Monday, February 18

Dad's Eulogy

My sister and I spoke at my father's funeral on Saturday, February 16th.  Here are the words we shared:


As I read my father’s obituary, I thought how unfortunate it was that no timeline of events or achievements could capture the essence of who my dad was. He was a man who could tell a ghost story at a campout with all the drama and intrigue of a paid playwright. He told stories of history like he had seen it himself- from the tragedy of Jonestown to the causes of the Great Depression, from George Washington to the importance of the Beatles. To me, he was the smartest man I knew, and before there was ever Wikipedia, there was my dad. But he wasn’t a nerd either. He was that dad that all my friends thought was the cool one. My mom and he hosted me and my college friends every Sunday for years. We ate all their food and often they would barbeque or play some music or lawn games. He came through for me, but he often came through for anyone I loved when they needed it. He once rented a canoe when my friend had been let go from their job and couldn’t come along on the float trip anymore. He paid for meals when he didn’t have to, stepped up to lead when others wouldn’t and he noticed people that others didn’t. The greatest stories that people tell about Dad tend to revolve around this theme. “He noticed me, he noticed I needed something, and he made it happen.” Or he noticed our community or church needed something, and he made it happen. Sometimes it was something fun, like putting on a fireworks show or a pig roast. Sometimes it was something desperately needed, like hundreds of visits to so many family members in their final years of life.

When we were young, my mom ran the ship at home. Dad was gone often, climbing the corporate ladder. But something shifted externally and internally for him, and we found ourselves in Aurora, Missouri. This is where most of my memories begin. I remember a father who was neither distant nor detached. My dad was funny, spontaneous, generous, and engaging. He loved music and would play it loudly as we cleaned or cooked or rearranged the furniture (which he was fond of doing). His spontaneity gave us a little extra something in our family. An impromptu trip to Sonic for slushies or adding an extra night to a camping trip, he liked to plan, but he was flexible. In fact, I think he thrived on problem-solving. He was generous, and while I may have leaned on the side of being spoiled, I felt so loved. He took us so many places, so many adventures. He was who you wanted as your shopping partner because he would always buy more than you came for. An unspoken shoe shopping rule of his was “If there is a buy one get on half off shoe sale, you always pick out two pair.” If he were here he would say, “Well, of course.” He was generous with his time- playing kick the can with us as long as daylight would allow. He was generous with affection- sneaking kisses with my mom, caressing my hair, giving good foot rubs. He was engaging. When we would talk about faith or politics, he never shied from sharing his feelings or struggles. I remember the struggle of acceptance Kenny and I felt during our dating years, and it was my dad who softened first and led the way for others to embrace our engagement to be married. That love and acceptance was life-changing at the time.

We were his girls. My mom, Addie, and me. He protected us and loved us, he told all of his girls how beautiful we are and how strong we could be. My dad asked Kenny one thing when we wanted to marry, “How will you help Chelsea be her own woman?”

The greatest gift my dad gave me is a bit hard to describe. The greatest gift my dad gave me was a beautiful and loving example of how God the Father views us. My dad’s imprint on me paved the way for my faith to in God. To know God as a loving Father began with experiencing my own father’s love toward me. What joy it has been to imagine that now, my dad gets to fully experience life with God and fully feel the love of God the Father toward him. We talked of faith often, and some of the things he said are so special they are left in the sacred spaces of my heart. But I will say that he said experiencing the Spirit of Christ was very real and something that he could not deny, and that believing in Jesus was what he chose, and he said he thought everyone didn’t have to, but he did.

We love you Dad, we wait to see you again. I know without a doubt you are proud of me, because you told me many times. We will continue to make you proud. We will travel the world with fabulous itineraries. We will play music, loudly, and will pride ourselves on a finding a fantastic camping spot. We will be spontaneous, generous, and engaging. We will listen. We will speak up. We will continue to make you proud, not by what we do, but by the way we see ourselves. We will we see ourselves as beautiful and strong and capable as you declared over and over.

-Chelsea



_______

My dad’s legacy is bigger than he was. Literally. At 5’3”, 5’4” on a good day, he was a small guy, but he carried himself as though he were the tallest, richest man in the room. And he was rich.

The day he married my mom, 46 years and 4 months before he died, he won the only lottery that mattered. He found a partner with whom he could build a life of love, service and adventure. They fanned each other’s flames and spent the next 10 years falling even deeper in love with each other as a vast circle of friends, many of whom you see here today. That’s when my dad grew tall. With every challenge, he grew stronger and more assured of his purpose. He learned how to forge ahead and forgive. When he found out the family secret, that he’d been raised by his grandmother and his sister was his biological mother, he grieved but leaned into the pain, and embraced the new iteration of his family, including his brother and sister, Leesa and Tom, who are here with us today.

My parents waited 10 years to start a family, and then they struck gold a second time: two daughters they could shower with love and bring along on the adventure that was well underway by the time we arrived.

We were happy campers, and he was the happiest cooking breakfast over a campfire with a cup of French press coffee and a newspaper nearby. We knew our dad was special. We knew not every dad could balance being a city councilman and a basketball coach and a caregiver to his elderly aunts and uncles who, one by one, moved to the Aurora Nursing Home during their final years. We knew not every dad could speak the words, “I love you and I’m proud of you,” with such regularity.

We all knew Dan as a community leader and a businessman with the ethics of Jesus, as I’ve heard a few of you say, but his legacy. His legacy, my friends, is how he loved my mother. They married on a lark when they were teens and had only known each other a few weeks. They became the envy of every lovesick romantic they ever met. They counseled their couple friends about how to be better listeners. They showed the world what it meant to be partners who didn’t always agree but knew the importance of compromise, forgiveness, passion, trust and unyielding faith in their commitments to themselves and each other. They had full lives outside their marriage, but those careers, friendships, hobbies and spiritual lives wouldn’t have existed without the foundation of what they built between them. He couldn’t have been the Dan that you all knew without being the Dan he was for my mom.

Sis and Dan. Dan and Sis. Yaya and Papa.

My mom was whispering sweet nothings in his ear until the moment he died. Holding his hand. Kissing his forehead. Making sure he was comfortable and maybe even laughing. “We did it together,” she told him on one of his last nights. She was talking about helping him take his pain medicine, but she was talking about so much more.

God brought my parents together, and they brought all of you into their lives, and today, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I learned many things over the years from my dad, but two things stand out today: That grief and gratitude go hand in hand, and that if you really love something, you’ve got to be willing to let it go. In the days, months and years ahead, it might seem like we’re carrying on without Dan, but in truth, we’ll be carrying him with us, wherever we go. So go make the most of us.

The day my dad died was also the day that the great poet Mary Oliver left this Earth. I wanted to conclude with part of her poem, “In Blackwater Woods.”

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go,
to let it go.


-Addie

Saturday, February 9

An African Sunrise

Roosters crow. Birds tweet and sing.  A lazy haze of fog and smoke dim the view of morning in the hills of Rwanda.  A woman begins sweeping her dusty porch with a bundle of short twigs.  She bends over at the hip and rhythmically sweeps back and forth, back and forth-  Shoo, shoo, shoo, shoo.  The birds are both loud and quiet, EERR! EERR! EERR! tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet. These are the cacophony of sounds that fill an African sunrise.
The lightning and rain of last night have left many clouds lingering this morning. But a pink hue begins to break through. Then yellow, brighter and brighter. The clouds shift slightly and suddenly an intense orange arc rises above the horizon.  You can look right at it.  You can almost see the earth rotate toward the brilliant sphere. As the sun continues to rise in the sky, you have to look away. It's too bright now. It's as if the sun was rising just for you, but now it must go on its way and illuminate the rest of the city.  We will greet each other again tomorrow.
One bird's voice calls louder now, "Whoo Whoo Whoo Whoo Whoo Whoo!" as if it's cheering for the break of day.  I agree, little bird.  I agree.

Wednesday, October 17

Beauty in Death

Things are quiet around here.  Recently I had a friend ask "How are you?? Busy these days I'm sure..." (This kind of banter about being busy seems to have taken over as a general greeting).

But no, I'm not all that busy. On Saturday I sat on a bench and stared at a beautiful orange and red tree, in all its fall glory. I thought of Jim Gaffigan's sketch about foliage and chuckled to myself.  He jokes about how our favorite season is fall- watching leaves die.

Death.  I forgot about it for a moment.  Thinking about death is hard. There are days of grief, but sometimes just moments.  My dad's cancer is spreading faster than the doctors can keep up, and it's been a relief to him to make the choice to begin hospice care instead of more chemo.  He's losing weight, upping pain meds, and is low on energy all the time.  Our family has been in connection daily, assuring him of our support, our love, and saying all the things you want to say to a loved one.  This little season is a gift of time.  No one thinks they want to die slowly, but what happens if you do?

You get to see beauty unfold.

The beauty of Kenny making sure he tells my dad what a good father he has been to me.

The beauty of asking my dad about his faith, and him giving me assurance of his eternity with Jesus.

The beauty of reminiscing with pictures and memories of days long gone by.

The beauty of foot rubs and shoulder rubs- a Broyles family favorite pastime.

The beauty of unselfish love unfolding before my very eyes- my mother's love for my father.

The beauty of my dad expressing his love for his girls.

Our nuclear family has been together several times this last year.  What a gift. I wish my dad wasn't suffering with pain and nausea, but I wouldn't wish our time away- ever.

"Joy is not happiness on steroids.  It's the unyielding belief that sorrow and loss do not have the final say." -Stasi Eldredge, Defiant Joy

You are so right, Stasi. Sorrow and loss do not have the final say in this family.  Cancer does not have the final say in this family.  We shall overcome.  One day, Jesus will come to restore all that has been lost, all that we grieve now will be restored a hundredfold.  This is the hope that is the anchor for true joy, even when death comes nearer and nearer.

-Chelsea


Fall 2016




Thursday, August 23

Numbers


Often numbers consume our thinking as women. What I would like to offer here is a talk I gave to a group of women last May about our culture of shame about body size, and how God can speak to our hearts about our beauty.

Click here to listen.

For more on this topic, check out Captivating by John and Staci Eldredge.
The prayer exercise at the end comes from Cheri Snyder with Ransomed Heart Ministries.  You can check out her talk here.

May you have eyes to see your own beauty,
Chelsea




Wednesday, July 11

A Life Without Social Media

I said I was doing an experiment in soul care: turn off all social media for... well, I didn't know how long.  I knew I felt the need to deactivate. So on January 1, that's what I did.  Here's a bit about my experience, and why I turned it all back on.

Initially, it was hard to switch off my mind from narrating my life with what I would post about.  Like when you think of something witty to go along with your latte, you take a pic and post it to the world, right? Or when your child is doing something insanely cute, you capture the moment in time to share with your friends and family who would obviously appreciate the moment as much as you.  Our lives are narrated by posts, pics, and tweets.  When I realized that I didn't have an audience waiting to share my moments with, my brain almost didn't know how to narrate my life anymore.  I would begin to craft something witty about the moment at hand, and then realize there would not be a post about this.  No comments or likes about my life.  This is when initial isolation kicks in.

Then something began to shift.  As moments and life went on, without a narration on social media, I slowly began to stop crafting witty banter in my mind about what I would write about this moment.  As I stopped the internal narration to no one, I discovered the moments lasted longer.  The cuteness goes on (or whatever I stopped to capture), long after I give it 140 characters.  The comments and likes actually take away from the moment, because when we stop the moment to craft what we would say about the moment, we've lost the moment. We often imagine a post or tweet instinctually instead of being fully present. By crafting to an imaginary audience something others would enjoy, I robbed myself of fully enjoying it.  By stopping a moment in progress to artificially connect with others, we lose the connection of the people you were in the moment with.

The FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) sets in as well.  My friends and family are narrating their lives via post, and here I am, missing it.  Missing something.  But something interesting happens.  Your real friends, the ones who know you aren't on social media, call.  They text you the funny thing that happened.  My nuclear family (Mom, Dad, Addie) and I have a group text that's been going for months.  We share our day, pictures, funnies, all those moments worth sharing- but it's more intimate, intentional, and doesn't get interrupted with comments from your coworkers from 10 years ago.  The FOMO got replaced with more special moments with a few people.   Now, if there's a song I want to share with one person or a picture I'm really wanting my sister to see, I'll just send it directly to the person.  What a concept, right? I began to realize blasting on social media sometimes takes away the specialness of whatever it is you wanted to share in the first place.  This is one of the biggest reasons Kenny and I never really use social media to do shout outs for birthdays or anniversaries.  It's for us, not for you, and that's the way it should be. 

The hardest part about not being on social media was the revealing of how much I checked out from my hardest parts of my life.  Stress? Scroll for 20 minutes- you'll feel better.  Anger? Watch that news recap and get angrier about something else to cover up whatever you were angry about. Sadness? Those pictures and stories sure are beautiful, funny, or at least, distracting. Before I knew it, all my negative emotions were rapidly rising to the surface, without anywhere to chuck them.  I actually had to stop and process why I had negative emotions more often than positive ones, and I ended up seeing a counselor to help me out.  He was extremely helpful, and I don't think I would have gotten into these issues that I needed to process without getting off social media.  Was that part of deactivating relaxing, relieving, and restful? No way.  Was it soul care? You bet.

One last anecdote: I noticed when I was with friends, stories and catch-up time began in the middle.  Let me explain. "Did you see the picture from ____? Yeah, that was fun." or "Did you see little _____? I can't believe he's so getting so big!"  It's like we all are conversing in shortened recaps and highlights about our experiences because we've already heard about this experience on social media.  We've already seen the pictures from our computer.   As an outsider to any posts during this 6 month time period, I didn't see what they were talking about. Yes, that's right, you have to tell me the story, from the beginning, you have to show me your pictures, personally.   How fun it was! How much more authentic connections happened because we had to actually tell each other about our lives!  No, my 915 friends on social media didn't know I went to Slovenia.  But the six who came to my house to see pictures and hear stories did.  We laughed and I shared about this trip face to face.  It was glorious.

So why come back?  Simply put: to share.  I truly, truly, believe everyone one of us is creative. And writing, or doing any creative endeavor, begins when you have something in you that must get out.  Something in your soul sits there and you come back to it again and again.  That's how these blog posts even get started. An idea I can't shake, a story that must be told.  It can't just stay inside. It's like painting a picture and then putting it in a closet.  The pull to share became strong.  As the creativity continued with As We Are, I knew I had reached my limit of not sharing.  To be a writer and a sometimes-teacher without a platform to share feels like being harnessed.

So here I am, not posting my moments from life with a line to make you smile, but I'm here to share my work, my writing, or anything else that needs a platform.  Boredom breeds creativity, so my encouragement to you is to go, get off social media for awhile and become bored a little.  Create something, then get back on here and share it.











Sunday, June 17

Loss and Hope

I could still smell the puppy on my hands as I got the phone call.  The phone call that said Dad's cancer lit up the scans, again.    I had just left the breeder's house with hearts in my eyes.  Suddenly, I had hope, joy, sorrow and loss, all at the same time. The previous week his pain seemed to lift, and I had been hopeful that a good season was coming.  The clouds began to roll across the sky as I drove home.  It began to rain.  It was as if God was shedding some tears with me.

As I removed myself from social media 6 months ago, I began to notice anger rising more and more to the surface.  Either anger or anxiety marked most of my interactions throughout the day.  I realized as I no longer checked out from stress constantly, I was allowing myself to feel emotions that had been there since the previous summer, but I hadn't begun to process.  Turning to the outside world- to a newsreel, to an article, a funny video, or just mindlessly scrolling gave me relief, release, and it felt so normal.  I needed to simply feel, and I thought I was, but I didn't realize how much I was stuffing grief.

I came across a definition of grief that included the phrase "feeling loss of an ideal." I knew anger was a part of grief, but I didn't think my anger was grief.  I mean, my dad is still alive.  But feeling loss, just loss of time together really, explained how grief doesn't start when a loved one passes away.   Grief begins when you know something will never be the same.  Grief over my grandmother's death is hidden in there too, a feeling of death as an undoing of life as we know it.

Another ideal that I lost at this time was a career in teaching.  I quit last year and I don't regret that.  But it's another loss of an ideal.  I thought teaching would be IT for me.  The thing that I would do for my adult life.  But it's not going be- I no longer want it to be.  But what now? This season has been one where I have begun to dream and let myself feel grief over this loss of my ideal job for the last 15 years.

Jesus has come for my heart in so many ways to bring hope. Hope has come in the way of remembering one of the truest parts of our objective reality that we often forget in our subjective experiences: the renewal of all things.

Matthew 19: 28-30
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Revelation 21:1-8
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.


All things will be made new.  This is the hope that has come for my heart. Now. Not when I die. Now.  I don't need a bucket list. I will have opportunity and time unending for all these things that feel like such loss now.  Time lost.  Opportunity lost. Physical loss. Emotional loss. Can you feel it? All the feelings of "never again" transform to "not yet." Can you see what a paradigm shift this is for today? The hope of heaven speaks volumes to life on earth, now.  As John Eldredge writes, "Nothing is lost.  If you will just let go of your anger and cynicism for a moment, just allow it to be true for a moment, well then- your heart is going to take a pretty deep breath."

 If you begin looking for restoration, you see the promise of it everywhere.  If we remember that Jesus said he will make all things new- a new Heaven, a new Earth, and that we inherit all these things- we will be gifted with more hope than we could have ever imagined.  The hope of heaven, for me, is not, "Oh, one day I'll go to heaven and then there won't be any pain." The hope of Heaven is more like, "We can't explore southern Utah this summer with Dad? That's ok, when all things are made new, we will have many adventures together." What are you going to do in this Kingdom? Where will you explore and visit that you've always dreamt?  It's such a relief to me to get to be a part of the Kingdom of God.  Why would you ever not want to be a part of this?






Tuesday, May 22

Real Beauty

1 Peter 3:3-4
3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.


The way to beauty does not come how we imagine.  This is so like God to give us a dichotomy of terms to wrestle with.  To save your life, you must lose it. To be first, you must put yourself last. To become more obedient, give yourself over to God’s grace. To be beautiful, don’t try to be beautiful (on the outside).


Oh how we long for beauty.  It’s our deepest question as women, married or not.  “Am I enough?” “Am I beautiful?” In our deepest desire, we long to radiate beauty.  This is a truth as deep and as old as the very first story, when Adam first saw Eve. In other creatures God made, the male usually displays beauty.  A male duck has coloring, a male lion has a full mane, a male peacock has a brilliant display of feathers. But not with humans. Females display most of the beauty as a reflection of God’s beauty. Her beauty, our beauty, is actually a reflection of the beauty of God.  I think this is why we long for it so deeply, because it’s truest, purest form, it’s God beckoning us to Him, being made in His image, in His likeness, so we can know him, eternally, intimately, like no other creature in creation. When we long for beauty, we are actually longing to connect with God as his image-bearing creation.


There’s a smile that comes over my heart when I read that something is very precious to God.  The scripture says its when a women makes herself more beautiful, or adorns herself, with inner beauty, the “hidden person of the heart.” This “imperishable”- cannot be taken away, lasts eternally- type of beauty- comes from a gentle and quiet spirit.  


I must confess this verse has not been one of my favorites over the years.  I often thought: That just another measure of beauty that I’ll never attain- “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” Often we get this picture of the gentle and quiet spirit that is completely unrealistic for most of us. Like Melanie in Gone with the Wind. “Oh Scarlet... I wish I could be like you...” she coos.  Melanie is gentle, quiet, and just plain wonderful the whole movie.  I’m more like Scarlett when the going gets tough, saying exactly what I’m thinking, without thinking.


I’d like us to consider the gentle and quiet spirit in another way.  It’s not a voice that’s literally soft spoken, or a shy demeanor, although those personality traits are not bad or better.   I’d like to propose that when we take the deepest, most hidden parts of our hearts- our shame, our feelings of inadequacy, our deepest pain and hurt, our deepest longings- when we begin to see ourselves as God sees us, there’s a shift that happens in our spirit.  When we begin to trust what God says about us entirely, there’s a softening and a quieting that happens to us at the heart level that isn’t tied to our personalities.


What does God say about us? How does he see us? God says that we are worth the death of his Holy Son, even in our worst, most sinful moments.  God says he not only loves us, he wants us in his family.  He adopts us at salvation, granting us a full inheritance as his sons and daughters.  He miraculously infuses his actual, Holy Spirit and gives us a new heart at salvation, to be able to walk in step with him, to actually speak with him, because he longs to be loved by us.


Zephaniah 3:17 says,
“he will rejoice over you with gladness;
   he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. “


You bet he rejoices over you, this verse says he sings over you.  Loudly! When this type of loves comes over your heart, your striving for love and acceptance in this world can be quieted.  You can trust this love so deeply, your anxiety and worry can be calmed. Knowing your beauty as a woman comes from this beautiful, loving God can settle our up and down of feelings of beautiful and ugly.  Which can give every women hope for actual, real beauty that never ends.
My own story of actually feeling beautiful began when I first read Captivating, by John and Staci Eldredge. As these truths about beauty, and how our beauty is attacked at a spiritual level, began to penetrate my heart, I began to actually perceive myself to be more beautiful.  On the outside. I got a tattoo of the word “beauty” on my back, so I would not forget the shift of believing I am beautiful. There’s almost this audacity to say to God, “I’m actually not beautiful.” What? You, created to be the incarnation of the beauty of God, created by the most talented artist there every was or will be? You? The object of his love and affection, especially in your most sinful moments? You- the one he sings over? Actually, you are beautiful and it’s time you started believing it.


Like a raging river, all our fear, shame, guilt, and worthlessness comes barreling into our hearts and from our hearts.  This comes to a halt when it comes to the reservoir of God’s love. This is real beauty. This is the inside beauty- so sure that my heart is furiously loved I’m not longer brutally striving for love, so confident in my worth that God gave me on the cross, that I’m not longer hectically stuffing my mind things that give me worth in this world.  Gentle. Yes. Quiet. Yes. In God’s perfect love. Yes, it is precious, and it’s not going to sag or fade with time or lack of willpower. Thank God.