Monday, February 18, 2019

Hope Persists

We had a family birthday party a while ago, celebrating three birthdays that all occur within three weeks or so. We met at Neal and Tracy's house: all my siblings, my parents and some of the grand kids. Picture taking started, and it wasn't long before someone said, let's get all the siblings. They counted off six, and said, you're all here. And in my mind I thought, no, we are seven.

I talked with Russell about it later, telling him I didn't want a picture without Neal. There were only two brothers there, not three, and even though I've navigated some of this journey through grief, I still have a tenuous sense of reality sometimes - how is it possible that Neal is not here?

I'm old to be starting Grief 101. Many have been acquainted with it far longer and at an earlier age. I'm learning, taking baby steps, just like my four year old grandson, whose counting and alphabet are perfect one day, then all over the spectrum the next. I'll think I've turned a corner, and then I'm crying every day again. I hear a song and feel like I've been punched in the chest. I read a book and dissolve into a tangle of questions. I speak boldly about trusting God and his goodness at the same time that I'm wrestling with  niggling doubts.

I think grief may always be there, like a bad sunburn, just below the surface of each day. At birthdays, reunions, anniversaries it will flare up and hurt again, for a while.

My big-hearted husband held me, and cried with me, then gently said, this is your family now. This is the new normal. And I know he's right. The picture has changed, and it will change some more, probably many times. But hope persists, and we will be seven again someday.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christmas 2018

Christmas 2018
God has made so many promises to us and has proven himself faithful time after time. In a year defined by upheaval, uncertainty, adjustments and grief, those promises are bedrock. The world changes, but he never does!

We moved to Maine in April where Russell is now pastor at the Goodwins Mills Advent Christian Church. Incidentally, Noelle’s grandfather pastored here in the 40s. Our first Sunday here, Noelle’s beloved brother Neal, passed away from esophageal cancer. Thankfully we were able to see him two days before, and we know he is with Jesus now. But this loss has been difficult. Other family illnesses and struggles have occurred that made us thankful to be close to Noelle’s parents and siblings.

Our church family has been kind and gracious as we’ve settled in. Our new home is in a lovely spot and we’re delighting in an abundance of water, woods and (sort of) winter! (Our blood got so thin in Oklahoma…we’re really feeling the cold!)

Russell is enjoying ministry in southern Maine, and apart from his work at the church, he serves on the Ministerial Board for the state conference. He still lifts weights, enjoys video games, and plays Scrabble and Words with Friends and chess with his favorite gamers! We were thankful to be able to visit his mom in Florida recently for her 90th birthday! We adopted two middle-aged cats in November – 7-year-old siblings named Gooseberry and Moose. After their own adjustment, they have enhanced our lives by sleeping and eating!

Noelle finished book number four this year and is actively working towards finding an agent for this one. She cares for Owen and the whole family, and enjoys reading, writing and other crafts in her spare time. It’s a blessing to be so close to family and to see many of her siblings quite routinely. We had twenty-five here for Thanksgiving!

Emily was in the middle of classes for radiography when we moved, and she wasn’t able to get into a similar course until next fall, or later. So now she is pursuing a slightly different course beginning in January. She is going to be certified in massage therapy and be finished by the end of July. For now, she’s working part time at Target and is caring for Owen.

Speaking of Owen, he started preschool in October and has transitioned to a new routine fairly smoothly. He keeps us all busy and laughing and frustrated and enamored every day! At four, he is articulate, loving, funny and has a great imagination. We are also reaping the benefits of helping with Owen: according to several studies, caring for grandchildren staves off Alzheimer’s and dementia!

Peter has one semester until he finishes his next degree in Cyber Security. He is looking at working while doing his masters and is pursuing several options. He has integrated into our new church at Goodwins Mills and is beloved by many!

Our Texas kids are busy and growing: this year they got a new dog, several chickens, a lizard and a hedgehog, in addition to their two dogs and two cats, and three kids. Gracen is fifteen and has her driver’s permit now. Zoe, at fourteen, is active in cross fit training and dead lifted 185 pounds!  Naomi will be twelve in March and she loves all the animals and cares for them and her family. Ryan and Crystal minister at Open Door Church apart from full time work and homeschooling. 

We’re grateful for our home, our family and friends, and we pray that you can see the blessings around you, and know the depth of God’s love, especially now in this Christmas season.  Love from all of us Carles and Storeys                                                                                             

Friday, November 2, 2018

Slow Fall

Go now.  You
  say there's nothing for you here -
  but look - the black vault of sky,
  the still earth preparing, to hold
  breath, for a time.

Go now.
  see - it's only a slow fall,
  revealing and baring
  their stark and lovely forms, to
  stand for a season,  

Go now.
  miss the iron rising,
  still and frosted over -
  stars spilled to earth, 
  alike for these days,
  in moonlight

Go now.
  are buttoned up, protected,
  and in wonder, 
  sparing little thought 
  for the day we must -  
  no doubt,
  go too.

Friday, July 6, 2018

For Neal

Here is the book you never wrote.
Here are the secrets you couldn't suppress.
Here is the heart of what we needed to know.
Here is the song you never composed,
the poem in its infancy, tiny bones just unbending.

It's the joy a man has, you said - with joy! -  
even in a broken world.
The joy in coaxing music and grace from a thing once dead...
The joy in a simple life lived with purpose...
The joy in loving one so well and so long that love returned
staggers you.

Joy in faith.

Joy in the unknown.

Joy in beauty and truth and hope...
Even in sorrow and pain and doubt.

You, with your crooked smile - laughing at yourself, shrugging - said, 
I want to write about joy,
but I don't know how.

Oh my brother, your heart...

Your heart,
Your laugh,
Your song.

Your love, your mind, your faith, your great soul...

Oh my brother, your heart...

You are the book you never wrote.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

You Be Okay

He placed his chubby hand on my chest, looked into my eyes and spoke gravely. "You be okay. You be okay." Owen, my three year old grandson, was pretending to pierce my ears with his Nerf dart gun. I was pretending to be nervous. So, he soothed me in a way that he obviously has been soothed.

His momma rocks him and holds him when he's hurt, upset, or afraid. She knows that his boo boos will heal and that his frustrations will pass. She realizes that his fears really won't harm him, (barking dogs, moving curtains) and that he can sleep in peace. So she tells him, even if he can't see it yet, that he'll be okay.

Sometimes I still feel like a kid. I am irrational, fearful and nervous. I know that life is unfair. I've seen it countless times. Yet I still expect fairness, and feel the sting when I'm disappointed.

I know that hurting happens. People get hurt, loved ones are lost. Grief must be endured. Yet I still reverberate with shock and surprise at the pain that comes.

I have been disappointed, disillusioned and disenchanted, and still fear that my plans may fall through, or my great idea will be rejected. See...a little kid.

My daughter has suffered with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, for half her lifetime. It is an anxiety disorder which manifests itself through repetitive behaviors and obsessive thoughts. The workings of her mind are hidden. I can't see the fears that burden her, although I see what they do to her. She herself can discern how irrational her anxiety is, but that doesn't make it any less real. Once in a while she'll ask me, is everything going to be okay?

There is a reason that I always say - yes, everything is going to be okay, even when sometimes I ask that question myself. It's because of these words which are a balm to me, not just because they sound good, but because I know there is truth behind them. For every time I've been disappointed, hurt, sorrowful and anxious, there has been comfort, courage, hope and love in the words that I hold in my heart. Words like - 

When my heart was anxious within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. (Psalm 94:19 )

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1).

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:14)

Or these words from men and women of integrity who attest to the truth of God's presence and help - 

When we choose deliberately to obey him, then he will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to assist us with his almighty power. (Oswald Chambers)

The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter, truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God. (Corrie ten Boom)

Sometimes fear does not subside and one must choose to do it afraid. (Elisabeth Eliot)

Because I know that God is LOVE himself, that his timing is always perfect, that he knows our needs and that he cares about every little detail of our lives, because I trust that he has the answers even when I can't see them yet, and because he's promised to take all my fears, I can know, like Owen with his chubby little hand and his fathomless blue eyes, You be okay, you be okay.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Only Thing That Counts

It only took about two years for me to finish the nine-week Bible study, "Believing God" by Beth Moore. I actually started it over five years ago, took a hiatus for a while, then began again. I found it helpful and appropriate five years ago, in very different circumstances, and now in changed circumstances and environment, it is still helpful and appropriate. The challenge then and now is to live the faith I claim.

If you've gone through this study, you probably remember the five points on which the study is based. If you haven't, here they are:
     ~God is who he says he is.
     ~God can do what he says he can do.
     ~I am who God says I am.
     ~I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
     ~God's word is alive and active in me.1

Faith is easy to talk about - harder to practice. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." The point about faith is the "not seeing" part. We are talking about things hoped for, but not realized yet. Time moves slowly when you're in "hoping" mode. The needed funds, a job, physical healing, emotional restoration, the change that is expected but a long time coming: these are the things which tempt us to lose heart.

I think of Abraham and Sarah waiting eons for the promised child. They are both listed in the hall of fame for faith in Hebrews 11, even though they tried to take matters into their own hands a couple of times. That gives me hope, since I've done the same thing. God seems to be having a problem getting this one worked out, but I have a great idea!

What I'm taking away right now, from Believing God; what I'm pondering and processing is something the author said in the very last study, almost the very last day. She pulled out a little scrap - part of a verse that I know I've read a hundred times - and asked, "What about this?"

Here it is: in Galatians 5:5 - the only thing that counts is faith expressed through love.

Wait. How did I not see this before? The only thing that counts?

It seems pretty straightforward, but think about expressed through love.

I like to think I'm pretty faith-filled. I've got this. I know about God's faithfulness. I've experienced and seen great moments of faith in my life and others. I feel confident that my faith is placed in Christ and he has forgiven me. I trust the promise of resurrection and eternity.

It's the more nebulous areas where I falter. There's always the muddy question of God's will versus my will, and the fact that God sometimes says no. I tend to practice my faith kind of like I practice piano - when the mood strikes, or when I must play for some event and I desperately need practice. But the truth is, I desperately need to practice faith every day.

And now this verse adds a whole new dimension to faith. I couldn't connect the dots without a little help from Beth. She does the math where faith is an exponent of love.

I have a hard time with love.  GASP!

I know a few exceptional people who appear to have genuine love and compassion for mankind in general, and for the unlovable in particular. I'm not one of them and...admit it. You struggle too. That doesn't make it right - for me or you.

I struggle to love the relative who caused me pain. I struggle to love people who have hurt my children. I struggle to love the mother who sent her kids to an outdoor church event in 40-degree weather in dresses, or the neighbors who routinely let their dogs out in the middle of the night for the sole purpose of barking. The takers, the stalkers, the people who use over and over, who show more sense of entitlement than gratitude. The guy who pawned my husband's guitar for drug money, or the couple who "bought" a car from us but somehow managed never to pay for it.

To quote Beth Moore, God has called us to love even when - 
     ~We don't want to.
     ~We don't feel like it.
     ~We get nothing obvious in return.
     ~They don't deserve it.
     ~They're not worth it.
     ~They don't even know it.
     ~It makes no difference.2

Petty? Cynical? Justified? You may be thinking, well, nobody can love everybody. Except that somebody did - and he places that call on my life, if I'm going to be his follower.

The truth is, I can't. And that's where faith enters the equation. If I want to be like Jesus; if I want to reflect him in my life and my actions, then I need to trust that he will help me to love when I ask him. I must believe that I don't need to work up or even pretend a love I don't feel. Rather, I trust the truth that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13) On this journey where I am challenged to practice faith every day, and realize my own weaknesses where love is concerned, I cling to the Source of love and trust him to fill me with his limitless supply.

For me, that's a leap of faith. For all of us, it's the only thing that counts.

1. Moore, B. (2004) Believing God. Nashville, TN: LifeWay Press. Pg. 9
2. Moore, B. (2004) Believing God. Nashville, TN: LifeWay Press. Pg. 214

Friday, July 28, 2017

These Were NOT My Vows

Our marriage ceremony was simple and traditional. Except for a little glitch
which resulted in me forgetting to say, “for richer, for poorer,” we made all
the usual promises to each other. (Thankfully that richer, poorer thing has never
been an issue.) And I’m incredibly blessed to be able to say that we’ve kept our
promises almost thirty-nine years now.

But lately I’ve been rethinking our vows – not out of doubt or want, but because
of the growing realization that there has been so much more; beyond love, honor,
and faithfulness. So...these are some of the things I’ve thought about – things
we’ve done with and for each other, which maybe could have been part of our
wedding ceremony.


I have listened to you preaching for over thirty years. You say I could preach some
of your sermons myself, but I doubt it. Those words have your heart behind them.

I’ve listened to your talks with your brothers and cousin, and my siblings. I’ve heard
you faithfully talk with your mother, and your friends. I see how important these relationships are to you.

I remember you singing and reading to our children; your prayers for them have been
part of a rock-solid foundation since before they were born. And I still hear as you
sing and read to and bless our grandchildren.

I listen as you rhapsodize about God, about history, about politics. And you listen as
I read you books I love, even if they aren’t your favorite, or words I write even when
they need polishing.

Somehow, we haven’t run out of things to talk about. I think that when we do, we’ll
still be really comfortable in silence, for all of our words have revealed our hearts.


It started with Scrabble, then we played so much we stopped keeping track. Cribbage, Hand and Foot, Bupkiss, Chinese checkers, ping pong, Settlers of Catan, Pandemic,
Phase 10…I think we will always make time for games. Even when we hadn’t the
money for a movie or dinner, we have been together…a little competitive, sometimes helping, sometimes not, but together nonetheless. Even now, in the electronic age,
when you hold up your phone and raise your eyebrow, I will say yes to Scrabble.


We adopted the phrase, “I am for you,” from Star Trek. But you are not just for me.
You are a father, a son, a brother, a grandfather, a shepherd, a friend, a leader, a
student. Sometimes others have needed you more than I. Sometimes you have needed
to be away; for work, for play, for necessity, to have time with God, or time with a
video game or time to retreat. I will not complain even while I miss you, and I will go where I need to go, so you can share me too.


This one took a while to figure out. We are two very different people, and while you
do enrich me, encourage me, comfort me, care for me – you do not complete me. And I do not complete you. That job is reserved for God. And with that knowledge is great
freedom and relief. I don’t have to fulfill your dreams, direct your path, or comfort
your soul in grief or disappointment. I don’t have to be your Holy Spirit, or your light
in the darkness. I cannot be sufficient for you. I can point to Christ who is all sufficient. I can walk this path with you, and will continue to do so gladly; but I can’t be what
makes you whole. You have filled my life with deep joy, lots of laughter, contentment
and adventure, but you are not my god. We have failed each other sometimes, we’ve disappointed and hurt each other sometimes, and in those times, comfort and help
and strength had to come, not from ourselves, but from the lover of our souls.


I thank God for you. You’ve been the best life companion for me. You’ve provided for
me, and taken care of me. You’ve sought to serve me with a humble heart. I’ve joked
that your headstone will say, “He lived to serve.” But it’s true. That has been your

There are so many things to be thankful for about you, but these are just a few:










It is possible that we’ll be married for thirty-nine more years…not probable, but
possible. And I will no doubt realize that there are more promises we could have
made and should have made. But the most important thing for me is that we
them together.

Hope Persists

We had a family birthday party a while ago, celebrating three birthdays that all occur within three weeks or so. We met at Neal and Tracy...