Posted in Ben, Joy

I’m learning to do hard things…

And just like that, three months have gone by.  If I have learned anything in those three months, it is that I can do hard things.  Things I never wanted to, things that I pray I never have to do again, and things that I pray to God I will forget that I ever had to do. In many ways it seems like yesterday that I sat in his hospital room or with him on the couch.  I feel like he is standing next to me every night as I pray his words over our children when I tuck him in.  But the house seems quieter at night, and I am no longer looking for him around every corner that I turn.

If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have told you that I could never live without Ben and that I wouldn’t want to.  But I am learning more and more every day that I can do hard things… impossible things.  The things that I have no desire to do, but that God gives me the strength for every single day.

Over the past three months:

  • I have attended church alone. And I have sat there feeling more alone then I have ever felt in my life.  Over the past decade, when Ben hasn’t been with me at church, he has either been listening online or I have been trying to memorize every point to share with him what he has missed.  The past few months, I have sat with my eyes pouring tears while others have looked on.  I just want to smile and say, don’t mind me, I’m just feeling alone in the midst of these hundreds of people… but I don’t.  I have pushed through and have allowed myself to be touched by the messages, even when I wanted to walk out and not be there alone.  And I have gotten better at it.  I don’t cry my way through every service now, and I long to be there every time the doors are open so God can speak to my heart a little more.
  • I have taken my three kids out to lunch alone. At actual restaurants (okay, so mostly Chipotle, but it counts right?!).  And they have actually behaved like tiny humans instead of cattle needing breaking (my three year old was proud enough of her behavior to ask if I would take them to the Cheesecake Factory next… and I was crazy enough to actually do it!).
  • I have called and notified more government officials and agencies then I can count. Telling them Ben is gone has not gotten any easier no matter how many times I have said it, and without fail telling someone who actually met him always reduces me to tears.
  • I have sorted through his office and many of his papers and my heart hurts a little every time I see his handwriting and realize that he is really gone and that there will be no more letters and cards and notes laying around for me to find.
  • I have watched flowers die and plants wilt that came home with us after the funeral. And I have thrown them away knowing that they were the last little reminders of the man that I loved and that people respected and cared about.
  • I have maintained some of my composure while visiting the place where he is buried. Seeing a sunken hole in the ground with no stone and a pile of dirt that is a cruel reminder of the hole that was left by losing him.
  • And I have looked at more headstones than I can count. How do you choose a stone that will be the only standing reminder of the man you loved one hundred years from now?  How do you choose the words to say and the things you want remembered?
  • And I have learned to not be scared coming home alone with my kids after dark to a house that is all closed up.

The truth is, I don’t do it alone.  I can’t do any of it by myself.  Without the ROCK who holds me up and gives me strength for each moment, I would never be able to do any of these things.  I fail miserably at maintaining my composure at the most inopportune times, but in the moments when I need God’s strength to make it through, I have found that without fail, He has sent someone to be there holding me up and encouraging me along the way.

Psalm 46:1-5 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her, she will not fail; God will help her at the break of day.”

psalm 46_5

What’s the hard thing you are facing?  No problem is too small to our Father. He is here and willing to hold your hand and encourage you along the path you’re on, even if you don’t want to be there.  I would love to pray for you if you want me to!  And I appreciate your prayers for me… I know I need them!

Posted in Ben, Joy

Grief requires a whole lot of grace…

One of the biggest lessons I have learned through grief is grace…

“I was really praying that he would live through the holidays,” a friend told me recently.   “Really?  I asked, “I was kind of praying he would live forever.”  She meant well, but her comments came at the end of a long day and there just wasn’t a lot of grace left in me to give.  I snapped and immediately regretted it, cutting the conversation short so I wouldn’t snap again.

The myriad of comments I have heard have ranged from “life goes on,” at the visitation; to “you’re young, and I’m sure God has someone else for you,” and “do you think that the kids will even remember him?” If there is one lesson that I have learned through the last few months, it’s that surviving grief is going to take a lot of grace.  People mean well, but the words don’t always come out right, and when emotions are high as they often are right now, feelings are bound to be hurt.

But God is giving me grace and the strength to respond with, “It’s okay, we understand,” even when I don’t.  And in the quiet hours when I am alone, God allows me to look back and see that yes, they meant well even though the words probably didn’t come out the way they meant them.

Sometimes the comments that hurt the most are the ones that are true.  The “we all wish we could help you more, but we know you need to learn to do these things on your own now,” comments that resonate through my mind when I am alone at night.  I have learned to do way more things on my own this year than this independent woman ever cared to.  They are right, I do need to learn to do all these things on my own, but my mind hears those words constantly these days (I don’t really need to be reminded by anyone else).

And then there is grace.  I lay awake and think about how many hurtful things I have said that were well intentioned and how much I wish I could take them back.  And I pray that God would allow me to forget the things that they have said and just have grace for them… because I have been in their shoes more time than I can count.  I know I have to have grace for them too.

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

_Let us approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need._.png

Has God ever given you the strength to have grace in moments you wanted to lose control?  Has he opened your eyes to see how hard it can be for people to reach out to you? Has he helped you to have the voice to say, “I understand,” and given you the ability to truly understand where they are coming from when they speak?

Most of all, I am thankful for the people who have taken time to reach out to me, even when they didn’t have the right words to say!

This season is hard, I won’t deny that… but I am thankful for the many lessons that God is teaching me along the way.  I couldn’t do it without Him… and HIS GRACE.

Posted in Ben, Joy

He left us speechless…

These are the words shared by Ben’s sister, Beka at the service honoring his life:

The last few days I’ve struggled with words to say today.  To me it seems I can’t find anything to say that encompasses who Ben was to so many.  He was many things.

He was a warm smile that brightened any room he walked into and a ridiculously contagious laugh.  He was the guy who sang the chorus of a song over and over if he knew it annoyed you.  He was a beautiful musician on both guitar and piano, specializing in 80s rock music.  He was an amazing tigger bouncer always sure to keep bouncing on top of you until you were fully awake and annoyed.  He was an avid Swedish and Norwegian rock fan and maybe a little Shania Twain in there.  He hated NYC with a passion, but loved him some Yankees.  H was proud to be called a nerd and loved probability, data crunching and other big math words I can’t pronounce.  He was a constant tease and always ready to help you pull off a prank.  He was a man of many various phrases such as “waiting on one,” “sounds like a you problem and not a me problem,” and of course, “that’s why we can’t have nice things.”

He was an incredible father and husband… proud to call them his… ‘ha, Twins.’  He was brave and courageous, but humble and kind.

He was all these things and many more.  But most of all he was a best friend to most of us and has left a hole in our hearts.

So as I’ve sat these few days speechless with a loss for words, I realized that Ben has often left many of us speechless.  But, also that was one of Ben’s greatest joys in life… Leaving us speechless.

Posted in Ben, Joy

Hear and Do- The Shema

These are the words that Benjamin’s mom shared at the service honoring his life:

This is the scripture that Benjamin wanted shared—

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one and you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  These words which I am ordering today are to be on your heart; and you are to teach them carefully to your children.  You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them on your hand as a sign, put them at the front of a headband around your forehead, and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates.”

When Benjamin was first diagnosed 4 ½ years ago, he said, “This is not about me.”

I think he was right… this is about Him!

About how short life is…

About how there are no guarantees for tomorrow…

About knowing our eternal destiny…

About our hope in Yeshua, Jesus!

About honoring Benjamin, but giving praise and glory to Abba Father…

We have lots of questions, but was also know many answers…

He is Faithful and True…

He is Who He says He is…

He is always good…

He knows every tear we cry…

He carries us through hard times…

He still wears the Victor’s Crown…

His name is Redeemer and He will redeem this terrible tragedy and bring good from it.

He will receive the praise and glory!
The scripture Benjamin wanted shared was his homeschool verse growing up.  It is called the shema, which means, “Hear and Do.”

“Shema, Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad. Baruch Shem kavod malchuto, la olam vaed.”

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Blessed be His Name whose glorious kingdom is forever and ever.” Amayn!

I Know where you are, Benjamin… And I thank you for that comfort, my Son!

Posted in Ben

What Good Can Come From This?

These are the words that Benjamin’s brother Micah shared at his service in August.  They are a reminder of both the life that Benjamin lived and the good that can sometimes come from what seems like a bad situation:

I would like to share with you a few thoughts, titled ‘What Good Can Come From This’

It’s not a rhetorical question; it’s a statement about “what good can come from this.” Sorrow is difficult and it is painful, but it is not all. God uses means, even such as these, for greater good.

  • The first point, of ‘what good can come from this’, is that I have seen God’s grace and joy revealed more fully through difficulty and sorrow.

During the last few years, and especially last few months, of Ben’s trials, it has been incredible to witness the unity, strength, and support of our family and friends, and the hope and joy of those closest to him.

Proverbs 31 asksAn excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” I’m especially grateful that God permitted Ben to find such an excellent wife. Trish celebrated Ben’s accomplishments and cherished the adventure of living life with him. When times were rough, she remained faithful to the end, honoring her commitment to love Ben “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.” She gave selflessly throughout Ben’s most difficult times, upholding his dignity, bearing his pain as her own, and demonstrating what a woman of noble and virtuous character is.

I’ve seen the sacrifice and generosity of my parents, who have never quit praying or believing, caring for Ben and demonstrating unconditional love, every step of the way. Not only did they care for us kids in youth, but they cared for Ben in the most humble and tangible ways possible during his final days.

I have witnessed the whole lot of you, and countless others, who have journeyed with Ben through celebration and through difficulty. Romans 12:15 says “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”You have done that, and I’m thankful to see such a demonstration of love in the midst of trials. Good can come from this.

  •  The second point, is that death imposes a sense of frailty and finality on our earthly existence.

It alerts us to the fact that there’s an urgency here; a remarkably short timeline to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. We cannot waste our lives; we dare not waste our time.

Ben lived his life with passion and gusto, embracing challenges, reaching for his dreams and accomplishing great things. He was purposeful. Yet even though his accolades and honors are impressive, he loved his God, family and friends, never letting prestige or ceremony get in the way. As you know, Ben tended to resist overly serious moments like the one we’re having now, and loved to ‘keep it real.’

If he were sitting next to you right now, seeing what a big fuss you’re making over him, I think he would lean over, give you a nudge and tell you “get a grip!”

Ben pursued every opportunity he had. Just barely a year ago, he finished teaching calculus at West Point and upon settling here in Lebanon, began taking chemistry classes to work toward his PhD. He never quit.

When helping others, he would give generously. I can’t tell you what a losing battle it was to try paying him back for the lunch or stack of books that he just bought you on his tab.

He loved others, and even fighting cancer, boldly gave testimony that he was in God’s hands. We should each be aware of the brevity of life, taking every opportunity, and sensing an urgency in accomplishing our purpose. That purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever; we do that by loving our Creator and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves; so do it now, and do it well.

Good can come from this.

  • Thirdly, sorrow and death shake us and awaken us to the reality of things beyond our immediate existence.

Ben loved exploring this world, through math and science. I remember that as a young boy, he wanted to build airplanes, submarines, and atom-smashers – in our basement. In high school, his reading interests were astronomy, calculus and physics. Over the last number of years, he and I enjoyed many technical discussions, and buying many books. And for all of the fascination he had with the material realm, and all the advances of science that he would champion, he would tell you that one of the biggest disservices of science, has been to dismiss, or even discredit the existence of a transcendental, immaterial, spiritual world.

I think Ben would want you to learn something about math and physics at his funeral, so I’ll tell you that the normal type of matter all around us that we can see, feel and scientifically measure, is only 5 percent of what should be theoretically be there. Scientists can’t find the other 95 percent, describing it in terms of “dark energy” and “dark matter;” terms which only betray our ignorance of the things around us.

Ben recognized that science is often disingenuous about having all the answers for reality and he would have something to say about such pretension. “So you’ve managed to account for 5 percent of our universe. Good job, Sherlock: ‘That don’t impress me much’.”

There’s more that we don’t know about our existence than what we do know, yet for all the uncertainty, we know enough. Ben lived life to the fullest in this life while preparing to meet his Creator in the life to come. May this day remind us, that there’s a greater reality for all of us and prompt us to prepare.

Good can come from this.

  •  Finally, death is the means by which we finish this race, and enter into our eternal home.

There’s only so much that we are destined to experience in this life, before we each meet its end. For those who are called by God, death is the final bridge that He leads us across in order that we may be perfectly united and more fully embraced by Him. No more pain, no more sorrow; only eternal life and joy.

Though we have all been born into a world, cursed with disease, sin and death, there is one who has triumphed over these things. When God visited earth, we called Him “Immanuel”, which means ‘God with us.’ This man, Jesus Christ – God indwelling flesh, walked this earth and partook of all its miseries. Yet He did this not merely to empathize with us and show us how to live. He had a much bigger agenda. He came to give his life, and bear the penalty of sin for all who would call on His name for salvation.

And, while we walk this earth, continuing to endure the effects of the curse, those who call on Jesus will be free from the power of sin. It no longer has a hold on our spirit, and by God’s Spirit and grace, we are able to walk in hope and choose joy. Ben called upon the name of Jesus and it is for this reason, that we can, as        1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 says, “…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.”

Ben is now more alive than he has ever been, free from the presence of sin. He is now healthy, whole and fully embraced in the arms of Jesus.

Good can come from this.

 

 

Posted in Ben

Whatever You Do, Do it With All Your Heart!

This is the eulogy shared by Benjamin’s youngest brother Nathan at his service in August:

I was torn with the task of delivering these remarks because of the emotional nature of the events of this week.  I found out that Ben had put in his wishes that I give a eulogy for him and so I couldn’t say no.  I usually didn’t say no to Ben whenever he asked for anything so why start now.

My brother Micah would have been a much better pic to orate this eulogy, but then I realized we would be here all day, so that wasn’t going to work.  Ben wouldn’t want this to be a weepy and sad listing of life accomplishments, he would want it to be bigger than that.  Ben lived a BIG life!

As I’ve spent time this week reflecting on his life (As most of you here in this room have done as well), I’ve realized just how much he has influenced and affected all our lives in so many different and unique ways.  I’m sure everyone present today could get up here and share stories and memories for hours and not exhaust all of the amazing ways he touched our lives.

As I put these thoughts together, I want what I say to capture the essence of who Ben was and bring honor to the life that he lived.  I’m not going to accomplish summarizing his life in just a few minutes here, but I want to focus on two big picture ideas that defined his life.  These are characteristics that each of us would be wise to walk in as well.

  1. The first idea is this: Whatever you do, do it with all your heart. Ben was a man of commitment.  I remember as kids, he would talk about one day wanting to parachute behind enemy lines and run counter-intelligence ops.

All dreams have humble beginnings, right? It wasn’t too long before he bought a pair of walkie talkies and checked out library books about military strategy.  Within a couple of hours, the two of us successfully completed our first counter-intelligence mission of listening in on a couple of unsuspecting brothers and their plans for the day…

Ben approached learning with this same attitude, do it with all your heart.  He never stopped seeking knowledge and always wanted to find out what he didn’t know.  In his mind, he was a learn it all, not a know it all.  However, given the opportunity to debate a topic…any topic, he was game.  In these conversations, he would give the impression that he knew the topic in its entirety, but I think secretively, he was gathering information that he didn’t already know and would process that and give it thoughtful consideration…just not in front of you.  Ben learned with all of his heart

He was fully committed in his service to our great country (as so many of these distinguished solders are here today, and many of you in the audience are and have been).  When leaving for different deployments or missions, I remember so clearly looking at him and seeing someone who wasn’t trying to avoid danger or just get by, but I saw the embodiment of courage, honor and love of country.  He believed that what he was doing made a difference.  And as I remember those moments past, there was never an ounce of arrogance or self-promotion.  It was just his job and that’s all.  Ben served with all of his heart

I think something all of us have witnessed was Ben’s full commitment and devotion to his wife and kids.  Trish, it was undeniable that his relationship with you was his greatest joy.  As I watched your relationship grow in the beginning and then through the years of marriage, I saw incredible changes in Ben that I didn’t think were actually possible.  Trish could give him that look and with her sweet southern voice say “Benjamin James”… and he would knock it off!  All the years of us trying to get him to knock it off and she could do it with just his name.  Honestly, I think he liked feeling like he was in trouble, maybe it reminded him of his ENTIRE childhood.

The power that this woman processes.  Incredible!  Through it all, Ben loved his wife and kids with all his heart.  And Trish, I would be missing a huge piece if I didn’t acknowledge your commitment to him.  I want to publicly honor you as Ben’s unwavering, steadfast, and loving wife.  Your example of biblical love and dedication to your husband is something I have been so blessed to witness firsthand.  You loved your husband with all your heart, and Ben love you with all of his.

Whatever you do, do it with all your heart.

The second big idea that Ben embodied was laughter is the best.  The saying is laughter is the best medicine, but Ben didn’t think if it as just medicine, it was his life. According to Ben:

Laughter is the best way to start the day

Laughter is the best way to break the ice with complete strangers

Laughter is the best way to make mom ask “did you pick that up in the military?”

Laughter is the best way to make Trish’s face turn red

Laughter is the best way to live your life

Ben loved to laugh.  He was usually armed with a new joke or story that even made him laugh, and you know, his laughing would make you laugh.  Because as he would say a joke, he was hearing it for the first time too, so it was legit funny to him as well.  Even in these final weeks, I would notice how he still had his smile and his laugh.  Nothing could take that from him.

One thing that always made me laugh was Ben’s music choices.  If any of you had ever rode with Ben in his truck, you quickly found out his intense love for such a wide, unconnected variety of music.  Anything ranging from classic big hair 80’s rock and Sweedish metal bands to classic 90’s country and current pop songs.  It was all over the place, but he was happy to DJ for the entire duration of the car ride.  Music was life giving to Ben-

Ben had an amazing way of not taking things too seriously.  I think all of us have something to learn from that.  It’s not that he couldn’t be serious or give concern where it was warranted, he just had a way of keeping perspective of things.  I think he compared them to his life experiences and things that he had been through.  I remember him quoting a line out of the movie Braveheart (well, several, but I won’t mention those in this setting).  But the one I remember is the most is “everyman dies, not every man really lives” (William Wallace)

He wasn’t controlled by fear.  He knew how big his God was compared to the size of the obstacle he was facing.  His life reminds me of Psalm 16:8-9 that says

“I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure”

Ben was secure in the Lord

His heart was made glad in his Creator

His eyes were set on His God

Ben could laugh because he knew who held his tomorrow. And now he is with the one who holds our tomorrow.  And I praise God for His faithfulness until the end!

Conclusion:

One way each of us can honor Ben’s life today is to go do whatever you do with all your heart and remember to compare your obstacles with how big your God is…you might just find it laughable.  God is so Good

Posted in Ben, Joy

Four Reasons I Still Believe in Miracles…

I can’t remember a time in the last 4.5 years when I didn’t wake up and go to sleep with prayers for a miracle.  I prayed for all signs of brain cancer and tumors to disappear and for complete and total healing for my husband.  We didn’t get the miracle we prayed for this time (at least not the way we prayed for it to come)… but I do still believe in miracles.

  1. The Bible is full of them…

This may seem kind of obvious but from creation to revelation the Bible is full of miracles.  The Red Sea parting; Noah’s family surviving the flood; Jesus walking on water; and people being healed are only a few of thousands of miracles chronicled within the pages of scripture.  And I believe that the Bible is true.  If it wasn’t true we wouldn’t read it, trust it, and continue to pray, right?

  1. God still answers prayers…

I often hear people say that miracles were reserved for Bible times.  They acknowledge that God still listens to our prayers, but that doesn’t mean that He is going to do something miraculous for us.  I disagree.  I prayed, cried, and struggled to find meaning during some of the most difficult days of my life, but I didn’t feel like God left me alone in that place.  He sent people to surround me, to comfort me, and to give me both hope and joy.

Before Ben’s first fight with brain cancer, we prayed for years for God to grant us our request for children and even after the doctors told us it was highly unlikely, those prayers were answered.  Ben taught me to never give up praying and believing, no matter how impossible a dream seemed.

  1. I have seen a lot of miracles in my relatively short lifetime…

Ben and I saw so many of them in our life together: carrying twins after a miscarriage, surviving brain surgery not just once but twice, my surviving Kinsey’s birth, him living 4.5 years when they told him he would only have 1-2 years max.  We didn’t get the last miracle we prayed for, the one we longed for every day for over 4.5 years, but yes, I do still believe in miracles.  Every day with Ben was a gift, a miracle in and of itself.  And I continue to be reminded every day of the miracle that his life was.

I believe God listens when I pray, I believe He answers with exactly what we need, even if it isn’t exactly what we want.  I’m still sad that we didn’t get this miracle the way that we prayed for it, but it does not make me doubt the way that God can move in the future.  I still pray for miracles every day for my friends fighting cancer, infertility, chronic health issues, custody battles and struggles in their relationships and marriages.

  1. Every day is a miracle…

And now, in the aftermath of loss, I try to look for the miracles in the everyday life around me.  Every moment with my children, the sun and rainbow shining through after the storm, and every text that I get out of the blue that shows people love and care about us.  God moves in every little thing, you just have to open your eyes to see it.

God moves in every little thing, you just have to open your eyes to see it.(1)