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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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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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

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?

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!

I’m ok with hard, as long as there is hope.


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Last night we were all told by his hospice nurse that if there was anything we wanted to say to Chris, now was the time. In the moment it seems so unreal. Can this really be happening? We’ve been through tough, seemingly impossible times before, can this be any different? We all spent individual time with Chris, giving family members the space and time to be alone. In my times alone with Chris they are often in silence. I have always known that this day would eventually come, and in the past recent weeks Chris and I had a mutual understanding that it was coming soon. We were unfiltered, open and honest. I didn’t hold back in telling him how thankful I was for loving me so well and for giving us a beautiful daughter. I told him how he has taught me how to take the risk and trust God and also to work hard in selflessness in order to be a Christ-like example to others. I told him that I was going to be ok, because he has shown me that my first love is God and that our love for each other is a reflection of God’s love for us. There is very little to say at this point that we both do not already know. So we hold hands and I pray. Sometimes I pray out loud and other times to myself but I know that God is there with us in that quietness. (Isaiah 30:15 . . . In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength . . .”) 

Standing right here in the midst of everything and recalling all of our past memories, it doesn’t seem real, but in the times of silence and prayer it’s very real. I am reminded in those times that this life is not our home and leaving our physical bodies is far from the end. I glimpse for a short time all of this through the eyes of God and there is peace. God knows and loves my husband far greater then I ever could and His plan and purpose is good. And as much as I wish that Chris could live and stay here with me, he will soon be with God in a perfect place that we all long for. 

I am happy . . . I am happy for him and more than ever before I feel the longing to just be done with this world and go with him too. Perhaps this is why the Lord gave us our little girl. She gives me purpose. I know that each of us have a place and purpose and for a short while we will have to be apart. It’s hard to think of much purpose being here besides taking care of Gabriella. I’ve always known that she needs me, and I know that she will help to keep me going, but my heart and my longing right now is to just be with Chris. 

Then a couple days ago here at Chris’s parents house I heard from God that someone else will need me as well – his family. It would be so easy to move away and start over, leaving behind everything that makes me think of my life with Chris. It’s very tempting even now as I am writing this, but I know that God wants me here. Chris’s family is amazing and his Mom and Dad are my Mom and Dad, his brother, Matt, is my brother and his sister, Nikki, is my sister. Being here at their house and taking care of Chris has only brought us closer together. Even in the last few days, my heart is drawn more and more to each of them in a strong and undeniable way. Through the eyes of God I am able to catch a glimpse of his perfect plan. 

There are still so many fears and unknowns. I try not to think about going home to our house in Grand Rapids, cooking now for only myself and waking up without a husband beside me. I know it will be hard, but I’m ok with hard as long as there is hope. And there is hope. There is everlasting hope and beautiful hope. An unseen hope but a hope that I can feel with my entire being. Hope with promises given by an all powerful, all knowing and all loving God. Promises of hope like Romans 8:38-39, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”