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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Comfort and Compassion

Right now I 'm so busy that Jolene's death has taken a back seat--at least on the surface.

But it hovers underneath everything I do. It only takes a word or a touch to bring back the pain. A couple of days ago Mom commented on my last blog with tears in her voice. I started crying as well. Life has moved on and we are facing a number of major hurdles, but …. Not a day goes by without thinking of my daughter, my heart aching with the loss.

I am reading the book Prayer by Philip Yancey. Today he talked about unanswered prayers and he specifically mentioned young adults who commit suicide. I took notice. I came away with the feeling that prayer will seldom change the situation--but it changes my response. I trust God more, blindly at times, but resting in His sovereign love.

May your unfailing love be my comfort according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight. (Psalm 119:76-77)

Comfort and compassion--just what I need. Amen, Lord!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Announcement of Blog Tour

This is a freebie. My novella Dressed in Scarlet appears in Snowbound Colorado Christmas, a Christmas anthology. The book and my three co-authors are going on a blog tour this month. Check out the following sites and dates for information about the book and multiple chances for a free copy!

August 24 – Lena Nelson Dooley

September 1 – Janice Olson

September 5 - Brittanie A. Terrell

September 10 – Ronie Kendig

September 15 – Tiffany (Amber Miller) Stockton

September 16 – Tricia Goyer

September 23 – Lisa Buffaloe

September 23 - Deborah Khuanghlawn

September 30 – Linda Crow

Wrapped in Love

Lately, lots of little reminders are causing the dull ache of grief to flare up. Last night Mom and I played a game of rummy. Mom covered her face and asked, "Do you remember how gleeful Jolene was when she went out and caught us with a bunch of cards in our hands?" Yes, Mom, I remembered.

This afternoon (on doctor's orders, no less), I took to bed. I crawled into the bottom of my bunk and clutched a teddy bear to my chest. I reached for my favorite blanket, a large throw with a picture of three cats perched on a fence. Jolene gave both the bear and the blanket to me.

I looked up at the top bunk where Jolene slept on her visits. If I let it, the nightly reminders could rob me of much needed rest.

Instead, I think of myself as wrapped and surrounded by Jolene's love. She loved me and showed me in every way she was capable of.

I may keep that blanket until it's as worn as a security blanket.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


God has sent me a love note this week, and affirmed it by expressing it three different ways.

First love note:
I sometimes wonder if my blog matters to anyone but me. A new friend posted here for the first time on Monday. I won't repeat her story, but she made it clear that what I have written changed her life. Wow. If I have only helped that one person ... it's worth it.

Second love note:
I have never met "Ausjenny" (who may be familiar to those of you involved with ACFW)in the flesh. She read Gunfight at Grace Gulch and contacted me for an interview. Earlier this week, she posted her review of my book ( Wow! Her comments made my spirit dance. She said in part, "This story is way more than just a cozy Mystery (and a very good one at that), it deals with insecurities and self doubts and how we can learn from them and grew. I wanted to go to Grace Gulch and I want to visit Cici's store." What a blessing to know the story, not only the mystery, resonated with at least one reader.

Third love note:
My son called to thank me. Specifically, he praised me for working day in and day out, whatever had happened at home the night before, regardless of whether or not I liked the job. That the roof over our heads and the clothes on our backs came from my hard work. Then he said--in words that would make any mother cry--"I now see how much you loved us, to work like that."

Thank You, God, for Your love notes, at a time when I feel overwhelmed.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dancing with Grief Plus Five Months

This past month I have felt extremes. Late in July, I had a week or two of almost giddy normality. The first week of August, before my birthday, I was pathologically depressed and anxious. That passed, but we learned about Mom's upcoming surgery, and the fears of losing another person dear to me resurfaced.

All in all, I'm moving on. We no longer spend the weekends half expecting Jolene to walk through the door. We have taken care of most of the details concerning her death. At times, I can say her name or mention her death without crying.

And yet ...

Grief tears through me with simple reminders. Last night, we ate at Chili's. Every time we go there, we can almost see Jolene climbing on the giant stone peppers at the entrance. But the real stinger came with dessert.

Colorado restaurants have introduced a new wrinkle to their menu--"mini molten lava cakes." Three of them. When I saw the platter, my first thought was "one apiece." I choked up. We joked that although there are three cakes, we would have argued over who ate which flavor. I still cried.

This morning, I was making sweet talk to our cat, saying "You're a beautiful girl, yes, you are." The memory surfaced how I would tell Jolene "You are my girl, you are my pearl, although you have no curls." Tears, again. Mom held me. "It still doesn't seem possible," she said.

I didn't realize how much I loved Jolene until I lost her. Oh, my girl. I miss you so.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


In the midst of wracking my brains on how to simplify my life for now, I've decide to cut back on my blog to twice a week. I will post on Mondays and Thursdays from now on.

See you then!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Welcome Jude Urbanski

Today it is my privilege to welcome Jude Urbanski, a fellow romance writer. She shares her experiences of her loss when an accident turned her family's life upside down.

On the Subject of Loss

Grief is universal and evergreen, but the specific grief journey after the loss of a child by suicide requires more courage than most of us have. In these instances, only God’s outrageous grace enables and the tincture of time heals.

In my life, I don’t know why God has chosen loss so often to speak to me, but I am the woman I am because of these losses. I’ve learned that every experience in my life is God-filtered. My story is not unique; it’s just mine. Yours is yours. Grief is universal. Grief is evergreen.

Reading and, later on, writing were my passions even before I had significant loss, but my first published book stems from my most profound loss. The book, I Can’t Remember Me, was written as a way to heal from my daughter’s one-car accident in which her six year-old-son was killed and she was so injured from a traumatic brain injury that the young mother who finally returned to us was not the same woman. The story is long and dark, but God gave us light at the end of the journey. Our joint book captures our family’s journey of the grieving process in the roller coaster ride from despair to hope.

The major central truth I learned from this loss is that God was on the journey with me. This is my answer when people ask “Where was God when you were going through this?” At times it did not seem God was there, but I learned that when it became really dark, I could see the stars all shiny and bright overhead. The old Chinese proverb says it this way—“it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” A writer friend puts it another way—“redemption shines brighter on a darker canvas.”

I probably do write to process my feelings. Especially when I journal, write prayers or poems or letters. With fiction, I write because I want to tell a story to entertain and for people to enjoy.

Jesus the man, Jesus my Savior, always resonates with me during loss. Sometimes He comes in almost unbelievable ways, but lets me know He’ll never leave. As far as authors whose works are memorable to me, I’d have to say Max Lucado’s works and Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance.

Our book is two years old, but we just sold 750 copies to a library distributor! I Can’t Remember Me can be found on our website (, from our publisher (LangMarc Publishing), from us personally, on Amazon and other on line market places or any bookstore can order it.

Both my daughter and I continue to write. My bent is inspirational romance, but I also do non fiction pieces. After a dreaded diagnosis three years ago, I made choices which would allow me to devote more time to writing. God has honored my desire.

If you’ve suffered loss, remember, we can become strong in our broken places.

Jude Urbanski 7/16/08

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Guilty Thoughts

Today I had a thought that made me feel guilty--at least in passing.

Between Mom's upcoming surgery, three books to finish before February, and numerous other factors, I am meeting myself coming and going.

Leaving work, I sighed, as I often do, "Oh, Jolene, I miss you so."

And then I thought--this would be so much harder if Jolene were here. Mom's illness would threaten her sense of security and she would do something to focus our attention on her.

I miss Jolene--my sweet, loving girl--but I will not miss the added pressure of helping her through this crisis.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Marius Revisited

Marius' birthday is three days after mine, August 6th. We met for dinner and conversation and celebration last evening.

He's had a good month. At a hearing on Wednesday, he learned that he will be approved to receive SSI payments. That's a huge blessing. His parents took him out for his birthday. This, too, is a blessing, because he often feels shunned by his family.

For the first time, we got through the meal without crying. Even when Marius ordered lemon meringue pie for dessert, his favorite as well as Jolene's.

All three of us have moved forward from a month ago. We sense that life exists at the end of this dark tunnel. Marius nearly always dresses in black. Last night he wore a shirt marbled with black, brown and white. Color! And color in his voice and attitude. He is doing better.

Marius continues to beat himself for Jolene's death. Mom and I hate to see him blame himself. He needs to forgive himself, and to accept God's forgiveness. I don't want guilt to poison his future.

Next time, after Labor Day.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mom Needs Surgery

"What are the risks of the surgery?" I tried to ask an intelligent question after the doctor casually said Mom needed to have her aorta replaced.

"Heart attack and stroke."

Mom blanched. But I persevered with the next question.

"What are the risks of not having the surgery?"

"An even greater risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as congestive heart failure."

"And the longer she waits ..." I let the statement dangle.

"The weaker she will get." Without his stating it directly, he implied she could reach a point where surgery would no longer be an option.

So easy to make the decision, once we had all the facts.

She goes back on August 29th. The surgery will be shortly after the ACFW conference in Minneapolis.

Mom is terrified. I am more hopeful. After surgery, I hope she will regain some of the energy she has lost in recent months; that she will feel better than she has in a long time. Still, it's a scary prospect.

Those of you who know my sweet Mom also know how anxious she gets about the littlest things. She is battling a desire to finish everything she ever wanted to do--in the next six weeks--in case this is the end. Pray for a balance between frantic activity and being immobilized by anxiety. Pray for me, too, that I will have the extra level of sensitivity and patience that I so often lack.

Thanks for staying with me--with us--through this difficult year.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A New Concern

Mom learned last week that she has "severe" stenosis, that is, a calcification and narrowing of her aorta. Tomorrow she goes to see a cardiologist.

This, only days after she learned that her bone density has decreased by 50%. It feels as if she has become frail overnight.

Mom moved here five years ago after a stroke. Aside from a mild weakness in her right leg, she's enjoyed good health. We have had the freedom to do many things together.

That may be changing. For now, she cannot drive. She hates loses her independence and being a burden on anyone. I am so glad she is here--that we are not separated by 2400 miles while she makes this transition. Yet it is a challenge for me as well, to honor her and care for her while continuing with my other routines.

When you think of us tomorrow, say a prayer.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Verse for the Year

I don't make a habit of choosing a life verse or yearly verse. But when God hands one to me on a platter, I pay attention.

Daniel 12:3 appeared on my scripture calendar last Friday. The same verse is imprinted on the Grandmother's Bible I received for my birthday.

And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. (NIV)

To be honest, when I first read the verse last Friday, my reaction was "Well, I certainly messed that up this week. I have been anything BUT wise or shining." (I know it's not me in any case, it's God, but I wasn't letting Him do His work.)

Then God repeated the message. Now what?

Today a Christian friend at work sent me an email saying she wishes she could be strong like me. I responded than when her time of testing comes, God will give her the strength she needs--one minute at a time.

So I don't know if the verse is a glimpse into what God wants to do in my life this next year. Or a testimony to what He is already doing, even when I feel so weak and foolish and vulnerable.

But I will return to this verse many times. And see what God else has to tell me.

Any thoughts?

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Birthday Journal

So many wonderful things have happened yesterday and today. Today I will give you details of the day itself.

Mom started off the morning with a card that had the perfect synergy between verse and design, and a present I wanted very much: The Grandmother Bible. She went whole hog and gave me a volume bound in lilac leather. Gorgeous. In addition to the expected 365 devotions, this Bible includes prayers specific to grandchildren, talk points on a wide variety of topics (supposing one of those granddaughters ever ask me for advice), and a variety of other helps. Oh, purple ink, too!

Plate-sized sunflowers adorned our table at Sunday school, with a note that read "Happy Birthday Darlene!" Nine people from our class joined me at Chili's for lunch. They each had a present or card to share. They saved one for the end--telling me that Jolene wouldn't want me to be sad on my birthday, and giving me a gift on her behalf. I cried.

We returned to my apartment for a cookie baking party. Amazing how quick work 6 women can make of 8 dozen cookies! I had prepared the dough on Saturday. We rolled and baked and bagged them to give away to shut ins and prospects.

After they left, I had just enough time to make it to the movie theater, where I watched Swing Vote. I loved it! Back home, phone call with my son, watched the end of Anne of Green Gables the Sequel.

Today my co-workers gave me another party--Streamers, balloons, card, cupcakes. Even the big bosses stopping by to wish me happy birthday--and everyone saying they wanted "to put a smile on my face." They succeeded.

God used so many people to embrace me with His love. Thank you all.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

God's Special Birthday Gift

The day finally arrived. It was a wonderful day; I'll give you details tomorrow.

But it started off poorly, leaving for church half an hour late and running into red lights at every opportunity.

About half way to church, Mom said, half as joke, "That's enough, Satan!"

Do you know, we didn't hit another red light?

Starting with those green lights, God opened my eyes to a several unwrapped, unexpected gifts.

Colorado is in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave. I'm one of the few residents who would NOT welcome rain today; it rains almost every year on my birthday. Today it did NOT rain. I had that special treat, sunny skies all day.

We stayed for both Sunday school and the worship service for the first time in a month; Mom has been sick for the past three weeks. Now, there is a real reason to rejoice!

My granddaughter Savanna told me she loved me tonight. Jaran told me how rare that is, coming from a 12½ year old. And he's right. I remember those days! But she wished me a happy birthday and expressed her love.

Oh, and my beloved Rockies won, managing a split of their series with the Florida Marlins.

I'll give you details on the "planned" birthday activities tomorrow.

Thanks for all your love and caring. A computer crisis kept me from posting on Thursday night.