A few years ago, right before Easter, my husband and I were on a flight from the East Coast to London to visit our daughter studying at Oxford. We were only twenty minutes into the flight when the right engine blew. There was first a deafening BOOM, and then we saw fire at the right engine outside our window. The smell of smoke started to fill the cabin. It. Was. Terrifying. There was an eerie silence on the plane. Except for one crying baby, everyone was completely still and quiet after the initial shock of the BOOM. My thoughts immediately went to our daughters as I prayed for our safety. The pilot’s calming voice spoke over us, saying we were turning around for an emergency landing. There was no flying over the ocean to drop fuel like you hear about. I think they wanted us to land quickly before the other shoe (or engine) dropped. The pilot warned us that fire trucks would be lining the runway, due to our full load of fuel, and the stress that would have on the brakes when we landed. Obviously we made it back safely . . . but not before this traveler’s heart focused a bit more on eternity. The next day the airline let us reroute our flight plans to Venice and we had Christie meet us there to keep our hotel reservations secure. We and our daughter flew to Venice from two different continents, landed in different airports, and took separate water taxis to the dock for our hotel. When I got off the boat, I scanned the crowd and immediately saw Christie’s blonde hair and smiling face in the crowd coming toward us. Her boat had arrived just moments before. I will never forget that joyful, tearful “hello” after many months apart and an engine failure on our journey to get to her. I wonder if it might be like that in heaven when I see loved ones who have gone before me. We’re told a thousand years here is like only a day in heaven. Perhaps it will seem as if it was “only yesterday” when we finally see each other again. Perhaps—even though she died four years ago—it will be as if my mother also just arrived and I catch a glimpse of her beautiful blue eyes in the crowd as she is running toward me. I am overwhelmed by the hope we…Read More
My dad has been a wonder seeker of God and His Word ever since I can remember. He prays like a poet with a mighty warrior’s heart. One early morning on a recent visit, he prayed: “Sometimes we can touch just the edges of the wonder of who You are and it leaves us staggered.” I want to be staggered by the wonder of our Father God! I have a favorite, old black-and-white photo of me with my dad when I was only three years old. We were at a wedding together where my dad, the minister, was officiating the wedding ceremony and I was the flower girl. All flower girls think the wedding day is all about them, so perhaps that is why I remember the day so vividly over fifty years later. I remember mama curling my hair, tying my shoes, folding down my lace socks. But what I remember most is the dress. The top portion was soft black velvet and the puffy skirt was scratchy, purple taffeta. I rediscovered this photo just a few years ago in an old box at my parents’ home. What struck me the most is the expression on my father’s face. He is literally gleaming into the camera with eyes sparkling and a big grin. I love how he’s holding me with his strong arm and big hand, almost like I am tucked under his protective care. And I like to imagine he is thinking, “This is my beloved daughter and she is precious to me.” I always think about the heart of our Father God while looking at this photo, now framed in my office. That’s easy for me to imagine because of how my dad fathered me, and the kind of loving father my husband has been to our girls. But I know that isn’t every woman’s story. Unfortunately many of my friends have heartbreaking father stories. The homes they grew up in were anything but safe, protective, kind, and good. For some, it’s hard to even imagine God as a good, good Father. And yet, those same friends have some of the most beautiful relationships with God as their Father that I have ever seen. It’s almost as if they never take for granted that He is good and that He loves them unconditionally. One of my favorite worship songs is called “Good Good Father,” written by singer-songwriters Pat Barrett and…Read More
I am stunned by the truth that God chose to dwell with us on this groaning earth. I don’t think any of us will ever fully grasp why He chose such pain and suffering this side of heaven . . . all for us! We read scriptures and sing songs about His “withness” at Christmas to the point of taking it for granted. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” . . . Isaiah 9:6 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”) . . . Matthew 1:23 God. WITH. Us. What would we have done if He hadn’t come for us? We just spent Christmas week with Rick’s parents in Nebraska. Dad Dunagan was in the hospital recovering from a hip fracture in the midst of Parkinson’s disease. It was heart wrenching to see our very active, independent, man’s man, patriarch of the Dunagan clan suddenly so weak in a hospital bed, fighting pneumonia. His beloved wife of sixty-two years, Roselan, rarely left his side. Her nearness brought him comfort and peace and was such a picture of the nearness of our God. And my husband—their second of four sons—also stayed close; sleeping several nights on a cot by his father’s hospital bed. All of his sons have been keeping a watchful eye over him. As I see these loved ones caring for the grandfather of my children, I can’t help but see Jesus in them. It is such a picture of His loving care for us. His “never leave us nor forsake us” presence, even if we aren’t aware that He is there. This was a different Christmas from the many joyful Dunagan holidays; typically filled with Norwegian lefse, laughter, and opening presents by the fireside. But I have to say the “broken hallelujah” of being with family in the midst of pain was just as beautiful, just as sacred. This year I’ve tried to read through a One Year Bible and stuck with it most days, except when February’s reading of Leviticus lost me. During this last week of 2016, I couldn’t help but linger in today’s reading of the first few verses of Revelation, chapter 21. This is our hope and our future! THIS is why He came for us . . . And I heard a loud…Read More
(Photo taken by my dear friend, Crystal Rings) I was born the day after Christmas at 4:00 a.m. on a snowy Colorado morning back in 1959, just six days shy of the sixties. As a little girl I always loved having an extra day after Christmas to celebrate with more presents in bright birthday wrapping and bows. By far one of my most memorable birthdays was when our little family moved to Brazil for my husband’s job in 1989 right before my 30th birthday. Our firstborn, Christie, was only three months old and I was struggling with missing family and not being “home” for our baby’s first Christmas and my 30th birthday. But then there was Colette! Colette had also just moved to Brazil with her husband and teenage daughter and she immediately embraced our little family as her own. She invited us to their home for Christmas and then took me on a shopping spree for my birthday the next day. Colette had the kindest, most gentle blue eyes I had ever seen and a smile that lit up the room. She was one of the bravest women I had ever met, moving to Brazil while battling MS and trying to get around on cobblestone streets in her wheelchair. The heat and humidity seemed to escalate her symptoms, making it harder for her to use her hands and arms. In the four years we lived near her in Brazil, I never heard her complain. Colette was at the hospital only moments after our Kelly was born in Brazil. She loved Kelly and Christie as if they were her grandchildren. She is the one who taught my girls to see the person and not their brokenness. Once when Christie was almost three and saw someone in a wheelchair in the airport, she asked, “Mama, do you think that lady will give me a ride on her wheelchair like Colette?” My little girl didn’t see the wheelchair . . . she only saw the person because of Colette. My life was forever impacted by this amazing woman who bravely journeyed through MS for more than 30 years. In December 2002, just a week before Christmas, I received a call from Colette’s family that she might not make it to Christmas. Hospice had been called and her daughter, Darci, said, “Come!” We drove from our Michigan home to Colette’s home in Ohio. I sat by her…Read More
I watched as hundreds of birds flew from behind a sun-tipped cloud. It was as though they had been waiting backstage behind the curtain, and came out to perform. They first seemed to be scrambling to find their places—like tiny ballerinas in the Nutcracker escaping from under the massive skirt. They quickly fell in line and formed a magnificent ribbon that spanned the sky as far as I could see—with their “stage” lit up by the brilliant orange and purple paint strokes of the sunrise. I threw back my head like a five-year-old watching them dance over me until they were tiny pinpoints in the distant sky. That early morning scene seemed to shout, “Judy, I see you!” as I began my weekend getaway with God in the Colorado mountains. My life had been hit with storms that included serious health issues for some of my loved ones and broken relationship issues with others. I was reeling, and knew I needed to seek His face like never before. My original plan was to get some answers about suffering as I sought His voice and heart through the Scriptures. I was wrestling with some deep questions and hoped to gain a better understanding about the “why” behind the pain. But God had different plans that weekend… Join me over at Katie M. Reid’s blog for the rest of this post on Lamenting Praise as part of the Listen Close, Listen Well Series.Read More
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? (Psalm 13:1-2) I love that we can wrestle with our God in prayer. When my mother battled Alzheimer’s for fifteen years there were many times that I cried out, “Why?” and “How long?” to God. It wasn’t until my mother’s funeral in 2013 that He answered my heart’s cry. While listening to my oldest daughter’s tribute to her grandmother, He showed me how much my mother’s story had forever impacted all of our lives. In honor of my mother today, on what would have been her 88th birthday, here’s Christie’s beautiful tribute to her grandmother. . . What I will remember most about my grandma is her unwavering love for her Savior. Anita lived first and foremost for her King; to honor Him, serve Him, and share His love with anyone who would listen. I believe that her love for the Lord was a quality so deeply a part of her spirit—her being—that it was the one thing that could not be erased as Alzheimer’s slowly stole her memories, independence, and mobility. The Lord called Anita from an early age, and she followed Him so faithfully until the day He called her home. What a tremendous legacy to leave her grandchild. I am convinced that if the Lord had asked thirteen-year-old Anita if she would be willing to endure Alzheimer’s later in life in order to teach all those she loved about His faithfulness, perfect love, and grace . . . she would have signed on the dotted line. Perhaps it would have gone something like this. . . Anita, would you be willing to lose your independence and competency one day in order to teach your husband how to love more perfectly? To show your grandchildren what such powerful love looks like? Yes Lord, even still. But would you be willing to lose the faces of those you love, including the many memories they inspire, in order to teach your girls what reliance on my grace and omnipotence looks like? Yes Lord, even still. Would you be willing to give up your love of singing in the church choir and playing the piano so beautifully in order to show hundreds of strangers my love, and share the truth of…Read More
Back in 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, according to alz.org. I assume this was long before he knew he would also battle the disease at the end of his life. In honor of all who are facing the anguish of Alzheimer’s in their families, I thought I’d share “The Dance” which is something I wrote about my parents as they journeyed through my mother’s Alzheimer’s before her death in 2013. My dear mother bravely endured this devastating disease for fifteen years as my father lovingly cared for her in their home for most of those years. I wrote “The Dance” while visiting them in their home in Phoenix… The Dance Their dance took my breath away, heads bowed toward each other, face to face. She in a pink bathrobe, her hands gripped on her walker. He is coaxing her to take steps toward him as he carefully holds on to the front of her walker. He is guiding her toward her hospital bed, placed recently at the foot of the bed that they’ve shared for sixty years of marriage. She is breathing heavily as if she’s run a marathon, taking only ten steps from the bathroom where her husband just helped her like she helped me when I was a toddler. He gently guides her into her new bed. She looks at him with frightened, childlike eyes and says, “I am afraid.” He says “Don’t be afraid, I am here.” He tucks her in while they quietly sing “His Name Is Wonderful!” She still remembers most of the words of this favorite hymn. Her voice is still beautiful and she sings on key. He brushes her cheek with a gentle kiss, and covers her with his prayers. He then goes to their bed alone with his bride in her hospital bed at the foot of his bed. She soon falls asleep, safely under the shelter of him. My mother is free now, safely with her Savior and fully healed! But I pray that I never forget the dance of their “in sickness and health, until death do us part” love story. This photo of my parents, Mark and Anita Bubeck, was taken the year they were married in 1949. Check out the new book, Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade: The Five Love Languages and the Alzheimer’s Journey by Dr. Gary Chapman, Dr. Edward G. Shaw and Deborah Barr. The…Read More
Like a long-lost treasure—hidden in plain sight—the yellow sticky note written in my mother’s beautiful handwriting caught my eye. Alzheimer’s had stolen her handwriting several years before I found the note. Stuck to an old newspaper in her bedroom, it read, “I am fading away but Jesus is keeping me everyday.” And under that, she wrote, “Heb. 12:1-14.” A few years after she died, I traced her handwriting from her sticky note onto a yellow canvas that is now displayed in my home. It’s a poignant, beautiful reminder of His faithfulness and my mother’s unwavering faith, even in the midst of deep sorrow. My mother, Anita Bubeck, bravely endured Alzheimer’s for fifteen years while my father, Mark Bubeck, faithfully cared for her in their Phoenix home. When she passed away in 2013, I asked my dad if I could have her Bible, the one he had given her later in life. I found some more sticky notes in the front of her Bible, one referencing Hebrews 12:1-2 again. I call this my sticky note legacy. The progression of my mother’s disease is evident in the notes she scribbled throughout her Bible. She used whiteout to rewrite her first name, perhaps misspelling it the first time. Near a favorite Psalm she wrote, “Pas The Lored,” and by Philippians 4 she wrote, “Paise God. Ameen God.” Though she couldn’t spell the word, she still chose to praise Him. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand—at least this side of heaven—the “God why” behind the ravages of Alzheimer’s on my mother’s mind and body before she passed away. But I do know that the ripple effect of her faith has forever impacted my family, including generations yet to come! And I’ve chosen to cling to Hebrews 12:1-2 as the focus of my own life as I seek to run the race marked out for me… Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great could of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily untangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 I’d love to hear from you. What verses have become the focus of your life and why. Feel…Read More
Rick and I have been married thirty-two years today! We were married on August 25, 1984 on a hot summer day in Sioux City, Iowa. We spent the first 20 years of our marriage moving every two to three years, including several years in Brazil and China for Rick’s job.
Now settled in the mountains of Colorado Springs, we can both testify that these are our favorite years together.
I love this season of our empty-nest-almost-grandparents life.Read More
I don’t know what it is about Baby Boomers, but for some reason they don’t like to be called Grandpa or Grandma when they finally become grandparents. They prefer silly names like Gimo, Gaga, or even Nemo. I have to smile when my friends tell me what their new grandchildren will call them. My favorites so far are “G” and “Grand-dude” and “Pa-Pa-Boo” (you know who you are). Well, now that I am going to be a grandmother for the first time come February(!), I get it. My husband and I have decided our grandchildren will call us Papa and Mia. But I promise, if this first grandbaby wants to call me Grandma, I’ll take that, too! What about you? What do your children call their grandparents? Or if you’re a grandparent, let me know what your grandchildren call you, and why!Read More