Thursday, August 16, 2012

Letter to Leisha

Hi Sweetheart!
It's been so long since I've touched you last.  Six years ago today in fact!  In some ways it seems like yesterday, but in most ways it seems like a lifetime ago already.

I think of you every day, wondering what life is like in heaven,  knowing that your LIFE is full of richness and amazement.

  • I'm wondering what kinds of things you DO there
  • what WORSHIP is like when you are so aware of HIS presence, 
  • what WORK is like when you love what you are doing.

Even as I think of those things, I realize that even here on earth I have experienced His presence in worship and I do know what it is like to love my work.  Yet I long to know what you now know, seeing it from the other side.

This morning, Jerry Suter asked your Dad and I to come to share 'WORDS OF WISDOM' with the Suter bunch.  I remember when you and your sisters would come home from picking corn and share something that was said at the WORDS OF WISDOM time.  What a cool thing Jerry & Nancy have done there - with so many kids for so long.  Catherine was there, so was Jennifer and Ava and others you would know.  

Dad had to leave before the kids got back from the corn field, so I shared myself.  I remembered a time when I was their age and had been asked to write my obituary.  I remember being very challenged by the exercise to consider what I wanted people to say about me when I died.  I wrote that I died very old, had a husband that adores me, had kids and grandkids that love me dearly, do ... lot's of different things that make a difference in people's lives.   No where did I put that I would experience pain, or lose a daughter before she had a chance to grow old.

I told them today was your 6th anniversary in heaven. I shared with them the legacy you left me. In our conversation just minutes before you died, you told me, "I want to influence.  I want to say to people, 'I'm going, come with me!'"  Your words became a huge impetus for me to keep moving forward.  So I could say to people "Come with me!"   You reminded me that your favorite color means your favorite word, "Green means HOPE!"  You left me a legacy of hope- green hope in a sometimes brown world!

So I challenged them to consider what legacy they are leaving in their world.

Yes, Jerry cried!  You knew he would! I told the kids that the evening you died, I didn't remember all the hugs I got that night, but I remembered looking up into Jerry's face shortly after I got to the scene, and seeing in his face that he knew something about my future that I didn't know.  I watched him fall to the ground in grief, sobbing not just for you or for us- but for Tim and his family all over again.  I'm sure you and Tim have talked about us often.  Oh how Jerry & Nancy have mentored us with hope- and the ability to continue to influence the lives of others for hope!

Since Dad had to leave, I didn't have a ride home!  Nancy offered to take me, but I said, "I think I need to take the walk home!" She immediately knew what I was saying!  "Time to think, huh?"

It was!  Walking home from Suter's means walking to your corner!  The one where you found the Narnia door to heaven!  The last time I walked there was a couple of months after you died.  Jerry Sittser, in his book "A GRACE DISGUISED" talked about early in his grief, he tried to lasso the sun and keep it from going down in the west.  His sister challenged him to let go of the sun and 'turn east'.  If you walk into the darkness, the morning will come sooner.  At first I hated that idea!  Turning east from our house meant turning toward your corner.  But after thinking about it awhile, it seemed important for me to do.  So one afternoon, I walked your 'last walk'.  Down the driveway, past Richard's barn, across 696 all the away to Road 5.

It was an incredible God moment for me.  But also full of anguish.  I wrote about it recently.  ( I couldn't share it was too...deeply personal. But it's been healing to remember now.

I didn't remember the walk back from that corner then. My grief was so raw, the darkness so encompassing. But today I felt the warmth of the sun on my back, I was amazed at the brightness of the day and the lightness of my heart.  I actually walked around the corner and suddenly stopped and looked back.  I realized that my thoughts were not on the accident or your death, but your life. Times we had as a family riding bikes on that road.  (Remember when Brie crashed into the ditch when she didn't know how to use her brakes yet)  So many times we drove that road to church, or practice or work at Suter's!   I stood there and realized that as I turned the corner I was thinking of LIFE!  I marveled at the healing that has come. Six years ago I never thought I would laugh again, or know joy again. I never thought I would enjoy life.  But I am!  You are a big part of helping me get to this place!  Your legacy had reminded me to look to the ONE that can give hope!

As I walked in the door, I burst into tears and sweat poured from me!  But after sleeping for a while, I realize that it wasn't the exercise that exhausted me (tho I know I am not in good shape yet), it was the release of emotions that have been building over the last few weeks of preparing for the LEISHA'S HOPE event in July and looking toward this anniversary.  Just because I am experiencing hope, doesn't mean I don't miss you terribly! I do!  It doesn't mean I don't wish that you were still here, being part of our lives in a physical sense.  Though in so many ways I sense you are continuing to make this journey with us in spirit!

This afternoon I went to the woods to meet Tabby!  Oh it was so good to see her! I showed her the FAITH cabin (she was impressed- wants to bring her folks).  I showed her where HOPE will be.  She loved it!  We walked around the trail and talked for 2 hours.  We could easily have talked more, but she had a 4:00 appointment.

One of the things I told the Lord recently was that I was sad that I don't get to see 'new' pictures of you like I do Cait & Brie.  Or hear new stories of things you've said and done.  But Tabby shared with me something I don't think she ever told me before.  She shared with me that the evening you were on your walk, you called her and left her a message.  Something like, "Hey Tabby, I just wanted to tell you that I'm not coming to youth group tonight.  But I wanted you to know I was thinking about you.  I'll see you Sunday!"   Tabby said she didn't know what made you think of her, but the fact that you called her, and then died has made such a difference in her life.  She told me that often when she doesn't know what she should do, she thinks "what would Leisha do?"  One time after she got her new little GREEN Bug for graduation, she didn't want to get it dirty.  Some of the kids from youth group needed a ride.  Her dad just said, "What would Leisha do?"  She turned to the group and said, "Ok guys, come on, let's go!"  She even put the GREEN HOPE eye on some TOMS she had made.

I did remind her that from your perspective now, you would remind her that it doesn't matter what you would do.  What is important is what would Jesus have her do in this moment!  I also reminded her that you would tell her not to be like you, but to be the very best Tabby that God created; with all of the incredible skills and abilities and dreams that God planted in her. And Leisha she is amazing!  I love her heart for her family, for people, for the 'behind the scenes' of ministry.  I know God is using her in amazing ways already.  He used her in my life today.

I spent the rest of the afternoon just quiet in the cabin. Just resting! reflecting! remembering!

I just want you to know how very much I love you! How much more I miss you!  How proud I am of you and the legacy you left for me- for so many others!  Thank you honey! Have a great day in heaven today celebrating your 6th anniversary of running into His arms!  I look forward to the day I will see you again!

I love you!

Monday, August 13, 2012

All Praise Belongs to You!

So often in corporate worship, someone else chooses the songs that lead us to the throne. Our Worship Pastor, Jason Hinkle, does that for us at Crossroads.   This song is no exception.  Not only did he choose it, he wrote it- out of his worship, for our worship.  Coupled with the song I shared earlier, this weekend was a powerful time in worship to my God.  I wanted to share it here too!


   You've called us, we've answered   We've come together in this place
  We cry out,    You listen     To hearts that long to sing your praise

  This is the reason we have come
  To offer praise to You alone

All praise belongs to You, for only You are God
There’s no other One who can compare
For all things belong to You, You’ve breathed us into life
With every breath You’ve given we will praise, oh we will praise

   You dwell in     the praises
   Of those whose lives have been renewed
   We lift up    our voices
   Singing in spirit and in truth

  All Honor and glory belong to You  
  For You have created all things
  Things in heaven and earth all bow down to You
  For You alone deserve our praise

No matter What! ? !

So this weekend I was on the worship team again!  It is amazing how the Lord knows that I am going to need to practice a song a myriad of times, and then lead it 3 times before I'm going to be able to hear it.  But that's what he did again!  Finally the 3 worship gathering- I heard it!  There were two songs in particular that brought it home to me!  It started with a couple of lines out of this song below.

 "Before a heartache can ever touch my life, it has to go through your hands."

Wow!  Process that for a while!  Everything that touches our life- goes through his hands. Everything!  But God, why do you let some things through?  Why don't you close your fingers to some of the really BIG hard places.  It's almost as if you have to open your fingers wider to let them pass.  Why not just pick them out instead and throw them away?  Why not only let the good things pass?  or are you?  Are you sifting through and taking out so many things that we never know? Are you so big that you can do that for me, for Ren, for Cait & Brie- for all these people here today?  Are you sifting so intimately for each of us?  Yes, it seems so!  Some of us have similar experiences and yet we each have different 'take' on it. You are using it differently for each of us. Hmmm?  What have you sifted for today, Lord?

 "I know that You can find a way to keep me from the pain, but if not, ...if not, I'll trust You!"

Hmmm?  I know I'm not the only one having a hard time saying those words.  Each service I saw hands go up to the face and tears come.  No, it was sobs for some; body shaking, heart wrenching sobs. Lord, this is not easy for us!  We know you can keep us from the pain!  We have always believed you are BIG enough to do that.  Yet we hurt! So deeply, so 'to the core!  Can I trust You when it hurts so bad?  I say "God is good, all the time!"  When things are good, I shout it with exuberance.  But when I'm hurting?  Ah Lord, that is hard! Sometimes in that pain, I can barely breathe, let alone speak.  Sometimes I don't like You!  If you are the Blessed Controller of all things- and I believe you are, why would you NOT keep me from this pain?  

Yet even in the pain, pain that comes to all of us at one time or another as part of this journey called life, I begin to see You!  Not as the one who dishes out  the pain, but as The Comforter, Healer, Mighy One; The Refuge and the Warrior!  I see Your Strength, and Courage, Life  and Hope! Ah, There it is!  

God, You are my HOPE!  
You are my ONLY HOPE!


Yes Lord, I KNOW that YOU can find a way to keep me from the pain, but if not...
if not...
I'll trust You!

No Matter What!

No Matter What! (Listen here!)

Sung by Kerrie Roberts
 I’m running back to your promises one more time,  Lord that’s all I can hold on to
  I gotta say this has taken me by surprise, but nothing surprises You.
  Before a heartache    can ever touch my life, it has to go through Your hands
  And even though I,      keep asking why, I keep asking why

            No matter what, I’m gonna love You, no matter what, I’m gonna need You,
            I know that You can find a way to keep me from the pain but if not,    if not,
            I’ll trust You, no matter what,      no matter what. 

VERSE 2    When I’m stuck in this nothing-ness by myself, I’m just sitting in silence
   There’s no way I can make it without Your help, I won’t even try it.
   I know You have Your reasons for everything, so I will keep believing
   Whatever I might be feeling, God You are my hope, and You'll be my strength, 


   Anything I don’t have You can give it to me,    but it’s ok if You don’t,
   I’m not here for those things, the touch of Your love is enough on its own,
   No matter what I still love You and I’m gonna need You

            No matter what I still love You    and I’m gonna need You
            No matter what I’m gonna love You, no matter what I’m gonna need You,
            I know that You can find a way to keep me from the pain but if not,   if not, I’ll trust You,
            I know that You can find a way to keep me from the pain, but if not,   if not, I’ll trust You,

            No matter what, no matter, no matter what,      No matter, no matter what

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why is it so hard?

...To walk away from a loss?

That was the question Pastor Randy asked me this weekend during the sermon. 

It was part of looking at the story of the children of Israel being led into captivity.  To have 'lost' their home, their identity, their traditions, their freedoms… loss after loss, divided with the 'important' people  taken and the poor and weak left behind.  We may not know 'exile' as the children of Israel- but we know loss.  We know separation.  It may be permanent loss-or may be temporary.  It make come sudden or come on slowly.  It doesn't matter if it's death, or divorce, broken relationships, loss of something precious, such as a job, or even a dream.  Loss effects us all.

Why is it so hard to walk away from a loss?

Ren & I have talked about that so often.  Since Leisha died, we now understand why some people experience a loss and never seem to be able to move forward again.  It's as if their feet get positioned in cement and to move is literally impossible.  Even though we were trying to take next steps, so often it felt as if we were in mud up past the top of our head and not only could we not step, we could not move, we could not see, we could not breathe.  That's how paralyzing it can be!

Why is it so hard to walk away from a loss?

My friend, Patty, shared with me afterward that the reason she finds it hard to move forward is that this place of grief is "the closest place to the last time I was happy".  To move forward means to walk away from our happy place. To move forward means  moving toward uncertainty, the unknown.  To something that holds only a hint of goodness- but we can't imagine it at any level.  I remember thinking 6 years ago, how can we ever be 'happy' again?  God you promised that your plans for us were for a future and a hope- ours just died… how will things ever be good again.

Yet here I stood!  6 years to the month later, so keenly aware that I was speaking as someone who was moving forward.  LEISHA'S HOPE was a huge step for us!  It felt life- giving! 

But It is hard!  When tragedy happens a core place inside of us dies.  Everything we believe about ourselves,  past, present and future are suddenly in question.  Everything we ever believed about God is now under a microscope- scrutinized by our definitions of what a 'good God' looks like if he allows this to happen in our lives.  Our confidence wavers- therefore, so does our ability to trust that we know what the next step is, even if we did have the ability to take it.

Jerry Sittser says in A Grace Disguised  that 'it can be good' again.  Life can find it's joys.  It's different than you dreamed before, but it can be good.  I can say that too- because God is good!  I know I didn't always feel that way.  There were many days I sat on His lap -beating his chest till I couldn't even breathe any more.  But in the end, the beating stopped, the tears came.  And I was still in his lap.  I fell into his chest and there found such comfort. 

I don't know what the future holds!  I wish I could say I am unafraid.  But I feel fear very strongly.  I know that God- even being good- is not safe (as they say about Aslan in Chronicles of Narnia). He definitely doesn't do his 'God thing' in the way we would often want Him too. But there is no where else I'd rather be than following Him, being carried by Him!  No matter what happens, He is the only place I will find comfort and healing, strength and courage, vision and purpose!'s to that next step!  How about you? Would you go for a walk with me?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Leisha's HOPE in Pictures

 Thanks to all who made the Leisha's HOPE dream a reality! The cabin is ordered! Lord willing, weather permitting it will be going up in September! More pics then!  

Thanks Bob Gould for taking these!!! You are a sentry- who SEES!

Leisha's HOPE!


The last few weeks have been a plethora of emotions. I can't begin to name all of them.  Actually the last month has taken on a personality of it own.  One I hadn't planned for this summer- yet I know it's right!  I know it's what I was to do!  What we as a family were to be part of!

Over a month ago - June 25th, I visited the DEEP WOODS and listened!  It was a sweet day!  Probably the best day I've had out there- and I've enjoyed them all.  I heard a lot of things that day!  Some I wrote about!  Most seemed random in some way- but I 'noticed' them. 

As I sat in the FAITH cabin that day, the longing in my heart grew to see the HOPE cabin completed.  But how?  How could I raise enough funds to build it- let alone furnish it.  Every extra dollar we have right now is spoken for- for a long time.  Lord, how could we do this?  As I took one more gander back to the HOPE site, I prayed.  Lord, who would be willing to help us build HOPE in the DEEP WOODS?   I began my walk out of the woods and as I came to the clearing, the thought came to me, "Fix your garbage pail dinner and invite others to join you!"  Immediately I knew that was my answer. 

And now it is history! 


Not just a cabin, but the larger cabin, furnishing it and contributing nearly  1/3 of what is needed towards  the electric project for the woods!   HOORAY!!!!  Just got word today that the cabin has been ordered.  Lord willing, weather permitting, we should be able to get it built in September.  We are so very grateful!

The support toward the LEISHA'S HOPE Project was tremendous!  The notes we received, the stories we heard were all part of the joy of 'continuing to influence our world with hope!"  There is so much joy that comes with that!  Perhaps the greatest joy for Ren and I was doing this event with our girls, Caitlin and Brielle.  Their participation made this event so much more meaningful for us.  And the fact that they brought two awesome & strong young men with them didn't hurt either.  We thoroughly enjoyed them all. 

So...back to the plethora of emotions.  Why so many?  Shouldn't I just be excited that our dream of building the HOPE Cabin is becoming a reality.  Well, yes!  Of course I am!

But I'm also keenly aware that Leisha would have loved this!  She would have loved getting her friends together.  (some of them came to be part of it last weekend) She would have loved planning a party!  She would have loved the woods, and the cabins and the 'sacred space'!  She would have loved people from our past and our present, friends and family,  joining together to make this thing work.  She would have loved reading the notes and telling people about it.  Every where I looked I saw things I know she would have enjoyed being part of. 

I have a very real sense that she knows- however they know after they have gone on to heaven.  She knows what has taken place and rejoices for us all.'s not like having her there.  I watch as the two sisters and their guys interact together on the bales of hay, and I know she would have loved that conversation.  She would have loved teasing the guys, messing with the girls and just being part of the family time. 

But I've really missed her this week.  It wasn't until today that the tears really fell.  My heart has been busy for a while now- planning, preparing, returning things, etc.  Today, I rested!  Today I realized how much I wish she was here and we didn't feel this strong need to build the cabin called HOPE.  But since she's not- I love that the memorial to her life is green, life giving, and influencing others with hope!

'Continuing the influence of HOPE!"
Now that's what I want to be about!