Saturday, June 21, 2014

Two days in...

The LuLu Chronicles

Just a quick note. Day Two of our Guatemala mission trip has come to a close  These two days have been remarkable. Yesterday was our first trip to the orphanage.  Of course I fell in love immediately. The girls are lovely. They are charismatic and full of charm and hugs. Pictured above is my new best friend, Lourda.  She's eight-years-old and knows how to work a room. The puppet show was enjoyed by all the girls, and then this afternoon, we made puppets and the girls put on a show for all of the adults.  As we prayed and left this orphanage this afternoon, I felt like I was leaving holy ground as the girls stood outside and waved until we were out of sight. The medical team treated over fifty patients today with various ailments. We even set up a dental clinic. It breaks your heart to see the shape of some of these youngster's teeth. Fortunately for most, their permanent teeth will have a chance of a healthy life with the care our docs are providing.

The country is beautiful. We're surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. The soil is nothing but volcanic ash mixed with dirt and sand and will grow just about anything. Corns stalks are almost twelve feet high in some fields. Of course, the poverty breaks your heart, but I'm coming to realize that we're the only ones who consider them poor. Ask them if they are happy, and a big grin transforms their faces.

It's getting late and the sunrise is getting closer. Three things I'll share for now: First, my first meal on foreign soil was a hamburger at McDonalds. Second, the strangest thing I've seen so far, is a woman, a little younger than me (it's really hard to tell how old some one is here. The rugged lifestyle and hard work ages one quickly) was walking down a muddy path and balanced on top of her head was an upside-down, full-sized wooden desk, and she wasn't even using her hands to steady it. I don't think I'll  complain about carrying out my own little plastic garbage bags to the end of the drive way ever again.

Third, today after the puppet show, I reminded the girls that they were daughters of a King. As we ended the lesson with a prayer all wrapped up in each other's arms, I felt the blessing of Gary wash over me). I had to excuse myself and run to the restroom ( bathrooms are a whole other deal I'll talk about later). The tears flowed as I felt the Hub's presence and my heart longed for what could have been. Gary would have loved these children and these people.

I truly must turn the light out and get some rest. Tomorrow is Sunday. I'm told Sunday worship here can be a long affair. These people take their praise seriously. Then, it's back to the clinic and one last trip to the orphanage.

May God's hands embrace us all.

Monday, June 16, 2014


THE LuLu Chronicles

Hey Y'all!

     Sunday I started my journey toward Guatemala. First stop, San Antonio. It just so happens that a little basketball game was going on there Sunday night. Go Spurs!  I must have a sixth sense about being at the right place at the right time during big happenings. This past spring I was in Memphis when Prince William and Prince Harry stopped in town for a wedding. Go Wills! I am hoping, though, that when we land in Guatemala on Thursday that one of the volcanoes we're going to be surrounded by doesn't decide to erupt. That's a happening I don't want to experience.

    During the flight to San Antonio I was looking out my tiny portal of a window at the beauty of the sky,  I kept foolishly hoping I'd see Gary hanging out in the clouds waiting for me. I didn't see him of course. But does that mean he wasn't there? During these last eight months I've been thinking about my faith a lot and pondering what it is I truly believe.  It has dawned on me that my entire spiritual life has been built around an unseen world. I truly believe that if you could make a slit in the space in front of you and pull it apart like a curtain you'd see the room as it truly is-- cluttered with angels hovering around a living God and a risen Savior.

      I believe in the Holy Spirit even though He is the orginal Invisible Man. He lives in and around me. He nudges, prods, and messes with my conscience. But I've yet to actually see Him.

     I believe in heaven, but I've never been there. I believe in hell also, but I've never been there either.

     I believe that in the beginning God made the heavens and the earth, but I didn't actually see Him do it.

     I believe in the the Virgin, the shepherds and the wise guys. But I never met them.

     And I believe that Gary still lives and is clothed in heavenly dwelling, even though I don't get the priviledge of seeing him wearing it, at least not yet.

     After eight months of wrestling with all this stuff I can't see, I've decided to do something. I've decided to follow the leader, and yep, you guessed it, I can't actually see the Leader, but I'm going to do my best to follow Him anyway. Hence, this trip to Guatemala to teach puppets and love up on orphans. Gary died. I didn't know what to do. Now I'm about to jump on an airplane to Guatemala with people I barely know to serve people I don't know at all. Yes, faith is totally about not seeing it coming.

"So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal... We live by faith, not by sight..." II Corinthians 4:18; 5:7

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Guatemala-- where I'll soon be.

I’ve been waiting for eight months to have a dream about Gary. I’ve always heard how sometimes when you’ve lost someone close you have this wonderful dream experience where the two of you are together again. I’ve had several people tell me about the dreams they’ve had about Gary and how real they were. One person wrote and told me that the Hubs came to her in a dream and wanted her to tell me he was okay. That’s all good, but I haven’t had a dream yet... until this week.
In my dream, Gary and I were running together, holding hands. It felt wonderful to feel my hand in his again. Gary’s hands were the first things I noticed about him when we first met. They were large and confident. And, the first time we actually held hands, the warmth and strength of them convinced me that this man could protect me from anything. Good thing, because in my dream the other night we were being chased by Godzilla.
Seriously? After eight months and this is what I get?  I used to dream so vividly. Falling asleep was like going to the movies minus the popcorn. I even started leaving a pad and pen by the bed to quickly write them down when I awoke. I thought there possibly might be a book emerge from one of them some day.
Gary rarely dreamed. I should say, he rarely remembered his dreams. I felt sorry for him because his dream life seemed so boring. While I was off on crazy adventures between midnight and the ringing alarm, Gary spent his time, well, sleeping.
These days, my dreams are disjointed and mostly absent, so when the Hubs made his debut the other night I was thrilled—minus the part about the large, angry reptile trying to eat us. No matter, I was grateful for the brief moment we connected. It was just a dream, but I like to think it was also a small gift, a gesture, a bit of grace. My hand found its home, and it was lovely. 
For the next couple of weeks I will lay my head in various strange beds. I can only hope my dream life will find me. I hear Guatemala is full of color and charming people. I’ve been told the children, with their dark, almond eyes are beautiful and seem never far from God’s hand. I wonder what dreams the experience will bring? I wonder if Gary will meet me there?
Do something for me? When you lay yourself down at night and get settled on your pillow, if you aren’t too tired, would you say a prayer for me? Would you ask our Father to bless this mission trip? Ask Him to use me for His purpose, to wear me out daily. Ask Him to humbly allow me to be an answer to someone’s prayer. (Oh, and just before you drift off to sleep, do not, I repeat, do not, allow your brain to go where there might be even a hint of a huge, green, toothy lizard thingy. One Godzilla dream is one too many.)
Hopefully, I’ll post next from the highlands of Guatemala.  Until then...

Monday, June 9, 2014

It's time...

Me and my Alabama boy.
On this day forty-five years ago, I met a boy from Alabama—and the adventure began. It was a magnificent journey to be sure, one full of laughter, joy, challenges and discovery.  We meshed our lives and as only the young and naive can do, stepped out with nothing but a song and a prayer. God was gracious. I can’t express how much I longed for our lives and ministry together to continue. Forty-five years simply wasn’t enough. We had things we still wanted to do, dreams to fulfill and many more chapters to write. It’s now been eight months since the Hubs left and went on his own adventure without me. He’s gone on ahead and I can only imagine what God has him up to. But where does that leave me?
Here’s how I’m going to answer that. It leaves me the one left on this side of Glory to continue what we started. A life of ministry. Now, where there used to be three of us, now it’s down to two. Just God and Me. After eight months of mourning, longing, and wondering, I’m about to take the first steps back on the path. Next week, I will step onto foreign soil for the first time, a dream Gary and I had planned on doing together. I am part of a mission team going to Guatemala for seven days. Our service will include time at an orphanage, helping at a medical clinic and teaching God’s word. Personally, I will be conducting a puppet workshop, teaching high school students how to teach biblical truths to youngsters with the help of scripts and puppets. The scripts I’ve written have been translated into Spanish and the puppets are all packed up and ready to go.
Years ago, the Hubs and I had planned on doing mission work in New Zealand. During our college years, we studied and prepared ourselves for that day. That day didn’t come. Hence, we learned early on that our plans may not always ‘gel’ with God’s plans. Instead, we found ourselves in ministry at a small church in Illinois. In Illinois, we met two couples that were forming a stateside mission team to plant a church in Wisconsin. Wisconsin still wasn’t New Zealand, but then I guess God knew what He was doing. We continued to minister to that church we helped plant for thirty-eight years. On the day he died, Gary was still their minister.
Finally, it seems God is going to let me out of the country. Oh, how I wished the Hubs would be joining us, but I’ve gotten used to God’s plan’s trumping mine. So, it’s time. It’s time to pick up my life. It’s time to remove the shroud. It’s time to honor my husband and our life together by carrying on what we started. It’s time to take God’s outstretched hand once again and say, “Here I am send me.”

“Father, I’m humbled by Your faithfulness, awed by Your timing and down-right amazed at Your persistence. Thank You for finding a spot for me to serve. Thank You for Your healing hand. Thank you for all the good in my life. And, thank You again for the love of a good man. Help me to do you both proud.”

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


In my "after" Zella still plays soccer.

Life goes on. It’s a hard realization to swallow, but true. No matter how important, how loved, how gifted, how admired a person is, when they leave this world, while the sun and moon may flicker and countless tears puddle into an ocean, a day will come when life must get on with it. For the one who has lost, that day comes much too soon. Pushed, pulled and prodded, we are coaxed back through the fog to a place where car horns still honk, bills still accumulate, and grass must be mowed.
In my "after" hostas reappear...
My before life was lovely, lively, and will be forever cherished. My after life is an obstacle course, a heart thumping time of high jumps, rope climbing, and falling flat on my face. At first, the best thing I could say about it is that it kept me busy chasing my own tail. Staying busy was my salvation during those first excruciating months.
I am slowly realizing that the after is all I’ve got now, and I am confronted with the hardest choice I’ll ever have to make: Should I allow my after to dig my grave, or should I hold it up by its feet, slap it rudely on its behind and wish it God’s speed.
I’m painstakingly choosing the latter. But how do I start? What do I throw out, what do I keep? What are my dreams now? Am I allowed to dream them alone? Who am I without my soul mate, my partner? Who do my friends think I am? Are my friends still my friends? Do I travel? Do I stay put? I have an uneasy feeling that my after has a gangly twin named what now?
I can’t see my future clearly and hopefully no one expects me to at this point. I am a woman who has been sealed into a plastic bag. I can’t breathe, or see, or move very well, but somehow I’m supposed to get on with it and make a new life. Will I ever be able to poke holes in this suffocating bubble?
... and fern unfurl their wings.
I hope so. I think so. Lately, I feel I have tumbled forward a little bit. The pain isn’t that searing flash anymore, but it has left a whopper of a blister that gives me fits. The fact that life moves on must play a part in the mourning and the healing, don’t you think? How sad it would be if with every death something in nature forgets to bud. Or, when someone dies, children stop playing. Or, when we mourn, the birds no longer sing. What a horrible after that would make. I fear we’d never, ever recover.
I sit alone and strain to hear the sounds around me. They are far away, but I hear enough to convince me there is movement out there. Yesterday, I walked out on my deck and was surprised by the sweet smell of lilacs. The fragrance gently broke through my sorrow and coaxed me a little closer to ... what?
In my "after" lilacs will fill the air...
After is now where I live. My days and times are in God’s holy hands. They were before, however, I shamefully admit I didn’t notice it as much.  I’m convinced my Master has a plan. I will try not to whine. I will try to  be brave. And, I’ll try my best to allow God to lead. When I fail at all of the above (and I will), I’ll go sniff a rose, or dip my toes in the pond, or go climb on the John Deere and become one with the grass. What else can I do? This is what after is all about.
... and Josh will still sneak selfies on my phone.