It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since Bonnie entered heaven. Some times it feels like just yesterday, other times it seems long ago. Obviously the three years have been different without Bonnie, and we all miss her. While our life has been different it doesn’t mean life is not good or that there have not been good times in the midst of our grief. One thing for certain is that God’s faithfulness remains consistent – and to that we are thankful. Three years ago, when McKenzie asked “Dad what are we going to do?”, I remember saying ‘take one day at at time’. So we take things one day at a time, one event at a time. Making new memories while remembering the blessing of Bonnie and relaying on the hope we share in Jesus. The songs on the left side of this page have been great to listen to once again.
McKenzie had these flowers and card on our kitchen counter the morning of what would have been our 23rd Anniversary – She even spent her own money on everything. Obviously Bonnie’s absence creates a sense of loss and sadness. While in the mix of those emotions rests the reality that this is not, ‘the end’. In the mix of these feelings is the reminder that God has created us to be in relationships and to be in community. This year my heart was encouraged by the hope that is yet to come and from the stark reality of the relationships and blessings in my life. So in our continued journey I am reminded of God’s faithfulness – which is revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and lived out by so many of the friends.
Mother's Day and Father's Day are just a couple of potentially difficult days for those whose mom and dad are no longer on this side of eternity. I've taken some time to reflect (there are four parts to this mini series) in the process) on ways to step into these days and embrace them. Click here to read some very practical ways to honor those who have passed away. I'd love to hear what's working for you.
While watching our wedding video for at least the 23 time, I could not help but smile. WOW what a celebration – I guess Bonnie knew how to throw a party! Obviously many people in the video are now with the Lord – what a reminder that life really never stands still. What a reminder of the many friends who were part of our bridle party and who all (17 out of 18) showed up for her memorial service.
Hearing our vows, “… for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health…” were great reminders of the commitment and patience we both had with each other. Hearing Bonnie’s voice reminded me of her grace, beauty and gentleness. Despite some bumps in the road, some unexpected turns, I’m so very glad the Lord brought us together and and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
My day ends with a heart for of gratefulness for God’s faithfulness in our past and the hope we all share for the future.
Tomorrow, January 15th, I will once again run/walk (mostly walk) in the PF Chang 1/2 Marathon. This will be my 3rd 1/2 Marathon. I’ve been asking myself ‘why’? Why would I get up early and run/walk 13.2 miles? I haven’t really trained for this in the last two months, so why do I want to run and put my body through this? The answer is easy. I’m running for Bonnie.
The first two times, as well as the reason I started running five years ago, was an attempt to 1) Remain healthy per Bonnie’s request (she was fearful I’d die first and leave her alone to raise McKenzie by herself and without my wonderful sense of humor :) and 2) Raise additional funds for Bonnie’s increasing medical expenses. As I shared with a friend this week, “I don’t want to be melodramatic about it, but this run really is a spiritual experience for me”.
When I run, I use the time to reflect, remember and really give thanks for the many people who have been so supportive. I remember and give thanks for the friends who have encouraged and coached me in this running endeavor (many by phone and email). I become focused and intentional to give thanks for the dozens and dozens and dozens of friends who were supportive during Bonnie’s illness and who remain supportive to McKenzie and me as we continue in our journey. And of course, I reflect back on all the very hard work and energies that Bonnie put forth to create a healthy life for her as well as for McKenzie and me. I am reminded at how short life really is and about what matters most on this side of eternity compared to when we cross over to ‘the other side’. And I’m drawn back to the foundational blocks for all of us and that is genuine relationships. Obviously the bedrock of all is our relationships is with the God of creation through Jesus, and second is the absolute necessity of community. The blessing of authentic, loving, life changing community is an essential for each and every one of us.
So while the official name of Sunday’s run is PG Changs 1/2 and Full Marathon, in my heart it’s become, Bonnie’s Run (well and a lot of walking this year). This focused time of gratefulness is like a detox to my soul, as it draws my heart and mind towards the gift that Bonnie was and the faithfulness of God. I’m sure I’ll be singing in my heart numerous songs such as It Is Well with my Soul and How Great Thou Art and even this one. This year I had a t-shirt designed to communicate why I’m running (and it helps McKenzie to spot dad among almost 30,000 people). So if you are running this year, no doubt you will pass me, and you’ll know who I am not because I’m gasping for air, rather you’ll be seeing Bonnie’s beautiful face looking at you.
Juno writing – I was asked to share some thoughts about “Thanksgiving” for the website of our church, MPCC. So with my plate full (not with Thanksgiving food, but at work), I thought I’d give the opportunity to my daughter to see if she had some thoughts, without any pressure or guilt she shares these thoughts this Thanksgiving…
What does being thankful mean? According to Merriam – Webster dictionary, being thankful means conscious of benefit received, expressive of thanks, or well pleased or glad. Be thankful sounds like the easiest thing to do, but in reality we all know that being thankful is a lot easier said than done.
Another way we could look at being thankful is in a situation such as getting out of a bad relationship (not that I’m in any bad relationships). While the pain of ‘breaking up’ is not pleasant, we can remain thankful that God will take care of us during the transitional time, and in our hearts we know the ‘break up’ was for the best. We could also find thanks in a situation such as losing a loved one, and although losing somebody who is close to you is so hard, we can be thankful for the time that we had with that person. Another thing we can find thanks in is financial issues, we all know that financial issues can cause a lot of stress in our lives (even for college students) and it can hurt families, but it is important that when we go through struggles financially we remember all the things that we have and be thankful for those things.
I know that by me saying all these examples your probably thinking “yeah, but you don’t know how hard my life is right now.” However I am fully aware that situations life hands us can be extremely hard. God never intended that being thankful would come easy to us (maybe that’s what He reminds us to be thankful). 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “give thanks in all circumstances; for this God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This verse alone is God challenging us to be thankful. It doesn’t say to be thankful for all circumstances, rather IN all circumstances.
Why does he want to challenge us? Think about it. When you have actually taken the time to realize what you are truly thankful for, you realize things that you never would have before. Sometimes going through a hard situation in life can help us remember just how thankful we are for the love of God and all that He has given to us. God knows our true hearts and whether or not we are truly thankful. The importance of giving our thanks back to God is extremely crucial for us as Christians. God has given us all we could ever want and then some. He has given us our jobs that bring us money, our houses that cover our heads, and the food we have on our table. But not only that, God has given us eternal life! Which in itself is the greatest thing to be thankful for.
This Thanksgiving instead of going around the table saying what nice “things” you’re thankful for, share about the blessings of friendships, the health of family and friends and for the basic necessities that God has provided. Happy Thanksgiving everyone :) McKenzie Smalley