Here’s To The Moments

Goodness, I love the beach! I saw this photo of Kim Lance’s and it took me right back to my childhood.

My family used to go to the beach once a year, and for me, it was almost better than Christmas. We had all these traditions that went along with our beach trip: same general area of the beach, same types of beach towels and sand buckets/shovels.

We took the same kind of food, and went to the same ice cream place. We had the same routine each day: up early, ate breakfast, played on the beach, ate lunch, took a nap, played on the beach, ate dinner, and collapsed. It was so great!

The best part of the whole thing was seeing my dad relax. When I was young, my dad was a high-powered, driven, chemical engineer. He worked a lot. He had to take several business trips over the years. But when he was at the beach, he was a different person.

Dad played with us. He didn’t work on anything. He laughed more, and it was wonderful to see him smile so much.

When I grew up, I often wondered why life couldn’t have been more like that all the time. Not that it was bad. It was just not that relaxed. Sometimes I long for those days. There have been many times when I’ve said, “I want to go to the beach, but I want to go when I was a kid.”

I know we usually remember the good when looking back, but honestly, it really was that good. Sure, I want to go to the beach when I was a kid because I didn’t have to pack anything, cook anything, or be responsible for anything! All I had to do was play.

But that’s not really why I would love to go back there. It was the joy of being all together with nothing pulling us away from each other. It was some concentrated, lovely family time.

Even now, the memory of my dad’s carefree laugh makes me cry grateful tears. To have heard it once would have been enough, and I heard it many times.

I know last week, I wrote about not living in the past or the future, but in the now. And here I am writing about the past. The past is not bad; it’s just not now and we can’t try to live in it. But the past does help make us who we are. And if we think about it, those memories can help turn “now” into a lovely moment.

I miss my dad, and I miss my daughter. But they will never be farther away than a moment when I remember them and the time we had together.

Here’s to the sweet moments of the past that give light and color to today and keep our hearts full of gratitude for every kindness from the Lord.

Phyllis Keels

A Word of Hope

At the suggestion of a friend, I joined a Facebook group for grieving parents. When I looked through the posts of the hundreds of people on the page, my heart broke. Post after post of terrible pain… I am so very sorry for their losses.

Many of these precious parents have recently lost their children. Their grief is very raw – just like a new physical wound. They can’t touch it, can’t move, and are frozen by it.

Not long after my daughter died I remember someone saying to me that my grief was new, raw. I didn’t understand how they could think that my grief would ever be any different than it was then. Now I understand.

No, it never goes away, but it does manifest itself differently. It always hurts, but as the years go by, you get relief here and there and you even begin to laugh again. This is unimaginable during the first months after your loss. You can hardly breathe, much less see any joy in the black hole of long, terrible years stretched out before you.

For those of you in that dark place, I want to offer you a light to warm you. I want to give you a glow of hope, and the knowledge that you are not alone.

Not only are there countless grieving parents, there are grieving spouses, and siblings, and friends. Cling to those around you who understand and can hold you up.

But more than that cling to your Heavenly Father who also had to watch His child die. He is the One who knows exactly how you feel and He is the One who can help.

My friend, the best thing you can do for yourself, and for the memory of your loved one is to keep on taking that next breath. Keep on going to the grocery store, keep on doing laundry, playing golf, whatever the next thing to do is.

Keep on doing it knowing that your Heavenly Father is taking the best care of your loved one. You see I know that my daughter is happier now than she has ever been. I know that she is shining in the love that God is showering on her. I know that she will never, ever have to suffer any pain or anguish again.

Just keep reminding yourself that your loved ones are not gone. They just live somewhere else now. That’s the truth.

You will see them again and it will be a joyous reunion. Until then, let someone comfort you. Let someone love you, and reach out to someone like you who needs a friend right now.

I love all of you who read this blog, and I pray for you often. Today may you feel the love of your Heavenly Father in Christ Jesus, and may you be comforted through and through by His Word of Hope, dear friend.

Phyllis Keels

PhyllisKeels.com

See You Again

Sunset Light

Photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission. Click image for more of Kim’s work)

In the family of God, we use the terms “brother in Christ” and “sister in Christ” a lot to describe fellow believers. Sometimes we say this without thinking. Other times, we know exactly what that means.

Often there are “brothers and sisters in Christ” who truly live that role.

Like a physical family, we may not always agree with each other. We may even butt heads at times, and we may not see each other every day. But when we need Godly counsel and insight (wisdom from the Lord), these people are often the first we go to for help.

When we ask them to pray for us, they stop right there and pray with us. When we need guidance, they patiently listen while we “vent” our frustration or anger. When we need to cry, they hand us the ever-present box of tissues on their desk for just such an occasion.

These brothers and sisters are more than just people who believe like we do. They are kindred spirits, they are under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd, and they take care of their “family.”

Last week I said goodbye to a true brother in Christ. Two days ago, he went home to be with the Lord.

For fifteen years he listened while I “vented.” He laughed with me, prayed with me, and shared the storehouse of wisdom the Lord had given him.

He taught me what it means to be a caring leader and a servant of Jesus. He did this by his actions and his behavior, and by his unwavering faith each day.

While I know that my brother in Christ is now with the Lord, and is whole, fully alive, and leaping in joy – I will miss him so much.

I will miss his ready laugh, his minute attention to order and neatness, his wise counsel and his caring heart.

Most of all, I will miss his friendship. But I rejoice that he is free, he is complete, and he is basking in the shining love on the face of our Savior Jesus Christ.

And I rejoice in my last words to him, which are the truth that comforts my sad heart: I will see you again, my brother. I will see you again.

Phyllis Keels

This Little Drop in the Ocean

My best friend spoke at a conference last Friday at the beach and she invited me to spend the weekend there with her. It was such a lovely time, and it reminded me of another time that she, my sister, and I spent at the beach the year my daughter died.

Here is the post from that sweet weekend. I pray this blesses you, dear friend.

Beach

My sweet best friend took my sister and me to the beach this weekend. My sister said it best when we were coming home. She said she couldn’t remember a more pleasant weekend. I agree.

I needed to get away for a few days. Not from anyone or anything, but somewhere I could just be. It was really, really nice.

I went out on the beach early Saturday morning and got to see the sunrise. It made me think of Julie. Everyone on the beach was taking pictures of it. I did too. But come to think of it, Julie never did like to get up early. She was a night owl.

But she did like the beach. My sister and I made a sand castle for Julie. We make the kind where you let the wet sand drip from your fingers and create spires of different shapes. Julie called them drippy castles. It was one of her favorite things to do at the beach.

I really missed her this weekend. I missed my dad too. My first memory of the beach is of him helping me bring a bucket of sand up to the beach house we were staying in. The sand had little butterfly clams in it and I wanted to keep them.

I remember once walking behind him on the beach and I had to jump to be able to walk in his footsteps. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped wanting to walk in his footsteps. He was such a wonderful dad. I miss him so much.

When I stepped out on the beach this weekend, I felt the same way I did the very first time. The memories of all the times I’ve had there came rushing over me like the salty breeze. They were not harsh though. They were as soft as the sand under my feet and as cooling as the ocean water.

It was sad and I missed Julie and Daddy. You can’t go back no matter how much you want to. I couldn’t go back even if they were still alive. I couldn’t go back to when I was a child running after my dad. I couldn’t go back to when Julie and Alan were running after me and their dad.

But I did thank my heavenly Father for giving me the time this weekend to remember sweet moments, for filling my senses with the sounds and smells that make memories come alive. I did thank Him for giving me such a loving father and a loving daughter, and for all the times we had together.

I thanked him for my family and friends who take such wonderful care of me, who help me while I grieve, and love me no matter what.

Most of all I thanked Him for being so kind to me. When I look out over the ocean and see again how small I am, I can’t help but fall on my knees in gratitude. Of all the things He could love, why on earth does He love me?

I don’t know why, but I know He does. And He does so each moment of my life. Me, this little drop in the ocean.

Phyllis Keels

I’ll See My Friend Again

Image from "When I'm With Jesus" by Kimberly Rae, illustrated by Phyllis Keels

Image from “When I’m With Jesus” by Kimberly Rae, illustrated by Phyllis Keels

Earlier this week, one of my oldest and closest childhood friends – the one I’ve known since we were seven years old, the one I fought with and laughed with like a sister because we were like sisters – passed away.

I still can’t believe it. It still doesn’t seem real. I have the same feeling right now that I’ve had after every death of anyone I loved. I think it’s what most of us feel for days, because no matter how many times you get “the call”, you’re never ready. You never expect it…

This time, I did as I’ve always done: I called on the name of the Lord. “Help the family, Lord. Please be near them… Then, please help me, because this is hard. This is really hard…”

After that, I went to my mom’s. We spent time remembering, crying, being in shock. Then we came around to where we always come around to: praising our Heavenly Father, and thanking Him for being so good to us in the grief we’ve had in our lives.

When I told my family and friends, asking them to pray for my friend’s loved ones, and for me, again I was overwhelmed by the comfort they give me. But then again, that’s what happens in suffering.

You see, there is something about suffering that removes all the distractions of the mind. It’s like a March wind that blows the dead leaves away and makes room for something green to grow.

It hurts, it’s hard, it’s not something you would ask for, but when it comes, your vision becomes sharper, your soul becomes tuned, and you can feel your own heart again.

That’s when you see. You see the face of Him whose heart is full of infinite love for you. You see the hand of Him who will never, ever let you go. And you see into the beautiful window of eternity, where your loved one has gone.

While any death brings up in me the screaming pain of losing my dad and my daughter, I cannot deny the gentle beauty of that suffering.

In it, the Lord reminds me how blessed I am to have a family and friends who will pray for me during these times. He reminds me how He has always carried me, and will always carry me tenderly against His chest. He reminds me that He hurts with me.

In these times, the Lord reminds me of the beautiful place Jesus is preparing for us (the place our loved ones are already enjoying) if we will only believe Him.

My friend, if you are grieving, please, please place that grief at the feet of the One who gave His life to prove His love for you. He already has a place for you, and right now, He can fill all the pain with the tender comfort of His presence.

My friend knew about the place Jesus prepared for her. She and I were saved and baptized together – another lovely memory I have of her. Right now, that comforts me more than I can express, because I will see her again. Oh, yes. I will see my friend again!

Phyllis Keels

Such as I Have

sunlight

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, NASB)

So that you will not grieve as do the rest…

One of my favorite things in the Bible is when Peter said to the crippled beggar at the Temple Gate called Beautiful, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” (Acts 9:6, KJV)

My dear friend, if you are grieving on this Christmas Day, I say to you: silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give thee…

What the Lord has given me (the comfort and love He has lavished on me) I will gladly give to you. It is this: your loved one, who has now gone home to be with the Lord, will come again with Jesus when He returns. Do you know what that means?

It means more than the truth that we will see them again. It means that the Father has made it so Lord Jesus does not have to leave your loved one or mine alone for one moment, even when Jesus comes back to this earth as King of Kings.

Our Savior said that if anyone came to Him, He would never cast them out. He will never leave them. Ever.

I don’t know about you, but when my children were growing up, if weren’t with me, I worried about them. Only when I knew that they were with someone who really loved them, did I not worry.

My friend, if your heart is broken on this Christmas Day, like mine is, then please know, like I do, that our loved ones are with the Lord who cares for them far more than we ever could.

Know that He will not leave them for one moment, and that He will give us all possible joy at His return – the joy of physically seeing our loved ones, fully well and fully restored, in His beautiful presence.

How much does our Savior love us? So much that He goes over and above showing us every kindness!

Join me this day in worshipping the Savior, our Lord Jesus, who really is worthy of all praise, now and forevermore! In this way, we honor our Heavenly Father who loves us with an everlasting love.

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me bless His holy name! (Psalm 103:1, KJV)

Amen!

Phyllis Keels