love, Michigan

Wes Leonard

Wes Leonard scored the final basket in the final game of the regular season and then he died.

The score was tied going into overtime. The Fennville Blackhawks had won 19 out of 19 games. A perfect season hung in the balance, and then Wes scored 4 points for the win.

That was in 2011.

This past Friday afternoon the hub and I drove to Hope College in Holland, Michigan to attend the 6th Annual Wes Leonard Heart Team Never Forgotten Game:  Fennville vs. Saugatuck.

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At halftime Wes’ former teammates lined up mid-court.

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And presented a portable AED machine to representatives from 20 High Schools.

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The hub, blurry in my haste to snap a pic before he sat down, was one of them.

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Before the game we were taught how to use the device and instructed in the importance of maintaining fresh batteries.  Wes’ school had a device the night he died but the battery was dead.

At the end of the game the fans from both schools – rivals – chanted Wes-ley Leo-nard, just as they have at the end of every game these past six years.

I love this family and this community – who have come together to get life saving information, legislation and devices into every Michigan school.

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Since Holland is about a 3 hour drive, we spent the night.

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In the morning, as we walked into town in search of the perfect cafe miel – and it was perfect – we came upon this sculpture.  Which is another reason I love this town.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

If you didn’t watch the video, scroll back up and watch it.  With a hanky.

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faith, Jesus, Light

Stacking Stones: My Cousin Jim

In uncertain times it helps to remember Jim. I did not see him often because he grew up in Florida and I grew up in Michigan.  My family visited his family each year, but he was a few years older, and a boy, so we didn’t interact much.

When Jim was 19 his face was smashed in a bad automobile accident.  His father – an oral surgeon – and a team of plastic surgeons put his face back together.

And then he dove into a gravel pit to help his girlfriend, who was tangled in a branch, and he broke his neck.

In the hospital, on life support, my cousin Jim kept asking his mom to make sure the machines keeping him alive were securely plugged in to the wall sockets.  He worried that someone might trip over the cords and pull them loose.

And then one morning, as my aunt entered his hospital room, she saw peace on her son’s face.  He told her that an angel had visited him.  He was going to die and it was okay.  He was not afraid.

Jim died that afternoon.

But that morning an angel gave a gift to him, to his mom, to me and now to you.  I treasure that gift in my heart and pull it out whenever I need a reminder.

Fear not.

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Jesus, life, Light

Abundant Love. Abundant Compassion. Please.

A little boy named Isaiah is on my heart and in my prayers.  His siblings are, too.  But not often enough.

The Tuesday after Easter my friend, Linda, who heads up an after-school tutoring program at his inner-city school, asked him why he wasn’t at the easter egg hunt at church.

“We had our own easter egg hunt,” he beamed.

After several years of living here and there, with this aunt or that, with this friend or that, some siblings here, some siblings there, he and his mother and all of his six siblings had finally moved into a home of their own – all of them under a single roof.

Isaiah was so happy, so proud of this step up that his mother had taken.

A few days later the kids were upstairs in their bedrooms.  Their uncle was on the sofa in the living room watching television.  Their mom’s boyfriend walked quickly through the front door.

“Where’s Kenyetta?”, he asked.

“In her bedroom,” the uncle answered.

The boyfriend climbed the stairs to her bedroom and shots rang out.  Kenyetta was dead – shot several times in the chest.  Isaiah’s two-year-old sister, who had been standing next to her mother’s bed, was shot in the leg.  But alive.

The new house is vacant now.

Isaiah and his three siblings-who-share-the-same-father are living with his father now, along with another sibling, who has a different father.  He wouldn’t/couldn’t take the oldest, who is 15 and pregnant.  The seventh sibling is in detention at Children’s Village.  He and his anger issues.

The lesson in Bible study this morning challenged us to look for the beauty in the ugly.  To thank God in the midst of the mess.

I can’t think of much that is uglier and messier and more heartbreaking than a little boy beaming one week and absent the next.  Crushed.  A happy, proud step up followed immediately by a crushing crashing down.

At Kenyetta’s funeral – at Isaiah’s mother’s funeral – the pastor implored the 500 in attendance to turn the tragedy around – turn it into an end to domestic violence, an end to drugs.  Amen.

I am having trouble seeing the beauty in the ugly right now.  All I see, all my heart feels is the crushing blow to a little boy’s joy.

But I pray that Isaiah will one day see it; that the city will one day see it.

In the meantime, Father, will you fill every caregiver, every adult that Isaiah and his siblings encounter with an abundance of love and compassion for them?  Abundant love.  Abundant compassion.  Not just today, not just this week, but every day and every week and every year until they are all fully healed.  Until they all see the beauty in those fragile ashes.

Thank You for love.  Thank you for redemption.  Thank you for healing.  Thank You for bringing life from death, beauty from ashes, I know You will.

Thank you that we who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.

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