Monday, August 17, 2015

Gentle Lessons of Amazing Grace

Cousin Larry and nephew Tristan - jamming at my parents' 50th wedding anniversary
Summer 2006

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.


What a concept.

Confession time. I can stand on one foot and tell you that purpose drives my choices and decisions. I weigh options and consider consequences. My actions are purposeful. Intentional.

Then, I could hop right on over to the other foot and tell you how indecisive I am. This is the side of me that frustrates my favorite Army guy the most. You know, in the Army, it's all about execution and protocol and standard operating procedures. Decisions are written into the regulations. If A happens, do B. If C happens, do D and E. But there are times, in my world, where there are just too many permutations of a situation. I can't seem to settle on an A or a B.

So I hop. From foot to foot. From purpose to indecision.

Something happened at church yesterday, and it made me rethink one of my decisions. A parenting decision. Something I thought that I'd thought through. (Get that... it's the indecisive foot itching for a stand...)

My extended family is in the midst of sadness surrounding the Stage 5 cancer diagnosis of one of my cousins. I haven't seen this cousin for close to 10 years, but the news hit me like a freight train (I know, tired simile, but that's how it felt). In the 30 plus years since I've moved away from home, through several college adventures and two marriages, through those many, many moves I wrote about a couple of weeks ago (Fourteen Things...), I've missed my cousins and my family. I've missed weddings, and graduations. I've missed cousins' kids, and grandkids. I've missed funerals. I've missed family reunions and old-fashioned get togethers. I've missed card-playing and story-telling, and down-home farm eating. I've missed a lot.

So when I heard that Larry's family is coming to see him - coming from all over the country - to see him, to celebrate him, to pray for him and to strengthen him, to surround him - I decided I needed to go, too. And in the circumstances of now - I actually CAN go.

Which means Sierra and I are going on a road trip. It's a 600 mile-or-so drive. My favorite Army guy suggested, in his straightforward Army way, that perhaps this wouldn't be a good trip for my empathy-savant, daughter with the extra chromosome. Although she is 24, we still don't fully understand how she thinks. How she feels. But we know how she loves. Everyone. It might be too difficult for her, emotionally. He worries about her drama.

I told him it would be fine. This family that we're going to see, they're incredibly blessed musically. I am hoping we will sing, and play, and fellowship, and surround my cousin with joy. I told him I would prepare Sierra. I would emphasize the get-together and glide over the illness. I told him she would be fine.

I should have known that she would worry about the cancer.  She asks how he's doing every morning. She asks if she can pray for him. She tells me she will hold his hand.

Of course!

So after church yesterday, while the congregation was mingling. I caught Sierra in the arms of the Garrison Chaplain's wife. She was crying. I know my face posed more of a question than my words. Dee asked me if she had heard my daughter correctly - her cousin had cancer??

"Yes." I answered. "Larry is actually Sierra's second cousin, but yes." I tried to apologize for Sierra's drama, for the crying and the needy-hug thing, but Dee would have none of it. In fact, in her kind and gentle way, she kind of, sort of, scolded me.

"This young woman feels deeper than most of us are able. She needs to be allowed to feel."

Oh Janet! Rethink. Rethink. Rethink.

The smile probably froze on my face at my realization of the truth she spoke. And I felt tears gather. How in the world had I missed, in my purposeful thinking about the situation, in my concern about Sierra manipulating the people around her, how had I missed that my daughter needed to feel, to mourn, to lament.  Even though she doesn't really know this second cousin of hers, she knows family. She knows me. She knows loss.

The next words from this wise, kindhearted woman as she released my daughter and watched the leader of our praise team pray with her, were:

"And God works through your daughter. She has chosen to be comforted, to share her sorrow, with the two women in this congregation who understand best, two who just lost their Fathers this past week."

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for gentle lessons of amazing grace.
Guide me through this maze of emotion, and then
Help me to guide my daughter through her maze, 
Help me to allow her time and space to grieve
To question
To mourn
And God, help our family to show Larry our love, 
To demonstrate joy
By the holy name of your son

Linking with Kelly at RaRaLinkup, Jen at Unite, and Jennifer at TellHisStory


  1. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing so well your heart and the beat that it follows of indecision and purpose. I feel the same way many times. I will be praying as you visit your cousin for you, your daughter and the whole family as you step back into the family to learn, listen and love. Blessed to be your neighbor at #RaRalinkup

    1. Mary, your prayers are truly appreciated, thank you. I hope you have a wonderful week.

  2. Wow it's incredible to see God at work and comfort the mourning through the tears of a small child. We are all His Children and His desire to comfort is incredible and may we never limit our belief of how He might choose to dry tears and heal hearts :) Living across the ocean from my family I can feel the pain of being far away and pray that you will find comfort where you are. Like Mary ... I am blessed to be your neighbor at #RaRaLinkup today <3

    1. God at work. Always. And always to the good. Sierra, with her extra chromosome, seems to shine His light differently for us - in a good way, a blessed way. As a parent, wanting to shield her from the deep emotion of sadness and mourning, I do a disservice to God's plan for her, and ultimately, to her. It was kind of a hard lesson for me... but worthwhile (as lessons always are). I'm thankful you could stop by today and I hope you have a blessed week.

  3. Hello Janet, it is incredible how much grace God showers on us.
    Despite your distance, God is mindful of you and your family.
    Many Blessings

    1. Hi Ifeoma, I love the visual of God showering us with His grace - especially in the circumstance of distance from family. It's kind of like sharing the same weather pattern... When my husband was deployed, he used to tell me that I would 'see' his made me feel closer to him to know that my sunrise was almost his sunset - he was 8 and 9 hours ahead of me. Thank you for your lovely reminder that God is mindful, no matter the distance. I hope you have a blessed week.

  4. Wow! What a beautiful lesson. It is so hard to anticipate the needs of everyone we love, even our own children. What a beautiful story of the need for community and the body of Christ. Blessings! Love, Rachael @ Inking the Heart

    1. Rachel - Yes! community IS necessary, and being allowed to feel - I don't know why, but God keeps pressing these lessons through my daughter - She is such a blessing to me. I am also grateful for this community of bloggers, so full of wisdom and encouragement. I'm glad you could visit. Have a wonderful week.

  5. Oh, Janet! This made me cry. Bless Sierra's dear, sweet heart! Just precious. I am SO sorry to hear of your cousin, Larry. I have a cousin, Larry, too, and it made me think how awful I would feel to hear such news about him. Family means SO much to me and is so important. I am so grateful you are going to take this trip and make this sacrifice to shower him with your love. Our family is very musical, too. My cousin, Larry, plays the bass, and we have such a great time when we all get together for our "hootenannies"!! Have a wonderful trip, and thank you EVER so much for your sweet encouragement at my blog. Much love to you, sweet sister. :)

    1. Tender and pure-hearted. That's my girl. I pray that she and I will be able to offer comfort and love to Larry and his family. I haven't heard how he's actually faring since hearing the news a couple of weeks ago. Apparently the doctors first told him that he was beyond any treatment, but then they found there was a possibility that chemo/radiation could help. So, I know he will have had one treatment before we get there. I pray strength and comfort for him. His sons and their families, and his brothers and sisters and their families are all coming. It will be a lot of people. Your kind words are appreciated.

  6. Thank you for commenting on my blog about our canoe trip. It is fun and relaxing but we are definitely getting an RV. Hubby is retiring next year and the adventure begins then. I subscribed to your blog... finally found the place to do it. bless you serve The ONE God who gives us hope.

    1. Sharon - your pictures were so beautiful - although I think I caught a mention of some canoe trips you may have taken when the weather wasn't quite as cooperative?? I have a cousin who lives somewhere in Oregon. I've never been, but would like to someday. I hate to think I've made it hard somehow to subscribe to this blog - sometimes I just don't get all the technology! Big smile - because I do it anyway! Thank you for stopping by. I hope your weekend is joy-filled.


I know we probably haven't met in person, but I believe that the sharing of our ideas and thoughts, sometimes our hearts and souls, makes us more than strangers. I would like to say friends. Thank you for taking the time to contribute to my little space - I appreciate you.