My Stowaway Heart

The Party Wagon. Mission Bay, San Diego. July 30, 2011.


Parachuting to Praise

Yesterday my daughter Elaine, her husband Rob, and two our our grandchildren, Cadence and Sawyer, boarded a jet and flew off to begin their new life in Hawaii. With the luxury of foreknowledge, we’ve enjoyed extra time together over these past months, when only 90 miles of interstate lay between us.

We vacationed together in July, touring an engineering marvel, commissioning memories in clay, soaking in the quiet of mornings blessed with coffee and a little boy.
Last weekend, a beach party sendoff drew five generations of our families and scores of friends. We grilled burgers, wore leis, and snapped photos. I sniffled as I watched Cadence run back to give his little cousin Carly one more hug as his bigger cousin Ayden, lip aquiver, called out bravely: “Have a good time in Hawaii, Cadence!”
Photo Ops and Fellowship at the Beach.
Tuesday, Rich and I made a rare midweek trip to San Diego to attend a dinner party at the home of longtime friends. We expected this evening to be our last time together before the kids left town. Feeding Sawyer a bottle undid me, as I smelled him, caressed his baby skin, with not a callus anywhere yet, and realized he might be weaned to a cup the next time I held him.
 Feeding Sawyer.
But Saturday brought one more opportunity. We drove to San Diego for one last gathering, sharing pizza and a bit more time as Elaine and Rob packed their bags. We posed for pictures. I fed Sawyer another bottle.
The Bonus Gathering.
Then we said goodbye, again, and left. One small sob escaped as I hugged my daughter. “I’ll call you when we get there,” she said.
And I knew she would.
Cadence Hugging Papa Rich.
Yesterday morning, I carried a burden into the sanctuary as Rich and I arrived at church. My precious family was taxiing down a runway as our pastor called us to worship. My heart wasn’t in God’s house; it was stowed away on a Hawaiian Airlines flight.
As the offering was collected we sang Be Still, My Soul My husband squeezed my hand as we sang:

Leave to thy God to order and provide;

In every change, He faithful will remain.

I felt my heart slip out of its secret place on the airplane and edge toward an emergency exit.
When our pastor asked for prayer requests, I asked the congregation to pray for traveling mercies for our kids and a smooth adjustment to their new home in Hawaii.
Then my friend, who sat in the pew behind us, asked us all to pray for her sister-in-law, who, during the previous week, had been savagely attacked and stabbed in her home.
Another woman asked us to pray for a friend whose daughter had been killed in a motorcycle accident. I thought about that grieving mother. I thought about my husband, who has indulged me this week, wiping my tears, accompanying me to San Diego even when it meant only a few hours of sleep for him before his work began the next day. I realized he’s been patient with me through this parting because he loves them dearly too. And because he has experience with goodbyes that are much, much harder than this one.
A young man we’re fond of rose next to ask for prayer. His car had been stolen and ransacked. Thieves had taken his laptop computer, with all his work towards his master’s degree. They’d taken the keys to the home he and his wife share with a treasured grandfather. They’d taken his cellphone. They’d taken his Glock. He offered praise to God for His goodness and protection.
A man I’d never seen before stood. Sobbing, he told us that he’d been married in our church two years earlier. Now his wife had left him. He’s seeking recovery from the alcoholism that pickled his marriage. He’s asking God to refresh his relationship, to bring his wife back to him.
Another woman asked us to pray for her daughter, who will be married in the church next Sunday. And she asked us to pray for a job for her, as she’s just learned that her current position will end in a few weeks. She hasn’t told her daughter yet, because she doesn’t want to cast a shadow over her wedding.
I could barely comprehend the list of critical needs the members of our tiny congregation spilled out, cataloging grief and suffering and violence and loss and fears.
And  my heart parachuted out of that Boeing making its way across the ocean and settled back where it belongs: within me, worshipping a Sovereign King Who knows every need, every hurt, every longing.
After the service, our pastor’s son, Paul, jogged up to me. “Where’s your grandson?”
I smiled big and true. “He’s on a jet to Hawaii,” I told the child. “He’s moving there. He’s going to have wonderful adventures to tell us next time we see him.”
25 Like cold water to a weary soul,
So is good news from a distant land.
Proverbs 25:25 (NASB)


  1. Diana Trautwein

    Good morning, Sheila – I have a little breathing space this morning (just a little!) after my two intense weeks, so I'm trying to do a little catch=up on blog reads. Yours was in the top of my inbox so I've read back about 5 entries – and loved every single one. JUST LOVELY WRITING and storytelling. Remind me again why your kids are moving to HI…if they have to move far away, at least it's a place really worth traveling, too. But my, that's a long, long ways. I surely do get your longing and your tears. Sigh.

    Many blessings as you make this adjustment – and as they do, too. They will miss you a LOT.

  2. God speed their arrival of your daughter and her family as they are settling down in their new home.

    I enjoy the way you weave Jesus into your stories. No "preaching," but simple enough gospel to encourage others who are walking a path with sticks and stones at every step. Glad your heart arrived home safely !!

  3. Diana, thank you for your gracious words. You're too kind.

    My son-in-law serves in the US Navy. His new duty station is Pearl Harbor. Rich and I are looking forward to visiting them there soon. And they may be home for Christmas 🙂

  4. Hazel,
    Thank you for your good wishes. They had an uneventful trip and are now busy settling in.

    And thanks for your kind words, but I don't think I'm the one weaving Him into the stories…there would be nothing to write if He didn't show up, you know? 🙂

  5. I can hardly sing that hymn without becoming completely undone–as did your description of those last precious bottle feedings. Oh, it does all make one long more for heaven when there will be no more sickness, pain, sorrow, or parting.

  6. You welcome us into your world with every detail, every word, that whispers your grief, your joy, your heart undone by unmarred baby skin. Then the stunning needs all around your community, right there, crying out to each other, to the Lord.

    Thank you. Thank you for showing us how to be real and be *there.*

  7. Nancy,
    Yes, yes it does…it also makes me grateful for every moment in this beautiful fallen amazing broken world.

    Thank you. After the service I looked for an opportunity to speak with the man whose marriage was dissolving. But before I could get to him, another congregant–a man about his age–had engaged him and was ministering to him with sympathy and compassion.

    He was real and *there.*

  8. Sandra Heska King

    Oh Sheila. I choked through this. For you. For them. I love the vision of your heart parachuting out of that plane and landing in Him–quivering maybe, but still.

  9. Thank you, Sandra. Luckily there are no chute failures when we're jumping to Him.

  10. Isn't is marvelous how God knows and acknowledges our individual situations, letting us know he is walking through it with us, guiding and comforting — and also lets us see it all in perspective relative to the situations and deeply cut needs of others.

    Sheila, thank you for your transparency and the beautiful way you and God weave (yes, I stole that very astute word from another comment) insightful lessons together for all of us.

  11. Suz,
    Pretty amazing stuff, huh?

    Thanks, but I must tell you He does the weaving. I'm just the stenographer.