Searching for the Lost

search truckToday, in many different places, a search is being organized.

Searchers are packing their things and their dogs and their tools.

Search leaders are scouting where the teams will search just past daybreak tomorrow.

Why today?  Well, because it’s Friday and these are volunteers, most who also work full time jobs and care for families.  So today they prepare, and tomorrow they search.

Because on the weekends, they become heroes, searching for the Lost.

Today, they are bringing HOPE to a family.

Today, that family prepares their heart for the weekend of not taking a breath while they wait.  Wait for what they fear.  Wait for what they long for.

Today, we pray for both.  For searchers heading out, and for families getting ready.

Today, that family isn’t ours.  But it will be again one day, hopefully soon.  And though this is repeating itself all over the country today, today my heart is with one specific family, and one specific group of searchers.

Today, pray for them with me.

For a look at what a family goes through during a search, read this post. 

 

When the path becomes difficult, that’s no reason to give up. In fact, it means you’re making real progress. The mountain becomes more rugged and steep the closer you get to the summit. Keep going, keep climbing, keep making the effort, and soon you’ll find yourself reaching the top.

 The challenges you encounter are unquestionable proof that you’re making a positive difference. Make use of those challenges, not as an excuse to stop, but rather as a platform from which to push forward.

 For the greatest achievements come in response to the greatest challenges. When the going gets rough, you are most certainly in the presence of profound opportunity.

 When there is much that must be done, there is enormous value waiting to be created. Step boldly forward and claim that value.

 Whatever may come, whatever may seem to block your path, choose to keep moving. There are truly magnificent rewards just on the other side of your persistent efforts.

— Ralph Marston

Meditation for Beginners

Meditation is an art, a long-standing practice that originated with someone very wise I’m sure. The ability to center one’s self, to breathe deeply and live fully in the moment is a skill that takes practice. I have visions of mastering this art, and being able to simply be still. Not just my body, but also my mind. To pray fully focused on my intent, to write fully focused on what I’m trying to convey, or to even play with my boys without wondering how quickly I can jump to the next thing.

If you arrived here hoping to find an expert, you’re so out of luck. I was tortured this morning with about 20 minutes of time in a dark room, in a fairly comfortable position, with therapy treatments happening on my back. 20 minutes with no phone, no books, no voices, no distractions. Just me and God time. Or it could have been me and me time. But instead it was me and God time for about 30 seconds at a time, broken up by moments of lost train of thoughts, knees begging to be cracked, a phone buzzing to be checked, before I’d come back to my prayer. I should be enjoying these moments of quiet, with nothing to do but heal and be still.

Instead, I’m searching for a book that must exist, Meditation for Beginners (or Dummies).

In the meantime, here are some things I’m trying, to help me find if there’s a hope for me in this mess of a mind.

– Accepting that for 20 minutes, three times a week, my only activity is being still.
– Putting the phone down more. I won’t likely ever be the person that forgets where their phone is for a day. It’s too much a part of my job and my goals with writing. But I can give my kids my full attention for more than 30 seconds at a time and just be there. (I wish this one wasn’t so hard)
– Just write. Many times I have too many thoughts and ideas flying around and can’t seem to get organized and settled enough to share them. I’m pushing myself to just start writing, and worry about editing later. It’s okay if it’s a mess.

 meditation

The biggest challenge of being still is the thoughts that come that you’d rather not face. Just a week or so away from the 6th anniversary of the last day we saw Austin, thoughts of him come often. Which lead to thoughts of our search and the lack of progress, which lead to thoughts of hopelessness. I wish that thoughts of Austin could ever just be the good memories, but I’m not sure that’s possible. So I don’t welcome the good memories as much either, because they turn into painful ones.

Thankfully, the painful thoughts usually turn to thoughts of hope and images of what the day will look like when we finally know. I still believe that it will be another painful time, one of grieving or more questions, because no matter the result there will be that. But I know who will be standing by our side, who will help shine Hope into the darkness, and know that God will use people like us to keep shining it for others.

But my best chance of shining that light is if I can be present and put all my energy into one thing for those moments I have. So, if you know of a book like Meditation for Beginners, or Meditation for Dummies, let me know!

Defining Beauty

While traveling today I read an article in the U.S. Airways Magazine by Brion O’Connor about a topic I barely remember.  It included the story of an artist, Fritz Drury, who studies and understands beauty better than most.  He spent some time with the author’s brother, and they were discussing what makes something beautiful, which is a concept very hard to define. 

They came to agree upon the one theme for defining beauty:  contrast. 

 

From mountains to oceans, to paintings to performing art, contrast is what awes us and creates the feeling of beauty in so many cases.  Sometimes it’s as simple as the contrast from our daily view, something so different than what we’ve grown accustomed to, that we can’t help but see it as beautiful.  But we might not have seen it’s beauty otherwise. 

Contrast is where we find beauty in life too, where God shows us His wonders. 

Watching an adult walk down the street is no miracle and is hard to see beauty in when you see thousands of the same every day.  But learn that the young man walking down the street in front of you is recovering from a stroke that partially paralyzed him, and that loved ones feared he may never walk again, and you see beauty in those steps. 

 

Hearing a story on the news of a person found deceased is sad and far from beautiful, when you know that someone has lost their loved one.  But learn that the family has been searching for 11 years and celebrates the selfless volunteers who gave their time and talent, and never gave up, and you see beauty in the pain. 

Reading a message from a woman who is getting ready for work seems mundane and ordinary.  But learn that she had been out of work for over a year and desperate, and you see beauty in that every day task.

 

Seeing a mom watch her son play at the park, just like a thousand other moms is forgotten in an instant.  But learn that she has tears in her eyes because her son is playing with other kids, and feels typical for a few minutes despite his disability, and you’ll see beauty. 

 

God’s work is best displayed in the contrasts.

 

Every few months I get upgraded to first class on a flight.  I try to hide my excitement and act like I have that special treatment all the time.  I look around at people who really do fly first class regularly, and realize that they aren’t enjoying it nearly as much as me.  They’re used to it.  It’s only so cool when you’re used to the back of the plane begging for water. 

 

Despite that, I still want first class all the time.  Despite the beauty of the contrast from struggles to overcoming, I still want no struggles.  But God’s work is best seen in the contrasts, I remind myself time and time again. 

 

Our two big valleys for God to use are Michael’s health and everything that comes with that (financial challenges, emotional challenges, logistical challenges), and our ongoing search for Austin. 

 

Right now, the only real contrasts in our life is the difficulty of circumstances vs. the attitude to persevere and find Hope no matter what.   But I keep believing that one day, the contrast God shows in our life will be that much greater and show His work that much more. 

 

I will keep believing.   

 

  

Abaco Islands, Bahamas

Abaco Islands, Bahamas

In the Storm

We’re in a Tropical Storm right now here in Florida, with enough rain to make you think to build an ark and enough wind to blow you over.  Except that in this very minute, it’s calm and there is no rain.  But when I look at the sky, I know it’s just a momentary lapse, and the worst of the storm is yet to come. Okay, truth is that I can’t see that from the sky.  But the Weather Channel, along with my local news give us the warnings to heed- there may be flooding, tornadoes, downed limbs and power outages.  Thankfully they stand in the gap to share how to stay safe instead of us relying on our own instincts which so often fail.

See?  We're under that black mark in the middle of the image- completely covered.

See? We’re under that black mark in the middle of the image- completely covered.

It’s really not a big deal though.  I’ve sat through more Hurricanes and Tropical Storms than I can recall, from before I can recall.  I’ve lived in Florida all of my life but two years, and those two years were on the coast of Mississippi where we rode out a few as well.  It’s just part of life.  And in the summer when we have a break from the storms?  Wildfires my friends, wildfires.  So many that your nostrils burn from the smoke, your eyes water just by opening a window, and you pray that a Tropical Storm will come along to drench us again.

No matter where you live, there are natural forces to be reckoned with though.  I can’t imagine being startled by the shrill of a unexpected tornado siren in the Midwest.  Or being woken by a violent shaking that rattles the walls and leaves you hoping that the earth doesn’t open up and swallow you on the West Coast.

I like the storms I’m used to.  I know where to turn for information, how to prepare, and how to keep my family safe.

In life I feel the same.  I like the trouble I know and fear the unknown.  But the really cool thing is that we also have a guide, someone who stands in the gap and helps us and comforts us.

No matter what type of storm we face, we don’t have to rely on our own knowledge or instincts.  In fact, when we do is when we get into the real danger.  It’s such a comfort to know that God is more reliable and knowledgeable than the Weather Channel, and more prepared to deal with disaster than the Red Cross.

In Hurricanes, Tropical Storms, or the storms of life, He is our help.

There’s no need to have all the answers, just to know where to get them.

~  Anita ~

 

Memorial Day Rememberances

Ten years… Ten years since I sat at the memorial of a young man lost from my husband’s battalion.  Ten years since I was pregnant with our first and vowed to have him remember that young man.  I didn’t know that we’d face so much loss in the next ten years that it would become even more poignant.  I didn’t know that between years Nine and Ten, a friend would lose her children’s dad to PTSD and I’d count one more among those we remember.

Memorial Day.  We remember.

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The Case of the Missing Rooster

I’m a funny gal.  Don’t believe me, just ask me. I like to laugh.  I don’t think I take things too seriously when they’re meant to be funny.

However…

Photo Credit: Eden Kendall

This week, in “fun” there is a search on for a missing Rooster.  I was listening to one of the 10 radio stations I flip between (I like virtually all types of music) and heard a DJ lamenting the loss of her rooster.  She asked all the “what if” questions of what she could have done differently to have not had him leave.  She mentioned possible sightings of him hitchhiking.  She discussed him like he was part of her family.  And yet, this wasn’t even a pet she had lost and was really looking for help to find.  It was a stupid attempt at humor.  And of course a radio promotion used to promote the station and give away some free stuff.

I was bothered by it, and as much as I wanted to laugh it off,  I just couldn’t.  I didn’t even really want to write about it, knowing people will read and think, “it’s just a joke, lighten up.”  But if you know me, you know I laugh easily and am not easily offended.  This was just different.

Missing someone you love isn’t funny.

It isn’t a joke.  And it’s not okay by me that more people shared the photo of the missing Rooster than shared the photo or news story of Rosemary Day, a young woman missing from our area for two years yesterday.  Two years of her family searching, missing, loving, longing.  Two years of wondering if they’ll ever see her face again.

Have fun.  Laugh.  Enjoy life.  But remember those who can’t.

News Coverage on Rosemary Day

 

You have a baby… In a Hearing

Sweet Home Alabama had one of the best lines ever-

“You have a baby… In a bar.”

I laugh at the line for a number of reasons, but including that I spent some of my early months at a beach bar that was a family business for my parents best friends. I turned out mostly okay.

Yesterday, a congressman from North Carolina, Rep. Mel Watt, made big news for bringing his grandson to a congressional hearing, and leading questioning with the baby on his lap. To give the kid credit, he was quiet for most of it, and was simply adorable for all of it. The child’s mother and grandmother were apparently having lunch with the First Lady, and Granddad pulled baby duty.

Media outlets have responded a lot differently- with headlines like “baby lightens mood” to “cranky baby testifies.”  Some people think that it was a distraction tactic, some think it shows that he has no respect for the process and his job.

I’m just annoyed that real news is overtaken by this story.  The only thing getting more news is Jodi Arias’ interview where she stated that she wants the ultimate freedom of death.  Running a close third may be the story of the #fitchthehomeless campain, or maybe it’s OJ Simpson requesting a new trial. So to sum up, this week we’re focusing on a baby on a lap, a murderess who is getting the spotlight she so wants, a man responding poorly to a real story of a despicable CEO, and a criminal seeking a new trial.  If you haven’t caught all these news stories, kudos.  As for me, I’m in a hotel alone this week, with more news access than normal since no one is clamoring to watch Disney Junior.  Disney Junior was probably a better choice for me though.

Instead of watching more Mickey, I decided to dig deeper and find some real news, some stories worth reading or watching.

– Did you know that this week a 4 year old girl died after being raped?  There are no words.  But there should be outrage.  In a recent report, the Asian Center for Human Rights cited statistics that it said showed 48,338 child rape cases were reported in India between 2001 and 2011. The report said the number of cases rose from 2,113 in 2001 to 7,112 in 2011.  As humans, we should be asking what we can do.  We should not be keeping our eyes closed.

– An Austrian woman held captive for over 8 years speaks, and writes, about how she’s been able to bury the hate and find a way to see positives in her life.  Brave.  Strong.

– Have you heard about the teens in Charlotte who have founded a non-profit to free slaves– and are really doing it?  These kids are doing amazing things.  This is news.  This is inspiring.

Those are just a few of the stories worth our attention this week.  I’m challenging myself, and you, to look for the real news.  Look for the real heroes and the real opportunities to make a difference.

Miracle in Ohio

This has been the most exciting week in a long time in the world of missing persons.  Not only did a long time missing loved one come home, but three came home.  Alive.

It’s unbelievable.  Astounding.

A miracle in Ohio.

Media outlets all over the country are following closely, and are looking for families of missing persons in their area to interview and comment.  So in addition to these three women and one child (who was born during their captivity) coming home at long last, many of our loved ones are being seen again.  Families who have had their missing loved one gone for years, and forgotten by most.

My feelings were mixed at first.  My first thought was actually that if it was my sister or daughter, I would wish that she had been dead instead of enduring the torture and pain of ten years of imprisonment from a monster.  I would have more heartbreak than joy, because of all they have faced.  I’d have more guilt than peace, that I hadn’t been able to rescue them somehow.

But to the families of Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, while there are likely years of healing and struggle ahead, I have to believe that they are simply thankful to have them home.  Thankful that they can begin the healing process.  Thankful that their long search is over.

There is a new child to welcome into the family, there are new members of the families left behind.  There are losses to process, like Amanda Berry’s mom, who some believe died of a broken heart.  There is so much to process.  And there are questions for law enforcement to process, such as why there was never effort put to finding Michelle Knight.

For the rest of us- those with a missing loved one who pray and hope for the day when we have answers, so much hope is found in their story.  Miracles do happen.

I pray that this leads to others being brought home, from the additional media and attention.  But please, don’t forget us and those like us next week or next month when this is old news.

 

 

Please remember:

Bryan Lamar Allen Last seen May 31, 2012
Tammy Willis Missing since August 12, 2012

The Big Story

This week I’ve been saddened for the people impacted by the attack in Boston, like most Americans have.  I’ve prayed for them, and included a friend who was there with her family cheering her husband on in those prayers.  (Thankfully they were already at their hotel when the explosions happened.)

I watched news that night, saw replays of the explosions, heard stories of those injured or killed, and saw interviews with heroes who did their job bravely.

But I tend to go against the grain on a lot of things, and this is no different.  I keep thinking that though this is a tragic event and it deserves our prayer and thoughts, I don’t understand the obsession that seems to be there.  Now, I’m not talking about those who were there and have the physical and/or emotional scars of such an event.  I’m talking about those of us sitting in our living rooms and on our computers who have no real connection besides the constant media stream.

Three people lost their lives, and many others have severe injuries.  But why aren’t we so taken with the stories of the hospitals in Pakistan filled with survivors of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake this week, that left at least 35 dead.  Why aren’t we so taken with the number of children lost across the world to starvation, an estimated 288 million this week alone.  Why aren’t we so taken by the estimated 14,000 people who have been reported in the U.S. this week alone.

My point is simply that there are even greater tragedies around us every single day, and when we let one tragedy consume us, we can neglect to do what we truly can and truly need to do.

We seem trained to focus on what media makes ‘the big story’ and gets thousands of hours of air time- because of their unexpected nature, or because of our shock that this could happen to us.

We are asked to give to these major disasters, and as Americans we do an amazing job of that.  But I’ve also seen that we can become so immune to the constant hurt around us that we do nothing, when the need there is so much greater.

I know that I don’t do enough, give enough, pray enough or respond enough.  I also know that neither you or I can ever really do enough, give enough, pray enough or respond enough.  We have to find the areas and issues that we can be passionate about and have an impact on.  But that can’t be by responding just once or twice a year to a plea on television to text a donation in.  It’s simple, it’s good, but it’s not enough.

Did you know that an estimated 70% of the Boston Marathoners were raising money for a cause they believed in?  That’s a big story.  The true big stories are of those who are doing and giving and responding when no one is watching, or they don’t know they’re being watched.  Boston was full of those people, from runners raising money to those who ran in as others ran out, and those who are still caring for the injured and grieving.  Our country is full of those people, who adopt children no one else cares to, who fight to rescue slaves, who search for people in places no one else will brave.  Our world is full of those people, who risk their lives to even speak against oppression, who care for the discarded ill, who love the unlovable.

When I look back on the week, I’m saddened by the hate that caused such an attack, and I’m disenchanted by the attention given when so much that needs our focus is ignored.  But more than anything, I’m encouraged and uplifted by remembering that in any disaster happening any day in any part of the world, if you look past the pain, you’ll find heroes.

Thank you to each of you who are heroes every day, in your way in your world.

*******************

And for those who want to help support some heroes I know- a Florida based Search and Rescue team who spends their own money to train and travel for searches- I would ask you to consider a donation of $10 in exchange for a 12oz bag of local fresh roasted gourmet coffee from Lucky Goat Coffee.  You can send $10 through Paypal as a gift to g8ranita@gmail.com and indicate if you would like whole bean or ground, and which of these delish flavors:  Breakfast Blend, Columbian, Cinnamon Crunch, Southern Pecan, Moose Tracks, Decaf, Jamaican Island, French Roast, Vanilla Nut, Guatemalan.
If you aren’t local, please add $3 for shipping and indicate where to ship to.  Or, consider sending $10 and choosing to send the coffee to the team, to help fuel those early morning searches.

 

Stop the Stigma

Usually when someone passes away, there is an illness that we say they died from.  But in reality, the illness causes a host of problems, and that often leads to the death, not the original illness  Often, the body can simply fight no longer, and basic functions cease.  But we understand that cancer, or heart disease, or whatever the illness was, led to their death.  We don’t dwell on what the final step was.  We don’t see headlines that mention that someone died from fluid on the lungs, we see that they died from Cancer.  Because that was truly what caused their death.

But for those suffering from depression, bi-polar disorder, PTSD, etc., when the illness becomes so severe that the person dies, the headlines say that they committed suicide.  

Committed.  Which truly simply means “to do, perform, or perpetrate” but is used in this way almost exclusively for crimes.  The person gone did perform that act, but it is no crime.  It is painful for those left behind, but no crime was committed. 

If we’re to really understand mental illness, we’ll understand that as the cause of death.  Suicide was only the last step in an illness that progressed past the point of the help available.   Over 90% of people who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death, the most common being depression.  

Since we believe that my brother took his life and died from depression, I’ve been asked many times if I’m angry with him.  While I know that can be a common feeling of those left behind, I think it would be less so if we could remove the stigma and help others understand the truth.  This wasn’t about me.  This wasn’t about him not loving our family enough.  This was about ending the pain.  In the religious world, the stigma has been especially strong, with a long history of teaching by many churches that hell was the punishment for suicide.  Thankfully, many churches have stopped teaching that, as they have come to better understand mental illness.  But many people still believe it.  Some have even said it to me.  So if you’re wondering, no.  I don’t think he was selfish, I think he was ill.  I’m angry that he was 26 years old and working full time and had no health care available because he worked for a very small business and made too little to afford private insurance but too much for subsidized care.  I’ve been angry at times by insensitive comments by those who think I should be angry.  I’m upset with myself for not recognizing the severity of the illness.  I’m saddened by it all.  But I’ve really never been angry with him. 

Just a few days ago, Rick Warren, minister and author of ‘The Purpose Driven Life’, lost his son to depression.   He appears to have been a loving and spiritual young man, who had an illness so severe, that no treatment or doctors had been able to prevent his death.  Like any parents with a sick child, his had sought help for him far and wide.  The best medicine, doctors, therapists and ministers were within their reach.  But healing was not.  Rick and Kay obviously understood that, and I’m thankful that through their pain, the stigma may be lifted and illness better understood by some.   

It is so difficult to add to the pain of loss with a shame that should never be there.  We need to start looking at suicide for what it really is- a final step of a terrible disease.  And when we can take the shame away from mental illness, more may be able to seek and receive treatment that saves them from that step, and instead brings them healing.

Praying today for those who have lost a loved one to mental illness, that they find comfort instead of scorn and hope and healing instead of shame.