Questions Welcome; Answers Not Guaranteed

One of the hardest things for me has been answering the question, “How are you doing?”

There are a variety of factors that make this hard. What is my relationship with the asker? How much do they know? When did we last speak? How much time do I have to answer this question? Do they really want to know or are they just being polite? And so on…

My initial answer was always, “Making it one day at a time.” But there are people in my circles who know about the death of my parents and others who don’t and are asking innocently enough because it’s just a normal thing to say. This answer confused the second group. More than that, this isn’t really an answer.

I recognize that there are people who follow my blogs and people who don’t but, for those of you who read this, I will endeavor to give you the best answer I can. It really can be summed up in three words: I don’t know.

That’s not a cop out… let me explain.

This week marks a shift for me. Most of the stressful, easy days are behind me as we prepared and ran two memorials, packed up the house, and had an estate sale. There is still work to do but I’ll be making two trips to New Braunfels this week instead of going every day.

Meanwhile, I don’t start work until Monday and this is not because I am lazy or just wanted a week to rest. The delay is because I must slow down and do the much harder task of coming to terms with the fact I will never see my parents again.

While there were tasks to do and people to call and boxes to pack… there was a comfortable numbness that settled in. Other than one snap on Thursday the 20th, I haven’t really cried since my mom’s service.

Don’t misunderstand me, crying is not the goal… but it is healthy. And I am smart enough to know that if I don’t deal with this now, it will come back later in some form that will be harder to address.

So, I planned this week to be that pause to create space to process what just happened.

But I kept hitting a wall.

I would start to question and I would start to hurt and I would begin to cry… and something would snap and the tears would end and the questions would be silenced. After a few times of this, I started to wonder what is going on. Upon mental inspection, I realized, I didn’t want to question God.

God has been so good to me and so consistently faithful, I felt unjust in my questions of what He was doing or why He let this happen. There isn’t really anyone to blame; it’s just one of those freak things that happens because this is a fallen world that has not yet been redeemed.

(Some will say Jack is to blame. I will write about this more at length someday, but for now, I just say Jack was a victim before he created victims. Hurt people hurt people, whether they mean to or not.)

I asked my pastor for a verse “for when you want to question God but you can’t because you know He’s all powerful and all loving… but He doesn’t feel very loving right now.” Chris directed me to Psalm 88, which is incredibly depressing. In short, this is 18 verses of someone saying “God, I have been praying and you are not answering. Where are you? Do you want me to die?” on repeat.

What struck me on the first reading is that there is no “turn” … like God never answers and the Psalmist never says “but I know God will come through.” That’s typically how I will write if I have difficult things to discuss; I’ll spell out the struggle but then turn to the hopeful or positive at the end. This Psalmist just lets it end with

You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.

So yeah, “I keep crying out and You are not answering me. Now You have left me alone in the dark.”

Not exactly the verse you put on a coffee cup. And not exactly how I feel right now, since I have been surrounded by a community of help and support. But I knew Chris recommended this for a reason so I read it again.

On my second reading, I realized that this Psalmist’s words are recorded for eternity… like people sang this song after his death. I know that’s a bit obvious, since it’s in the Bible, but think about that. A song that declares “God has not come through for me” is recorded in the Bible… not something I would do if I was making up a religion.

But scripture tells us that the Bible is God breathed… literally the words of God. And every word was included, or excluded, for a purpose. That means it is OK to question God because when this man did God didn’t smite him or punish him for his insolence. Chewing on these thoughts, I grabbed my journal and pen and went for a hike.

A few weeks ago, Chris used a sermon illustration about his son’s desire to have a lizard and how God cares about the little things, even lizards. While I was out hiking, there were lizards everywhere. Rather than a comfort, this just made me more confused. God, if you care about silly lizards, I can’t doubt you care about my parents and my future… but why didn’t you do something?

About 2 miles into the hike, I made a realization… I am not questioning God because I don’t trust Him, but because I do. I know without doubt that God is powerful; He saved me from a wreck that should have killed me and I walked away without a scratch. I know without doubt that God loves me; He has many times proven that He even cares about my own ‘lizards’ … those little things that aren’t that important.

I know my parents were doing great things for God and were impacting many lives. Countless stories have come in over the last month of how they played a part in shaping an entire generation in New Braunfels.

My questions come because I know these things are true.  I know that He could have prevented the death of my parents and I know that He loves me.  What I don’t know is how to reconcile those thoughts into a picture that makes sense. What could God possibly want to do in my life that is of more value than my parents?

I don’t know what God is up to.
I don’t know why He let this happen.
I don’t know what the next year will look like.
I don’t know how anyone can help or what to ask from God.

I just don’t know.

I may never know.

God didn’t answer the Psalmist and He may never answer me on this side of heaven. God doesn’t owe me an answer and more than He is indebted to me for allowing my parents to die. But God welcomes me to question; He wants to hear from me even when my words are filled with confusion.

Because questions are welcome but answers are not guaranteed.

Not-So Good Friday

Yesterday was a very stressful day. I started at 5am to be on the road by 6 for New Braunfels. Then I had an 8am meeting with Kens 5 followed by a 2-hour family meeting to make decisions ranging from what to do with the house to what we’ll do with mom and dad’s ashes.

We met with the expert who set up my parent’s annuities and living trust to understand what the upcoming process will look like. A brief stop for lunch only to begin the room-by-room discussion of who is taking what and what is being sold or donated.

Fortunately we made it through the entire house with only a few bruised feelings but that process went on long enough that I wasn’t able to shoot up to Austin for my workout. Instead the fourteen of us went to Montana Mikes, since that was our family restaurant, and ate way too much food. (Because, what better way to replace a workout than eating ridiculous amounts of unhealthy food?)

By the time I was back in Austin, about midnight, I barely paused to change clothes before dropping into bed. The day had been productive but I was disappointed to have missed my church’s Good Friday service. One of my anchors in this storm has been my church family so I have driven to Austin every chance I have to be with them.

Since I missed the service, I took some time to think about Good Friday and what it really means. To make it personal… how did the disciples feel on that Friday night as they fell asleep?

Imagine being one of the 12… Imagine being Peter. About 3 years ago, you were out fishing and a rabbi calls you to follow. You, an uneducated fisherman, had been selected by a rabbi? You left everything and followed, developing a brotherhood and friendship with this man who spoke like no one you’ve ever heard before.

He spoke of the Kingdom of God like he’d already seen it and you shared many nights laying out on the grass and looking at the stars. He was wiser and kinder than anyone you could imagine. One day he asked, “Who do you say I am?” You declared confidently that he is the Messiah.

Then your friend began to make strange comments; he said he must suffer and die for crimes he never committed. A member of your brotherhood cut deep with betrayal and delivered your rabbi into the hands of religious elite. They had him unjustly tried, beaten, and hung on a cross to die while you, fearing for your life, denied you even knew him.

Everything you thought you knew and understood about the future and what your life was to look like was shattered. Peter’s hopes and dreams were crushed and he was left with a dread that he would be killed as well. Now try sleeping that night. Not such a “Good Friday” after all, huh?

Peter had tried to rescue Jesus by cutting off a man’s ear … clearly he didn’t understand the plan for Jesus’ death and resurrection. Alone and brokenhearted, bearing the weight of denying his Rabbi, Peter searched for answers in a new reality that didn’t make sense.

I feel for Peter more today than I ever could have before. Like Peter, I had dreams of what I believed my future held that will never be reality. My world has been flipped upside down twice in the last two weeks and, at the ripe old age of 29, I am now an orphan.

Fortunately for me, I have something Peter didn’t have; I have the rest of the story. Where Peter most likely slept that night with hopelessness and fear, my grief has been woven beautifully with the confidence and joy that I will see my parents again. I know without doubt that God is up to something in me and through this trial. The pain is there: I wanted dad to walk me down the aisle and I wanted mom to be there to welcome her grandchildren one day.

But I know my parents ran their race well and I know that they are now celebrating in heaven with the Lord. Difficult as it has been to plan a memorial in four days, we wanted it to be today because our hope in mom’s death is the resurrection we will celebrate tomorrow.

Good Friday didn’t get its name because we are glad for the torture and brutal killing of an innocent man. We celebrate Good Friday because it is followed by Easter Sunday and Jesus didn’t stay dead.

Friday sucks.
Saturday is dark and lonely.
But Sunday is on the way.

Dianne Hayden Barrett (1961-2017)

Below is the official obituary for Dianne Hayden Barrett
May 21, 1961 – April 11, 2017.

Dianne Mary Hayden Barrett joined her husband in Heaven the morning of April 11th, 2017.

Dianne was born May 21, 1961 to Betty Lou Miles Hayden and Herman Melchior Hayden in Eau Clare County, Wisconsin. She graduated from Elk Mound High School and was commissioned into the United States Air Force and served for 20 years. During which she attend Southwest Texas State University (SWTSU), where she received a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.

While at SWTSU, Dianne met her husband of 32 years, Murray William Barrett, who was also attending SWTSU on a military scholarship. Upon her graduation, they married on May 4, 1985 and moved to Dianne’s next assignment in the United States Air Force to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

As Dianne’s military career took them to various locations, they were blessed with four children: Matthew and Jennifer (Jenn) were born on Tinker Air Force Base (Oklahoma City, OK), Russell was born on Keesler Air Force Base (Biloxi, MS), and Cassandra (Cassie) was born on K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base (Upper Peninsula of Michigan).

In June of 1997, Dianne retired from the Air Force and the family took a one year sabbatical to travel through the 48 contiguous states and 9 of the 10 Canadian provinces. Dianne and Murray taught their children American history by living it. They walked Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields, visited several National Parks and historic landmarks, and toured many of the State and Provincial Capital buildings. No matter where their travels took them, on Sunday mornings Murray and Dianne made it a priority to find a place to worship God and fellowship with other believers.

June of 1998, the sabbatical ended and they moved to San Marcos, Texas. Dianne worked at the First Baptist church of San Marcos while she and Murray became involved in their children’s program. The family also became involved in the community theater, producing Annie in 1999, the Wizard of Oz in 2000, and the King and I in 2001. By that final production, Dianne had become involved to the point of being co-Director.

In July 2001 they settled in New Braunfels and found a family of believers at First Baptist Church. Dianne earned her teachers certification while working nights at an assisted living home. After completing her certification, she taught at Seguin High School and later New Braunfels High School.

Following the 2007-2008 school year, Dianne retired from teaching to care for Murray’s aging parents, Catharine and Bob Raub, who moved into their home. After their passing and with all four kids no longer at home, Dianne took a position at First Baptist Church as the secretary, interspersed with frequent trips with Murray.

Dianne also served faithfully at First Baptist Church teaching 5th and 6th grade Sunday school and leading the Awana Ministry. She and Murray firmly believed these preteen age children needed a strong role model who would help them understand their need for the Savior, Jesus Christ. Together they were a perfect team, mingling Dianne’s organization and structure with Murray’s passion and fun; holding it all together with deep love for children.

Dianne never met a stranger and was beloved by all she met, always willing to help (or take charge) anytime there was a need. She will be deeply missed for her kindness, friendship, leadership, servant’s heart, and the way Christ’s love reflected from her wonderful laugh and smile.

Dianne was preceded in death by her parents, Herman and Betty Hayden, and her husband, Murray. She is survived by her four children, Matthew, Jenn, Russell, and Cassie; her sisters Kathy Hayden Carey (Dan), Bonnie Hayden, and Patti Hayden, her brother Dave Hayden (Rhonda); numerous nieces and nephews and many, many dear friends.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 15th, at 1:00 pm at First Baptist Church in New Braunfels.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorials may be made in Dianne’s name to the First Baptist Church Building Fund.

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