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

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

Welcome: A New Day

You found me!  Thanks for wandering over one way or another- I’d love you to stay and chat a while.  Pull up a chair, get comfy.  Have some coffee, or some wine and I’ll join you.

——–

I spent just over two years writing and sharing on a blog site that will always hold my heart.  But sometimes you outgrow your first love, and realize that you’ll always look back with fond memories, but know it’s time to move on.  That site wasn’t just a place I stopped now and then.  It was a place where I began to share my thoughts and feelings, as a real form of therapy.  Up until I began sharing there, I found it much easier to ignore the hurt and loss, and keep plugging ahead.  It was easier.  This sharing stuff is not easy.  There are days I question myself, and days I want to stay silent.  And sometimes I do.

But the reason I keep writing is no longer just to help me.  Now I write in the hope that someone else who’s in a dark place can see that glimmer of hope.

Moving here was another step in my growth- setting up the right tools to be able to share more.  Just a few months ago I realized I was writing but not reaching out to find those who could most use the words.  Once I began reaching out, so many more of you came.  As many in four months as had come in two years.  If you’ve been with me from day 1 or just finding me today- thanks for joining me, and I truly hope you’ll be back.  Let’s go through this together.  Me and you.

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

 

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

End it


The Roller Coaster Ride

It’s not unusual for a year to go by with nothing new to report on in our search for Austin.  That’s true of most of us with a cold case missing person, and it may be one of the hardest parts to accept.  But we’ve had some activity in the past few weeks, and I wanted to share some of what it’s like to go through the roller coaster of ‘what if’ and ‘maybe’.

One of the most respected women in search and rescue, Monica Caison had been encouraging my mom to search one specific area we never had, the property around the house where Austin and I grew up.  Mom was hesitant for her own reasons, and I pushed every now and then to please make it happen.  The plan was for a small group to go, just a few people from her own search team, as it’s quite a small area.  Monica helped scout on a Friday, and on that Saturday, four searchers including my mom, began to work.  While they worked, I wrote some thoughts, always praying that when I shared this, I’d be sharing about the day we brought Austin home.  Here’s what I wrote as I waited:

“From where I stand… Birds calling, crickets chirping, occasional dog barking, leaves falling, trees towering, sun shining warm,  quiet, peaceful….
As I write, a small search for Austin is underway.  We’ve had quite a few, so I have a somewhat nonchalant attitude towards them usually. In the beginning, I would always think “today is the day” and be nervous.  As time has gone on, most searches have been repeats of the same areas or areas we didn’t feel that strong about.  So I lost that feeling for the most part.  Pulling up to a team of searchers always gave me a moment of belief that today might be the day, and leaving with no results always gave me a bit of a letdown, but less and less over time.

Today is different.  Today it’s just 4 people and 3 dogs.  Today my mom is searching instead of organizing.  Today we’re home, meaning we’re where Austin and I grew up, where I have the most feeling of home and where he did too.  Though we don’t own the house or property and haven’t for years, we still visit out here because of close family friends who are still here.  When I turn down the road, it still feels like going home.  It’s where we made most of our childhood memories, its where we made lifelong friends, its where we were a family.  About halfway through college for me, and halfway through high school for Austin, our parents split and things changed a lot.  Austin still lived there for a few years, and I spent one more summer there, before Dad made the decision to sell.  I don’t know if Austin’s last few years here tarnished the good memories so much that he didn’t still feel the strong connection to it that I do.  I was gone, living an hour away through the worst of that, so I don’t have the same viewpoint.

I wasn’t convinced that the pull here would be strong enough that he’d come back here for his final moments.  But we’ve searched everywhere else that seems to make sense.”

My kids and husband came and we played baseball and soccer for a few hours while they searched, reminding me how abnormal it is for my kids to think it perfectly normal to play yards away from a search, a search for their own uncle.  My youngest doesn’t know, but my oldest is well aware.  A few hours later, the team packed up and left without any find.  It turns out that the area really is too grown up and too dense for that small a team, and some heavy equipment is needed.  I left sad, with that feeling that this wasn’t really the place, and knowing it would likely be months before the next search happened, meaning more time of just waiting.  That’s the road for a family member though, always having sparks of hope that you have to allow and have to feel, while wanting to instead protect yourself from the letdown that comes after you allow yourself to hope.

Fast forward a week and a half or so….

I was getting ready to walk out the door to work when I realized my husband and mom were talking and there were words like ‘serial number’ and ‘police’ floating to me.  I stopped and listened.

My mom had been awakened about 3:30am by a phone call from someone who scavenged for metal, and had found bones in carpet, almost buried in dirt the night before.  He’d called the police and they’d sent uniformed officers, but they hadn’t taken him seriously it seemed, and he couldn’t sleep.  So he was searching online for information about missing people in that area, and came across Austin’s info.  On that was the Finder’s Hope logo, and from there he found my mom’s phone number- not realizing she was also Austin’s mom.  He’d read about the shotgun we were also looking for, and was startled by the fact that he’d found the barrel of a shotgun (same brand) months ago, broken down and half buried, in another nearby spot that we had searched very near to.  The bones were several blocks away, but also between the Pawn Shop (where Austin purchased the gun and was last seen) and where he’d found the gun.  He still had the gun, including the serial number and would be glad to hand it to police.

We couldn’t piece together how both could be related to Austin, but one or the other very possibly could, and if not him, it could be someone else’s missing loved one.  I let work know I’d be only partially available as we figured out what to do, and my mom started calling the missing persons unit, leaving messages and calling back until she was able to speak to someone who listened.  Thankfully, the detective said he was jumping in his car to go check it out right then.  He asked us to wait till we heard back.

That lasted about 10 minutes, until Michael and I drove by the entrance to the site where the bones were found, and then by the house where the guy lived.  Once we realized the detective was indeed there, we went on, waiting anxiously for any word.  We lasted a little bit longer, before my mom left and sat at the entrance where there were now two empty unmarked cars, leading us to believe they were looking for the site.  I tried to be somewhat productive, with a few work phone calls and emails, as I had something fairly large and difficult going on there to deal with too.  I knew that it was unlikely to be the day we had answers, but as my husband reminded me, “it has to be one day.”

My mom and I returned to the site, with both of my boys in the car and my husband off to class, because even in the midst of days like that, we have to continue on with life, though I knew he was keeping his phone close and would rush back if needed.  By this time, another search team member and friend of my mom’s was on her way with her dog, in case help was needed.  And I’m sure though she didn’t say it, in case the gun was his or the bones confirmed human, to be there with us.

As we pulled up, I told my oldest, “we’re going stopping by a search to talk to some police, I need you to stay in the car” and almost laughed as we saw once again how normal these things were to him.  We approached the officers, six in total, and introduced ourselves.  They shared that the bones had been located, and that their dog was on the ground to determine if they were human, as it was a small amount of bones.  They were large enough to be human potentially.

Four of the six plainclothes officers immediately separated themselves away once we introduced ourselves, not even acknowledging us.  We didn’t know the remaining two but were told that the detective we’d talked with, along with the K-9 and his handler were a bit beyond view.  We were probably some of the most composed family members they’d seen, as we tried to chat with them about search and rescue, laughed about my fear of snakes that kept me from being a searcher, and discussed the fact that we were out there for us, but also for any family who might be about to find answers.

It was probably no more than 5 minutes later when the detective, the K-9 and handler walked in to the clearing and started towards us.  My mom kept chatting, while I realized that we were either about to have hope dashed, or have the start to the longest few weeks of our lives while we waited to learn who it was.

They were dashed.  The remains weren’t human.  The gun’s serial number didn’t match.  We thanked the detective and walked back to our car where I cheerfully told my son that the search had found some bones, but just an animal and we were going home.

I returned home for an afternoon of conference calls and work, and mom picked up to do whatever she had planned for the day.  The searcher friend was turned around, and our lives went back to normal.

But our normal is not that normal and I’m always aware of that.

Last night I heard an inspirational message from a singer who had lost his voice and had it restored through a risky surgery that threatened his career and his passion.  When his voice did return, it was better than before, and he learned a lot about trusting God when all seems bleak.  I’ve heard so many other stories with similar messages, and I sometimes feel the weight of wondering when our turn to have a completion to this ‘story’ is.  When I’ll be able to tell about our struggles, but with a conclusion to our years of searching instead of this open ended story.  But I heard so clearly last night, that the longer we search, the more powerful our story of keeping hope no matter the situation becomes, and the more people to know of Austin, and be able to celebrate with us when there is an end to the search one day.  I’d still like it to be today.  The roller coaster is no fun.

But I share because that is the only action I can take, I share that someone may see the HOPE we still have, and will always have.  And I share that when we do find Austin, even more will know the struggle to get there and be able to see how God worked.

Thank you for those who ride the roller coaster with us, and for those whom we know we can call when we need you, even if you never knew any of this was going on.  We did keep all of this fairly quiet for a variety of reasons, and often have to.  But do know, that when the day comes that there is a different end to this story, we’ll be so thankful you’re there.

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Changing Plans

I love a plan. I like knowing what’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen, and where it’s going to happen. And I’d like to know what will happen if the original plan changes. I sometimes plan for worst case more than best case, just so I’m ready for the tougher road.

But even then, the unexpected happens and I’m really thrown. Not so much on the small things, because for those I’ve usually planned to be flexible. (side note: I’ve always planned for flexibility or spontaneity which can seem like lack of plan, but is just my own crazy plan!). But when big changes are going on, I’ve always struggled.

That’s when I have to be reminded that I don’t hold the plans. I can’t see the whole picture. I can let go.

I never planned to be the sister of a missing person. Then once I was, I never planned to stay on this journey for a year, much less five. I never planned for a lot of other changes. Like having our youngest son, finding a new career path, making friendships with unexpected people, or having my mom part of daily life…. if life followed all my plans, I’d miss out on so much.

His plans are better than mine could ever be.

I’ll just keep reminding myself. A lot.



http://iwilltrustinyou.tumblr.com/post/8095270381

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

The Deep End

This morning I did a search on a few key words, hoping to find that our press release last week garnered at least one tiny mention in local news.  So far, nothing.  But it did lead me to read back over a few articles from the early days of our search, and reading those were a bit surreal.

In one, my Dad was quoted as saying “My fingers and ears are sore from communicating non-stop,” and the article said “indeed it appears that he, family and friends have left no avenue unturned in their fervent hunt for their loved one, a hunt they believe will be successful.”  In another article, I was quoted as saying “”We’re never going to stop looking for him,” she said. “We’ll keep searching til the day he’s found, whether that means they find him alive or find his remains.”  My mom had similar quotes, with the added impact of being a mom searching for her son.

During that time, though we had to beg for coverage and help, we found it.  We were fortunate.  But now it’s been almost five years, and the quotes would be much different.  Very few people ask questions about Austin, and it’s very seldom we talk about him.  It seems as if all there is to say has been said.  We no longer have large scale searches every weekend and spend our weekdays hanging flyers and knocking on doors.  The areas that family and experts alike think to search have been searched and cleared, it’s no longer likely someone will see his face on a flyer and remember seeing him. 

Today’s quotes might be different, but have no doubt that the same belief that we will be successful in our search is still there.  Our timelines have shifted- we now know it may be years more, instead of the days we initially expected.  For some of us the belief of what we’ll find has been shifted.

The world moves on so quickly and we so often expect people to move on- but hearts don’t heal as fast as the news changes, and not all stories can get wrapped up in a bow.  I read a post from the mother of a missing woman who has been gone 8 years next week, Elsha Rivera.  She’s raising money to put flyers out to the Fort Worth, Texas area where she was last seen, and hoping to get media coverage.  She was asked yesterday why she’s bothers.  She bothers because her daughter is missing.  She bothers because her grandchildren miss their mom.  She bothers because someone likely did something to Elsha, and that person is still out there to hurt others.

The more I think about it, the more I’m glad that people don’t just move on.  I’m not sure what our world would be like if love was so shallow.  Love is deep.  Thank you God for that.

Check out Elsha’s story today.

Searching for Hope

This weekend, while many people spent their mornings leisurely sipping coffee while reading a newspaper, at a farmers market, at a ball field, or shopping for gifts, there were people choosing to spend their weekend another way.  They chose to leave their homes in various parts of Florida, coming in trucks with trailers, with four wheelers and generators, maps and flashlights, and dogs of all types.  They met in the cold morning air, full of coffee and energy, and with a focus on their goal. 

While some people thought about what gifts to buy a loved one for Christmas, they thought of how to give a gift to someone they love that could never be bought and the value of never measured. 

Sunday morning, while many went to church to seek God’s love, they went out to be God’s love exemplified. 

They thought they were searching for my brother.

And they were, but they were searching for more.  They were searching for renewed hope for us, that people still care and that we may one day find him.  They were searching for a way to show their love to someone who has worked beside them and become important to them, my Mom. 

They didn’t find Austin.  But they did find hope.  They did find a way to show love.

As the group pulled out Sunday evening, after days of exhausting work, they might have felt like they hadn’t brought anything back to us.  They would be wrong.

Thank you.