Tuesday, November 4, 2008

God of the Little Things

Today was a big day, our nation making choices about the leadership of this country for the next four years. Here in California there were important moral issues being voted on. But here in our home and our family, we're still in a "state" of our own, a state of shock, a state of sadness, a state of grief.

I took the time out of today to go and participate in my civic duty, and to exercise my rights and freedoms, but it was really a small part of my day, and certainly not the focus of it.

My grandpa died Sunday morning. I was sitting here at this computer listening to my littler kids watching TV in the kitchen when the telephone rang. My heart sank when I saw it was my parents' number. They don't call at 9 am on a Sunday, and I knew my Pop was in the hospital. When I answered the phone my grandfather had passed away. He'd been having an OK morning had his breakfast, and then his heart exploded and he was gone.

My dad had to drive to Yucca Valley to tell his mother that her husband of 66 years was gone. I told my little ones the news and held Victoria as she hugged me and cried a little into my shoulder. Ethan said, "Mommy, it's a little bit good that Papa is with Jesus' now, right?" I told him it was good for Papa, but sad for us. I talked to Jake on the phone, he and Neal had gone to church early because Neal was playing worship. I asked Jake to let me tell his dad. When we got to church I walked over to Neal and that's when I fell apart. And then I pulled myself together again.

I went through this just 13 1/2 months ago with Neal's mom. I call it "grief - once removed." When Neal's mom passed my primary focus was about being there for Neal, he had lost his mom. I loved my mother-in-law dearly, but she wasn't my mom. It was weeks later before I let it really hit me. I sat in the car listening to Third Day singing "Cry Out to Jesus," and I did. I balled my eyes out.

Now my grandpa is gone, and it's "grief - once removed," again. This time my focus is being there for my dad, who is trying to be there for his mom. He's really the only one she can lean on, and I'm my dad's only kid. My mom is completely there for him too, but I know the role she has to take right now, I just went through it with Neal, and I'm just trying to supplement that.

Grief is this surreal world, especially when you are in the removed position. You cannot let it consume you, you have to function in the midst of it, but then suddenly sometimes you're walking along and it's like someone punches you so hard in the gut it just knocks the wind out of you. You can't catch your breath. I walked into the grocery store yesterday and nearly bent over in two, "my grandpa is gone," and people I love dearly are devastated by it.

I know my mom is hurting, and I know how it feels as she grieves her loss of her father-in-law as well as she hurts for my dad and his loss, not to mention my grandmother's.

Today though, I wanted to help. I am a doer. My mom and I talked this morning, things they needed - a guest book; a Dodger's jacket to bury him in, a CD to play at the funeral, pictures for the mortuary and for the ceremony, things to be done.

I made three phone calls on the way to work this morning to three Christian bookstores, the first one offered to order what I needed, and it would be available in 2 to 3 weeks...? I don't know, can you plan that far ahead for your funeral needs? The 2nd store was just kind of rude. Then I called Lifeway (I will mention them by name because they blessed me so.) A wonderful young man helped me, he put me on hold and went and grabbed choices for me and put them aside for my mom to come and check out. When she went, he had SIX different options sitting aside for her to look at. He made a potentially time consuming process, simple.

When I got to work I pulled up Napster and sifted through tons of different hymns, and when my mom got to work we talked about what Pop would have liked, and what would bless my Nanny (grandma.) When I called my dad later and told him I was trying to put together the CD we were completely in sync. When I got home to pick the songs and make the CD it just came together beautifully.

I also got to print pictures of my pop. My dad had sent his camera to me and I brought it home and looked at pictures and edited them. It was kind of hard, to look at my Pop knowing he's gone, but it was the good kind of hard. I was happy to do it. My dad and I talked throughout the afternoon. It was decided that because Pop only wore his one suit to funerals, he shouldn't wear one to his own. My Pop would have bled Dodger Blue, he was a tried and true fan, and so we wanted to bury him in a Dodger jacket. My Dad drove over to the MLB store in Santa Ana, but they didn't have anything. I looked on the internet, and everything was going to take at least 3 to 4 days. The best lead we found was a store in Universal City (an hour and a half drive or so through potentially lots of traffic)and all they had was a medium. We really need a large.

When I printed out pictures here at home the 8x10's got kind of obscured, so I sent them to Walgreens via the internet to be developed, and they were ready in an hour. On my way over to pick them up I called a friend that I hadn't talked to recently. I had something I wanted to tell him, but he knew about my Pop's passing so he wanted to know what was going on. His mom passed a couple years ago now, and he was a blessing to us when Neal's mom passed, because once you've gone through it, you "get it." I mentioned my hopes to find the classing Dodger jacket. and the plan to drive to Universal the next day. He told me, "No, Diana, go to Chick's, I just saw them there." SO we got off the phone and I called them, please did they have any Dodger Blue satin jackets. I explained why I needed it. The guy asked me to hold on while he took a look. He was gone for a while, but it was 8:45 and I figured they closed at 9, so in faith, I was headed there. Finally he came on. "We only have one," he said, sounding apologetic, "and it's a large."

I felt so blessed in that moment. I couldn't wait to get my hands on that jacket and give it to my dad. I drove like a mad woman, and yes, faster than I should have, but I got there with 2 minutes to spare. I paid for it quickly, the people there all obviously knew what I wanted it for and they were very kind to me. As I got in my car and headed to my parents' I was suddenly really humbled. God knew this was important to me, because it was important to my dad, because it would have touched my Pop, and He orchestrated my afternoon, and my phone calls all so He could meet a need that might not seem very important anyone else, but meant the world to me, and my family. I was listening to a copy of the CD I had made as I was driving and the song "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" came on. Chris Rice sang the lyrics, "Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!" I was experiencing the reality of those words.

My dad was really surprised. He thought maybe I had driven to Universal without him. (That would have been a real pedal to the metal ride.) I showed them the pictures from Walgreens, which turned out really well, we may want more - but that's OK, they only take an hour. And I gave them the CDs I had made. My mom put the Cd in the stereo, and for the next hour I sat with my parents and played with their cat, and watched as my dad sang the words to all the songs I had recorded. He and my mom talked about when they were growing up in church and those songs being sung. My dad knew so many of the words, even more than my mom, and I cannot tell you how special those moments were to me. I don't really ever remember being in church with my folks, but tonight I got to see a glimpse into the faith of my dad. That really blessed me.

I am just really humbled that my heavenly Father, on a day I know his "phone" was ringing off the hook, took the time to be with me and my family in the littlest details. He is God of those details, and He is God of our nation, acknowledged as such or no, God is still on the throne, and I have my security in Him.

Dedicated in loving memory

A.L. Tipton
July 10, 1923 - November 2, 2008
My "Pop"

Monday, November 3, 2008

Back to My Story - Part 1 (Road to the Cross - Pt 4)

The day of the first Bible study for women who had abortions was coming. It was only a couple of weeks from the day I first met Marion at my first visit to the Cornerstone.

We were going to be meeting on Friday nights upstairs at the church when it was still over on Red Gum. I was haunted by Marion's exhortation that it would be in my best interest to tell Neal the truth. I was tortured inside, it was consuming my thoughts. I was so certain he would never forgive me for what I had done, that he might even leave me. He was OK with my new interest in church but had no interest in coming along. He knew I was going to start going to a "woman's study" on Friday nights for a season, but he didn't know the connection of all the women that would attend.

It was the Monday before the first meeting and we were in bed watching TV. We were watching Melrose Place, of all things. I know I'm dating myself - it was 1992. The story that night was about one of the female characters being pregnant and planning on having an abortion. My heart was pounding so hard in my chest I was sure Neal could hear it. I was nearly overcome. I could feel this pressure building inside, now was the time to tell him the truth. I was so terrified.

Finally I got out from under the covers and climbed up on his chest. I literally straddled across his arms and torso figuring that way he'd at least have to hear me out, he couldn't walk away without hearing me out.

Honestly it's been 16 years, and the exact words I spoke escape me now, but I remember telling him I had lied to him, and I needed to confess it. I know he was shocked by what the lie was, and how long I had held it, but what I remember so clearly was Neal taking me in his arms and telling me he loved me and he understood and that he forgave me. I remember him holding me and telling me that although he was sad that I hadn't trusted him more, that he still loved me and he was not going to leave me. My husband expressed a glimpse into God's love and forgiveness that night like I hadn't truly experienced before. The relief was overwhelming.

Years later after I had been a Christian for a while and God had completely healed me from the emotional scars of my abortion, I remember talking to another male Christian friend online. I was surprised because he had never heard my testimony. As we were sharing I told him the story of having aborted my unborn baby and having lied to Neal. I remember how it felt like he'd punched me in the gut when he said how lucky I was Neal forgave me because I didn't deserve it. It was a hard blow. As a Christian he somehow my sin as an unbeliever as unworthy of grace. That happens a lot in the church.

It wasn't a cakewalk for Neal and I after that night. He did have anger and hurt that came to the surface. But he started with the choice to forgive me and we worked from there. It was hard because I had a lot to work through, and he had anger at both me and my parents. And I was entering a place where I had to forgive my mom and dad, and Neal didn't understand the truth of grace completely at that point. He wasn't a Christian, and I was just a brand new baby.

There is a poem I wrote to Neal during this difficult struggle that I think tells well the story of those days. To read it, click here.

To be continued...