A Gift

I have to apologize for not writing in a while. My life recently has been a whirlwind of emotions, mostly really good. I could easily compare it to a roller coaster. The last couple months have been extremely fun and exhilarating, but I feel like I am also trying to cling to God’s hand with anxiousness and fear and hope all at the same time.  My life is not incredibly busy, although running after my daughter has become a full time job, but my emotions and thoughts run me exhausted most days.

I will try and explain as best as I can 🙂

Meeting Tyler and getting to know him and falling in love with him has been a joyous and unexpected surprise. And I know not everything in my life is orchestrated by God, but I am completely convinced that God had this one planned out. I completely give God all the credit. Honestly, there were too many answered prayers to make me believe otherwise. Lets just say that Tyler brings me an incredible amount of joy, and every time he shows me love I am reminded of the love that God also has for me.

With all this new joy and love in my life also comes unexpected pain and sadness. Its like I have opened myself up to feel all the good, but I also feel everything else as well. Less then a year ago, Chris was my first and really my only. I married my high school sweetheart. And our relationship grew to be more mature based on the love and respect God intended for a husband and wife.  Now, in my new relationship, I know and feel love for another and it’s good and wonderful, but it also reminds me of the love I had for Chris and his love for me as well. This is a very good thing. Chris and Tyler share several similar qualities, and Tyler’s character often reminds me of Chris’s. I of course wouldn’t want it any other way, its why I haven’t looked back; but sometimes those qualities remind me of Chris, and I can’t help but miss him.

The only thing that is getting me through is sharing my thoughts and feelings to those who I trust, telling my story to friends or sometimes people who I just met for the first time, and realizing my struggle to a God who understands. About a week ago my good friend Bethany and I hosted a Christmas party at Dégagé Ministries in downtown Grand Rapids. Close to 200 men and women who, for whatever reason, have found themselves without a home, came to our Christmas party. I was able to catch up with some old friends who we knew from a couple years ago when we served at Heartside Park. I was also able to talk to several people I had never met before. One gentleman called me over to talk as I was passing by. He was an older African American who was missing most of his teeth but still had quite a smile. He started asking me several questions wanting to get to know me, and at this point I am very comfortable answering “I am widowed” when the “Are you married?” question comes.

I love this question actually because it makes the conversation go from surface to deep and intentional and real. I believe it’s the only kind of conversations we should really have as followers of Christ. I can immediately be open and real with a stranger, and when these conversations happen a stranger can become a friend in very short time. We talked for several minutes but the words that I remember the most from him is when he said, “Now listen, I can see that you have a lot of joy in your life, and I feel sorry for your husband who passed away because he doesn’t get to have that joy any more. But you find someone else that you can share your joy with, thats what your husband would have wanted.”

Its incredible what you can learn from those who you least expect.

I know that Chris misses me and all of us who he left, but I know that the joy he is experiencing is far greater then I can ever imagine. However, I never considered before that my life and the joy and love I have in life but also the pain, would be a gift to someone else. I never considered that I am a gift to Tyler. I realize how much he is a gift to me. He is the first person and sometimes the only who I share my deepest and darkest emotions too. He knows that I still miss Chris because he is there when I am sad, and he understands. I know my gift.

But I realized that day, from a man who did not have much to give, gave me a tremendous gift of realization that I am a gift to someone else.

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Like the fall leaves, brilliant and changing

Right now I smell crisp air and burnt autumn leaves. I see the bright orange branches dancing against a brilliant blue sky. I hear the crunching of a thousand maple leaves as I speed past on my bike. I feel the wind rushing through my hair and I feel alive in a season that is revealing its beauty through change and loss.

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I wonder if a tree looks forward to its time where its color and brilliance leave us staring up in awe at the wonder of God. Or is it saddened knowing that all its leaves will soon be dead and gone? In a Bible study (Bible Study Fellowship) I attended this morning, I am reminded as God’s beloved daughter, my suffering and loss is for a purpose and it only lasts for as long as it’s necessary to bring glory to Him. I also realized that God is completely faithful. Of course He cannot prove his faithfulness to me if I am afraid to risk and step out in faith. And His light and brilliance will not shine inside of me if I am not willing to let go, to let go of my leaves and be naked and bare before Him.

I am studying Exodus right now. Its unbelievable the faithfulness of God. In Genesis 15:13, God tells Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.” God knew the hard future that lay ahead for His people. He also had a plan to deliver them and carried it out on the exact day that He had promised. Exodus 12:40-41 says, “The people of Israel had lived in Egypt for 430 years. In fact, it was on the exact day of the 430th year that all the Lord’s forces left the land.” The 30 years when the Israelites lived in the land of Egypt but were not slaves was the generation of Joseph and his brothers. (Genesis 1:6-8) God fulfilled His promise to His people on the exact day He declared. His timing is perfect and reveals to me that He is in complete control of those who love and put their trust in Him. 

I have experienced suffering and I have experienced loss. All of us have experienced suffering and loss and hardship. And I have realized that it can shine God’s brilliant glory and faithfulness if I am willing. I am continually changing and being refined by a designer, a healer, a teacher, a Father. He is creating within me a heart that is drawn to others who are experiencing suffering and pain, a heart that is willing to risk and love unconditionally and a heart that says yes to Him no matter the cost.

There was one more thing this morning that hit me and I want to share it with all of you just like if I was sitting down with you at Starbucks sipping on a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I would look at you with sincerity and share how I have realized that I am apart of God’s family and I will choose to always be apart of God’s family but the relationship that I have with the Lord Almighty can change. I can choose to become more intimate and more dependent despite my circumstances or I can choose to slowly drift away from His heart. After a pause of processing these words I would then tell you that I am going to choose to fight for that closeness, that complete dependence and that vulnerable and intimate love with God, my Savior, and I need you to help me and pray for me in doing this.

Pray for me friends that my life will be like fall leaves, brilliant and changing, that I reflect Him in all His wonder and beauty.

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Alive in the rain


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The warm sun does wonders for your soul. My vacation to stay with my Uncle and Aunt in Maitland, Florida has been a beautiful change of scenery. The time has been slow, lazy, uneventful and nice. Gabby will usually wake up between 8 and 8:30, today it was a jaw dropping 10:30 when I looked at my phone. We had a quick breakfast of Dunkin Donut holes and frozen grapes, plus Mommy’s cup of dark coffee, always. It was off to the Maitland Park, a new world of God’s breathtaking creation. We ride a bike, together.  Gabby in a front toddler seat, her helmet leans against my chest. The morning bike ride has become routine on our vacation. I love how close we are when we are riding down the sidewalk, admiring the well manicured lawns and friendly neighbors waving as we ride by. The hot air clouds around us as we brake at the stop sign and then lifts with a breeze, tires spinning. I can’t help but smile and feel a little more alive.

When I took care of four kids I had two hours for myself as they visited with their mom. Then, bike rides were to “get away” and relax. Now, it feels like the most eventful thing in my life right now. Its when I feel most alive and free. Gabby feels it to. Picking up speed as we fly down the short hill to the park I hear, “Yee ay – ay!” She loves it and that ride has started to become such a routine in our morning that I am sure she will notice if it’s missed.

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A rusted red boardwalk comes into view winding through the wildness of Florida’s swampy forests. The sounds of the untamed wild carry on their daily chatter all around us. No longer am I a broken person, but a creature created by almighty God. I am in the midst of His wildness and it’s wonderful. The path into the park is from the crushed shells of the ocean. The sun illuminates the road traveled through palm trees and exotic shrubs. Shadows and light dance on our skin. I breathe deep, “Ahhh . . . This is good.” and I lift up a prayer of thanks, “Thank you Father, this is very good.”

I hear a distant groan of thunder and we start heading toward the exit. Two minutes later it begins to rain, the tennis players are gathering up their balls and water bottles, the mom’s call their kids from the playground and runners start picking up their pace. The wet drops begin to hit our skin, and my senses awaken. IMG_2284[1]The rain picks up and we are gliding down the boardwalk as we leave the park and enter a neighborhood leading us home. I forgot how much I love the rain, how much I love the feel of water splashing against my bare legs peddling us up the hill. The dark clouds split apart above and the rain came in heaping bucketfuls down on our faces. Gabby and I were soaked with the smell of fresh rain as we pulled the bike into the garage. She didn’t make a sound the whole way home. I unstrap her from her wet cushion seat and a smile beams across her face. She wraps her arms around me, not noticing how wet we both are. I knew she was brave, like all 14 month old babies, but resilient? I was beyond happy she enjoyed this as much as I did.  IMG_2287[1]

Speaking now to you friends who have been walking with me, I ask that you share in this even more. Pray for me as I adventure with Christ in murky waters. Pray that I will have a teachable and patient heart as I wade in the shallow dark sea longing for the sun and the waves to crash over me. Pray that I will not be stagnant and become overwhelmed by my circumstances. Pray I will not succumb to distractions and numbing pleasures in a world I am surrounded in but continue to wait in the silence. Continue to wait in the silence if that is what is required to be close to a God I cannot ignore. Pray that I will drink in the words of Christ in Matthew 11:28-30 so that I will not become dehydrated.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Daddy’s Eyes

Dear Gabby,

Do you remember your Daddy’s eyes?  His eyes showed you who he was, and who you were to him. If you can’t remember I will tell you about them as best I can. When your Daddy looked at you, love and adoration was spoken into your heart. When you first started to smile it was because of an uninhibited reaction by your Daddy’s look of unrelenting love that radiated from his eyes. Image

When his eyes looked at you it was his very spirit gleaming out from underneath his eyelids. To a stranger, they might have seemed ordinary and of no significance, but your Daddy’s eyes were powerful. His eyes had the power to comfort and to heal. His eyes inspired perseverance and they demanded respect. No one knew that better then me, and probably most of his students.   IMG_1517

His eyes burned his competitive spirit when he raced around your Uncle Matt to throw ball for a lay up in the hoop above. They revealed his vast knowledge and understanding in our conversations at night, time alone with a book or his classroom, in front of 30 pliable minds. And they shown forth great integrity and truth throughout his entire life road. Never once can I recall I time when a lie protruded from his lips or deceit hid behind his eyes.275-IMG_2214

Your Daddy had eyes that a person can not forget. They had a way of looking into who you really are, it was impossible to not be affected. Those eyes are what I miss most. In the end moments when your Daddy would soon be with Jesus, his eyes radiated acceptance, peace and joy. While his body was weak, his eyes were alive and strong and focused.

I still see those eyes in my dreams, they exhibited his spirit which can never be tamed or forgotten. Like a brightly burning flame, his eyes showed forth the true light, the very light of God. And that cannot be snuffed out.

Love,

Mommy

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A boy loved

Dear Gabby,

Your Mommy likes to read.

I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I do one day.

Right now I am reading a book about a boy who lived his whole life in a prison camp until he was an adult and then escaped. I can’t even imagine this happening to children now that I have you as my daughter. This little boy’s first memory was when he was four and saw someone killed, executed. He did not grow up with love, he grew up fighting his mother for food. He had to in order to live.

Right now, you have 4 teeth and enjoy crunchy crackers, discovering the juicyness of blueberries, and smacking your lips to Mommy’s favorite, Peanut Butter.

This little boy ate the same two things every day, corn and cabbage. He survived by eating his mommy’s food, the food he was given was not enough to live. When he grew up he scavenged for food, including corn kernels in cow poop. This boy is older now, but there are still precious little babies who live like this today, or who don’t live at all.

These little ones plague your Mommy’s mind and heart constantly because this little boy could have been you.

It is quiet, and you sleep peacefully in the bedroom next door.

No worry. No Danger.

When you cry, I come and pick you up. We snuggle together in your dancing monkey pajama’s. After a couple minutes you put your hand to your mouth and look up at me. Its your sign for “food please”.

Immediate satisfaction. Full belly. Needs are cared for.

After lunch we play with your Playskool Poppin’ Pals or your Fisher-Price Rockin’ Tunes Giraffe or your V-Tech Sit to Stand Alphabet Train. These toys are just at Grandma’s house, we have a ton more at home.

Active imagination. Carefree Childhood. Smiles. Laughter.

I can only imagine how much this little boy is loved by God and thousands of others who live like he did. I can only imagine how much it breaks God’s heart to see them suffer. The pain He feels for His beloved children has been felt by me. Your Mommy doesn’t know what to do but pray and give to people that can help in some small way.

As your mother I am beyond blessed to be able to care for you, provide for you, create a nurturing environment for you fully of learning and possibilities, and love you as a mother should be able to love her daughter.

I hope that when you are old enough to read all of my letters to you that my prayers and desperate heart for “the least of these” children has not diminished but has grown from what it is now. I hope that these children will feel like brothers and sisters to you for how much they are talked about in our home. I hope that one day I will be able to tell them myself that they are not forgotten; that they are loved.

Love,

Mommy

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The boy is Chin Sung Hyuk and his book is “Escape from Camp 14” An article and a link to his book are below.

Article about the book “Escape from Camp 14”

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“Escape from Camp 14” from Amazon

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Envy in a Broken world

 

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This will probably be my most vulnerable post yet. My hope is that those of you who can relate to my story will not feel that you are alone, because I sure hope I am not the only one.  Along with the loneliness and sadness, I have felt recently some unexpected feelings of envy. It doesn’t stay because I talk about it with God, laying it bare before Him. Looking back I can picture my confusion as a child confessing that he has no idea how to get all the vasoline off his hands. I am assuming that this is normal, but its weird to me and I didn’t like it, so I asked God to get rid of it. In my weakness I have learned that its important to bring everything before God who already knows, but also trusted friends or family who don’t already know. I cannot be open and honest with God if I am not willing to be open and honest with others. So, I have already shared with a close friend my struggle and now I am sharing it with you.

A few days ago I listened and laughed and cried (later that night) to a life story from a couple of friends of mine. Married now with 4 beautiful kids, a heart to serve others and a deep love for each other, I allowed the thoughts of, “thats not me any more” to settle in deep. So many stories they shared I could relate to the same feelings, the same struggles, the same joys Chris and I had together. The same hardships in their marriage were very similar to ours, and we also experienced a deeper love and understanding of each other as we came out of those hardships. Their heart for God and desire to serve was one both Chris and I possessed as well. Hearing their adventures of faith, laughing together and choosing joy rather then focusing on the struggles took me right back to my life as a wife and even back to my life as a mother of 5.

On my drive home I battled with envious thoughts. “More than anything, I wish I could have that life back.” “I wish I had my husband back.” “I wish I had a house full of five kids running all around, laughing.” “I wish I had a life that was chaotic, full of life but dependent on God for what we need.” I knew I was wanting something else that wasn’t mine, I knew I was wanting it because it use to be mine but was taken away. I surrendered this to God but its still hard to be joyful, content and satisfied with what God has given me and what God as taken away.

Today I struggled with envy again, only in a little different way. One great thing I have realized that has come out of all of this is time for things I would have never had time for before. Tonight I saw a movie with one of my 13 year old friends 🙂 I don’t feel so old when I hang out with middle and high school students. Being a widow kinda makes you feel old. So, we went to go see “Heaven is for Real”. The movie was good, the book is way better, like most of the time. Afterwards, I am at home and Gabby is fast asleep. I think about Heaven. I think about Jesus and His love for me and wanting to be with Him. I think about Chris in Heaven and wanting to be with him. Then, I think about how Chris is there . . . with Jesus, but not me. My want and longing is so strong.  I feel anger and I feel envy. My anger is stemmed at Jesus and I ask Him, “What on earth could be so important for having me stay here when all I want is to be with you?” And my envy is at Chris. He’s there and I am here.

And then I ask God to help me with my discontented heart. “Father, help me to not be jealous of what my friends have here on earth in their relationships and love for each other.  Help me to say yes to your will with joy and peace and patient endurance. I look forward to being with you one day, but I know you want me here right now so I will be patient.

New Life from Dry Bones.

Easter for me is all wrapped up in tradition. Not tradition from my side of the family, tradition from Chris’s side of the family. There were some traditions that we held this year, but it took great effort, like Grandma baking her “to die for” rolls. Motivation in keeping the traditions alive was dead. There was no fire this year and frankly I think we all thought, “What’s the point?” and “It’s not the same.” Chris was the one who felt so strongly about tradition and fought for it. Now, can we really keep the same traditions? Should we, in order to keep it alive, to keep the memories alive? Today, as I was with family, it was like we all just got through.

One think I do know, is that my focus was not on family and traditions this year. This year was quite different. In my remembrance and sorrow of not having Chris here, I clung to the wonderful weight of the Spirit living inside of me. I wept with joy over the story of Jesus raising to life the widow’s son because of His great love and compassion for her. (Luke 7: 11-15) And all of my thoughts keep coming back to how utterly lost I would be without Him. This easter was very different then it ever was before. I was not as busy, distracted, self dependent, and put together. It brought me to my knees realizing the incredible gift that was given to me. Without His sacrifice I would be blinded with darkness and despair. There would be no hope, there would be no life.

But He has created NEW LIFE, by rising from the dead and bring us out of the grave. His gift was new life, because of His great love for us. (Ephesians 2:4-5) Its hard to even put into words. I am overwhelmed by the whole thing and end up in silence because I have no words. The gratitude in my heart is overflowing, and its because of my dependance, my entire identity in Him. He is the one, and only one who has saved me, and He is constantly creating me into something new.

 

 

my soul cries out
my soul cries out for you

these bones cry out
these dry bones cry for you
to live and move
only You
can raise the dead
lift my head up

Jesus, You’re the one who saves us
Constantly creates us into something new
Jesus You’re the one who finds us
Surely our Messiah will make all things new