Friday, September 14, 2018

In Memorium, Sarah Hutson

In the very beginning Aspiring Writers’ Forum or A.W.F. as we like to call ourselves, formed a bond amongst the members who transformed the table on Wednesday nights, sharing our thoughts in written word, our days in anecdotal stories and our hopes in words and imagined dreams of the glory and grace surrounding us. Our friend, Sarah Hutson sat amongst us in those first couple of years.  With a genuine wit, she always made us laugh.

When I think of Sarah, I think of a spunky, young, single mom, with a huge heart for her family, her job, and especially her son, Gavin. She possessed many talents involving theater art, something she thought she might pursue as a career, but God led her down another path, one she also succeeded in, encompassing both her intellect, her loving spirit and “family.” Employed as a social worker, specifically, she walked children and hopeful couples through the foster and adoption process, a gift of patience, insight and long hours, she saw the fruition of many hopes and dreams. 

Sarah did all this fighting cancer, fighting for her own life, her own future but in that she trusted God wholeheartedly, as she herself proclaimed her adoption into God’s family.

In early summer, God gave me an impromptu way to serve Sarah, and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to give her a ride home from church one warm Sunday afternoon. We talked a lot and it wasn’t idle chit-chat. I asked her a few questions I just wanted to know.  I felt comfortable enough around her to inquire and she shared in transparency, she shared humbly, she shared with her hopes and dreams still attached. My heart swelled in thankfulness for this dear, strong woman, my friend, who in her frail and painful state, encouraged me, made me laugh and believe even more that God’s plans are good and that light shines in and through the darkness.  As I pulled up to her house, I held her hand and we prayed together, one last time.

In those first few months of AWF, we did a crazy thing. (Somehow, I think Sarah helped move this idea forward). Putting together stories of unique perspectives from the Christmas Story, an Advent book came together. A collaborative effort, Sarah contributed three stories. I chose to share one of them here, “The Shepherdess.” I am reminded of my friend, a shepherdess in her own way, leading lost little lambs to forever families, telling cheerful and funny stories while waiting and watching in darkness over those things she loved so dearly. Thank you Sarah, for pointing out the glorious lights in heaven with your shining courageous Spirit and for inspiring us all with your faithful, unrelenting hope in a Greater Shepherd who comforts us now in our tears and our memories.

In love and gratitude,  Rest in Peace my friend,
Considerably yours, 
Coleene VanTilburg

Sarah and her son Gavin

The Shepherdess
By Sarah Hutson

Angels, that’s what she heard. That’s what awakened Deborah and her family. Even her unborn child seemed alert and moving. At first, she thought she was dreaming, but when she looked around she saw other shepherds waking from their huddled groups and staring at the sky. A sky alive with color and movement that swirled together to form heavenly figures. The sky filled with the messengers of heaven. The air itself crackled around Deborah and an unseen force drew her and her loved ones to their feet.

“Be not afraid,” the angels said. “Unto you a Savior is born, go and worship Him.”

“We are mere shepherds, the lowest of the village,” Deborah said to her husband. “Why would a Savior be born for us? What right do we have to worship at His feet?”

Her husband drew her close, “I too am afraid; but they have told us to go to the Child and bear witness of His birth. I do not understand why we have been chosen, but I will obey.”

The call of the angels overcame the fears of her mind, and they began to walk toward Bethlehem. Her hesitant, doubtful steps    began to hasten. Those around her seemed to be walking faster as well; some even began to run. She moved quickly through the streets, and her husband reached out to help steady her. When he took her hand, she was surprised to find him shaking. And when she looked into his eyes, she found them filled with love.

They were told to follow the star, but they were led by something deep in their souls. They filled the dark, silent streets, searching for the newborn King. She wondered why the whole town was not awake to see the Savior, and she realized that the first glimpse of this precious Gift was meant for them.

She expected to find the Child in a fine inn or a wealthy home, some place suitable for a king. Instead she found a young mother and proud father holding a Child wrapped in rough swaddling cloths. They huddled together in an old stable on the outskirts of town. Deborah knew they had found what they were looking for. The brightest star in the sky shone down on the stable, like a beacon in the night guiding a lost ship safely home. She felt her unborn child move and she rubbed her stomach lovingly. It was then that she realized this young girl’s Child was born to save her children. He was born to save the world, now and for all the generations to come. The weight of that realization brought her to her knees, and she wept with tears of joy.

In the dark of the night, the Light of the World was born and the most humble amongst them became this miracle’s witness.

Go Fund Me for Sarah Hutson and family

Friday, December 22, 2017

Every Knee

Every Knee
Christmas Poem, 2017

Behold! The Creation!
So perfectly made to move with us,
Bend for us,
Take us to amazing places to prove for us…
Yet we find frustration, gather in contemplation
To remove ourselves from Good.

Once done, the joints ache in the labor.
The walk is farther with no end in sight,
Always a fight
And a longing for something
That just might…change us.

So we run, run with the crowd, the masses,
Striving, winning and losing, living and dying.
Our muscles tense up, yet strong,
Full of opinions and commentary…
Painful sad songs in what wrongs.
Our head hangs lowered, eyes scrolling.

Time finds a way to become tangible
Marked now by scars, knee bumps and bruises.
We’ve let the world’s gravity keep us tethered
One disaster to the next.
What have we missed in all the texts?
Hearts so vexed

A plan all along,
We remember in the Season.
A cup of hydration in our weary run,
A sip of thirst-quenching water on our walk.
Was He the Giver? Am I the sinner? Can there be a winner?
The knee buckles.

We’ve carried our burdens far too long.
Dry bones ache and slow us down,
Temporary solutions, more contusions, retributions.
We’ve walked with this crutch, this open wound,
The world groans and longs for a healing,
Something redeeming.

Fall to your knees
And He hears our pleas
From the world’s deadly squeeze.
What does He give?
His Son for our soul’s very core,
Oh, Come Let Us Adore!

Immanuel, God with Us
In our critical condition
He heals the infection, bring us completion,

Heart replacement with Love’s precision,
Your decision, His Hope for our provision.
He disconnects, removes all our mess, gives us His best.
Spiritual therapy is guaranteed.
Peace begins with a bowed head and bent knees.

Every knee will bow
In rebellion or submission, in gratitude or omission
And every tongue will confess, He came to bless.
Find Him today and walk in His Light
Truth and grace came on Christmas night.

Merry Christmas & a Blessed New Year

Considerably yours, 
Coleene VanTilburg

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Two Dashes

I attended two memorials within a few days of each other--both the honored--young, in their sixties. One took place in a beautiful church on a hill in which the deceased served and worshipped. The other,  in a small room, the 2nd floor of the mortuary, a few folded chairs barely filled.

 For one, his ashes rested in a beautiful crafted wooden box, I am sure he made himself, since he did that. The attendees sang more than appropriate hymns together, "Be Thou My Vision," and "Amazing Grace." The other, a viewing, his shrouded body flanked by a collage of pictures and a spray of beautiful red roses.

One was a Sheriff's Deputy, the other a Chiropractor by profession, both involved and committed to serving their community and people without compromise.

One received a diagnosis of cancer in April and lost the battle in a few short months.
One suffered for several years with failing health.

Honored by many of his friends, pastors, colleagues and family, Ron, my cousin, received a passionate display of memorial speeches and a tribute to his heroism. We felt in awe of what he accomplished and gave. A "casket guard" represented by the Sheriff Dept., --in this case, an urn guard, each fully uniformed officer stood their allotted time next to the table where his ashes rested, in ceremonial respect and honor.

A service prepared by a minister he never knew, Walter, my friend from high school probably smiled from heaven as the minister shared from the Book of Genesis, his heart wanting to give us hope. Walter never wanted attention, always caring more about what you were up to. Leaving that room, we proceeded up a long hill, a procession following the hearse to where the burial ceremony continued, over-looking the valley he grew up and served his patients in. Arriving there, several more friends from high school enlarged the crowd. Below his dug grave, the burial section of children. Their headstones recently decorated for the fall season, aglow with marigolds pumpkins, gave that tangible melancholy--a feeling of hope lost. A choir of angelic voices, I'd like to think, welcomed my friend to his heavenly Home. In that we remember that God is the Giver of Eternal Hope.

Walter, bottom left with dear friends from High School, our annual reunion picnic. 

Yes, both memorials were different, yet in death, we are all at level ground. Eternity and our legacy lifts us up because of our love for God, demonstrated in service and kindness to others. Their memory etches a hope eulogy in our own interactions, for us to remember who they were to us forever in the tombstones of our hearts. It should inspire us to do something with that dash in our life's journey, the dash that holds a lifetime of who we are in Christ and to this broken world.

May 3, 1954 ~ ....   That dash represents my legacy. What will it be, what will yours be?

My cousin, Ron, my friend, Walter...their dashes, their selfless lives touched me and many others. I want to share two stories as I remember them, being told at each service.

Ron, trekked to Mt Everest in the Himalayan mountains of Tibet. An extraordinary athlete, this accomplishment is no ordinary endeavor. As you may have seen in documentaries or news stories, when climbing Mt. Everest, one is accompanied by local mountain guide called a Sherpa. Ron, being a friendly, very talkative man, struck up a conversation with one Sherpa on the journey. A topic came up about goals and dreams, an obvious, easy topic since Ron at that moment made a big check on that bucket list. The Sherpa ( with the help of translators), expressed to Ron that his goal in life was to be an "ancestor." In his culture, to achieve that, he needed to own property, a parcel of land. I don't know the details of how Ron made that happen, but he gifted his Sherpa after the climb with the amount he needed in his country, to make that purchase and achieve his dream, to become an "ancestor."

Ron and THE mountain! 

At the graveside service of my friend, Walter, as mentioned earlier, many more appeared on the hill,  fellow classmates of mine and Walter's from high school long ago. While the pastor said a few more words, there remained some missing statements about the man, Walter. These friends from high school,  were quick to give Walter the praise and honor he deserved, share their anecdotes and love. One story I wish to share here.

Just out of high school and entering junior college in the fall, Debbie and her friend needed jobs.  Seeing an opportunity to work in a factory, the excitement and impulsive urge created by the need for sustenance, made them eager to get hired. Hearing of this, Walter was not too certain this sounded like a good thing. Not in the best part of town, Walter insisted that he pick up both girls and drive them to the factory to do the paperwork. He then arranged to take them as well, their first day, which he did. Did I mention they were working graveyard shift?  Not only did he take them, he waited in the parking lot all night for them to finish their shift and make sure they got home safe. After a few days, the girls realized Walter's wisdom and quit. Who does that?--waits all night long, sacrificing their own time to make sure their friends remain safe? Walter did. As I got to know him more in our adult years, he shared one of his greatest joys, attending church at the Salvation Army, here in Ontario. A humble place and somewhere he knew he could serve God quietly and kindly, he did that and I saw that joy, that Holy Spirit within him when he talked about that experience. Walt also poured his life into his girlfriend's son, helping him to achieve his goals of entering the Armed Services. That became very evident when meeting Brandon at Walter's service. Walter loved deeply and unselfishly, a legacy filtered now into this young man for his own future.

No one knows the time, the place, the when or the where, the how...What I do know is the who.
Who will be impacted by my legacy? What kind of legacy am I leaving, presenting? Does it reflect the God I serve? Am I making a difference for the Kingdom? Am I bold enough to climb a "Mt. Everest" of negativity, culture changes and untruths? Can I persevere when the world and craziness permeates every facet of life? Can I continue to write and give testimony of the legacy of Grace? Only in His strength, I can.

Both my cousin and my friend pursued righteousness, right living. Both believed with all their hearts in the One True God and His purposes, to love God and love one another. Every day we make a choice--to live defeated or to live empowered. Trials come, but God promises that He walks with us through them and in that our faith strengthens, our legacy grows. In this Thanksgiving season, let's start with gratitude. Thank you God for the gift of Ron and Walter in my life. A grateful heart heals a broken heart etched with too many disappointments and sorrow. Heaven gains saints every moment. How can we invest in lives resulting in an eternal difference, a legacy rewarded in His perfect timing and providence?  Be Still and Know.

Well done good and faithful servants, well done.

Considerably yours, Coleene

Sunday, August 20, 2017

And Now We Know, The Power and Story of the Blood

Before I told his story, he told his story. 

Many listened to him in those wee hours when the hospital is quieter and some try sleeping. That's when he seemed to ramp up the dialogue, and that chosen attentive night nurse came into his room only to stay awhile longer, listening, as some nurses did so well, a skill not requiring a college course.  Tim, my sick son, met several of those along his journey to find the cure and/or the doctor who'd make him his priority. 

The Blood Clot...

It first showed up many years prior, at the age of 11 or 12 I think. This unknown sharp distraction for Tim, nagged and puzzled many and they (professionals) could not quite put their finger on it, give a diagnosis for that certain pain he had in his neck. A pain in the name what aggravated him, what caused his crying out. Finally, almost 3 weeks and many tests,  by default and a favor from a friend, we went to another county, a new hospital where an ultra- sound detected it. That Blood Clot...almost gone by this time, lodged in an artery in his neck, the carotid of all places. 

We dealt with his chronic kidney condition and other issues through the years. Then, at 19, legs swinging from his kidney doctor's table, he described his chest pain, telling the doctor that he thinks a blood clot invaded his lungs. He TELLS the doctor because he knows this pain. 

Tests the next day confirm it, pulmonary embolism, aka, P.E. 

From that day on, Tim's blood tests became weekly and a new prescription, a blood thinner, became another part of his medical regimen. He'd be in and out of the hospital the next 6 years. 

Looking deeper

Tim met a new doctor, one that wanted to take another look at his problem with blood clots. A genetic factor for clotting became the topic of discussion, something called Protein C deficiency. Tim discontinued the blood thinner meds for a brief time in order to get an accurate blood test. The findings indicated he DID "have some sort of genetic predisposition to clotting," said this doctor. Others were still not so sure. 

Skeptics...and time ticks and then it doesn't. 

In a few short weeks we'd be planning his memorial. I remember thinking at the time, thinking a lot of things, but in particular this, none of this matters any more...

He died physically, a horrible way, broken, bleeding and unable to breathe oxygen into his lungs on his own. But a spiritual death never occurs because of the blood of Christ and in that, my son lives forever and we will see him again. 

I am a Believer and time is Eternal. 

Ten years later, here we are. Healed? Yes. Comforted by Amazing Grace? Yes. Knowing a sovereign and Holy God in a deeper and very personal way? Yes. Wanting to tell his story and my story...God's story all the time? Yes. 

And then we hear those two awful words in an ultra-sound room again,  BLOOD CLOTS. 

Three clots wait in the on deck circle behind Ted, my husband's, knee. Two others already traveled up to his lungs.  It all comes flooding back, the pain, the fear, the questions and the silent stares/prayers of my heart. 

What in the heck did I...we just hear? Lord...get me together before I climb through this wall. 

Before Ted is officially admitted to begin treatment, I relayed a brief history of our son, his "almost diagnosis" of a hereditary clotting issue. Would they check these same factors in my husband's blood before they begin him on blood thinners? They agreed these tests should and would be done. 

This last week, we visited a new doctor in Ted's growing medical community, a hematologist. He will be taking care of Ted's needs concerning the clots as well as the coagulation clinic. 

In his gentle and caring heart, the doctor looked over at me, leaned in and said these words..."I want to know your son's story."  

I've been telling his story, our story for 10 years now. 

I knew he meant medically, but so much more filled up that space between us in those few seconds---never just one thing. Breathe... I feel the spiritual, His Presence. An egg of my womb and my husband's seed created from love for love, if only for a season, but always, always for a reason. 

I want to know his story...

Though it is not protein C deficiency, a gene mutation involving clotting factors lies on Ted's DNA and most likely did on Tim's as well.  Confirmed by a doctor who barely knew Ted much less Timmy,  he took the time to explain many things and listen to Timmy's story. 

Ted will remain on blood thinners for life. We remain to tell the story, write the story. 

I walked back to the parking garage. Ted waited in the front for me to pull around and get him, standing with his walker, his new knee, his infected wrist and his 5 blood clots. My heart heavy and my mind thinking on all this, the emotions began to rise up in my throat but did not quite reach my eyes,  but close. You're still so close son...

An unknown, a maybe, now turns to a known, a yes, another heart is back-tracking and wanting to blame...If we knew earlier, if someone had asked questions when he was 12...if only... 

That's where the liar, the accuser wants me to linger...but God sends a song to counteract the attack. 

I turn the key and the radio blasts one of my favorite Christian artists, Jeremy Camp singing "Overcome." It is where the lyrics happen to be as I am thinking and almost crying...and the engine starts...but Jeremy's deep voice sings...

"We will overcome, by the power of His blood and the words of His testimony..." 

The has power! The Blood, it overcomes, the words of our testimony...they will supersede! Peace passes over me,  through me, like a blood flow, that peace I know from God that He heard my heart cries even when I wasn't even officially praying.  I want to know your son's story...God is so good. 

The next day I am telling this story to my dearest friend. God clears my head once again and shows me His Light. Tim may have received his news too late, but Ted did not. Even after 10 years and moving past, Tim presented his father, his brother, his cousins, his uncle...all of them a gift. Genetics usually happen the other way around, the father relays a flaw, a mutation to the child. But our son, 10 years past his arrival in heaven, lets his dad know, so his dad can live, be prepared, OVERCOME!

Power in the blood, the blood that might tend to clot. And now we know and can treat it.
Power in the Blood, and now we know and can be forgiven and set free and live forever in Heaven.
Power in the Blood, because love lives on and testimony and story needs to keep flowing and demon clots need to dissolve. Strength and resolve sometimes come from the fight, but the spiritual battle belongs to the Lord. Now we know we can overcome. 

And we will. Thank you Timmy for fighting a good hard fight. You didn't have all the answers but that never stopped you from trying to find them. You were on a good road, on the edge of a break through, maybe not a cure but some answers, even way past your time. You never knew for certain,  but we know now. Thank you for pointing the way, even 10 years later and letting us know God is always in control. Thank You God for loving us, grace poured out and received for those who believe in the power of Your blood.

Jeremy Camp ~ Overcome

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Waiting Room

Hospital waiting rooms. Pretty self-explanatory. You sit. You wait. News comes, either good, bad or indifferent, but you have to sit, and the waiting room. 

I slept in a waiting room; yeah, I did that, over night and into the next morning, and the next, not even realizing time did not wait. 

 I heaved big sighs and prayers, sobbed uncontrollably, stared at walls and people. 

The waiting room is now the trauma ward...

I felt the life blood drain from my head through my stomach in a hallway, outside a waiting room, in a hospital. 

Ten years later, she walked me back to see my husband, prone on the bed with wheels that soon moved to a different room, a surgical room. ...a room of blood, cutting and repairing. We chit-chatted; I'm trying my best to calm his nerves. The nurse, we found out, with her cute Eastern European accent, knew a friend of ours from the same ol' country. 

What a small world. 

The world is small and full of waiting and wondering rooms. 

Prepped and ready, the nursing staff moved my husband as I walked alongside. He headed for his surgery. Conscious and fully aware of his destination, that difference seemed to make a difference...this time. We said our good-byes. 

The other time... I  kissed  his cheek, wiped his forehead, my fingers combed through his hair. I watched as my son's bed with his comatose body pushed through the middle of those double doors, which opened way too easy,  for all to disappear behind them. Then I waited. 

The nurse walked me back to the waiting room. She asked, "Are you okay?" 

I hadn't said a could she know?  

"Yeah, I'm fine...just some memories of another time when my son died in surgery."

I didn't mean to say that much.

Curious, she prodded for more and I obliged. I really didn't want to. 

But, I did. 

I resumed my position in the chair in the waiting room. My sister and brother-in-law were there too. 

Now we wait. 

We managed small talk to pass the time and keep the thoughts at bay. But really, I am thinking of you, son, and waiting and grace and growth, of trusting and You and us--all of us in this small world, this waiting room in Your bigger world. 

My brother-in-law noticed it first. Outside the glass doors across the hall and outside a glass wall, it hits the window over and over to get through. He nudged my sister and she relayed what she sees as my back is opposite the wall. 

A butterfly is trying hard to get inside...make himself seen by those waiting. I turned 90 degrees and looked out. I see it, a large yellow and black Tiger Swallowtail, two stories up, in the trees, flying into and against the glass window. I grabbed my phone without saying a word, walked out the glass door and entered the hallway. I tried to find my camera button and focus. 

It met me there for those few seconds as I fumbled with my phone. Then it flew up in the trees again, swooped down on the other end of the window wall. I hoped it would come back, but it completed its  mission, delivered to me the remembrance of His grace, His promises. 

Holy moments happen in waiting rooms.

My only picture, a memory shot, and then there are two witnesses. 

Those who wait in waiting rooms become witnesses of life and grace and love. Do they realize it? 

I am reminded of a story of two disciples walking to a town called Emmaus, about 7 miles out of Jerusalem. Their conversation maybe contained small talk, but they also spoke of their Messiah, His recent crucifixion and their fear, their broken hearts, their memories. A third man appeared on the road and conversed with them as they walked, speaking of the promises of the Scriptures. They continued the conversation,  a bit amazed at the words of this man. Arriving in town, the three began to eat together, the stranger breaking bread and blessing his friends...

Luke 24:30-31 "And it came about that when He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight." 

The day before my husband's surgery, I broke bread, took of the cup, in an intimate gathering of four special friends. Our desire, to understand our own brokenness more and be the Good because of it.

He became broken for us to make us whole and good. 

A butterfly comes to offer me communion. A remembrance of the good that came out of my broken self in the grief, the waiting, the seeing and the transforming. 

As I re-enter the waiting room, in that moment, I am filled with His love for me. In His amazing grace, my eyes and heart once again widen, open, and I trust Him even more in that moment, for He is good. I  sat at an angle, seeking the angel messenger, wanting to see and taste the Communion again. I know I can take that with me anywhere at any time. In my humble need for Him, He lovingly makes Himself known.

In a few more minutes, that pass so quickly for I am elated, the nurse tells me it is done, my husband is in recovery and the doctor will make his way to talk to me in a near by private room. 

I can never keep the miracle of grace private...

A recovery room, a place where we receive our breath again and the reminder that we survived with mercy and a new perspective.  We gladly take the instructions to build our strength and then, we reunite with those we love. And though I do not physically eat of the bread and wine, I feel the Communion in that room, a room now filled with a prayer of Thanksgiving. 

A butterfly waits for his directions and I am sure makes his appearance outside someone's hospital room, maybe a new mother, holding her precious newborn in her arms, or a nurse needing revival after a 12-hour shift, or...

somewhere broken, where the Good can be reborn. 

Broken Hallelujah
The Afters 

I went back today and took pictures of the place where we held Communion in thoughts for those few seconds, for those few Holy moments in a waiting room. The door holds printed words that read: THRIVE. 

That is the chair I sat in, the Communion window-table to the left. 

God is good. 

Considerably yours,