Bear Hunt


“10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5…” and in a split second the year 2014 ushered in.  I sighed and squeezed Tim’s hand as he leaned over and kissed me gently.  Our neighborhood ricocheted with cheers and the shrill blare of tinny paper horns. 

Normally, when the ball drops, I am jubilant.  I lift my glass and toast to a new year of life and love and adventure.  But this year, as I watched the ball drop and the confetti swirl, I felt a tickle of dread slithering up my back.

Anxiety doesn’t rest well on my narrow shoulders—I’d rather smile and live in the land of denial and lightheartedness.  If I could only push rewind on the clock and go back about six months to the days of summer bliss—before the tempest hit. I’d fork over my entire piggy bank for just one day of my old normal.

I sing a little ditty in the shower.  My husband quizzically looks at me.  “Sam, why are you singing about bear hunts?”

I guess it’s because I can’t get the song out of my head. So, I hum some more.

“We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re gonna catch a big one.  We’re not scared.”

This little refrain is my new theme song.   It makes me feel brave when life is overwhelming.  The bear represents my fears and I’m Katnis Everdeen hunting them down.  Even when I’m quaking in my boots, I do it afraid.  I chase the bear.  If God is with me, then what bear can stop me?

In the story, the family (a mom and dad and three tots) encounter a series of obstacles while chasing a large and scary bear.

Their journey is difficult and they do everything they can to avoid the roadblocks—the raging river, the perilous mountains and the roaring blizzard.  But there is no way around the storms.

‘Oh no,” they say.  “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, I guess we have to go through it.”

This is me in 2014.  I’m on a bear hunt.  I can’t gloss over it, or avoid it. I can’t stuff the emotions or hide from the inevitable, I must go through it.

I returned to my office last week—quiet and subdued, more melancholy than my normally chipper demeanor.

“How was your holiday Sam?” my co-worker inquired.

 “Well, my dad cornered my brother and step-mom on Christmas day and beat them with a bed post.  I spent an hour on the phone trying to talk him out of killing them.”

Pause.  Friend opens his mouth in horror.

The next day my father jumped off a balcony believing bad guys were chasing him.  It wasn’t suicide, it was paranoia—it’s evil twin.

I was in Burlington Coat Factory when I got the call–a broken back, compound fracture of the tibia and fibia, and a shattered ankle.  Three surgeries scheduled. 

I remember my dad saying only a few weeks ago, “At least I’m not in physical pain like your mom is with the pancreatic cancer.  She suffers brutally, Sammy, I’m just turning into a nutcase.”

I think it’s a toss-up now who’s in the most pain.  At least, my dad is psychotic–maybe his pain is numbed by brain atrophy? 

Christmas was a blur of beautiful and sacred moments with my mom–trying on dresses and twirling before her, watching the kids open presents, and having a Christmas meal on the sofa like a picnic because she was too weak to sit at the table.  Every minute with her, I pack into a mental scrapbook of treasures–knowing this is my last Christmas with her and cherishing every look, tear, and whisper of love.

There were many visits to the hospital to visit my dad.  It was gut-wrenching.  For a week his eyes were locked shut, his mouth open under labored breathing.  When he woke, he cried out in terror and punched nurses believing they were trying to hurt him.  The nurses retaliated by drugging him back into unconsciousness. 

I don’t blame them.  I would do the same with a random crazy guy, but it’s different when the crazy guy is your daddy. 

The family in the story finally finds the bear in a dark ominous cave.  They accidentally wake the beast and he roars a terrible roar and shows his sharp teeth. The family runs like hell back through the raging storm, the treacherous mountains and the wild river.

Finally they arrive home and lock the door.  They hide in a bedroom and hold one another close and sing, “We went on a bear hunt and we caught a big one.  We’re not scared.”  And they laugh in the nervous jittery laugh of those who have survived their worst fears and looked the demon in the eye.

And so when I answered my friend at work, I laughed this same jittery laugh and thought of the bear chasing me. 

While I’ve never been afraid to confront my fears, it seems like now my worst nightmares are chasing me.  The fear of being alone—orphaned without the safety net of my parent’s covering, the fear of watching a loved one suffer (much less two at the same time) and the fear of letting go and confronting death.

And like the family in the story, I can’t escape.  The pain is present no matter where I go and it doesn’t get any better avoiding it.

I have to face the mountains, the river and the storm. 

And one day, I imagine I’ll make my way home again and hide under the covers and look back in wonder that this journey didn’t kill me.  It feels like it should.  But it didn’t.

The bear hunt will be behind me. And I’ll be different because of it.


Why “Drink a Beer” Makes Me Cry

Christmas 2013 1bw

There’s a country song playing on the radio right now that destroys me. I can’t help but stop, pause, and let go of the tightness in my chest.

It forces me to FEEL the emotions I push away to function.

Music does that.

It interferes. It squeezes the heart. It pulls and tugs and finds the release for all those clogged up tears.

So, what’s the magical song?

It’s called “Drink A Beer” by Luke Bryan.

Eloquent right?

Honestly, I don’t even drink beer (although I do like the smell on my man’s breath), but it could be a glass of wine (or a margarita) for all I care.

This song is exactly how I feel watching my daddy slip away and my mama fight this cancer battle.

So, today, I’ll be standing up at the top of my stairs—like I do every day—folding endless loads of laundry, sipping a glass of my favorite red-Menage a Trois and watching another breathtaking sunset through the best view in my house. I’ll wave at my darling neighbors and giggle as I watch toddlers in princess dresses and heels trip from house to house. I’ll cringe as the older boys’ dash into the street as cars fly around the corner despite our “slow down” signs.

And I’ll cry and play this song just one more time.

Drink A Beer

When I got the news today

I didn’t know what to say.

So I just hung up the phone.

I took a walk to clear my head,

This is where the walking lead

Can’t believe you’re really gone

Don’t feel like going home


So I’m gonna sit right here

On the edge of this pier

Watch the sunset disappear

And drink a beer

Funny how the good ones go

Too soon, but the good Lord knows

The reasons why, I guess

Sometimes the greater plan

Is kinda hard to understand

Right now it don’t make sense

I can’t make it all make sense

So I’m gonna sit right here

On the edge of this pier

Watch the sunset disappear

And drink a beer

So long my friend

Until we meet again

I’ll remember you

And all the times that we used to…

…sit right here on the edge of this pier

And watch the sunset disappear

And drink a beer

Drink a beer,

Drink a beer.

–Cheers my friends and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you for your friendship and love, thank you for taking your precious time to read my little blog. I hope and pray you enjoy every sacred moment over the holidays with your loved ones. Take mental snapshots of every smile and remember how very blessed we all are.



The Not So Happy Christian

I saw a guy skipping down the street with a lawn hedger.  He appeared to be a gardener –the happiest stinking gardener I’ve ever seen.  And I got a little jealous because I want to be that guy.

I want to skip down the street with a carefree heart.  I want to whistle while I work –even when I’m laying down stinky fertilizer.   I want to be the happy-go-lucky person who loves their life and smiles even when they get half their teeth get knocked out.

And normally I am –except for when I’m not, which has been the case for the last few weeks, because I don’t do grief well. 

Although I’m not sure who does? 

Some people look so pretty when they cry.  I just feel awkward and snotty and out of control.  Generally I allow myself to cry at chick flicks and Hallmark movies.  I get out the pent-up emotions and move on.  It’s a safe place for a control freak like me to emote.

But grief has a mind of its own.  It’s spontaneous and messy.  Grief cries at Target and chokes you up two minutes before you are supposed to go on to speak at in front of a large crowd.  Grief is never convenient.

But it does force me to my knees.  I imagine that’s the whole point.

As a Christian I want to take adversity in stride.  I want to put on my shield of armor and launch fiery darts back at the enemy. 

But this week my return volley looks more like hot tears.

Without giving away painful details, my family (parents) is enduring unimaginable and excruciating circumstances. 

I keep thinking, “couldn’t we space out the yucky stuff better God?  Does it all have to hit at once?” 

Job probably felt that way.  So did Abraham when he took up his son Isaac to the mountain without a lamb.

I don’t remember anywhere in scripture where the Bible hero’s acted like “happy Christians” in the midst of suffering.  Paul talked about joy in the midst of suffering but he never said do the “image management game.” 

Joy is different from happiness but I think we confuse them all too often.

Jesus asked his friends to pray for him.  He didn’t put on a big cheesy smile and pretend terrible circumstances were a breeze.  He didn’t skip to the cross.  But I imagine he had the joy of knowing what his sacrifice meant to humanity tucked deep within his heart.

I wonder why we put the pressure of “being happy” on ourselves.

I know I do.  I want to be the happy gardener skipping down the street all too often forgetting that some days the happy landscape artist probably drags his lawn mower around with a frown and kicks dandelions. 

I fail to remember that not all days are Facebook worthy and not every moment is Tweetable. 

I really want to be able to say. “I’m ok and there’s a reason for everything and praise the Lord.”

But the truth is sin sucks and my heart is shattered for my family.  It’s complicated and not pretty and some evil is just too ugly to mention. 

I am not happy.  My smile is weak and forced.  My insides are churning. 

I can only pray to a sovereign God who sees and knows all.  And I can cling to the joy of Christ which remains when happiness is marred by sorrow. 

So, my friends will you please pray for my family –the desperate kind of prayers that bring about miracles.  And thanks in advance for letting me be vague. 

Do you ever feel pressured to put on the happy Christian face?

Photo Source: via Petra on Pinterest

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