Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas 2008 - Paradox

This season has been such a rollercoaster - not just in our family, but for our whole community. It began in late October when we started anticipating Thanksgiving. Our household was looking at the calendar and thinking that we'd better get busy or the house wouldn't be ready for the influx of people we'd invited to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. So, with great anticipation we started cleaning house and making plans and grocery lists. I was so excited to think that both my brother and his whole family, my sister and her whole family, my parents, a couple of uncles and a few friends were coming to celebrate with us. It was wonderful and joyful.

And yet, by Thanksgiving day tragedy had come to our hometown and left it's dark imprint. I spent one Sunday morning unable to truly worship as I sat in church with my arms wrapped around Cody as we both cried and cried over the death of the not just one but two young girls who had each chosen to take her own life in just the past couple of weeks. My heart broke for these girls' families, my heart broke for my daughter as she tried to grapple with understanding why two people she knew would make such a sad decision, my heart broke for my community as we all staggered in the wake of these suicides. There are no words adequate for such a situation.

Thanksgiving Day did arrive and with joy tempered by sorrow it was a wonderful time with family and friends. My heart is absolutely happiest when I am surrounded by extended loved ones and this holiday filled me up to overflowing. We had three generations of family celebrating simply being together. In my family we practice the motto that many hands make light work so it was not a burden to make sure everyone was fed three times a day and other daily needs taken care of. And, of course, it ended all too soon as eventually they all had to head back to their own homes and jobs, etc. Still we made many happy memories. My favorite is my nephew Matthew telling me that he left the sleeping bag he had used at my house in the closet in the guest bedroom and wanted to make sure I would keep it there for the next time he came to visit. What a wonderful gift to know that that my little nephew had such a good time he's already anticipating coming back!!

So then our minds naturally moved into Christmas preparation mode. Another joyous time, more time with family to anticipate. The girls and I had the most fun of all buying presents for a family whose information we got from the Angel Tree at church. We may never know who they are, but it was a wonderful lesson in how giving is so much more rewarding than receiving. The decorations went up around the house and lights up around the yard. What beautiful anticipation of celebrating God's greatest gift to us. And then, the news that a good friend of Cody's older sister named Megan has gone missing. After a week of prayer and worry and searching by our community which was still in mourning we receive the sad news that this third young woman has been found - and she has also made the tragic choice to end her own life. How can this be happening? My sorrow was so great and yet I knew it was as mere drops compared to the ocean of sorrow Megan's family must be experiencing. Why comes up a lot - why should Matt and Carol lose their firstborn baby girl like this? Why should Tabby - my own daughter's friend - lose her big sister? Why should this wonderful family have to experience Christmas and the rest of their lives without someone they loved so dearly? Why?

Cody and I attended Megan's funeral and the church was so full there was standing room only. In the midst of heartache we received a vital message. Megan and both of the other two girls we lost before Thanksgiving are indeed no longer suffering. Surely they are in the arms of a God who can minister to them so much better than we ever could. And yet part of the message was that it was not God's plan that they should choose to take their own lives. God surely had so much more in mind for them if they would only have chosen differently. I was greatly heartened to hear that. Very glad that my own daughter was able to hear that God loves us all so much and wants so much for us - and even though He does not promise it will always be easy - He does promise He will always be with us and always wants us to make the choice never to give up on the life He has given us. Rev. Trudy and Megan's soccer coach both said the right things about how Megan and the others made the mistake of believing a lie. The lie that suicide is the only answer. It never is - God offers us so much more.

Rev. Trudy talked about how in many ways Megan's life was a paradox. One the one hand she was an amazingly gifted athelete and bright young woman and on the other hand extremely shy and insecure. This holiday season feels like a paradox to me. How can so much sadness and tragedy exist in the same time and place as so much joy and celebration? In just two days it will be Christmas. I know that my family will experience a time of sharing gifts with loved ones and rejoicing in all that God continues to bless us with. And I know that I will also be very aware that not everyone will feel that same joy, not everyone will feel so tremendously blessed as my family knows they are and that will leave this Christmas another joyful Holiday tempered by great sadness. God probably did that on purpose. I trust Him in that. If He feels I need to know this paradox, then there is a good reason- even when all I can comprehend is enough to make me continue to ask, why?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

November 6, 2008

Well, after claiming how I wasn't going to be afraid to speak my mind, I managed to procrastinate for almost two months before taking the time to sit down and write something new!! Ah, yes, that is another issue God has been working on with me for quite sometime now....

Anyway, I was having fun figuring out how to add different blogs to my watch list so that I could keep up with folks I'm interested in. It seemed a good motivator to put something new on my own.

Currently the Sanford household is in a somewhat constant state of flux as we adjust to the ongoing changes in our lives. My husband Terry retired from the military after 26 years of service. Figuring out exactly what his role/purpose in life is at 47 years of age hasn't been easy, but God has blessed us so much through this change! And I know that with Terry whatever happens will not be boring.

Our oldest daughter Cody is a senior in high school. I catch myself "memorializing" moments in my head because I know that there will be fewer and fewer of them as this year progresses. Next year she will be away at college. And both our lives will never be the same. I am going to miss so much the day to day contact we have. The opportunity to get up and just give her a hug in the morning before she heads off to school or to do her paper route. The chance to get to make tea with her and just visit about life. Watching our favorite shows we've rented from Netflix. I know that these opportunities won't completely end when she leaves, but they will become fewer and far between. It's so true that sometimes you don't realize what others are going through until you've experienced something similar yourself. I have a greater appreciation for how graciously my own parents have handled major events in their children's lives. I only hope I can pass on the same legacy to my girls.

Okay, I have to change subjects because I am sitting here blubbering at my computer and the screen is hard to read!!

On a day to day level our lives are in change because I have been working more hours each day at the office. One of our legal assistants went on maternity leave at the end of August and the last couple of months have been very busy! I work for a small law firm consisting of two attorneys who happen to be husband and wife. We have two full time legal assistants and me. I work part time helping out with whatever needs to be done and I love it. I couldn't ask for better people to work with. They are extremely good to me and supportive of my role as a wife and mom and because of that I felt that the least I could do was step up and help them out while Jenny was taking time off to be home with her new baby. She will be back in the office in a couple of weeks and then I will be able to be home more again. Working full-time hours has been a wonderful reminder of how precious my time with my family is. The slightly bigger paychecks have been very nice, but I find that I especially miss the hours between 3pm and 5pm when I could be home with the girls when they got out of school and just be there if they wanted to visit or have the time to prepare dinner or run errands, etc.

All of our children are anticipating milestone changes in their lives. In addition to Cody finishing high school this year, Kati is in the 6th grade and will be making the transition to Junior High next year. And Tori is in her last year of preschool - next year she starts Kindergarten!

And while I'm musing about changes in our personal lives our country is going through some historic changes as well. No matter where you are on the political spectrum this is an exciting time in our nation's history. I would encourage all of us who are Americans to remember that we are the UNITED States of America. The political process which has served our great nation for decades has spoken and we have a new leader who will step into power in January. Regardless of whether you voted for him or not - Barack Obama will be our next president. John McCain's speech after the election was extremely gracious in acknowledging that fact. It was very moving to hear him acknowledge that Obama will be the nation's president and John McCain's president. His love for this country is strong enough to carry him through the disappointment of losing and move onto continued service. And that service involves accepting the decision the people of this country have made. Our country will continue to be great only if we can see beyond political lines and differences of opinions and remain united in our efforts.

Well, that's it for now!

'Till next time - God Bless Everyone - No Exceptions!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Here I am, World!

Okay, I have to admit that like many newbie bloggers I'm rather nervous about creating a blog. And yet, I'm drawn to it rather unresistably. After all, some of my friends have blogs that I greatly enjoy. And for someone who tends to hold back from speaking to avoid saying the wrong thing it draws me at a deeper level - because I do long to share what I think!

I can see many positives to blogging. In today's world it is a very easy, convenient way to keep friends and loved ones up to date on what is happening in my life. Yet, I have to confess to having feared the idea of blogging for some time as well. After all there is power and permanence in the written word. I stumble over my spoken words all the time, but there is usually the opportunity right at the same moment to laugh at myself and diffuse any verbal blunders. You don't get that chance in cyberspace. I have nursed a long held fear of the consequences of writing something that I really didn't mean or inadvertently hurting someone's feelings or - the worst one - somehow coming across as an absolute idiot. And with a blog there is a chance that my humiliating text will survive indefinitely in infamy. Even if the blog is removed there is the chance that someone could have read what I wrote and then copy/pasted it onto their hard drive and I would have no way of knowing who they were or what they would do with my words.

We talked about fear in the Bible study I attend on Tuesday mornings. We were finishing up a study of Wisdom in the book of Proverbs by Beth Moore. I won't try to describe the ladies I meet with on Tuesday mornings in too much detail right now - they are enough material for several posts all their own! I will simply say that I love them all and am continually blessed by our time together. So, getting back to fear...the basic gist of the bit on fear talked about how much we tend to let fear rule our lives. My fear of humiliation and lack of control over people's reactions to my writing has kept me from not only blogging, but also from many chances to express myself on things that really do matter to me. Beth Moore said something like, (I'm probably quoting this badly,but anyway) fear of things in your life while destroy, but fear of God will give you life. I don't want to be controlled by my fears. I want to be willing to hand them over to God. I know that He is more than capable of putting my fears in their rightful place. I want to live fully trusting that God is going to be with me no matter what the future may bring. No matter what anyone thinks of what I write! And, maybe, just maybe, there is the possibility that some reader might be blessed by something I bother to type out - and that would make God happy, which I think would be awesome!

'Till Next Time!