When You are Having Fun…

So I am doing this thing called a fitness bootcamp. It is killing me but like they say, no pain, no gain. And maybe I am gaining some muscle, but I am losing some weight too. In the meantime, I hurt. I hurt a lot.

But that’s a good thing in its own way.

Our kids are all doing well. Michael graduated from High School last week. Conner finished his Freshman year at that school up north. Max is going into the 10th grade and Casey into the 5th. And little Jude is a complete joy (thanks Kyle & Karissa–you do good work)!

Time flies when you are having fun.

And we are.

I find myself here at my blog for the first time in a long while. This blog has more often been about pain than anything else. And I still have pain. I will hurt for our losses until that day when all is made new again.

But I am here today and looking at my life in complete astonishment. I still haven’t finished the book I am working on–and the next is already percolating in my head. I find myself busier than I have ever been with life and kids and church and life. Did I say life?

Yes I did.

Life is wonderful.
Life is breathtaking.
And I am blessed by family, by church family, by opportunities, and by the good graces of God.

So why am I here today?

It isn’t to whine or moan.
It isn’t to weep and wail.
It isn’t to complain.

Why am I here today?

To say thank you.

To say thank you to my wife, to my family, to my church family, to my friends, to my encouragers, to my awesome God.

Thank you. Life is beautiful today. It may turn ugly tomorrow, the rain may fall and the rivers may rise, but today I am grateful, at peace, and so very thankful.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.
Let Israel say, “His faithful love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say, “His faithful love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,“His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1-4 HCSB)

Unpacking A Move!

boxes
(http://www.guardianremovals.co.uk)

Over the past several weeks, we have moved more of our stuff from Vicksburg to Madison

We’ve packed up over there; unpacked over here (or least stacked boxes in sometimes strategic places).

The act of moving is not an art. There isn’t a delicate movement here or there—no finely tuned instrumentation taking place. It is just a blunt necessity.

This particular move has been anything but typical. We have strung this out in bits and pieces while we work on the new house. But ready or not, it is time to get everything from there to here.

What has been typical comes from this perspective: What looked valuable, important, and needed over there somehow looks junky, unimportant, and unwanted over here.

Be that as it may, all this moving stuff has caused me a bit of difficulty.

Over there, I had mostly hidden the treasures and knick knacks that were so important to my son, Cole. Hidden, as in put away, out of sight, and lacking the ability to move around on their own. I knew what and where to avoid—to keep myself from stepping on any emotional land mines especially if I was unprepared (as if one could ever be truly be ready).

Over here, I am having to handle them, find places for them, and otherwise deal with my grief and pain in a fresh new way.

I have been known to say that losing a child is like living a nightmare you never wake up from.

It’s always there.
It never goes away
And tears may come when you least expect it.

King David mourned the death of his son with these famous words: My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son! (2 Samuel 18:33 HCSB)

I get it.
I wish I didn’t, but I do.

I get the pain.
I get the hurt.
I get the anguish and anger.

As I write this, I would like to fuss about my contacts not working.  I’d like to complain about how blurry my glasses are. But the truth is often quite simple: tears have a way of distorting our vision.

Some days it is just plain hard to see.
I miss my boy.
I really do.

But as I push past the tears, as I trust in the God who will one day wipe them all away, I find myself thankful for you:

For my wife
For my children
For my family
For my friends
For my church
For all who lent an ear, shared a shoulder, and otherwise walked with me through the valley of the shadow of death.

Your love and support helps bear a burden too big to carry alone.

Thank you for being Jesus to me and living out the words of Paul in Colossians 3:12-15.

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.

And I am.
Thankful.

As the song says, thank you Lord for loving me

Les, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland

The Story From My Perspective

I understand my story is difficult to hear.

It is certainly painful to tell.

There are days when I have to try harder than others to not live with a victim mentality. Days when the anger, resentment, and bitterness want to have free rein in my heart. Days in which it would be easier to just give in to despair.

The losses we faced back then were compounded by all the other losses that seemed to keep coming no matter what we tried or did. Yes, even ongoing losses that seem to be insurmountable.

Certainly, in spite of the horrors visited upon us in the spring of 2011–the horrors that reached a crescendo pitch on October 10, 2011, I sit here at my desk today as an incredibly blessed man.

In this season of thanksgiving, I am acutely aware of my past. But I am even more acutely aware of my present and the hope we have for the future.

I am thankful for the health of my children–of every variety. I am thankful beyond words for the beauty, vitality, and heart of the woman who has made it her job to walk alongside me as my wife.

I am thankful for my redemption–from God and for God. I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve again as a minister. I am thankful for my new church family. I am thankful for their encouragement to use my story for the help and hope of others. Redemption for me means using this story of faith and doubt, agony and pain, and restoration as means to bring honor to those we lost–and to ensure their deaths would never be in vain.

Yes, I am so very thankful.
I am thankful for family far and near.
I am thankful for friends old, present, and future.
I am thankful for hope both now and in the eternity to come–an eternity that is closer than we often know.

I am thankful.

Over the last several weeks I sat through hours of interviews with a new friend, Billy Watkins. Billy is a writer/ investigative reporter for the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, MS. We talked about things I had forgotten. I recalled things that were difficult to put together. I described things whose clarity has not yet begun to fade nor will in any future I can imagine. Some things just are…

But Billy and I talked. A lot. In person, via text, on the phone. We talked a lot.
In some of those conversations, I cried–and I think there were times he cried in the hearing.
The story he heard was terrible. It was terrible in the telling. It was terrible in the writing. It is terrible in the reading.
Even now.
Even now.

But I am thankful for the opportunity he gave me. I have heard from countless people who see the hand of God still active in our lives. And that hand of God? That is the real story.

That is the real story.

And I am thankful.

If you would like to see the story as Billy wrote it, you can see it here.

As well, I’d like to point you to my latest offering at Wineskins. I hope it will be of benefit.

Blessings to you and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Les