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 we don’t like to be called Grandpa or Grandma when we finally become grandparents. 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! *Update as of December 2018 … my almost 2-year-old grandson is here for Christmas. And he can’t yet say the “me” combo, so I am “Mo” instead of Mia. I’ll take it! “Mo” it is! 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
I awoke this morning to headlines saying the “highlight” of the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games in Rio was the long walk of a Brazilian supermodel on the stage. Seriously!? I don’t think the millions of viewers would agree, including that model. Instead, I think a major highlight was when ten athletes—all refugees without a country—walked into the arena together to a standing ovation. Or when Vanderlei de Lima was chosen as the one to light the Olympic cauldron to ignite the first Games in South America because he was robbed of a gold medal when a crazed fan attacked him during the race back in 2004 in Athens. But what struck me the most—in the midst of all the unrest and fear across our globe—was the joyful, unified, peaceful celebration among hundreds of nations represented by the elite athletes in that arena. I loved that Portuguese-speaking athletes from Angola were there, and a handful from the country with the whimsical name of Djibouti were there. The team from Bermuda, all in Bermuda shorts, made me smile. And the towering basketball players from America made me proud. The crescendo for me was watching the video of Kip Keino, 72, a former Olympian from Kenya who won two gold medals and is now training young athletes to run in his footsteps. That video showed children gleefully running with their hero through African fields while flying white kites shaped like doves. And then that same hero was live in the Olympic arena, running with Brazilian children with those same white kites trailing behind them (link). (Image Credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images) Even in the midst of an underlying fear that terrorists might target the arena, or the unrest outside those doors as hungry Brazilians protested such extravagant costs for the ceremony, I think I still saw a hint of heaven. The beautiful tapestry of faces from so many nations in joyful celebration together reminded me that one day we’ll be in a similar crowd, with all eyes on Him, worshiping Him together. Yes, I know it’s only the Olympics, and likening that scene to heaven is a stretch. But I found it somewhat ironic that the last camera shot that night was up by the famous statue, overlooking that city of millions covered in dazzling lights. (Fun side note: As I watched the sea of Brazilian nationals smiling in their colorful costumes and heard samba music and…Read More
The pastor and his young family spoke in hushed tones while we met in their small apartment in Bucharest, Romania on a cold winter’s night. They knew that the Communist government placed their apartment under surveillance, and openly discussing the translation of our curriculum could lead to arrest and imprisonment. I was just twenty-three years old, fresh out of college, and part of a mission to write and translate seminary-level curriculum for pastors in Eastern Europe. The year was 1983, when Nicolae Ceaușescu—who was likened to Stalin—ruled Romania, then a Soviet-bloc country. His Communist regime was one of the most brutal and repressive, especially toward Christians. As a result, any type of seminary-level training was forbidden except for one government-controlled seminary where only five students were allowed to enroll every two years. Our publishing office was based in Vienna, where we wrote theology and Bible curriculum to train pastors in Eastern Europe. I was asked to go into Romania to teach Christians how to use our floppy disks (remember, it was 1983) to access the files for translating our curriculum. I’ll never forget crossing the border with those disks hidden in my luggage. I tried to act like a nonchalant tourist as the guard looked through my bags. Thankfully, the disks weren’t discovered, and I made it through customs. The next morning we had prearranged that I would go to a neighborhood park and wait on a park bench. A man was going to come up to me with a newspaper under his arm, briefly greet me, and then I was to follow him to his car. True story. As a mother now of twentysomething daughters, I can’t believe it either! That man was the pastor who would later invite me to his family’s home for dinner. He had sacrificed so much to make God and His Word known in Romania. He had given up his medical practice to pastor at least five small underground churches. He had been arrested and beaten many times before I met him. And yet he was risking further persecution just to get our curriculum into the hearts and minds of other pastors and leaders. Decades later, the impact of my visit stays with me. How do you ever forget young families willing to risk beatings, imprisonment, and even death to disciple others? How do you take for granted the freedom to gather openly to worship…Read More