Saturday, May 19, 2012

Turning East? Again?

The irony of the moment was not lost on me!  Here he was, divulging to me how I had become an object lesson for his study in the Psalms.  Revealing that an intentional choice I had made nearly 6 years earlier had now help him understand what it looked like to deal with grief and it's devastation head on.  A decision that would force me to 'turn east' and face my darkness, to embrace the pain and emotion that promised to be there.

Yet even now, I was desperately- almost frantically trying to run from the pain of another heart break.  I wanted to not feel the ache so deeply.  Once again, I had no control of the moment, only my response to it.  It was not the loss of my child, but it was the loss of a dream for my child.   Why could I in one instance consciously choose to 'turn' and face the pain- yet in this moment, flail miserably trying to avoid it? 

The decision 6 years earlier,  I had shared with only a few.  For me it held great depth of emotion and angst, and yet peace.  Would I be willing to submit myself to that level of intentionality again?

Just a couple of weeks after our daughter, Leisha, had died, a pastor friend sent us a book that I already had on my shelves.  I had heard Jerry Sittser, the author, speak years earlier, which was just 3 years after he had experienced the loss of his wife, his mother and his 4 year old daughter in a single accident.   I had purchased his book then, called  A Grace Disguised,  because I knew that if this man could speak with such hope after experiencing such pain, many others would want to hear his story too. I had passed it to others in their times of loss, but had never read it in its entirety myself.   I immediately knew that this was my time to do just that.

On one of the days when the darkness of my own grief seemed to over take me, I read these words; words that couldn't have described more accurately  my own emotions if I had written them personally.  So I'll let Jerry's words speak for themselves.

"I had a kind of waking dream...of a setting sun. I was frantically running west, trying desperately to catch it and remain in its fiery warmth and light. But I was losing the race. The sun was beating me to the horizon and was soon gone.  I suddenly found myself in the twilight.  Exhausted, I stopped running and glanced with foreboding over my shoulder to the east.  I saw a vast darkness closing in on me. I was terrified by that darkness.  I wanted to keep running after the sun, though I knew that it was futile, for it had already proven itself faster than I was. So I lost all hope, collapse to the ground, and fell into despair. I thought in that moment that I would live in darkness forever.  I felt absolute terror in my soul."

That was what it looked like for me at that moment!  He got it!  He described the chase in exact detail.  I too was urgently trying to make the day last, because the night did indeed bring absolute terror! 

Jerry went on to share, "A few days later I talked about the dream with a cousin…. He mentioned a poem of John Donne that turns on the point that, though east and west seem farthest removed on a map, they eventually meet on a globe.  What therefore appears as opposites- east and west- in time, come together, if we follow one or the other long enough and far enough.  Later my sister, Diane, told me that the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is to not run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise. 

I remember slamming the book shut and throwing it on my bedside table as if it had just stung me suddenly.  I COULD NOT DO what he suggested.  I WOULD NOT DO  it!  To turn to the east meant to turn toward the scene of my daughter's accident.  It was all I could do to know her absence- to embrace it and all that might come with it seemed insurmountable.   

Yet I returned to the book several days later, he continued,  

I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could.  Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than to try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it.  I chose to turn toward the pain, however falteringly, and to yield to the loss, though I had no idea at the time what that would mean." 

The more I pondered his words, the more I came to grips with the futility of trying to avoid the pain, I soon came to realize the only way to find hope in this journey was to 'turn east'; to walk through the darkness to the sunrise after.  

It took several more days of pondering what that might look like before I began to realize that for me to truly turn east, I had to take that walk that my daughter had taken that day, down our long lane and the mile and a half east of our house.  I had to stand at the corner where she had darted across the intersection to meet a friend, only to run out in front of a car and be killed instantly.  

I stood there pondering what her response was when she realized the friend she met instead was Jesus.  Had there been a Narnia door that opened for her to pass through; a portal that we could not see, but she witnessed first hand.  A friend had said at the funeral that he could imagine her almost tripping into heaven and falling to her knees and saying, "Ooops! My bad!"   

But as I stood there, I sensed that as she passed into heaven's home, she was instantly aware that she stood before the Son of God and fell to her knees in humble worship.  The week before she died, I had committed to read through the book of Revelation. So that morning after her accident, I had picked up chapter 1 again.  

         When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me
         and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One;
         I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of
         death and Hades.

Revelation chapter 4 had given me a description of the throne,

        A rainbow that shown like an emerald encircled the throne.

Of course it would be green. Green was her favorite color.  She had come running in one morning a few weeks before and declared, "My favorite color means my favorite word.  Green means HOPE!"

        Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were
        twenty-four elders. ... In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures,
        and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.... Day and night they never
        stop saying:

        "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is, and is to come."

Whatever I had believed about heaven before, I had this very real sense at that intersection of roads, the intersection of each and west, that my daughter was there, in the throne room with those elders and living creatures, laying down her crown, kneeling in His presence saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy  is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

       Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits
       on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down
       before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. 
       They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

       You are worthy, our Lord and God, to recieve glory and honor and power,
       for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.

I was a LIVING creature.  Even though I felt like I was dying, even though I felt such pain, I could choose to join Leisha in this moment also.  I could give him glory, honor, and thanks to him to sits on the throne,  to the LIVING ONE who died and now is alive forever and ever.  I fell to my knees by the side of the road where I had last seen her broken body and wept.  

Over and over I repeated the words
"Holy, holy, holy",
 "who was, who is, who is to come",
"Living One who died"
"Oh God!"


I don't know how long I sat there, it seemed like hours, but was probably only a few moments.  I don't remember ever noticing a car passing or a runner on the road.  We may not have a lot of traffic on these country roads, but it was rare that there was no one that afternoon.   
I remember standing to walk home and feeling completely spent.  I didn't know how I was going to make the trek back.  I had no energy for it.  I began to reason, if I could make it to the driveway, perhaps I could get the Suter's to take me home.  And then felt like I had enough strength to go on to the Diller's driveway.  Once there, I knew that I wanted to go back over the bridge where I had last seen Leisha's vibrant smile and wave. From there, I was sure the Basinger's could take me the rest of the way.  But I don't remember the rest of the walk until I was walking up to front door of my the house. I collapsed in the sofa in my living room- a fragile, emotionally spent, but somehow at peace mother. 
Jerry said, "My decision to enter the darkness had far-reaching consequences, both positive and negative.  It was the first step I took toward growth, but it was also the first step I took toward pain.  I had no idea then how tumultuous my grief would be. I did not know the depths of suffering to which I would descend." 
…"but that is only half of the story. The decision to face the darkness, even if it led to overwhelming pain, showed me that the experience of loss itself does not have to be the defining moment of our lives.  Instead the defining moment can be our response to the loss.  It is not what happens TO us that matters as much as what happens IN us. Darkness, it is true, had invaded my soul.  But then again, so did light.  Both contributed to my personal transformation." 

That was 6 years ago!  God met me then, and has journeyed so intimately with me in the walk since then.  So what will I do today!   
Do I dare 'turn east' again?
Would you?

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Mother's Day weekend Lunch Celebrating the Girls!

It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed a great Mexican Fiesta outdoors at one of Brie's favorite places-  LaFogata's in Columbus.  So fun to have us all together! 
Only one thing more this Mom could have wanted- 
and that reunion will take place at a later date!

 Jack Andrews and Caitlin

Jason Augsburger and Brielle
Rennie and Kathy

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Brielle R Burrus, Bachelor's degree, Fine Art, Columbus College of Art & Design

We're so proud of you Brie!  You have been drawing your way through life, learning to read, learning to express your emotions, learning to help others see with greater clarity as well.  Can't wait to see how you will continue to impact the world around you!  Congratulations sweetie!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Caitlin R Burrus, Master's Graduate, Wheaton College 2012

We are so proud of you Cait! Who would have ever thought that you would graduate with a master's in Biblical Archaeology of all things! But you always did like the ancient stories and how they connected with people you studied.  Can't wait to see how this will play out in the rest of your life. Congratulations sweet girl!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Letting Go!

It's the year I've been dreading for awhile now!  I didn't know when it would come!  I planned to be excited about it and yet I knew it would be hard.  It's that year both of the girls are no longer in school. The year they both make the decision to set up an apartment and establish their own 'homes'!

But this hasn't been how I envisioned it.  Perhaps I've been too ideal about it all along.  Perhaps I believed they would do it like we did it- though I never really thought they would. They are both their own woman- raised by us- but transformed by their own take on life and on God.  Nothing they have done to this point is as we had done it.  We had our own choices, they are making theirs. 

Maybe it's that it is all happening together- within the same month. 
Maybe it's because I never anticipated  some of their choices.
Maybe it's because I felt like we had worked through the most difficult things in life already.
Maybe it's because I thought that by the time I got to this point in my own life, that I would have 'figured things out'. 

Instead I feel less sure of everything in my life.   I feel passionate and yet have little energy to push through it like I used to.  Some things are worth fighting for - worth dying for if necessary.  Other things I wonder if I hold too tightly.  There are  things that I used to believe were so important- that I see little value in now, if any.  Yet there are things that are important; that are worthy of the time, energy, emotions, heart, soul, mind and strength that it takes to face. 

Having lived life, having walked with many people through their crises- let alone experienced my lifetime of my own- has taught me much.  But knowing when it's the right time to fight and when it's better to wait- that is still a concept I don't know.  And invariably I'm putting on my boxing gloves when I should be kicking off my shoes and sitting for a spell. 

And when you are a parent-watching those most precious to you grow and mature and fly on their own-  those boundaries get even more confusing and often more intense.  When the girls were little, I was overwhelmed with the depth of emotion I felt toward them and the responsibilities of caring for them, raising them, loving them all uniquely.  An older couple shared with us that this was the easy stage.  "When it comes to letting go so they can take wing, that's when it gets really hard."  I understand now.

Don't get me wrong!  I want them to soar and thrive in their lives.  I pray every day for the professions they might choose and the impact they will have.  I pray for the young men in their lives  - for their faithful, loving, supportive role they will play for our girls.  I pray that their journey in knowing God- who He truly is -would be life changing.

But it is hard to quit parenting in the way we did when they were children.  It's a challenge to 'not speak' when everything in you wants to say, 'oh be careful,  you're going to fall, stay away from that- it will hurt you!"

So hear I am Lord!  Parent me once again on how to parent in this new role that we are in.  One of prayer and love, not as teachers or even advisors in many ways, but of support, encouragement, example, listeners. Challengers when we feel we must speak, but even then knowing that it is only that- a challenge.  A way of saying, "have you thought about" instead of "do this"!  Forgive me for not trusting you to do your work in their lives.  Forgive me for not wanting to let them to live and learn and grow as I had to live and learn and grow.  For being afraid of the hurt they might feel, or the baggage they might have to carry with them. 

Because they will also experience your bigness at times when they least expect it or when they need it most,  your forgiveness when they fail and your strength when they feel weak.  They must learn to know you in their own stories- not the one I dreamed up for them.

I gave them to you on the day they were born!  I gave them to you most everyday since.
I give them to you once again!   On the day they officially learn to fly!

Help me let go with grace!