Created

Made to live

Made to love

Made to give

Made to rise above

Trials and tribulations

Are guaranteed

Choice in how to face them

Is what makes us free

Given a voice

Given a choice

Given a soul to rejoice

In the victories

In the pain

In the dark nights

In the rain

Cause the pain is the rain that waters the seed

The seeds of life that give birth to victory

And the victory is not always a golden crown

It’s the getting up after each falling down

Made to press on

Made to endure

Made to overcome

Made to be sure

Despite my failure

Despite my fear

There’s a reason why I’m here

I was purposely made

Given a soul

Given a name

The Creator of the heavens

The Keeper of the stars

Fully designed me

Created my heart

To be filled with passion

To feel so strong

To be filled with ire

When someone is wronged

To be filled with compassion

When someone’s in need

To be filled hope

To plant and water seeds

To spread to the weary

The good news of love

Made to speak

Made to proclaim

Made to encourage

Made to heal

Made to pray

Made to feel

Deeply for a creation

That isn’t mine

It belongs to my Father

And he is so kind

To let his child

Still learning to grow

To join in the work

Of bringing His Kingdom hope

A Hero Not Fallen, but Raised Up

Vince Lucadou, my raised hero
April 23,1960-Jan 25, 2021

I did not make it to church this morning because I chose some physical rest after a late evening with my mom in the emergency room. Thanks be to God she is ok. I chose to complete my Bible study homework to reflect on this day of Sabbath rest. As I was working on it, it speaks of King Uzziah and the prophet Isaiah and how Uzziah was Isaiah’s hero. This question is posed-

“Have you ever lost a hero? If so, who was it and why was he or she a hero to you?”

Now I recently lost my Daddy and in so many ways he was a hero to me. However this question posed made me truly sit and think quietly and interestingly enough the man that came to mind, I was just talking about with my husband yesterday. I concluded that discussion with “I want to be like Vince.”

Vince Lucadou was a hero. I am not sure of every aspect of his life, but if someone told me that he scaled a building to save a kid, I wouldn’t be surprised. That was just the kind of character this man had. Let me tell you about my hero Vince Lucadou.

This tall man with dark hair , brown eyes that were caring, but could be as serious as he was witty. His stature is one that I imagine as a football player in his youth turned teddy bear. I met him at church for the first time in a prayer team meeting.

I just joined prayer team in a large sized church. I loved praying and was hoping to connect to others who loved the same. Vince was one of the first few I had met. Oh, Vince could pray. His prayers were with a firm certainty that was wrapped in love and set ablaze with passion. He loved praying.

Vince also loved praising. Many a time I would witness him in worship at a usual church service or even special praise and worship services . Vince worshipped with his heart, mind , soul , hands , voice and all of his being fully engaged in praising our Great God. I can still envision him with his uplifted hands singing out the words to the song ‘The Great I Am”.

I would learn Vince was part of a motorcycle ministry and a prison ministry. He would go and share the gospel and lead the Walk to Emmaus at the prison. He always loved to share the great things God was doing in prison. It is amazing how our God can free captives even though they may remain incarcerated and serving their secular penance. With repentant hearts they can be as free as the apostle Paul was in prison. Vince knew this. He wanted all of them to know it and he was there for any who would receive it.

I would learn Vince was a general manager of a Randall’s store. He heard I needed some empty boxes to create and activity for my daughter’s Minecraft themed birthday party I was hosting at home (back before any Minecraft items were marketed). Vince loaded up his truck on his day off and delivered several empty boxes to our home. He talked to my husband and myself but made a point to offer special attention to the birthday girl. He offered her a prayer blessing and then gave her a gift card. She could not believe this guy she barely knew from church was so very kind. That is just who Vince was.

Vince served on our church’s food pantry. He would minister to several people in our surrounding communities. As they would come and get their physical needs met, he would share a prayer and the gospel with any opportunity.

My mom was widowed in 2014 and she would not only benefit from the food the pantry provided she would tell me about this guy Vince who she discovered knew Steve (my stepfather) from the hardware store. Apparently Vince would go to Circle S, a locally owned mom and pop hardware store where my stepdad worked over 20 years. Vince knew my stepdad from there and how kind Steve was and how he loved to serve. So you can imagine how my widowed mom who humbly had to get assistance at the food pantry when meeting this man that was gracious, joyful, prayed for her and then found out he knew her husband, well this made her so happy. Vince and all the staff at the food pantry made my mom feel loved and appreciated, but this connection with Vince and Steve made mom feel even more comfort.

Vince always wrote encouraging replies on my Facebook page and long after the Lord shifted me to another church he stayed connected to me in this way.

When my Uncle Lynn died, my prayer was what I pray for anyone I lose. I pray they know and are at peace with Jesus. My Uncle Lynn spent time in and out of prison. He did not always choose well. In the last of his years apart from alcohol he straightened up mostly. Apparently there was a “preacher man” that would come to visit him at least monthly and sometimes more often.

I showed up for my Uncle Lynn’s funeral at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Houston. Apparently this preacher man was coming to deliver the message at my Uncle’s service . I learned my Uncle Lynn would hear the preacher man coming to his house and shout out “hide the beer , here comes the preacher man!” . The “preacher man” was Vince Lucadou. Vince met my uncle at least through the food pantry (and possibly at some point in prison ministry). He explained to my Uncle Lynn that he didn’t care about the beer and that didn’t need to hide it from him. He told Lynn the only one he needed to worry about any issues he had with that beer was God and well we can’t hide anything from him . Well that “Preacher Man” Vince gave me the sweetest gift when he shared at my Uncle Lynn’s funeral that after many visits eventually my Uncle Lynn professed his faith in Jesus.

I learned also at my Uncle’s funeral that Vince is married to the cousin of my Aunt Christi (who was married to my Uncle Stevie and is my cousin Kayla’s mom).

One man impacted the life of my stepfather Steve Quebedeaux as a customer of a hardware store; my mother Kathy Quebedeaux as a widow receiving assistance from a food pantry; my Uncle Lynn from the food pantry and prison ministry; my Aunt Christi Hicks as family; my daughter Kyra Huckaby as a fellow church member and a general manager of Randall’s that had some boxes to give; my husband by being a friend to his wife and kind to his daughter and a fellow church member; and me as a fellow prayer warrior, recklessly abandoned worshipper of God at Stonebridge Church in The Woodlands and as an encourager and prayer warrior on Facebook.

Look at how one man impacted a lot of people in a single family and he was unaware we were all connected.

Everything Vince did, he brought Jesus with him. He shared Jesus through his life and work and words, and posture and leisure time. Vince loved the Lord His God with all his heart, mind, body, and strength. He carried the good news to countless people. There is no telling how great was his impact. God knows and Vince knows now.

What we see ” through a glass, darkly;” Vince sees face to face and what we know in part he knows as he is known.

When I found out Vince had contracted COVID and was very sick. I flooded the throne of heaven with prayers of certainty that our God could most definitely answer and raise Vince up in that earthly tent. However, our God who is good, whose plan is perfect, knew it was time for his good and faithful servant to come home. I know without a doubt as sure as I breathe now that Vince heard , “Well done!”

Vince, Preacher Man…..you are my hero and if I can live my faith out with the reckless abandon in every aspect of my life as you did, then I will have a life fully lived.

Come out and be fruitful!

Two recent events led me to feel as I imagine Noah must have when the dove returned with the olive branch.

The first moment was the day I heard Fr. Stan announce we are able to go back to sipping from the common communion cup (a couple of weeks ago) I was moved to tears and overwhelmed with elation.

The second time was today.

Today I had training on our Woodlands campus. I walked into our hospital- no checkpoints… without a mask and went upstairs for training in person with many of my smiling colleagues whose whole faces I could see. It’s been two years.

It has been two long years.

Working the pandemic has been quite an experience. In the beginning so much was unknown and fluid. We were all so uncertain and honestly scared. We witnessed the illness in all levels of severity. We had a front row seat to its impact and all the loss. Working all the surges exhausted, yet determined to fight through the fatigue because you wanted to help just one more person. Pushing aside your own grief for another day so you could help, knowing when it was all said and done it would be worth it.

Today in our training we paused to reflect on the past two years in our organization. I imagine it was like soldiers debriefing after a war. It was then I realized with my personal grief from losing Dad and all the other challenges I had not even begun to process what has transpired for me professionally these past two years.

As we reflected we talked about what we learned and the good we could take from it all. We talked about healing. Taking the good and learning from it all to move forward, that is where we can find the healing.

Drinking from the common cup. Walking the hospital lobby unmasked and sitting at a table next to my colleagues. These were my olive leaves.

Signs of life. The water has receded. It’s okay to come out.

Covid did not disappear suddenly because we proclaimed it, but now we have layers of protection and treatment options. Just this week we have a slight uptick after a massive decrease and an all time low (thanks be to God!!!). I was able to assess my patient virtually and then send an oral prescription to the pharmacy that will help their bodies overcome the virus. After sending 2 of those in a row, I was awestruck at how far we have come and messaged one of my virtual care partners…. ‘How amazing is this?’ We are excited to be at this point.

So it wasn’t a flood as God has kept his faithful covenant with Noah. But this global pandemic has been an exile of sorts. May we take all the good we have learned and NOT forget it. May we remember to never take life for granted. And when the next big challenge comes our way, may we remember we are survivors and we are most victorious when we come together.

May we come out and be fruitful!!!

Daddy’s Home for Easter

Radiant warmth beamed down

As we sang of truth and hope

Fellow sojourners on every side

Melodies unlocked the recesses

Of heart and mind and soul

Allowing tears to outward flow

And a soothing balm to enter in

Images and flashes of painful moments

Glimpses of hospital rooms and graves

From the back to the front of my mind

Not to haunt but to heal this time

Resurrection promises more than hope

But blessed assurance and peace

We do not think, or hope or just believe

We KNOW because he ascended

So too shall we who are alive in Him

Dad made it a point to let us know

The Christ, his Savior was his hope

So he is home and he is whole

Restored, renewed, and rejoicing

And whether it’s a whisper from him

Or a whisper from our Lord

Heaven came down to hug my soul

This sunny Easter morn

Radiant beam from the Son

On this most sacred day

To let me know my Daddy is with Our Father

And we’ll be together again

A Finished Book, An Unending Process

Poi si torno eterna fontana

(And the she returned to the Eternal Fount)

– Dante , quoted by C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I finally finished Lewis’ A Grief Observed. I mean I literally just finished the book. I felt compelled to see it through after coming across it last night. My immediate thoughts are – Wow! What a raw, honest, introspective, eloquent journey with Lewis through one of his darkest valleys.

As I am ever the optimist, midway through the reading I found myself praying and hoping Lewis would find light and peace and hope. Yet in those same breaths and thoughts I was thankful he was honest and bold to share the truth of pain, sorrow, and anguish. As he said when he married H. the two were one flesh and losing her was an amputation. His doubts of God, reality , and his own faith were very real struggles he did not disguise. It is often so with us when our souls are torn.

Every thing inside of me wanted to reach through those words to the hurting author and just make it better. As a caregiver by nature, a nurse practitioner by profession I have taken care of many with physical and emotional pain. I have dedicated 26 years of my life thus far doing this because I love to help people. I especially love to help hurting people and what the caregiver wants most of all is to ease the pain. We wish we could eliminate any suffering at all, but in my many years in medicine, I have encountered the reality that sometimes you just cannot.

In losing his beloved wife, Lewis faced with the reality that “there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it.” This is true and hard. The question of pain is the one that will place any defender of the faith on shaky ground. The harsh reality of grief is one that we all have or will meet in time.

There is nothing we can do with suffering, except to suffer it…

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Just as it is true in one’s own grief journey , Lewis’ record of his wrestling with grief leaves so much to unpack. There are the issues of faith, marriage, relationships , pain, loneliness, lament, and the nature and character of God himself. While this was a first completion of reading it through, I doubt it will be a last as this brief 94 pages leaves so much to ruminate. On the surface however, let’s just talk about the grief process as a whole.

In our modern western society we are uncomfortable with the subject of grief. I feel this is because first and foremost it is hard. In facing the bereaved we confront our own grief. It is a reality of life that we do not want to dwell on. So we don’t talk about it. We don’t learn about it. We don’t know how to walk with others through it. So inadvertently we leave the walking wounded limping because we are paralyzed by the whole topic, process, and situation.

Because we don’t talk about it or dwell on it , and we sure don’t dedicate time to study it , we don’t learn anything and thus we don’t teach. We don’t really know how to help someone in the raw pit of grief. And when we do attempt to help, we often lean on old adages that are intended to soothe or comfort. You know the ones we have all heard.

They are in a better place. At least they are no longer suffering. They are with God. God will use this for good. And the worst told to my brother and his wife after they learned at 28 weeks of pregnancy their precious Lydia was with us no more. At least you are young and you can have more children….

Did that person even think before they said that? And as a nurse practitioner I am ashamed to admit it was healthcare professional that told them this. So none of us are immune to the well meaning , empty adages that leave the bereaved feeling worse.

Let us just consider a few of these and look on the other side of the coin:

They are in a better place.– So I am selfish because I want them still here with me.

At least.... Here is good advice one of our guest instructors in nursing school shared. NEVER start a sentence with at least. It just doesn’t help.

They are with God.– I hope and pray they are. Ok maybe I know if anyone could be they are, but isn’t God everywhere and it does not change that I still want them here with me?

When my niece died it was then I truly came to learn just how poorly we handle grief as a society. I did not want to be like that healthcare provider leaving them with adages that only added to the pain. I was at a loss. I remember going to the library and bookstores looking for something on grief. This was in 2010. There was very little to be had. There is probably more now than there was then, but it is still lacking. My hopes in finding a book on grief was not to ease my pain or my brother and sister-in-law’s pain in losing their daughter. I however was just hoping to learn how to walk along side them. How am I am even supposed to be there for someone I love dearly who lost their daughter? I did not know what to say or do. I will attribute my actions solely to divine intervention and definitely not my own wisdom or merit. I turned in desperation to the book of Job.

Job’s friends came to him, wept with him, grieved with him and sat in silence for seven days and nights. In fact if you continue the story you will see that when they speak, that is when things go downhill. Silence is uncomfortable. Allowing ourselves to enter into the grief with a person is hard and uncomfortable. We want to say something because we feel powerless and we want to make better a thing that we cannot. Even the most careful chosen words often fail when it comes to soothing the anguished soul.

I remember on the anniversary of my stillborn niece’s delivery, Aug 1. I was in Honduras on a mission trip. It was our 2nd year after we lost her. I wanted to acknowledge her and my love for her and my love for her parents and acknowledge their grief. What I posted had in some way been mistaken. This led to a reply that showed me they were hurt. I was more hurt that I hurt them and that they mistook my well intended post. So as I stated, even the best intended words can come up mighty short to the grieving soul.

Since that time I have experienced much loss. The good news is I now have heard of things like Grief Share. We actually have a group that meets at our church. I have been transparent with my grief and I see others are doing the same. There are efforts made to improve how we approach grief in our society, but I will say this: we still have a long way to go.

Lewis writes in A Grief Observed that he hoped his jottings would prove a map of the state of sorrow. He goes on to say, ” sorrow , however turns out to be not a state, but a process. It needs not a map, but a history.” Lewis’ history of his early grief process offers insight and allows us some understanding. Another book by Mary Beth Chapman, Choosing to See offers this peek into the reality of a mother’s loss of a child and those early days of her grief journey. Listening to the thoughts and words of those deep in the pit of grief is the only way we can being to understand any of this or how we can help and when it is our turn to be in that pit, how we can cope and endure.

2 Corinthians 1: 3-4

This is the foundation of how we help the bereaved. We will love and lose. We will grieve and by God’s grace we will be comforted. As we are comforted in time he will allow us to help others with the comfort we received. I lost my Daddy July 4, 2021. A friend recently lost her father. I reached out to her as one who does not know her exact pain, but as one can parallel as I too have lost my Daddy and so relatively recently. I can tell you in that at this stage in my grief process the ability to help a fellow sojourner fresh on the road of grief offered some healing deep in my soul that is unexplainable.

Observing Lewis’ grief over his beloved H. has allowed me to add another layer of understanding of how others process grief. It allows me to contemplate some deeper components of the grief process where faith and reason are intertwined. Coming out the other side of this first read, I feel like I understand Lewis more. I feel like there has been some progress in my own grief through the reading. Additionally, I can now relate to others with a different personality than my own as they wade through grief. Most importantly, I feel compelled to keep the conversation about grief going. The aim is that we may grow in our compassion, cognizance and competence in the matter of grief and the grieving. Though the walking wounded will still limp down the road of grief, we will be better prepared to travel alongside and offer some hope in knowing they do not make this journey alone.

Spring Cleaning, Grief, and an unfinished book.

I purchased this copy of A Grief Observed in a used bookstore in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. It was August 2014. My stepfather, Steve, had died May 17 that year. I was no stranger to death or grief, but losing my stepdad would hit closer and cut deeper than any grief I had known before.  I immediately went into caregiver mode. My mom, newly widowed would need me like never before. In fact only once I knew someone would be with her while I was away in Colorado, I decided to make the trip.

The Colorado Rocky Mountains are a place I feel closest to God. I was a mess and had not even began to process my loss. I needed a respite and I needed God. I knew I needed to do something with all this pain , but I did not know where to begin.  So when I saw that book on the shelf it was staring at me.  “Buy me!” , it seemed to say.  So I did.   I started reading it, but did not get very far.

Little did I know when I bought this book I would also say farewell to my Grandma Shirley (Steve’s mom) September 4 and my Aunt Angie (my dad’s youngest sister) October 1. This began a long list of loss. It was like every two years the list would grow. I had already lost my cousin Shane, Pappa, Granny Hicks, Aunt Diana, Uncle Ronnie, Grandma Arlene, Grandpa Arvie, my niece Lydia, Grandpa Charley, my mother-in-law, Mary Lou and my father-in-law, Huck.

I would go on to lose my stepmom, Lana; close church family; Grandma Curtis; Uncle Lynn; Aunt Lou; my cousin, Rachel; Aunt Val; Uncle Elmer; a dear friend , Vince; my cousin, Brandon; and then my Daddy.

I picked the book up again after Lana died. I tried yet again to read it. It’s not even a long book. Reading that book was like taking a bitter elixir, you know once you choked it down you would feel better on the other side.  However, it was too hard to get past the taste at the time.

The rawest grief and if I am honest the deepest yet has been losing Daddy. He passed July 4, 2021. It’s been 8 months. The grief journey has been peace-filled, but hard and intermittent. Initially there was a heavy fog. You could not think or see. I mean you could see, but nothing seemed clear or to make sense. You functioned on muscle memory and rote memory. There was no energy or ability to take on anything new. Getting through the absolute required duties were exhausting and all you could do. Afterwards you would lie down or sleep. Brushing your teeth felt like tremendous effort. It coincided with a Covid surge so I was extremely busy with every 8 hour shift I worked. It was truly only by God’s grace I got thru those days.

In time the fog lifted. The heaviness was still there, but less weighty and less constant. Instead there were intermittent twinges and sharp stings of pain. They were often brought on by the simplest memories. I recall crying in HEB because of pimento cheese. (Dad often had me make him pimento cheese sandwiches on the days I stayed with him after his stroke.) I couldn’t watch football, westerns or listen to Elvis. It just hurt too much. In fact it took some extra energy to watch the Astros in post season because it reminded me so much of him. I pushed through the pain of it and got through to the sweet side of doing it because if he were here he would be watching. I watched the Astros mostly as a tribute to Dad.

There is still a lot of grief to unpack. A few days ago I kept seeing an image of him in my head. He was younger, healthier, and smiling. I found that odd because Daddy was not one to smile much. He wasn’t mean; he just wasn’t a smiler. It was sweet to see those images. It was peaceful, but at the same time it comes with the sting of his absence. Now mind you, I grieve with hope. I am a believer and Daddy was too. He wanted to make sure the world knew that after he lost his precious wife, Lana. He made sure to start going to church. He was baptized. He knew there is a God and a Savior and an afterlife and he wanted to be sure that profess that. This hope is what keeps me going.

It’s been 8 months. The week of spring break my brothers and I were all together again for the first time since Daddy’s funeral. We had a great time just hanging out together. I like to think Daddy was smiling because of that. He would have loved that… us together as a family. That was important to him.

So here I am spring cleaning and this book is on my night stand because I had on many occasions intent to read it. Perhaps it is time. As I dive into Lewis’ grief, I know that he will have thoughts that resonate with me. He will also have some that do not, but there will be something in that common grief journey that will seep into the recesses of my soul that is still healing from the loss; I just know it. And perhaps whatever balm I receive, maybe, just maybe I may be inspired to write more so that I too can help other grieving souls like me.

You see grief is a journey no one wants to take but we all will. We will feel alone at times, but we are not alone. All the sojourners who have gone before us and continue on are a testament that we will be okay and persevere. The sorting through the emotions and the pain and the good memories and the sobering regrets that is the hard work of grief. But …much like cleaning out my cluttered, overcrowded closets and drawers …with each painful step a little progress is made. And while it won’t get and stay tidy forever , it will get to a place that is just tidy enough that life is doable with a sense of peace. What I am working on in the physical state of my home is symbolic of the emotional state of my soul. As I make each next step, not to perfect (that will only happen when I am with Jesus), but to better.

So spring cleaning, an unfinished C.S. Lewis book and grief …

Soon I will have to be brave and swallow the whole 94 pages of soul elixir prepared by one of my favorite authors who is now in the place of hope that helped him endure life’s toughest pain to swallow.

Here’s to healing, hope, joy and helping others….

.

O Death, Where is your sting?

Today is my Uncle Steven Carl Hicks’ first heavenly birthday. He entered eternal rest Aug.28, 2021.

Today in church we sang these words from an opening song
“Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave
Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?”

As I sang tears streamed down my face as I both grieved my Uncle’s death and rejoiced in the truth of this song. In these tears I had simultaneously much needed pent up grief released and yes also joy.

Later during the service we sang the hymn, “Come Thou Fount”

The tears constantly flowed as I sang the words of this hymn we sang at my Grandma Arlene’s memorial. You see it was at this very memorial Unc stood up before his family and proclaimed fervently the truth that is proclaimed in that hymn. He knew this truth. It transformed him. His life changed dramatically and he yearned for all of his family to have this same hope and joy.

So today it felt as if Uncle Stevie, and Grandma (Memaw) , my two faith giants were smiling from heaven while I sang out through tears and sometimes choked through this resounding truth:

“Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

Oh, that day when freed from sinning
I shall see Thy lovely face
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace

Come my Lord, no longer tarry
Take my ransomed soul away
Send Thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless days

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
Here’s my heart
Oh take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above”

And as if God through His tender, comforting Holy Spirit reached into the recesses of my grieving heart and said, “I know it hurts sweet Shelly and I am here.”

Something’s Missing

The star is missing atop the tree

And that Christmas village didn’t appear

There was something off about Christmas

Something was missing this year

I could blame being busy

but that was not the truth

What is missing this Christmas

What is missing is you

So it was hard to get started

To put up the tinsel and the tree

But I know there is joy despite the grief

And Christmas is the very reason for hope

So I dwelled on that truth to cope

And decked the halls and the mantle

And set out the advent candles

But despite my intention

Despite my peace

That star didn’t make it atop the tree

And so this year our tree top was bare

No angel or star placed up there

But it waxes poetic because my heart

This Christmas was missing a great star

But the hope of Christmas that rings true

Is where the stars and angels and newborn Savior abides

That is where my missing Christmas star is for eternal life

Waiting for Rescue

The people were hoping to be restored, rescued, and redeemed. Their expectations were for a warrior who with might and power would overcome and free them from the temporal confines of daily life under Roman rule. Their Lord promised redemption, but his picture of what this rescue had an eternal perspective. He chose instead meekness and a sacrificial love.

We are restrained by time and a life of points of time in a linear movement. Our Creator is outside of space and time. Therefore His answer to our problem , prayer, or petition may have an eternal perspective. Let us lay down our expectations and be open to an answer that has eternal implications.

HOPE