My heart has been broken. Into too many pieces to count. I thought I would never live to see the day where I could say it was mended. The process was painful, the result nothing short of miraculous. My broken heart is and forever will be beautifully mended.
So for many of you out there, I know you struggle with this day called Halloween. As a Christian mother with young children I too am at odds with this day. In some ways, the pumpkins and the G-rated friendly black cats and cute little kids in costume make Halloween a fun family oriented day. Yet on the other end of the spectrum are the ghoulish looking houses that are dec'd to the brim with skeletons escaping from the ground to bloodied vampires hanging from the roof.
So...as a Christian family - what do you do?
Do we point a crooked finger in disgust at these devilish decorations, turn our lights off and ignore it all together? Or do we embrace the fun of the day and smile at the sweet little children coming door to door? Do we ignore the evil and try to solely focus on the good? These questions have been swirling around my mind as I try to gain perspective on this day.
For what it's worth, here's my take.
Even though this day is often used as a day to celebrate FEAR and death, we take this day (and really every day) and try our best to redeem it for Christ. We celebrate His victory over death and celebrate the HOPE of eternal life. We carve pumpkins and explain to the children that we are as a pumpkin in the sense that we are but a shell. Inside of us, we all have 'guck' and when we invite Jesus into our lives He comes and cleans us from the inside out. He then lights our heart on fire and the Holy Spirit shines through us, just as the candle shines through the pumpkin. So when we are out at night and see the glow of jack-o-lanterns, we can relate back to Christ shining in and through us. We have some years handed out candy, blessing the children of our neighborhood with God's love through a smile, encouraging word and lollipops. We have also attended Harvest Parties at local churches for some good ol' family fun and bonding. Good can be found and had on this day, contrary to popular opinion.
As for the scary graveyard and demonic looking inspired homes, we say to the children that even though these homes celebrate death, we as a family celebrate life. We have worked hard to make Gracie's grave a place of peace. Our children would have never thought of a graveyard as a scary place until seeing the front yard of a house decorated as a haunted grave-yard. We celebrate that Grace is now with Jesus, alive and healed! The grave is not a haunted place, it is just a special place on earth where we can go and remember our Gracie. Our kids run and play and giggle at Gracie's grave! They will at times shed a tear of remembrance, but mainly they just love running through the beautifully manicured lawns and throw pennies in the pretty fountain. We don't celebrate Gracie's death at her grave, no! We celebrate her life here on earth and her true life in heaven! As a family we are bent on celebrating hope and life, yes even on this day of fear and death for Christ is bigger!!! Christ has risen, He is stronger than fear, ghoulish ghosts, and death. After-all, He leaves no room for fear for He has defeated it all! So as Christians we do not need to fear Halloween or even fear itself for we hold the Hand of the One who holds the keys to life and death!
You are stronger, You are stronger Sin is broken, You have saved me It is written, Christ is risen Jesus You are Lord of all Hillsongs - Stronger
So this past week I zipped over to the island for less than 24 hours to see my lil' sis and have a Gracie Day. It was a beautiful sunny fall day and I started the day with a massage from my trusted RMT. I was once again explaining the pain in my shoulders and neck - due to the year of constant bending over and caring for Gracie, pumping, etc. The pain, years later, still remains leading to fitful nights of sleep and finally into daily morning headaches. So as I was going on about the strain in my neck she smiled and said..."you do realize the symbolism of this pain don't you? You have been carrying her still...out front and over your heart. Perhaps it's time to open up your arms, not let her go necessarily, but just move her to your back - like a piggy back. When you carry a child piggy back you can't slouch, you must stand strong. Think about it..."
It was like a light went on...the 'A-ha' moment! Have you ever had these moments when timing is perfect and the Holy Spirit reveals truth to your heart? As I thought about her loaded words my mind is flashed back to a few weeks ago. I realized that in my minds' eye Gracie was still a sweet little babe, and I think in some was she always will be. But in reality, Gracie would be 3 1/2 - almost 4 come February and that realization winded me. My boy, Isaiah just turned 5 in the summer. He can do so many things now and to carry him in front cradled is so unrealistic. When he gets tired (which isn't often) I carry him on my back...not in front. Eventually, he will be too big to piggy back, and he will simply walk beside me holding my hand, then he will just walk beside me, and eventually he will walk a different path altogether.
As tears well up within my heart this morning, I realize I am in a new stage of my grief. Just like I grieve/celebrate milestones with Olivia and Isaiah, I too must do the same with Grace. When Isaiah started Kindergarten I was sad to say good-bye to the preschool years, yet so happy for him to experience all the wonders of school and beyond. Olivia asked me early on after Grace passed if she will grow up in heaven? It was then, and is still now such a profound thought. I am beginning to think that yes...just maybe she will be and has been 'growing up' in heaven all along. The memories I have of Gracie are of her as my sweet baby, and I grieve that baby in my arms. Yet, there is a spark of excitement when I envision her fully whole and healed as a 3 1/2 year old little girl.
I realize that I have been hiding behind Grace in some ways, hiding behind my grief so that I don't have to face the world without her. Are you holding on to something that is taking the forefront of all of your thoughts and decisions? Perhaps there someone who you need to let go of? Is there a situation that you need Jesus to come carry the burden for you? What is your 'A-ha!' moment?
So this morning, even though there is still remnants of the pain, I choose to embrace life with arms wide open and allow Grace to simply 'have my back.'