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
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
Just moments before his murder, God peeled back the curtain of heaven to give Stephen a glimpse of where he was headed. As Stephen looked up, he saw Jesus standing at His Father’s side. I can’t find anywhere else in the Bible where we’re told Jesus is standing at the right hand of the Father. It was if Jesus stood in Stephen’s honor, letting him know He was right there waiting for him. The mob—intent on killing Stephen—was raging, terrifying, insane. One moment they looked like schoolyard bullies with gnashing teeth, rocks in hand. The next like monstrous demons being let out of hell to kill an innocent man. Anyone stumbling onto the scene might have thought it was from a tragic play. It couldn’t be real. But even in the midst of such terror, Stephen was desperate for the crowd not to miss what he was seeing. He tried to get them to look up. We can only hope that he never took his eyes off of Jesus while the rocks pummeled his broken body. While dying, Stephen cried out for God to forgive his murderers. Perhaps he got that idea from Someone else just a few weeks before as He hung on a cross dying for us. Saul, later called Paul, was there when Stephen was being stoned. But he hadn’t yet been blinded by Truth, so he was giving his approval of the murder. I can’t help but imagine that Paul’s life was forever impacted by Stephen’s death. How could a man ever forget such a scene? Perhaps that’s why Paul listened to the One who confronted him on a dusty road just a few days later. Perhaps Stephen’s last words echoed in Paul’s heart when he later faced his own chains, prisons, and beatings. I wonder if God opens up the heavens for all martyrs just before they die. Not all martyrs die like Stephen, with the glow of glory and witnesses to canonize their courage. Some pass quickly in the night or alone in a prison. Some in dusty explosions or crowded camps. I can’t help but wonder if all who die for Christ meet a standing Jesus, welcoming them Home. ___________________________________________________________________________ (I never paid much attention to Stephen’s death until I did a Bible study on the life of Paul several years ago and came upon Acts 7:54-60. When I got to Stephen’s story I couldn’t leave it or skim over…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
There was a time—not so long ago—when the only way I could fall asleep at night was with worship music playing in my ears. I would try to keep my thoughts captive to the truths of the lyrics instead of being overwhelmed by the storms raging in my life. One night, right before bed, I said aloud to my husband, but really more to God, “This wasn’t supposed to be my story!” I felt that I had been faithfully following and serving God for decades, and I didn’t think it was fair that He seemed to be cueing one storm after another, storms that threatened to pull me under in despair. Right after saying “this wasn’t supposed to be my story,” out came the headphones so I could try to fall asleep by listening to a new worship album. I soon heard these lyrics being sung over me . . . Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long; This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long. Perfect submission, perfect delight, Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; Angels, descending, bring from above Echoes of mercy, sweet whispers of love. This is my story, this is my song . . . As those beautiful promises washed over me, I started singing the song out loud, tears streaming down my face. I looked over at my sweet husband and tears were in his eyes, too, as he held me close. Just after crying out to God, “This wasn’t supposed to be my story,” He was saying to my heart, “Judy, your true story is that you are an heir of My salvation. You were purchased and washed by My blood. You are born of My Spirit. THIS is your story, this is your song! Even though storms are raging right now, all is at rest . . . because of Me!” “Blessed Assurance” was written in 1873 by one of my heroes, Fanny Crosby (1820–1915). Fanny was blinded in infancy by a botched medical procedure, later married, and had only one child, who died in her sleep soon after birth. Fanny could have easily cried out to God, “This wasn’t supposed…Read More