Thursday, July 10, 2008

Life lessons from lemon bars...




"When life gives you lemons, make lemon bars."
This is my new saying. =) There is a pan of lemon bars cooling on my stove right now. I made myself a little coconut latte to sip along with them too. I wish I could have you join me on my deck for a lemon bar and a cool drink right now. My thoughts would probably make more sense in person...and this is going to be one of 'those posts'. I can tell that much already. =)
But I would rather risk offending someone or being misunderstood than to not share what's on my heart. That's just the way I am. Before I get into my 'deep thoughts' I have to tell you that you can click on the ingredients and directions to see those pictures enlarged enough to get my lemon bar recipe. I use one from Cooking Light and they turn out delicious everytime. Like I said...I wish you could join me right now for one. =)
I wasn't just baking this morning as I pulled out the lemons and eggs from my fridge and prepared to make the mixture for the lemon bars, I was reflecting and thinking about how life does give us all lemons. As the old saying goes... It's true. We all have moments or even years, in which life just doesn't go our way. People and circumstances let us down. It's a fact of life- we all live in a broken, sinful world. Hurt isn't something we can escape- whether we bring it upon ourselves by our own choices and actions, or whether it comes from another source- natural disasters or other people or sometimes a combination of all of them. Bad stuff happens.
I stood in my kitchen just moments ago and realized that it doesn't matter what kind of lemons you get, or how many, or for how long, but it really is all about what you do with the fruit when it comes your way.
I couldn't help but feel blessed as I zested my lemons today and smelled the tang of the peel and felt the bursts of the juice as it lightly sprayed from the peel each time the grate pulled at the skin. I felt blessed as I squeezed out the juice and as I whipped the eggs til they were frothy. I realized how blessed I felt as I opened my warm oven to pull out the partially baked, golden crust. It felt almost spiritual to me- to recognize with all my senses through something so simple as lemon bars- just how blessed I am.
It was at this same time that my thoughts turned to the person in my life who has been most responsible for 'handing me lemons'...the woman responsible for killing Teagan and Peggy on that fateful day in July 2001, and altering so many other lives, physically and emotionally, for the past several years. I was struck with how time and soul-searching and years of trying to 'make something out of my lemons' and leaning on God every step of the way has truly changed me and softened me and made me look at life so differently.
When Chip and I were on the Oprah show sharing our story and telling of our forgiveness toward this woman, Cindy, Oprah asked us, "How do you get to this place?" ['place' here meaning the point of forgiveness]. I remember sort of wondering that same thing myself, because I was still having nightmares all the time and I was still dealing with muscle/nerve damage in my back and legs. Brock was still having panic attacks and not eating at a table- or many times, not eating at all, because for him it was too hard- it brought back too many memories and he feared something bad would happen again. Just from sitting at a table to eat.
At that time, we had no idea what Wyndham's future looked like. She was not growing physically and each time she got a cold or flu meant for her, an extended stay back in the hospital as she had little immune system or strength to fight sickness on her own. Chip still bore scars from facial cuts, three different chest tubes, and basically had just spent a whole winter trying to heal his broken ribs and gain his strength back. We were still a mess in many ways.
Yet we made statements of forgiveness and just knew that God would sustain us through our deep sorrows and grief. I know that God is the one who gave us the ability in our hearts to find and offer forgiveness to Cindy. We accepted what had happened and hoped she would find it within her own heart to seek God's love, mercy and grace.
When the next Oprah guest appeared on the stage (a woman who had been beaten and left for dead), Oprah asked her, "If you could invite your perpetraitor over for dinner, you would do so?", to which this victim answered "yes...I would invite him over for dinner". I remember then and have thought about that statement so many times during the past 6 years. I have never felt as though I could invite Cindy into my home and truth be told, there have been many times that I have told Chip, "I wish I could just go to the jail and cook a few meals for her or torment her a bit- just to give her a small taste of what she's done to us". So, while I have said I offered forgiveness, and I truly believe I have forgiven her in my heart, I don't always think I have doneso in my head. I have prayed many, many times for Cindy to want to come out of this situation a better person...I have asked God to show up in her life and change her hardened heart. {She has never apologized to any of the victims she hurt that day...she has never shown any remorse.} I think I have done an okay job of moving on beyond the hurt and accepted that I can only control my actions beyond that day, and sometimes I have done a better job of that than others. I have made an effort to forgive everyday...but I don't know that it has ever felt 'automatic' or authentic.
Until today.
While I made lemon bars.
As I pulled them out of the oven and the scent and warmth filled my kitchen, I actually thought to myself, "I wish I could invite her over for lemon bars". It was the first time I have ever felt such a peace and such an empathy toward wanting to know her hurt. I don't know that she has a valid excuse for her actions that took the lives of Teagan and Peggy and brought so much devastation in one instant to so many others, but I do know that she and I both live in a broken world and we have to make choices of how to respond to that brokeness each and everyday. Today, I realized what a gift I have- to live 'free' and at peace and to know that even when bad things happen to me and others, that I can accept that God is in control.
It's not up to me to make things right. It's not my battle to fight- but His [God's]. He only asks that I take what I've been given and do my best to make it into something. I choose to make it into something good and beautiful and hope that in so doing, I not only make life a little more blessed for my husband and kids, but also, in my own heart, I begin to grow more in love and grace- which hopefully spills over into the lives of everyone around me.
I am humbled and broken today as I think of all the wrongs in this world- not just those that have touched my family, but the suffering and hurt of everyone in this world. There are broken relationships and sickness and disease and war and pain of every kind in the lives of every single person. I wish that we could all see that to seek revenge only brings more hurt and destruction. I wish we could all realize that by forgiving ourselves and others, we stamp out bitterness and hate. I wish that we could begin to enter in to the hurt of one another in order to understand and grow and become better- more fully healed and restored to the way God originally designed and created us to be. I wish for me and for you to know that there is Hope and Joy and Beauty and Goodness in this world. No matter how many lemons we are dealt; no matter what shape or form they come to us. They can be turned into something simple...and amazing all at the same time. It's a matter choosing God and seeing the world through His heart.

48 comments:

Kitty said...

As my son's birthday approachs on Saturday, July 12, he would have been 28, it has been 5 years since his death on Christmas Eve, I often wonder when I will reach the point that Jody has written about today. While I do not blame one person, there are many that were involved at the hospital and I often, wonder "what if", what if somethings would have been done differently, what if the doctors had done more or less, what if we had asked more questions?
Jody is a much stronger person than I am at this point and her words touch me today. Thank you, Jody.

Jo said...

All I know is you are teaching many of us so much. That little girl must feel so blessed to have had you as a mum.....

I honour your forgiveness and that you admit its all hard for you....you show us both sides of the human coin.

I am blessed to call you friend Jody.....and to have known you x

Rachel said...

I have never experienced a loss like yours, but, Jody, to read about your tale and your ability to love and forgive, even when it pains and hurts you, shows what a beautiful person you are. I can only pray that I will have strength like yours, and that I could love like you. Yes, you are human, and that makes us imperfect people, but to read your story shows me so much compassion and a true heart for the Lord. Thank you, again, for sharing with us. It does more than you know.

Bird's Words said...

Beautifully said. I always say that forgiveness is not a light switch emotion. It's a choice that I live out each and every day. I have to verbally say that I forgive those who have hurt me in unspeakable ways each morning. I choose to do that, not because they deserve it, but because I want to be like Christ. scripture says that while we were yet sinners, He died for us. The act of forgiving is the least I can do in the shadow of ALL that He has done and continues to do for me.

Thanks for sharing your God story, Jody. People everywhere need to hear of real people overcoming real hurts by the grace of a real God.

Blessings~
Holly

Hillary said...

K....so, I needed to hear that. Wow. I've been really struggling these last few days. And, this kind of hit the nail on the head for me. Anyway, I'm praying for you guys...I know the next few weeks are especially difficult....

And, I wish I would have known you were making lemon bars, LOL. I'm at my mom's in Muskegon... :)

Dawn B said...

You are truly a remarkable human being.

Thank you for this post...it is UNBELIEVABLY appropriate for me today. I need to find forgiveness in my heart for my sister-in-law, who has handed me lemons for over 20 years and continues to do so. We are going to her house tonight to visit my nephew, who has just graduated from high school.

Maybe I need to go get the ingredients for some lemon bars to take with me to her house tonight. ;o)

justmyopinion12 said...

Wow. I hear your heart. Forgiveness is so much more a gift we give ourselves than it is a gift we give to the offender. Forgiveness allows us to release what holds us down, and it isn't a once-for-all thing. It is a choice we make over and over in order, and while tough, it is so freeing and blesses us and those around us.

Thanks for sharing,
Paula

http://www.paulasheart.blogspot.com/

Mary said...

Jodi-Life does hand us lemons-my first husband was killed in a car accident 25 years ago this August. (our baby was 6 months old). My second husband died of cancer 8 years later. I have forgiven the person responsible for taking my husbands life in the car accident. I still look at how blessed I am with my daughter who is now 25 years old. She looks like her dad. God is so good. He has blessed me over and over in life. The way I have chosen to live my life each day is a reflection of who I am and of how I always want my family and friends to know me.

melissa said...

Amazing. Beautifully stated. Truly heartfelt.

Ruth said...

Wow.

C.S. Lewis writes somewhere about realizing that he had actually forgiven someone he had been trying to forgive - and believing he had succeeded - for years.

Thank you for sharing this and praise God for His grace.

Penny Smith said...

Thanks Jody!

I know you have heard that you are inspiring so often. I know you have been told thank you a million times.

Well, a million plus one.

Your words and your honesty and you response to your circumstances... it touches me each time.

I pray for your family, and your daughter that lives with the result of that day daily.. and for that new beautiful baby your brewin'!

Blessings-Penny

Sallie said...

This was awesome!
You truly inspire me in so many ways. I can see God speaking through you so clearly that it gives me goosebumps.
Thank you so much for writing your heart. Please don't ever stop.

Starlas said...

WOW! You are amazing Jody. Amazing. And an inspiration to others like you could never imagine.

Tina B. said...

WOW the first person to comment...a first for me LOLOL. I love love love ribbon...I use it all the time for just about every book I do, I use at least ribbon on 5-6 pages. Thank you for the giveaway.

Ashe said...

Amen. That's all I can say. Every word you are saying just resonates deeply with me. What a blessing to forgive...something I'm still trying to learn to do. Thank you for continuing to be so honest and just share from your heart.

Sunshine said...

Very moving and what a joyous day for you this must have been. Lemon bars will have a new meaning in your home! Thank you for sharing and for being so honest! Sunshine

Anonymous said...

Has anyone told you that you are AMAZING? I hope that I am not the first or the last to tell you so.

You put into words feelings so many of us have in our hearts but that never find a way out.

I am a frequent "lurker" (oh how I dislike that word!) on your blog and have never posted but you brought me right out of hiding with this post!

Bless you and yours,
Heather
New York

So Blessed said...

"It's not up to me to make things right. It's not my battle to fight-but His [God's]."

How true are these words.

What a precious testimony you have and share...you will be blessed for your faithfulness in following our loving God.

With my prayers.

Laurel said...

thank you so much for sharing your heart and the beautiful LOVE of JESUS!

-- laurel moses

mel said...

Your words gave me goosebumps. The peace you feel in the forgiveness you've given is I'm sure amazing! Thanks for sharing. I also love the comments left by your readers. I was blessed by several of them. Isn't it great how blessings just keep going around and around? God is Great:)Melissa

Susan James said...

Dear Jody: You are trying so very hard to be noble about this but I might tell you that it is OKAY to be angry about this once in a while. I am not a psychologist but maybe it might not be so awful to set aside, say 1 hour a month and just be MAD AND BITTER AND then just let it go. Although I agree that what you did yesterday was healthy. PS. Can you tell us the status of Cindy Kundrat? Is she still in prison??? If she gets out, are the authorities required to notify you?

Jody said...

Hi Susan...just to reply to a few things you referred to, I have admitted to being angry and I wouldn't want anyone to think that I have ever been 'above that'. I even wrote how I have said comments like, "I wish I could cook for her in prision and torment her a bit...". So yes, I have had moments of allowing myself to feel the anger. But I am also so aware that anger doesn't solve anything or move people forward. It only holds back and breeds bitterness and resentment. After a lot of anger and frustration in the early months, both Chip and I recognized we wanted something more for our lives and for our kids. We felt confident it was there for the taking too. Just as anger is a choice, we have found seeking forgiveness and happiness is a choice too. It has been the right one for our family, our healing, our hearts and souls.
It has allowed us to move beyond our hurt and live a full and blessed life!
As for Cindy, she is serving a 10-year sentence and has just over 3 years yet to serve. I continue to pray and hope that she is finding God and peace during this time. I truly hope she comes out of this time in her life and wants something better for herself too. It's there...she just has to want it and believe with all her heart that she can be forgiven and made new.
I hope many will join me in praying for her over these coming years. Her healing to me would be more justice for the taking of lives than her time served.

Trace said...

Hi Jody,
First time caller, long time listener :)

I love your authenticity and honesty with your struggle for forgiveness, it's so real and necessary.

Have you ever read, "The Shack"? I just finished it and loved it. The story is one of pain and forgiveness but the writer portrays the Trinity in a way that's never been portrayed to me and was so truly inspiring, you might enjoy it. The lessons of hurt, forgiveness and love are so touching and inspiring also.

Keep doing what you're doing, we love you for it. I'm off to make lemon bars.

Trace.

Susan James said...

Thanks for the reply Jody. Holding a heart filled with anger and resentment is truly PAINFUL - for us, the other person doesn't "feel" that kind of pain. So I guess as a friend I wanted to "give you permission :) ha,
the break a dish or slam the door sometime. No one would think less of you :) And the adage that time heals I think is also very true. Fondly, Susan

Sarah said...

Jody,
Thank you for your post today. I admire you for being so honest - something that you don't see often these days!

Also, the coconut latte sounds so tasty! Any chance you could post the recipe for how you make it?

Sarah

Mere said...

FYI: I left you a treat on my blog!!

Love, Mere

Kyra said...

Way to live the Gospel, 1 Peter 3:10 etc. From your last post I realized you are just 2 and 1/2 hours away!! Think there will be any lemon bars left? That's okay I can bring my share of lemons:)

Anonymous said...

Jodi,
This appeared on a church marquee. It said "you CANNOT change the direction of the wind but you CAN adjust your sails." Your lemon bars story proves exactly that.
God bless you and your family always.
Paula

joscelyne cutchens said...

You are an incredible woman. You are a blessing to me and encourage me on my road to making myself a better person, the person God wants me to be. Thank you.

RDC CCC Mom said...

The Lord has an amazing way of making "messy" things beautiful! Forgiveness is a gift...a gift to yourself and to the one who wronged! Your story is beautiful and I am always encouraged by your words. Thanks for being transparent. It is a blessing to many.

Nichole said...

Wow Jody this is phenominal. (pardon my lack of spelling) I have read this twice today and each time I am blown away. it is so true what you say about how it is what we do with the lemons we are given. I always say it is playing the cards that we are dealt...but I like your analogy. I hope that in my situation with my son, God doesn't deal me the lemons you have been dealt...but if he does give me some that are similar...I pray that I can also have the strength that you have had through this. God is doing amazing work through you and touching more people than you know.

Kris with a K said...

Jody,

I am continually humbled by your sharing your spiritual path not only in your lovely family, but your heart through your loss.

From the somewhat opposite standpoint I come, as I am deep in prayer for a dear friend of mine. I had no idea she was an alcoholic. She hid it from most of us for over 10 years. Close friends from church, we spent weekends together on retreats. None of us knew. It all came to a head over a year ago when just after their divorce, she drove intoxicated, had an accident, and the two in the other car were killed.

She is serving her time right now. I am praying that not only with the family of the victims come to the place you are, but also that her own children can, and that she will be open to the Saviour she believed in for so long (but now is trying to avoid).

Michelle in California said...

Dear Jody, I am so encouraged by your words. The Holy Spirit is truly doing a work in your heart. How incredibly beautiful! Only HE can place that peace, that joy inside your heart. It is truly a miracle, and I am praising Him for that. Thank you for allowing yourself to be such a beautiful vessel, and for sharing your truth with the world. Love, Michelle in California

Wendy said...

I can not express my gratitude enough for sharing this moment with us. I am reading a book called "Total Forgiveness" by R.T. Kendall and your blog went along with exactly what I was reading on the same day. I cried when I read your blog. (I am not always a crier) Then when I had lunch with my mom today, I briefly shared your story with her. When I got to the part of what your thought was of total forgiveness, we both started to cry. We were so moved by what God is doing in your life and heart.
Thank you again for sharing!
Blessings on you & your family,
Wendy

Marcie said...

I appreciate what you've written and I'm blessed by your stance on life; take the lemons and make lemon bars. Awesome.

I've read your blog for over a year now and I've wondered before, but I'm especially wondering now after reading this post, if you've ever written to Cindy or otherwise tried to contact her to extend forgiveness. (And, trust me, I can't imagine how difficult that would be but while it's the topic...) It can't be assumed she saw the Oprah show in the midst of her incarceration (or maybe it can be assumed since TV's are in jail/prison). It's one thing to hope she finds God and peace but it's entirely other to take the necessary steps to offer it to her. I can't imagine she feels worthy of anyone's forgiveness much less expects to be forgiven. Much less feels like anyone wants anything to do with her. I read many of the articles through the link you provided and read, I think it was, a "Letter to the Editor" from her husband about the hatred aimed at he and his son after the accident. I'm guessing (all I can do from here) that the whole family felt ostracized and condemned. It's all so tragic and horrible and, yes, a result of a broken world. But God loves Cindy. I know you know that. He loves her. We're called to love her. Hate what she did but love her. Not just forgive her. Again, I can't imagine how difficult loving and forgiving someone who killed my child would be. But, again, how would she know she's been forgiven? From you or from God? Has she heard?

Thank you for sharing your heart. I especially appreciate your transparency and your obvious goal to seek God and His ways.

Marcie

Jody said...

Hello Marcie~
I just wanted you to know that yes, CIndy Kundrat heard the words "we forgive you" when Chip and I made our victim statements in the courtroom on the day of her sentencing. It was probably the hardest part of this whole incident for me. More difficult than the grief we felt at that time. Yet Chip and I both knew she needed to hear it. And she looked blankly at us as we shared our message of hope and redemption with her. We told her no amount of time or medication would change her...but that God could change her if she was willing to give her life to Him. I talked of how I was and am a sinner- just like she and that God doesn't measure our sins like we do as humans on some sort of scale. I am unworthy of His love and grace as much as she or anyone else. It is out of this love- this saving grace that I could stand in that room and say "I hope you come out of this a better person". I continue to trust that God can work in her life and heart- even through prison walls. And I thank Him everday that He gave us the strength to share His forgiveness with her. My prayer is that many lives can be changed as we continue to share our story and Christ's Hope with those who will listen.
Thanks for 'listening' here at my blog and for caring so much- for my family and for Cindy too.

Jess in Nebraska said...

WOW! I am embarassed to admit HOW MUCH I needed to read that today. I have been feeling so down lately about a friend who has continually let me down...HOWEVER after reading this, my eyes are opened at how petty and shallow my feelings have been. Your forgiveness towards this woman is nothing short of a miracle and it challenges me to live and walk in grace and forgiveness every day ... I will never make lemon bars again without thinking of this. Thank you for sharing your heart with us!!!!

Marcie said...

Thanks, Jody, for taking the time to respond to my comment. The grace you extended to Cindy is, well, amazing. How tragic that she has never acknowledged your statements or made a statement of her own asking for forgiveness. I'll keep you, your family and her and her family in my prayers.
Thanks again, Marcie

Sarah said...

Jody,

I read a comment you wrote on someone else's blog some days ago, and then found your blog tonight through another completely different blog. Funny how that happens in this connected blogging world!

Anyway... I just wanted you to know that I so appreciate your words on loss and forgiveness. I lost my 9 year old daughter, Ellie, to cancer 7 months ago. Perhaps she and Teagan are dancing together in Heaven! I don't have anyone to forgive, really, in Ellie's death... but I still appreciate the life lesson about what we do with the heartaches that come. And I think that choosing to forgive even the lesser offences are important. Your words have helped me this night, so thank you.
Sarah (ellieskees.blogspot.com)

Anam said...

Good for you! I'm so glad you've reached the point where you could actually sit down and talk with her. What a troubled, tortured soul she surely is. I keep you in my prayers but now I will pray for her as well.

Thanks Jody. In your realization you helped me realize something.

<3 Anam

lisalyn said...

It's never easy to really forgive anyone. Sometimes I think we say it, but it's just words and we still carry it inside. (I'm guilty!) THEN the real healing comes and we can say it FOR REAL and it is ONLY because God is working in our hearts to make us be like HE is to us each day....truly forgiving. Amazing...the God we serve! God is so interested in you and your family and He knows how much this whole experience has hurt you and your family, and He has been helping you to come to the place where you can have that Peace that really only comes from Him.
I love to read your blog...you are very inspiring. Thank You and God Bless!

Kairlotta said...

Thank you for another beautiful post Jody! I myself have hit several potholes on my road of life...nothing close to what you have experienced but nonetheless bumpy. You have once again given me hope and peace - not to mention a craving for lemon bars and coconut lattes!

You are AMAZING!

Stacy said...

Jody -

Two questions: One, not so important, but your recipe calls for a 8x8 pan and I see you used a 9 x 13. Do the lemon squares still turn out okay (I know, petty details, but I'm dying to try these lemon bars!!). Two (and I'm not sure how to phrase this...), have you always been such a forgiving spirit, even before the accident, or have you come to be more forgiving since the tragedy?

Let me tell you why I ask. The last few months, I have been reading your blog along with Angie Smith's blog. I have been inspired by both of you to take a closer look at my life and do a little emotional / spiritual spring cleaning. I've had a couple of events in my life that have left me with some pretty deep wounds. While I have said that I have forgive the person who caused the pain, after reading your blog, I can't say I'm ready to have the person over for lemon bars. Its been many years since everything happened. Do you think everyone is capable of the forgiveness that you have so gracefully expressed? I am so hopeful that is true and I am praying that I find that path to the place where you are today - treats and all!!

BTW - the coconut latte didn't sound half bad either!!

walkingbyfaith said...

I'm a little behind (we've been away at church camp with our youth group) and trying to catch up on your posts. I saw the lemon bars and had to stop and read this post immediately. Lemon bars have got to be my most favorite thing to eat! I loooove them! Little did I know that reading about my favorite treat would teach me a lesson. Jody, there are people I need to forgive and I am ashamed to be upset with them. They've taken nothing from me, like Cindy took from you.

Thank you for reminding me to let go of these feelings of frustration and "upsetness."

Love to you!

Jamie said...

Hi Jody! I just recently started reading your blog, came over from "bring the rain".. I really love your posts and your style and the way you relate with God and with your readers, I'm thoroughly enjoying my time at nitty.gritty. :) Wanted you to know I made those lemon bars today, all the way in Japan! They tasted grrrreat, a little piece of home.. I'd been craving them ever since I read this post. Great recipe!

Kristen said...

Thank you Jodie for this reminder of forgiveness. May you continue to hear God whispering to you...

Susan said...

Dearest Jody,

I just found your blog from Angie's Bring the Rain.

Reading your story has blown me away, and I'm so deeply, deeply touched.

God is truly using your story to touch countless lives and especially your children's.

When I was 14 my older brother who was 18 was brutally murdered. My mom told me when she got in the car to head home (after identifying his body) she knew she would be facing 5 other children.

She said, "how I react could change the course of my children's lives tonight."

She choose to forgive and asked us to pray for the boy who murdered my brother.

Many years later I had to sit in a court room as I faced a man who ran over my father as he was speeding. I was able to look him in the eyes and say, "I forgive you", all because of what my mom did for us.

I'm so sorry for your loss, but your daughter's precious life has counted for so much and is impacting so many forever.

I will join with you in prayer for the salvation of this woman who took her life.

Yes, forgiveness is truly a choice, and God's amazing GRACE to do it!!!

Thanks for sharing this deeply moving story.

I'll look forward to meeting your precious Teagan one day!!

Bless you♥

Anonymous said...

As always, you've given me something to think and really ponder about. Forgiveness "is" a process...I haven't had the depth of your loss but nonetheless I've had deep hurts that felt like a knife had sliced into me and the wounds would never heal. God has also been the source of my forgiveness (and healing). I once heard that when we havor unforgiveness we're actually giving power to our perpetrator AND all of our emotions aren't affecting them BUT are affecting us (our thoughts, feelings etc) plus *infecting* us with bitterness. I don't want to grow old being a bitter old lady...it's just not appealing! I see a tad bit of humor in that last sentence but a bitter person isn't fun to be around. I have followed your blog for several years now and someday hope to actually meet you (and your Teagan)! I'd love to have a lemon bar and a latte with you and chat! :-) I probably will be in your town sometime later in June...dates to be determined...to hang with my sister in law (they live in Dundas). WSL