Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The story behind the drawing.....

An aspect of the grieving process that people might not think about until they experience it is that you lose different things, according to the various roles that the person played in your life. Besides missing my son, I miss the buddy who went to conferences with me. Duane and I went to several prophetic conferences at MorningStar Ministries in Charlotte, NC (they have since moved to Fort Mill, SC). The first couple of times I went to a MorningStar conference after Duane departed (I rarely use the word “die” because he didn’t die, he left us and went to his home in Heaven), I cried like a baby because he wasn’t there with me. As much as I loved being there, and I was with other friends, it just wasn’t the same.

You might be wondering what a “prophetic conference” is. What I mean by “prophetic” involves how God speaks to people today, and how we can hear what He wants to say to others. Some people believe that God doesn’t do that anymore - that He wrote the Bible and that’s all we need. That’s like saying I’ll write you, my friend or family member, a big long letter saying everything I ever want to say to you, and then I won’t have to talk to you anymore. Does that make any sense? Of course not! God wants to talk to us all the time. Well, really, God is speaking all the time - we just don’t hear him, or we don’t recognize His voice.

Some ways He speaks are through impressions that we get, through fleeting thoughts that come “out of nowhere,” through nature, art, music - well, He can speak through anyone or anything He wants. We saw that He was restoring art to His church. During worship at MorningStar, artists were encouraged to draw whatever impressions they received. Duane often had his sketch book with him, drawing during worship. He did it during our own church services, too. At MorningStar, they would have easels set up, up front, and artists would create drawings as the people worshiped. (You can find MorningStar worship videos on You Tube - Duane’s reaction to MorningStar worship was, “Now that’s church!” Their worship bands are mostly all young people and they play all music styles. They could compete with any contemporary band there is.)

While seated at one conference, Duane drew an image that came to him. As I recall, a man sitting near him saw the drawing and was visibly moved by it, so Duane gave it to him. It spoke to him. The only thing I remember is that part of it was a figure like a human embryo inside of a teardrop. One time during worship at our church, a man and his wife were sharing about friends of theirs who were missionaries in Africa, and about the difficulties they were experiencing. Duane drew what he “saw” inside and it was parched, dry, cracked ground like when there is a famine or drought but to one side was tall grain, like wheat, and in the distance there were thunderclouds. He also wrote something on the back. Duane gave the drawing to the couple, who sent it to their friends in Africa, and they said that God had spoken to them through Duane’s drawing and words.

While at another MorningStar conference, one of Duane’s friends told him a story. He told him about an experience he had where he had experimented with a drug (my memory is that it was only marijuana, although I know that pretty much everyone says there is no harm in that) and he had a bad reaction to it, whatever it was. He was frightened, and afraid to tell his parents about it because he thought he would be in big trouble. So he went to bed, crying out to God for help. He told Duane that suddenly his pillow became like God’s chest and his blankets became like God’s arms wrapped around him, and he felt the love of God like he never had before. Duane immediately said, “I have to go get my sketch book!” And he drew the image that had come to his spirit as he listened to his friend. And that’s the story behind the drawing I call “Safe In Our Heavenly Father’s Arms.”

“The Eternal God is your refuge, and underneath
are the everlasting arms.” Deut. 33:27

Thursday, August 19, 2010

God good.....

Did you ever work on a project late at night, right up until bedtime, and then continue working on it during your sleep? That’s what happened to me the other night…the night that I was up late posting my last entry. So now I have to begin this day’s post with the end of the last one.
"You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well…..You saw my body as it was formed. All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old." Psalm 139:13, 14, 16. (NCV)
Because that last verse says that all the days planned for us were written in God’s book, some people believe that whenever a person dies, they have completed all their days written by God and that they then died according to God’s plan. I don’t believe that. I believe that there are untimely deaths, and every day, people die without having lived out God’s plan for them. Duane's departure was untimely.  I think if a life was lived out the way God planned it, it would be a good, long, full life, and when the person had accomplished all that God had written in His book, he or she would just go to sleep and wake up in Heaven. That’s how I think God would plan our deaths. That would be called dying from “natural causes.”

I’m not saying this to start a debate. I am simply sharing how I look at it. No one will ever convince me that God intends for people to die at the hands of others, as in murder or war (though in this world, war is sometimes necessary), or for them to take their own lives in suicide, or to die in plane crashes or auto accidents or from horrible diseases. All these things happen because we live in a fallen world and the being inside the serpent who deceived man and brought about this fall is still alive and well on planet earth, and people make bad choices and bad decisions. One of the things that "drives me nuts" is to have someone tell a small child when their Mommy or Daddy or sister or brother dies that it happened because God needed them in Heaven. What kind of Father would do that? If an earthly father wouldn’t take away a child’s parent, then most certainly our Heavenly Father wouldn’t! I think people say that because they don’t know what else to say, and they want to say something; they want to offer some sort of explanation. They might just better say that in life, bad things happen. But God. That’s one of my favorite phrases in the Bible. But God will take all things, including the bad things, and work them together for the good of those who love Him. He has done that for me in numerous ways.

In my first post, I mentioned that I originally thought of writing a book because my experience was so different from that of the author of a book I was reading. The author had also experienced the death of her son through an automobile accident, and she went through a period of being very angry at God. I never went through that. I never for one instant thought that God had anything at all to do with it. Jesus said that the devil is the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy, but that He, Jesus, came that we might have life, and abundant life, at that. I happen to believe Him. I don’t blame God, I blame the devil. And I intend to live my life in such a way that the devil will be sorry that he ever messed with me. How? By loving people and doing all I can to undo the damage that he has done in their lives. That’s called advancing the Kingdom of God and destroying the works of the devil. Just like Jesus. (If I knew how, I would *insert smiley face* here.)

I have a very simple theology that I call “Theology 101.” Actually, I’m pretty sure I heard one of my favorite author/speakers, Bill Johnson, say it. It goes like this: “God good, devil bad.” If it’s good, it’s from God. If it’s bad, it’s from the devil. Here are a couple of Duane’s drawings that I think illustrate my theology.

You’ll have to take my word for it that this one represents Father God (Papa) holding one of his children (no age limit on that) in His arms. I will tell you the story of how Duane came to draw that one another time.

"The Eternal God is your refuge, and underneath
are the everlasting arms."  Deut. 33:27

Duane didn’t title this one, and he never talked to me about it, but to me, it looks like the effects of the devil in a person’s life.

"He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning...there is no truth in him...he is a liar and the father of lies."  John 8:44

So, think of these two drawings, and remember…………

God good,

Devil bad.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

An artist is born....

Our three sons were all different from each other, and I suspect that no matter how many children there are in a family, there are probably no two alike, unless there are identical twins, and I think even they probably have differences. Our firstborn was quiet and one of those rare naturally compliant children (I'm sure he takes after his mama!). For parental wisdom with our second son, I purchased Dr. James Dobson’s book, “The Strong-Willed Child.” (Thinking of my last post about family resemblances, I just ordered the updated version of that book to refresh my memory now that “number two” son has a son with a very similar personality!) You know, I don’t know why, but I can’t put my finger on a specific reason that Duane was so different from the other two. I just know he was.

 But, there were several areas in which they were very much alike. None liked cleaning their room. (Actually, you could barely see their carpet.) None of them particularly liked school. (OK, school was horrible for at least two of them. They just wanted to get through it. Is that a “boy thing?” I liked school and always had to excel, not just pass….had to be #1.) They all were fun-loving, and the three of them together was quite a treat! I thought they’d make a great team for a disk jockey business. And they are all artists. All three began drawing at an early age. Chris studied art in college, he created many highly detailed drawings (especially of automobiles) and now he applies his talents in his construction business. Darren drew smiley stick figures on every wall in the house when he was first learning to draw, as an adult he applied his artistic bent in the study of taxidermy, and now it shows up in his perfectly laid out plumbing projects. He also has writing skills, and I suspect he would excel in drama, too. He has this incredible ability to memorize complicated lyrics effortlessly, including songs like Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

 Of course, now that I want to quote something from it, I can’t find Duane’s story book/journal that he wrote at the end of eighth grade. I think he wrote about the coloring contest that he entered at Highlights for Children when I worked there, and that he said that’s when he knew that he loved art. He was three or four years old at the time. I will come across that journal when I am not looking for it. That’s the way it works, right?
I just recently noticed how Duane was “cutting up” in nearly all of the photos I took of him. When Mike and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a family dinner at the Western Hotel in Callicoon, NY, we had a nice photo of the five of us taken. There was Duane in the front with his eyes wide open and crossed as far as he could cross them.
That was an indication of the comedian in him, and if you saw him in “Clockwork,” his acting debut at Hancock Central School, you know how funny he was. He was in the tenth grade, and although he didn’t have a starring role, he made himself the center of attention in his role as Monroe Dunwoody, the family drunk. Here he is, making his grand entrance, bottle in hand, on his way from the door to the floor! I obtained a copy of that play on a VCR tape from the school, and a great friend transferred it to DVD for me. What a treasure!

A former boss of mine used to say that every person is like a box of Cracker Jacks. Each has a prize inside and you just have to find it. Some prizes are more easily found than others. Sometimes the prize is right at the top of the box, but sometimes it’s buried in the bottom. Duane’s was pretty close to the top; he knew what it was when he entered that Highlights for Children coloring contest, and his first grade teachers mentioned his artistic abilities in a note they wrote to me. Throughout his school years, he was always doodling, no matter what class he was in. He had numerous sketch pads, all partially filled. Someone once asked him where he studied art, and was surprised to learn that his only formal training was high school art classes.

 Just as we inherit traits from our parents and other ancestors that cause us to resemble them, so we have things in our spiritual DNA that give us characteristics of our Heavenly Father, or “Papa,“ as I like to call Him. He fashions us and molds us. Papa put some of His creativity inside of Duane and those talents were used to bless people in various ways. I’ll share his art and talk more about that in days to come.

You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well…..You saw my body as it was formed. All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old. Psalm 139:13, 14, 16. (NCV)


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Family resemblances....

I spent a lot of time on the first post, about “the beginning.“ It took me several days, I thought about it a lot, and I wrote and rewrote. This one just sort of popped into my head. Several days ago, one of my Facebook friends posted that she was going through old photos, and I commented that I was doing the same thing that day. She asked if it pulled at my heart strings. I responded with some words about the “tangled ball of emotions.” For a while, I didn’t want to look at pictures of Duane. I guess it was easier not to. At first, I actually felt anger when I looked at them. Anger at whom? No one in particular. Just anger in general. Sometimes now, I just look at them quickly, as in turning pages of old albums, and do not let myself linger over them. Sometimes I do spend a lot of time looking at them. Overall, I am so thankful for all the photos I took. They bring back precious memories, not only of Duane, but of so many friends and family members. Our sons like to tease me about always having a camera with me - “Oh, no, here comes Mom with her camera!” My dad was the same way, and his mother before him. So I come by my love of photography very naturally. My sister, too. It’s a family thing. Photos help us keep the memories with us forever. And they help us see family resemblances that we might not otherwise notice or think about much. I very seldom see resemblance to the mother or father in a newborn baby. It has to be an uncanny resemblance for me to notice it. But in looking at photos, I think our oldest grandson looks like Duane did when he was the same age. But then I can see his daddy in him too. I put their pictures next to each other and think they look alike, but others don’t see it. Maybe I just want to see Duane in other family members, so I can see him in a living, moving body and not just in my memories or my imaginations of heaven. But even if in photos they don’t look exactly like the same person, at the very least there’s a family resemblance. And our granddaughter agrees with me - she thinks pictures of her Uncle Duane are her brother.

May our sons flourish in their youth like well-nurtured plants. Psalm 144.12.

Last thought for today on family resemblance: Those of us who say we are part of the family of God should resemble our Papa God and our big brother Jesus.

“….and he decided that they would be like his Son so that
Jesus would be the firstborn of many brothers. Romans 8: 29b (NCV)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The beginning......

The first time I thought of writing about Duane was in April, 2003 when my niece gave me a book called “A Season of Grief….a comforting companion for difficult days,” by Ann Dawson. I was thankful for her gift, and as I read it, I realized that my experience was, in some ways, very different from the author’s, and I thought to myself, “I should write my own book.”

Over these seven years, I have added many books dealing with grief and heaven to my already crowded book shelves. I also began to collect memories of Duane from friends and family, every chance I could get. With all of my reading books and memories of friends, the idea of writing a tribute to Duane kept growing.  Maybe I should make it a collection of lots of people’s memories - something that all his friends and family would enjoy reading and something that would bring joy. Duane was….no, Duane is all about being happy and bringing joy. So I think he likes this idea.

I’ve talked to a few people about it, decided a good way to start was with a blog, and still just kept thinking about it. I kept putting it off because I just didn’t know how or where to start. So, okay, I’ll just start…..at the beginning.

Duane was born in Midland, Texas on January 22, 1983. We lived in Midland because the economy was in very bad shape in the northeast and Mike and I had both lost our jobs within the same week. There we were, two kids and no income. We had just built a new house, and rather than lose it, we put it on the market and sold it. (Unlike today, when everyone seems to think someone should “bail them out.”) My parents gave us a piece of land and we put a used mobile home on it. I found a job in Hancock, at the school. (It was my favorite job up to that point, but the worst paying one I’d ever had!)

We had friends who had moved to Midland and they said things were good there, so during the summer of 1980, we decided to drive down there and see for ourselves. We planned to go for two weeks. What we found there was like a different world than the one we had left in northeastern Pennsylvania. There were jobs, jobs, jobs everywhere. The economic problems were non-existent there. It was booming. Mike went to work at the same plumbing place where our friend worked. Immediately. So he worked for the two-week “vacation” and we drove back to Pennsylvania. Because he had a job there, Mike returned by bus to Texas and I stayed in Pennsylvania with our two sons, Christopher and Darren. Several weeks later, the kids and I returned to Texas with another family member who wanted to check out the job situation there. The boys started school in Midland, I went to work as a secretary for an allergist and Mike continued his plumbing job. We found a little two-bedroom house up the street from our friends who had already moved there. It wasn’t the best, but it didn't cost a lot of money.

I loved Texas. I felt like I was born to be there. Maybe it’s because my grandmother (my father’s mother) was from Texas. My Swedish Grandpa Joe Lind was in the army stationed in Texas. He met Bertie in El Paso, married her and eventually brought her to Pennsylvania (via Long Island). I think I have something in my genes from Grandma Bertie that makes me like the southwest.

So it was that we lived in Midland, Texas when Duane was born, at Midland Memorial Hospital. We were both 36 in 1982. We thought our family was complete, Mike and I and two sons, Christopher, 11, and Darren, 7. When I discovered that we were expecting again, I simply believed it was because God intended for this little surprise to be a big blessing. So Duane became our “little Texan.” Chris and Darren were thrilled to have a baby brother. They helped take care of him and were always nice big brothers. Until later. When he got older and they loved to tease him and play tricks on him. He actually wrote about some of the things they did to him in a book he wrote at the end of 8th grade, for a class project. Maybe I’ll share some of their tricks another day.

"Children are a gift from the LORD; babies are a reward." Psalm 127:3, NCV