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Thursday, February 5, 2009


This blog is probably the hardest that I've written so far. There are not words to describe this event and my emotions. But God wouldn't leave me alone about writing this, even though it's not something I wanted to do. He started talking to me early this morning on the commute about His love and faithfulness. Then He started really pushing me to write this blog. I can't imagine why. This is something I mention only in passing and avoid talking about, because I don't know what to do with my still raw emotions and other people's sympathy. So, I don't get it, but I am going to be obedient and hope that for someone out there, this is meaningful beyond just understanding me. And yes, I'm still stalling. Okay, deep breath, just dive in, right? Here we go.......

17 years ago, on a beautiful sunny day in July, my family received a phone call that forever changed my life. I can mark that moment as the end of my childhood. I was napping in Mom's bed that afternoon when the phone rang. By the time Dad answered the phone, I was already standing at his elbow because my gut was screaming that something was wrong. I can't explain that, but I just knew. But it was much worse than anything I could have imagined. It was my uncle calling to say that his top employee, my brother Jon, was missing somewhere off the coast of Venezuela.

Jon was a research physicist. Extraordinarily brilliant man. 24. Married with two kids. If business was slow, my uncle would on occasion loan him out to the government or to other companies. And so, Jon was in Venezuela taking seismograph readings on one bridge to insure its structural integrity while some other guys blew up another nearby bridge. He had a lot of free time on this assignment during the time that the company was doing clean-up, before they began setting more charges. He and his wife Lori had eloped many years before, and had never had a big honeymoon. He loved the town where he was on the coast, and was constantly quizzing me on Spanish phrases he could try out. He was anxious to share it with his beautiful wife. So Lori flew to Venezuela to spend a few days relaxing and walking along the beach with her husband.

On a day off, he and Lori went to the local beach and went swimming. Jon wanted Lori to swim out to a small island with him, just off the coast. She was tired after a long day, and said no. Which probably saved her life. Jon decided to go without her. He swam out a little over halfway to the island and got in trouble. The details are little foggy at this point. Undertow or just tired, I don't really know. But Lori noticed he was having a hard time. She swam out to him to see what was going on. She wrapped him in her arms, but he fought her hard because of his panic. She could not rescue him. She did not have the strength to bring both of them back to shore. Lori was tempted to hold on until the end and die there with him. But she had two small children who needed a parent. She had to make the incredibly tough decision to open her arms, release the love of her life, watch him struggling and sinking, and swim back to shore alone. Becoming a widow at 25.

The waiting was hard for me. I hoped against hope that maybe, just maybe he had survived and drifted up on shore. It took divers several days to recover his body. Then it took several more days to make arrangements to get him back to the United States for his funeral. A lot of this time period is very foggy to me. I was in summer school trying to graduate early from high school, and that is also very vague. I think when your brain can't grasp the reality of something horrible, it just tucks it away until later.

The funeral was unbelievably horrid. Family night was done with an empty coffin because Jon's body was still in customs. The funeral was, of course, closed casket because of the time he had spent in the water and the deteroration that occurred. People were so nice, but they said the most awful things out of ignorance, "You know this is hard to understand, but it's all a part of God's plan." or "It will all work out for the best." or "This is God's will." As an unbeliever, this was not very encouraging for me. Jon was the only person on the planet that I absolutely knew without a doubt loved me. He understood me and accepted me and wanted to be with me just the way that I was. People wanted to offer me comfort, but there are times in life where there is no comfort to be found. And I could not understand why God let him die. And I certainly couldn't accept it as part of God's plan.

I am generally not a public griever, and this was no exception. I made it through the funeral with very few tears. I did my grieving alone, privately while the divers were still searching for him. And I continued to grieve many, many months afterwards. I finally made peace with this loss and though I do not understand how it furthers God's purposes, I accept that God is a good God and loves us, and so I am no longer angry.

Sometimes I still dream about him. But not often any more. And occasionally I wonder what if things were different. I don't have much contact with his children and wife any more. We love each other, but I moved far away many years ago and did not make the effort to stay in touch. Jon would be 40. His hairline was receding pretty hard at 24, so I would guess it would be pretty thin these days. And seeing my other brother Jeff's and my waistline, I'm guessing that his hair might have been the only thin thing about him. But I miss the could have beens almost as much as I miss what was.

I had thought I would share some of my favorite memories and stories about his influence on my life during my teen years. However, having made it through this choppy retelling of his death, I cannot bear to write anything else. Just know that I consider myself very lucky to have been loved by a great man. He played one of the largest roles in my teen years in helping find the woman I later became.

And I don't know why God has asked me to share this. Even after the writing, it does not make sense to me. But here it is - my darkest moment.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My kids' thoughts on the Crossroads

This morning as we were getting ready for school, the kids were rehashing last night's Bible study. I took care of my own business and was as invisible as I could be while listening in on their conversation. They were talking about how much they like the people that were at the house. Even sick little Abby entered in the conversation.

It was way cool to hear my kids' excitement about the relationships with our friends. But when Abby started listing out the people that she loves and the friends were all on the list, I was really touched. Then Abby said, "I not see my friends today." I said, "No." She said, "I see them Sunday." I said, "yes." The big kids said with undisguised excitement, "And it's only 4 more days till then."

I was moved beyond belief to know that my kids count down until Sunday because they absolutely love attending church at The Crossroads. You see, in the beginning one of the reasons we were reluctant about stepping out on faith was because we didn't want to deprive our children of a good church experience. We were afraid that the kids would suffer from our busy life and from our need to open up our home so much more. We worried that the kids would not feel special and loved. Instead God has showered them with love above and beyond anything we have ever experienced.

I keep waiting for the new to wear off and for us to stop loving this church planting thing. I'll let you know if that happens, but so far I'm loving it more every day. It is so incredible to see God's hand daily on my family. Being busy is hard, but I wouldn't trade this life.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My favorite marriage and sex books - per request

Alrighty - all my single friends who get really uncomfortable 'bout this just log on off and check back with me tomorrow. I really am not offended if your ewwww! factor keeps you from reading. I know that for some of you it's just weird to accept that everybody gets to be good at something and this is what I'm good at :) After all I really stink at cooking and cleaning so it's only fair.

Seriously, it's not really a gory, detailed blog at all, I'm just being funny. In light of Shawn's upcoming sermon series about sex, "Pillowtalk", several women have asked me about book recommendations. These range from the general how to improve your marriage books, to the how to date your spouse, to the how to improve your techniques. Over the years I've probably read at least 50 different books about marriage, maybe more. These are the best of the best, a list of my favs. Feel free to comment back about your favorites as well.

His Needs, Her Needs by Harley - this details how women and men are looking for very different things in a relationship and if you are assuming that your spouse's needs are the same as yours, then you may be totally wasting all your time and energy meeting needs your spouse doesn't have.

Five Love Languages by Chapman - this book explains how we all communicate and understand love differently. You may deeply love your spouse and be sincerely trying to communicate that love and they may not "get it" at all. For example - I'm a quality time girl..... hanging out with my family and friends makes me feel loved. I crave undivided attention. I also need physical touch to believe that Shawn finds me attractive. But Shawn is more the words of affirmation/acts of service kind of guy. He loves for me to tell about how awesome he is and clean the house. That makes him feel really special. I wash dishes and he thinks it's incredible.

Simply Romantic Nights - this is not a book, but really helped my former romantically challenged husband to become the most romantic guy I know. This is a box of surprise dates for him/her we bought at Lifeway. This is not for the uptight or easily offended! You choose an envelope and plan a surprise date for your spouse. We dedicated a year to this and it revolutionized our marriage. The dates that the men plan for the woman are full of romance and beauty. The dates the women plan for the men are full of fun, adventurous sex. Totally a win-win thing as you center dates around your spouses needs and desires!

Gary Smalley - I've read a couple of his marriage books and heard him speak at a conference. They were pretty good. I like his emphasis on different personality types and accepting your spouse's personality. I also appreciate his matter of fact approach that if you are married, you can choose to be "in love". It's a verb.

Act of Marriage - by Tim LaHaye This is a technique book written from a Christian perspective. For an inexperienced child bride, it was probably what made the difference in "wifely duty" and "favorite activity". I've since read a few others, but this is still my top recommendation as far as the least offensive and most basic.

Song of Solomon - yes, as in THE BIBLE - read it carefully and well. There's a lot there about loving your spouse and lots there as well about good techniques if read in a good, modern translations. God did not leave us uninformed.

Ladies, hope this helps give you a starting place as you are looking for books. But seriously, the book that improved my marriage was The Bible. The more I studied and tried to honestly apply God's Word and the more my husband did the same, the better our marriage became.

I would say one note of caution to the girls: you can't read books about how to improve your marriage with the purpose of trying to change your spouse. The only person you can change is you. You will only create more resentment if you say, "If you would....., like this book says you should, then I could love you." That's just a stupid thing to say, but I hear it all the time from women. So read, learn, pray, and improve yourself, and don't be stupid!

Currently reading "Sheet Music" by Kevin Leeman...let you know what I think when I'm done.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Monday Morning Update

On days when I do children's worship, I always feel unprepared for this segment. I feel like I just don't have a clue what went on in "big church".

However, I was very excited this morning to have one of our new couples join us for set-up. You have to understand it is hard physical labor to move all the tumbling mats and set up our backdrops and sound equipment. And we start set-up at 8:00 so that the band has plenty of time for a final rehearsal on Sunday morning. It takes commitment to get up early on your only day off and come work hard before worship. We have many more families who stay late and help pack up. This is our first Anna family to join in on set-up. I think it was a huge morale booster for our team that is so faithful to show up every Sunday morning. How awesome will it be someday to have enough people that the alpha and omega teams can rotate weekends? I don't know that I would want to miss any of the fun though. There's just something about having to work hard to physically prepare a place for worship. You expect God to show up.

I did hear the band practicing. Sounded like an excellent set. . For those of you worship pastors who are reading and have requested a weekly set list (best I remember without being in the band this week:)

Beautiful One (Tim Hughes) ----love this one! did it in children's today also! Especially love the second bridge!!!!

Never Let Go (Matt Redman)
Everything Glorious (David Crowder)
My Savior My God (Aaron Schust)

Mercy (Parachute Band) ---- you must check out this band if you are not familiar with them. Incredible stuff for worship! Easy to do, powerful messages, awesome sound!

*just a cool note - yesterday I actually listened to Beautiful One, My Savior My God and Mercy - thought - hmmm...hope we do these soon. *

Everybody was excited about Shawn's sermon, but I don't know what to say about that other than check out to read it. I will be reading it tomorrow to find out what he said.

Now for me... I had children's worship this week. My attitude on this has drastically improved since God has reminded me about how much He loves children. And how important they were to Jesus. After all, Jesus stopped His ministry many times in order to visit with the children. If they were important to Him, they should be important to me. I just really miss being a part of the band. However, I will have the opportunity to worship God forever in heaven.... how selfish is it to begrudge giving up one Sunday a month! Seriously! But God and I have a deal that someday when I get to worship for all of eternity, I want to play with my band :)

The kids were awesome. We had a lot of fun, and they seemed to really grasp the concept of obedience to authority is a way to respect God. Things they said that I loved:

"Who's the Boss Here?" (perfect segueway into the lesson)
"You sing really great!" (kids don't care if you are off-key if you dance and act goofy)
"Can you shoot wolves and eat wolf meat?" (cause that's important to know)
"Is it time to eat yet?" (at least 100 times before I finally caved and passed out the snack)

Then this afternoon and evening we were privileged to spend at a Super Bowl party with a couple in Anna. So glad they were willing to share their home with us. Love making friends. Love being in a church plant. Love loving church.