a place of abundance

"we went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance" Psalm 66:12b

Migration October 7, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — vivmabuni @ 11:01 am


I know people do this kind of thing hundreds of times a day.

But for me, for some reason, it’s a BIG deal. Kind of the crossing of a threshold in embracing that I am a writer. (Why is that so insanely difficult to write?) I am continuing to take seriously what I believe are the next steps that God is allowing. So one step at a time, with knees knocking, I am learning, growing, stretching and pursuing this writing/publishing path. Thank you to so many of you who have encouraged me along these lines.

Margot Starbuck, a fellow Redbud, gave helpful advice. The incredible, creative genius, Aaron Schweizer, worked overnight magic. And today I announce , with great excitement, that I am moving on to a new domain!! Whoo-hooo! (I don’t even know what that means, really, or if I’m even using the word correctly! :))

If you could leave a comment that would help me know that things are transferring over smoothly.

So for those of you current subscribers, please click on over and resubscribe first thing (top right hand corner).

Then share away and encourage others (like bajillions of people) to subscribe if you’ve liked what I’ve written along the way. All this is part of building a platform. Something that literary agents and publishers look at to evaluate whether a potential author would have real live humans besides family and close friends who would buy their book.

I’ll be writing a guest post for one of my friends next week and have a whole line up of partially started, in the hamper, posts that are just looking to get out when those precious windows of time open up. I’m also still working on my proposal and query letter(s) with a self-imposed deadline for the end of the month to send it all out.

Oh yeah, and here’s the new link:


Thank you for being a part of this wild ride. 🙂


Grief and Puppies August 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — vivmabuni @ 12:43 pm

It’s been one of those weeks.

Actually, one of those months.

Well, thinking back now, it’s been one of those summers.

Disappointment, grief, disbelief, sadness, anger, confusion, fear. Multiple areas and in different degrees

Sometimes there are downsides to social networking. From the looks of what covers my Facebook news feed, everyone has really enjoyed a fun-filled, refreshing, wonderful summer. We aren’t in that category this time. But I’m genuinely happy for those that are.


It’s not been all bad. Sprinkled throughout the darkness I find glimpses of grace and hope. So thank you to so many who have prayed us through some rough times. Please keep those prayers coming.

I’ve been thinking about how pain and grief shape our souls and how we view and live life. Few are exempt from experiencing disappointment, loss and throw-your-hands-in the-air-bewilderment. I find myself drawn to people who aren’t afraid to move into grief. People who understand and have experienced pain. Jesus was described as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). There is a knowing through experience that produces safety.

Losing our dog, Max, so tragically opened my heart to grieve.  I’m just not good at sitting in grief. My go-to involves a fat heaping of denial and move-through-as-fast-as-possible and replace or numb out the uncomfortable and unfamiliar feelings that get stirred up when faced with loss. But this has been a summer of grief. So I grieved losing Max and all that he meant to our family. It also gave space for me to grieve other things that I keep pushing down.

  • Remnants of post cancer emotions.
  • Lingering challenges of health related stuff like having lymphadema.
  • The bittersweet “last time” of everything my oldest will walk through as he heads into his senior year of high school.
  • The now and the not yet of working in ethnic ministry.
  • A lot of other things that are not blog appropriate

Grief is a gift from God. A way to work through the emotions and come to a place to make space and take in the new without losing the good in what was lost. I learned from Debbie (of the Awesome Threesome), that grief doesn’t happen linearly. The stages of grief don’t happen exactly in order. Sometimes new losses open up unfinished grief in unrelated areas. There isn’t a “right way” to move through grief. Along the way things can trigger emotions that sometimes feel as strong as the initial devastation.

My dear friend from church, Lisa, asked me the first week of August if we were in a place to think about getting a new dog. Her husband, Allen, had a friend from work who knew someone with purebred German Shepard puppies almost weaned and ready for a new home. Truth is, I had been on the internet looking at shelters and rescue dogs. I just wanted to numb out, replace, or stop the awful emotions of loss and grief. Bottom line–I wasn’t ready.

Darrin and I checked in with the kids the third week after losing Max. As we talked as a family it soon became apparent that we were ready but the boys weren’t ready yet. Darrin could see that the boys needed more time since they were the ones who saw Max injured, bleeding and had to take him to the vet and then to animal urgent care. They displayed impressive maturity, but the event was traumatic.

As we moved into the fourth week, Lisa checked in again and I told the family about the puppies. The interest was growing. So we asked for more information and pictures. We opened the door to the possibility. But then a text came back with news that all the puppies were already adopted out. I was only mildly disappointed but Julia cried. I had looked at a dog rescue site and contacted some of the volunteers about their dogs. We talked again as a family about taking advantage of the time before school starting to get a new dog and having more time to help transition and get to know a dog while the schedule was relatively free.

Then a few days ago Lisa texted me. When their friend went to go pick up his puppy, there was ONE LEFT! Were we interested? More conversations and talking. Yes. We were ready. And interested.

God has been kind to us.

Allen, along with his three daughters picked the puppy up from Monrovia since they were in the area on Saturday. Their daughter texted us a picture of our puppy. I. Fell. In. Love. Tears of love and gratitude in my eyes. He was above and beyond what I expected.

Three nights ago Allen, Lisa (now god-dog parents) and their daughters carried our puppy into his new home in a cardboard box. We named him Koa. It’s a Hawaiian name for fearless, brave and strong. He’s ten weeks old.

Koa is an absolute delight.

I remember hearing Carolyn Custis James teach for the first time about the book of Ruth. Her book, “The Gospel of Ruth” is a must read. She spoke of how Naomi was like a female Job in the Bible. Both Naomi and Job lost everything and in the end God restored their families and children. But what she said struck me in an entirely new way.

“It’s obvious to anyone who has experienced a significant loss that the sorrows of this world and the wounds they inflict in our souls cannot be compensated no matter how much good fortune and prosperity come our way…To suggest that everything balanced out in the end for Naomi is to trivialize both her sufferings and also what God is trying to teach us through her story.” (Gospel of Ruth, page 198)

Carolyn put it together for me in a way I hadn’t understood before. Job and Naomi never stopped missing the children they lost. Ever. And even though the outcome of their lives may look like everything turned out “happily ever after” their pain and loss was never removed.

And so in my own little life I am learning about grief, loss and pain. We welcome Koa with open arms and hearts ready to love him deeply, but this side of heaven the pain and loss of losing Max will never be removed. And as with all things grief related, there are often more questions than answers. Life doesn’t tie up nicely. Grief can bring us to deeper places of intimacy, but if left unprocessed can lead to resentment and other emotional cancers.

And so we hold two things simultaneously from opposite ends of the spectrum.

Grief and puppies.


Ashes and Memories August 7, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — vivmabuni @ 5:40 am

It was a week ago yesterday. Three sticky notes left on our front door from the UPS man. Three attempts to deliver Max’s ashes to us while we were gone. Julia and I drove to the UPS delivery center and the nice gentleman took our post its and returned with a box. Julia asked if she could carry it to the car. “Mom, I can finally pick Max up.” Max and Julia weighed the same just two weeks before.

We returned home and Darrin led our family in a little memorial service for Max in the backyard. Max loved our big backyard. He knew every inch of it. But his favorite place was anywhere we were.

The box included a paw print of Max and a bag of flower seeds. We haven’t decided where we will plant the flowers, but we will use that compost we’ve cultivated when it comes time.

We brought out Max’s black collar and passed it around. I remember the day we had his tag made. It was the day we decided to keep Max after our trial week.  That day he became Max Mabuni. We bought him a new collar and a matching leash. Julia and I spent a long time at the pet store trying to figure out which tag we wanted and which collar looked most Max-like. Clipping it around his neck marked the moment he belonged to us. Two weeks later we signed the official papers from the rescue center, but in our heart he was already ours.

Darrin opened up his black Bible and read from a Psalm and read from Ecclesiastes. We took turns sharing memories of Max. The funny ones, the meaningful ones. Then we opened the bag of Max’s ashes and took turns scattering them in places where we remember Max especially liking. We ended the time enjoying some ham–Max’s favorite treat. Darrin prayed and thanked God for the gift Max was to our family. He thanked God for all of our memories with Max.

And that night heaven joined us in our tears again and it rained. It rained hard. The rain came from no where and it hasn’t rained since.

Over and over I play in my head what happened. The  wonderful family that watched him had given him multiple walks, lots of love and attention. He was alone in the house for only 50 minutes. When the garage door opened, he bolted out of the door that led into the garage and ran as fast as his legs could take him. Somehow he figured out how to get home almost two miles away. He was smart. He was loyal. He wanted home. He wanted us. It was rush hour. Eight lanes of fast cars. We are not sure where he was hit. The vet told us that none of his bones broke. How does an impact that caused such severe bruising in his lungs and heart not also crush bones? When the boys saw him, aside from his bloody lip, he looked fine. So many “what if’s”, so many “if only’s.” We are left with our questions and no answers. We are left with an ache so deep. Jonathan told me that night, “I have never walked through the emotions like these that have come up from losing Max.”

I spent the next four days sick in bed with massive head cold/sinus infection. Being back in that bed staring at the ceiling still takes me back to the long days of cancer treatment. The kids were at church participating in our weeklong Kids Fun Club. Darrin was away debriefing the international summer missions teams. I slept for hours on end, but when I was awake I had plenty of time and space to miss Max and grieve.

All of this reminds me again of how God created us to live in community. Thank you for crying with us, for praying for us, for emails, texts, Facebook and Twitter messages, cards and gifts and hugs. Our loss has become your loss, too. My heart is grateful that we don’t bear our grief alone. So many of you walked with us through battling cancer and understand the significance Max was to our family in light of our journey.

Julia and I prayed today. We realize that we probably would not have picked Max if we saw him in a shelter because he was initially so jumpy, timid and frightened. We know that his previous owner had prayed for Max to find a home. We weren’t even looking and our paths crossed. Max was clearly an out-of-the-blue gift to our family from God. Perfect for our family. We asked God today that when it’s time, He would bring us another dog that needs a home like ours. Someone in a situation where they are praying for a family to adopt their dog. We asked God to bring another dog as a double answer to prayer. We want to open our hearts again to love a pet deeply. Would you join us in praying the same?


The Long Road Home July 30, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — vivmabuni @ 9:44 am

The grief comes in waves. Reminders of Max come from unexpected places:

  • dog hair in the dryer lint
  • what seems like every other commercial on tv
  •  I was looking up the address to a place we were going to stay–“walk Max” popped up in my calendar. I pressed “delete” and then “delete all future events” as tears formed behind my sunglasses.

Our beloved Max didn’t make it.

Last Saturday Darrin and I drove the back roads into Boulder to pick up Julia from my sister’s house. We wanted her to hear about the accident Max was in from us in person. We told her in the airport while waiting for the boys to arrive. She cried. I cried as I held her. The boys walked toward us towering in the terminal. Only apart from them four days, but they looked older. What they walked through matured them somehow. More hugs and misty eyes. In the car we swapped stories. They shared what happened and what they knew and I filled them in on the most recent updates from the vet. Hope filled out hearts as I shared the latest updates about Max. He was still on oxygen but he was stabilizing. He made it through the night. Everyone we knew was praying for Max and for our family.

We drove into Fort Collins and went to grab a bite to eat. The phone rang so I took the call outside. It was another update from the animal urgent care office about needing to extract more air out of the chest cavity again. The hole in his lung had caused air to form outside in his chest which made it difficult to breathe. The hope was that by relieving the pressure it could help him stabilize again.

Then as the conversation was nearing the end, the vet tending Max came on the phone. While attempting to extract the air, they found a huge pool of blood. Max had bled internally. The bruises on his heart were much worse than previously thought. His heart gave out.

And just like that, he was gone.

Time stood still as I hung up the phone. I was in the parking lot and inside sitting around the booth was the family finally together– sober but still hope-filled. At that moment, I alone knew the truth. Death feels so final. I wanted to keep them from knowing. My legs operated separate from my heart as I walked back into the restaurant. The words came  out. Shocked and stunned we just sat around the booth and wept.

When we left the restaurant, a light rain began to fall. It was as if heaven joined us in our grief.

We spent the rest of the night getting the boys settled into the hotel room. We had cried until our tears emptied out and the kids played games and there was even some laughter here and there. But when the lights finally turned off for the night, I heard crying come from every corner of the room.

Max came to us at a very tender time in our healing journey. We had come out of the battle with cancer so emotionally weary. Darrin noticed that we were all drifting off doing our own thing, trying to cope. God brought Max into our family and he was an agent of healing. A reason for us to reconnect and bond. He was a gift from the Lord and not a day didn’t go by where I didn’t tell him, “Max, I am so thankful for you everyday.” We lavished love and attention on him and in return he brought healing and reminders of God’s perfect provision just by his presence.

When news got out about Max via twitter and Facebook, hundreds of others joined us with tears and different prayers.

My birthday, our 20th wedding anniversary came and went. Life felt grey and less colorful without Max. We drove the long road home with a stop in Grand Junction and a stop at my parents house. We dreaded going home.

As I reflect back, there are signs of God’s grace:

  • Simone gave me the book, “Heaven is For Real” as an early birthday gift and both Michael and I read it. The book helped to prepare my heart for thinking about life after death. Hope that we may see Max one day in heaven
  • The boys had just returned from their friend’s house and returned home right when the neighbor rang the doorbell. Max would’ve died on our front porch waiting if they missed him. They were able to help Max and get him care.
  • we were able to give him every chance possible to live. No regrets with the medical care.
  • our friend and supporter texted me in a meeting wanting to help with the vet bills. We are tapping into our retirement funds to cover the costs. This gesture of  love brought about tears of gratitude, violent shaking shoulders with silent tears streaming down my face during the meeting
  • our family was together in the same place when we got the news.
  • Brent and Leila were in town. Leila’s back had caused a lot of pain earlier in the year and started acting up again right before staff training. They came home from project and missed staff training. They were available to be with the boys, check on Max, pick up his collar after he died, help with decisions on this end. I asked Leila over the phone how her back was doing, she said it was fine now and that she realized that God knew we would need them here at home
  • we heard from so many of you, near and far, and know that you love us and loved Max

So we returned home yesterday. Mostly unpacked now. Darrin washed the blood stains away off the fence where Max tried to get in the backyard. Today will be filled with phone calls, trying to settle accounts, thanking the vets, picking up his stuff from our friends, and coming and going with a house muted by the absence of Max.


Urgent Request::Prayer for Max July 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — vivmabuni @ 8:19 am

I used to roll my eyes on the inside. “C’mon, seriously, it’s just a dog. Why would anyone spend that much on a dog?”

That is, until last night.

Darrin had been sick all day and I came back to the hotel to check on him, pick up some dinner and keep him company as we watched on my iPad the live stream our staff conference with Cru.

Jonathan called on the phone (rare occurrence), “Mom, Max has been hit by a car. I’m here with some neighbors that saw him bleeding on the street. They want to know if we have a vet.”

And so the rest of the night we pieced together from three states away what happened.

Most of you know how we unexpectedly became dog owners right before this past Thanksgiving. Since he was a rescue of a rescue we were careful to not leave him during these months as he settled into being a member of our family. The change has been a joy to witness. Max came to us fearful, jumpy, resistant. No longer. We thought we were being a blessing by saving his life. But the truth is, he was the one being the blessing. Max had a distinct and marvelous way of connecting unique to each of us.

We have a biannual staff conference of 5000 staff out in Fort Collins, Colorado. Up until last week I wasn’t sure if I would attend because of Michael’s broken wrist. After receiving clearance from the doctor, I flew in last Tuesday night to meet up with Darrin and Julia. Michael was finishing up football camp, Jonathan was tying up loose ends after summer school and they were taking care of details before they left on Saturday to join us.

Weeks before I had asked our dear friends if Max could stay with them while we attended our staff training. Hand selected because they didn’t have a dog but were dog lovers, and there were six in the family so Max would have lots of human contact. I couldn’t picture leaving Max alone in our house and just having someone come to check on him. Julia and I took Max over for a visit before we left. Max loved being there, felt right at ease and left his mark on the palm tree outside their house on our way home.

When the boys dropped Max off at their home Michael said he went inside without hesitation and recognized the home. The boys stayed a long while to help him settle in. I received a text from my friend reporting that Max was doing great. Then the family had to leave for their church Vacation Bible School and when the husband came home from work and opened the front door, Max darted out the door and started running. He ran after him and couldn’t keep up and lost sight of him.

We realize now that Max was trying to come home. And on his way he got hit by a car. He was bleeding heavily and at least four different people tried to help him. One of those helpers was a neighbor we haven’t met yet. She shared with me over the phone that Max was lying in the grass near the bus stop and a man approached him to try to help. Max, frightened and in shock, got up and ran all the way up the steep hill on the way to our house. She followed him and found him bleeding and lying on our front porch. She started ringing our doorbell and thankfully the boys were home at that time packing their stuff before leaving for youth group. This wonderful neighbor stayed with the boys and took them to her vet.

They got Max in right before the office closed. Through blurry tear vision I grabbed whatever paper I could find to take notes. The x-rays showed severe bruising in the lungs and a partial lung collapse from a tear. Major laceration on his mouth, paws were bleeding, he was in shock, heart rate too high. The office was closing and he needed oxygen so the vet went with the boys to take Max to Animal Urgent care. More tears, more decisions.

The intensive unit vet called and gave us updates. I felt so helpless being so far away. My sons handled the crisis with maturity and strength, but the mom in me just wanted to hug them and comfort them in their grief.

The call came for what the bill would be. The range they quoted might as well have been a million dollars. Darrin held me as I cried. “It’s going to be all right. We will pray and trust the Lord for Max and for providing.”

I woke up after four hours of sleep with puffy swollen eyes. Max made it through the night. These next 24-36 hours are critical. We haven’t told our daughter, Julia, yet. She thankfully was with her aunt last night.

No more, “it’s just a dog.”

So I am asking you to join us in praying for Max, for his complete healing. Please pray for the boys as they fly out to us today. Please pray for God’s provision. We will keep you posted.

Thankfully our dear friends, Brent and Leila, are in town. They rushed over to animal urgent care and comforted the boys, brought them home to finish packing and will be ready to help in any and every way. Thank you for those of you who have called, texted, Facebook messaged, twittered. Your love and support of us and of Max means the world to us. Grateful tears now for each of you.


From Where I Sat July 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — vivmabuni @ 12:32 am

We are usually bustling, running ten minutes late. And even though we live walking distance to our church, we manage to enter the doors after the music begins. Hugs. Programs. And then around to the right a table stands with a rack of plastic covered nametags. And that’s where I most remember being greeted by her smile. Consistent, steadfast, kind. Martha first welcomed us when our littlest one had a mouth full of baby teeth and didn’t know her left shoe from her right. She watched and marvelled with me as the boys’ voices grew deep, as their stature grew high.

I loved to see her eyes, especially when she laughed. They had fire and they were bright. Her daughter, Jami, has her same eyes. Those she loved most surrounded her in her Christmas card photo–husband, children, their spouses, grandchildren. And in her eyes is a look of satisfaction.

And today we said good-bye to Martha.

From where I sat, I watched row after row of men, women and children walk by her casket. No dry eyes. An entire sanctuary full of people who came out today to honor Martha, to cry with her  family. An entire sanctuary full of people whose lives she touched. People like me who will miss her deeply. People like me who will miss her hugs by the name tag table.

A rare and aggressive leukemia came out of nowhere and took over her petite body. We heard news of her diagnosis in May. She was given only a handful of months to live; weeks really. Hospice care. Shock and disbelief. I felt deeply humbled and honored that she was willing to see me briefly for a visit. Her nails painted a pale pink. Her body frail but her eyes were warm, kind. Her Bible was close by. Her room filled with beautiful flowers. But she was most beautiful in the room. I told her that day that she is one of my heroes because:

It’s not often we are able to see marriages that have stood the test of time. Art and Martha celebrated 50 years together.

It’s not often we are able to see someone walk closely with God throughout their lifetime. Martha trusted Christ at 13 and remained true to her King.

It’s not often we are able to see someone model faithfulness to making huge contributions in the quiet. Martha served selflessly and blessed our entire church and everyone who entered the doors.

But today I could see through the tears from where I sat.


The Story of Max November 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — vivmabuni @ 6:06 pm

Thursday, November 18th.


 I receive a text from Darrin as he is waiting at the airport in Boston to return home. One of the men in his Tuesday night Bible study has a girlfriend who needs to find a home for her dog. The texts fly back and forth between us.  He calls Claudia, the owner, and she tells him about her dog. Darrin texts back. “His name is Max.”


Darrin is in the air. I decide to call Claudia myself to get more of the background about the dog. She sends us this head shot of Max and a You Tube clip. I learn that he came from a rescue shelter in L.A. He was six months old when he was rescued.  He’s housebroken, turns three December 18th, has never bitten anyone, needs a big yard. Somewhere along the line the family went through a long, drawn out divorce, foreclosure, then Max ended up living in an apartment with Claudia, her teenage daughter and their golden retriever, Sunshine. Apparently the apartment complex is brimming over with small dogs who like to go after Max. A year ago Max barked at one of those little dogs and got written up with a warning. The apartment association has a policy about barking. Last week, the same thing happened and Claudia received a notice that if she didn’t get rid of the dog, they would be evicted from their apartment. They had until Friday the 19th.


I tell the kids that I have something important we need to discuss. I show the You Tube clip that Claudia’s teenage daughter made of Max and explain his situation. Julia cannot contain her excitement. She looks like she’s about to float off her chair at the possibility of having a dog. Jonathan has his head down on the table in his arms, “I don’t want anymore responsibility.” He is in the throes of the crazy, insane junior year of high school. Michael is beaming from ear to ear.

Backdrop to the story:

Three weeks ago Darrin and I were out-of-town for a wedding. As we were driving around and talking, out of  the blue he asks me, “You ever think about us getting a dog?”

 “Oh, I’d love to get a dog. What kind of dog would you want if we could have one?”

“I like German shepherds. What about you?”

“I’d want a lab.”

We talked about how we’d probably want to get a dog from a shelter and not a pet store. And then our conversation turned to other things.

From what we can tell, Max is a mix of shepherd and lab. And the name, Max. Well, it just so happens that it was Michael’s favorite name growing up. He named everything Max. His screen name on all his computer games was Max. He even asked me when he was about five, “Why didn’t you name me Max?” So when all these things started coming together, we wondered, “Hmmmm, Lord, this is all falling into place and falling into our lap. Should we go for it?”


Darrin is driving home from LAX and we talk about Max. I call Claudia at 10:30pm. We decide to take him for a trial week to see how he takes to our family.

 Friday, November 19th.


Max arrives with Sunshine, Claudia, her daughter and all his stuff. We decide to have Sunshine stay with Max overnight to help ease the transition. Max and Sunshine go crazy running around in the backyard. He instantly takes to Julia. Darrin arrives home and Max plays with him in the yard. I look at Claudia’s daughter and ask her how she’s doing with having to give Max away. She says she’s okay. I know she’s not. I ask her, “Do you believe in God?” She nods and I explain the backdrop of the story.

Max is cautious around me. He slowly moves from the yard to the patio. We decided to let Max be an inside/outside dog. Darrin grew up with dogs who were only allowed outside. Julia has been a dog lover since birth. She had a pink stuffed poodle beanie baby toy that she named, “Stay Outside.” 🙂 So we have decided to let Max be a downstairs dog. Not allowed upstairs or in the master bedroom on the first floor.

Claudia and her daughter cried driving home. They love Max, but they find comfort in knowing that Max has a big back yard now and a family that will love him. I invited Claudia’s daughter to come over and study here when she misses Max. Claudia has offered to come over and watch Max when we need to go out-of-town for conferences. This is a huge answer to one of our biggest concerns.

The house is quiet now. Max is lying at my feet as I type. Tomorrow we are hosting Thanksgiving dinner here. Twenty-six guests this year. We’ll see how Max does. He is nervous around new people, but readily plays with kids. I love how all of this has transpired. We weren’t looking and the dog came to us. Left to ourselves we wouldn’t go out and research and figure out everything. But this is so like our family. We are kind of unpredictable and comfortable with the unexpected.

Claudia shared with me that when she called the shelters they were all full. She was so thankful that she didn’t have to put Max down right before Thanksgiving. She’s thankful, we are thankful, and I think Max is pretty pleased with his last few days with us.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Unless something major happens between now and Friday, it looks like we will be dog owners. We look forward to having you meet Max.



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