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Why am I crying

March 15, 2019 3 comments

It’s a game, a sport. There are winners and losers all the time in atheltics. Why do I have tears?

pic credit Team Logo Style

My team, Trinity Western University Spartans Women’s Volleyball, lost our first game in the Canadian national championship to our cross town rivals UBC. If you follow me on social media you know this is my team. I am known as “One Sport Carson” at the univeristy.

You can say, “But Carson, one team had to lose.” Yes, and that’s the reality of sports. But today, deep down, I believe it should not have been my team that lost.

I have cried a great deal in the past four years experiencing great loss in my own life. Through this have come to recognize that there are different kinds of tears. Sad tears. Shrieking grief tears. Uncontrolable sobbing tears. Angry frustrated dry tears. Tears you cannot stop that seem to last forever. I’ve got a cold, tears. Hormonal tears. Lovingly surprised tears like when you receive an unexpected visit from a loved friend. Symbiotic tears of compassion. Scientists have actually studied the microscopic structure of tears and found that our tears are indeed different.

No microscope was needed to tell me that my tears today were tears not of grief for the loss, but of heart felt compassion for the team.

This is the end of the season. For the team, their volleyball season is wrapping up. For me, it is also the end of a season. I am completing my contract with the university shortly and moving on to a new adventure. I wanted my team to win the nationals as this was my last year. That might have been part of my tears, but I know from whence these tears came.

Celebration after winning the Canadian Western Championship 2019

#SpartansWVB is not just some athletic team. It is a group of women for which I have utmost respect. For their athleticism, scholarly accomplishments, humour, and service. But most importantly, I love their character. The team has become a community. They laugh together. Today, they cried together. They enjoy hanging out with one another and support each other through lows and celebrate accomplishments together. These women are going to change the world on and off the court as they live out their callings.

A large smile comes across my face as I walk across campus and have our tallest women calling my name and waving hello. It’s not hard to spot them in a crowd. This routine started after I travelled to China with the team four years ago.

After the death of my wife Brenda, and then suffering another loss with the death of my fiancé Ruth last year, many from this team have reached out in caring for me. They ask how I am doing, send me notes of encouragement and pray for me. When my granddaughter comes to watch games, they indulge a proud grandpa by allowing Ellie to get a picture with them.

Ellie being recruited. #futurespartan

I shed tears today not because this is just “some team” that lost. To me, they are Meaghan, Kristin, Alexis, Dora, Michaella, Hilary, Olivia, Ansah, Ashtyn, Micaylee, Sedona, Jessica, Alison, Avery, Savannah, Brie, Emma, and Mikaelyn. They wanted to win today, especially for their team mates who are in their last year of elgibility. But that didnt happen, and there were tears. So feeling like I am an extension of the team, I teared up too.

Next year, I’ll be back (he says with an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent). I love this team unconditionaly – win or lose. I’ll support my TWU volleyball team. We are all Spartans.

Volleyball

invented by men, perfected by women

Categories: Observations

A New Season

January 17, 2019 19 comments
Barnabas Landing, Keats Island

After all I have been through…

At the end of April 2019 I will complete my role assisting the president and my closest friend Bob Kuhn at Trinity Western University. I have been spending time praying and asking God what He would have me do in this next season of my life – wondering my future role after all I have been through.

During the summer I experienced a remarkable renewal in my life. I’m whistling again and want to do something! Hope welled up within me once again and I began to dream – but what would it be? There were plenty of opportunities – but I wanted to experience a fresh call.

Bob Kuhn, when I was talking to him about this, said that it was highly unlikely God was going to call me to do anything drastically different than how He has used me all my life – mentoring people. His statement sat with me and was a major influence in my decision about the future. In a remarkable series of events I know what I am going to do now. I am going to focus on mentoring and will be working with my friends at Barnabas Landing on Keats Island. I’m joining the team as Special Assistant to the President (a title I have come to love from my time at Trinity Western University).

Keats Island – photo credit Robert Dunning

Those of you who know me well are aware of my family’s relationship with Barnabas. It holds a very dear place in our hearts and we have been engaged there for decades. Brenda always described it as her favourite place on earth – and she had seen a lot of the earth in her lifetime. So, in the new Station building being built our family have sponsored a room in her memory.

Then, there is the more recent loss in my life, that of Ruth Blake. I was engaged to Ruth and she too was taken from us by cancer just less than a month before our wedding. Ruth is Rob’s sister and was a key element of the ministry to young adults at Barnabas.

What will I be doing?

I will spend 50% of my time working alongside Rob Bentall. We will be investing in an initiative where up to a dozen young adults will live on the island for a guided mentorship experience. The participants will be called Barnabas Landing Stewards and together we will learn what it means to live as Christians in a post Christian world. From September until April we will live, work and grow together in community.

In addition the Barnabas Landing mentoring initiative will hold retreats for the baby boomer generation teaching how to recover the role of elder and how to mentor. The Stewards will assist in the training. From May until September I will be working with others creating a mentoring flow that I am very excited about.

The other 50% of my time I will be able to do more writing, executive mentoring/coaching with leaders and organizations, pastoral counselling, and conference and retreat speaking on God’s pursuing love and grace. I also love working with Truefaced and other boards I serve with.

The thought of being able to welcome friends and family to visit on the island thrills me – and of course my grandkids can come anytime!

Ellie, Liam, Georgia, Grandpa, Roland, Mac, Landon at Applegate, Barnabas Landing

New Rhythms

I am also excited about the creation of new rhythms this next season will usher in. It will settle out over time but presently looks something like this:

  • September to April living on Keats Monday through Thursday and back into the city with family and friends Friday to Sunday.
  • Between May and September I will be going to Ireland for a month for creative time, and restoration. I also plan to spend some weeks out on the ocean and of course preparing for the next intake of Stewards.
  • Daily rhythms will involve more quiet time, focus on health and the encouraging of others.
  • And of course…being on and near the water as much as possible.

Following is the release that Barnabas have sent out. I’ll be writing much more about this in the future. – Carson

For Immediate Release

January 17, 2019

Barnabas Family Ministries Appoints Carson Pue to Lead Mentoring Initiative

Keats Island, BC – The management and staff of Barnabas Landing are pleased to announce that Rev. Dr. Carson Pue has accepted the appointment to the role Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director Rob Bentall.

The appointment fills an important role after the premature death of Ruth Blake, Rob Bentall’s sister and Carson’s fiancé. Ruth’s passion was ministry to young adults and it seemed clear to all that this vision was not to stop but rather be enhanced. A mentorship program called “Barnabas Landing Stewards” has been developed and Carson will act as the director.

The Barnabas board is very encouraged to have Carson Pue join the staff team. He knows Barnabas well, and his values and expertise around mentoring and community align well with our vision and will enhance young adults and our staff. The Stewards will also be helping teach Baby Boomers how to be effective mentors in this new initiative. Carson will be a great encouragement as special assistant to Rob Bentall, coming alongside with skills in organizational leadership, fundraising, and pastoral help in maintaining the spiritual core of our ministry to families of all ages.

“I am not sure I could have thought up such a timely, meaningful way to serve those I love at Barnabas,” says Carson Pue.  “My love, passion, and vision for young adults has grown while at Trinity Western University and I feel called to do all we can to encourage them moving into adulthood and learning how to be and live as Christians in a post Christian world. What better way to learn and grow than by living together on an island in the Pacific.”

Carson will assume the role of Special Assistant to the President in May 2019. While Barnabas serves as his center, Carson will continue his executive mentoring and leadership work with boards and Christian leaders. Barnabas Landing Stewards will start the first cohort of guided mentorship in September 2019 through April 2020.

Rob Bentall says, “I can’t believe how God has directed and brought all this about. I am thrilled to have Carson as a new addition to our team and I believe that this will forward our ministry to strengthen, educate and encourage families for decades to come.”

ABOUT BARNABAS LANDING

Established in 1986 as a non-profit Christian ministry, Barnabas Family Ministries is dedicated to strengthening, educating and encouraging families through Christian retreats. Barnabas Landing strives to create a place where young adults, couples, families and Christian leaders can retreat from the demands of life.  In this atmosphere of rest and authenticity, we believe relationships and faith can flourish. It is place to refocus on what matters the most—your relationships and faith.

For more information, please visit www.barnabasfm.org

For information on the young adult mentoring initiative called “Barnabas Landing Stewards”, please visit www.barnabaslanding.org.

Why Carson Pue Welcomes 2019

January 1, 2019 12 comments

When I think about the past year I barely have words. Twenty eighteen began with emotions of being in love again, and the delights of a teenage crush with Ruth Blake. Our engagement in March of last year gave birth of new hope for a future together with a wedding the end of June. Her death from cancer in May shocked all around her. As I sat with her for those eight days in hospital I felt nothing but love, however that was to change. How do you explain two deaths, two loved ones in such a short period? How do you possibly understand, and deal with, the death of dreams?

In the weeks following Ruth’s memorial service I found myself on a downward trajectory. It was extremely hard. Even though I had served God most of my life, I was done. We no longer had a working relationship (he says smiling as he reflects on that thought).

After the darkness…

Those two paragraphs represent the darkest first half of 2018. But it was not to remain like that. Through an invitation by my friends Tim and Suzanne in Port Stewart, Northern Ireland I escaped everything here and ran into the arms of their friendship and love. What I was not anticipating, or seeking, was God’s pursuit of me.

While there with Suzi, in my darkest lowest moment, I experienced “the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God “ as Cory Asbury sings. “Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.” I cannot share the whole story of healing I experienced. It is after all an Irish story and that would take at least an hour!

Needless to say, I returned a different man. I’m whistling again! I have energy, hope and have shared with friends that I feel like I am twenty years old, just became a follower of Jesus, and want to change the world.

Cory Asbury sings Reckless Love

The second half of last year was filled with more hope. looking forward and dreaming again. I spent time out on the ocean with friends going further north than I have ever gone before to The Broughtons. I also went back to Ireland with a best friend and Jeremy and Shari. It was an amazing time together – and of course we got to see Suzi and Tim again.

Having a photographer along helps capture the trip! White Cloud Productions

As I anticipate 2019 there a things that I am going to do differently. My contract at Trinity Western University completes at the end of April when the President completes his term. I have so appreciated my time serving the university and it has rekindled my love of young adults (and watching women’s volleyball LOL).

What’s next?

My contract completion creates a transition point and I am envisioning a new focus and lifestyle for myself. In the coming year I see myself mentoring young adults; coaching executive leaders in both business and ministry where I can add value and encouragement; writing more; and intentionally nurturing my deep friendships. I also plan to take a tour to Ireland again – maybe two – to trace the footsteps of St Patrick. And of course maintaining my passion for Africa will be continuing to serve the Abundant Leadership Institute in Kigali Rwanda.

After a long break due to my circumstances, I will be opening up my calendar for speaking at conferences and retreats in 2019 and 2020. You can bet that a theme for this year will be the pursuing love of God. I will be making an announcement with more detail shortly.

Making room…

Our family have been looking at reflection questions from the Muskoka Woods Leadership Studio and thinking about the things we would like to focus on in 2019. One of the question adds: “What would need to be simplified, discarded or delegated to make room for these?”  It presupposes that if we are going to do something new, we need to make room for it.

So that leads me to ask you, if you are going to do something new this year how will you simplify, discard or delegate to make room for these?

Categories: Observations

When your day doesn’t go as planned.

June 23, 2018 29 comments

Yeah, today didn’t go as planned.

I woke up thinking: I should be on an island getting dressed in my new Tommy Bahama shirt and linen pants for our Keats island wedding. A wedding that was birthed out of a relationship with Ruth that seemed absolutely perfect – a “God thing.”.

We had our future all dreamed out: A home on Keats Island, a home in the city. Writing several books we had thought about and discussed. Enjoying writing and quiet times together on the island. We had a great evening thinking about names for the beach house and really laughed at Sea-Esta. We wanted to travel together so I might show her the world. I had already booked trips to San Diego, Alberta, Toronto, Ireland and she was going to come to Rwanda with me in the new year.

Ruth was wide-eyed at the prospects. We saw ourselves ministering together together with a focus on young adults and helping Barnabas however we could. Ruth and I enjoy being grandparents and loving our kids so family would be a big part of our new life together. Entertaining, concerts, holidays, Disneyland, speaking together about our beautiful story, encouraging hope in God. All of these exciting dreams. We had a plan!

All these dreams, and all were threatened with the diagnosis that Ruth’s cancer was back. It was back with a vengeance and eight days later she passed through surrounded by her family and loved ones.

Blueprint for future life

You and I all have plans/dreams for our future. I was cherishing and nurturing dreams with Ruth, holding them close to my heart. She and I finally had a new blueprint that we would attempt to build our future lives according to. I’m sure you, in your quiet moments away from the busyness of day to day living, have some dreams that you are cherishing and that you desperately hope for. Well I’m 63 this year and, over the experience of life, have come to know that we don’t always get our way. God, haven’t I learned that already? I would have thought that the death of Brenda (my wife) and other twists and turns in my life and leadership would have taught me by now. Yet I still find the desire to try and meticulously plan the details so nothing is left to chance.

This quote from Steve Kellmeyer, Catholic author and culture commentator, caught me with the accuracy and potency of his words.

“There is a war that each of us fights within ourselves. When unforeseen difficulty arises, when our initial choice demands of us a sacrifice we did not foresee and when this sacrifice we unknowingly chose strikes at the very heart of what we cling to, what will we do?”

What will I do?

What will we do when we are shaken to the very core of who we are by something we could not possibly have anticipated. When our faith, hope, excitement and happiness are challenged so strongly that it paralyzes, what will we do?

Over the past weeks I have gone to some dark places in my thoughts. Places where what I claim to believe has been once again, put to the test. Places where I wanted to abandon what I have committed most of my life to. I wondered if I would ever find the strength to believe and hope again knowing that answers to all my “why” questions would end up falling into the answer category of Job 36:26, “Look, God is greater than we can understand.”

Will I have the courage and strength to take all the pieces of what I thought was a perfectly future and place them in the realization that our lives are beautifully imperfect.

The way you answer the question, “What will I do?”, can or will be the making of us. Surrounded and accepted by my family and close friends I feel supported this day in choosing not to lose confidence in myself, or in God. Today, most of Ruth’s family and grandchildren gathered together will all my clan. We just wanted to be together. It’s unusual because we are not family, yet we are very much family. We realize that what we will do is a choice, and we want to encourage the best decisions based on faith.

I want my faith to arise.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I have decided to take some time to mourn. To give permission to go to peaceful places, remembering our memories and our dreams. To wrestle with God about further areas I need to submit to him. To not be afraid to admit my feelings and keep talking to God until I rest in the fact that somehow, he is going to work this out for good.

I want my faith to arise. I have encouraged many while mentoring not to let your setbacks define who you are. I don’t want this setback to do that to myself. After all, I’m a child of God and that is my identity. Learning to submit to God means learning to trust and follow him even when you don’t think his way makes sense. So today. I choose today to trust him regardless of the outcome.

Yeah, today didn’t go as planned.

Categories: Observations

Ruth: Such Joy and Such Sadness

June 17, 2018 30 comments

On May 28th, my dear Ruth died. We were betrothed to be married June 23rd, 2018. This is the first I have been able to write about it and am doing so from Tofino where I have come away on a retreat with my fiend Wayman.

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I had just landed in Sacramento CA for a meeting when my phone rang and I was told that Ruth was in the hospital and they have identified cancer in her ribs, back, hip, lungs and liver. There was no treatment plan possible and Ruth was being put directly into palliative care.  This was just one month and two days before we were to be wed in a beautiful service we planned on Keats Island surrounded by our family and a few close friends.

As God would have it Cam Roxborough, a long-time friend, happened to be right there, at that time, in the same airport and he asked me if everything was okay? With tears I said “No” and told him of Ruth’s diagnosis. We stood praying together by the baggage carousels and that began a new journey for me, but one I was all too familiar with because of walking with my wife Brenda just years earlier.

The blog I wrote just prior to this one is called “Beautiful Story.” Ruth and I used this as a means of announcing our relationship. Inspired by the song of the same title written by Mia Fieldes, it proclaimed how God was in the background of our lives orchestrating every detail and customizing it for our lives.

This seemed so true for Ruth and I for in very different ways we needed each other, and it was perfect. Our love had made us like giddy teenagers yet we were inspired by a maturity in our faith that filled us with dreams of how God was going to use us together for his Kingdom.

Little did I consider, if at all, that now I would have to accept that God had been in the background orchestrating a story that did not end as we had presumed. At one-point Ruth was alone with me in the hospital room and tears were rolling down from her beautiful eyes. She asked me, “What is happening?”

“Dear, your body is shutting down” I shared as tenderly as I could amidst my own tears.

“I know that” she replied, “I just thought that we would have much more time together.”

“Me too, me too” I said with my head resting on the side of her bed.

Irish Literature

Irish literature is well known for its disproportionate number of dark tales involving personal struggles and the supernatural. Perhaps because of my background I feel trapped in this presently. We tend to like stories with happy endings – this is not one for me.

Many people around me keep saying that this just isn’t fair! Ruth’s death is not fair!

I get this feeling and it flits by in my thoughts but has not really landed. I wonder, why when our relationship was so perfect would she die before our dreams had really begun? With Ruth dying just three weeks before we were to be wed I feel personally slighted. I feel like a young child who has just been grounded saying “That’s not fair!”

You and I live in a society that is obsessed with ‘fairness’ but the application of fairness is actually quite subjective. The shadow side of ‘fairness’ and that is ‘selfishness’. In Matthew 20:10-12 Jesus shares a story of farmers who felt unfairly treated by the landowner. But Jesus in his narrative later says “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?”

In my living room there is a copy of Rembrandt’s painting “The Prodigal”. As I look at it today I feel like I am the older brother standing in judgement over the father who is being entirely unfair in welcoming back the prodigal without as much as a penalty. What is ‘fair’ about that? Nothing. But it is an expression of God’s grace.

Just five days after Ruth’s death I sat around a fire with my sons and Martin Sanders from New York asking questions.

“Why would God allow love to form in me again only to have it separated by death?”

“If God desires that we flourish, where do I find that in this situation?

“If God is kind, where is kindness in this?”

“With all that we know about God, how does one make sense of Ruth’s death?”

God’s knows things that we do not. That is the only place I can land these questions. His sense of what is fair, and what is not fair, is beyond human understanding. While intellectually and in faith I can say this, it is not very satisfying in my grief. It has caused for me a serious reconsideration of what I consider to be fair.

Grace

Grace is the only thing that is giving me perspective on all this. As I shared at Ruth’s service, despite the tragedy of this seeming to destroy a beautiful story, we can experience a constant dripping of God’s grace into our lives just like the IV bag was dripping fluids into Ruth in her last days.

If God were ‘fair’ with us then he would not have Jesus die on the cross in payment for our sin. He would not be here walking with me every day helping me get through this and bringing whatever strength I have. He would not have provided me with family and friends who have surrounded me with love and call to check on my well-being or ask hard questions about whether I am feeling suicidal in any way (a question we should be more open to asking those close to us who are hurting).

God’s grace transcends fairness. Grace extends a hand of forgiveness to me every time I mess up and offers his Spirit as a tender comforter to me amidst the stinging heart ache that I suffer.

The pain for me is still severe, but there are some blessings I am beginning to count as I seek beyond my own selfishness. I have a new extended family. Despite not being married, I have become family to Ruth’s children and family and we can walk together through this time of grief.

My own children and grandchildren have gone through much and experienced significant loss in their lives. Yet I see a maturity in them that inspires me. They cling to each other, and to God, and offer themselves to serve others who are experiencing pain and loss.

Even being able to identify some blessings is a part of God’s grace. I recall anew Brenda’s expressed desire for me to continue sharing the gospel of grace after she was to pass, so consider this a little drip of grace for you. I will write more as I process and when I can.

Today I began a new season of mourning. I know the importance of this from our families grief journey over Brenda’s death. We need to mourn for a season. If we don’t mourn it is too easy to stay stuck in anger, pain, numbness and resentment.

There is a black band around my wrist as a marker of this season of mourning. Each time I glance at it I am reminded of my loss.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

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Beautiful Story

March 18, 2018 56 comments

BEAUTIFUL STORY

I have a beautiful story to share from my life about loss, redemption, and the expansive love of God.

LOSS

I have been in a season of great loss.

Today marks 1537 days since Brenda was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and 949 since she passed through. Brenda prepared us well as a family for her death, yet we have learned much since then. Together we have learned:

  • That grief does not necessarily get easier as time passes.
  • Embracing the full reality of the death cannot, and should not, occur quickly.
  • Some days the full depth of your loss will hit you.
  • Your personal faith as a Christian can have a tremendous impact on your journey with grief.
  • Even if you have faith in God, you still need to mourn.
  • With hurt comes healing.

Mourning is the outward expression of your many thoughts and feelings regarding the person who has died. In my case, this was Brenda, my wife, soulmate, best friend, and companion of thirty-nine years. I have been mourning and am not finished yet, nor feel compelled to hurry it along.

As follower of Jesus for many years and a leader amongst pastors and ministry people, I knew that I had a substantial foundation on which to stand for this next season of my life. Yet despite all this, I so longed for companionship. Most days I had come to believe that I would spend the rest of my life alone despite Brenda making it clear before she died that she wished for me to remarry.

REDEMPTION

In October, I sat in a quaint restaurant in a heritage home in Blowing Rock, North Carolina with my friends J John and Killy from the UK. They knew and loved Brenda deeply, but at that lunch felt called to pray over me regarding my desire for companionship. I had a similar response from my friends Rich and Debbie in Charlotte on the same trip.

On my return from North Carolina, I was speaking for a Young Adult conference that was held at Barnabas on Keats Island. This is a very special place for our family and has been for years. Arrow Leadership uses it as one of its prime locations for classes, and I have been going there for years.

barnabasBrenda and I prayed for the vision of Barnabas before it existed at this location, and I have been friends with Rob and Kathy Bentall, the founders, for decades. It is a ‘thin place’ – a place that is sacred; where healing, teaching and inspiration take place year-round. After Brenda’s death we decided as a family to support Barnabas by sponsoring one of the bedrooms in The Station, a new marquee building being built for teaching, dining, administration and some new bedroom accommodation. Though Brenda had travelled the world, she was quick to tell anyone that Barnabas was her favourite place on the planet. It seemed so right to us all that this would be a place of memorial for her.

KeatsLandingAt the end of the Young Adult Retreat I was transported to the Government Wharf with all the guests to make our boat ride back to the mainland off this beautiful island. At the top of the ramp I paused to give a hug to Rob and Kathy, and then to Rob’s sister, Ruth, who had facilitated the retreat.

When I hugged Ruth, I felt an electrical shock surge through my shoulders and back that made me step back.

“What just happened?” I thought to myself while trying to remain calm in front of all the people.

I’ve known Ruth for decades. We have done ministry side by side at Barnabas conferences, and consider her a friend, although we do not see each other all that often. All of my sons have worked for Ruth in their younger years at Barnabas.

When my boat started to leave, I kept wondering “What just happened?”. This did not go away and finally I got up the courage to text message Ruth. I wanted to give myself lots of wiggle room so I asked her, “What just happened?”

Ruth replied, “I don’t know, but something happened! We should talk about it.”

Well, talk we did a week later, and we have been seeing each other and talking ever since. We spent time with our children seeking discernment. We sought wisdom of counsellors with expertise in second marriages. I went for a separate session to do a check on where I was at in my grief journey, to see if I was ready for a new relationship. I spoke to my closest friends about us when I realized that I was in love with Ruth, and she with me. As our counsellor said to us, there are no red flags, and we were both in a place of readiness for remarriage.

You have not heard much from me over the past months. It is because we intentionally have been quiet about our seeing one another. We needed the time and opportunity to know one another better without the pressures of our relationship circles – which are vast. Ruth and I have come to this new relationship out of deep loss. You are tender and cautious when you are in that space. Neither of us could have imagined this beautiful new relationship. God has been in the background orchestrating every detail. We are without words.

EXPANSIVE LOVE OF GOD

I spent time with my sons talking this all over. Ruth wisely reminded me that I was grieving the loss of Brenda, my wife, but my sons were grieving their mother and that was different. At one point one of my Sons asked a question about how all of this works. “How can you love Mom, and love Ruth?”

“Well,” I answered, “Remember when you first got married and how you thought love doesn’t get any better than this?”

“Yes” he acknowledged.

“Then Landon was born, your first son. Do you remember that moment when you first held him, and your love circle grew in capacity exponentially to include your baby?”

“Yeah I remember.”

“And then when you think that you simply could not love anymore, along comes your second son Liam and, oh my, the love expansion he brought to your life. You get the picture, it is one of an expansive love. I’m not sure exactly how this all works but I feel like God has given me that expansive kind of love for Ruth – while I still love your Mom. Your Mom will always be my first love.”

That was the best I could do at the time because I am still learning. When we love God, we’ll love others, because that’s the way real love works.  We’ll tell others of His love for them, because His love wants to draw others into that love.  We’ll delight in drawing others into our love, expanding our capacity, because that’s the way my God is, and His love working in us will affect us that way, too.

Well, in the spirit of this expansive love of God, and with the support of our families, and dear Brenda’s family, I knelt on one knee and asked Ruth if she would marry me. She said yes and we are planning to be married the end of June in a small intimate family wedding, on a small island in the Pacific. We look forward to leaning into how God is going to use our companionship and love, to further His ministry through us.

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Grieving and the Holidays: Canadian Thanksgiving

October 8, 2017 5 comments

 

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There are certain days for those who grieve that act like emotional land mines.

Thanksgiving is one such time for me. During this holiday, my emotions feel more intense than, on what I might call, normal days on the grief journey.

Thanksgiving was always a big family time growing up, and in our marriage. I have lovely memories of the joy Brenda had decorating the house for the season, and preparing for “her babies” to arrive for the big family dinner. This year, Thanksgiving converges with our wedding anniversary. This amplifies my emotions evoking moments of loneliness, sadness, despair and even anger.

The grief group I attended after Brenda’s death helped reiterate that all of these feelings are normal, though I would add, not pleasant. They taught that feelings are part of the process of grief and that we are to accept our feelings, whatever they may be, and not deny them or push them away. They also shared the importance of preparing before special days like holidays, anniversaries and birthdays. It is because we are used to associating the holidays with good times and our loved ones, so we will miss them all the more at these moments of the year.
Those of us on the grief journey must contemplate in advance what we are going to do, and who we are going to be with on these special days.

Brenda's MarkerSo, I have done some preparing. I have planned to spend quiet time at the cemetery giving thanks for our marriage and the incredible seasons of life that we lived together. I truly do thank God for those years and the memories. Brenda used to teach leaders “memories never depreciate and are worth investing in.” So true in my life right now.

There are other things such as having time to read my Bible, seeking both strength and comfort from the words found there. I attended a hockey game early in the morning to watch my eldest grandson play and receive the MVP trophy. Any time with my grandchildren always helps. Today, I went to church with Jeremy and Shari and Mac, Ellie and Georgia. In the afternoon I have arranged for gardening and supper with life friends who will surround me with love.

Then, on the holiday Monday, my family, all thirteen of us, will gather around the dining room as my “daughters” Kristin, Shari and Kirstie excitedly prepare and serve our traditional turkey feast. This gathering will provide time to identify where we are on our grief journey and express thanks for “Mom” and other things in our lives. As I mentioned, this would have been our 41st wedding anniversary. So, I am thankful that I will not be alone, but surrounded by those closest to me.

If you are grieving a loss, it is easy for these “special days” to sneak up on you, so be careful. You cannot eliminate the feelings, but you can prepare for them. I’ve been told that no matter how long it has been, you still carry a portion of your grief with you. That portion will be with you for the rest of your life. Emotions, you thought you had already dealt with, will come flooding back at unexpected times, but on these special days, you can anticipate. I’ve already begun to think and plan for Christmas.

When I am discouraged, or at a low point relating to my loss, the only real remedy is to look to the Father. God truly is the source of all healing and I am making the decision to remain close to Him despite my emotions. This morning the words written by the psalmist in Psalm 42:6 reminded me of this, “My soul is downcast within me; therefore, I will remember you.” So, even though I feel struck by grief once again, I am choosing to depend on God and I will praise Him and give thanks. For “though I am struck down, I am not destroyed.”

In Brenda’s journal entries, she often wrote what she was thankful for even as she faced death. I read this today and her list made me smile:

• God’s heartbeat in my life.
• The gifts of prayer and scripture.
• My loving family.
• Encouraging friends.
• A roaring appetite.
• Pretty good energy.
• The hope of Christmas, now just weeks away.
• So much love and goodwill at every turn.
• Hope.
• Laughter.

What are you thankful for today?