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, May 31, 2012

Are You My Mother?

“Let's get started,” the banker said as Spencer and I settled into chairs in front of the desk in his plush office. “Are you Spencer’s Mom?” he smiled.  

“Yes.. . No. . .I mean . . .”

The banker peered at me over reading glasses that threatened to slip from the end of his nose.  His puzzled expression and raised eyebrows suggested he thought I might be a brick shy of a full load. How could a woman not know if she is somebody’s mother? 

My plan was to demonstrate fiscal responsibility and mature behavior by accompanying Spencer to the bank to open his first checking account before he left for college. I probably should have explained to the banker that I am Spencer’s “double-mom” since he is my “double-son,” a grandson by birth and a son by adoption. But that raises more questions than it answers. Besides, there comes a day when you don’t want to have to begin a sentence, “When Spencer’s Mom died . . .” The story is much too long, too complicated, too personal to share with strangers. I couldn’t blame the banker for not understanding.  Sometimes, even we get confused.   

“Uh...Let’s move on,” the banker said, shuffling papers in front of him. “I’ll need to attach security questions to the account,” he explained. “What’s your mother’s date of birth?” he asked Spencer, apparently thinking it best to direct questions away from me.         

I decided it would be less confusing if I responded to future inquiries from the banker as Spencer’s grandmother, rather than his mother. Wanting to redeem myself, I chimed in, “January,” giving Tara's birth month. Spencer simultaneously responded, “March.”  It was one time I wished he hadn’t remembered my birthday. 

The banker rolled his eyes.  After a pause he ventured, “Perhaps a different question might work better. What is your mother’s maiden name?”

Spencer, realizing I had responded with Tara’s information, adjusted his reply to mine.  “Cox,” he answered, stating her maiden name. I adjusted my response to his, “Rice,” I said, giving mine.  Again we replied in unison.

“People!” said the banker, clearly exasperated, “I have to get some answers to these questions, or I’m not going to be able to open this account! Do you think we might be able to find one we can all agree on!?”

 “Look,” I said to Spencer. “Just tell the man I’m your mother, OK?  But remember what we said in case anyone ever asks you again.”

Judging by the speed in which we were ushered from the banker’s office, I think he opened the account merely to get rid of us.

I can’t blame the poor man for being a bit bumfuzzled. Afterall, it’s not every family who has a double-son; a Brunkle, as Spencer calls his uncle Nevin now that he is his brother-by-law; or a Sant, now that Brynnan is an aunt-turned-big-sister. I have to smile. If our family relationships are perplexing to the banker, and occasionally to us, just think what we’ve done to the genealogists.  


“All you need in this world is love and laughter. That’s all anybody needs.  Love in one hand. Laughter in the other.”~August Wilson

“A joyful heart is good medicine.”~Proverbs 17:22

"Peace begins with a smile."~Mother Teresa

Son, you outgrew my lap, but never my heart.”~Anonymous


Smile at least once today.  If possible, laugh. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Love Song From Heaven

It is a mistake to think “time heals all wounds.” It doesn’t. Any mother who has lost a child can tell you that. But in time, scars cover open wounds and become beauty marks on hearts that dared to love. Pain lessens, sorrow fades, but neither entirely disappears.  Recollections transform from painful reminders into treasured memories, and the rediscovery of a forgotten letter tucked into a seldom-opened drawer can become an occasion of joy, bringing the yearned-for music of a loved one's voice, like a love song from heaven:

Dear Mom and Dad,

25 years! What a wonderful gift.  What a wonderful journey, and a testament to your love.  It has been a long road, a hill here and there, the occasional pot hole, but a road that you have traveled gracefully, and a journey in which I believe the two of you have just hit your stride.  One in which you have grown together and found that the greatest tribute to your love you could give to each other is to dedicate it to God.

I am proud of you two, and inspired to the point that I struggle to find the words to express the love and admiration I feel for both of you.  

Congratulations on this beautiful milestone and thank you for loving us, and each other.

Happy 25th anniversary!  I can’t think of any two people who deserve a day as special as this any more than the two of you.

I love you both,


"Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away."~Song of Solomon 8:7

"Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit, who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth, and without light nothing flowers."~May Sarton

"I see scars and I see stories.  I see a being who has lived, who has depth, who is a survivor.  Living is beautiful.  Being part of this world is beautiful, smile-worthy, despite the tears."~Alexandra Heather Foss

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."~Romans 12:15

-Do I avoid speaking to people who are suffering? If so, why?
-Do I remember to celebrate with others in times of joy? 
-What do I think of this statement: "A scar is never ugly. . .We must see all scars as beauty. . .A scar does not form on the dying. A scar means 'I survived'."~Chris Cleve, Little Bee


Make a list of things I can do to comfort someone in distress, to celebrate with someone in  joy? Act upon it.

Write a letter to someone on a special occasion, either happy or sad. Don't worry about what to say.  Speak from my heart.  

Write a letter to affirm someone I love. Remember to say "I love you."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hope in the Wilderness - Part 2

Continued from Part 1:
“Tears crept into the stillness as raw and real as first-loss. . . My eyes fell upon a verse in the middle of the page. I gasped. The words seemed meant for me. Tears came once again, but they were tears of gratitude, not of sorrow. I had discovered why I had come.” 

On a retreat years earlier only weeks after Tara's death, in the garden at Grace Church near Montgomery, I was blessed by the presence of Christ, by Tara, and by loved ones lost, and I stumbled upon a grave marker etched with the resurrection promise, “Your daughter lives.”* Now, the words of Jesus leapt from the pages of Matthew, Chapter 9, to assure me my beloved daughter and the love between us exists for eternity:

“Why all the commotion and weeping? The child is not dead: she’s only asleep.” 

How could I have missed the signs of grace that surrounded me: A butterfly tapped into tin reminding me of Tara’s words, “through the cocoon of the tomb Jesus took flight and gave us life everlasting;"** The chance occurrence of choosing a room with a name and number pointing to the words of Christ to comfort a mother's broken heart? 

Quietly, like a deer slips through the forest, a whisper, soft and gentle, entered the silence. 

“Will you let me come in? Come into your life? Into your heart?”

Darkness broke open to reveal the place within me where grief stood sentinel, forbidding entrance,  lest opening to love might wound again.

Grief is like a terrible fire—consuming, devastating--but when the time is right, when the question is posed, if we choose life rather than destruction, if we say yes to love rather than despair, the fire becomes a creative force.  What remains when it passes is purest silver wrought by the hand of God through faithfulness and unconditional love.  Yet, it is always important to remember--though redeemed by grace--the silver never forgets the flame.

Soon my retreat would end. The crackle of the Advent fire and the shuffle of silent footsteps would no longer be heard. I supposed I might become weary of the quiet over time, but in the moments remaining I vowed to savor the last drops of its sweetness. On that night, in a place named Dayspring, during a retreat called “Hope in the Wilderness,” I experienced the miracle of rebirth. A stone of resistance rolled away, love walked in, and from the cocoon of the tomb of grief, my heart, at long last, took flight. 


"And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper."~1 King 10:12 

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."~Isaiah 43:19

"When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like dawn breaking within you. . .When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning."~John O'Donahue

-What signs of grace surround me?
-How would I answer the question, "Will you let me come in?" 
-Is there a hidden place of resistance within me?
-What are my thoughts about this statement: "If we choose life, rather than destruction, if we say yes to love rather than despair, the fire becomes a creative force."
-Has there been a time in my life when I experienced "rebirth?" If so, what happened?

Precious Lord, may the sufferings of your children lead to healing, wisdom, renewed appreciation for life, compassion for others, deepened faith, and the knowledge of your ever-present faithfulness. Give me eyes to see the surprises of your grace. May I give thanks for faith renewed, hope restored, and may the fruit of these gifts be used for the consolation of others. Amen  

*"Gift in the Garden, Part 1 and 2"~From the Big Red Chair, October 20 & October 27, 2011
**"The Greatest Gift"~From the Big Red Chair, April 21, 2011

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hope in the Wilderness - Part 1

The winding road emerged from a tangle of dense woods and continued beside a ramshackle fence bordering a field of winter weeds.  Muddy ruts sucked at the tires of my car. When I diverted my eyes to check the tiny map on the back of the retreat brochure in hopes of discovering a recognizable landmark, I  narrowly missed colliding with a low-hanging branch as the road plunged back into the forest.  The chill of wet earth and remnants of rain plopping onto my windshield from bare branches above heightened my sense of loneliness and stirred flurries of apprehension. 

At best I am lost, I thought. At worst I am not.  What am I doing here? Why did I come? Whatever made me think I could spend a winter weekend in silent retreat far from home in the company of strangers? The answer was simple.  If I wanted to complete requirements to graduate from the Leading Contemplative Prayer and Retreat Program at the Shalem Institute of Spiritual Formation, I had to.

Joining the program at Shalem was an effort to reenter a world left behind when my daughter Tara and granddaughter Alden died and when raising Tara’s son Spencer became my calling. I knew if I hoped to escape the confines of grief and venture into new life, I must nurture tender stirrings of renewed interest rising within me. I chose a retreat during the church season of Advent at Dayspring Retreat Centered near Germantown, Maryland, titled “Hope in the Wilderness.” 

Damp earth swallowed the sound of my arrival at the rustic structure secreted by undeveloped fields and undisturbed woodlands.  In the moments before my presence was detected, I considered fleeing. What if solitude ripped away the bandage of busy-ness that had long concealed the wound of sadness? What if silence required sheathing the sword of distraction that kept demons of grief at bay?  

“I’ll leave you here to choose your room,” said the lanky young man who carried my suitcase to the Matthew hall as we passed others named Mark, Luke and John.  “Pick any room you like. You’re the first one here.”

I peered through open doors that lined the left side of the corridor.  A rocking chair, a dresser, and a desk with a small lamp furnished each chamber.  A large, single-pane window stretched from corner-to-corner on the far wall, opening each room to the silence of the forest and creating an illusion of spaciousness.  A handmade quilt of unique color on the foot of each bed was the only distinguishing characteristic. 

I entered the chamber at the far end of the hall and sat in the rocker by the window, my unopened suitcase beside me. Fog that settled into the evening woods, along with descending darkness, did little to calm my rising angst. “Something doesn’t feel right,” I thought. “I don’t think this is my room,” I concluded.

Back in the hall, suitcase in hand, I found a room closer to the entrance that seemed to invite my company.

“Tell your prayer partner how you wish to be prayed for this weekend,” said the retreat leader who divided our group into pairs when we gathered by the fireplace in the main lodge for introductions before entering the Great Silence. I considered requesting prayers for courage, but rejected the idea. Doing so would require explaining why I was afraid to be in silence.  Prayers for peace would require re-telling the story of loss that I preferred remain my sacred secret. I settled on prayers for clarity. “Other than being a compulsory part of the program,” I confessed to my prayer partner, “I don’t have a clue why I'm here.”  

I awoke the next morning grateful for the previous evening's swift descent into slumber that circumvented anxious thoughts during dark hours and deepening stillness. The smell of food prepared by cooks working in silence drew me to the lodge. After breakfast I wandered fields of dry winter grass that swayed about my knees. A bell summoning me to the noon meal interrupted the morning and startled me into an awareness of time. As the day lengthened, I wandered through fields, down a steep hill, and under towering trees, to a bench deep in the forest. I sat motionless, moving only my eyes, hoping not to alarm a deer I hoped might slip by under cover of waning daylight. None appeared.  Only tears awakened in the silence. Tears rose from their hiding place in solitude to invade the peacefulness. Tears crept into the stillness as raw and real as first-loss.
Fleeing to my bedroom, my hand upon the doorknob, my eyes fell upon a previously unnoticed rectangular plate attached to the door.  Above the words Matt: 9--Matthew Hall, room number nine--floated a large butterfly hammered into the metal by the hand of an artist.  How ironic, I thought. How appropriate that I coincidentally chose a room whose door was marked by a butterfly that to me was symbolic of Tara.  A butterfly adorns her grave marker as a symbol of her poem and a reminder of hope.* But in that moment, the butterfly brought memories of sorrow.  

As I lay in darkness upon my bed, tears spent, it occurred to me that the word and number on the door were in the same form as chapter and verse of the Bible.  I switched on a light, retrieved a Bible from the desk drawer, and opened to the ninth chapter of Matthew.  I gasped when my eyes fell upon a verse in the middle of the page that seemed directed to me. Tears once again flooded my eyes, but they were tears of gratitude, not of sorrow. I had discovered why I had come.

. . .to be continued "Hope in the Wilderness" Part II


"The purpose of the Church's year is to continually rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart's memory so that it can discern the star of hope."~Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

"Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present."~Edward Hayes

"In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair."~Howard Thurman

"Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."~Mark 6:31

-Do I need peace and rest?
-Do I find the prospect of quiet inviting? Why? Why not?
-What is my experience of grace in coincidence?
-Where have I seen the "star of hope?"

*"A Time for Peace"-From the Big Red Chair, January 2, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Letter to Camp

I have a theory. If you want your children to listen as you wax eloquent, wait until they are trapped in a moving vehicle. Or, if they happen to work as camp counselors during the summer, send an unexpected letter. That is possibly your best chance that they will pay attention to what you have to say. Blazing heat and fatigue, mixed with a healthy dose of curiosity and homesickness, can be powerful tools in the parental arsenal. If you want to improve the odds they may actually remember what you say, try seeing in how many ways you can say “respect.” With kids, it's never a sure thing that you'll get through, but it's worth a shot anyway. 

Dear Spencer,

I’m so proud of you and what you are doing.  I know it is hard work and a big commitment to be a counselor.  You will probably never know what your gift means to others.  But you can be assured every person there, including you, is there because God ordained it at this time and this place.  Keep your eyes open to see what he has for you.

Spencer, you are a good role model for others, and the endearing thing is you don’t even know it.  That’s good. Wouldn’t want you to be uppity or anything!

I respect you for who you are and for what you have accomplished.  I am proud of the man you are becoming.  You have had more on your plate than most people will ever experience, and you have persevered, grown, and learned from your experiences.  And now you offer those hard-earned lessons as a gift to others.

Spencer, you are hard on yourself about your grades in school, and that is good because it means you care and are willing to keep working at it. School is such a big part of a young person’s life that it is hard not to judge ourselves solely by academic standards.  First of all, your grades are not as bad as you seem to think, and more important than any grade could ever be, I want you to see that in things that really matter, you are an A++ student! Your heart of compassion shines. You share your talents and gifts and are willing to work to the benefit of others and to serve the Lord. And you are loyal.

Warning! Mother moment ahead!

Sometimes, Spencer, you are loyal to a fault. Be careful to whom you give your loyalty!

Bishop Stough used to say he believed there was one question we will all be asked when we get to heaven, “How well did you love?” 

Spencer, you love much.

It won’t be long now before you go to college, and I won’t see you everyday.  You are going on to the next phase of your life which is as it should be.  But I want you to know I’ll miss having you here all the time.  I consider the years we have had together to be one of the greatest gifts in my life.  Even though we both wish we still had your Mom, I cherish the opportunity to be together. You have always been a big part of my heart, and I would fight to the death to protect you (and just about have!!)

I know there have probably been times when you must have wondered what happened to the sweet grandmother who never fussed, who let you eat all the cookies you wanted--do anything you wanted to do any time--all the time! She’s still here, Spencer.  She’s just trying to do her best at mother things.

Speaking of mother things, if you go off to school and don’t call me at least twice a week, I’m going to chop your head off!!

Well. . . on that cheerful note, I’ll stop. Have a great weekend.  They are lucky to have you.  

I love you.


"Parents can only give them good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands."~Anne Frank

"Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children."~Charles Swindoll

"Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and do not foresake your mother's teaching; for indeed they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck."~Proverbs 1:8-9

"Even a child is known by his doings."~Proverbs 20:11

-What have been the greatest gifts in my life?
-What experiences have led to growth in my life? What gifts do I have to offer as a result?
-What character traits do I most admire in others?
-How would I wish to be "known by my doings?"
-How well have I loved?


"Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart."~From the Book of Common Prayer