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Perfect Imperfection

Tonight we put up our Christmas tree, the first Ravella/Gilbert tree. Actually we have two trees. One is artificial. It is perfect. It has p...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Life as I know it

Tomorrow a good friend of mine is getting married, he lost his wife and tomorrow he begins a transistion in his life.  I'm so happy for him and his new wife who also lost her husband.

It is hard to explain the depth of loss when you lose your spose. It seems obvious to understand what it means but it far deeper, far more then even  I can unerstand.  All I know is the bond I have with my friend is inexplainable.  It is born from a shared loss that words cannot nor need to explain.  We just know we just understand. 

But we also understand the joy of living again, and the how to love again, to be happy again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Holes in the Floor of Heaven

I run across sweet folks all the time that tell me they check our blog and we don’t ever write on it anymore.  Many reasons why the blog is empty these days.  I guess the main one is life is full. 

As I type this I am on a plane leaving one speaking engagement and headed to the next.  What an odd-fellow I sometimes feel as I use my American Express Business card, meet people in unfamiliar circles and travel across the country sharing God’s story of Troy’s life and my re-birth.  A little funny at times because after my couple of days of being the gal about town, I go back to making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,  scrubbing toilets  and doing some Barbie’s hair for the umpteenth time.

Life is unpredictable.  We have moved back to San Antonio and it’s GOOD to be a Texan again.  Though it was with many tears that we looked at the Florida panhandle in our rearview mirrors.  I loved our humble town, the sweet friends we made there and the awe-inspiring beauty of white sand beaches and azure water. 

My life compass, though, seems to always point me back to Texas. 

We’ve only been back a few weeks but they have been busy ones.  Not only was our family’s early separation (Jim returned to TX for work 6 weeks before the kids and I) driving our quick-turn move after the kids finished school in FL but we had a wedding to attend.

And not just any old wedding, I might add.  But another wedding birthed straight from the depths of suffering into the radiant light of the Master’s plan.

We have written blogs about Brad and Sarah Sullivan.  Our earthly friendship with sweet Sarah was short.  But Brad and Chloe have remained a constant on our family’s prayer request.  The Lord, in His infinite mercies, brought Jenifer Wims not only into Brad’s life but into ours as well.  Jenny and Brad married on Memorial Day in San Antonio and we were rejoicing for them both.  Jenny lost her first husband to cancer just months before Brad lost Sarah.  Jenny and her two children, like me and mine, were the ones left behind, missing a devoted husband and father.

As I watched them standing under the shady oak trees by the meandering river profess their love and commitment to one another, my heart stirred.  My heart wept.  In joy. In thankfulness.  In rememberance.  Just three years ago, that was Jim and I. 

Life comes full circle. 

……And life’s fullness is just now letting me finish this blog I started at the beginning of the summer!  It’s August now and almost time for the kids to return to school.  I can’t bring myself to say it feels any closer to fall, though, since the gauge in my car continually says it’s over 100 degrees.  Ah, the Texas heat and this year’s drought.  It feels like a curse from Heaven but I hear it’s just El Nina.

Again another way God will delight us with Heaven; perfect weather all the time.  I bought the girls a book this summer about Heaven.  Someone in our house always seems to be bringing the topic of Heaven up.  We have had many animated conversations discussing the wonder of it.  Are there spiral staircases?  Are animals there?  Will we all wear white robes?

One thing I often wonder about is this; can the saints up there ever get a glimpse of down here?  Most of the time I would guess no.  Even with their now-eternal perspective, I just can’t imagine what delight would come from viewing what a painful mess this earthly painting must look like.  Yet, there are days that I just can’t imagine them NOT getting to see.  Greyson walking into a church camp this summer where he knew no one and walking out a week later chosen by the staff as Camper of the Week.  He displayed discipleship, leadership, love, courage… All the things Troy had worked diligently to grow from planted seeds those first 6 years of Greyson’s life with his Dad.  Boston and Greyson blessedly choosing to be baptized this summer,  Jim’s arms holding them as he immersed them in the waters and Troy’s mom and dad there in the first pew.  Days like those.  Holes in the floor of Heaven?  There are moments I sure hope there are.

This morning I finished a book I began back in Florida.  “One Thousand Gifts” is the title.  A mom of 6 kids, a farmer’s wife, a woman seeking the face of God in the everyday mundane was challenged to write down one thousand things she was thankful for.  In the process, her perspective was changed and real joy was found.  The crosses she carried were different than mine.  Early sexual abuse and death of a little sister among them, but she reminds me to offer thanks, even when it’s hard.

Psalm 50:23  “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God”.

I don’t think the Lord would call it a sacrifice it He knew, at times, it wasn’t going to be easy to be thankful.  The author, Ann Voskamp, writes:  “The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God- even the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion- this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all the sin that estranges us to Him”. 

Not salvation from hell.  We have that the moment we enter into real relationship with Christ.  But salvation from partaking of the bitter cup that sits on the table of suffering before us.  Salvation from letting that daily drink replace our daily manna and turn us into empty, angry shells of who we were.  It’s easier to do that, the giving in to the unforgiving hurt, than it is to work out the scarring knots of a broken and bruised heart so you can still have the capacity to wholly live and love again.

I met with some other widows at Focus on the Family this summer.  Face to face.  Heart to heart.  There is so much pain etched across the faces of these beautiful women.  It’s so familiar to me.  We talked about thankfulness.  Not FOR what had happened in our lives, but IN it all.  To find something in each day to be thankful for, with the hopes that through that act of recognition, we could see God is still good.  We could remember that He knows loss too.  God watched His Son suffer, so that our struggles and pain in this life would only be a short walk into a journey of eternal peace .  And just maybe, too, that our life here can be full even after it’s emptied out.

Romans 8:32  “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” 

A challenge that even on days such as these, that 31 brave Navy Seals would lose their lives at the hands of evil, that their loved ones receive that familiar knock on the door…. That my new friend, Kelley (a Navy Seal widow herself just over a year ago) would now have to carry her friends and sit by more gravesides.  On days where there is nothing we can come up with to be thankful for, we can always be thankful for Christ’s Cross.

I reminded the ladies, and myself, that feeling like God is absent and feeling like there is no hope are just that –feelings - and feelings can lie.  I can remember those many days of lying on the floor of my closet, with my heart broken and my cries to Him seeming to fall of deaf ears.  I am thankful for the perspective now.  The way I can look back and know that outside of my closet walls, Jesus was there working in my house, providing others to parent my kids, healing and paving the way for joy to enter into our lives again.  Down the road, upstream from those long and weary days and now, into my daily “new normal” life.  I am not a patient thing when it comes to waiting.  And it takes years to gain perspective.

One of my favorite things I read in this book of “One Thousand Things” was what she wrote about this very subject.  She writes “In time, years, dust settles.  In memory, ages, God emerges.  Then when we look back, we see God’s back.  Wasn’t that too His way with Moses?”

Exodus 33:22-23  “When My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.  Then I will remove My hand and you will see My back.”

Ann writes on, “Is that it?  When it gets dark, it’s only because God has tucked me in a cleft of the rock and covered me, protected, with His hand?  In the pitch, I feel like I’m falling, sense the bridge giving way, God long absent.  In the dark, the bridge and my world shakes, cracking dreams.  But maybe this is true in reality: It is in the dark that God is passing by.  The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by.  God is in the tremors.  Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by.  In the blackest, god is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will.  Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ IS most present to us, I-beam supporting in earthquake.  Then He will remove His hand.  Then we will look. Then we look back and see His back.  God reveals Himself in rearview mirrors.  And I’ve an inkling that there are times we need to drive a long, long distance before we can look back and see God’s back in the rearview mirror.”

I wish I would have written that but I sure am glad I, at least, read it.   I know there are so many who are waiting; waiting for healing, waiting for an answer, waiting for the loneliness to end and the pain to subside.  Waiting to see God’s back. 

This is such an everyday choice.  The choosing to see in the dark that God is still love and that above all the gloomy rain clouds, the sun is still shining above it all.   The Son is still shining above it all.  And just maybe the Son lets a little sun shine through the holes in the floor of Heaven and Troy sees his children, by God’s mercy, thriving and living and laughing and loving and being little lights at church camp and coming up out of the baptismal in Jim’s arms and trying to trust Him no matter what.  Lord, please help me to trust You, no matter what.

Words from Laura Story’s “Blessings”:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
.  Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
.  We pray for healing, for prosperity.  
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering.  

All the while, You hear each spoken need
.  Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

.  Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
  What if Your healing comes through tears
?  What if a thousand sleepless nights 
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

  What if trials of this life 
Are Your mercies in disguise?

  We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
.  We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
.  We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
.  As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

.  And all the while You hear each desperate plea
.  And long that we'd have faith to believe

.  Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
.  What if Your healing comes through tears?
  What if a thousand sleepless nights 
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

  And what if trials of this life 
Are Your mercies in disguise

?  When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
. We know the pain reminds this heart

That this is not, this is not our home
.  It's not our home

.  Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
.  What if Your healing comes through tears?
  And what if a thousand sleepless nights
  Are what it takes to know You’re near?

  What if my greatest disappointments
 Or the achings of this life
  Is the revealing of a greater thirst
  This world can’t satisfy?

  And what if trials of this life
  The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
  Are Your mercies in disguise?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mighty to Save

Warning: The much-needed and much-pondered over blog I intended to write on November 27th to mark the 4 year anniversary of Troy’s Homegoing will not be what this one today is about.  That one will be popping up later.

Today, (actually this whole week) the Lord has revealed Himself to me in such powerful ways I just felt compelled (I love that word!) to jot down my thoughts so the magnitude of it wouldn’t fade in my aging memory.

As I type this I am sitting alone in a hotel room in Orlando.  Actually far from alone, I have Jesus as my constant companion!  Anyway, God has opened the door for me to begin speaking on a regular basis for the Folds of Honor, a non-profit organization that was founded four years ago by an F-16 reserve pilot and professional golfer, Major Dan Rooney.  His story is amazing.  He has done several tours in Iraq.  One day he was actually on a commercial flight and the captain came on the intercom and asked that the passengers remain seated upon their arrival destination so that a fallen soldier, whose body was being transported in a casket under their aircraft, could be taken off the plane and his family could receive it in privacy.  Dan watched out his small plane window.  God gave him a perfect view of this family’s war homecoming.  A young son seeing his father’s casket.  So much pain.  Dan cried.  Then Dan noticed many of the passengers on the plane were getting antsy to go and they began to get up and exit the plane anyway, despite the pilot’s request and the somber scene taking place just feet away.  Then and there Dan decided our fallen heroes and their families were certainly not being honored as they should.  Long story short, Dan with his military background, PGA connections, charismatic personality and the big green light from God has now, in just 4 years, raised 8.5 million dollars to provide college scholarships for children and spouses of wounded and fallen soldiers.

I was introduced to Dan through mutual F-16 friends.  I guess you could say the rest is history.  My children were the first to receive scholarships and today I sit on the staff of his organization, the Folds of Honor (meaning the 13 folds that occur in the folded flag), and have been sharing Troy’s story and my journey already to thousands of folks. 

That is what brought me to Orlando and has now brought me to my knees.  Actually my amazing friend, Faye Green, has brought me to my knees.  I think I have mentioned her in previous posts but in short she is the 107 pound, older (Ok not older just my mom’s age J) African American (though Faye says it’s okay to say black J) mighty woman of God.  She and her precious husband, Lin, became friends of mine and Troy’s years ago when we first met at our church in Phoenix.  Ever since they have been my surrogate parents.  Always loving.  Always there for me.  Always lifting my head.  Always making me laugh.  Always making me thankful for things no matter what the circumstance.  Always an inspiration.  Always pointing me to God.  However, through it all, Auntie Faye has ALWAYS been very sick.  Among other things Faye has suffered from Sickle Cell, Cancer, Lupus, MS and a host of other unthinkable diseases that alone would be enough for you and I to lie in the bed and never get up again. 

I have watched Faye be so weak she can barely speak.  I have watched her be so strong she has cleaned my house, done my laundry, helped me raise the kids and generally just held me up when I couldn’t stand on my own.  Lin is the same version of Faye, just a little less feisty.  He became like a father to me while we were in Phoenix.  Always checking on me, doing household repairs, insisting on installing fly catchers on my patio (he hates flies) and in that gentle voice always calling me his daughter.  In fact when I married Jim (the first time in our impromptu last minute wedding in Phoenix May of ’08) Uncle Lin gave me away at our wedding.  Faye was so sick at that the time they were unable to even stay for the reception.  But she was there, cheering me on and thanking the Lord for answering her prayers and giving me Jim.

I just found out last night, Faye went back into the hospital.  She has been scaring us lately.  In and out of the hospital constantly for the last couple of months.  She is just so sick.  She can’t keep anything down.  She is weak.  But Faye’s God, He is strong!

Earlier yesterday, I received a text from Faye that simply said “Just want you to know that I am praying for you this week!  God will use you in a mighty way! I love you!”  Never once mentioning she was even in the hospital for uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea as the lupus is deteriorating her muscles.  I found that out last night from Jim.    

I was on my knees this morning praying for her.  She needs healing from all this suffering.  I then opened my Bible for the first time during this busy week.   This has probably happened to you but if it hasn’t, it blows your socks off.  I literally opened my Bible to this page and to this Scripture.  God clearly wanted me to know it, rest in it and share it.  

Job 42:1-6

Then Job replied to the Lord, “I know that You can do all things, no plan of Yours can be thwarted. You (God) asked ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I (Job) spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”  You (God) said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you (Job) and you shall answer Me.’  My (Job) ears had heard of You (God) but now my eyes have seen You.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job had been angry with God for all the pain and suffering God had allowed in his life.  Especially to a righteous man like himself.  He was mad that God had been so silent and Job had spent some time just “letting God have it” earlier in the chapter.  God listened and waited.  And listened and waited.  Then finally He spoke.  He basically reminded Job that He was the Creator and Ruler of the Universe and that He still loved Job and needed Job to trust Him, no matter his circumstances.  This scripture was Job’s humble response.  Basically saying to God that he knew he had harbored bitterness and was speaking without seeing the full picture of all God was doing.  I will quote from this awesome version of my Bible’s commentary (the Quest)

“Earlier, Job was convinced that God was angry with him and the he had become God’s enemy.  He cursed the day of his birth because of the suffering he was experiencing.  He was angry at God’s silence and demanded that his arguments be heard.  He wanted to do what God had failed to do- provide his vindication.  But after God had finished speaking, Job acknowledged he had been talking over his head- beyond his understanding.  Even though Job never received a reason for his suffering.  It was sufficient for him to know that t=a reason exited.  If he had to do it over, Job probably would have tried to trust God a little more and complain a whole lot less.  Part of Job’s problem had been with what he did not know.  Now that he had encountered the sovereign God, Job regretted the presumptuous statements he had make about God.  Job had come to realize that God was sovereign over the moral order of the world, and that nothing could happen apart from his permission.  Perhaps the most comforting revelation of all for Job was that God was still his friend.  Though He seemed silent or even absent, God was no mere spectator of Job’s suffering.  He was with him through the experience.”

I love verse 5 that says, “My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You.”

I hate bumper stickers but that might be the one I would put on my SUV. 

For the last week I have been sharing my story, scratch that, GOD’S STORY, here at the national PGA show in Orlando.  The Folds of Honor raises its scholarship money essentially through golf tournaments, etc…  Yesterday I watched as the CEO of the PGA, Joe Steranka, who is probably the most powerfully influential man in all of professional sports, wept as I shared about who Troy was, what happened to him and what God has brought me through.  The pain and the challenges but the victories too….  He kissed me on the cheek and said “thank you”. 

I am literally worlds away from my usual role as peanut butter and jelly maker and carpooler.  Here I am a soccer mom and military widow with a powerful message telling the most well-known executives in the golfing business that Christ is faithful even in the darkest of valleys.  Meanwhile Jim is home making chicken fried steak (Troy’s favorite) for our kids AND their friends, taking them to school, tending to their needs and LOVING every minute of it.  (Really!  I just talked to him!) Now who couldn’t believe that only God Himself could do something that crazy!?    

I texted Auntie Faye back and told her I was praying for her and that God is mighty to save.  He saved me.  He will save her.  We ask for the kind of saving we want and we understand – healing on this earth (right now, please God!), no more suffering, long joyful life with Lin, etc… Yet we know the Lord saves in all kinds of other ways. 

People that never NEVER would have heard the name of Major Troy Gilbert while he was living now hear about him and his God and their lives are changed for the better.

Did I want it to happen this way?  Never in a million years.  Do I want to be in the center of God’s will?  Do I want to trust Him for today and for tomorrow?  Yes. I do.  That doesn’t mean I am not, at times, scared of the future.  Frightened by what He might ask me to endure.  But again, this one sentence ALL MORNING is absolutely resounding in my head:


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Four Years Ago...


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