The Gift of Geese, by Stacey Regan, Pittsburgh, PA

But God sees us

Genesis 16:13 Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.”

The Gift of Geese

Last December, my mom, 92, died unexpectedly. We held her memorial service in early January. While I moved to Pennsylvania almost 30 years ago, she still lived in North Texas.

Like Mom I’m a classic Type A, Enneagram 1 person, so when I needed to be on site for an extended period of time to help my brother and sister go through her things, I was there. When I needed to work remotely during the day and focus on Mom stuff late into the night, that’s what I did.

Between busyness and exhaustion, there wasn’t much time to grieve, and I knew I’d need God to help me anyway, since I’m not a natural emotions processor. When Dad passed 15 years ago, I asked God to help me grieve over his dying. I was aware that numbness seemed to be an impenetrable wall, and I didn’t know how to scale it. Then one day out of the blue, he brought me to tears on a particular stretch of road on my way to work. This occurred daily for months. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so gut-wrenching, and I both looked forward to and dreaded hitting that part of my commute. Slowly, over time the sobs subsided, healing took hold, and one day the time for that grieving was over. 

As I followed my brother’s truck down the street the early morning we headed north with what I chose to keep of Mom’s things, I remembered how God had provided me a way to grieve for Dad, and wondered if he might do the same now for Mom. I enjoy long drives and seeing the changing countryside, so the first day flew by pleasantly enough, but with no grief markers.

Shutterstock: Edmund Lowe Photography

The second day was totally different. Less than an hour after we’d left our hotel, something caught my peripheral vision. As far as the eye could see on either side of the highway lay fields of stubble, the remnants of last Fall’s harvest, but something had moved. On closer examination, the fields were covered with thousands of geese. Packed with them, for miles and miles. As I drove by, hundreds seemed to lift off already in their trademark V-formations, then lazily cross the road. This continued for at least 20 minutes as we continued down the interstate.

There’s something about the sight of geese flying overhead that physically thrills and awes me, but this was overwhelming in the true sense of the word, and I wept and wept. I wept over my mom’s death, and I wept over the provision of a loving God who knew how to help me release my tears. A God who sees me and understands my particular needs.

Shutterstock: Schuchart

Trying to find words to articulate and remember this experience, I’ve named it The Gift of Geese. I know that at least twice a year I’ll have a reminder of that gift flying overhead, even if I only see a single V limping across the sky. I don’t know if I’ll weep, but I know it will make me smile, remember, and utter several prayers of gratitude.

Note from Debbie:

Stacey writes songs that greatly enrich our worship at Church of the Ascension. Her song “I Offer My Isaac” brought Karis and me to tears on our first visit to the church the morning after her first transplant was cancelled:

I offer my Isaac here on your altar,

Removed from my shoulders, bound for the slaughter.

I surrender my Isaac here on your altar.

Freely I offer the love of my heart.

My hands are free to praise you wholly now, to receive what you have for me.

And should you take or return my Isaac, oh Lord,

On your altar my heart will still be. On your altar my heart will still be.

Even in grief

But God cares deeply

Psalm 116:15 The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die.

This weekend was unusually busy and intense. In the middle of it I learned my friend Vanessa, whose generosity I wrote about on April 4, died a month ago from cancer. Here’s what I wrote:

I struggled one whole morning to understand a series of marketing procedures new and not intuitive to me. In frustration I cried to the Lord, out loud, “I need help! I need someone who can show me what I’m doing wrong!

Within seconds of my prayer, a message flashed onto my Instagram screen from a Brazilian friend I haven’t seen or talked to for at least twenty years, a psychologist who worked with me in restoration ministry. “Debra, do you need any help with online advertising for the Karis book? I’m trained in that.”

Yeah. I was stunned. But wait—there’s more!

When I told Vanessa her offer was a direct answer to prayer, she said, “Well, your need is a direct answer to my prayer. Last week I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. I asked God to give me something to do for someone else, to divert my focus from myself and my fear and worry about this cancer. Then I saw your announcement about the Karis book being published here in Brazil and thought, that’s it! I want to do all I can to help you let people know the Karis book is available now in Portuguese. I’ve been reading other things I’ve found written about Karis, and her faith is helping to stabilize mine as I walk through this battle with cancer.”

Vanessa died on the operating table. I don’t yet know more details than that. I only found out because a friend of Vanessa’s noticed my repeated inquiries on Vanessa’s Instagram about how she was doing and took the time to tell me she had died.

Vanessa was so sure she would beat this cancer. Perhaps I won’t ever know why she couldn’t. I’ve learned, though, that in these times when I don’t understand, I need to cling even tighter to the Lord, who sees the big picture I can’t see.

Yesterday the Lord comforted me very personally. Not just through my tears and my husband sitting with me as I cried. And by giving me a vision of Karis hanging out with Vanessa in Heaven. The Lord also cared for me through a friend who unexpectedly offered to help me solve yet another computer issue I find perplexing. A touch of kindness in my landscape of grief that means so much to me because it touches another area in which I’m weak and vulnerable.

So I’m praying God will touch each of Vanessa’s loved ones—her husband, her parents, her extended family, her friends, even her beloved dogs—with whatever specific kindness will let them feel how deeply he cares about each one of them, even in their grief.

Perhaps he already has.

What do you want to tell your Father today?

But God knows  March 14, 2022

Matthew 10:29-31 But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

Matthew cites Jesus calling God his Father 45 times (Mark only 5; Luke 18 times). Why do you think Matthew paid so much attention to this? I would love to know your thoughts—you can write them in the Comments.

Most often, Jesus calls God “your Father,” as he does here. Read the verse again and then close your eyes for a moment. Can you imagine Jesus coming to you, right now, today, and saying these words to you?

Shutterstock: Natalya Lys

Don’t be afraid. You are valuable to God. Don’t be afraid. Your Father knows. You matter to him. He notes even the smallest details of your life.

What do you want to tell your Father? What are you afraid of? Can you offer your fears to your Father, and then be still, receiving his peace?

“I cannot clutch this peace,” wrote Karis in one of her poems.* No, this is a daily transaction with our Father, clearing our souls of fear, letting his Presence touch and comfort us, re-centering into his peace. A transaction of trust. Imagine yourself as a small child, burrowing into the comfort of your Father’s lap.

Shutterstock: Jamesilencer


A song for Ukraine:

Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul (Matthew 10:28).

*The poem “Caçula,” which means in Portuguese the youngest child of a family.

“Idk if I can do this anymore 😞”

But God bends down to listen

Psalm 116:1 I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!  

Isaiah 40:29-31 The Lord never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Opening my computer this morning, the top post on our neighborhood website is “Life is really getting to me… idk if I can do this anymore😞.” So far, 162 people have commented.

Is that you, too? Omicron and all its permutations and impact + the complications and darkness of winter + too many deaths to grieve properly + political slander, misinformation, etc. + fill in the blank for your own life.

One thing I am writing in that blank is my disappointment about canceling, due to Covid, our Feb. 7-14 trip to Bolivia to attend the wedding of a dear friend and spend time with many others. Our anticipated ten-day break from Pittsburgh winter will now be only three days, as we still plan to travel to Houston for my brother’s wedding Feb. 6.

When I woke up this morning and saw snowflakes drifting down, my first thought was how beautiful they were. My second thought was how treacherous, for elderly people and those with physical disabilities. Several peoples’ names came to my mind. How often Karis slipped and fell in snow and ice, despite my best efforts to keep her safe!

Lord, keep your beloved ones safe today, physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually. THANK YOU that you care. That you bend down to listen to our sorrows and distress and fears. That you understand. That you renew our strength.

Psalm 116 says in verses 10 and 11, I believed in you, SO I said, “I am deeply troubled, Lord.” In my anxiety I cried out to you. The Lord invites us to come to him, to pour out our troubles, our worries, our disappointments, our frustrations. Hold them all out to the Lord.

And then be still, and receive from him comfort, direction, and renewed strength.

Wonderful, Merciful Savior