip.

And he's the guy who always sang "Happy Birthday" with Mom on my birthday, his tenor harmonizing with her soprano - giving his dry comment, "There she goes" when she dissolved in tears partway through.

This year, there will just be a sweet soprano.

And someday there won't be a sweet soprano. (Though I hope that's a long time in the future.)

Then it will be fully true.

"Now it's me."

Friday, May 16, 2014

(Brief thoughts originally posted on FB)

I'm not a birth mom. And it's Mother's Day.

I've been blessed through the years by women who shared their children with me…To name just a few... Patty Reitzel shared her son, Jonathan Reitzel as well as her other children. I have many memories of time spent with Jon… Marilyn Hendricks shared her daughter, Sharon Mbabazi, now grown up, a dear friend and soul sister. By marriage, I have the stepsons I dearly love - Jef, Phil, Jerry. And their wives - Sara, Katharine, Candice Norcross. My sister-in-law, Deborah Zimmerman loans the BoyzZ out (it's a win-win for all, as she gains adult time with my brother). And of course, now I add Katharine Szabla-Fennema who entrusts us with Charlie!

These are just a very few… And so I offer this witness to say that God has fulfilled his word. He has given me children - children of my heart.

For those of you who are longing for children… May God bring you the birth children - but may you also have eyes open wide to see the children of your heart.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Noah.The Movie.

Sadness. That's what I've carried this week after leaving the movie, "Noah", before it ended. (There was more going on with me that just a bad movie, but that's for another post.)

The essential message of the Bible account was lost somewhere between the gigantic stone fallen angels and the evil king, Tubal-Cain, hacking his way into the ark to stow away.

The movie's message was: God wanted to destroy mankind because of its evil behavior and return the earth to the animals because of their purity and innocence. Noah tells his sons that each will in turn bury the elder folk until Japheth alone remains - until he, too, dies.

The Bible account is about three pages (not burdensome to read and study) - and while the moviemaker needed to fill in the gaps to make a two-hour movie, it's difficult to understand how it went so far off track. Had it been billed as a science fiction or action movie, I would not have these issues, but pretending that the movie is a historical account? Let's tell the story that God tells.

God wanted to destroy mankind because of its evil behavior. Genesis 6:6-7

God was sad about this and found a righteous person and his family to save. Genesis 6:8-10

God instructed Noah to build an ark, and brought Noah, his family (including his wife, sons and their wives), and the animals into it. Genesis 7:11-16

God makes the water recede and then blesses Noah and his sons, and places the earth under their authority. Genesis 9:1-2

God makes a covenant with Noah that He will never again destroy the earth with a flood. Genesis 9:12-17

That's good news. We can count this all joy.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I walked to the patio and heard the low hum.


Busily moving here and there in the tree overhead that shades my chaise. They moved incessantly, restless as the anxiety pulsing within me.


I didn't carve out time for what I craved on this vacation. Time to think, write, rest. Did I truly crave it, then? Isn't it easier to be busy than to be?

"Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. (Psalm 46:10a)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

the dream

I find that it's hard to get out of the shower. The warm water and its sound soothe me.

I expected to cry more, but I haven't. Other than Christmas Eve, which was hard; and a couple of weeks ago when I had a difficult day at work and the tears began a slow glide down my cheeks.

I expected to cry more, but you see, it was such a long good-bye. Five and a half years. Watching his world shrink from world travel to trips to dialysis. Seeing his body dwindle so that I stooped to hug him. Noticing the frailty of his shoulders as I hugged him.

It didn't come as a huge shock when Mom called at 5 a.m. one morning to say, "Honey, Dad's gone to heaven."

And there were so many, many things to do. There was a memorial service to plan and decisions about the music and the scriptures and eulogies to write and thank you notes afterwards and seeing the lawyer and figuring out how to make the insurance claim and suddenly weeks had gone by and I am just beginning to understand that he is really gone, that he has been gone for a long time because of the illness and what it took from him. But. He was there and there was the fact that I was always his daughter.

The first dream came last night, a dream of him and Mom and the elation that I felt when Mom said they had prescribed a new medication that would give him more energy. There was new light in his eyes and greater strength in his voice. They had come to hear me perform with an orchestra; I had come out to see them at the car, then went back inside to wait. And wait. And wait. Fifteen minutes until curtain and I heard the orchestra begin.

I went outside and saw Mom coming up the walk (pushing a bicycle?) and went to see where Dad was. She followed me to the sidewalk and we saw him fall at the edge of the curb. I was shouting and he got up. Confused, he staggered into the first lane of traffic. He fell again. Still shouting, I watched helplessly as he got up, reeling, and stepped into the next lane of traffic as a car turned left into that lane.

I woke up. It was unbearable to watch.

I woke up to the reality that he is gone.

The one who believed in me.

The one who cheered me on.


Until we see each other again.

Wiedersehen, Daddy.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Before morning coffee, I am typically bleary and incoherent.

That's why it was so unusual to have the following thought drop into my head, clear and fully-formed - as I woke on New Year's Day:

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him." (Romans 15:13a)

I've never been a New Year's fan. Maybe it's because we always went to visit friends on New Year's Day, where we had a buffet meal including ham (which I dislike) and watched football (which I don't understand).

In recent years, I've come to appreciate the day because I'm looking for a new word, a next word - from God. I have expectancy and anticipation - what will He do this year?

The clarity of the scripture verse stayed with me. What was the word God intended? Was it "filled"? Was it "overflow"? Neither rang true, and I could not share the word until God settled it for me.

This morning, I asked again - what is the word? Hope, I sensed in my spirit, confirmed with tears. Why tears?

For years, I struggled with depression, anxiety, pessimistic thoughts. If things were going well, I believed I had God's favor and love. If things didn't go well? Then God must be displeased with or disappointed in me. It was a flickering sort of faith, not fully founded on God's unchanging character.

The tears came from - well, hope. Hope that I will grow in knowledge and understanding of God's character. That I will have a confident expectation of the truth: God loves me and has a good plan for my life.

Wikipedia describes Christian hope this way:

"According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, hope is a "[t]rustful expectation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of God's promises. Hope, is the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God's guidance[;]... the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future."

Romans 15:13 in its entirety is this:

"May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope."