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In the Valley of the Shadow

Mood: Pensive
Drinking: Diet Coke

The people in this picture have been very close to my heart and mind lately.

Many of you who read this blog know the Zander family. For those of you who do not, a short backstory…

I met Dieter and Val in Chicago nearly 12 years ago. They swiftly became people I looked up to, not only as mentors, but as friends. Over the years we’ve shared many meals, memories, milestones, and even a marriage… Dieter performed the wedding ceremony for Boy and I.

We all ended up in California and have maintained a steady friendship even as our lives diverged down different paths.

Dieter, who is a minister and musician, has chosen to live his life within the church, as has Val, while Boy and I have moved further and further away from the church.

But never have I felt any sense of judgment or pressure from Dieter and Val. Nothing but the utmost love. We’ve shared many long and intense conversations over cups of tea about God, about spirituality, about the pros and cons of the American church, about the hopes and dreams that Boy and I have for ourselves, for our future.

We’ve watched the Zander’s three sons grow from tousled children to tall young men, and we’ve been so proud, as if we had something to do with the miracle of maturity.

So it’s no small thing to say that the Zanders, all five of them, mean a great deal to us.

When we heard the news that Dieter had suffered a catastrophic stroke on February 4th of this year, we felt as if some bedrock in our lives had suddenly shifted violently out of place.

After weeks in a medically-induced coma, Dieter woke up to a new kind of life, one in which his speech has been radically altered, in that he cannot find the right words to communicate, so his thoughts are virtually locked inside his brain, and his right arm is partially paralyzed, as well.

Boy and I have been lucky enough to get to spend time with the Zanders since Dieter’s stroke, a privilege that many of our friends back in Illinois who also love the Zanders would love to have.

We’ve seen Dieter take on this new challenge with amazing courage and faith. We’ve watched the Zander boys step up into manhood and take on heavy new responsibilities. And we’ve seen Val bear her unexpected new burden with such astonishing grace.

I visited the Zander’s church this past Sunday to hear Val speak to the congregation about what her family has been dealing with these past few months.

I had to mangle quite a few kleenexes just to get through her story, and I felt such deep respect and awe at her honesty in the face of great pain, and her unwavering commitment to her family. I am so grateful to have this woman in my life, and I continue to learn so much from her example.

All of that to say this… the Zanders are the kind of people who make this damaged world a better place, just by living in it. They are now enduring the greatest trial of their lives. And I want to help.

Their church has recently started “The Zander Initiative”, a fundraising campaign that will run through the month of May to help support the family as Dieter works so hard to regain the abilities his stroke has taken from him.

Whether you know the Zanders or not, you can help to, if you feel so moved. Please visit this website for more information about what you can do.

And even if you don’t give, please hold these dear ones in your prayers. And if you don’t pray, hold them in your hearts.

-Lo, with all the love in the world.

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