Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Monday morning I wake up at 3:50 a.m. for a bathroom pit stop (seems to be mandatory at this stage of my life) and after laying back down realize I'm not going back to sleep. My mind is thin king about the day ahead and I realize this is a day I need to get behind me, even though it is going to be difficult.

For many years now we have spend the last week of the year at Bethany Beach and brought in the New Year with our very dear and very close friends from that place. Friends we have known for our entire married life. We raised our families together at Bethany which became this wonderful extended family for ourselves and our children. On Monday I was going to make the trip on my own and I was not looking forward to it.

So I got out of bed and was in the car at 5:00 a.m., having texted an apology to Julie Ann who I was going to meet for breakfast around 8:30 a.m., knowing I would be getting close to Madison by that time and should giving myself a good chance to have little problem with Chicago city traffic. The drive itself was uneventful and it was only after I pulled off the freeway and made my way into Bethany that it hit me will full force:
  • Here is the place that Jan started coming to when she was just a child of 2 or 3 years.
  • The Aiton family's little red cottage is where she lived during the summer and where she thrived as a child.
  • It was here that I first came with Jan in the summer of 1963 as I would be working for her father prior to our marriage in August.
  • It was here that we would bring our kids every summer so that they could have the kind of "growing up" experience that Jan had treasured so deeply.
  • Now here I was driving into this place for the first time without Jan being with me and going to our house alone.
  • I pulled into the driveway and sat there for a bit trying to think of any reason not to go inside.
  • Here was my problem: Jan could not imagine doing life without Bethany Beach as part of the equation. I was sitting in the car trying to imagine how I would be able to do Bethany Beach without Jan as part of the equation.

In so many ways Bethany had become the place where Jan was able to most fully express her personality and gifts. It was here that she strongly believed was the finest place in the world to raise children during the summer season. It was here that close friends provided an extended family and many sets of parenting and grandparenting eyes and arms loving your children. It was here she could walk the streets and know the history of each household and "family tree" connections of everyone. It was here that her ability on the piano and organ were maximized to the fullest in the Sunday services in the tabernacle and where for years she worked on the committee planning the worship services. It was here she could go to the beach and enjoy on beautiful sand beach of southern Michigan and the shores of Lake Michigan. It was here....I could go on for pages...that Jan could package all the best elements of life and revel in what she was experiencing. Bethany Beach was for Jan a "bit of heaven" and I suspect she felt that God was saying "walk around this place and you will have an idea of what the next life is like."

So now she is experiencing that next life and I know it is wonderful and good and blessed. And I continue to experience this life and I know it too is wonderful and good and blessed. It's just that here at Bethany I am trying to understand how to make it all happen without her. I look outside and the skies are blue and the sun is shining, it is a beautiful day. BUT!

BUT: I am maudlin and blue in a sad kind of way and what I see are trees without leaves, grass that is not green, flower beds without color, streets that are mostly empty. I read Psalm 23:4 which says "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" and that is what I see: the shadow of death. I am afraid that this will be a week to live in the shadows and slog through what has normally been one of the happiest weeks of the year.

YET: I know Who is my Shepherd and I know He will bring me to "green pastures" and He will lead me to "quiet waters" and He will "restore my soul" and He is the one who gives me comfort.

Monday, December 20, 2010


It's Monday morning Lord, and I have just spent some time staring at one of my screen saver pictures. They came installed with the computer and they rotate through every day, so I have looked at them over and over again. There should be nothing new in what I see.

When I booted up the computer this morning, I found myself looking at that beautiful picture of a lake with mountains in the background and big chunks of ice on the shore of the lake. I just assume the picture was taken in Alaska and the ice chunks are from a glacier. I really like the picture.

However, this morning my eyes were not drawn to the lake, or the mountains, or the ice chunks; as is usually the case. This morning my eyes were immediately drawn to the sun which was shining over the top of the mountain. I know the sun has always been part of the picture, but somehow I either of never noticed it before or have not paid attention to it.

This morning it was blazing with a brightness that made me wonder how I could have missed it or how is it that it was not the first thing I noticed each time I looked at that picture. It was right there in front of me like a beautiful gift blazing light and warmth and joy into the sadness of my heart that was so heavy this weekend.

I think it was Your gift to me. It was You who cast my eyes toward the sun. It was You who made that sun shine so brightly that I could not miss it. It was You who was sayng "not only is there light at the end of the tunnel; there is light right now". It was You who was saying "Christmas is not just a time of joy for others; it will be a time of joy for you John". It was You who was saying "you may feel like you are swimming in glacially cold water John, but get on the beach and let the sun fill you with warmth".

All I can say is THANK YOU! You know just how much I needed to see the sun. I needed to reflect with joy on last evening and time with my family. I needed to relish the wonder of grandchildren giving me a big hug and telling me how much they love me. I needed to be with my children and extended was a great evening...and...the sun was shining.

You know that this morning I needed not only to look at the sun, but I needed to look to the Son. I need to focus on the one who is the Light of the world. The Light that shines in darkness. I thank You for the gift of sunshine and most of all the gift of Your Son. He is my light and my salvation and the Joy of my Christmas. Thank You Lord...Amen

Saturday, December 18, 2010


My dearest Jan,

I lost it today...big time. It started at the store as I was looking for Christmas card and there staring at me was one that simply said "Happy Birthday Jesus". I haven't played that song yet, even though I know it was one you loved so much to hear this time of the year. What it did was bring a lump to my throat as I thought of you.

As I pulled into the garage at home is when I really lost. Remember how we used to sit in the car sometimes and listen to the end of a book on tape before going inside? I had gotten a book on tape on Tuesday when I drove up to Grand Rapids to see my sisters and today as I came home from the store I was getting to the very end, so I left the car idling and listened for a few minutes in the car.

The story involved a letter not to be delivered by the local postmistress to the writers wife, unless the postmistress received word that the writer had been killed while serving in London as a doctor during World War II. The word of his death came by way of telegram one day to the post office and so the postmistress sadly went over to deliver the telegram and the letter that she had been holding for several months.

The letter began this way: "My dearest Emma. If you are reading this letter it means that I have died in England and the hand that holds the pen with which to write you, will never again hold your hand. That thought is almost more than I can bear to consider..."

That's when I lost it. Right there in the car. Sitting in the garage. Once they started they were like a river and I could not stop them. After a few minutes I found myself putting the car into reverse and backing out of the garage. I found myself driving toward Sunset Cemetery where I parked on the street parallel to your grave.

That's when I lost it again. Big time. There is too much snow to walk up the hill to stand beside you, so I sat in the car and cried and actually talked to you. I was feeling very alone. I was feeling very lonely. I was feeling cast adrift. I was unprepared to go home and start wrapping Christmas presents without you making out the labels. I didn't want to make the fruit salad to bring to our Sunday School class party tonight. I couldn't bring myself to think "Merry" Christmas. I was missing you something fierce as once again I thought about life without you as a central part of the equation.

And now I am losing it again. I guess it is a day for tears. I simply want to say: "My dearest Jan. I write this with a heavy heart knowing that the fingers typing this letter will never again entwine themselves with yours as we hold hands. I realize that "lonely" and "alone" and not just words to me, they are a stark reality, and not even my family and friends can fill the spot reserved for you all these years. That is truly almost more than I can bear to consider on this day and during this season of the year. I love you honey, very, very much!"

But here's the deal:
  • I am going to wrap those presents.
  • I am going to make that fruit salad.
  • I am going to attend the party tonight.
  • I am going to celebrate a Merry Christmas a few days early tomorrow night with our kids. I am going to try and bring both my joy and your joy to these events.
  • I am going to give the grandkids extra hugs from both of us.
  • I am going to help our kids enjoy this time to the best of my ability.
  • I am going to do that because I love you.
  • I am going to do that because you are right.

The true spirit of Christmas is "Happy Birthday Jesus"!!!

As a family we need to be singing that in our hearts. I'll think of you every time the words come to my mind. I love you. John

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Morning Conversation--Dec. 12, 2010

It's Monday morning Lord and the word that comes to mind is "WOW"!
  • WOW...18 inches of new snow on the ground.
  • WOW...that snow makes for a beautiful scene.
  • WOW...the Metrodome roof collapsed and will cost big money to repair.
  • WOW...A Scandinavian Christmas done by the Minnesota Orchestra last night was great. hit me last night like a ton of bricks during a beautiful rendition of "I'll be Home for Christmas." It was the line "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams". Jan won't be home for Christmas except in our dreams and in our thoughts and in our conversations.

WOW...Christmas was a "really big deal" to her and I loved coming along for the ride.

  • It was a big deal to decorate the house.
  • It was a big deal to buy all the gifts.
  • It was a big deal to plan the parties and the smorgasbords.
  • It was a big deal to play the Swedish Christmas music all day long.
  • It was a big deal to listen to "Happy Birthday Jesus" a few times.
  • It was a big deal and I am missing all of that something awful.

WOW...the audience sang a medley of Christmas songs together last night. I can now say that I have "sung with the Minnesota Orchestra" and I really sounded good! That was the second time I almost lost it when during O Come, All Ye Faithful we sang "Sing, choirs of angels, Sing in exultation, Sing, all ye citizens of heav'n above, Glory to God in the highest".

I don't know who all sings in the "choir of angels", but Jan is now one of "ye citizens of heav'n above". She had a beautiful low alto voice, but often she liked to sing soprano during a sing along (she sounded better as an alto than a soprano), but she would belt it out pretty good. I had an empty seat next to me, but my left arm was on the pile of coats in that seat most of the night, as we would have been holding hands had she been there. I had this rather vivid image in my head of a voice in that "heavenly choir" joining us last night and she sounded wonderful.'s Christmas and there is music in the air.

  • Joy to the world!
  • The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.
  • Glory to the newborn king.
  • Silent night. Holy night. All is calm, all is bright.
  • O come, let us adore Him.


Monday, December 6, 2010


It's Monday morning Lord and I'm thinking about myself...yes that's right...myself.

I thought it would be easy to focus on what we had together and not fret about what will never be.

But I am finding that is easier said than done and

I've had a difficult week because I have in fact been fretting:

  • I decorated the house for Christmas, but it doesn't look the same. I'm not able to give it the same touch that Jan would have done.

  • I chose not to put up the big tree this year and now the house only looks "half decorated", which bothers me a bit, but also seems fitting as only "half" is here this year.

  • The bright spot is that the grandkids decorated the tree in the lower level and that gives me a lot of joy.

  • I had to go to the cemetery this week for some final paper work and that was a real bummer.

  • I went to the Festival of Christmas smorgasbord on Saturday and had to leave and go home before the concert started.

  • I did not really know what to say when people asked "How are you doing?" Should I be honest and say "not very good" or should I put up a good front and say "I am doing okay"?

  • Bottom line is I was there without my spouse at what was one of our favorite Christmas activities and I was not doing very good.

So now it's Monday morning and I'm asking you for help to get my focus off myself and focus on the good things I will be doing this week. I know Lord that you are acquainted with grief and the need for sorrow. I know that you are the God who walks with me and lives with me in the present moment. I know that you are my Immanuel, the God who is with me. I am trusting you to be with me this week.

I look forward to living this week with YOU by my side...Amen.