Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter: The Story of Death (and of Life)

 This is my contribution to the Convergent books Synchroblog.

Easter. Resurrection? Right?  Happy memories of children hunting eggs, jelly beans, and a large family dinner.  Not always.  Did you ever stop to think that Easter is another day?  People are born (like my friend Dan from college was born on Easter Sunday.)  People also die.

April 16, 1995 was a beautiful warm day in West Virginia.  A friend of mine was offered extra credit in a college class to attend church, bringing a church bulletin in with him the next morning.  So finally, he offered to attend church with me.   My mother was working at the local nursing home, and he was also scheduled to work soon after church, so I fixed lunch for us.  As soon as he got to work, he knew something was wrong when Mom wasn't at her station, and he went running to my grandmother's room.   He declared, "I should have brought Jennifer with me."  Because it was shift change, I was called, told I would be picked up by someone I never met and I was, on the day we celebrate the Resurrection, I was going to be present at my grandmother's death.

It was the hardest thing I'd ever done up to that point in my life, which at twenty-two, wasn't that long of a life.  To be so joyful at a worship service that morning and then watch as life waned from my grandmother, her eyes studying me, knowing she wouldn't see me for a very long time.  Easter now has become synonymous to me with a last breath, making arrangements at the funeral home, and the feeling of emptiness that Mary, Mary Magdalene and the disciples felt on Good Friday.  Did you realize that Mary and Mary Magdalene did their first century equivalent of making funeral arrangements?   They were headed to the tomb, not understanding what happened.  They only knew the One whom they loved died a gruesome death reserved for the very dregs of society.  Their Son, their Friend.  Gone.  I'm sure if they even remembered the words of Jesus from John 10:17, they didn't grasp them.  (This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.)  Or the words from John 16:22 (So you also are now in anguish.  But I will see you again, and your hearts with rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.)

My mother, every year on Easter and on April 16 mourned the loss of my grandmother.  Mom always said it was like two anniversaries of death and told me "You never get over the loss of your mother."  I thought she was exaggerating because wouldn't you learn to live without someone?

February 18, 2014, my boyfriend dropped me off at RCIA.  I made the decision last year to become Catholic and needed to be at the class.  We had been running errands in a town an hour away, spending much of the afternoon in the DMV.  He was going to check on Mom, then return for the rest of class.  When the phone rang, my first thought was, "Why is he calling?   He knows I'm in class."  I stepped out of the room, and heard, "I had to call 911.  She's unresponsive."  When I returned to the class, I was asked if I needed to go.  I explained I had no car.  Soon a second phone call.   A paramedic questioning me about her medical conditions.  My boyfriend on the phone telling me I needed to get home.  As I gathered my things, and grabbed a friend out of the class to give me a ride 10 miles up the mountain, I heard the lesson.  The Eucharist.   "This do in remembrance of me."  It's how we, as Christians, remember the death of Jesus.

The next time I heard my priest's voice, he was standing by my mother who had passed away.  Because my mother was not Catholic, he could not do Last Rites, but did a prayer of committal of her spirit to God.  The Scriptures were comforting, at least as comforting as they could be at the moment when my mother was gone.  I had fully expected to see her later that evening.  Sobs racked my body, though.  My boyfriend on one side of me, the friend who brought me home from church on the other.

It is two months today since Mom died.  It's hard.  I had to have follow ups to a mammogram because something suspicious was found.  I wanted her there so badly.  (Thankfully all was clear.) I have waited for marriage until I found the right man.  Mom met him, but she said last summer that she had two last things she was living for, one was to publish a book she wrote, and the second was to see me married.  My heart aches at the thought of a wedding now that neither of my parents are alive.

When my dad passed away, I had recently taken a trip to Israel with a friend who was Episcopalian and her Jewish boyfriend.  He stepped up and did the best he could of sitting Shiva with me -- every evening he phoned me.  It was comforting to know that someone acknowledged my grief beyond the time my dad's body was placed in the ground.

I learned more about Jewish mourning rituals at that time.  There's a tradition called avelut where, if your parent has died, you should avoid celebrations, parties, and the like for a year.  My boyfriend's step-mother called recently wanting us to visit on Easter, or for them to visit.  We live five hours away and rarely see each other.  I don't feel ready for a celebration.  I'm not entering the Catholic Church at Easter as I planned but giving myself more time. (I will elaborate on this in an upcoming blog post).   My heart is still shattered.  Although Christians don't follow Jewish mourning rituals, I feel justified in knowing the celebration I looked forward to may not be appropriate for me just yet.

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, but right now, I'm still living in Good Friday.  I'm feeling what the disciples felt after losing Him.   I'm sure someday I'll have more of an understanding of Resurrection, Eternal Life, and Heaven, but right now, I'm feeling grief.  Because of my Grandmother, even Easter Sunday has grief woven through it, but maybe, just maybe that's how it should be.  What if we didn't just celebrate the Resurrection on Easter, but remember how death hurts, leaves an ache that won't go away -- unless we see the Person again.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reduce, Reuse, Recyle on Earth Day and Everyday!

FTC disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them. 

I have recently upgraded to an iPhone through U.S. Cellular.  It's a fantastic phone, and I'm so happy that U.S. Cellular finally started selling the iPhone last year.  I've been an Apple girl for a few years, and it felt awkward to have my computer and tablet on one system, and my phone on another.  Now everything all works on the same platform!  It's so much easier to transfer photos to my computer, and I didn't even have the learning curve that often is associated with a new phone.  It takes great photos and I couldn't be happier with it!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Book Review: Girl At the End of the World

FTC disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.  This post does contain affiliate links.

Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future

Preaching to the crowds at nine years old was part of Elizabeth Esther's childhood.  As this book opens, that's where we find her, telling people they might die and face the judgment.  Added is the tip that if no one is paying attention shout the name of "The Lord Jesus Christ".  Already this book had me hooked.  After all, who wouldn't be curious about the life of a childhood street preacher?

The judgment may be at hand, so the church she grew up in made absolutely sure that everyone was ready for Revelation to be played out at any moment.  Setting up secret hiding places was normal.  As well as, in later years, learning how wearing a thong was a sin because God would see it.  After all, girls should be modest.  But hopefully by that time, the children would have had all the sin spanked out of them and they would be following what was taught.

Or not.  When Elizabeth Esther goes to high school, which is a public school after years in her church school, she discovers boys.  And defiles herself before marriage by doing the shameful act of kissing her secret boyfriend.  After all, dating isn't allowed, only courtship.  Even her clothes in sizes too big for modesty sake  doesn't keep the boys -- or friends -- away.  It is in high school she decides she wants to go to college -- to escape.  Of course, this idea doesn't fly with her dad, who as in most patriarchal systems, calls the shots for his household. 

She does escape, obviously, or she wouldn't have told the tale.  While I didn't grow up in a church this abusive, several things echoed true for me.   I remember thinking as a child I needed to find a hiding place to store a Bible because we were taught as small children at church that the Russians were coming and they were going to kill all Christians and destroy all Bibles, so that is why we needed to memorize Scripture.  (I didn't realize that if we were dead, it wouldn't have mattered how much we had memorized.)

This is an excellent book for those who have come out of any type of abusive church situation.  Learning to think for yourself after a situation like that is not just difficult, but frightening.  There's always the "What If They Are Right?" question stuck in the back of your brain wondering if you are the one who is wrong and not them.   It's also a fascinating read for anyone who wants to see what the insides of a cult are like.   It is a book that you can't put down.  It's a tale of survival, hope, and escape.  She learned to think for herself and no longer be brainwashed.

I loved Girl At The End of The World.

Connect with the author:

Read part of the book here:

Friday, April 4, 2014

Seven Quick Takes Friday in Rhyme


Thoughts were escaping me,
A fun blog post what could it be?
My boyfriend suggested I should do a hip-hop rap,
He can be a pretty clever chap.
So here it is, all in verse,
Trust me, my prose can be even worse.


Last night was an annual book sale,
I go every year without fail.
This year bought 50 from Childhood of Famous Americans set,
Read half of them in my childhood I bet.
I was quite the reader even back then,
I can't wait to read them once again.


Spring may be here, I really hope so,
Although the forcast says we may get snow.
We went geocaching earlier this week,
Coudn't find one that was located by a creek,
But this was behind a Wal-Mart store,
Beautiful scenery enjoyed before we cached more.


Spring cleaning, chores, not so much fun,
The dryer vent is being cleaned while there is still sun,
Vacuum filter needs washed, stuff priced for a garage sale,
This stuff will get done, we cannot fail.
eBay mailings taken to the post office each day,
We ship as soon as our buyers make time to pay.


Two scares from the doctor in the last week,
More testing I am going to have to seek,
Hope all comes back from that okay,
And hope $800 is all I have to pay
For more tests to make sure that all is fine,
Gotta keep healthy, this body of mine.


We had company twice as of late,
Hospitality is an enjoyable trait,
We bought a guest book for everyone to sign in,
Memory of their visit permanent with a pen.
For us to look back on years down the road,
No matter where we may abode.


Trying to eat more healthily,
I am now drinking some black tea,
And I  hate chocolate -- really I do!
Dark chocolate is supposedly good for you.
Been eating a square once every day,
Still doesn't make the bad taste of it go away.

There you have it, a few minutes of my time,
And my Seven Quick Takes Friday all in rhyme!

For more Quick Takes Friday (which aren't in rhyme) Visit

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring Geocaching in West Virginia

Because of our harsh winters, it's not very feasible to go geocaching in West Virginia during the winter.  Now that spring is here (I hope!), we've caught three geocaches in the last week.  I'm pretty new at caching, only 27 found so far, but I'm enjoying it, it's getting me outdoors and I'm finding some interesting places I didn't know existed.

Here's a few photos of my latest adventures:

This is at the Battle of Rowlesburg Cache.   This is part of the WV Civil War Trail Caches and if you collect 8 stamps, you can turn it in for a special geocoin.   I've always wondered where the Battle of Rowlesburg was.  My great-great-grandfather was to be guarding the railroad, but legend has it that something happened and they allowed the Confederates by and they had to chase them most of the way to Pittsburgh! 

Believe it or not, this is a Cache at a Walmart!   Wal-Mart caches often have a bad rap, but look at the scenery!  Just beautiful. 

This is from the Brown's Park Cache.  I have been past this park hundreds of times, but have never stopped.   It's a fun park, and again, as you can see, a beautiful area!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review: The Question that Never Goes Away

The Question That Never Goes AwayThe Question That Never Goes Away by Zondervan Publishing

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Philip Yancey was required reading in a Freshman Bible class in college, but it's because he has good things to say.  Twenty years later, he has written a sequel to Where is God When It Hurts (which eBooks were given away free of that book right after the Newtown tragedy).  His latest book, The Question That Never Goes Away revisits pain and suffering.

The timing for me to review this book (I received a copy free from the publisher) was unfortunately all too appropriate.  During the time I read it, my mother got pneumonia, was released from the hospital and seemed to be doing okay considering she had a chronic illness and passed away suddenly -- while I was at church, no less!  Then there was more drama that went on afterwards than in a junior high school.  While one person passing away is not like the war in Bosnia, the Newtown tragedy, or the Fukishima disaster that Yancey discusses, it is my very own heartbreak.

Obviously, there is no answer.   If you have ever spent time with a pre-schooler, the question "Why?" is asked incessantly.   I think as we age, we no longer ask why the sky is blue, but "Why did my mother die the way she did?"  "Why me?  Why did my test results come back like this?"   "Why am I 38 and still single?"   All are questions I have asked.  I think in some ways, we are still toddlers asking questions that really can't be answered.  The best we can sometimes do is just go on.

The spoiler to this book is this:  There is no real answer to Why.   Just like a child doesn't accept "Because I said so" we won't ever accept any answer as to why a plane disappeared because, now, the technical part is not what we are looking for -- we want to know the reasons that lives were changed.

This book may leave you with more questions as to why things happen, but at the same time it's comforting.  It shows the hope left in the aftermath.  Bad things happen, and will continue to happen.  But how we respond to our own suffering and the suffering of others is key.  A church has organized ongoing counseling for those affected in Newtown.  There are beacons of hope like flowers shooting up through an area damaged by forest fires.

While this book won't give you answers, I highly recommend it, and I do believe it will be comforting if you are asking "Why"?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Purchase it here: