Life in the Woods

Dear Gabby,

 

This morning, as you were napping soundly with your little gray bunny, I stepped out into the sunshine.  Its light was streaming down to the deck outback of your Grammy and Grandpy’s house. I stood there very still. There was so much life happening around me, and I felt that after a season of hiding indoors, I was the alien. There were Robins calling back and forth to each other across the wood, a woodpecker’s lunch preparation echoed loud, the Looking Glass River, only about 50 yards away, moved with a sweeping force over rocks and toppled trees.

I walked down closer to the river. I am drawn in like all the trees that bow to the life-giving source. Dead leaves crackle and crumple beneath me, and new stems grow up beside me. The light shines through the wooden giants creating beautiful long shadows throughout the area. My thought was to come out here and think. And I did but it was not in the way that I thought. I was distracted by so much life. In the cold months it is still and peaceful. There is no life. It is dead. And then spring comes, awakening new life. The life was not ever dead, it was hibernating, waiting, on hold for the sun and the warmth to break through. But this life is never the same, it is renewed after every stilled winter.

I sat for a long time out there, hoping that all this new life would rub off on me. I observed the sparkling river flowing at a continual pace through the forest. It had carved its own way. Close in front of me as I meandered through the wood, was a stagnant pond that had collected in a pocket of earth. Its murky waters were still and content. It had made its home and made no attempt of moving. Both made of the same element and they are so different. I am drawn to the river. It gives and brings forth life by its continual persistent force. It’s wild and dangerous and cuts through the earth. I am repelled by the stagnant pond. For even though it seems to give life, it brings disease and death often results.

I don’t know what the future will look like for us, I have so many questions I ask myself every day. I try and ask God my questions and allow him to answer them in His own time so I am not prone to worry. The life He has already created helps to answer some of those questions. When you are older and you have questions, I would say to try and sit and listen and observe of what God has already made. Knowing that He made everything skillfully, creatively and with unquestionable love we are left with ears and eyes open and our mouths shut.

Since you were sleeping, I took some pictures for you of what I saw as I was thinking of all of this. I love you princess!

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I had to add this picture too. This was you later that day on your new princess bike. I don’t know what you were laughing at but you though it was really funny.

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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

A birthday and a hope.

Dear Gabby,

DSC_0025-2Happy Birthday my big one year old! Wow, what a day! Did you realize that 38 people came to celebrate your life today? Did you also realize that all of your friends, “brothers” and “sisters” (the kids) outnumbered the mommy’s and daddy’s? Just so that you are aware, we are not doing this every year. You will not  have your own memory of this day, so I am going to do my best in giving you some of my favorite highlights.

 

I was holding you as the majority of people came through the door and as a mommy’s girl you were not quite ready to be passed to another person’s arms, but I know a trick. You love to walk, and although you can’t quite do it on your own yet, its a great way to warm up to someone (someone being everyone who isn’t mom) by holding their hard and showing off your developing agility and gusto. Your tiny feet pitter patter along the hardwood floor and your face lights up along with whoever is holding your hand at your joyous ability. It works every time.

All the kids were your favorite, and it was a favorite of everyones to see you enjoy them. A kiss from Charlotte and giving back one in return would produce three room full’s of “Aww!”

 

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You love sugar! You would have eaten that entire cake if I would have let you. Your baby hands were covered in vibrant pink icing and your face became all of a sudden a very rosy glow. Cameras were going off left and right, and we never got bored of watching your inquisitive and comical expressions as you discovered a new love for sweets. I jumped into your messiness and allowed you to give me a big kiss.We together enjoyed the same taste of the sugary deliciousness of cotton candy. (The icing was cotton candy flavored)

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You were much more involved with opening presents then you were at Christmas. You grabbed that paper at the top and ripped it all the way down to the bottom, the only problem was that you had several helpers who also liked to open presents. Knowing you were not quite as fast, they volunteered to “help” you. Your helpers were Selah, Nevaeh, Lorenzo and Regan. And you, being the kid lover that you are, had no problem with it whatsoever. In fact, having your friends help you open your gifts was the same as playing together and for you it couldn’t get any better. Just remember that when your older.

 

IMG_0386Wrapping paper, bags, clothes, ribbon, toys and people gathered all around. You had just started pulling the tissue paper out of the small gift bag resting in between your legs when Lorenzo, who was sitting next to you, reached out for a toy that was being touched by a toddler. He declared, “Don’t touch that toy, thats DSC_0054my sister’s!” (Lorenzo is my crazy 5 year old who I had the privilege to be a mom to for a year and a half. He is now back home with his real mom along with the rest of his brothers and sisters. This amazing moment shows the closeness of our forever foster family.)

The last memory I will leave you with is the result of eating too much cake. I’m sure your tastebuds were singing for joy at 3:00 but your tummy was pounding its fists on the floor at 5:00. Your grunts and groanings lasted until you fell asleep on your Mommy. I love cuddling with you, so you just slept as I continued to talk with friends. Poor Sadie who was sitting next to me, for by that time, you were only asleep because the mess was in the diaper. But today was a special day and that indulgence was worth it.  Which is why I gave away all your cupcakes for people to take home, it’s only worth it because it was special and out of the ordinary. We can’t do that every day.

The rain came as everyone was leaving. The rain came as wet drops on the grass and pavement outside, and the rain came as a dead and quiet fog inside a big house. It came as it seeped into the loneliness of a widow’s heart. This day was very special, which is why your Mommy cried listening to the patter of rain on the windows.  Your Daddy was not here to smile at me while you were zonked out on my chest. He wasn’t here to push you around on your pink flashy princess car from your Uncle Matt. He wasn’t here to pick you up and help you dunk your ball in the Easy Score Basketball Hoop he specifically picked out for you. He wasn’t here. A heartsick and despondent tune played strong in the wind.  It tangled my hair into knots. DSC_0147The celebration of your one year of life was over and he missed it. Then a blow of consciousness slashes at my heart as I realize He is going to miss everything. There will be many of your special days and there will be no Daddy. And all I can say after the celebration is, I’m so sorry sweetheart.

And as much as I would love to promise you that I will always be there to watch you blow out your candles, I can’t. Life is precious and uncertain and a gift. So, my dearest daughter, you will have to let God be your Daddy. My hope and prayer for you is that through the pain and loss of your Daddy, your relationship with God will become one of complete dependence and love like you have never known before. I also pray that you will trust and feel deep within you the immense love that God has for you. And don’t believe it because I said it, God said it to you. “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! . . . 1 John 3:1″ So when you are sad, let God be your comfort and let him love on you. He might take away your pain and He might not. Don’t be angry if He doesn’t take away the pain, for it’s through your pain God is able to be so close to you. He is getting me through, and he will get you through as well. 

 

 

 

 

Dance in the Downpour

Dear Gabby,

Today as you were busy giving sloppy open mouth kisses to your adoring grandparents, your Uncle Dan and I spent our day listening with our ears and digesting with our hearts a host of information, wisdom, and advice from writers who have already gone ahead of us. I am listening to these writers because I want to learn how to write my story and your Daddy’s story so it will not be lost, and that it can be a part of your story.

I’m sorry to say that what I discovered about writing today is very much like that first tooth in your mouth that is still stubbornly hiding behind your gummy smile. It’s there, but it can be quite a process of pain and it is very uncomfortable. And of course to help relieve your pain, you chew on coffee tables, people’s fingers and Mommy’s I Phone cord. It’s taken me a while to realize this, but you are teaching me to work through the pain of my writing instead of screaming about it. And I can only work through it by involving others into my story. Granted sometimes chewing on fingers is easier then chewing on people’s heartstrings. A physical reaction of pain is easier to see from a friend then an emotional reaction to pain, especially the pain in my own life.

I realized today that I have a lot of work and a lot of writing ahead of me. I love writing. I love writing about you and your Daddy and the small drop of knowledge I have of God in the vast ocean of who He is. I will always love to write, but I have to decide if I should still write on the nights when I am sad and lonely, or the nights when I am tired, or the nights when I am lazy. On those nights when you’re dreaming of that first taste of Mommy’s Reese Pieces with your new and long awaited teeth, I will be laying in bed wondering if writing with that much passion, vulnerability and work is really worth it? (I have to admit, it’s very hard to resist those cute beanie boo eyes of yours. Inching closer to me in such anticipation almost transforms me into this programmed robotic mom who would give you anything you wanted.)

So Peanut, if you see me this week sitting down at my computer, but produce a look of confusion, discouragement and anxiety, you will know that your Mommy answered her question. She answered herself; yes, it is worth the “hard” to share the story. It is worth the nakedness to have the open, unfiltered community. It is worth the risk of failure for the chance to love and to live as I have always been called by Christ.

One day, my daughter, you will have many adventures. You will have places that you want to go and things that you want to do. And the best things are when you get to play in the mud and rain and get dirty. Its easy to live in a partly cloudy, predictable and pleasant climate, but where’s the fun in that? Not just the fun but where is the joy, where is the wonder in predictable? I might regret saying this, but I give you permission to live and get messy. I want you to feel the wet and residual clumps of mud between your sinking toes into the earth below, I want you to see the masterpiece of beauty when you create your first finger painting, I want you to hear the cry of other kids who are hurting, I want you to smell the rain in the middle of a downpour, and I want you to speak the truth to your friends through fear and rejection and self-consciousness.

Things are very unpredictable right now and your Mommy feels like she is caught in a downpour. Many adults that I know do not like to get caught in a downpour of rain. Once you start caring about what you look like, you probably wont like it either. But your Mommy is learning to appreciate the downpour, like a child.  In the downpour you can play and dance and feel a freedom that is unlike any other feeling in the world. You just have to get past the heavy clothes which cling to your body, the standing water in your shoes announcing to everyone you’re presence by a “squish” and it reveals your appearance to others; disheveled, imperfect and messy. Is it worth it? Gabby, do you think it’s worth it for Mommy to dance in the downpour?

A Grief Observed- Part 2 “Mysterious Love”

Everyone, who has gone through sorrow or tragedy, asks “Where are you God?” Maybe not out loud or maybe they try to dismiss it but deep within them it’s always wondered. C.S. Lewis describes when you are in most need of Him that it feels like, “a door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.” (Lewis, 18) I have felt this too. Your mind and your feelings play tricks on you. Although deep within your soul you know that God has promised to never leave you, it is almost impossible to shake that feeling that you are alone.

And then over the next couple of days I made a beautiful discovery. I have had many good days that are magnified into great days by the love of others. And there are bad days that are turned into good days by love. One big contributer is Gabriella, my daughter. At a young age, when she is learning and discovering so much, expressing her love for me is surprising and unexpected. My heart leaps out of my chest when she looks at me, her eyes wide and alive, her smile covering her entire face as she leans in to give me a big kiss. She can’t talk, but she sure knows how to love. It’s the most wonderful thing in the world, but it cannot be forced and it cannot be controlled. If it was, it would completely loose its value. There are also bad days that are hard and seemingly unrelenting, and no matter how much on those days I want Gabby to shower me with love and kisses, she won’t and I cannot force her.

And yet, wanting immediate relief from my pain by receiving love from my baby girl, doesn’t work! It is only true and real when it is uncontrolled. Those times, in the unexpected moments, her love is sweeter then the sweetest honey. Just like I know Gabby loves me, I know my God loves me, but showing that love cannot be forced. He is mysterious, and cannot be contained. He is not controlled by our feelings. His love for me is constant, but the expressions of His love are often a complete and joyous surprise. It is addictive, and when I don’t feel His love I find myself crying out in desperation for it, seeking and looking and seeking more. And it seems in my despair that I am groping around in the darkness.

Many have felt this feeling that God is far from them. Psalms 22 1-2 says, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? . . . O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, and by night I find no rest.” Written by David and quoted by Jesus. But what faith would we have if we could access the immediate feeling of God’s love any time we wanted? Is it a refreshing drink we can just pull out of the fridge whenever we want? Psalms 22: 3-4; 9 says, Yet you are holy . . . In you our fathers trusted; they trusted and you delivered them. Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you . . .”  This is true faith; trusting Him despite feeling very far from Him.

Then when I least expect it, and my strength has failed, He picks me up and is my comfort. 

In the very next chapter Psalms 23:2-3 He draws us in to Himself. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. . . .” And in our affliction and suffering we remember, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (v.4).”

 Oh, How He loves us!

 

 

It has to be a celebration as much as a service to remember.

This may sound strange but I am looking forward to Sunday more then I ever thought I would.  Yes, it will be hard to hear and see the stories and memories of your husband instead of him sitting right there beside you. And it will be hard to come up with an answer when someone asks me, “How are you doing?” It will also be difficult as an introvert, to be the center of attention, and my pain and loss as the center of attention. Despite all this, my heart is already rejoicing just at the thought of hundreds of our friends and family in the same room singing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul. Worship His holy name!”  I can’t wait for people to hear of our Savior who is still alive, Chris’s very reason for living and who he is with now. And I look forward to sharing with others Chris’s example, in both his life and death, of how to truly serve Christ.

The last week has been hard but good. When everything is quiet and I am laying in my bed its hard not to cry. I miss him and everything about him. Its also hard to not having him sitting beside me, making everyone laugh, when I am out with a big group of friends. Its funny how at first seeing and talking to everyone takes your mind off of things and then you step back and realize that it will never be the same. A part of you is gone. Yet, I have to be thankful that God and God’s people have really taken care of me. Many details and decisions will be successful because of friends, some who I know really well and others who I just met, who have lifted my load. Chris dreamed of a service after his death that accurately portrayed the gospel of Christ. It was my goal to help him make that happen, but I cannot take the credit for this one. Our pastor cancelled his trip to the Ukraine in order to be here to lead the service. A mom that only heard about what happened, not personally knowing us, created the memorial cards. A friend paid for the many many memorial cards! Finally, a really good friend has spent upwards of 30 hours in creating picture slideshows that will help people visualize Chris’s life and example.

It has to be a celebration as much as a service to remember. There will be many at the service tomorrow who are already part of the body of Christ and will both morn and rejoice. Chris is with God, our Lord and Jesus, our deliverer. He is where we all want to be. There will also be some who mourn and wonder how people can rejoice at such a loss. My hope is that through Chris’s life and story the message of God’s grace and love towards us will “make sense” to those who haven’t believed it and followed it for themselves.

I want to also remind you that if you would like to come tomorrow to celebrate Chris’s life, you are more then welcome. It is at Ada Bible Church. It is tomorrow, Sunday, February 23. Doors open at 2:00 Service starts at 3:00

8899 Cascade Road SEAda MI, 49301

Pray for tomorrow that the words and pictures and songs will all be used by God to bring about His kingdom. Thank you also for  so many of you who have been such an encouragement to me through your comments, your cards and your posts/reposts on Facebook. Its much appreciated!