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Grief 101

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Grief 101

See, from His head, His hands, His feet Sorrow and love flow mingled down Did e’er such love and Sorrow meet Or thorns compose so rich a crown. (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts)

Grief is part of our world. Love and sorrow twist together in our lives.

To love, to open our hearts to others? Is to be vulnerable.

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.                              C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Grief takes a toll on us all: Men and women and children. So many of us are responding to this in “Social Isolation.” But how do we experience it? 

Elisabeth Kübler- Ross did extensive studies on grief, and it helps us understand what is happening to us now. She envisioned grief as an inverted bell curve, 5 stages.

Shock & Denial

In this stage we can hardly believe what is happening. It is like nothing we have experienced so we do not have a frame of reference. 

Shock gives way to surprise as news unfolds of the event. In this Pandemic, it is disturbing and unsettling. It is frightening and brings on fear. It is a jolt to our system. Trauma intertwines with distress.

Denial comes hard on the heels of shock. Certainly, these reports cannot be true. The Pandemic may be effecting Europe; but how could it ever reach America? We are a medically sophisticated society, and surely our medical community will stop this in its tracks. The facts and figures coming in from China, Italy and Spain must be exaggerated. And as we examine the statistics on American soil, it seems negligible.

And it can’t be worse than the flu—can it? A bad flu.

We experience this every winter. And this, too, will pass.

Anger

The anger stage is multifaceted. How did this Pandemic get out of control? How can it be happening here? In our Country? State? County? Borough?

The invisibility of this beast adds to out exasperation. Give me a visible enemy, and perhaps I’ll be able to take him on. But this? Just how many times do I have to wash my hands? Studies have shown we wash our hands a total of 6 seconds. So there has been a suggestion of singing verses of “Amazing Grace”, or your favorite rock song or “Happy birthday. Tell me: exactly how many verses do I need to sing? Clever methods calm my annoyance for a short time, but give way to irritation.

I become more irritable as time goes on. Do not tell me where I can go. And the distance I have to stand from my neighbor. And how I have to handle my groceries. Or when I shop.

Irritability gives way to annoyance. I may have never baked bread before, but now I insist on buying yeast and bread flour. How dare the store be sold out! Never mind that there are plenty of Pepperidge Farm loaves on the shelves. And the bread dilemma is national in scope. Yeast cannot be found throughout the land.

I may have lost my job, been furloughed, or reduced hours. My finances will be a mess.

Or, I may be working in the medical field, delivery for UPS FEDEX or supply chain. Can’t I stay home like everyone else? Just how much exposure can I have without exposing my family?

Bargaining

Bargaining is subtle in nature. As if we could bargain with a Pandemic! But we try. It is hard to predict how long this will last. If I pace myself for 2 weeks, perhaps the worst will be over. If the extension of “Social Isolation” is for 4 weeks, I can manage. But no longer. That is all I can promise. I’ll make an agreement for the end of April, but surely not into May.

Let’s make a deal! I promise to stay isolated, but how can I see my family? My children? Don’t tell me we can’t have Easter dinner!

Perhaps all of us can have our own Easter dinner, and meet “virtually” through Zoom. That is the solution. I’ll barter with this Pandemic.

Depression

The longevity of this Pandemic begins to wear on us. 

I want out! I want my independence back and I want my freedom! I feel dejected as my routine has been disrupted. A sadness prevails, as I pace from room to room. There is only so much that I can take of these 4 walls! Cabin fever abounds.

I’ve fallen out of the rhythm of life. I may not get up in the morning, but instead, lounge in bed in despair. After all, why get up?

I am despondent as I look at myself in the mirror. My hairdresser is not open, and my roots are beginning to show.

I’m eating or drinking to console myself, feeling guilty about the comfort foods that try to ease my internal ache and melancholy.

Being “in the dumps” has never felt so real.

The internet is ablaze with jokes:

“If I hold a glass of wine or a beer in each hand, I can’t touch my face.”

“Pretty soon I’m going to need a magician, not a beautician!”

“Breaking news: Wearing a mask inside your home is highly recommended. Not so much to prevent COVID-19 but to prevent eating.”

We laugh at them, knowing there is a deep truth here. We see ourselves. And we know that others feel the same way.

Acceptance

As this Pandemic drags on, we recognize that we have to do our part.

To successfully shelter in place means nothing will happen today. But the decreasing numbers of infections will be the reward of our patience. A commitment to other’s safety will become our foremost concern.

We know there will be a “New Normal.”

Learning to manage the home front, even with humor, helps us through the “daily days.”

There are innumerable sites for parents and children to engage in fun activities.

For adults? Netflix, reading, and perhaps video games. But these all point to being at home. Alone and isolated. 

The ideal: time spent in God’s Word and with Him.

And so we reframe this time: Instead of being stuck at home? We are safe at home.

The end is in Sight

Perhaps you’ve seen yourself in parts of the Grief cycle. Perhaps this is a moment, of “Aha! Me too!”

It is not linear and most often, we take “two steps forward and one step back.”

We offer grace to others, knowing that we are each on an independent journey through this time. There may be similarities. But there are also differences.

“We may never know the treacherous journey people have taken to land in the pew next to us.” (Rosaria Butterfield)

We receive this time in faith, being confident that He is at work in us, and in His world.

We trust Him to work in us and through us to accomplish His good will.

And while we may not have a definitive date for this Pandemic to end, we do know that we have a Savior who is doing all things well.

“The tomb, normally a place of endings, became a place of beginnings. Out of if came the new hope of Resurrection life.” (Paul Tripp 4/10/20.)

Let us live in this time anticipating the resurrection He is doing within us.

When Mother’s Day is Hard

Cynthia L. Eppley 05/09/2021

Mother’s Day

It is a holiday that we celebrate and dread, all at the same time.
There is a certain amount of loss associated with being a mother.
Often, we don’t talk about it.
But it lingers, right beneath the surface; at times it bubbles over into our presence….like on Mother’s Day.

Bereaved Mother’s Day

I never knew this existed until this year.

“Bereaved Mother’s Day was created in 2010 to celebrate mothers who have a child (or multiple children) in Heaven. The first Sunday in May is dedicated to moms who hold a child in our heart instead of in our arms.”

Infant Loss

There are so many losses: perhaps one that cuts deepest is the loss of a newborn. I have a dear friend who gave birth to a long awaited baby at the end of December. Little Hezekiah was early, and lived 16 days.


His mother and father wrote this:

“Our precious little soul gave us the long-awaited titles of mom and dad. In his brief time with us Hezekiah lived up to his name “YAHWEH strengthens.’

We never know what struggles people face, do we?

Emily and Joel were out hiking and this happened:

Emily and Joel

“Within minutes of heading up our favorite walking trail we ran into a family with the mom wearing a baby that was probably about the age Hezekiah would be now. Baby was fussing and after saying hello the mom said ‘want a baby?!’ Joel and I both immediately answered with an enthusiastic ‘YES!’
Parents-please be mindful about jokes about the very real burdens in parenting and being exasperated with your children.
My faithful prayer warriors-thank you your fervent prayers for our hearts and minds. This interaction should have sent me down a very dark path, and honestly, in the past, while grieving the dream of parenthood, has sent me down a very dark path more times I care to admit.”

Other Loss

Many circumstances lead to separation and loss within the mother/child relationship. There are those who long to conceive and find that impossible.

There are those who long to hold their child in their arms, but have suffered still birth, or miscarriage.

There are those who made the devastating choice to abort their child. So many factors went into this decision but one thing is certain: it was heart wrenching.

There are those who have no children of their own, but are spiritual mothers to so many.

In my own family, my sister Carol Lynn died of pneumonia and Cerebral Palsy at the age of 5. My parents were deeply impacted by her loss. Although gone, her story lives on.

There are those who have lost a teen or young adult to a car crash or other mishap.

The reality of drug and alcohol use within our population causes a schism in families. Some of our teens and older children are on a path of destruction. And parents ache for them, impossible to stop the downward spiral.

Others may face mental illness. How do parents navigate the Mental Health system with grown children who refuse help? These grown children would rather be on their own, while parents stand by with broken hearts.

A final loss is that of estrangement. Our culture is awash in political arguments. From political parties, to vaccine use— strong opinions divide and separate us.
There are adult children who refuse to acknowledge their parents, sometimes for years.

And I’m sure there are other fractured Mother/Child relationships.

Relationships

So much of our lives are wrapped up in relationships.
And for a mother, especially on Mother’s Day, a loss of a mother/child relationship is particularly sad.
This is why Mother’s Day can be bittersweet for so many.
If you doubt this, just take a look at Social Media.

What to Do?

There is very little we can do to change the loss for a mother, and for parents. In fact, the last thing we want to do is “fix it.”
But we can acknowledge the loss.
Recognize that this may be a hard day for them.

Recognize the life that was cherished, if even for a short time. Don’t ignore the pain of the day.
Perhaps a card, or a simple hug may be in order.
Caring for those who suffer loss is always appropriate.

Sensitivity

This is an intensely personal issue, and asking probing questions may not be welcomed. Certainly, platitudes and superficial assurance are to be avoided.
And like Emily and Joel on the trail, we can be careful what we say to others.
We can be intentional in our support.

“Be kind one to another, tenderhearted.” Ephesians 4:32

Mothers and Hope

Emily has chosen to celebrate Mother’s Day as a new mother.
She longs for Hezekiah.
They longed for a little one, and from conception, reveled in the miracle of life. As an expectant mother, she awaited the long anticipated due date.
Her posts on Social Media have been honest and vulnerable, but also full of hope.
They look with hope for that glorious day when they are reunited before Jesus.
She has opened the door for others to care for her.

Honor

How can we honor our loved ones? What means is there to celebrate life?

For Emily and Joel, they choose to plant trees in Hezekiah’s honor:
“Got our Hezekiah tree(s)! The Helena maple is the official Hezekiah tree, but we really wanted aspens too because they spread/multiply!”

Montana

Montana is awash in rugged beauty.
Hezekiah’s tree will add to the splendor of the landscape and be a living testimony that his time here, though short, was so very worthwhile.
His life was precious.
And he will be in our hearts forever.

Mother’s Day Without your Mom

Cynthia L. Eppley 05/05/2021

Mother’s Day

We are coming up on Mother’s Day this coming weekend.

Already you see the signs around you: circulars are chock full of gift ideas for Mom.

Flowers abound in the stores.

Perfumes and chocolates.

Walk into a card shop and you’ll be met with rows of cards—from the silly and irreverent, to deep heart felt sentiments.

The Bereaved

But what do you do when your mother is deceased? Is there a card that can sufficiently sum up the mixed emotions you feel?

Mother’s Day Recognition

One of my friends recently told me she hated Mother’s Day.

Do we need to recognize it set apart from every other day?

And I remember well the church service where carnations were handed out to the women:
one color if you still had your mother, one if she was deceased.

Really?
Do I want to remember that she is gone?
And that I stand out with my colored carnation that marks me as a person of loss?

Painful Process

It is a painful process to go through your first Mother’s Day without your Mom. This may be the hardest recognition:

“My first Mother’s Day without my mom. I long to hug her again and miss the relationship that we had before she became so debilitated from depression. I am sad that none of us could be there with her when she died.”

“Maggie graduates on Sunday from Penn State. I know mom and dad will be watching from heaven beaming with pride. I miss her everyday. My routine was to call her when I left school each day. There are times I still go to dial her number.”

Motherless Daughters

The loss of our mothers becomes a defining moment in our lives.

The book Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss (1995) by Hope Edelman explores the profound pain of mother loss among women.

”When my mother died, I knew no woman my age who had experienced mother  loss. I felt utterly and irrevocably alone. In  college, where new friends knew only as much about me as I was willing to reveal, I told few people  my mother had died. I searched the university library and local bookstores for writings about mother loss. In each book I found about  mother-daughter relationships, I quickly flipped ahead to the  chapter about a mother’s death, but discovered they all assumed the reader would be in her forties or fifties when her mother dies.  I was eighteen.”  –excerpt from Motherless  Daughters.

Young Loss

For those who have lost their mothers when they were quite young, the pain of loss is raw:

“It’s weird how the memory photos fade over time. It is so weird! I didn’t realize how drastic the fade was until I thought about a childhood memory and could barely “see” her remembering… I have tons of pics so I can see her face. What kills me is I have a hard time remembering what she sounds like. Her voice and her laugh. And the way she would call my name. I have home videos that I can’t find (of course) wish I could to hear her.”

Mature Loss

We may have lost our mothers when we are more mature. The loss is still real:

When I lost my Mom, I lost my person. She got me. I know now I can never replace that.”

“I still miss my mother………thinking how joyful she would be watching her grandsons in their adulting day to day.”

“I dream about my mom often. At first there was a re-occurring dream about me calling her for a recipe and then one dream she told me to stop calling her that I was now the keeper of the recipes. And I am. My daughters call me often for a favorite grandma recipe!”

“Sadly I no longer have my mother and I miss everything about her. Even our “disagreements”. 

“I still sometimes reach for the phone to call her and it hits me all over again.”

“My mother has been gone for 16 years. I miss our weekly talks via phone. We easily chatted for an hour or more. It’s how I started my Saturdays. I really miss that relationship.”

“There is so much to say about wishing my mom was still here and missing her so much. But, one of the hardest things is having sweet little babies and not having her here to watch them grow up, be a part of their childhood, and just be there to text or call during the hardest moments and most joyful moments of parenting!!  I have found I am having some tough emotions erupt because I want to be the very best version of myself for my daughter and not miss my mom so much in the process. I find I am having a big a hole in my gut wishing my mom could share in this journey too. It has been 5 years….but it truly doesn’t get easier!”

Current Loss

Even with our mothers here, we still long to be with them and treasure the moments:

“I LOVE my mama. She’s one of my best friends since I was born. I enjoy spending time with her, talking, laughing, crying and having fun. She’s my prayer warrior. When she’s no longer here on earth, I have the hope & joy of knowing we’ll spend eternity together in heaven. My mama’s got skills too! She’s one smart cookie! She loves her family and friends. She has a tender heart. There’s SO much more to say. I love my mama!”

“Yes my Momma is still on this side of heaven. The hardest part is not being to go out with her whenever. planting flowers for her every mother’s day.”

Personal

My mother will be gone 12 years this August.

I still long for her smile and her laugh. I remember our last long hug; I held on feeling her warmth and catching her scent.

I think of her during celebratory events: a baby shower honoring the baby to be.

And it hits me hard that she never knew my own grandchildren.

Weddings, showers, funerals: they all have their poignant view of what could have been. 

Celebrate!

Weddings, showers, funerals: what could have been but also what is: Reasons to celebrate!

For this Mother’s Day, we miss our mothers.

We have the rituals and traditions that we celebrated together.

I will plant flowers in my garden beds, and remember the ones that are from her garden.

I will stake the tall yellow iris and pass a few on to a family member.

We will call our son and rejoice in the recent birth of our new grandchild.

My mother’s voice may fade over time.

But the legacy is strong and the legacy lives on.

Her very life was, and is, a reason to celebrate.

A Year in Review

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

Cynthia L. Eppley    04/29/2021

Blog?

I first began blogging a year ago: April 25, 2020.

That was the date my first blog was released. I can promise you that getting my site developed and figuring out the bells and whistles took many days before that time.

Why bother?

A frequent question is: “Why bother to blog?”

For me it was quite simple: I’ve basically retired from counseling, but I didn’t feel quite ready to give up counseling.

Teaching and seminars are always a possibility. I’ve done 2 Seminars on Covid that are on Youtube.

But the blogging format gives voice to my thoughts and concerns on a broader scale.

Results

I have published 52 posts in this time.

They have been varied.

Initially, it was a response to Covid and the Pandemic.

It has not been an easy year, and the stress and anxiety many felt was—and still is—palpable.

As the year continued, I saw other dynamics:

Healthcare workers and heroes.

Other heros on the frontlines, too numerous to mention.

Children and tension

Zoom

Working from home

Not working, and losing jobs 

On-line schooling and hybrid learning

Isolation and loneliness

Politics

People going above and beyond for their fellow neighbors.

People behaving poorly.

A Long View

It will be decades before we see the implications of this Pandemic.

There will be immediate ramifications, but also long range results.

Foundations

I was reminded of a classic hymn by a good friend: “This is My Father’s World.” Written in 1901 it is timely, but also timeless. What challenges did we face in 1901? What will we face through this year and onward?

1 This is my Father’s world, And to my listening ears All nature sings, and round me rings The music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas– His hand the wonders wrought.

2 This is my Father’s world: The birds their carols raise, The morning light, the lily white, Declare their Maker’s praise. This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair; In the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.

3 This is my Father’s world: O let me ne’er forget That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet. This is my Father’s world: Why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King: let the heavens ring! God reigns; let earth be glad! 

What Matters

In this year the veil between the secular, worldly, and the eternal has thinned. 

We are seeing more of our humanity, but also our eternal natures in so many ways.

And doesn’t this classic hymn speak to those truths?

This is my Father’s world.

His hand the wonders wrought.

All of Creation declares their Maker’s praise.

He speaks to me everywhere.

And perhaps most pointedly:

“Though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.”

The Point of it All

It has been my desire in blogging to thin the veil between the mundane, the secular and the sacred. To draw close to the spheres all around us.

To see God our Father in His majesty.

I hope you have received encouragement from my thoughts and musings.

And as I continue into 2021, that you will be uplifted to acknowledge that “This is my Father’s World. The Lord is King. God reigns. Let earth be glad.”

Of Daffodils and Spring

Cynthia L. Eppley 04/07/2021

Spring If you’ve been outside at all, you’ll know that spring is upon us, and (hopefully) there will be no more snow.
At least if you live in the Metro Philadelphia area.
And with the coming of Spring comes the flowers. If you have been reading my blogs, you already know that I love flowers. (See Flowers and Their Legacy.)

Yellow

Yellow isn’t really my favorite color. But how can you resist the upturned fluted bowl of a daffodil?
Sure, there are forsythia. But they are standard fare.
The daffodils range from a soft buttery shade, to a bright sunshine filled sharp mustard. Then there is the variety of orange centers, pink centers….the list goes on.

March

They seem to be such happy flowers, and they cheer me at the end of March.
By that time, I don’t think I can hold out for Spring much longer.
Winter has drug on and on and on…..
And actually, they pop up in January. But they must know that they will be covered in ice and snow if they should open. So they weather the cold with patience and wait until the fullness of time.

Timing

Funny thing about my flowers, and gardening in general:
I post their joyous arrival from the dirt as they tentatively poke their heads up. And every year they seem to push their way through the soil about the same time. Usually within a one week span.

New Life?

I thought my lungwort had died. We had about 6 weeks of ice and snow and we all seemed to hibernate. My lungwort seemed to be trampled and dead. It usually begins to flower in February.
But wait….

About the beginning of March, I spied new sprouts coming up and sure enough, new buds and blossoms.
And my rhubarb comes up near the end of February as well.
Sometimes I have to brush away leaves, but sure enough, the green stems and flowers are pushing through.

I am so delighted to see the plethora of colors that I speak to them:
“Well look at you! Welcome!”
And I post them on Social Media.
This is like my gardening journal as I chronicle the arrival of each plant in my garden. People almost expect me to post the pictures.

When I ask who is ready for Rhubarb pie? There are many takers.

Fullness of Time

What amazes me about my garden is the reliability of each species.
Each has its’ own growth path and season.
Before their arrival, the garden is stark and bare, a flat brown canvas hiding a treasure beneath its crushed leaves.

It is almost like “The Strange Magic” of Narnia that bids it come forth in its’ time.

Random Time?

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.

What if each of these plants is destined to burst forth in it’s own time? What if each is individual in color, form, and even purpose?
What if none of this is random….at all?

Perfect Time

I’ve just come in from gardening, and it is a perfect day for it.
It’s also the perfect time: digging up perennials and splitting them must come early in the season. And I, impatient as I am, eagerly dig up clumps and carry them unceremoniously to a new home.

Faithfulness

“Great is Thy Faithfulness” is a classic Hymn of the Faith and it speaks to the Rhythms of the Seasons:

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided— Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong recorded “What a Wonderful World” in 1967:

I see trees of green Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you
And I think to myself What a wonderful world!

All is Right with the World

The long winter is over.
Spring has come.
It is the time for gardening.
But as I look at my daffodils, and emerging plants, I am reminded again of the Creator who has set all things right in “The Fulness of Time.”
He is ever faithful.
And my joy is full as I remember:

“God is in His Heaven, all’s right with the world.”

Covid Easter and Babka

Cynthia L. Eppley 04/03/2021

Babka

Easter 2021

There is no way we could believe that Covid would have us in its ugly clutches this year. Last year? The Pandemic was new, and jokes abounded about our situation.
We could hold out for Easter and other holidays knowing that this, too, would end. Soon. Or so we hoped.

But Easter 2021 is upon us and there are still restrictions. Some churches are still closed. Some are meeting although socially distant.
What is a person to do?

How is this Year unlike any other Year?

Again, reminiscent of the night of Passover, when significant questions are asked—and make us think of the significance of this sacred holiday.
It is Easter.
And often families arrive to celebrate with us.

Easter egg hunts are created, even inside if the weather does not permit an outside romp. Traditional meals are served.
But this year has brought Covid.
And some families are not able to gather.

Some families have lost loved ones, and this may be the first Holiday without them.
Others have family abroad who are unable to come home due to country lockdowns.
And still others have family close by physically, but unable to join us.
There may be a bit of melancholy as we remember how Easter was celebrated; the differences can be stark.

Bake!

For those of us inclined to bake, it is a fantastic way to relieve stress—not to mention the wonderful baked goods that are created in our kitchens.
But really? Bake for just us? Bake just for me?

Paula

Then I got this message from my dear friend Paula:

“ I am enjoying myself with a baking project. It’s a family recipe (Joe’s mother with my tweaking) for Babka! After several rising and shaping and adding I have finally put this baby in the oven. It should be done by 1:30. After it cools may I bring you a chunk?
I feel my family around me when i do these things.”

Who am I to say “no” to a chunk of baked goods?
She invited me over to savor the aroma.
When I entered the back door, the kitchen was filled with the intoxicating scent of cinnamon. The recipe was her husband’s mothers’, embellished with her own additions. The original recipe was in Joe’s handwriting, with small changes scribbled in the margins.
And on the center of the table? a small display of hand dyed Easter eggs.

Easter past and Easter present

Holidays are a time of bittersweet joy mixed in with sorrow. Remembrances of holidays past, and the reality of what we have now. By recreating cherished dishes and traditions, we feel our families once again near to us.
Paula found joy in the creation of Easter present, fueled by Easter past.

And she shared that joy with us.

The Aroma of Christ

2 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.

Easter Morning

Our senses are alive with the presence of Christ. Perhaps it is an early morning service, misty with the dampness of the new day. Or the sweet fragrance of Easter flowers when we enter the sanctuary of worship, bright with hope and joy.
Our senses come alive in the shades of Easter eggs, whether they are “real” hard boiled eggs, or plastic; in the aroma of our homemade meals and traditional menus.

In Christ, we are the aroma of Him to all those around us.
What better way to remember this than with a thick slice of Babka? Come Easter morning, I’ll cut a large slice of that Babka and rejoice in good food, good friends, and most of all the goodness of our Risen Savior.
Hallelujah!
He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Easter Eggs

Cynthia L. Eppley 04/02/2021

Easter and Eggs

It is that time of year where Easter eggs are being dyed. Sure, there are the plastic ones that get reused every year.
There are Ukrainian eggs that are lovingly and meticulously painted.
But dying Easter eggs the old fashioned way?

It is a classic rite of childhood. And parents and grandparents enjoy it as well.

Dye

So what is a Grandparent to do when a little one is here with you?
Dye Easter eggs. It sounds simple enough doesn’t it?
But the new razzle dazzle methods are not sufficient. No mixes for us. No, these had to be the regular water, food dye, and a touch of vinegar.

Dunk

So we got out several mugs and added the food dye. Many combinations were created, and patience was required as we waited for the dye to do its job.
Of course, who can resist lifting it out of the murky solution to check on the progress?

The Roll

As eggs were dyed, they were brought out and placed on the counter.
Or maybe on a plate.
Either way, I don’t remember specifically.
I do remember hearing the slow roll across the counter. Almost in slow motion, and then the…..

Splat

Splat

The egg dropped onto the floor with not a crunch, as we’d expect from a hard boiled egg, but a “Splat.”
Uh-oh.
Her big eyes looked at mine as if to question my reaction.

What is a grandmother to do except laugh?

The Messy Clean Up

Eggs are a nasty business to clean up.
And why the “splat” and not the “crunch?”
Evidently, I had not cooked the eggs long enough. Maybe 5 more minutes would have done the trick.
So back into a simmering water bath they went.
Who would have known that the dye would have been lost in the new bath?
Now they looked mottled and grey.
Not quite the colorful plethora of shades we had anticipated.
This was more the color of death.

Good Friday

Considering what Jesus did on the Cross, there is much to consider. His body was beat and broken and hung on a tree.

Matt 20: 17-19
Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests

and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Crushed and Broken

Isaiah 53:5
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Jesus was crushed for our iniquities, for our sins. The punishment we deserved was placed upon Him. In a miraculous exchange, we are healed through His wounds.

Splattered Lives

But perhaps we don’t feel healed right now.
Perhaps our lives seem to be “splattered” all over the floor.
Perhaps we can’t seem to find our way forward through the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Perhaps our lives look dull and grey like death.

The Reality

In reality, we may as well be dead in our sins.
The stores may be selling brightly colored plastic eggs and decorations.
Easter is getting more commercialized with gifts galore.
Bunnies smile at us from display shelves.
It seems innocent and cute and adorable.
But the reality of the Cross stands in stark contrast to the commercialized hype.

Friday is here….but Sunday is coming!

So we take our broken lives, that may look gray and shattered, and we offer them up to Jesus. He alone can fix the chaos of our lives.
He can look at the mottled mess smeared across the floor.
He takes our sin and casts it into the depths of the sea.

What kind of miraculous exchange is this that takes our broken, crushed lives and gives us new life?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Fully Known

Cynthia L. Eppley 03/24/2021

I didn’t recognize her at first. She was geared up with a heavy coat, hood up, and masked. We spoke briefly about the cold weather and then she turned to walk away.
Something resonated within me: her gait. And then it clicked: her voice!
It was Nancy!

I had not seen her for years, and yet I remembered her gait and her voice. What is it that is uniquely ours?
What is it that imprints us in others’ minds and hearts?

Hair

Many of us have noticed…shall we say….changes in our hair in the past year. With most of the area shut down on March 12, 2020, salons were included in that list.
That meant significant changes for those of us who color our hair.
Or that should be past tense: colored our hair.

Many decided it was time to go au naturelle. If we couldn’t get into a salon to color our hair, why not try it?
Others went with the box look, trying home coloring.
But there was a large group who decided to go the gray way.

It was clearly evident:
Going gray is not an easy process. It takes years to grow out your long mane.
You can spot the tell tale signs: Gray on the top, sneaking down several inches, with various shades of color at the ends.
Where is the grace that would allow full color coverage at one time?
Full disclosure: in my case, I am white in the front and sides. Then follows a variety of silver speckling. But once you’re past the front, darker colors ensue.
Thus, a riot of color combinations is found.
Most of us take it in good humor.
My brother, so well known for his teasing, lovingly calls me “a skunk”.
You know…..streaks.

Makeup

In this past year, makeup has taken a hit.
Why wear makeup if we are going to stay home?
My own stash has remained dormant in a bag.
Until I need it for a significant event.
One friend told me: Her daughter saw her donning makeup and exclaimed: “Mommy, No! You don’t need that!” She had become used to the “unmasked” version of Mom.
And another friend saw me with makeup and noted: “You look so pretty!”
I’m always amazed at what a little lipstick and rouge can do: the under eye shadows are banished for a short time.
So for the most part, throw the makeup to the winds and go au naturelle.

Clothing

Let’s be honest.
Many of us at home have not donned our more formal attire for a year. Sweat pants have ruled the land.
We may as well be casual and comfortable, right?

And if we have to attend a Zoom meeting, we are fortunate that only the “top half” shows. It is “Business Casual” run amok.

Earrings

I wore earrings for the first time in a year.
It took some nudging to get them through my earlobes. And now my ears are a bit sensitive. Why wear earrings at home, when the casual look is reigning?

Masks

And then there is the issue of masks.
Most of us wear them to go out in public.
But at home, we are “safe and sound.”
Why bother to wear them when we are in our safe zone?

Stripped Away

And so this brings me to my major thought:
This past year has brought us to our knees in so many ways.
But who would have thought that it would strip us of any outside conventions to supplement ourselves in some way?
Who would have thought that it would bring us to our very selves:
the unmasked naked version of reality.
This is reality.
Is it sufficient?
Is it acceptable?

Naked and Unashamed

There was a Garden, and in that garden, Adam and Eve knew a peace and easy acceptance by God. He walked among them in the Garden, in the cool of the day.
What a fellowship! What a joy Divine!
There was full acceptance.

They were “naked and unashamed.”

Fully Known

Isn’t it that type of relationship we all long for?
Don’t we want to be “naked and unashamed” before those who love us?
But we often hide behind fig leaves.
We hide behind masks and clothing and creams and potions to make ourselves more acceptable.

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared
believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” Timothy Keller

1 Corinthians 13: 11-12
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

What a reassurance that I am fully known.
Gray hair, in various stages of color?
No make up? No lipstick? Dark circles under my eyes? Fatigue? Weariness?

It all shows au naturelle on my face. In my countenance.

But I rest in the knowledge that I am fully known. For today, that is more than enough.

A Year Anniversary of Covid

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA March 13, 2021

Milestones

Important dates and times are etched into our minds. Usually it revolves around a crisis of some sort:

Where were you when JFK was shot?
Where were you when 9/11 happened?
Where were you when everything shut down on March 12, 2020?

It is fitting that as we have passed the one year anniversary of Covid among us many people have been weighing in on it.

“A Year ago this was our last normal week and nobody knew it.”

From a teacher: “It’s been a year now since I’ve taught in a school building. If you go in my classroom, you’d see that the calendar still shows March 12, 2020. On that day I never thought that I would be going home to “stay safe” and teach over Zoom from my dining room table. What a year it has been (and still counting!)”

Time Stands Still?

Or does it?

March 12, 2020

1 Year Ago See Your Memories: “All Montco schools closed for 14 days….state mandated.”

Yes, Covid has taken much from us. There have been struggles. It would be harsh and cold to ignore what we have experienced. But we are a resilient people. There have been surprising blessings as well.

Count Your Blessings

One year ago, on March 12, 2020, there were long lines at grocery stores as people filled their carts with toilet paper and other staples.
Today, we have plenty of toilet paper and other staples. The supply may be lower, or intermittent, but most things are generally available.

Zoom

Zoom deserves a separate category all of its own.
For those who have been forced to work from home? Zoom enabled folks to continue to work and hold seminars and meetings.
While families have been distant physically, Zoom allowed for family get togethers virtually. Perhaps not the best option? But certainly useful to stay connected.

Home Sweet Home

For some, Zoom meant being able to continue to teach their students. I have several neighbors who are teachers. Their creativity and dedication has been top notch. Managing students at home through Zoom, as well as students in person in the classroom has been a juggling act. But these teachers have dug deep to make this year happen.

More time at home has been stressful but also a surprising blessing. The pace of life has slowed a bit so that families have had more time together. And some have found that leaving the confines of an office building has its perks.
Working from home has been more casual, but please remember to wear clothing if the camera is on.
And some have found that working from home is preferable to the daily commute.
Finally, some have lost their employment but found new ventures; taking on new skills they have begun a new career.

Faith

Even the faithful have been challenged to find creative ways to worship. There are churches that offer in person worship, with a mask. Singing is questionable.
Others have only virtual worship, available through zoom.
Some are a hybrid.

But it is clear that people of faith have risen to the challenge to find ways to meet together.

Hebrews 10:24-25.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Restaurants and Businesses

So many small businesses continued operations by offering curbside pickup. Others suggested buying gift cards to be used at a later date so that income was continuous.

Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

I asked people to give me what they’ve struggled with this past year? And what has been a surprising joy. Consider these comments:

Struggle: Not having seen my son for almost a year and a half. He’s in Jersey, I’m in TN so with that being said, I’m just happy we’ve escaped contracting Covid – so far.
Best: I did a deep dive in my closet and drastically reduced the content, slacks, tops, shoes, hand bags etc.

Greatest struggle: anxiety & lack of socialization.
Surprising joy: the absence of busyness & being over scheduled has allowed quality to replace quantity. Happier with far less than we could’ve ever imagined.

Struggle- dealing with division, especially in the church and navigating the waters of rules and regulations vs freedom. Also struggling with who to believe. Why can’t we all agree???
Best part? Learning and maturing because of above struggles!!

Struggle: Missing my kids, esp. thanksgiving and Christmas; being alone at those times. Best: cleaned out some drawers and closet junk; got back to my knitting.

Essential Workers

So many have given so much. On 9/11 we saw First Responders rushing towards the World Trade Centers. And again, in this crisis, we have seen those who gave themselves willingly and fearlessly. Their dedication is evident. Doctors, Nurses, Sanitation Workers, and the list is endless.

The Invisible Helpers: Christy

I’d like to mention my Niece who is in a group of “Invisible Helpers”—Laboratory Professionals. These silent partners work in the background researching and testing our specimens. This is the group that stepped up to test the millions of swabs to determine Covid positive or negative.

Christy posted this one year ago:

“Please everyone, I realize everyone is in panic mode. Just stay calm and wash your hands, and don’t touch your face. We’ll take it from here.” (March 13, 2020)

And take it from here, she did! She was tasked with developing a vaccination program from a major medical institution. In two weeks time. She assembled a team of over 100 people to organize the program. Supplies were ordered, people employed, applications accepted. This required 16 hr days, often beginning at 4am. She once noted that her “Step” indicator on her phone logged over 20,000. In one day.

This is her reflection today:
“Wow……What a year it has been… There is no way I could have predicted then, how the past year would challenge and change me forever.” (March 13, 2021)

I am so very proud of her self sacrifice (and her family), dedication, ingenuity, and resourcefulness.

The Light

There are many with silent stories. There has been good news this week. Some restrictions are lifting. CDC has issued new guidelines in gathering together. Restaurants and gyms can now open at 50% capacity.
While this year has been wrenching in so many ways, there have also been blessings.

John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Takeaway

This past year has had its dark time.
But there have also been moments of light and hope and encouragement.
And so perhaps a takeaway from Pandemic 2020 is that like Christy, it will challenge us but also change us forever, and for the better.

Snowmelt

Cynthia L. Eppley   03/09/2021

Slip Sliding Away

Many of you know that we have a dog, Ella. And Ella needs walked about 4 times each day. I’ve noticed several things on my most recent walks, as they have been complicated by snow and ice.

Snowmelt

The snow is beautiful, isn’t it?
But it begins to melt. We have a stream at the bottom of our block and it is a living indicator of the melt off. If I hear it from the top of the hill, I know it is a frothing, roiling torrent, rushing through the park. But more often, it is quiet with just a few sloshing rapids.

Observations

I lean over the top of the bridge, and can gauge how the stream is doing.  But last week, the water was up. And the snow had not melted! 

Or so it seemed.

On further investigation, the snow had creeped up and the run off was racing down the street to the storm drains.

Under the snow banks.

On the surface, the snow looked immovable. Impassable. And very slippery. But underneath it all, a different dynamic unfolded.

Life and Snow and Peace

Snow can cover ugly streets and muddy fields. It can look white and pure, pristine. But often, digging beneath the surface brings us greater truth.

Is there Peace?

“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”  Jeremiah 6:14

Specifics

We know the quarantine and isolation has been hard for so many people.

But then we see intensive need:

A Young Dad “He is a young dad of 3 kiddos!  This is a lottery game when COVID strikes. 46 days on the ventilator. 48 days since I talked to you last. We’re still hoping and praying.”

Toby Mac From Christian song writer TobyMac Feb 19: ( TobyMac Yesterday at 12:00 PM )  I wrote “Help is on the Way (maybe midnight)” after a season in the valley of sad songs. With a broken heart after losing my firstborn son and stepping almost immediately into quarantine everything was dark. I woke up one day and turned to the Psalms. I read that “God is rolling up His sleeves”. What beautiful imagery. This picture turned me from having hope to yelling it from the rooftops. The God of all creation is rolling up His sleeves on our behalf. What a promise. We are not forgotten, not at all. That very morning I started writing;

“It may be midnight or mid day,  never early, never late  He’s gon’ stand by what he claims,  I’ve lived enough left to say… help is on the way”.

Tim Challies Fellow blogger Tim Challies: His son Nick died unexpectedly. (Mar 5, 2000-Nov 3, 2020.)  Jan 15, 2021: A Family Update:

https://www.challies.com/personal-reflections/a-family-update-3/

Tim wrote this on Nick’s 21st birthday:

https://www.challies.com/articles/to-my-son-on-his-twenty-first-birthday/

Close to Home

Bob’s sister, Carole, died from Covid in early Jan. (The Dawn of 2021: Every Moment Counts ) His cousin died Feb 12. We have both had Covid. We are still in recovery, going on over 3 weeks. Lungs are slow to clear and coughs and fatigue remain.

Still Waters Run Deep

Sometimes, when things look peaceful and calm on the surface? They hide pain and suffering that resides deep within. 

Each of us has struggled in a variety of ways in the past year.  But often we hide it.

Run Silent Run Deep

Edward L. Beach  wrote Run Silent Run Deep which became an immediate bestseller; it was later made into a Hollywood blockbuster 1958, starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster.

I watched it with my father.

I’m sure I didn’t understand the finer details of submarines and conflict between captains. 

But I did understand that safety for the submarine was in silence and being unknown—invisible.

Really?

Is this the best we can do?

In these troubled times, perhaps we are called to look beneath the surface. Perhaps we are called to compassion, intentional caring, and reaching out to one another.

See: Chicken Soup for the Soul

Spring Rain

As sure as summer follows spring, the snow will melt.

The run off will pour into the streams, and make their way to the rivers and ocean.

Hosea 6:3

“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

Fulfill the Law

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Let us be the nourishing rain for our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, our church family.

Let us dig beneath the surface to encourage and lift up one another. Let us not be put off by surface snow and ice and crusty appearances. Let us press on to know Him, and to know others, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Valentine’s Legacy

Cynthia L. Eppley 03/01/2021

I know Valentine’s is past; but it was only last week. I’m a bit behind in blogging with still recovering from Covid. But the heart and the mind are still active with topics!

Valentine’s

Valentine’s Day Tree

To be honest, I’ve never had a Valentine’s tree. I started a small kitchen tree—you know, the kind to “bring me joy.” First it was Christmas, and what better way to decorate than old cookie cutters? Both of our mothers had them, so they were the first thing to adorn the tree.
Next came Easter, and “Summer Holidays”, then Harvest and Thanksgiving. But Valentine’s?
I didn’t think too much about it until…..

Little Girls

There are a few little girls in the neighborhood who have become dear to us. And as they looked at my Christmas tree, their innocent question? 
“Will you have a Valentine’s Day tree?”
Well. I hadn’t thought of it. It wasn’t a regular feature in our house.

But why not?
How can one resist their imploring request?

So with my trusty friend, Paula, we made a trip to Hobby Lobby and behold!
It was like a Mecca for every holiday, and Valentine’s Day was smack dab in the front of the store.

Decorations

What to use?
First, all of Christmas was put away.
I knew I needed to leave some ornaments.
My Father’s baby cup is there, and rightfully takes its’ place at the very top. Next to it is a tin plate picture of my Grandmother Lippincott.

Bob’s father’s dog tag from WW2 is near the top.

Cookie Cutters

But then I found “Heart” cookie cutters. Perfect.
And Paula gave me a small cardboard Valentine’s box, that may have held chocolates back in the day. Inside? Her own little heart cookie cutter.
Gingham hearts were added, but they needed some “Pizzazz.”
I pilfered through my mason jar of antique buttons.
There, I found unique pieces that enhanced the plain hearts.
And even old strips of cloth from old dresses, with buttons still attached.
Who knows how old these were?
Most of the buttons were from my grandmother, so they were at least 100 yrs. old.

Embellish

What else?
In those mason jars, I found old pins, and clips, earrings, and hair clips. The prize in the mix was a silver pin from Paris, with 3 silver charms hanging.
A little polish buffed them up to a soft shine.
If only they could talk and tell me of their travels.

Pictures

I haven’t put pictures on my tree before. But I realized I had pictures of my Grandmother, Elizabeth A. H. Lippincott. One in particular, is a portrait of her as a young girl. Ringlets frame her face as she strikes a pose.
A portrait of my father, Joseph G. Lippincott, Sr. fits perfectly on the other side; he is dressed in a white smocked dress, typical for baby boys in 1920.

Final Touch

If you have been following my blogs, you may know that Bob’s sister, Carole died of Covid in early January. It has been a great loss to our family. We sorely miss her. (The Dawn of 2021: Every Moment Counts )
We received a small package that she wanted us to have: in it, pictures of Bob’s parents on their wedding day.

What speaks of love more than wedding hopes and dreams, with your life ahead of you? It took its’ place at the base of the tree.

Legacy and Roots

I’ve enjoyed my holiday trees for so many reasons.
They brighten up my kitchen. It is so much more than “Feng Shui.”
Everything on my tree has meaning and purpose.
But it wasn’t until I received the picture of Bob’s parents that it was complete.
From the top of the tree, with my father’s baby cup, and his mother as a baby about 1889?
To the bottom of the tree, rooted in Bob’s parents wedding day.
The soft glimmer of the lights reflects on the treasures on the tree.
The trinkets are a reflection of the legacy of our lives.
The tree whispers through the ages of “The Hope and Fears of all the Years.”

Roots

Our family and legacy has always been important to us.
And where to we find our legacy?
Where do we find our treasure?
During this time of quarantine and isolation, we may feel more isolated than ever. But our roots go so much deeper than family, don’t they?

Foundations and Restlessness

“Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Thee.” Augustine

Our hearts are restless, aren’t they? We may have our roots and traditions grounded in family and in ritual. And these are good things.
But at the end of the day?

Our restlessness will only be satiated through knowing Christ and Him crucified.

And that is a legacy through the ages that will never disappoint and never leave us. It is a legacy that gives us roots but also wings to fly.
Knowing Christ is the very foundation that springs us forward.
It is a Love that will Never let us Go.

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