Friday, October 2, 2015

Always Tell Your Story

I heard her say it often.  "If anyone asks me to tell my story, I say yes."
Christina loved her story and she loved the opportunity to tell about her amazing God.  It is important to know that this was never easy.  She didn't love the limelight.  She was not a natural public speaker but she could capture an audience with her humor and candor.

Who could forget her reference to how her buns tingle when she's nervous.
Or the time she said, "If I have a little seizure while I'm talking, don't worry.  My mom will fill in and I will be back soon."

I remember when her church in Portland asked her to speak at a women's event.  I thought that she would be giving a ten minute testimony of some kind but as it turned out, she was the main speaker for 400 women.  She sat in a comfy chair and told her story.  It was a beautiful night.  The challenge to all the women around their tables was to have a discussion about how they could trust God in the middle of the difficult situations they found themselves in.  I loved Christina's courage and her message.

Christina also talked to small groups.  I remember her meeting with a group of high school girls in Pasco, Washington.  They had been following Christina's story through my sister, Loralee.  When we were passing through, Loralee arranged for them to meet Christina.  Those girls never forgot that evening.

She gladly stood in front of large and small congregations and told about her journey with Jesus.
She spoke at a few Christian schools--gladly sharing what a life of faith looks like in the middle of a big trial.

Playing at a friend's wedding
I had the privilege of standing in for her once after she had gone to heaven.  Her uncle Russ had written a piece of music for the Hanford High School band.  It was a piece inspired by Christina's life.  The students fell in love with Christina.  They read her blog.  They read my blog.  I received a call that they were going to perform the piece for the last time--could I come?  I almost said no but then I realized if I hopped in my car immediately I could be their by concert time.  (It was a 6 hour trip.)  I arrived an hour before the concert.  Russ asked if I might say a few words before they played the piece.  I heard Christina, "If anyone asks, say yes."  The love of those kids was obvious as I walked up on stage.  I told them that Christina was just like them. She spent a good part of her high school years on a stage performing with an orchestra.  Then I told them about her "no fear life".  About her faith in God.  They loved that.  I heard from some of their parents about how appropriate that message was for them.  Then they played their hearts out.  Amazing.

A couple of months ago, I was approached about an event called "The Faith Puzzle."  I was asked if I would be willing to be a part of the evening which would be concerned about the problem of pain and suffering in this world.  It would be an opportunity for sharing Christina's story and my story.  I heard Christina's voice in my head.  "Always be willing to share your story."  So, I said yes.

The Faith Puzzle is an event over 4 weeks that deals with the problem of faith.

On October 18th, Jesse and I will play a little music (classical and celtic fiddling) while slides of Christina's life scroll behind us.  One of the bonus features is getting to play a little music with my son, Jesse.  That is a rare occurrence these days.  It promises to be a beautiful evening.  Thank you, Tim, for asking.

Christina and Jesse

It's another opportunity for Christina to impact.  I could never have predicted the ongoing telling of Christina's story.  She has now been away for 2 years and 4 months.  I am so thankful for the continued impact of her life.  I am looking forward to telling you all about another huge opportunity next summer.  Her story will literally go on the road--across the nation.  

To God be the Glory!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Is it okay to be forgotten?

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting at the cemetery.  I looked to my left and saw a fresh grave and I sighed.  Someone else is going through loss, grief, letting go.  It turned out to be the grave of a woman in her 90's.  It made me smile just a little.  What a long life.  My eyes swept the cemetery and I thought--we all die.  Every one of us.  Sooner.  Or Later.  Life can be agonizingly short.  There are too many graves of  precious babies and toddlers who never grew up.  And there are the long lives--perhaps fully lived.  Perhaps not.  The stories in a cemetery are mostly a mystery.  And many of those people are absolutely forgotten on earth.

One of the biggest fears of a parent is to lose a child.  The next great fear after one has lost a child is "What if my child is forgotten?"  I have talked to many parents who have lost children and I have not found one parent free of this fear.  It is always present in mind and heart.  What if no one asks me about my child?  What if I am all alone in my remembering? On June 13th, it is two years since  Christina walked this earth.  I cannot believe it has been two whole years.  I wrestle.

One of my most vivid mourning stories happened 4 years before Christina left this earth.  We were on a cruise. Christina and her story were well known.  Her engaging personality was evident and so many people were enjoying her vitality.  I watched and then I cried.  The realization was that someday I would be with a group of people who had never met Christina and I would have no adequate way to describe her.  I was devastated. 

My day of reckoning came in the cemetery a couple of weeks ago.  I felt the Lord whispering to my heart, "On this earth, you will be forgotten someday.  Christina will be forgotten.  Isaiah will be forgotten.   But I will not forget.  And that is all that matters."

Truth brings freedom.  Instead of clinging to the hope that someone will remember Christina, I stand in the strength that Jesus remembers.  And that is enough for me.

Malachi 3:16-17
"Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard.  A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.  "On the day when I act," says the LORD Almighty, "they will be my treasured possession...."

My heart soars with the thought of a scroll of remembrance.  Can you just see the LORD saying, "Oh, there is Christina talking about me and honoring me.  Write it all down in my scroll of remembrance. She is my treasured possession."

His remembrance of us is all that really matters.

A few days after Christina went on Hospice Care, we arranged a video session.  It was a bit out of her comfort zone but she knew we would need to hear her voice one more time.  She answered many questions that day.  There were probably ten people in the room, laughing and crying with her.  Here is a little sample.  It is a timely reminder for those of us still walking this earth.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Can it Be Almost Two Years?

Sharing shaved heads with her brother.
It is hard to believe that it has been almost two years since Christina left us.  It seems like she was just here.  The pain of missing her is quite acute at times. I never know when it will sweep over me and I expect that will be part of my reality for the rest of my life.  I think there are many different paths of mourning and many different kinds of circumstances that affect our mourning.  I know that the length of preparation we had makes for a different kind of mourning.  We did not deal with the heart wrenching shock of losing Christina suddenly.  We had 5 1/2 years to prepare, to watch, to help, to wonder.  We had time to be together, to talk about life separated, to go on some amazing trips.  We had celebrations before we ever had to deal with a Memorial Service.  All I could think about at her various wedding events was the pure delight to gather with our friends and family and know that it wasn't about Christina leaving us.  

For the last two months I have had questions about this blog and whether or not it should continue.  

Enjoying Hawaii.
This morning I had a unique opportunity to process through those issues.  Some of you know that for the last 10 months I have been in training to become a life coach.  It's a field that I barely understood when I took the first training last September but I have become convinced of the value of coaching as it brings about clarity and direction.  I was in a telephone conference with my mentor coach and 4 other class members and our mentor asked to coach me in a coaching demo.  I brought this blog to the table for discussion.  Should I continue?  Should I wrap it up and consider it done?  What are my motives for continuing?  

The miracle hair grows back!
As my coach questioned me, I was able to express my concerns, my desires, my fears, and truth.  My concerns and fears all centered around motivation.  Any blog can be used in wrong ways.  The worst for me would be to call attention to myself or to meet some unsurfaced need for affirmation.  It can be very tempting to make life about people's responses or interest.  How many people have read a post?  How many responded?  If there is a lot of interest or response, it can foster pride and pride is the default nature of humans.  It takes about one second to move from humility to pride and great diligence to fight against it.  My desire is to write to draw attention to God's beautiful work.  My desire is to share the hope and joy of Jesus.  

There was also the question of ending a blog.  As I talked to my coach, I realized the most important thing for me is the truth of eternal life.  Christina's story is about eternity.  It is about the truth of Jesus.  It is the truth of John 3:16--Whoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life.
Christina's story is really a story that God wrote in her.  He worked in and through her.  He made himself very known in her final days on this earth.  He allowed Isaiah to enter this world.  I realized that Christina's story is not done.  Her impact continues.  Isaiah continues.  Those of us left here continue. And the truth is, Christina continues in the presence of Jesus. 

Two great things came out of my coaching session this morning.  
  • The owner of the story of this blog is Jesus--not me.  If He gives me something to say, I will say it.  If He wants me to quit writing, I am sure He will make that obvious.
  • I will continue to be diligent about my motivation for writing.  If self-serving or pride surface, I will repent and continue.
I look forward to writing as more of life unfolds and God shows us His amazing Glory.

Thank you all for reading and for sharing this story.  

(I hope you enjoy the fun pictures.)

On a cruise with Linsey--pre cancer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Christina's Last Blog Post--2 Years Ago

It is hard to believe that it has been two years since Christina wrote her last post on her blog.  I mark the time passed by watching Isaiah.  He is 2 1/2 years old.  That means Christina has been away from us for almost two years.  As I read her words, her personality, her faith, her confidence, her joy washed over me in a fresh way.  The daughter I love to talk about--talked about herself and it renewed my heart.  I really am not making this story up:)
I thought today that it would be fun to just share her words. I am stunned by the clarity of her thoughts amidst multiple brain tumors and pain medication and steroids.  These words that flowed out of her are truly a gift to our hearts.

She wrote this on April 23, 2013

Ah, what a beautiful Tuesday. What an amazing day to be alive! I’ve been wanting to share some thoughts for a while, but you know how things get:) Writing things down is a bit slower and harder these days, so I’m thinking that posting smaller snippets as I am able, might be the way to go. We shall see:
Let me start with this. Being put under hospice care is the last place I would have ever expected to feel so peaceful, and thankful, and joyful towards my the Lord. Please know that this is not a “make people feel good” answer. This is as honest as it gets. Has it been the hardest, scariest, and most emotional thing I’ve ever faced? Yes. Have I ever felt God’s presence more powerfully and craved it more hungrily? Never.
So why am I peaceful, thankful and joyful? Most simply put I’d say, it’s a miracle to my heart, and God’s character of grace on full display.
Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.”
He promises us peace. When we trust his purposes above our own, keep our eyes and thoughts fixed on Him, no matter what the circumstances, (even death) He promises peace. Not without struggle, not without tears, or grieving, but a deep settled peace, CHOOSING to believe that God’s “good” is much more powerful and complete than my own “good”. Even if my emotions have trouble catching up sometimes.
Who gets this kind of time?! Oftentimes, people in my situation (even those dealing with cancer for a while), will face an abrupt end to their fully functioning state. Grand mal seizure leading to a coma can be a common one in brain cancer. This doesn’t mean this will be my route or anyone else’s for that matter. God can do whatever He chooses. But, look, here I am! 2 big seizures into this, tumors suddenly spread all over my brain, and I’m feeling better than I have in months!  I have way less pain, more energy and definitely much clearer thoughts. Yay:) All on hospice, who would have thought?! The first seizure, and the following MRI was God’s perfect provision allowing us all to be aware of my new health status. I am so thankful for the beautiful time I/we have all gotten to experience because of this. Friends and family have been able to fly in and I’ve loved the relaxation of my home, only made possible by so many people contributing to help–the Isaiah care, the food, the cleaning, the super fun yard work parties, errands run for us, the worship nights, Doug’s awesome work allowing him to take so much time off. We’ve had overnight baby care (thanks Mom!) for quiet restful nights and sleep-in mornings with lattes waiting for us when we get up. Oh yes. The list goes on and on and on. We are SO thankful.
I’m joyful, I just am. Really I think it comes down to 2 things.
1) Remaining thankful. Taking every moment to remind myself of all that God is doing, what He has done, and what He might continue to do through this. I have SO much to be thankful for, and things could always be much worse.
2) Hope. The truth is I am grieving. Mostly grieving the pain of those who will be affected by my death. Especially my husband, my sweet Isaiah, my parents, and beyond. This is the hardest part for me. It can feel crushing at times. Surrendering my own life is one thing, but surrendering two more precious lives, is entirely different.
BUT I am not without hope. My hope is in Jesus and the eternity we are promised when we accept Him. I KNOW I will see these lives again. I KNOW I will meet my Maker face to face! I KNOW life on the earth is just a breath in light of eternity, and death has no power over this soul!
I have fought this disease, this, pain, this potential hopelessness, every second of the way, but not without His grace. It has been through many ups and downs, tears, laughter, adventures, heartbreaks, but even overflowing happiness. He has not given me a spirit of defeat. I will be thankful and soaking up every day He chooses to give me, and I will also look forward to that beautiful day I get to walk into my Savior’s arms and be finally swallowed up by LIFE. The life we are designed for! 2 Cor. 5:4-7
So there it is. I am unafraid of death (although easy to squirm with all the unknowns of what that might look like), I but I know that He comforts in those moments, for myself, as well as everyone else. I am also unafraid of leaving my boys (although not without tears) because I don’t get to control their pain (whether I’m alive or not!) I have to fully surrender their journeys to the Lord, as I have had to do for my life over and over again for the past 6 years. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and am still doing on a minute by minute basis. 
But He is helping me. It is NOT by my own strength. It’s purely Jesus and the deep Truths He promises in His Word.
I hope this doesn’t sound trite. But I had to share. I’ve experienced the despair and hopelessness, but I have been freed from them.  A miracle. Totally His miracle. So if all I can do is share that reason and that hope with others, I will:) Always. A hundred times. It’s what makes this journey worth it.
Love to you all,

(All of Christina's blog is at

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Happy Birthday Christina!

Here we are for the second time...celebrating Christina's birthday while she dances in heaven. I smiled often while I was baking her favorite German Chocolate Cake.  Our little family will gather and enjoy some cake and some stories and some joy.  All around our home are reminders of Christina's life. So many beautiful things friends have given us.  And artwork that she created.  I am always astounded that I feel like she is near. 

Of course, there is always the continual reminder of Isaiah--such a reflection of Christina. His joy reminds me of her.  It is really, really hard to be in a bad mood when he is around.  Most of life is just pure delight to him.

Isaiah is thriving with his Mommy Susie and Daddy and brothers.  He knows who Christina is and recognizes her pictures and videos.  Not long ago, he was looking at a beautiful drawing of Christina and himself and asked Mommy Susie, "Happened?"  Susan explained that Christina had an "owie" on her head.  He asked, "Kiss it?"  Susan explained that Jesus made it all better and she is living with Jesus.  He asked, "Pretend?"  No, Isaiah, very real.  

Which reminds me of a great joy that I had last Friday.  I was asked to tell Christina's story at Olympic Christian School.  My intention was to donate the quilt that Christina's class made in the 7th and 8th grade (and we bought it at the auction.)  Before I began to tell the story and show the pictures, Lorie Oakes, who introduced me, asked if I would tell all the children what one phrase or sentence I would want them to remember from today.  I thought a moment and said, "Jesus is real."

I think it is easy to learn a lot about God and know so much and not really live like Jesus is real.  I told real stories from Christina at OCS.  I even told the now famous story of how she tied  her good friend Mandy to the tether ball pole and left her there after recess.  I also told the very real story of Christina getting ready to go with Jesus.  I told how she heard angels sing and I told how Jesus showed her the special dock he was building for her (because He knows just what she loved.)  I reminded them that Jesus said, "I am going to prepare a place for you.  If that were not so, I would have told you."  Even though we can't see what He is preparing for us, it is real.  And at the end I said, "Whatever happened to Isaiah?"  I introduced Susan and Isaiah.  My encouragement was to NOT FEEL SORRY for Isaiah.  Jesus took his mommy to heaven and gave him a beautiful new mommy.  It seemed those kids loved seeing Isaiah and loved the story.  I pray it stays with them--helps them to walk with less fear and more wonder. 
 Like Christina.

Happy Birthday, dear Christina!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"If I were going to die..."

These things are not easy--sorting a closet full of memories.
Some people simply do it in a day.  
Some people never do it.
There is no right way.
There is no easy way.

I had tried to start on Christina's closet at our house a few times.  It was too much.  I did not know what was important.  If it wasn't important today, would it be important in ten years?  How do you know?

I shared some of these thoughts with Christina's good friend, Linsey.  She offered to help me over Christmas vacation.  And then Mandy, Christina's other childhood friend, joined us.  I knew that Mandy and Linsey would know the meaning and circumstances of so much of this stuff.  

Christina was a saver.  It didn't take us long for us to throw away old papers from chemistry and math. 
 Old cassette tapes--mostly gone.  
Mask from radiation treatment--gone!  
Textbooks from college--thrift store.  

But there were some questionable things.  
Do you save all the high school and college annuals?  
How about report cards?  
How many of these quilts and blankets do we save?  

Other things were treasures.  The college letters from her brother.  The Mother's Day Card she made me when she was six.  (Why in the world was it in her closet instead of mine?)  The list of character qualities she was looking for in a husband!  Her art work through the years.  Stories she wrote.  Journals and more journals.

But there was one paper that stopped us in our tracks.  We sat and read it aloud.  We found a paper she wrote for a 9th grade English class.  The title was,

"If I Were Going to Die, Would I Want to Know It?"

It was hand written.  She received a "B".  I suppose the grammar wasn't great.  The teacher (I don't remember who it was) said her conclusion was "OK".  I smiled.  

Here are a few excerpts.  

"If I were going to die, I would definitely want to know it...

A lot of people say they wouldn't want to know if they were going to die because it would make them depressed and not enjoy the last part of their life.  I disagree. I think people can have many things they would want to resolve or finish.  They maybe would do all of the things they've always wanted to do, because they want to get as much fun in as possible.

How would you like it if you were minutes from dying and you and your brother weren't speaking because of a fight you had?  But it's too late to talk to him because he left town that night.  If only someone had told you that you were going to die, you could have worked it out and died in peace, but now it's too late.

If someone wanted to see a certain movie or go to one last Mariners game, they could do those things, because they knew they didn't have much time left.  They could enjoy life to the fullest.

A person could also do some risky things that they've always kind of wanted to do, like bungee jumping or sky's not such a big risk.

You can see now why I'd want to be told that I was dying.  I wouldn't have to miss out on all of the stuff I've always wanted to do.  I could resolve my arguments with family or friends, and most of all just be prepared for my death.  Sure, I might go through some depressing moods, but I would say it's definitely worth it."

I would love to talk to this teacher now.  I loved Christina's conclusion.  I thought it was much better than "OK".  For a 14 year old, I think it was pretty amazing.  I am thankful that God gave her such wisdom at an early age and enabled her to walk it out so beautifully.

I think of the motorcycle she enjoyed for a short time between the first and second brain surgeries.  No time to waste.  She loved motorcycles.  She bought a FAST one.  It's not such a big risk when your days are numbered.  I remember when she told her oncologist about her new motorcycle and the nurse said, "Oh is that on your bucket list?"  We were a little surprised at the question, but Christina took it in stride and said, "I've loved motorcycles since I was about 12, so why not?"

I think of Christina's care in keeping her relationships healthy.  I remember her telling me about working to forgive someone who had hurt her in her last few weeks of life.  She said she couldn't afford to have anything ugly in her heart.

She had such a desire to live life to the fullest--miss no minutes.  She loved the last 5 1/2 years of her life.  She was thankful for every day.  Even the hard ones.  She fought for joy.  She left us so much evidence of her deep relationship with God.  She worked out so many difficulties on the pages of her journals.  Such deep struggle and most of the time ending with a thankful heart.  Oh, I love that example.  

Thanks to Linsey and Mandy, Christina's closet is sorted.  Several boxes stacked neatly holding things that we think Isaiah might enjoy someday.  We are wealthy in memories, and Christina has left us so many treasures.