Letter #687: Death at Christmas

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Dear death,

Few things in life are certain. You are one none of us can avoid. It’s simply a matter of how long each of us gets before your impending end to life on earth.

This week has been a week filled with you. Several dear friends of mine lost loved ones as well as my own Grandma Rother. According to Hollywood and our unrealistic expectations, Christmas is supposed to be filled with carols and cookies, family and friends, not the details and decisions that come with death. Reality is that life keeps happening whether it’s the week of Christmas or not.

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The last family photo with Grandma…Christmas 2015! We were also celebrating her 88th birthday!

Regardless, we can all agree that Christmas is a magnifying glass. Right or wrong, the sweet moments shine all the brighter and sorrow seems to be felt a little deeper. Whether it’s death that happened this week, this year or 20 years ago, people all around us are feeling the emptiness of a seat at their holiday table. Celebrate big this Christmas, but also don’t miss reaching out to those around you who just need a moment to grieve.

A week ago I received a phone call that my Grandma had passed. Death is never easy, but she had lived a beautiful life. Naomi Rother was the mother of 9, grandmother of 29 and I’ve lost count on her great-grandmother number! Wife, mom, grandma, great-grandma, friend and so much more, she had 89 years of a life well lived. It was her time. Alzheimer’s had gotten the best of her in her latter years, but through it her smile remained!

grandma-rother

A few days ago we had the opportunity to celebrate her life. I’m not the most emotional, but as I sat surrounded by a hundred of my aunts, uncles and cousins (yes, when you have 9 kids the result is 115 and counting immediate family members!) emotion flowed from every direction. Whether it is somebody’s time to go or not, watching the men you’ve grown up looking up to your whole life grieve the loss of their mom is a moving moment. Thankful for the legacy my grandparents created to make family a priority. To this day, the entire family still gets together a couple times a year…all 115+.

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Grandpa and Grandma with their NINE kids! My dad is the oldest (top left) rocking that Indiana t-shirt…he probably lived during the actual Hoosier days!

I was also reminded of the power one life can have. At this particular funeral, the family remained seated while the rest of the church filed one by one to the front to pay one last respect to my Grandma in her casket. The way my seat was positioned, I had the chance to meet eyes with every person present as they departed the church. As I watched people of all ages, some who knew my Grandma and others who know her kids, pass by, all I could think about was ‘the power of one.’ Death is the ultimate end we will all face, but life is a gift we’re all given. We get to daily choose how we position ourselves. I won’t be at my own funeral to know what it’s like, but I sure want to live my daily in a way where I steward the life I’ve been given to positively impact those around me. Death is coming for us all, but life has the ability to ripple through other’s lives well beyond a person’s time here.

Death is certain, but so is life. We can’t number our days, but we can know the God who does. We can’t determine our circumstances, but we can trust the God who does and find hope through Christ despite them. We can’t know the day of our departure, but we can live with purpose and in a way that impacts the people around us long after we’re gone. Death is coming, but when there is genuine surrender to Christ, life after death is eternal. That’s the life I was reminded that I want to long for even more than this life here on earth.

So while Christmas magnifies the sweet and the sorrow, I pray it would also magnify the Savior we all need. The Savior that brings eternal perspective to the sorrow. Merry Christmas can be true this season no matter the circumstances. For this, I am thankful!

Lindsay

Letter #635: Arrested Perspective

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Dear honesty,

My whole life I’ve heard that you are the best policy. Recently I watched it play out right before my eyes. Let me explain.

A couple weeks ago, I got to spend some time at Texas A&M. Per usual I’m always up for adventure. Running from my hotel to campus and accidentally jogging with the Corps, to visiting the Blue Bell Factory for maybe the most exciting hour of my life, to getting talked into climbing the scoreboard at Kyle Field, College Station was fun.

While experiencing one of the supposed many Aggie traditions, I was nearly arrested. No joke.

We walked to Kyle Field to climb the scoreboard, an event I was told is common. Every gate and fence was wide open. Lights were on. Even the door to the scoreboard was open. There were no signs telling me this was a bad idea. Basically, Kyle Field was inviting us into it.

When we arrived, I could see a group of people already on top of it. All these things combined made me believe this really was normal. Until we arrived I was skeptical, but how easily accessible this adventure was lowered any inhibitions.

So it began. Into the scoreboard we went. Nothing about this was unsafe. It was all closed in and had staircases. About halfway up the six girls who were up there were coming down. We exchanged hellos and wished one of them happy birthday as they were celebrating by knocking off an Aggie bucket list item.

We kept climbing. The next thing I hear is a muffled male voice from below. The only word I can make out is trespassing. Uh oh. As I listened without being able to see out of the building, my first thought was “oh crap,” my second, “it’s those girls guy friends playing a joke,” my third, “this is NOT a joke.”

After a few seconds of processing, the group decided to immediately descend. The five of us filed out to see a bike cop standing with the other group of girls seated on the stairs of the athletic facilities building. We joined.

I just listened for the first few minutes as A&M students told him about Aggie traditions. The only thought in my head was, “I’m the only real adult here, I have to get us out of this.” Several exchanges were made, and I simply continued to listen.

The cop finally got to the portion where he told us how dumb of an idea this was, and I knew this was my chance. I immediately owned the fact I made a poor choice. I very respectfully told him we made a bad decision, apologized and asked how we could make it right.

The mood of the moment changed in that instant. A few minutes later all eleven of us were walking out of Kyle Field unscathed. Not because we were in the right but because ownership of our mistake had been taken and he was willing to show us a little grace.

Lesson learned”…honesty really is the best policy. Even if I would have been arrested, there’s just something about telling the truth. Despite how inviting things seemed to be, I knew I shouldn’t climb the scoreboard. Rather than trying to make excuses, I need to simply own my poor judgment.

Would I change the way that night played out?! Probably not, it’s a great story. Eleven young adults, mostly college students, were also reminded of the importance of truth and integrity. It played out in our favor this time. It might not the next. This doesn’t change what is right.

It was also a great reminder that when we make mistakes, we need to own and take responsibility for them. My flesh reaction was to hide at the top of the scoreboard until the cop left or run as soon as I hit the ground. (I’m a slow, gangly white girl, so there would have been no outrunning anything!) My flesh wanted to take the “easy’ way out, to avoid consequences. Who wants to get arrested?

My daily mistakes and sin are no different. My flesh wants to hide my junk and even run from it rather than owning and dealing with it. However, authenticity and ownership is the only place where true freedom can occur. I want to be free. Thus, honesty, responsibility and ownership must be things I fight against my flesh to achieve.

Yet again, my crazy antics result in great lessons.

Life truly is all about perspective,

Wanna-be Junk Owner

Letter #378: MLB to High School Coach

Dear perspective,

Of all the places I could be on my travels this week, I’m in St. Louis where buzz about the Cardinals and the World Series is off the charts. If I’m spending a week here, I guess there’s no better time right?! Game 1 is tonight, and this is definitely the talk of the town. So in honor of the World Series between the Rangers and the Cardinals tonight, we’re talking a little baseball today. Sort of.

A few night ago Ward and I ended up at some campers’ volleyball games. Super fun to reconnect with campers, meet parents and see the facilities of these St. Louis schools, but as I’m watching this massive man walks by. Someone points out he used to play for the Cardinals and I knew he looked familiar to me, but I simply moved on with my day. A few minutes later we bumped into him again and chatted for a while.

From professional baseball pitcher to high school softball coach, life can change pretty quickly. From 1989-2002, Andy Benes pitched for four different major league teams. The Padres, Mariners, Cardinals and Diamondbacks. He was a pretty successful pitcher too. The fact I can remember watching him pitch when I was growing up means he had to have been pretty good or I wouldn’t know a lick about him.

He’s now the baseball and softball coach for one of the private schools in St. Louis. His softball team is playing for the state championship this week. Everything you’re imagining about an ex-professional baseball player coaching softball is probably true. He’s a phenomenal story teller, and oh my gosh, his stories were hilarious. Crying players. Ignored signals. Attempting sensitivity. I have more respect for my male coaches growing up than ever after chatting with him!

The coolest part about this interaction was Andy’s honesty toward life in general and his walk with the Lord. He wasn’t shy about his convictions and faith. He’s a straight-shooter. He says things how he sees them. He very honestly shared how he blew it for a long time and relied on himself. He could throw a ball 95 mph, so in a worldly sense he didn’t need anything else. He shared how he acknowledged God as Savior, but never let Him be Lord in his life.

He voiced the importance of accountability. Remember, he could throw 95 mph so nobody ever called him out on things. He is now a huge advocate for people and himself having accountability. He spoke boldly about forgiveness and grace. He talked about how he is using his opportunity to coach kids to teach them about the Lord and life.

Here’s a guy who’s had it all. Fame. Success. Being a professional baseball player probably money. Despite all these things, he was still missing something. He would say that something was a genuine relationship with Christ where He was in control rather than himself. Now the Lord is allowing Andy’s platform of baseball to be used for His glory.

From MLB player to high school softball coach, the Lord has captured this man’s heart. Sure is funny how the Lord works! May you constantly be re-evaluated in my life so I can see life through the lens of the Lord rather than my selfishness, and may you be our Lord AND Savior.

Like the Cardinals, but pulling for the Rangers despite my location,

Perspective re-evaluator

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Letter #224: Yesterday’s Misery

Dear yesterday,

You had the potential to be the worst day of my life. After already driving to Springfield on Monday to get my car “fixed’ to no avail, I had to go back. I was warned it would be at least six hours. To make it even more frustrating, I purposely got my car fixed over Easter break while in Oklahoma so I’d be set for summer. Obviously, this plan didn’t work.

The rack and pinion on my power steering was broken and leaking power steering fluid (who knew this stuff even existed?!) which led to a $640 repair (shoot me in the face). After driving back to Branson, my “extensive knowledge’ of cars led me to discover it was still leaking. So, I’d add fluid constantly to prevent the pump (I sound knowledgable…I’m not, but I do know if it breaks it equals thousands of dollars of damage) from breaking. Thankfully, my Oklahoma repairs’ warranty were good in Missouri, but only in Springfield. Cue, my Monday.

After discovering the issue and informing me they didn’t have the parts, I scheduled my Wednesday appointment. This brings me back to you. I departed for my day of waiting around on other people to fix things super early. Interestingly enough, if you remember from previous posts (here and here), I also had ingrown toenails cut out over Easter. I got two sides of my big toes taken care of but had never had issues with the other two sides. Of course, the week after surgery the other side starts giving me trouble. To avoid further annoyance, pain and infection in my life, I got the other two sides cut out yesterday. Thankfully, a podiatrist in Springfield had an opening for you too.

So, my day began with another minor surgery on my toes. Great experience, or I guess as good as having shots and scalpels shoved in your toe can be! Next, Firestone. My new home away from home. Seriously, between Monday and you, I got more work done in their lobby than my office this week. I posted up, connected to some wi-fi and pounded out summer stuff. I even walked over to the mall for lunch and had my first Hu-Hot experience!

All this being said, you could’ve been awful. Seriously, who wants to drive 45 minutes, have minor surgery and sit stranded in an auto shop to then drive another 45 minutes home. All while missing a day in the office during the busiest time of the year for me. However, I was determined to make the most of this. I set out with an attitude to have the best day I’ve ever had. My customer service at Firestone, the podiatrist and Hu-Hot: unbelievable. My productivity: off the charts. My interactions with people: enjoyable.

You could’ve been miserable and turned out being awesome. Why? I believe a big part of it stems from my attitude going into you.

Perspective and attitude affect more than we realize,

Reminding myself to approach life like this more often

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Letter #124: The Next Step

Dear life post Kanakuk,

I’ve been thinking about you a great deal lately. It seems every person I speak to or spend time with asks, “So, what’s next? You going to keep working for Kamp, or what are you going to do? Do you want to keep working for Kanakuk? If not, what do you want to do?”

Then, begins a fairly awkward conversation of me being uncertain of how to answer and people wondering, at least from my perspective, if I’ll ever have a tangible plan for more than a year at time. Trust me, I wonder this too. Currently, I’m unsure, but I’m not stressed about it.

I walked through this same situation a year ago. My future being unknown has become about as normal to me as traveling the country in a 15 passenger van. I don’t want to go to Kamp this summer not knowing what you look like, but I’m also truly content not knowing.

So, here I am. First day of February. Committed to Kanakuk until August 13th. With all the questions I’ve been getting along with summer getting closer, I’ve been thinking about you often. If this is it for my days with Kamp, what would I want to do next? What city should I live in? Where do I go from here? You are beginning to become a hot topic of conversation.

Going to Fayetteville for one last minute trail event last night opened my eyes to you in a new way. I got to have dinner with some K-West favorites, all of which have moved on and are living you well. They are plugged into their communities. They love their jobs. They are making a difference in the midst of you.

While I have been at a place of contentment about my future being unknown, whether summer 2011 will be it for Kamp in my world or not and simply what is next for awhile, seeing my friends doing life well last night excited and encouraged me even more. I don’t know what you will look like, but I’m more excited than ever to discover the next step and maybe create a bit more stability than one year at a time!

Fayetteville friends bringin’ perspective,

Content and anxious to figure out the next step

P.S. Suggestions for future options are welcome!

Letter #106: Perspective

Dear perspective,

You have been gained this week. Saturday, I left for another week of trail. Big deal, it’s my eighth week, but this week was different. I was doing family shows instead of college. I was interacting with adults, moms, dads, lawyers, teachers, kampers, babies and the list goes on. These weren’t college kids wanting to explore their faith and summer options. These are adults, parents who are deciding how to invest their money, time and efforts into the development of their children. Kanakuk is an investment, one I believe is worth it. Families make huge sacrifices throughout the year to get their kids to kamp because they believe in the truths instilled at kamp and the life change that can happen because of the Lord there.

All that being said, interacting with college students is comfortable for me. I can relate. I don’t understand what it means to send my kid to kamp and be away for weeks at a time. I don’t understand a parent’s love for a child. This isn’t my comfort zone. It’s not a natural setting for me. However, I had the best week!

I LOVED getting to meet West Texas families. Good thing, I’m doing them all next week too! I loved getting to do life with them for a bit. I loved playing and chatting with kids and dropping them off at school! I valued the conversations I was able to have with parents. The Lord used this week to open my eyes in so many ways.

First of all, I semi live in a bubble. I don’t always see or understand how “normal’ American families do life because I’m surrounded by people who live on kamp schedules. It’s refreshing to see people from every occupation, economic status and location being completely sold out for the Lord in their everyday “normal’ American lives. Secondly, I was able to see from a whole new you why we do what we do at Kanakuk. Kamp plays a HUGE role in kids’ lives, and I was able to see this in a new light. Kamp changes lives. Entire families. Kids spend time in the Word because they saw their counselor do it. Kids are mentoring younger students because a kitchie took time to invest in them.

My expectations of what this week would be were blown out of the water. I was refreshed, challenged professionally and personally, invested in and loved on all while telling potential families about kamp. I have a better grasp on my purpose today than I did last week. I will continue to invest in staff and kids’ lives praying Christ would change them and in turn communities can be different.

Twenty-three and loving doing life with families,

Gainer of you

 

Letter #80: The Eye of the Beholder

Dear perspective,

Life is all about you. The glass can be half full or half empty. The grass can be greener on the other side, but the side stood on can be fertile as well. Dream big or dream limited. OK, I made the second two up, but it’s true. Life is all about how we look at you.

Sure, the economy is terrible right now…everybody’s always talking about it. In reality, is it that bad? The majority of the people in our country will still be getting amenities for Christmas. The commercials on TV sure don’t look like things are a struggle either. Come here, buy this, your kid has to have this. It never ends. Now, I’m not saying our economy is good by any means. I am saying that when we step back and gain some of you about the situation, we will realize we are still VERY RICH compared to most of the world.

Nichols Hills

Another example is that I’m from Oklahoma. In this great state, people tend to fall in love and marry at a young age. Therefore, family thinks I need to follow that pattern and asks about my relationship life and even attempts to set me up (actually, more like they talk about trying to set me up and never really put feet to it). Now, typically these conversations are hilarious, sometimes annoying, but at the end of the day, I encourage them all to take a step back, gain you, and realize I’m only 23.

Nichols Hills

Lastly, we freak out about a ton of things in life. She cut my hair wrong, my face is broke out, what am I going to get so and so for Christmas, what will people think, the Cowboys lost again, and so on and so forth. At the end of the day, the majority of this stuff doesn’t really matter. I love when I’m able to remove myself from the mundane “big deals’ of life and realize that there are only two things in life that are truly eternal: the Word of God and people’s souls. Christ is all that really matters in the scheme of life. Yes, we have a ton of things we have to take care of in the midst of life, but sometimes I have to regain you when the little things stress me out.

Chesapeake!

When I got back to Oklahoma, my parents and I took my nephews to look at Christmas lights. First of all, if you’re in the OKC area, Chesapeake and Nichols Hills are worth your time. Secondly, Kaedyn, my nephew (5), helped me to gain a little of you. He was convinced he wanted to take pictures along the way (he took the first photos, I took the second!). I figured, why not?! They are always deletable. When I downloaded the pictures, I realized the only difference in our pictures was you. He is simple and would just point and click. Whatever was in the way was just part of the scene. I made sure to get a clear shot of each thing, zoom in and cut out the “crap.’ Similar to how each of us approach life. Everything is a big deal to a little kid while I avoid the “crap’ any chance possible.

We were able to capture the evening from both of our viewpoints, and he was entertained! As I approach the holidays and just the realities of growing up, I have to take a step back a regain you every once in a while. Thanks for reminding me of the important things in life.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,

Perspective gainer