Raw Reflections from the Journey

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Birthday Reflections, 2012

It's hard to believe that another year has passed, but spring weather similar to my last birthday and many others testifies that 'tis the season! A tinge of cold that requires a wind shirt, with bright sunshine a few brave birds and buds and blossoms on the trees...yep, it's March.

This was my 47th year! (tomorrow). And for some reason I'm expecting big things in my 48th! After all, it was when Jack Nicklaus was 47 that he won his sixth and final Masters, and Al Unser Sr. won his fourth and final Indy 500. In other words, 47 isn't too old to do great things!

I have a personal policy to take my birthday off from work. Why? I'm glad you asked. In the past I've worked my birthdays, giving to others as I do most days the balance of the year...and I've sometimes resented making the day about others instead of caring for myself. Selfish? Bad attitude? Or healthy self-care? Jesus taught us us to "Love your neighbor as yourself". So, I conclude that a prerequisite to loving others is good self-care. What do YOU think?

Anyways, I'm looking forward to my birthday Sabbath. No certain obligations, but to roam and flow as the Spirit moves me.

One thing I'm contemplating is a 'Legacy Bike Ride'. What's that? Probably a northern course of at least 47 miles that will go past my Grand Parents house and my father's grave. They loved me and loved my birthday. It's bittersweet to not be with them tomorrow, but I can visit them...kind of (tears).

Well, what has transpired in the past year? What are my 'takeaways'?

- Laura driving and thriving (academically and in her gift in music)
- A trip with Jill to India to train cross-cultural workers in Marriage Coaching
- Publishing our Magnum Opus, "Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship",
- a belated 25th Anniversary Trip to the Northern Coast of California and Bethel Chruch in Redding California (we didn't know that all of this was on our bucket list until we got there!)

The year was also marked by unprecedented and grief. My father passed on Nov. 28th, and we laid him to rest on Dec. 10th. As I've written in previous blogs, the experience has been much harder than I anticipated. Ironically it was in my last birthday blog that I chronicled a visit to my ailing father.

This blog isn't exhaustive, but breaks my writing silence of the past few months. Life has been both taxing and exhilarating. Fellowship with other believers has been both rich and challenging, frustrating and compelling.

In my last birthday blog I celebrated my father's impartation of wisdom to keep looking forward by considering today as the first day of the rest of your life. This birthday I want to exhort myself and you to Carpe Diem! Seize the Day for ALL that God has planned for you to do and to experience in relationship with Him and others, and to do that by listening for and following His prompts!

God Bless, Agape Love, and Carpe Diem!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Grief without Regrets

"I think we get it confused sometimes", Jill said. "We grieve about what has been lost and the outcome of different choices, but we've made our choices together the best we could with the information we had, and so I don't regret what we chose, but I do grieve."

Dr. Vellanki found me licking my wounds in the break room, and he intuited my spirit. I was sad and aggravated with myself because the choice I'd made to help someone had backfired. "Jeff, your heart is good. I trust you, and I know you made that choice with the information you had available. You meant good." I can't tell you how much Dr. V's affirmation meant to me.

Are you grieving something, or someone? How about grief about what was said/done or not said and not done in a relationship? Personally, the more I sleep the more I dream about my dad. Very strange in one way, but healthy and real in another. Last night I dreamed that dad was alive at a family gathering. Eventually it was made clear to me that I was the only one talking to him; that I was hallucinating (in my dream) that he was still among us. Grief? yes. With regrets? No. I'm confident that we both did the best we could with the information and opportunities we had and that we created.

What prompted this blog? Late this afternoon I was moved to click on a podcast from Mars Hill Church by Mark Driscoll, "Ministry Marriages". He laid out how idolatry is the culprit behind all sin, including the veneration of ministry leaders who sometimes put their marriage and family on the altar of sacrifice in order to "further the gospel". His poignant indictment hit close to home regarding my/our motives to risk and sacrifice in the past. Both Jill and I listened to it, and eventually she let me and us off the hook saying, "I grieve, but I don't have regrets."

Is hindsight 20/20? Maybe not perfect acuity, but close. And that's the point. If we knew then what we knew today we might have chosen differently, but we didn't. We chose the best we could with the information we had, and that is our solace.

The Grand Caveat to all of this is the fact that God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. We do the best we know today, and tomorrow we the same; sometimes changing our minds according to experience and outcomes.

Grieve as you must (and we all will according to the losses and changes visited upon us), but don't regret unfairly. You probably chose the best you could with the information you had. Get more information tomorrow, and have the humility to choose differently. One day will see very clearly. Until then, He understands (and so should we) that we see now behind a glass dimly lit.

with love and compassion, Jeff

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Visit is Over

Four days ago our guileless, radiant, precocious granddaughter, Gabby Anne came for a visit. Bright smile and outstretched arms made Papa's day (I was waiting in the driveway), "I love you Papa!" I'm not sure there's anything better.

Gabby is just past 3 1/2 and headed toward 4 (June 25), and is a remarkable bundle of enthusiastic joy, curiosity and love. No wonder people flock to her (our house has had a revolving door of family and friends anxious for an injection of joy from the child-like child).

Our house is strewn with markers, dolls, stuffed animals, sidewalk chalk, a scooter, helmet and various items of clothing...and we don't care! It is the aftermath of a love-fest; her loving us and us unable to do anything but patiently lavish love in return.

"I love you Papa, and I want to stay here forever!" Gabby's heart felt exultation brought tears. Why? Because her words sincerely flowed from her heart, and...because I know that there is no forever...in this life." Gabby seemed to realize this truth late this afternoon. After waking from a nap, she melted. My trained eye as a clinician sees her beginning to detach from us as she prepares to re-attach to her mother, father and her other set of grandparents. That's healthy, ultimately, but a contradiction to her optimistic "forever". And so the our little 'innocent' bundle of love and joy has already begun to experience the reality that there is no 'forever' in human time and space.

We somehow console ourselves with the hope of another visit and the ultimate 'forever' of eternity beyond our present reality, but still we wish she didn't have to go. It hurts to say goodbye.

Go if you must, Gabby. And go with God. He will never leave you or forsake you, and by trusting in His name, you will know a forever that is really forever. And we will see you there, and be with you there...forever!

Love, Papa and Grandma Jill