Hope Honors Loss

For several years, I have wanted to do this one special thing. Finally this year, I accomplished it.

This feat was not a joyous bucket list fulfillment but rather a moment to honor loss.

On Memorial Day, I clipped a couple of hydrangea blossoms from my container garden, wrapped their stems in a wet paper towel and drove to the cemetery.flat stones - cemetery

No one I know is buried in this particular cemetery, but I am grateful this place exists. For some reason, during this time of recovery, I needed a concrete place to grieve.

It is a Catholic cemetery and bless their hearts – these Catholic sisters and brothers who have provided a special place for grievers like me.

Although I am 36 and 34 years from the losses, somehow the harsh reality never leaves me. Probably because I was not offered the solace of a cemetery plot or the finality of physical closure.

But this cemetery has a special section in their Babyland for mothers like me. One area with flat stones set apart from the other tiny plots of infant and young child deaths.

This area of Babyland – the goal of my mission – lists only one date on a stone and sometimes only the name, “Baby.”

These are the stones that indicate a miscarriage or an abortion – a child not fully formed and never held.

On this Memorial Day, toys were scattered across the stones, flowers, an occasional scribbled note, “We miss you.”

How I wish I would have had the opportunity for a physical closure like this – all those years ago. My stones would have read:

Ryan Michael, November 3, 1981, Born and Died

Rachel Elizabeth, January 6, 1983, Born and Died

I do not know where the remains of my babies lie. The D&C surgery that took what was left of them never indicated what happened to their tiny bodies. I probably do not want to know exactly what the medical community does to a miscarried baby.

A wall of remembrance lists children by their death years. I run my fingers through the engravings of 1981 and 1983, then sit on a nearby bench – listen to a cardinal’s song, let the sunshine dry my tears.

I ask God to hold my babies close. To tell them how much I still miss them. To remind them they have a younger brother and what a wonderful man Caleb is.

Still holding my flowers, I wonder where to place them. I wish for some music, a plaintive hymn sung by a quartet or even the solemnity of “Taps.”

My flowers somehow do not belong on any of the already designated stones. I would not impose on the memories of another grieving mother.

Then I see it. The iron and brass cross stands as a sentinel in this sacred place. So I cemetery crossinsert my flowers, believing the Savior on the Cross is also brother and protector of my children.

The hope that echoes through a cemetery sings with the assurance that death is NOT the end. Someday it will have no sting. Life eternal will exist as a cherished reality.

For those of us who never held our babies, hope cries out the beauty of that someday when we will meet our little ones face to face.

Somehow – for now – that is enough.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

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Hope Finds a Purpose for Christmas Cards

Throughout the years, I have received many beautiful Christmas cards. So…what to do with them after Christmas? Just pitch them while cleaning up all the decorations and torn wrappings? No way.christmas_cards_stilllife

Sometimes I frame cards. One framed card hangs in my office – a reminder to stay in JOY all through the year.

But my favorite way to use Christmas cards begins after December 25th. I set the basket of cards on my kitchen table, next to my Bible.

Every morning when I meet with God, I choose one of the cards and read again the message written inside. Then I pray for the person who sent the card.

I ask God to bless that person and his/her family during the coming new year – to fill them with hope and joy – to draw them closer to His loving heart.

If I know of some particular need, I pray for that. Keep them safe. Provide for them what they need – a warm home, food every day, enough love to keep them in abundant joy.

Praying through the cards helps Christmas last a little longer and reminds me of all the friends and loved ones that sent a holiday message.

It reminds me how we are connected – through the DNA of family members, through experiences we have shared or through the blood line of that baby in the manger who became the Savior on the cross.

Christmas is about more than decorations and presents. And the weeks after Christmas are about more than cleaning up, starting a diet, cashing in gift cards and going back to work.

Hope travels from one season to the next, especially when it is tethered by prayer.

©2014 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

An Alcoholic Grandfather Finds Hope

Today I welcome a guest post by Sharon Garlock Spiegel, author of the newly-released book, “Generations.” http://www.crossrivermedia.com/Generations.htmlsha  

   Generations_Cover_Final

Edward Garlock’s progression from a fun-loving kid at age nine—to a raging abusive drunk at age forty-four didn’t happen overnight. His craving for alcohol escalated and his personality deteriorated. 

While his wife prayed for him, his children feared him and the town mocked him. Even cronies who spent hours in the tavern with him spoke ill of him behind his back.

His expertise in handling horses could have brought in a fortune to take care of his ever-growing family. But he was ruled by an insatiable thirst that drained him of his finances and his integrity.

Then one day, Edward attended a camp meeting conducted by Maria Woodworth Etter. He was amazed at the mercy and power of God. Edward met Christ and knelt at the foot of the cross. He then believed God for anything and everything. His life was turned completely around by divine intervention.

However, neighbors and associates labeled him a fanatic. The gossipmongers of Woodbury, Connecticut, laughed openly as they ridiculed him and his new-found faith. His own father, a well-respected veterinarian, would not speak to him. 

Human nature. Who can understand it? To be held captive by addiction—lashing out violently at those he loved….or labeled a fanatic—trusting and believing God.

Rejection of family and friends hurts, even when you’re trusting wholly in God. 

But it did not deter Edward Garlock from staying true to the one who rescued him from a life of misery and destruction. 

The change was real, and his experience was authentic. But the mockers never stopped. 

Over and over, Edward saw the miraculous happen in his life and in others. But the price to pay was total surrender and trust in God. 

I’m so glad my grandfather, Edward Garlock—along with my grandmother, Jessie May Garlock—chose the “fanatical road” which led them away from the road to destruction.

Sharon Garlock Spiegel

Sharon Garlock Spiegel is an Assembly of God minister, school administrator, and self-described ‘Missouri Yankee.’ She keeps busy pastoring, teaching, and being a wife, mother and grandmother. Still, one of her favorite activities is writing with purpose, sharing things that bless others. She and Roger, her husband of nearly fifty years, live in western Missouri and have three children, fourteen grandchildren and two cats.

Beautiful Yet Terrible

What could possibly be beautiful and terrible at the same time?

During our recent family vacation in New Mexico, we noticed how many crosses were sold. It seemed that every store, every boutique sold some version of a cross.

The ones that surprised us most were fashioned out of plain old sticks, often tied together with barbed wire – simple, yet effective. And they sold for $15.99.

We dragged my brother into one store and asked, “What do you think of these crosses?”

A puzzled look replaced his usual grin as he said, “Those are just sticks.” Yes, indeed.

So for the rest of our vacation, my sister, my sister-in-law and I gathered sticks, bark, twigs, assorted rocks and other natural wonders to make our own versions of the cross. Some will become gifts. Some will seem too precious to give away, so we will keep them ourselves.

cross - barkMy version consists of two pieces of bark that I found on one of our hikes, hot-glued together and decorated with a young pinecone in the center. It reminds me of our family time, of the joys of New Mexico and of the young man who died on a cross – for me.

My favorite singing group, Selah performs a song titled “That Beautiful, Terrible Cross.”  Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsam4AJiPaA

Terrible because of the extreme torture its victims endured. Beautiful because it represents a lasting sacrifice that wiped out our sins.

My homemade cross now hangs in my guest bedroom, on the wall with other Southwest memorabilia and reminds me daily of that beautiful, terrible moment when Jesus paid the utmost so that I could be part of God’s family.

It’s worth much more than $15.99.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1

Reverend G’s Faith – Part 2

We are answering a reader’s question, “When did Reverend G’s relationship with God begin and how did she grow so close to Him?” This post is the continuation of the back story.

When Gertie returned home, she tried to explain to her parents about her decision to become a Christian. But all they wanted to hear about were the camp activities she participated in – archery, crafts and rock collecting. They did, however, surprise their daughter with a new idea.

“While you were away,” Gertie’s mother said, “we met a lovely woman who just moved across the street. She needs a young person to come over once a week and help her clean house. She’ll pay you two dollars a week. It will be your first job.”

So the next Saturday, Gertie knocked on the door of a white Cape Cod-style house and met the owner, Shirley. As Gertie looked around the house, she thought the house looked clean enough already, but if Shirley was willing to pay her to clean an already immaculate house, so be it.

crossShirley also owned lots of crosses which she displayed on the walls or on bookshelves. She even owned a pair of salt and pepper shaker crosses in the kitchen.

Shirley handed Gertie a broom and asked, “Do you like to sweep or vacuum or dust? What is your specialty?”

Gertie smiled at Shirley and watched her pop some fresh chocolate chip cookie dough into the oven. “I don’t mind doing any of it, but I do have a question. Why do you have so many crosses in your house?”

Shirley offered a kitchen chair to Gertie, then sat down next to her. She opened a large Bible with red printing on some of the words, and she began to explain the Gospel of John. Gertie listened carefully and even took notes on the scrap paper Shirley gave her.

Every Saturday from the time Gertie was 13 until she graduated from high school at 18, she helped Shirley clean her house. Then they sat down together and studied a book of the Bible. They went through John twice, then 1 John, then Matthew and Mark and Luke. Later, it was Hebrews and Romans. Shirley taught Gertie how to pray and how to keep a prayer journal. Each week, they prayed for Gertie’s parents to also become Christians and by the time Gertie earned her high school diploma, Shirley had fully discipled her young neighbor.

Gertie told her parents several times about the momentous decision she made to believe that God loved her and invited Jesus into her life. But her parents just pooh-poohed it as a teenage peer group idea. They let her go to church, but they never joined her. She learned to keep her faith strong by continued discipleship with Shirley and activities with the church youth group.

Shortly after Gertie enrolled in college, her parents decided to come visit her. But during the drive, one of the front tires on their Rambler station wagon blew out, and her father lost control of the car. Both of Gertie’s parents died that day, and Gertie entered into the grieving process.

Christian friends at college helped her through it, including a nice young man named Chris and his girlfriend, Polly. But Gertie also discovered the book of Psalms and practically memorized most of King David’s songs.

God Himself became her Abba Father as He stood beside Gertie to comfort her through the funerals, through the sale of the house and through the rest of that long, sad year. Gertie learned about the Holy Spirit and how to listen as He whispered guidance to her. She became a leader on campus as other struggling kids sought her advice. No one was too surprised when Gertie decided to major in social work and counseling, but then the Holy Spirit planted another dream in her heart.

Half-way through her junior year of college, Gertie remembered a passage that she studied with Shirley. Gertie still received letters from Shirley, page after page of encouragement and hope. So it was Shirley who heard the news first when Gertie typed a letter to her aging mentor.

“Thanks for the pretty card you sent, Shirley. You’re always so thoughtful, and I hope to be that way too someday. You’re my hero, you know.

“God has been so close to me lately, and I believe I know now what he wants me to do with my life. John 15:16 says that God has chosen me to go and be an example, to develop godly character and witness to others. In the King James version, it even says that God has ordained me.

“I’ve talked to my advisor, and we’ve been searching for just the right school – after I finish my bachelor’s in social work.

“I’m going to seminary, dear friend, to be a pastor. I know it’s kind of weird for a woman to be headed in that direction, but I can’t forget John 15:16 and I think with social work and counseling majors, I’ll be able to serve God and others in a pastoral capacity.

“Thanks for teaching me and sharing your heart with me all those years, Shirley. I never could have made it through college and the death of my parents without the faith that you modeled for me. God has been so good to me, and I’m excited to see what He has for my future. I love you so much.”

So that is how Gertie Davis became Reverend G. She finished her bachelor’s in social work, earned a master’s in counseling, then went on to earn a Masters of Divinity in seminary. Through all the years of growing up and growing inward, God never failed Gertie. So when she became Reverend G, her faith was strong and she was able to share it with others…even when her life began to unravel.

But then…that’s another story.Rev_G_Cover