Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you will come often. It is my hope that these stories and reflections will be helpful in your spiritual journey. I look forward to your thoughts, questions, or suggestions. Please leave your comments and join as a follower so I will know you were here. It is a privilege to share the journey with you.

If you wish to know more about me, spiritual direction or retreats visit my website. www.bunnycox.com. Blessings, Bunny

*See first posting in January, 2011 to learn why this blog is called "From the Big Red Chair."

Thursday, September 29, 2011


“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow,
you gotta put up with the rain."
~Dolly Parton

I once knew a man who was crippled at a young age by a massive stroke. In spite of his suffering, the man said if given the chance to return to the way he was before the stroke, he would not. He explained he would never choose to become disabled, but now that he was, his perspectives on life had changed.  

"I was a workaholic," he explained. "Now my view of work and money is more balanced. The relationship with my wife has grown in love, intimacy, and respect, and I have discovered compassion as I've never known it through the people who reached out to help me." Most of all, he said, through his trials, he had grown closer to God. 

"If it meant having to give all of that up," he said. "I wouldn't go back."

My daughter Tara had died three days after childbirth. Her baby daughter remained in neonatal intensive care in another city. My twelve-year-old grandson Spencer had been taken away, and I didn't know if or when I would see him again.  I have to admit, unlike my friend, had I been given the opportunity to turn back time, I would have. I wondered how long it had taken before my friend could see gift in adversity. It was clear a measure of grace had sprung from his pain, but I couldn't imagine anything positive coming from my circumstance.  It is hard to envision redemption in the midst of a deluge with no rainbow in sight.  

Sometimes in the rainy times of life, when a downpour persists and the waters have yet to recede, all we can do is cling to hope, keep our heads above despair, wait upon the Lord, and pray we will recognize a rainbow when we see one.


Psa. 27:14 Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected"~Robert Frank

"Life is gift. Despair is presumptuous."~John Claypool

"When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown."~ Isaiah 43:1

"God draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind." ~Job 36: 27-28

-Have I known blessings that have come from difficult experiences?  If so, what are they? What story would I tell?
-What are my priorities in life?
-Is there balance in my life? If not, what would I change.
-What role has waiting played in my spiritual journey?
-What is the hope I cling to during difficult times?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thin Boards

The way a tale is told depends upon where we stand in relation to the event. It’s not only about what happened, but how we feel about what happened. I can tell you how I felt about my former son-in-law coming for Spencer, my twelve-year-old grandson, minutes after we returned from his mother’s funeral. I was devastated. From where I stood, their story was one of fracture, and I feared history was about to repeat itself.

I love my Dad, but I don't want to go. I’m afraid.” Spencer said as we packed his suitcase.

My pleas on Spencer's behalf had begun calmly enough. “Please don’t take him today.  Please let him heal some first,” I said, appealing to what I thought was good judgment and fair play. At first I believed  my words well received. When it became clear they were not,  I lost control. My voice rose. It's hard not to panic when you are trying to keep bad things from happening and no one listens.   

“You haven’t even seen him or talked to him for three years! Where in the hell have you been!”

His eyes narrowed. His jaw clinched. He stood abruptly and without a word left the room. I knew I had crossed a line. I wished I could reclaim my angry words. I wonder if history might have been different had I not said that. I turned to a dear friend, and lawyer, who had driven for hours to be with us.Surely there was something he could do to keep this event from unfolding.

My friend came into the bedroom where I sat alone by the window, staring into the treetops.  Beyond the sill, green faded into autumn. Evening calm contradicted my unsettled heart and gave no indication of the swirling debris of consequence that had been set in motion when my daughter Tara died. My friend moved a chair to sit in front of me. Our knees almost touched. He leaned forward, his elbows on this thighs and with his fingers laced in front of him, almost as if he were praying. He waited.  I started to speak, but rejected my words in search of others.  I struggled for control not wanting to be perceived as overwrought or emotion-blinded.

I stated my concern and explained the reasons I thought leaving would not be in Spencer’s best interest. I told my friend of things I personally observed, in case he judged my testimony as hearsay. I had not completed my litany of concerns, when my friend closed his eyes and lowered his forehead to his clasped hands. 

Maybe I watch too many lawyer shows on television, but with that gesture, hope faded and desperation rose. I knew it did not bode well for the final verdict, and the futility of my legal argument began to sink in. My words tumbled out faster. I grabbed for words that might influence the outcome. I had to make my friend see what was at stake. The gist of my closing plea: Please understand! This is not going to end well!

For the record, it is never a good sign when your lawyer sobs before rendering his professional opinion.

“I could get a court order to stop Spencer from leaving this afternoon,” my friend said, his voice breaking. My heart leapt with hope, but only for a brief second. “But, I don’t how long I can keep him here,” he said. “And. . .” he took a deep breath and let out a heavy sigh, “I don’t recommend doing that.” That had to be a hard thing to say to a friend who begged for help, especially one who flailed with the intensity of a mother lion rising to defend her cub. The verdict was final.  I had to let Spencer go.

 “He’ll come back to you,” my lawyer-friend said softy, a tear spilling onto his cheek. “I don’t know when it will be, but I believe he’ll come back to you.”

Not sharing his faith in a future I could not see, I tried a final time to explain it was not about me. It was about Spencer, about my fear for what might happen to his young soul if he were taken, in my opinion, from the only safe place, the only safe people he had left.  

With more wisdom in the ways of fathers and sons than I had, my friend concluded, “Bunny, even if things don’t turn out like we want them to, there comes a time in a boy's life when he needs to find out for himself what kind of man his father is.” Personally, I would have preferred to skip the learning experience. 

Spencer and I could hear leaving sounds emanating from the kitchen upstairs. It was time. I zipped the small overnight bag containing Spencer’s pitifully few belongings and took deep breaths trying to silence the maternal alarms that blared and to loosen the grip around my heart.  I put my arms around him and held him before we walked upstairs. I hoped my embrace spoke the words I could not.

I have heard it said that memory misinterprets and can’t be trusted when clouded by emotion and despair, but emotion also sears images into the brain. The helpless expression on Spencer’s face looking back at me over his shoulder as he walked to his father’s vehicle is indelibly imprinted in my memory. I thought the hardest part of the day I buried my child would be leaving her at the cemetery.  I was wrong.  It was watching Spencer go.   

Some people make peace with life better than others. Maybe it comes with the wisdom of years and from learning to accept things we can’t control.  My mother-in-law Lillie is one of those people.  When she hears someone or some circumstance judged adversely, she always gives them the benefit of the doubt saying, “Every board has two sides no matter how thin it is.”

I tried to see something positive in Spencer’s situation.  I tried to push away worry. I tried to deny despair. I really tried. But in the end I failed. From where I stood in relation to the event, viewing it through mother-eyes. . .this board looked one-sided to me.  


 “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”~Corrie Ten Boom

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”~Proverbs 3:5

“The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me’.”~Billy Graham

-What are my thoughts about the following statements?                                                                                
 "The way to live in hope is to live above ‘see’ level,  that is to recognize that because of what we don't know, we cannot give way to despair. What we do know is that moving through all of history, there is a kind of meaning that is able to take things that on the surface look so bad and bring surprising results out of it.”~A Jewish Rabbi who survived the Holocaust

“There are two sides to every board no matter how thin it is.” Lillie Cox

Practice: Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hey! How's It Going?

A journal is a private place where graced moments are preserved and relived with each reading.  It is place for remembering important happenings that might otherwise slip into the dimness of the past. It is a place for seeing God. In her journal, my daughter Brynnan tells of a moment of grace when God captured her attention. She describes it as a “slap in the face” moment of clarity.  Brynnan gave me a priceless gift the day she allowed me to read her journal. She gave me a glimpse of her faith, a glimpse into her soul, and even more precious, she gave me a glimpse of God. As I read her words, a peace that passed understanding settled into my heart. God is holding my child firmly by the hand. What else could a mother want to know?

Brynnan's journal entry September 3, the day after her sister died: (Shared with her permission.)

I heard a little question from God yesterday, and all it said was, “Hey!  How’s it going?”
My first response?  “You’ve got to be kidding me!  My one and only sister died today, and all you have to say is ‘Hey!  How’s it going?”  Thanks a lot God, I really appreciate that, but where were you?  Why did you let her die?  Where were you when she needed you the most, and why aren’t you here when I need you the most?  Where are your words of wisdom when I need them?”  God didn’t answer.  Just as I had suspected, he had left me high and dry, alone in the sorrow and pain that was closing in around me.  Little did I know that I was about to get the biggest two-by-four across the face I’ve ever gotten from God to this point in my life.

When I woke up this morning all I wanted to do was roll over and never get up.  I just wanted to lie there, be miserable, and wish my sister back to life, but I knew this wasn’t an option.  There were things to be done, people to see, plans to be made.  Tara’s funeral had to be planned, phone calls had to be answered, guests bringing food and flowers had to be welcomed; unlike any of us wanted, life had to keep moving. 

As I climbed out of bed, I heard my mother in her bedroom and it sounded like she was crying.  I really didn’t think I could face the tears just yet, so I thought I’d try to sneak past without being noticed.  No such luck.  Mom turned the corner and saw me just as I peeked around to make sure the coast was clear.  She told me to come sit down.

“Brynnan, a few years ago, Tara called me and said: 'Mama, I think God spoke to me today.  I was busy running errands and I was late to a meeting, but I saw this jewelry store, and even though I didn't have time to go in, I just felt called to go into that store.  When I went inside, I saw a pendant, and it was like God was talking to me.  I didn't have the money to spend on it, but I couldn't leave without it.  It was a cross with a mother on one side and a child on the other.  Mom, it was like God was telling me that Spencer and I are going to be OK--that his hand is at work in all the pain we've been going through [during her divorce from Spencer's father], and that we are His children and He is going to take care of us'."            

            My mother continued:

“Tara will be wearing her cross at the funeral home. After that, I’ll be wearing it to remind us all of what it stands for.  And Brynnan, I want you to know that among all the sadness and pain and tears, God is here.  Jesus is here and we are His children and he is taking care of us.  Above all we must remember this."

Bam, there was that slap in the face I was talking about earlier.  And at that point I had to smile.  Leave it to my sister to remind me when I am being unreasonable and demanding too much from God.  Just as quickly as my faith had dwindled, it returned in full force.  Unlike before, when I could not see God anywhere, I suddenly became fully aware of His presence everywhere I went today, and I could see the Holy Spirit tending to me as a child, comforting me in my time of need.

It’s a really good thing this slap in the face came when it did, because earlier this evening we had to go see Tara at the funeral home.  As I walked in I stretched out my hand as if reaching out for someone’s hand to hold.  The strangest thing happened. It felt as if someone were actually holding my hand, and somehow I just knew it was God.

I stood next to Tara, and all I could ask was “Why?  God, why did this happen?  Why am I going to have to live the rest of my life without my sister?  And why are her children going to have to grow up without a mother?”  God didn’t answer. 

Before I left, I looked at my sister and prayed the words of the Irish Blessing:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rain fall soft upon your field.
And until we meet again, may God hold you
In the hollow of His hand.

I guess my reasoning behind this prayer was that I wasn’t saying goodbye,  just until we meet again. 

At the visitation tonight two of my friends from camp came.  Somehow the subject of Eucharist came up, and I decided I would really like to go (Canterbury Chapel holds a 10:00PM Eucharist for the students at the University of Alabama).  After the service I was sitting in the sanctuary while someone played the guitar.  The first song he played was the Irish Blessing. 

A coincidence?  I think not…it was most definitely one of those “God-incidences” my mother is always talking about.  Tara was speaking to me, telling me that she was alright, letting me know she had heard my prayer, returning the blessing to me. 

After the song I was sitting there and again I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Hey!  How’s it going?”  This time I answered, “You know?  I’ve been better.  What is there for me to do?  How can I make this pain go away?” 

God replied, “Be still, and know that I am God.”


"I sought the Lord, and he answered me. . ."~Psalm 34:4

"People see God every day, they just don't recognize him."~Pearl Bailey

"Peace is not he absence of affliction, but the presence of God."~Author Unknown

Peace I give to thee
Peace I give to thee
Not as the world gives
Give I to thee
Peace I give to thee

-Did I see God today? If so, when? What was happening?
-Have I experienced peace in difficult times?  If so, what gave me peace?
-The psalms reflect the human condition. Is there a psalm that is especially meaningful to me at this time in my life?

Practice - Keep a Spiritual Journal: We sometimes pray with fervor and then forget what we prayed for. Write your prayers in a journal. Don't worry about sentence composition, spelling, or finding the "right" words.  Be honest. Write what is on your heart. You may wish to begin with: Dear God . . .At some time in the future (you will know when), read your prayer journal. What do you notice? Were your prayers answered? If so, how? Were there any surprises?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Blessed Are They . . .

I don’t know how it is in other places, but in the South, whether you’re birthing or burying, we’re going to feed you. If you have a baby, we bring food. If someone dies, we bring food. If you move two blocks away, we bring food. Even if you are only an acquaintance of someone in one of those circumstances, we make sure you eat too. Never is the food machine better-oiled than when word spreads that someone has “passed.” We know we can’t undo a difficult circumstance, but we can surround it with love, wrap it in hospitality, and attempt to smother pain with calories. 

You can almost hear the thunder of feminine footsteps rushing to freezers to retrieve delicacies swaddled in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, marked as off limits to family members, and reserved for such occasions. It is not unusual for someone to appear at the home of the bereaved, casserole in hand, within minutes, if not seconds, of the event occurring. Food is more than sustenance. It says, “Gee, I hate it for ya.  Here, have somethin’ to eat.”

If, by chance. the freezer stash has been depleted due to a rash of food-giving occasions, plan B involves boiling.  Deviled eggs are always an appropriate offering, especially when delivered upon an heirloom plate designed specifically for that purpose.

While freezers are raided and eggs are boiled, someone rushes to the local grocery to buy three gallons of tea—two jugs of sweet tea and one of unsweetened.  Unsweetened tea is offered in deference to the calorie conscious, but is somewhat akin to focusing on diet soda to accompany a triple-decker cheeseburger and a large order of chili-cheese fries with a chocolate shake on the side. It’s a nice gesture, but pointless considering the remaining fare.

Working women, or cooks less confident in their culinary skills, can still participate by performing tea duty and by purchasing platters of cold cuts, cheese and bread to go with the store-bought beverage.  Otherwise, food items are homemade, probably a signature item for which the giver is known, and quite likely prepared using a recipe handed down from her grandmother.  

While food is prepared throughout the community, friends slip quietly into the home of the bereaved to begin the highly choreographed dance of the kitchen. The fact that everyone knows the routine without being told is considered an indication of a good upbringing.

Counters are cleared and refrigerator shelves are emptied to accept food offerings, the magnitude of which has not been seen since the loaves and fishes. The ladies of the kitchen graciously receive food and make lists for the purpose of future thank you notes that will be penned by the lady of the house on her monogrammed stationary. (An especially loyal friend will volunteer to help write them--a sincere offer that will probably be politely declined.) All the while, someone keeps a vigilant eye on the buffet table and executes the graceful rotation of casseroles as they are depleted. 

The preferred method for food presentation is still bone china, but in today’s busy culture paper plates are becoming more acceptable. Disposable products are appreciated, not only by the family, but secretly by the women in the kitchen who hand-wash and quickly return to the table fragile china plates that everyone knows should never be put in the dishwasher.  

Flowers are received and strategically placed throughout the home. The phone is answered. Someone directs the continuous stream of sympathizers to the dining room and encourages them to help themselves.  Each lady takes a turn hovering near her grieving sister, ever ready to swoop in with a fresh box of tissues and to fill her ice tea glass should she become faint.    

Male or female, (other than family members, of course) everyone participates.  While women focus on food and the home, male friends take care of the yard and clean the cars, circumventing any horticultural or automotive embarrassment for the family who would have been much too preoccupied to tend to chores.

In times of trouble, the sole objective is to anticipate every need of the grieving family.

When I arrived home from the city where my daughter Tara died, food was on the counter, tea was on the table, and the grass was freshly mowed.

Nevin, my son and middle child, was among the first family members to arrive. Nevin walked into the house, embraced me, and quietly assumed command. He accompanied his father to the funeral home to assist in making arrangements for his sister. He performed the heart-heavy duty of selecting her casket and helped choose her final resting place. Sitting beside me on the sofa, Nevin took my hand.

“I like it, Mom. It’s on a gentle hill and a tree is nearby.” 

I don't know when our roles reversed, but it was clear, Nevin was there to care for me. When had my son crossed the threshold from youth into manhood? Even through tears, I saw him with proud eyes that morning. My son is no longer the blond-headed boy who lives in the memories of my heart. He is a man of substance.

In the midst of responsibilities shouldered by Nevin that day, the first to touch my heart was the simplest of gestures. With no expectation by anyone that he should do so, my son arrived with arms laden.   

Blessed are they . . . who in times of trouble . . . bring toilet paper.

I must have raised him right.


“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” ~Aesop

“Hospitality should have no other nature than love.” ~ Henrietta Mears 

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” ~Galatians6:2 

"Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours."~St. Teresa Of Avila

-How can I reach out in love to someone today?
-Is there someone who needs a tender touch? A note, a call, a visit, a shared meal?
-What are my thoughts about this statement: Hospitality is the heart of the gospel.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Words for Living - part 3 of 3

Excerpts from part 1: "She promised to find the words. . . and give them to me before she left . . . Morning came. . .both of us forgot her promise.”  

Excerpts from part 2: 
“Last words are important . . .Tara spoke no last words to me, technically, that was true, but she did, never-the-less leave me with words--powerful words to live by." 

. . .continued.
Alone in the silent house, I wandered into the downstairs bedroom, pulled a chair up to the desk, and turned on the computer. A week had passed since my daughter Tara’s funeral. Family and friends had returned to their own lives. My husband Sam had returned to work in hopes of regaining a sense of normalcy. My daily practice of turning on the computer to read e-mails of consolation was as close as I could come to a normal routine.  In spite of the beauty of the September morning, I doubted if any day would ever seem normal again.

I opened my inbox and gazed through the long list of emails with names beside subject lines that said, “I’m so sorry” and “We’re praying for you.” One subject line leapt from the screen.  

“I meant to send this before I left.”  

It was from Tara. 

I glanced at the date on the top of the page.  It was written prior to her death. It had not been there the day before. A glitch in cyber space?  A coincidence? I don’t think so.  I think they were last words from Tara, perhaps delivered by angels during the night.

The e-mail read:
Mom, I meant to send this before I left . . .

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and grief to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Ev'rything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Ev'rything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
Take it to the Lord in prayer:

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He'll take and shield thee;
Thou wilt find a solace there.

And Mom, as for the other hymn we talked about, (not sure what the number is in the hymnal, but I think it is number 661), the last verse, (and my favorite prayer). . .

The peace of God, it is no peace,
but strife, closed in the sod.
Yet let us pray for but one thing--
the marvelous peace of God.

           Had a wonderful time. Thank you for everything! love you, Tara


Matt: 11:28 "Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." 

"Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or to remove it.  He came to fill it with his presence."~Paul Claudel 

"Angels are sent to bring us messages from God's heart."~ Charles Hunter

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go.  Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” ~Flavia Weedn

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” ~Theodor Seuss Geisel

--If I had one chance to give words for living to someone I love, what would I want them to be?
--Who are the people who have left footprints on my heart?
--Where do I find solace?
--Do I have a favorite prayer? If asked, what would I say?