My life has been a journey full of twists & turns, highs & lows. Honestly, I'm not sure I could really define where I'm headed. But one thing I'm learning, the journey isn't all about the final destination but more about how we travel. And fulfillment is found in all that we learn & experience as we journey, not just getting to the end of it. I can't even imagine making mine without Christ before me, behind me, and beside me...

Sunday, February 20, 2011


     I lay awake tonight (rather this morning) desperately seeking distraction from a headache that literally brings me to my knees. I fell asleep earlier amid tears and prayers, "Please God, I can't do this anymore..." This pain of head and so much more...Life that didn't turn out the way I thought it would...Overpowering memories, good and bad...Seeing my children hurting and growing up through the hurt. ...Sending son back to war...and the others back to the routine of everyday living when it's all but routine somehow...And remembering those moms who can't wake up at three in the morning and "chat" with sons continents away because their sons are no longer... "Please God, I can't do this...THIS! This pain of head AND heart."
     Sometimes life makes us weak and fragile--I don't like this "fragile." It seems so silly and strange that fever and headache is what brings me to the floor considering the last few weeks. I want to be strong--invincible and non-compromising. I want to stand tall as overcomer. And as mother, I want to hold my fledgelings all safe and warm in the nest, though--as fledgelings grow--they want to fly.
     So tonight, a headache is the wind that breaks this tender reed. "Please God, I can't do this..." And I seek solace in His Word and the words of others who love Him too. Earlier tonight, I put aside "blog assignments" because I couldn't feel less like taking risks...I want to hold all things precious and dear close to me. So in these twilight hours, in the midst of headache and tears, words invade and station themselves in heart.

      "Let Your love, God, shape my life with salvation, exactly as You promised; Then I'll be able to stand up to mockery because I trusted your Word. Don't ever deprive me of truth, not ever--Your commandments are what I depend on. 
      Oh I'll guard with my life what You've revealed to me, guard it now, guard it ever; And I'll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for Your truth and Your wisdom..." - Psalm 119:41-45 The Message
      I reflect on the last few weeks and I realize that though I want to hold them close and protect them, my children are sometimes so much stronger than me as they take each step forward into life--not backward. I was too...until life AND death stopped me in my tracks and threw me behind old walls built of should'ves, could'ves, wishes, and why's. And my heart longs for those words, "I'll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for Your truth and Your wisdom..." Another translations says, "I will walk about in freedom..." I want that--to walk about in freedom. That's the risk I want to take. I can remain "safe" (though not really) and hide behind these old fortress walls but I want the wide open spaces where grace is the air I breathe. I want to be brave enough and courageous enough to guard with my life what He has already shown me...what He has yet to reveal.
     I visited an old friend this past week, frustrated because I needed his guidance and wisdom more than I wanted to admit. But his guidance has brought me a long way on my own journey. Why should I question or hesitate to receive it as I walk through this "complicated grief." I know that even now, I have to tear down these walls brick by brick. On my own, I would give up all too easily. Maybe the cause for which I strive will spur me on. And this time, maybe I won't fight against those who fight for me.
      A blog-friend's words struck me as I found that "distraction" I was so desperately seeking: "To that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave." (p. 22, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are , Ann Voskamp). 
      So a risk worth taking is this pursuit of the freedom I have fought so long and so hard to gain. We sometimes take it too much for granted, but it truly IS a risk to walk in freedom rather than remaining confined behind by old hurts and regrets--walls we ironically consider safe. This present hurt doesn't have to undo what God has already done in me. It can shape me--even be my salvation...Don't we grow stronger in the broken places? So forward I go to the God whom I so endlessly crave to guard His truth in me with my own life.
      "...And I'll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for Your truth and Your wisdom; Then I'll tell the world what I find, speak out boldly in public, unembarrassed. I cherish Your commandments--oh, how I love them!--relishing every fragment of Your counsel.
      Remember what You said to me, Your servant--I hang on to these words for dear life! These words hold me up in bad times; yes, Your promises rejuvenate me." - Psalm 119:45-50 The Message

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Birds have nests, foxes have dens but the hope of the whole world rests on the shoulders of a homeless man...You had the shoulders of a homeless man. And the world can't stand what it can't own, and it can't own You 'cause You did not have a home..."    
--Rich Mullins, "You Did Not Have a Home," 1998 Liturgy Legacy Music/Word Music ASCAP

      We were asked, "How can you help people succeed?" My first thought is that someone else's success is not up to me...And it isn't, but I believe that the greatest gift we can give is "what we give to another's soul" (in the words of Chad). I can't do much on my own but God can use me to encourage and empower others. So if I wrapped that gift up and tied it with a bow, what would it look like?
     First, I have to determine what "success" really is. The dictionary says it means "to thrive, prosper, accomplish what is attempted or intended." The world often measures success by our bank accounts, the size of our houses or cars, the pedigree at the end of our name,or even our beauty or physical appearance. Yet God measures by a different standard. When Samuel was to anoint a king, God said to him, "Do not look at his appearance or the height of his stature, for I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:6-8 NASB)
     God measures "success" by the size of our hearts. He doesn't require wealth, beauty, talent, or degrees in order to give us a purpose. I reach out to women who have been wounded and scarred by the circumstances of life, many who think their lives have failed because of their circumstances. Sometimes it's as if they think their lives are over before they have even started. Lofty goals of the world view wealth, position, degrees and beauty seem unattainable and impossible. Life has dealt them a raw hand, and they often come in believing they are worthless because they see themselves from the outside looking in rather than from the inside out. And it's true...Success--by the world's standard--doesn't often come their way. But God says ALL things are possible through HIm. And He calls me to be an see others as He sees them and love as He loves. And to love them is to give them my best--the only thing I have to offer: Jesus. 
     The first thing I can do is to tell them His story. He was nothing in the eyes of the world. He had no home, no money, no pedigree...He was hated and rejected by the world, denied by those who had sworn allegiance. He died the death of the worst criminal yet He changed the world for eternity. Because of Him and WITH Him, each one of us can change the world.
     Next, I can tell them my story and live out by example the grace Christ has so freely given me. There is hope and strength in knowing that we don't walk alone..that another has walked this way before, who knows the pitfalls, and has overcome the mountains that stand in the way. "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. . . A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer. Three are even better for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12 NLT)
     Finally, I can encourage, motivate, build up, and empower others by drawing them nearer to Christ and encircling them with the support of those who know and understand their hearts and their hurts. I can be real and present in their lives--not living life or directing it for them but pointing them to Christ by speaking truth and love amid all the excuses and lies. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:23-25 NIV)
     I can't do the work for another. I don't have a magic formula for success. All I can do is give them what I have--what is most precious to me. And all I have to give is Jesus. As they begin to know Him, they become like Him...And that is where real success begins.
It was said this man was of no reputation, yet He could stop the rising storm with a gesture of His hand. But He chose to use His hands to heal hearts of darkness, hearts of stone--just like mine would be revealed.

He was a man of no reputation and by the wise, considered a fool when He spoke about faith and forgiveness in a time when the strongest arms ruled. But this man of no reputation loved the weak with relentless affection, and He loved all those poor in spirit just as they were.

He was a man of no reputation. It was said this man brought only confusion that He'd achieve His ends by any means and the truth that it brings revolution. And for once they were right--the truth set us free. The hearts of the captive were His only concern and the powerful knew their days were ending. 

He was a man of no reputation and by the wise, considered a fool when He spoke about faith and forgiveness in a time when the strongest arms ruled. But this man of no reputation loved the weak with relentless affection, and He loved all those poor in spirit just as they were. He was a man of no reputation.

One day soon the gates of heaven will open wide, and the Prince of Peace will come back for His bride. But for now we live on these streets forbidding and tough, where push always comes to shove and it's said love's never enough, where a prophet in rags gives hope to a fearful world. No injustice, no heart of darkness will keep this voice from being heard.

He was a man of no reputation and by the wise, considered a fool when He spoke about faith and forgiveness in a time when the strongest arms ruled. But this man of no reputation loves us all with relentless affection, and He loves all those poor in spirit. Come as you are to the Man of no reputation.

--Rick Elias, "Man of No Reputation," 1998

Saturday, February 5, 2011


 It wasn't supposed to be this way...Almost 30 years ago on Valentines Day, we said, "I do" as two became one. We thought we would be together forever. You had dreams of "Bennett Kingdom"--you the king and me your queen... Life and circumstance and years later, here I am today. You aren't. It wasn't supposed to be this way. 
     Nine months and two days later after that first Valentine's Day, we weren't just lovers, we were parents. Too soon but yet not soon enough...Only you would understand that. I remember your giggle so very well when our first was born. You wanted a boy so much but when the doctor said, "It's a girl" you giggled like a kid and couldn't stop. You wouldn't change a thing. She had you at "hello" and you were wrapped around her tiny little finger for life. A brand new dimension was added to your life...DAD. 
     One more year and you had your first son. You were so proud--you strutted like a peacock. As I lay in recovery, we chose his name. (I was so desperately trying to keep you from naming him after that dirty old movie cowboy!) And you liked the sound of it: Michael Paul. "It's a strong name for a Bennett son," you said, and you especially liked having your own "Mikey."
     A little over three years later, our first redhead! What a surprise! Phillip Andrew--another fine name for a Bennett boy. But they had to stick him with all too many needles. You couldn't even be in the same room...We were getting the hang of this parent-thing though...
     Then on Father's Day, we got that ominous phone call. Your dad was in the hospital. A seizure...a shadow...brain tumor...cancer.  It wasn't supposed to be this way.
     Life changed for us in so many ways--this caring for a parent. We grew up. Over a year later, John Elias came along. Remember, Jessica P. was there with you and you were so excited that you got to be the one to measure him...and she got to hold him. When she got in trouble from her Dr. Dad, you said you told her it was ok. 
      Another 18 months and cancer took your dad from us as death became reality. You faced then the same responsibilities that our oldest son now faces...It wasn't supposed to be this way. He is so young--you were too back then I guess. I was pregnant yet again and sang that day during contractions--acapella no less! That next day after Arnett's service was our first family brunch--a time when we just concentrated on being a family and enjoying each other. Contractions stopped for a few hours. It was a precious quiet day frozen in time...until I went in labor with Zachary. But he was our healing wings, I think--our recognition that life goes on and your dad lived on in you and even in our children. 
     We thought our family was finished but one by one, a parade of kids came into our home and into our lives over the years--our "adopted" kids...Marian, Stephanie, Blake, Shane, Liana, Sara, Jake, Dusty S., Dayna, Josh, Jonathan, Aaron, Jacob and little Brittany M...You had a way of making each and every one family over the years..."Once a Bennett, always a Bennett," you have said so many times. I can't even count these "adopted" on both my hands now.
    Life happened...Children became teenagers and then adults...Over the years we faced circumstances we never imagined and somewhere along the way we quit trying with each other. Words were said that couldn't be taken back and acts were done that couldn't be undone over the years. Anger, resentment, fatal wounds and unforgiveness. We were both dying inside. I sometimes wonder if it would have been different if I had dealt with my depression before we gave up...What I could have or should have done before we went separate ways.  But instead, life got so serious and the one became two again...It wasn't supposed to be this way.
     But though we were no longer husband and wife, we vowed we would always be mom and dad. We never wanted our kids to have to choose between us like so many others. We didn't do it perfectly but we were getting it. I've been told we were better apart than we ever were together. But it wasn't supposed to be THIS way. Only the dad could truly know and understand those heart-stopping moments the mom endures--a mix of love, pride, and fear--as children became grown-up or go through the vicissitudes of life...As our oldest son became a man, a Marine, and a husband all at once. When we sent the next off to college and independence. And worried over his wrecks. When we watched our daughter make her own decisions--California and back again. You stood ground when other men stole her joy... Only you could understand that hurt in my heart and the joy as the next two boys became men and Marines--the hurt of letting go and the joy in knowing that they were genuinely GOOD men. And only you could understand the hurt in my mom-heart when we heard a bomb exploded and Mikey was injured. Only you could know the joy and relief as each son has come home in their own turn from Iraq and now Afghanistan. Only you know these things because you went through every struggle and every pain of parenthood and their growing up with me. You understood what I, the Mom, can't put into words. 
    We did a pretty good job with our kids, I think, in spite of it all. In the last week, I've seen each one rise in his or her own strengths as circumstance required and I've seen them pull together as family--one unit. Phillip, you and I--we've had some really hard times but we've had some of the best times ever in the last few years with our kids. I never thought I would have to be mom alone. It wasn't supposed to be this way. 
     Today is the day we have to say goodbye to you. Today is the last time I sing for you...How many hours have we spent in years past with me at the piano as you listened? How many times did I make you choose my "special" when I couldn't decide? I'm not ready for today. I'm not ready to say good-bye like this. It wasn't supposed to be this way...
     But I know God is faithful to watch over our children and to watch over me--to be the big God of the universe that you so loved. I keep remembering those rare but precious times when we talked about faith and scripture. You got excited sometimes thinking about those word pictures. You loved the thought of the resurrection--the grave bursting open as death gave way to victory. You loved the idea of angel choirs singing--God's holy surround sound, "Worthy is the Lamb!" You loved the thought that no matter how weak we are here, we would one day rise on eagle's wings as He becomes our forever strength...And all that we couldn't understand here will be made known and faith will truly become sight. But it wasn't supposed to be this way...This isn't how I imagined it. You aren't here and we have to find a way to go on. But I know that one day we will also rise on eagle's wings....So no goodbye for now...Just "So long...until we meet again."

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. - 
Isaiah 40:28-31