“I am a sojourner…”

It was a loo-oo-oo-ng weekend. Hubby flew out of state to see his mom in the middle of the week, and I was here, trying to motivate our youngest, who is suffering with an extreme case of senioritis, and I was doing that among a myriad of other goings-on. And in the middle of all my personal chaos, I was blessed to have lunch with a newly-made friend. I really enjoy her company. We went to this restaurant that has been around forever. It is decorated in typical-tourist-Alaska style with rocks and bears and mining tools. But it is just such a fun place to hang around. The servers are genuine people. The menu is simple fare and I had the best BLT I have had in ages. It was a double-decker and the fries were to die for. They even left us an entire pot of coffee! What more could two gabbing women ask for?? Ha-Ha! And we were there for 3 and a half, gloriously uninterrupted, hours on a Saturday afternoon. We gabbed, we shared, we laughed; I really enjoyed myself. Oh, and we ate, too! LOL!

The hubby dragged himself in late this afternoon, after the airlines lost his luggage, and then found it again, and after he stopped at the auto supply store to get oil…and then he put oil in our son’s car…he was so tired. And tomorrow at some ungodly hour, which I will be sleeping through, he jets off again for a week of work away from home. With no respite in-between. We knew he’d be squeezing in his visit to his mom, but did not realize how tired he would be.

We are on the precipice of great change in our lives. Our parents are aging and are all at points where their health is not good – at all. We are making huge changes and altering many lives in just a few weeks. And helping to support family members facing their own issues. It seems like we are just waiting for the first domino to fall…and then the rest will follow suit.

We bought a house. Which my middle son told me was the first thing on our list. I guess it is a list. I had not thought of it that way. I read an article today about making lists in our lives to encourage our growth in faith. We need to add things to do, to make time to do all the important things. Things like praying. And reading Scripture. And actually going to church. We are all in different places in our journey to our forevers. My steps are just that – my steps. You may be leaps and bounds ahead of where I would like to be, or perhaps I can turn back and see you, trudging along behind me, making your way.

“I am a sojourner in the land; do not hide your commandments from me.”    Psalm 119:19 

This quote from Psalms stuck with me because I think it describes what we are going through. It is like we are all moving towards that goal – eternity – and many of us are much closer than others. Many of us have taken direct routes, while others of us have a very convoluted journey. Our family is a mixed bag of believers, non-believers; those who practice their faith and those who tolerate faith in their lives. And as a family, it feels like we are making decisions and checking things off our lists, making the pathway a little clearer. And I think that for the first time in my life, I am feeling the journey.

We wake to that alarm, we drink our coffee, we head out into the world. It is the daily grind. We get into traffic and make our way along. But every so often, something happens that makes you draw a quick breath and stop. And in that pause, you can feel the movement, the journey, right beneath your feet. Or within the pumping of the blood through your veins. Or in each breath you subsequently draw in. And in that next moment, the world is different. We sense it; we know it; but some of us refuse to recognize it in any real, and tangible, way. And when people refuse to acknowledge these pivotal moments, they react in sometimes odd ways.

Quite often, when we sense change coming, we react in anger, directed towards where all that movement is coming from. Sometimes people lash out at those they love, because they fear the changes, the movement, the momentum towards whatever it is they sense is coming.

And when we are dealing with our aging family members who are suffering disease, and all the effects on their bodies, minds, and souls, we can witness moments of lashing out and anger, which is brought on, I believe, through frustration. We have all seen images of little old ladies sitting around tables looking ready for a date, and none of them are speaking – they are staring off into their minds and their pasts. And sometimes you see others in nursing homes or in hospitals, who are yelling and angry at the world. We all react differently to changes in our world, our lives, our bodies, and our minds. It is part of our journey. We bought a house, to bring my mom home with us for the last section of her journey. And we’re all a little agitated. It has been over 40 years since my mom and I lived under the same roof. The hubby and son have claimed part of the 3rd garage as their “space.” Do not blame them, at all. And mom, due to her aging and suffering with Alzheimer’s, doesn’t do change well.

Tonight, as I sat in Church, I prayed for my entire family. My blood family, and my extended family. We fondly refer to extended family members as the “married-ins.” Ha-Ha. I am a “married in” to my husband’s large family, as he is to my much smaller, but fractured family. And I prayed for my friends. My long time friends, and my new friends. I prayed for my sons and their families, and my youngest son (the senior-itis boy!!) as he comes to the close of his high school experience and embarks on his career. Because this journey we are all on, well, we come together once in awhile and we share the road together. And sometimes we need to rely on family and friends to help us navigate this path we are on. It’s when we lean on each other.  And so I prayed for us all.

“Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” Psalm 71:9

“Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” Psalm 71:18

There is much we can learn from our older generation. They need not be placed into “holding cells” or “old-people prison” or even “gilded cages.”  My mom said to my sister one time, something to the effect that, “It’s nice where I live, but it is still a prison.” And I really don’t want anyone to feel that way. Not ever. Life is to be lived joyously, peacefully, and with love, until our last breath. And ideally, surrounded by family and friends.

Tomorrow will be another busy day; the week will be full. And slowly but surely, we will be checking more things off our lists. The hubby can come home later in the week and not have to leave again for a couple of weeks; he can relax at home for awhile. I can start packing us up to move (*The thrill is gone…* I am channeling my inner BB King). My youngest son can get closer to graduation – it all wraps up in a couple of weeks! We can get in tune with this journey we are all on and the feelings we have, as we take these next steps; steps taken together as a family.

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

“Now that I am old and gray…”

The mind is such an interesting thing. And lately I have learned a lot about perception and memory. It has been in the news recently that we are not ready, as a culture, for our aging population. There are so many elderly who suffer from different forms of dementia. In our family, we have 3 distinct forms being exhibited right now. And not in some distant cousins, either. Up close and personal immediate family members. Learning about their different forms has been interesting. And it has made me think about our minds and bodies, and how we care for them. And what happens with there is some sort of a short circuit. I have friends who have dealt with mental illnesses and addictions in their families; we have that in ours, too. Mental health, in my experience, is becoming more and more an issue as our population ages.

There are so many theories about what we eat and how it affects our health. We are becoming a culture of medication. I know that in our home, we would run to the Tylenol or Alleve if a headache occurred. We would run to the DayQuil for a cold, or a myriad of other over-the-counter medications to treat our symptoms. But learning about alternative ways of dealing with symptoms led me to the approach of treating the entire person, versus the symptom. What is the root, causing that symptom? So many times, for us, it was our immune system being compromised. Our aches and pains were often caused by a lack of good, quality, minerals in our diets. We have changed how we look at food. And sugar feeds an awful lot of dragons, to use a term prevalent in the Whole30 diet. And these choices in diet are affecting our longevity, and the quality of our lives as we age.

Although, in our family, we have three separate and distinct types of dementia (none of which had the same causes) we are dealing with the same issues – confusion, loss of short-term memory, diminished capabilities, loss of knowledge common before. And their worlds greatly contract. It is so much like how a young child begins to step out into the world, gently testing the waters of society through play groups and park outings, dance lessons and Little League. And in the teens when their world explodes through learning in school and driving a car by themselves! I fondly recall learning about all the places close to our home when I began driving. I had not realized it was all there because I was a passenger – not the driver – and I had not truly paid attention to where I was going or where I was. And as we mature, our world grows exponentially as we embrace international awareness. We begin to actually listen to the news and participate in conversations and have experiences outside our neighborhoods. We get jobs, we vote, we go to college or marry and move out on our own, fully engulfed in our mature world. Only with these dementia patients, the process is in reverse. It is a letting go of what they once clung to desperately. It is becoming that little child, all over again. And when they have those lucid moments, trust me, they know. They know what they have lost and are losing, day by day. I think that is why so many dementia patients are angry. Somewhere, deep inside, they know what is happening and they cannot do a thing about it. I believe that frustration exhibits itself in angry words and a lashing out at others. Pure frustration. Many dementia patients cannot be alone, ever. They cannot function at the most basic level without assistance. And that is where our culture is headed, and I don’t think we are ready for it.

“Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me.” Ps 71:9

“Now that I am old and gray, do not forsake me, God.” Ps 71:18

“Yet, I am always with you; you take hold of my right hand. With your counsel you guide me, and at the end, receive me with honor.” Ps 73:  23-24

“Yours the day and yours the night; you set the sun and moon in place.” Ps 74:16

“O most high, when I am afraid, in you I place my trust. God, I praise your promise; in you I trust, I do not fear. What can mere flesh do to me?” Ps 56: 3b-5

“I am a sojourner in the land…” Ps 119:19

These beautiful Psalms light the way for us, with our faith and with assisting those who are aging. Their dignity and the love we bear for them, leads us in ways to care for those who are aging. One of the Psalms I did not list there, but which comforts me greatly when I am facing some daunting tasks is: “May there be no breach in the walls, no exile, no outcry in our streets” which is Psalm 114:14. To me it gives me strength in that the Lord will hold it all together. That when I cannot keep it together, the Lord will protect me against a “breach in the walls” of my life. God will help to stem any “outcry in our streets” and will give me strength to help those who need it. Caring for those with these many manifestations of dementia is a work that is tiresome and draining – on our mental health and our physical well being. As caregivers, we need to grab hold of these promises God has made to His people, and hold on. We need to be pro-active in ensuring we are healthy ourselves, and that we have the help we most desperately need, yes. But ultimately, it will be the strength of character and faith that will see us all through.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your kind spirit guide me on ground that is level.” Ps 143:10

“The Lord supports all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” Ps 145:14

“You, Lord, give light to my lamp; my God brightens the darkness around me.” Ps 18:29

“Your love is before my eyes; I walk guided by your faithfulness.” Ps 26:3

There are just so many examples of God’s faithfulness to carry us through our lives. In our family, we are facing some rough and dark days. We are about to take on more responsibility, caring for those who can no longer care for themselves. But we are not going into this alone and unprepared. We are preparing as best we can. And we are relying on our faith and the promises of our God to see us through. We are also being smart in preparing our bodies through better nutrition choices, and through concern for our own well-being. You cannot care for others if you do not care for yourself, first.

I think our country, and our world, as we progress further and further, and our population continues to age, will have much to think about, and many to care for. We are not having babies like we used to in our world, as much as the population-fearing-fanatics like to think we are. The workforce is not being replaced quickly enough (look at the studies being done in human resources and the world of working statistics). There are fewer and fewer people to replace our existing population, honestly. So who will care for those who cannot care for themselves? We already have an abysmal system of warehousing our seniors. Truly horrific so much of the time, even with the generous exceptions. It is becoming more and more obvious that we need to have our extended families, once again, under the same roof. It used to be common to have grandma and grandpa live with you. At least three generations under one roof. I think we need to seriously look at doing that once again. We are doing it – out of necessity, yes, but out of love, too.

Is it ideal? Maybe not. But I also know it will help us to grow as people. We will learn to serve and interact on a different level. We will be responsible for not only our children, but our parents, too.

“God is present as my helper; the Lord sustains my life.” Psalm 54:6

Our world is going to radically change. Our home is going to change, too. Our lives will not ever be the same. But the Lord sustains our lives; He is in control and is always present as our helper. “My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope. God alone is my rock and my salvation, my secure height, I shall not fall.” Psalm 62:6-7 And as we, just one family, face these many challenges, I am curious as to how the world will deal with our aging population. I believe in the sanctity of human life, from a natural birth to a natural death. And I know we can care for our aging family members.

God grant me the patience to assist my family members in their last days, to grant them peace and dignity and to let them feel our love wash over them and give them comfort. Grant our family the strength through our faith in God to be the gentle caregivers for those who need our care the most – those who cannot care for themselves. Amen.

“and they did not believe the women…”

Ever feel like your brain is going to explode? Yeah; me, too. I know it is Easter Monday, or the Monday of Bright Week, as those of us in the Eastern/Orthodox churches like to call it. I read a post I had written a couple of years ago about Easter Sunday and being sick. One of the things I said was that no matter what I had done or not done, Easter still happened. Christ rose from the dead regardless of my input. He did that for me. And I need to rest in that. Today’s reading in Scripture for my Gratitude Journal was Luke 23:50 – 24:12 and the statement that jumped out at me was:

“But this tale seemed to them to be nonsense, and they did not believe the women.”

This is when the women went to the tomb and the angel appeared to them. They left and met Christ along the way, worshipping at His feet. He told them to tell the Disciples. And they did as He asked, only the Disciples did not believe them. After this, Peter runs off to find the tomb empty, himself, and he then went off by himself, wondering at what had come to pass.” How often do we take what people say with a “grain of salt,” not really accepting what they tell us as truth? And Peter, who did not believe the women, missed the fact that they had spoken to the Risen Christ in person…he just chose not to believe their nonsensical tale. How sad for him. I wonder how history would have differed if they had believed the women.

We are house-hunting. I cannot tell you the angst this has brought to our lives. Our lender is being amazing; our realtor is a man of much patience. It is not with them that the angst is originating! It is in finding our “unicorn” house. What is that, you may ask? Well it is a new colloquialism used today. Anything that you are searching for, and is rare, is a “unicorn.” “Things only sell for what the market will bear” is a marketing strategy. Sometimes manufacturers purposely advertise things they will only make a few of, knowing they will become popular and they can charge a lot more for them, because of their rarity. When I was pregnant with my eldest son, I wanted a little “Cabbage Patch” doll for his crib. We innocently bought one and laid it in his crib, walking past it and looking in the room, practicing what it would be like when he was actually here! We did not realize that particular year, Cabbage Patch dolls were the “it” gift for Christmas; the “unicorn” of 1985. To make it even funnier, we got ours at the local grocery store, and for a reasonable price, too!  We did not know we had a “unicorn” in our son’s crib!! (We named him Ernst Wolfgang…so we could get that urge to use a very German name out of our systems! LOL!).

And so we are now hunting the elusive “unicorn” house that has to meet so many criteria, I wonder if it does truly exist. The housing industry does not have enough new builds in our area to meet demand, and so housing costs, in general, can be a little high. Re-sales are down and so the market is a little tight right now. The closer we get to the main city here, the “bang for the buck” really goes down. That is pretty much the same thing all over. The further you have to drive from town and necessities, you find one of two things: (1) lower priced homes on much larger lots, some including actually acreage; or (2) mansions with fenced and gated property, with large price tags, too! And when I first met our realtor, I was telling him I wanted that unique living experience only to be had here and before I could finish my description, he took it over and described what I wanted perfectly. It was pretty funny. Makes me wonder why they don’t build housing developments with log cabin designs, with all the homes on lakes!! LOL!

And I laugh when I think of my dilemma. I mean, for most people, buying a home is pretty awesome. Are these available homes what I dreamed they would be? No, they are not. Are they where I pictured myself growing old (er) and living? Not really. But I am no spring chicken, and if anyone has ever lived remotely, you get that issue. I live through Amazon as it is! And to get that cabin in the woods, we would have to live about 45 minutes or more, on a good day, away from town and our kids and grandkids. We also have to deal with winter driving and blowing snow and closed highways. So that is out. We are re-adjusting our dreams a little bit.

Most people do not accept what they are told…okay, many who think about things do not accept all they are told…okay, well, there are those who do not accept everything they are told and look for their own answers. Maybe it is more rare than I think, but I certainly question things. And today, working on this housing thing, and reading the Scriptures, I chose to stop and ponder. Just think about things. St. Peter went off by himself to think about all that had happened. Later on in his story, he leads the entire Christian community and thanks to him and the inspiration from the Holy Spirit, we have our Church today. So questioning things is not a bad thing. But learning to accept truths that are immutable can be hard. Most especially when you disagree with what is being shared. As I began reading my new Psalter today, the very first reading stopped me cold:

“Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, and hath not sat in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law will he exercise himself day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the waterside, that will bring forth his fruit in due season; his leaf also shall not fall, and all whatsoever he doeth, it shall prosper.”

That is the first Psalm that David wrote. The first one! This lets us know that our choices to follow the Law of the Lord is eternally important. This Lent, I chose to give everything over to God and allow His will to work in my life. And I worry about buying a house?!? About finding the perfect place to live? About the place I will bring my mom? The style of house? The view? Setting? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Oh my goodness!  I need to relax in the promises of the Lord, and work on allowing myself to be “planted by the waterside…and all whatsoever he doeth, it shall prosper.” God totally has all of this. I am stressing for no good reason. I am going to take some deep breaths, spend some quiet time with my family just enjoying being together, and I am going to allow God to work in all of this. All of it.

Happy and blessed Bright Week, my friends!

“One is never afraid of the unknown…”

“Whoever clings to me I will deliver; whoever knows my name I will set on high. All who call upon me I will answer; I will be with them in distress; I will deliver them and give them honor. With length of days, I will satisfy them and show them my saving power. ”       Psalm 91: 14-16

I have enjoyed my Lenten journey this year so very much. I have had my eyes opened to a deeper understanding of the Scriptures, and I have fallen in love with the Psalms. They are a wealth of promises from God. And each day it seems I find another verse that comforts me, or lifts me up. There is richness in the Word of God; it can become your daily rock or your anchor in this crazy world.

We are making so many changes in our lives over the next few months. Momentous changes. And I am sort of mourning what we are and what we have now. Because I know I won’t get “this” back again. Our family dynamics are going to drastically change. We will be packing up and relocating. We will be possibly losing and gaining family members within months of each other. Life is just not going to be like it is. And that makes me sort of sad.

On the other hand, it is the perfect time of year for changes. This is Good Friday. Without Christ offering Himself for our sins on the Cross, we would never change. We would never receive those Graces He promised us. We would never have need for true repentance and forgiveness from God. He changed; I will continue to grow and change. In the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox world we have a term for that. It is called, “Theosis.” “Theosis is the understanding that human beings can have real union with God, and so become like God to such a degree that we participate in the divine nature.” Psalm 82:6 tells us: “I declare, Gods though you be, offspring of the Most High all of you…” Other translations say: “You are Gods and all of you are children of the Most High.” It varies, but basically it tells us that we have much metanoia to go through in order to have real union with God, sharing in the divine nature. Metanoia is defined as “a change of heart, especially a spiritual one.” And that is change I truly desire. And as I continue on this Lenten journey, I am also eyeing my personal journey. And that of our family. So much is just waiting for that final piece to fit into place, and mounds of change are coming our way.

So today, as we follow our Lord along His way, keep in mind that each slap, each step,  each fall, was for the “many.” There are some who reject His teachings and who cling to the the shiny things of this world. For them we should all pray. And so I direct my steps towards my own Calvary, my personal metanoia, and the changes coming my way. And I pray for everyone as we enter fully into these last, Holy Days of Great Lent.

May The Lord bless you.

“…the kindness I sought…”

Today is one of those days when this saying came springing itself into my mind. Some days, all we can do is pray. Have you ever had the feeling that you are standing next to a damn that is about to give way? Or near a complex set of dominoes someone made into a design, and they are about to all tumble? Or rocks, just starting their landslide, which you know you need to get out of the way from?  I am feeling that pressure more and more as each day passes by. When will it start? When will that little pebble holding the damn have enough pressure to give way, and the wall of water will come raging down the ravine in my life?

This past winter, the state of California saw more water than it has in years. The deserts are gloriously green. The pastures are blooming. But the damns are not doing so well. Apparently, every 100 years or so, California gets an abundance of water. And this was that year, according to some pundits commenting on it. I recall growing up in California and we always had enough water. I have memories of Saturday mornings with the smell of fresh cut lawns, the sounds of mowers in the distance, and the sounds of the sprinklers all popping up and spreading moisture over those hungry, grassy, front yards, coming though open windows – with no screens. Ah, the joy of those mornings. (Until the 70s when we learned about rationing gas, and water. Not sure why they coincided, but they did). And now the damns that have needed upgrading and repair are desperately trying to hold back this “100 years” of water.

I can hardly wait until Spring is well and truly here. I long for these mountain vistas and having our windows open; the smells and sounds of springtime in a mountainous region pouring into our stuffing, winterized houses! And trust me, living where I do, Spring and the joy it brings is a real thing! And it is Holy Week, meaning Easter/Pascha is sneaking right up on us. And in the back of my mind, I struggle with this impending doom; a sense that all the dominoes are about ready to fall.

And so on a day like today, I am trying to surround myself in prayer. Because “I called to the Lord with my mouth; praise was upon my tongue….But God did hear and listened to my voice in prayer. Blessed be God, who did not refuse me the kindness I sought in prayer.” Psalm 66:17-20 And I also read today, “Blessed be the Lord day by day; God, our salvation, who carries us.” Psalm 68:20  I know the Lord holds my heart in His hands. That God has what is best for me always in His heart. I trust God completely. And so to ease this sense of things beginning to happen (that will pick up the pace a tad bit) I cling to these Psalms, and to the Scriptures. Today, I read about the Washing of the Disciples’ Feet in the book of John, Chapter 13, verses 1-17. In this reading, I grasped onto some sentences that I had not noticed before: “Not all of you are clean” and “Amen, Amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master…” and the one that really stood out for me was, “I have given you a model to follow.”

This model is not just one of service to others, which it is mostly used to illustrate. For me, I saw it as a total way of going through life. We truly need to serve others; no slave is greater than his master. But we also need, at least to me, to see this model for more than just Thursday’s service during Holy Week. I need to work on following the model Christ has left for me – in all things. And so when I am stressed and worried over dominoes crashing in my life, or that damn breaking and my life being flooded in so many ways, I must always, always, look to Christ as my model.

Christ accepted, willing, the Cup from His Father. He knew what was coming; the pain, the heartbreak of being betrayed. He willingly accepted His Father’s Will for His life. That is the model He gave us to follow. And so, with the things in my life seeming so insignificant in light of Christ’s sacrifice for me, the very least I can do is to model my life on his example and to accept the Cup offered to me. And God will get me through it. All of it. Because He promised me that He would never leave me, ever.

“…wait patiently for Him to act…”

May their memories be eternal. The bombing of Churches in Egypt and the Middle East on Palm Sunday makes reflections on my Lenten journey seem so superfluous; silly in some ways; and almost disrespectful in others. It is certainly sobering and makes most of us stop and take into account what we are doing and what is important to us, in our daily lives.

This past week has been pretty stressful, personally, dealing with the health of my parents and my mother-in-law, as well as trying to find housing solutions. I don’t know about you, but purposely going into debt scares me. Taking on a home loan after not having one for a few years is pretty intimidating. The bankers have been wonderful to deal with, and apparently we are a good “risk” for them, but still, the idea of a lot of debt at my age is a little scary. And then to see these images of death and bloodshed on Palm Sunday, it made me draw up short and just stop the nonsense for a few minutes. The least we can do is pray for the lives lost and their families. It is just so horrific. The shooting of 60 Tomahawk missiles into Syria set me on edge to begin with; I do not want World War III. I don’t. I am a mother of a veteran. One son is enough, trust me.

When my dad was talking to me from the hospital ICU, he sounded so far away and so very vulnerable. My dad has always prided himself on his physical strength. His handshake could always crush another person’s hand, and he always shook your hand in a strong way; his hugs could steal your breath away. Even in his 70s. But now, at 90, with Parkinson’s and Dementia stealing much of his daily life from him, he was still able to tell me how amazed everyone at the hospital was with his overall strength. And he took much comfort in that. And pride. And he always joked that he never exercised, not since his 20s, and he never understood the craze. He did power walking and rode a bicycle, but nothing more. And he’s always been so very strong. It is hard for the strong to allow themselves to become weak; to allow others to care for them is hard; to acknowledge their weakness is even more difficult.

I believe that we are seeing a time in our world where the strengths we have come to rely upon are being challenged, in a world-wide, political realm, but also personally. And this is Holy Week, too. God has timing that is beyond our comprehension and beyond our expectations. I know that the people at the parish church in Tanta had no idea that Palm Sunday was their last day on earth. They had gone to Church to celebrate Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, knowing that in the next 3 days He would be condemned to death….”Crucify Him” the crowds would chant after yelling “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” a mere three days earlier. And these Coptic Christians, who are now martyrs for the faith, were chanting, “Hosanna” as their lives were taken. 43 lives taken and 100s injured in an act of terrorism against innocent Christians. Our world is careening out of control in the sense that things are not as they were, and I wonder where we are headed. My dad, personally, is having to surrender control over his life and well-being. He has to allow others to care for him. He has to trust others will have his best interests at heart. Who do we trust to do that for us on a local, national, and international level? Who has my best interest at heart?

I have learned over this Lenten journey that God is in control. Always. We see life taken away and we wonder why; we question things like this bombing in Egypt; we wonder where God is in all of this. But I honestly believe His hand is in it all. Every moment of it. Sometimes the souls He brings home to Him, He wants with Him in Paradise. We mourn the lives lost, yes, because of the horror of how they were taken and the loss we experience when those we love are taken. But I try to remember the promises God has made. It is hard on those of us still here – those He has taken are still singing “Hosanna in the highest,” only with Heaven’s choir. We are angry at the violent way in which they were taken. But mostly we grieve for ourselves. Because we are still here. Learning to trust God in all things? That, my friend, is the journey. Always trusting. Always.

God is looking at the entire timeline. We are standing in our own little section of eternity. (Teeny-tiny little space we each occupy during our lifetimes). He sees eternity from its inception until He comes again and makes all things whole. I place my trust in His wisdom and love for me. I let my frustration and fear, sadness and expectations, completely go. Once you allow God to rule in all areas – truly all of them – you are free. It is a constant struggle to release our control and hand it to God. A daily struggle. But the rewards are eternal. If we think about the control we exert on our environment on a daily basis, handing all of that over to God is intimidating and frightening. We argue over who has control of the TV remote; who is driving which car; whose choice it is for the meal we will eat or where we go that day; even which house to live in or what Church we attend. Handing over complete control to God in a culture of “control freaks” is an intimidating task, and one that is impossible without prayer and complete trust in God. It’s something we all need to focus on, moment by moment. Trust, and allow God to “take the wheel.” (from Carrie Underwood’s song, “Take the Wheel”). During Holy week, we need to focus on our journey, and walk with Christ on His journey this week, humbly asking Him to give us hearts to see the way.

I pray that our Holy Week be ever fruitful and we each allow God to “make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 2:5-6) God is in control and He truly has our best interests at heart. We cannot allow ourselves to overly trust in human choices and decisions. Things go awry daily. Missiles are shot at the wrong target; people say stupid things; poor choices are made. In amongst all of that, God is silently, quietly, waiting for us all to listen to Him.

Blessed Holy Week. For those lives lost in these bombings – our Coptic Christian brothers and sisters – may their memories be eternal.