Welcome 2017

I have pondered about these next 48 hours since we celebrated since December 16th.  What to do, what not to do, do we celebrate, do we not, do we stay quiet, do we go loud, what do we do.  In about 28 hours, it will have been two years since we sat huddled around that olive-green love seat that held my mom, cradled that red-headed 4-year-old, watching her breathe her last breath.  Although my brain has run wild with the what to do thought, my body made the decision this morning when I woke up with the stomach bug.

Staying quiet it is.

Between my short naps and brief reprieves, I find myself scrolling through all the Facebook memories and Timehops I can.  I read and re-read the moments we shared and the comments that came after allowing them to take me back to that time. I have noticed that as I sit here, my perspective has changed, the walls of my heart have expanded. Notes left by friends expressed so much love, so much compassion and caring, but I was in survival mode and could only comprehend a fraction of what was poured out. As I read these thoughts now, I can feel the tenderness, the devotion, the love more than ever. Katie Grace didn’t just give me a chance to be loved by her, but she gave me the chance to be loved by my community.

We seriously underestimate the value of letting people love us, God didn’t though; He never has. I wonder if God the Father looks at Jesus, the way I look at Katie Grace, in awe of what her sacrifice gave me. When Jesus walked into the fullness of his destiny and sacrificed his life, he opened the door for us to the Father. He gave us the ability to expand our hearts, and in that He exposed the vastness of God the Father’s heart for us. It allowed us to walk in the fullness of God the Father; to grab revelations of freedom, of wisdom, and of love. Jesus’s sacrifice didn’t just give the Father to us, it gave us to the Father. It opened the door for Him to receive our love freely, and for us to receive His love freely. I can no longer look at the sacrifice of Jesus, without seeing the greater sacrifice of the Father. Much like Katie Grace and her sacrifice gave me the chance to be loved by community in a way not all have the opportunity to be. Will we ever be able to fully comprehend the sacrifice of God the Father in the laying down of His son’s life, so that we can share in a mutually loving relationship? Will we ever be able to grasp the love The Father looks upon his Son with, as he relishes in relationship with us? As he hears our worship and chats with us in our prayers, knowing that that door is open because His son said yes to laying down his life. I don’t know but as I look upon Katie Grace’s picture and reflect on what her life gave me in the ways of love and relationship, I can say I think I have a glimpse, and that glimpse simply easily stops me in my tracks and fills me with emotion that there is no words for.
Tomorrow I will wake up in 2017 and it will be the day my daughter breathed her last breath, and I will be grateful. That is my word for 2016, grateful. Grateful that Jesus’s sacrifice didn’t just give the Father to us, it gave us to the Father. Grateful for Katie Grace and what her sacrifice gave us, a community of people who said yes to love, and expanded my heart in understanding value, worth, and the depth in relationship. A love that stood during my inability to comprehend and stands today as a reminder. As I look at 2017 and the word that it will bring, I will carry the gratefulness of 2016 with me into it. I will hold onto the revelations and my expanded heart, full of gratitude.

Today you are 6

Dear Katie Grace,

Today you are 6.

This day 6 years ago you blew into our world, according to us you were 2 weeks late, however you were perfectly on your time.  A time frame we continued to live on all the days we had you.

If I were being forthright I am not quite sure how to celebrate you today.  Last year was simply the 1st year and it was so mixed with the beauty and sadness of your graduation, I think we just got by.  This second year seems to demand something different from me, its like a call from within to know how we are going to remember you every year.  You  know what would be the most like you, is to make the tradition a thing we revisit every year.  To be consistently inconsistent.  I mean for all who knew you, they know, that was your MO in life.  Grammie and I always said if you were anything but tenacious, it was consistently inconsistent.

We miss you here.  Although we are joyful always in where you are and who you are with, our flesh can’t help but miss your presence.  Your brother misses you sooo much.  He is continually asking us for another sibling,  we are doing our best but maybe you and the Lord can send us some help on that one.  You left an imprint on his heart that I don’t know if we will ever see the fullness of until he is grown.

This year has held a lot of changes for us, we have rested in a way we haven’t in years.  Our little family of three has connected and grown in who we are.  We have you to thank for that on many levels.  I believe a part of your destiny was to come and love us until death with every piece of you so that we had the opportunity to step into who we are.  You are ingrained into us, and as much as we try we can’t help but talk about you.  About who we are because of you, about what we know because of you, about how we were and are loved because of you. If you hadn’t said yes, and let this day be your birthday, we wouldn’t have had that opportunity.

Thank you baby girl for saying yes to life today.  To coming on your own time and doing life on your own terms.  For choosing us as your family and gracing us with your presence.

We love you with all of us.

Momma, Daddy and Isaac.

 

When Grief invites himself to Thanksgiving

 

Thanksgiving is coming up, in about 4 days to be exact, and man my heart is slowly unraveling at the seams. This is my second Thanksgiving without her. My second year of being a family of three instead of a family of 4, and it is possible that this is my hardest year. Grief surprises you like that, its like one day you hear a knock on the door of your heart so you open it and you see grief there. As you watch him walk in, you realize he actually has always been there, he is just demanding a little more attention. Grief is knocking pretty loudly this year, and I have chosen to welcome him; giving him the attention he is demanding.

I want to run though. I want to bury myself in another family and enjoy the festivities of their function. I want to hide away in their dynamics and pretend for a day that we aren’t simply a family of 3. I had that luxury last year. My community in Redding were aloe to my soul, a buffer in the best way to the magnitude of life without Katie Grace. They held memories of her in their hearts, I could see her legacy in them and it made her closer. Last year at Thanksgiving I hosted at my house, which really meant my Rebekah hosted, we just had it at my house, and at some point it all became too much. I got a little edgy, so I hide away in my room, laid in my bed and just missed her. Not long after, someone came in and just sat at the edge of the bed. It was simple. I am not even sure what we talked about, there wasn’t any demand for a reason, it was a simple don’t forget your loved in the pain check in. Aloe for this heart on that first Thanksgiving without her.

This year though we are thousands of miles away from that community and although we are building community and have had friends offer a place for us, I hear this knocking on my heart. I hear this quiet pounding, calling me to take the time to open the door, invite in the grief, and sit with him. You see, we are a family of 3 here on earth, I cannot get away from that. It is what it is. I will either accept it or I will continue to try to fight it, never at peace with what is.

The question: How do you make peace and move on with something you don’t allow yourself the ability to accept?

Answer: You can’t.

Well maybe you can, I can’t. It is in the making peace with grief that I am able to receive not just the healing power of God’s love but also the ability to keep living to the fullness in which I was created and Katie Grace came for.

Growing up my family had a tradition of spending Thanksgiving with my mom’s family. We would drive to Northern California and spend it with them. When Katie Grace was with us, I kept that tradition because I didn’t know how long we had with her, and that was the only time that extended part of my family got to see her. It kind of became our tradition. Now that we are here in Georgia I have a blank slate. This is the time for Charles and I to decide what are we going to do for our family, the three of us. How do we want to spend our Thanksgiving? What traditions do we want to put into place so that one day when Isaac has children he tells stories of what we did every year and his children get to experience a piece of his childhood when they experience that same thing. In order to do that though, I have to stay. I can’t run into the arms of another family and their traditions, I can’t use the sweet aloe of my community. It is time to open the door to grief, to acknowledge his presence, to spend time with him, and then usher him out the door.

When grief came knocking last Thanksgiving he suggested he was larger than my heart could handle, this year, after a year of rest, of learning to lean into all that God has taught us and showed us, I know better. The aloe of love from my community oozed into my pores and has taken residence in my heart, the beliefs that have become facts of who God is are the chairs in which grief and I sit and speak. They hold me; mind, body and spirit, and I know grief will only be there for a while, but that love, those chairs, they stay always. It is with those things I want to build the traditions of my family. The three of us.

This year I am making my first Turkey and drinking a glass of wine or two. Our family will piece together a puzzle, play some games, try to figure out how to watch football without cable, and we will laugh. We will think about our girl, talk about her red hair, and the littles things she used to do that made her ours. When the day winds down, in the quiet I will have made peace with grief and I will gently usher him out the door from which he came.

Brittle Whispers

Charles and I attended church this morning. We have found this church that is literally 5 minutes from our house, and it’s wonderful. We were worshipping and the worship crew was leading us in “One Thing Remains,” by Jesus Culture. The room was filled with voices singing out:

Your love never fails, it never gives up
It never runs out on me

As my voice sang out blending in with the ones around me, something switched in my heart. It was as if my heartbeat pounded so hard that it awoke a revelation within; and I realized I wasn’t singing out of belief of who God is. I was singing out of a knowing of who God is. My words were no longer simple beliefs that I hoped He would prove true instead they were steadfast facts birthed out of experiences where He proved himself to be true.

My memory quickly took me back to the days when Katie Grace was born and my heart was reeling with the understanding of what life was going to be, and how painful it quite possibly was going to be. I remembered the word curse spoke over Charles and I. The one that said if we ever left this family we served, we would have children of unsound minds and unsound bodies. I remember how lost I felt. How hopeless it all seemed. How confused my heart was as to how we were in the place we were in. I also remember the decision we made to not be mad at God. Bill Johnson, our church’s pastor at the time,  would commonly say while teaching, God is in a good mood. Charles and I decided we were going to believe that. Despite our circumstance, God is a good mood, and those who are in a good mood, they don’t do mean things. Such a simple decision we made. My heart was not leaning on facts or a huge list of experiences. It was a decision I made with my mind, and I would whisper to my heart, “God is in a good mood”, “He doesn’t do mean things to his kids”. “I am not being punished”. “My daughter and whatever life she has is not a punishment”. That was all I had, those whispers. They were not your normal I don’t want anybody to hear because they seem ridiculous whispers. Instead they were those I don’t want anyone to hear because I can barely believe myself and this belief is so brittle that I have to guard it with my whispers. Everyday was a decision about what I would believe. What I didn’t know at that time was that God was taking me up on my belief. He was holding my whispers with all the tenderness that his love carries, and stepping into my belief. The stories of where He proved himself on my journey with Katie Grace are countless. I guess if you read through my blog, you will find the stories there. Stories about the moments when heaven touched earth through my daughter and life was better. Those moments came because I offered the Lord a brittle belief and He proved himself. Luke 17:6 says:

“He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”

This is also true for the matters of our hearts. My frail and shatterable belief that God is in a good mood was my mustard seed. Through my quiet whispers and his tender hands, it was planted deep in my heart and as we journeyed together, He showed up. He showed up in her smile, in her laugh, in her pain, and in the opportunity to love her until death. I also showed up. I invited him into the pain, because believing He is good meant that I could trust him with the hurt. It was true, I could. He loved me, showed me where I had faulty beliefs, lead me to truth, and it matured me in him. My heart is a garden of words that I use to help shape life around me, and together he and I planted a fragile belief and together we grew a sustainable knowledge fertilized in the soil of experience where His goodness and his unfailing love proved true.

Today as I stood in that church joining with fellow believers, my words were changed. They were no long quiet brittle whispers, they were instead healthy shouts of praise, strong in their declaration, proven in experience and isn’t that point of this all. This journey with the Lord, to become more than when we started. That as we walk with him, and allow Him deeper and deeper into our hearts and life, that our beliefs about who he is change. That we open ourselves up so much, even with brittle mustard seed like belief, that He is allowed to prove himself. To give us experiences that flips that switch in our heart so our words were no longer beliefs we hope He would prove true but instead they are facts birthed out of experiences where He proved himself to be true.

Respite

Dear Readers,

If you are still there….thank you. If you have moved onto to other great and better blogs, I do not blame you. Five months of nothing in this fast paced world is a thing. No hard feelings felt.

To those that are still here, still checking in, there is just as much to say as there isn’t.   A part of our transition to the south has brought our family to a halt, sitting us into a season of rest.  A rest that we haven’t known before, actually I think I have been to its shores, just dipping my toes in but afraid to immerse myself in it.  Shauna Niequist writes a great book titled “Present Over Perfect” in which she delicately shares her stories of finding rest in her fast paced world.  When I first read it I wasn’t sure it applied to me, I didn’t see my world as fast paced, I wasn’t exactly turning down speaking request or writing my second book.  However the more I read I uncovered that I live a fast pace life in my heart and when my pace inside doesn’t match the outside, shame becomes the voice I hear. That shame pushes and exhausts.  I highly suggest reading the book: Present Over Perfect.  Today, as I sit in the place of rest, as my family sits in the rest, we are finally free.  I sleep until 8 during the weekdays, we sleep until 9:30 on the weekends, we have become homebody’s for no other reason other than there is connection in it for us. The best part, shame and guilt are no longer voices I allow to speak into this.  No ‘you should go here’ and ‘do this because you can’.  I simply quiet the pushing that exhausts. This won’t be the way it is always, it is what is now, and I want to relish in it; appreciate it for what it is bringing Charles, Isaac and I.

Our life the last 6 years has been a true marathon,  a test of sorts of the desire to survive and then thrive in that survival. This rest, has allowed us as a family to fully understand the survival we have lived in, the cost it has taken on our family and the tenderness of the Lord as we watch Him care for us into what it is like to live.  To simply live with passion, love, and balance.   There is a blog in here somewhere about the beauty of what God has been building inside our little family of 3. The fascinating things He has been revealing while in respite.

Until then, let me leave you with this…our Father in heaven, the one who built the seas and the tiniest of creatures who lives within. The one who grows out legs, heals blind eyes, and bring speech to those who can’t speak. The one who restores the broken hearts and who speaks love in a language so individual to the person. Him…He is also thoughtful.  Not just big vision thoughtful…but micro vision thoughtful; like that time that someone brought you a coffee at work because they thought you just might want one. The time your significant other thought to do that thing that you hate doing, just so you didn’t have to do it that one time. When you thought you had a meeting but realized you schedule wrong and you accidentally gave yourself an hour where no one needed you.  Yeah, he loves us that way also because he is thoughtful.

 

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