Fleeting Life

Last week, I nearly lost a dear friend.

A call from her husband at 11:45 p.m. went unanswered as my phone was on “do not disturb” and my husband let the call go to voicemail. When our son, friends of their eldest daughter, came in moments later and told us to check our messages, Julie had been in an accident, I didn’t even know what to expect.

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My husband pulled on clothes and rushed to get her husband and go to the accident site as the vehicle she was driving was their only multi-passenger vehicle and he needed a ride there and a way to get them all home.

The images here are what she shared with us that night and the next morning.

But for the grace of God, Julie and her twin daughters would have been impaled by a guardrail into which their minivan was pushed by a reckless driver trying to squeeze in between their van and another vehicle in the next lane. His selfish action nearly cost the lives of 2 beautiful teenagers and their mom, grieving a husband, 2 other kids and numerous friends and family members in the process.

When I see the damage done to their van, I know that it is only by God’s hand that they survived with barely a scratch. They are sore, and Julie thinks the rail must have skimmed her head because she has bruises in a couple of places. But they walked away, glass encrusted hair bearing witness to the horrendous mess made of their vehicle.

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One of the girls was sitting in the back on this side of the van.

When they awoke the next morning, Julie was glad just to be alive. When one of her kids noted that they were out of coffee creamer, her response was, “Isn’t it nice to be out of creamer?”

In texts between a group of friends, she noted, “I cannot begin to convey how thankful I am to God and that waking up this morning, it was a very ordinary day when it could have so easily not been ordinary. We three are pretty sore understandably. But so thankful for so much. I told the girls that we will never have a bad day again, they’re all good days from here on out!”

Later she texted, “My words are too few and not nearly as adequate as I would like. It’s been very humbling that God would choose to save us in this way.”

Another in our text group said, “I’m so glad we are texting rather than crying over caskets!” Wow. That hit me hard and I just wept. What caused one daughter to duck when her sister in the front screamed, thus causing the deadly missile to miss her by inches? How was Julie not decapitated by the force of the pole through their windshield so close to her head?

IMG_55181How fleeting life is. Sometimes we don’t think about it. We just go about our business assuming we’re going to see our loved ones later. But sometimes they don’t come home.

But God is still good. Circumstances don’t change that. I am thankful for the lives that were saved last Friday night. Had things been different, I can’t even imagine what this next week would look like. Mother’s Day would have felt very different. Graduation just days away would be a wrenching event instead of a celebration for the senior daughter. Every “last” for that senior is more precious when Julie thinks how differently things could have turned out.

For this time we can breathe a sigh of relief and thank God that He spared them. But we know that not everyone can do that. Lives are lost every single day in tragic accidents caused by foolish people.

Take nothing for granted, except that God is good.

Seasons of the Soul: A Guest Poem

Again, my 18-year-old son, Nathan, has composed a poem that I wanted to share with you here. Enjoy!

Seasons of the Soul

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It’s Summer in my soul.

My smile reflects the vibrant sun that always seems to shine,
My heart is light just like the days, and everything is fine.
The warmth I feel in summer is a constant source of peace,
And I hope this optimistic Me will never start to cease.
Even in the dark of night my hope just can’t be quelled,
Firefly thoughts dance through my head, their light won’t be dispelled.

But nothing lasts forever, this truth we cannot bend,
This Season of the Soul will pass, for all things must surely end.

It’s Autumn in my soul.

A chilly wind sweeps through my mind and leaves: a reddish hue,
All my dreams begin to Fall, as dreams so often do.
No vibrant smile shines from my face, no happy thoughts glow bright,
The setting of the sun preceeds some dark and endless night.
Crimson trees bathed in blood from hopes too soon destroyed,
My spirit sinks lower as the dark takes over and fear is now employed.

No, nothing lasts forever, this truth we cannot bend,
This Season of the Soul will pass, for all things must surely end.

It’s Winter in my soul.

The darkness that surrounds me is as frigid as my heart,
The blizzard raging within me wants to tear my soul apart.
Buried under the weight of all my fears that pile like snow,
I’m trapped, my body’s numb, and now there’s nowhere left to go.
There’s a barren winter wasteland where the sun no longer shines,
And though my soul looks like it, there’s still hope for better times.

Nothing lasts forever, this truth we cannot bend,
This Season of the Soul will pass, for all things must surely end.

It’s Springtime in my soul.

From this barren wasteland Springs life that blooms anew,
The tender light of daybreak mingles with the morning dew.
Fresh thoughts of hope grow like flowers in my mind,
There’s life again inside my soul! I’ll never look behind!
For even in the coldest winter when everything seems lost,
Never stop hoping that things will get better, no matter what the cost.

Because nothing lasts forever, this truth we cannot bend,
These Seasons of the Soul will pass, for all things must surely end.

image from 123RF.com

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Nathan Reeves is a senior at Colonial High School in Orlando, Fla., graduating on May 22nd. In the fall he will be attending the University of Central Florida’s Burnett Honors College, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with an Environmental Science track. Nathan hopes to be a park ranger in one of America’s beautiful National Parks after he graduates from college. Though he claims to not like to write, he has a poetic gift that makes his writer mama proud. He is an enthusiastic collector of swords and knives.

Redeeming Ruth: A Book Review

Books-Mockup-01Some may think doing hard things isn’t worth it. Some may think one little Ugandan baby with developmental problems is too big a risk for a normal family from Maine. But Meadow Rue Merrill and her family felt differently. The subtitle for this beautifully written book is “Everything Life Takes, Love Restores.” All across the pages, this truth comes through.

What I loved about this powerful story was Meadow’s honesty throughout. She had doubts about adopting this special-needs baby. She didn’t want to trust God with this opportunity. She questioned what seemed plain to her husband, Dana. Honesty about her faith struggles, honesty about her marriage struggles, honesty about her parenting struggles. Everything is there for everyone to read. No holds barred.

But what shines so clearly through as well is the non-stop love and care and advocacy Meadow and her family heaped upon this little girl, and the heart that they bring to the issue of special-needs kids in the poorest of countries in the world. If their family could help, so can yours.

The story comes to life through Meadow’s recounting of her trip back to Uganda with Ruth to complete the adoption process. My palms sweated and my heart raced as they encountered trial, after trial, after trial, but saw God’s provision in every instance. Tears flowed when hearts were prompted to raise money that was needed in just a couple of days. Emotional and heart breaking and heart warming all at the same time, Redeeming Ruth shows us the heart of God through the hands of His people.

Losing a child is an unspeakable tragedy, yet Meadow speaks of the place this tragedy had in her life, in her faith, in her family. Raw emotion, unconditional love, shaken faith. And redemption. God brought that to this little family in Maine through a deaf, disabled baby from Uganda. And He can bring it to you, if you will open your hearts.

You can find Redeeming Ruth starting May 1 at Amazon.com, and Christianbook.com and watch the book trailer here.

The Ancient Hill: A Good Friday Contemplation

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What is that there on yonder hill

Awash with red so deep?

What does it have that draws me near?

What secrets does it keep?

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My heart is caught, my eyes are set

Up to that hill I tred

There’s something there, I know not what

But oh, that deep, deep red

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I hear the story, I know it’s true

but I do not know the why

A man, they say, but more than a man

went to that hill to die

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For me? I ask, but why for me?

What did I e’re do wrong?

And then I heard a still, small voice

Sing out an ancient song

 

There was no answer I could give

upon that old, old hill

I saw the red, I heard the cries

I know I always will

 

For me, for me, I hear the song

I weep because it’s true

He came, He loved, He gave his life

For me, and friend, for you.

 

Upon that hill, that ancient hill

I always want to stay

For there I know my Savior bled

and set me free that day

 

image from: images.fineartamerica.com

Beauty and the Beast: A Movie Review

beauty and the beast“Can anyone really be happy if they’re not free?”

Yes, I did take out my phone during the movie so that I could jot down this quote from Disney’s live action “Beauty and the Beast.” My 14-year-old daughter and I finally got to see this amazing movie with some friends on Friday night. I had read the hype. I had seen the posts about the gay kissing scene. I couldn’t believe all that was being said in such scorn.

Fake news doing its best to cast dispersions wherever it can.

A father’s love for his daughter (Maurice, played very well by Kevin Kline, and Belle, portrayed beautifully by Emma Watson of “Harry Potter” fame) and a daughter’s love for her father take a very close backseat to the love story of Belle and the beast in this grand tale. What was added to the original animated movie and what was left out did not take away from the pleasure.

I went into this movie with an open mind, wanting to watch it critically, yet not wanting to jump to any early conclusions. I soon found myself caught up in the fun of the old songs brought to new life and the way computer generated imagery brought to life the household objects in the beast’s castle.

Gaston (Luke Evans) was as dastardly in this film as he was heroic in The Hobbit: “Battle beauty and the beast castof the Five Armies.” The mob mentality of the citizens on the hunt for the beast reminded me sadly of how easily people are swayed by one charismatic person’s twist of the facts. Does the beast have claws? Yes. Does he have big, sharp teeth? Yes. Use those things to scare people and a mob is born.

Though the timeline is vague, it appears to be a few days later when Belle has become friends with the beast. He takes a chance and addresses the idea of someone like her ever having affection for someone like him. When she suggests, “Why not?” he is encouraged and asks, “So you could be happy here?” That’s when Belle says what I’ve quoted above: “Can anyone really be happy if they’re not free?”

When Belle discovers that her father is in danger, the beast immediately says that she must go. He’s willing to give her up, though at this point he loves her, because he knows it’s the right thing to do. Through her act of caring for him after the wolf attack even though she was very afraid, and his letting her go, though it would condemn him to beasthood forever, sacrificial love is shown.

Love grows not from boasting and blustering about how wonderful we are and how much the other person needs us, but by the acts of kindness that help the other person see how valuable they are, despite appearances. Belle tends the beast when he’s injured, even though he had raged at her just moments before. The beast gives Belle access to the most wonderful library (definitely her love language) she has ever seen. Small acts; huge results.

Courage, hope, service to another, sacrifice, freedom. These are all themes brought out and examined all from within the package of a well-loved story and grand musical numbers that will continue to stand the test of time.

Love that is required and devotion that is paid for is not real. Only when we give those things freely can we be truly happy.

 

images from (1) movies.disney.co.uk and (2) IMDb

In Need Of Rescuing

scaffolding collapseMy attention was captured today by the story of a painter on a high-rise building who was literally left hanging when his scaffolding collapsed underneath him. When I entered the scene via live video, a firefighter from Key Biscayne Fire Rescue was on his way down to the dangling man.

Hanging by a white strap, yellow buckets of paint visible on the askew scaffolding below, the man appeared calm, but I could only imagine the panic he was feeling. He couldn’t see his rescuer above him. Green shutters framing him, other firefighters watching and calling directions from balconies nearby, the man was in good hands, but he probably didn’t feel that way.

I said to him, as if he could hear me, “Hang in there buddy. Help is on the way. He’s almost there.”

As I watched the competency of the firefighter, though he moved ever so slowly, I imagined how the day had started for the dangling man. He just thought he was going to work. He put on his white painters clothes, shoved his feet in his work boots, maybe told his family goodbye, and drove to the job site. Little did he know that some hours later he’d have his feet knocked out from beneath him.

How glad was he that he followed the rules and was wearing his harness? high rise rescue

Soon, another firefighter appeared from above, talking to the man, putting a calming hand on him. I could almost hear what he was saying: It’s gonna be OK. We’ll get you down. We’ve done this lots of times. Trust us.

Trust. Easy to say when you’ve got 2 feet on the ground. Not so easy 7 stories up. What will work be like tomorrow? Will he get the day off to recuperate? What about when Monday comes? How much bravery will it take to step out on that scaffolding again?

Slowly, slowly, the firefighters secured him and began to lower him down, both constantly attached to him, one above, one to the side. When the cords that had bound him before became entangled with the rescue lines, the first firefighter quickly cut them away.

The 7-story descent to solid ground went off without a hitch. The stretcher was there waiting, along with a bottle of water.

He was safe. He was going to be fine.

But how uncomfortable was that rescue? How much did it hurt to hang there for more than an hour? But would he have chosen to stay there, wanting to avoid the pain and the pull of the rescue lines?

Certainly not. He wanted someone to save him.

lone man hangingThis lone painter knew he was in trouble the minute that scaffolding failed. Who saw him? Who called for help? Other white-clothed men talked to the rescue crew after the painter was safely on the ground. Were they co-workers? Comrades in color? Did they know his distress and call 9-1-1? What would have happened had they ignored his distress?

Luckily, we won’t ever know. Someone called. Someone got help. Someone got involved.

And this man lived to go home to his family.

How many captured, enslaved, trafficked souls in need of rescuing aren’t going to have that option today?

Get involved. Make the call.

images from wptv.com (1), fox13news (2) and wpec (3)

Guest Post: Demons

Sometimes my 18-year-old son, Nathan, surprises me. He balks at traditional education and procrastinates writing for his classes. Then he shows me poetic masterpieces that absolutely blow my mind. The first one that captured me was composed several years ago for a class project. It was about Yellowstone National Park. It’s still one of the best things I’ve read. I’m keeping it forever. Maybe someday I’ll share it here.

He handed me the following yesterday and gave me permission to share it with you. Enjoy.

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Midnight comes and midnight goes

He tries to go to sleep but his eyes won’t close

His mind is in turmoil as he tosses and he turns,

He longs for some release but the nightmare returns

No peace can he find in the comfort of his bed

For no comfort can drown out the war zone in his head

He tries to cry out but his mouth won’t open

Desperately he searches for something to put his hope in

He’s drowning in the tears that are streaming from his open eyes

Screaming as his demons escape and start to terrorize

He knows that alone he is too weak to defeat this

Too weak to beat the demons with nothing but his clenched fists

So with pulsating veins and eyes turned upwards

He tries to find the strength to formulate enough words

To call upon the only one who is strong enough to save him

The one whose power is enough to cause the mountains of fear to cave in

And in the suffocating darkness he gasps and he wheezes

His dry throat only able to choke out one word: Jesus!

Now it’s the demons who scream and run away to hide

And he’s filled with such warmth and peace inside

Cause the one who conquered death is there to guard his rest

And the weight of all his fear is no longer on his chest

Now midnight comes and midnight goes

But his mind is finally at peace… and his tired eyes close.

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Nathan Reeves is a senior at Colonial High School in Orlando, Fla., where he is a student in the Cambridge Program. In the fall he will be attending the University of Central Florida, Burnett Honors College.