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Life with a big future full of dreams. Together. 36 years ago I said “I do”.

Life was perfect. I was marrying the man God ordained for me. We made wedding plans. My dress was designed by me and sewn by a family friend as were the bridesmaid’s dresses. Rings were bought. Flowers ordered. Cake chosen. Vows were written. Music selected. We had a registry. We had showers. We were given gifts and blessings. The future looked bright. A team forever. Ps. 34:3.

36 years ago I anticipated many things but no matter what one anticipates the future is never certain. Who would ever have anticipated where God would lead us? Or how many kids we would minister to or raise? Who could anticipate raising our kids in IL or the amazing community we were to encounter there? Who could have foreseen that our move back to California was going to be critical as we would face cancer.

I could never have anticipated the myriad of blessings and opportunities and hardships headed our way as we anticipated our wedding day and a life of ministry together. I think it is on purpose that God keeps some things from us. Knowing everything would keep us from leaning into Him and trusting Him. And, if I anticipated what was to come, it would be so terrifying and overwhelming that I would perhaps have become immobilized.

When Jim was diagnosed with GBM brain cancer, I began the fearful journey of anticipation as I wondered what life would be like as a widow and when it would become my reality. I had no idea. And yet Jim was loved to the end fearlessly… and my kids needed strength for the day. I often went into the shower to sob uncontrollably.

Live in the moment. My future all became a glance at the past as I avoided anticipating “tomorrow”. Not my will but Thine.

My heart raced. My mind spun. My eyes burned and I felt sick but outwardly I had to keep a happy face. I needed to cling to hope for our family – in spite of losing my life partner. I dreaded the hurt, the loneliness and the empty that I anticipated. I dreaded the grief.

Ruth 2:3 says a phrase – “as it turns out” as though a coincidence just took place as Ruth happens to glean in a relative’s fields.  Actually, as it turns out, the things I dreaded became a reality. But also, as it turns out, things I had not anticipated came true. God’s Word written on my heart faithfully broke through the self-absorbed state of mourning and in the midst of heartache, I see grace. My heart broke.  The crying and sadness came as anticipated (and even still when I don’t expect it). But as it turned out as I allow God to minister, I learn God’s character that I have not experienced before. I ask him daily to carry me and the kids through.  I intentionally breathe in and out.  I trust God to redeem the situation and hold me tight and give Jim a hug and a kiss from me every day.

I had a life plan 36 years ago – to love God while bringing out the best in others.  That is still my plan. It has not failed because my life partner died.  I have not given up.  Moreover, God is still on the throne.  He still has power.  He is good. Those are certainties I accept by faith.

And still, there is a time for everything.  A time to mourn and and time to celebrate.  I still hate the expression that time heals all wounds, because I am not convinced that it is true.  At the same time, over the past 6 years I mourn less and I can say that I honestly am no longer in love with James William Mohler.  I still love him – and will miss him forever – but this is a new reality I could not ever have imagined. I still long for Jim’s touch and his wisdom. I still grieve but the storm waves have subsided.

There is no certainty apart from Christ.  There is no assurance of a happy ending in this life. Living by faith is the the antithesis of certainty according to Anne Lamont. Dr. Corey calls it confidence, which is literally living by faith. I think another alternative for the opposite of faith is cowardice, which implies that the converse: faith is courage. In Mark 4 a storm suddenly overwhelms the boat in which Jesus and his disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee. While Jesus naps, his friends freak. They wake him, and he tells the wind and waves to be still. Then he turns on the twelve and says “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?” Ben Franklin said the only thing certain in this life is death and taxes. But as Christians we know certain truths through our experience with the Almighty and through encounters with others.  The faith I put in my best friend and soulmate is certain; I trust (which is the theological meaning of faith).  The mystery of the Christian life is the reality that I cannot understand apart from faith and trusting in God’s goodness.  As it turns out, the less certain I am, the more I embrace grace and lean into a life of faith.

So, I anticipate a good day of memories.  I embrace God’s grace today.  And I will watch to see how it turns out!

Life as Thank you 36

Dear Ruth,

You are one of the most amazing women I know and I am so blessed to call you friend.  The memories we made while the Mohlers lived in Chicago are among of my sweetest.  One of my goals in 2016 is to write an old school thank you to people in my life each week. In honor of your birthday, it is your turn! I think of and pray for you often, and I thought I would take a minute to share with you how grateful I am that you are in my life and the impact you have made.  (This includes Mark too)

I knew of you years before I met you.  I read your books.  I loved the articles in the Marriage partnership journal. I memorized a poem you wrote in Campus Life magazine.  Needless to say when Jim and I moved to IL and met you and Mark, we wanted to put you on a pedestal since we were fans of your ministries and admired the impact you were making for the gospel.  We often talked about how Mark asked us to take you both off the pedestal and just become friends and colleagues.  And we are so glad we did.

I am so grateful for the things I learned as a teacher by observing you and Mark teach.

I am grateful for the example you both set as servants at church, from watching Mark on the floor with babies to you teaching women the Word of God.

I am grateful for the example of hospitality I gleaned as a recipient and observer of your relational openness.

I am grateful for your example as a team in ministry, which was always our goal as well.  We found kindred spirits in you both.

I am grateful for the traditions we established and enjoyed. And I was so thankful that Mark helped Jim as his roommate at the last AYME conference.

I am always grateful for the example you set as parents and caregivers of your aging parents (and then as grandparents).  You may not have known that someone was watching, but I was one of those watching and taking notes.

I am grateful for your journeys of faith, lived out so winsomely and consistently.  I still hope to be like you when I “grow up!”

May God continue to use you both. May you both remain trustworthy with the keys to the kingdom,  May God continue to shine through you and His favor on you.

Ruth, I love you, my Friend! – and it is much easier to drink tea and hug when you are not on that pedestal!

Miriam

 

 

Life as Thank You 35

Dear DBC,

In an effort to increase my love of kindness, I decided to write an old-school thank you note each week to say thank you and express my gratitude.  Today, you spoke from Ruth at church.  I share her name (it is in the middle).  I share her story (except for the remarrying part – no thanks!).  I am a widow and learning to navigate life along with over half the US population who have to fend for themselves as well as for others in an often dark valley of loneliness.  I share her hope,  learning to expect God to show up.

I am grateful for your words today.  They were strong, inspiring, relevant and kind. Thank you. As it turns out… An amazing phrase that God sees what we don’t see. And perspective changes everything; A field of dandelions can be seen as 100 weeds or 1000 wishes. As it turns out…God continues to meet needs.  As it turns out … coincidence is really just a God-wink*!  As it turns out …. God has used Biola in countless ways in my life and the life of my family.  As it turns out, you and Paula have been refreshing air for our family.  Thank you to your family for your friendship and prayers over these years.  Thank you for the notes, the hugs, the eye contact and listening ears every time you see a Mohler!  It means a great deal to each of us to not feel forgotten or discarded. Thank you for your leadership at Biola. Thank you for your wisdom and your compassion.

May God continue to bless you with margins that restore. May your faith confidently grow into certainty as we walk toward home.

In His Grip,

Miriam Ruth Mohler

 

*godwink. Noun. (plural God winks) An event or personal experience, often identified as coincidence, so astonishing that it is seen as a sign of divine intervention, especially when perceived as the answer to a prayer.

 

“I Do” – Take 4?!

I am wrestling this week with a variety of emotions regarding Jim’s “family”.  I did not anticipate the jumble of events after Jim died. How could I?!  People whom I have called family for 30+ years continued to be involved in my life and the lives of my kids.  We continued to celebrate holidays together.  We spent time investing in each other’s lives.  After all, they are still Jim’s relatives, even if we don’t share the same blood or legal ties.  And some actually do share the same blood as my children!  It never occurred to me that we were no longer a family and when Jim’s brothers needed to be “found” and cared for, I decided to act according to what I felt Jim would have done.  For example, I paid some bills, provided moving assistance and a cell phone, continued to pick them up to enjoy holidays with the family and kept in touch.

But as time as gone by (and it really has not been that long yet), things have changed.  They have been not a very tight knit family and there is a very wide gap in beliefs and values, but for some reason their relationships remained intact over the years anyway.  I suppose blood is thicker than water as the saying goes. Traditions change, families are fluid, time passes, and now we find ourselves wondering how to move forward.

My mother-in-law, who is not Jim’s mother, is getting married for a fourth time in September.  She will be joining a new family and since it is already strained to host Jim’s family at holidays anyway, I think this is more than I care to deal with. I think that “family” is more about feelings and relationships than it is about being related by blood and yet?!. Legally speaking we stopped being family when Jim’s dad passed away. Linda is not blood related to anyone we are related to (except for Ed, her son who married Pam, Jim’s cousin) and yet because of familial and emotional ties we still refer to her as mom/grandma.  Genealogically, she would still land somehow on the family tree, but at the same time, her remarriage ‘supercedes’ previous marriage relationships. From a ‘social’ point of view, it may be convenient, and possibly desired, to maintain a friendly interaction, but it would be simply that – a friendly interaction for me; my kids will probably always consider her grandma! The correct terminology of address would then be ‘my former mother-in-law’ or ‘my late husband’s stepmother’, nothing more. As to her new husband, he is not in any way related to us legally or by blood. Further, He will not be ‘papa’ to my adult children.

We have had conversations about our family relationship since Jim and Lionel died, but it never included what to do when one or more of us decide to move on. Of course I am not hurt that Linda is choosing another marriage and I am grateful for the relationship we have enjoyed since their deaths, in part because the bond was in tact for so many years prior to their deaths. I really have grown to care for them, love them and value the things we have been through together.  Even though she is not their biological grandmother, she is the only grandma from Jim’s side of the family that my children have ever known.

And so, in some way, we are about to experience another loss.  I have very mixed feelings about doing the ceremony but I feel obligated to do it, even though it is weird; and I am grateful that she helped bring Lionel to a saving faith.  I am also in love with Jim and Tammie and my niece Alex and her family.  We can always gather for events and they will be invited to weddings, showers and the like but it will be different.  Here we go again

 

Life as Thank You 34

Dear Lisa,

“Thank you” sometimes feels like it is not enough to let someone know how deep the gratitude is, but at the same time it is the best words I can think of to express my gratitude for you and your family.  Our history adds a layer of depth that I cherish and I wanted to let you know that I learn so much through our friendship.  The relationship is rich and meaningful and I am humbled by your grace on my behalf. I am blessed to call you all my friends.  Thank you for the treat of a weekend adventure to SLO.  Thank you for all the help with a shower and scones for Emily, for your genuine care and listening heart, for helping me move, for the laughter and for entrusting me with your kids, especially Abby!

May God continue to bless and honor you and may you always shine brightly for the kingdom.

Much love,

Miriam

Ears to Hear Mark 10

This is one of those stories I have heard so many times that it is hard to read with fresh ears.

The question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This ruler does not seem to understand that one of the purposes of the Law is to help us see how broken we are. Instead he thinks he has it all down.

And Jesus’ response: “keep the law” followed by “sell everything you have”, instead of “put your faith in me”. The way to be right with God is NOT to sell everything you have and give it to the poor. We know the answer is to repent and accept Jesus. Eternal life is a gift of God. It’s free.

The rich young ruler goes to Jesus for assurance that he is okay. Jesus sees right through to the guy’s heart and sees that money has a hold over him. (If this guy was secure then he would not be asking the question.) This man was more than likely “technically” generous since he had followed the law. He tithed at the Temple and gave to the poor. It is possible to be technically generous with our money and not radically generous with our heart. However, it is impossible to be generous with our heart and not generous with our money. Out of recognition that God is being generous with us and gives us what we do not deserve, we are expected to pay it forward.

So what is Jesus really saying? I think it is that we have to break the power of idols in our lives, the things that compete for first place in our lives, and one of the ways we do that is by letting go of anything, besides Jesus, that we lean on for power, relevance and security. And think about it. Jesus looks at this guy who is rich with earthly “stuff”, who can’t give up what he has. Jesus knows the struggle because He was rich. He had everything and he gave it all away. He laid aside his glory and became poor so we might be richer than we ever could on our own.

National Days

Today is one of my Favorites – National S’mores Day!

Once, when we were on a camping trip with students, someone forgot to bring the graham crackers and all we had for the s’mores was double stuff Oreos.  That was the beginning of a creative love affair with that snack!

I don’t remember when I started thinking about such things but it was early on in my adult life.  Then when I had kids, it became a big deal to me to find fun ways to celebrate life, especially when we lived so far from family.

Recently someone asked Clayton if life was always like that growing up- the special dates and celebrations – and he shook his head no!  At first I was disheartened, but the more I thought about it, the special days were so often and “common” that he probably never even noticed that they were not “normal” for other families!  Then I thought about all the dates that he remembers such as birthdays and realized that he really does notice the days.

One of the hardest things about empty nesting for me is that the traditions and the fun celebrations of everyday life as a family are pretty much all done.  That is as it should be as my kids create their own traditions in their grown up lives.  I suppose if Jim was still alive, he and I would still have some that we established early on in our relationship. Those were the days!

 

National Girlfriends Day

Today is National Girlfriend’s day…

I am more that blessed to have the strong women who I call my friends!

Martha, My sister, and my sisters in law, Tammie D., Laurie B, Judy and Angelique

Julie – I have known you most of my life and nearly all my best memories growing up include you

Marji – Ever since that day in 9th grade Algebra, you have been my bestie!  I owe much of my spiritual growth through high school to you!

Janis – Making the decision to have another couple as our best friends to walk through life was one of our smartest choices as a couple.  Choosing you and Steve was a no-brainer at the time and has literally changed my life!

Marianne – Meeting you at Forest Home was ordained!  What we did to grow our relationship was inspired!

Cam – sitting together in band started a journey that has shared its ups and downs. But we always land on our feet! (just like a cat!!!)

Susan T- first I met your brother, then your parents.  But when I met you I felt at home.  Kindred spirits. My role model as a mom!

Laura –  we raised our kids together! You are a fun friend and a great cook!

Tami – our love of books and movies and crosswords….boy do I miss you living next door!

Lauren – how did it happen?!

Jo & Kathy –  Baseball, Jesus, flea, Disney…

Wanda & Sue D – from students to friends.  a lifetime of laughter tears and prayers.  Your steadfast friendship is an anchor in my soul

Catie and Alex – who would have known that trips to the children’s wing on the cancer floor would cement a lifelong friendship.  I am so proud of the women you have become.

Ginny – You are beautiful and conscientious inside and out.

Ruth – I want to be like you “when I grow up”.

There are more that I would consider besties, whether for a season or for keeps: Tibby, Carmen, Virgie, Ginger, Ann, Lauren, Lisa, Mikey, Shelley, Jeanine, Carol J, Carole Z, Karen, Lorie, Lorraine, LoAnne, Michelene, Patty, Pam, Debbie, Pam R., Sue B, Susan W., Val, Connie, Kelsey, Norma….I can’t even name them all.  There are so many chances to hurt people by making a list, an that is not my intention.  Whether or not you are named, you are treasured by me and I keep you in my heart.

Also, as I write this the lyrics to “For Good” from Wicked has been playing in my mind:

I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you.
I have been changed for good.
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part:
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend.
Like a ship blown from it’s mooring
By a wind off the sea.
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you…
Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better

I do believe I have been changed for the better.

But because I knew you…
Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good.

Life as Thank you 32

Michelene,

You are one of my heroes.  You raised the childhood best friends of both my children and that alone had a huge impact on our family.  In between the birthdays of those 2 fabulous people (Sherrod last week and Abi this week) I thought I would tell you how thankful I am for you.

You are one of the most generous, creative and godly women I know.  I am grateful for your gift of hospitality and the way you shared your home for play group, Bible studies, neighborhood parties and teas.  I am grateful that I never had to worry about my kids when they were in your care. I am further grateful for the way you raised your older girls to be responsible and kind babysitters.  From you I learned so much from homeschooling to recipes to evangelistic living to frugality and more! Your heart for fostering and for adoption is inspiring.  Your sewing and crafting abilities are amazing and your intentionality in relationships is exemplary.

I love your extended family too. In fact, I think that one of the best things about moving to Illinois was living in Waukegan and having the privilege of doing life with the Reeds, the Martens and the Burns’.  Memories we all treasure!

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.  May you know the joy and peace of a job well done as a mom, wife, sister and friend!

Love you!

Miriam

Life as a Thank you 31

Today is National Aunts & Uncles Day.  In honor of the people I call my aunts and uncles, I thought I would send a big shout out and thank you!  This week is a bit different than a single thank you note as I share my gratitude for Aunt Janie, Aunt Kitty, Aunt Crystal, Aunt Patricia and Uncle Buddy.  I am further grateful for the spouses and the “great” aunts and uncles and the people I called aunts and uncles, who really had no biological ties to my family but carried the responibility so well that they were given the title. I am who I am because of the prayers and the input these people have had on my life. I remember special conversations and gifts.  I remember challenges and fun adventures.  I have watched some walk through tough times and relationships with grace and dignity.  I want to be like you and try new things and love well and leave a legacy like you have left or are leaving for me.  I am so grateful that you are “mine”.

I have nieces and nephews and I was thinking about what the significance in the Bible might be. While the Bible does not have a direct guideline for this role, we can see some examples of  how God intends those relationships to work.  First there is Abraham and Lot. Lot is described as just and righteous and we know his greatest mentor growing up was growing up following his uncle Abe. Abraham yielded to Lot in choosing land, he pleaded with God on Lot’s behalf when Lot moved his family to Sodom.  Miriam is another example of an aunt who set the bar high.  We do not know if she was married with children of her own but we do know that this prophetess, poet, and leader was there as a strong and principled example to help her nephews and the Israelite people in tough times just as she had when she watched her brother, Moses.

I have not had the privilege of living near my aunts and uncles with the exception of my Aunt Janie. That was a special time for both of us and I treasure the memories we made and the relationship we enjoyed.  I remember when I first became an aunt.  My sister gave birth to my sweet niece Vanessa and I was overwhelmed with love and pride that these people are “mine” and that I can carry on the legacy of faith as I encourage and support my siblings in their sacred role as parents.

So what do I do (or what have I done) for those who call me Aunt? What do I think I should do?

  • I pray for them.  regularly.
  • I try to listen to them, paying attention to the things that are important to them, learning who they are, responding truthfully and taking the initiative in building a healthy relationship.
  • I have tried to be supportive by attending their events, sending them notes as well as thoughtful gifts, asking them for their opinions and for their help when I have needed it.
  • I tell them I love them and try to show them through my actions.
  • (Even though I know that I fail at this one the most)  I try to model a life of integrity and demonstrate faithful living of one devoted to God.

I hope that I have instilled a love for the extended families for my own kids and it is evident that they do value the relationships they have with their cousins and aunts and uncles.  I cherish my nieces and nephews; I love being an aunt.  It is a favorite title and it is a blessing that I love and hold carefully with the weight of responsibility.

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