Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ready or Not...Here I Come!

The transition to Fall this year has been unprecedented, strange, and long to say the least!  I'm the type of person that once August hits, I am already thinking about and even craving for the routine of the Fall.  So needless to say, I am happy that we are finally beginning the school year!

I am excited to be starting a new chapter in my professional career!  Well, I suppose it is more of an excitement mixed with the overwhelming understanding that I now have to get an entire classroom and year planned in just a few short days...really, in just hours!

Am I ready?  No.  Will I have to start anyways? Yes.

So what do we do when we are in a place in life where we are not ready,  or at least don't feel ready, to take on what we know God is calling us to?  I know for me, there were many times where I cried out to God during our pregnancy with Grace feeling much the same way.  So excited to love and meet her, yet so unsure of my capability to care for her as deeply as I so wanted to.  I remember so desperately wishing there was some kind of book I could read that would give me the step by step instructions, yet there was none.  The only book that helped me was the Bible.  I devoured those verses as though they were morsels of manna for my starved soul.  

Looking back now, I can see that God knew what I needed, when I needed it.  Yes, my obedience played a big role, yet it was only in His strength that I thrived.  And so, here I am again feeling vulnerable, nervous, excited, and wanting a play-by-play of how things are all going to work out.

Life change.  HUGE.  Six years ago, I never thought I would step back into a classroom as a teacher, let alone full time.  Yet, here I am.  The call for this job was so detailed that it really only could have been meant for me.  Quite literally, the HR departement said it would be close to impossible to find someone to fill such a unique position with so many requirements.  And just like that, God connected the dots.  He made very straight the broken path that was before me.  And so with some trepidation, I take this step and free fall into His plan, trusting just like He did in the past with Grace, that He will equip me to do His work, not mine.  I love the quote (thanks Trisha for sharing it with me so long ago) "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called."  I want my steps to be ordered of Him, for if they are, I know He will be faithful to complete the call in my heart.

Oh my sweet Grace, the lessons you have taught me are forever seared into my heart.  As overwhelmed as I am in this moment, it still is small in comparison to our beautiful journey with you.  You have changed me, and only for the good.  As I enter the classroom this year, my heart is already so sensitive to the hearts of these precious children God has placed in my room.  I am more full of grace, and mercy and able to see past the prickly exteriors and see through to the heart because of you.  I miss you so much.  Knowing that you would be heading into Grade 1 this year sometimes takes the breath right out of me.  This is not the way I had hoped, but was the way it was to be and I would do it all again to have known you and loved you.  I can't wait for heaven.

Grief is a crazy ride.  These life changes are like a twist that you weren't expecting.  It's like you are going along for the ride at a pleasant click, and then WHAMO!  You're upside-down and free-falling!  Going back to work this year as a teacher and not as a TOC (teacher-on-call) is an admittance that I have yet again, been beautifully mended.  God must believe that I am strong enough to take another step, so I continue to move forward and take the plunge in trust and faith!

So, ready or I come!

Matthew 5:14-15
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Obedience in a White Dress...

Easter is here, and once again my heart wells up with such thankfulness.  I have always been grateful for Easter, but something deeply changed in my heart after Grace passed away.  It stems back to a pivotal moment in my amazing journey of Grace.  I was at a department store looking for that 'perfect dress' for her upcoming Dedication/Birthday celebration.  It didn't take long to find a beautiful pink dress.  It was frilly, flowy, and perfect.  As I held it and rubbed my fingers along the delicate fabric, I thought, how would it feel on her?  Would she be comfortable in it?  I imagined just how beautiful she would look in it.  The soft pink color of the fabric would match her sweet and rosy complexion.

As I walked away, I noticed the same dress in white.  It was out of place on a different rack, most likely placed there by someone with a change of heart.  Perhaps a white dress for a baby would prove to be daunting as it would no doubt become blemished within minutes on a toddler.  I felt a familiar prompting in my spirit.  I kept walking.  I felt it again.  I turned around.  I slowly walked back and stared at it.  I stood face to face with the pureness of it.  The unblemished and perfectly white material drew me towards it.  I wanted to turn around and leave.  I did not want to hear what I was feeling God was saying to my heart.  I heard, and perhaps more accurately, felt the words, "you need to buy this for her."  I stood there knowing full well this dress was not to replace the party pink one.  No, the solemness deep in my heart knew what I needed to buy it for.  I stood there, at odds with myself for quite sometime.  How do you buy a dress that you know you will have to bury your child in?  How do you follow in obedeince to a call that you don't want to hear, and that you desperately don't want to accept?  Tears started streaming down my face, just the start of the tears that would fill up an entire ocean of grief.

I tried to walk away, rationalizing that we could still have more time with her.  I knew she was declining, but tried to justify that we could still go another year or more.  The dress might not fit, if she were to stay with us for another year.  Again, the prompting pounded gently, but heavily at the same time.  My heart raced.  I knew it was my Shepherd's voice.  So I reached out, and with shaking hands gently lifted it off the rack.  I raced to the counter, and without eye contact bought the dresses and ran to the van.  I got to the van and I wept.  Deep, heavy sobs.  I tried to compose myself a few times, but couldn't.  It was getting late and I needed to get home.  So I drove through the torrent of tears, but couldn't make it all the way home, so I decided to stop at my parent's home.  I sat in the driveway for awhile.  Crying out to God.  "But God, she is as white and pure as this beautiful dress.  How can you ask me to do such a thing?  I can't give her up.  I can't.  I fought so hard for her every day.  Please God.  Can't you understand what I am feeling?  She is so little, so innocent, she has done nothing wrong.  She has shown us love, truth and grace.  I want to trust you but please, please don't make me do this!"

As I continued to cry out, again I felt His will, His voice gently saying "But child, I do understand.  My son was blameless, my son was pure.  He did nothing to deserve the penalty awaiting Him.  He showed love, and embodied truth and grace.  Yet, I gave Him up for you, for the world...for Grace.  She will never have to experience true separation from me.  She will never be out of my hand because of what MY pure and innocent son accomplished. He experienced true death, and separation from Me, so that our sweet little Gracie would never have to.  I do understand, and promise to be your portion."

One month later, my sweet baby wore that dress.  She was as white as snow, fautless and blameless, like a little lamb.  She passed from this world into the next without a moment of separation.  She was lifted from my arms into the strong and loving arms of her Shepherd. You see, she too knew His voice, and awoke to the loving nail scarred hands, stretching out for her.  Like a little lamb, leaping into the Shepherd's embrace, she was lead home.  She never experienced true death.  Yes, she was separated from me, but thank you Jesus, she was never separated from her Creator.  Until we meet again sweet girl, Easter will always remind me of the cost of obedience, a beautiful white dress and the ultimate sacrifice of a Father's Son

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Five Years? How Can it Be?

How can it be
Five years already
So much time
between now and then.
Yet in a moment it's
as though I am back
craddling you in that chair,
kissing your sweet spot
just under your chin.
Kissing your sweet
face for the last time.
Five years?
How can it be that so
much life has happened
since then?
I am Thankful.
Yet hesitant at times
to fully embrace this life
without you.
I know this is my
journey, my story
and my call in life
to move forward, to press on
towards the goal of heaven.
To love others along the way,
to remember the lessons taught,
so as to honor your memory,
your life.

Yet days like today
the balance is not easy
Days like today the vault
is flung open and the tears
I hold back can no longer
be ignored.  And like a rushing
water they break forth.
Crashing over me,
once again.  A reminder.
As the torrent of tears slow
and as they disperse and trickle
down my cheeks, the gentle
reminder is heard as in a whisper...
This is the day that they Lord
has made. Rejoice.  Be glad in it.
Don't waste time.  Enjoy the moment.

Rejoice?  In her death?
Be glad on this anniversary?
Oh the mystery of such love.
The 'manna' from heaven.
The hope of more.
The  sufficiency
of 'enough'
to get through

I call out in anger.
I cry in despair.
I miss her.  I miss her.
So ardently.
Yet, through this pain
is borne such beauty.
Through the longing
comes deep thankfulness for
this is not the end.

No, this is not how
our story was to end.
But thank God this is
not how it will end.
For the hope of
heaven is the light
that sparks hope
each day in this
grieving mother's heart.

And so, I press on
I choose to trust.
I choose to learn
and be open to the journey.
It would be easier to stop
and remain in the pain.
To hide away and
retreat in the darkness.
It is courage, your courage
that moves me towards the light.
I will not give up
Just as you never gave up.
I will love you until
my last breath
And even in that moment
when I awake into eternity
I will be singing
praises of love
and thankfulness
to the One
who blessed me
with you.

Five years?
How can it be?
So much time
between now and then.
Today I remember
with tear stained cheeks.
Today I embrace
and lean into the pain
knowing full well
that there is a beauty
that only comes from the
pain of the cleansing rain
of your Mama's tears.
Five years and counting,
only by the GRACE
 of God.

Happy 5th year Heaven Due Date
My Angel Gracie Grace.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Flash Back...

I remember like it was yesterday.  The feeling of anticipation.  The longing to see you, hear you, hold you.  The build up to your arrival was one laden with prayer, fasting, and the coming together of many across the miles.  You, our sweet pea, were an unexpected blessing of unmerrited favor.  You.were.GRACE.

And so the story goes.  I didn't freeze like they said I would.  I wasn't able to be there in the moment you gasped for your first breath.  I wasn't even the first one to look upon your sweet cherub face, nor was I the first to touch your sweet, pink and rosy skin.  Missed moments I wish I had.  Yet, I remember coming out of the fog of anesthetic eager to know you...eager to know if there still was a 'you.'  In the haze of confusion I called out again and again, 'was she breathing? was she breathing?'  To which the patient nurse responded again and again. "Yes, she was breathing and she is beautiful."

Hours later I remember being wheeled in my bed, out of recovery into the NICU.  I can't even begin to describe the emotions that welled up within my heart wrenched, and beat up soul.  All the hours of prayer, all the moments in scripture, all the positive thoughts and well wishes of thousands around us led up to this moment.  Yet, when I saw your sweet little form lying under the warmth of the incubator, I didn't notice your head circumference.  Nor did I ask what your chances of survival were.  I saw you my sweet girl, and nothing else mattered. You were there, and you were mine. My imperfect, perfect valentine.

We are coming up to your sixth birthday this week.  We have all felt it coming.  Your sister and brother both broke open the vault of grief last night.  They miss you, and they long for the story to have been different.  They wrestle with the notion of how a good, and loving God chose not to heal their baby sister.  They cry in anger and in utter brokeness to think that such pain and sickness abound.  Yet, even in their pain and in the questioning, they know the hope of more.  For every valley of pain, there is this balance of hope and peace.  For every longing tear of sadness, there are thankful tears of joy.  They miss you so deeply, and it hurts so much to see them miss you, for we know the pain.  We so want to protect them from it, but if we did we would be robbing them of their story.  For it is in their pain of longing for you that reminds them that this is not the end.  And so...we let the tears flow.

Painful.  Heart-wrenching. Messy.  Sorrowful.  Grief.

In our brokeness we offer up a weak hallelujah.  In our pain, our lips tremble as we breathe out and mutter a word of deep gratitude and thanks. Yet, there in the pool of our tears, fully entrenched in the messiness, we feel closer to you and to heaven.   Once again, we are clothed in unmerrited favor.  We are clothed in His GRACE.

And so, as the day of love draws near and we celebrate what would be your sixth birthday, we choose to once again lean into the pain and remember the day we were blessed with our greatest valentine gift of all...GRACE.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

There is Hope Beyond the Bend

Twists and turns in the road of life can be both a blessing and a curse.  In some ways not knowing what is ahead is helpful for it shields us and can prompt us to live in the moment.  Yet, in other ways, it can be agonizing not knowing what lies ahead.  These bends in the road remind me of the seasons of life.  As the fifth year anniversary awaits just around the corner, I'm feeling the confliction rise within me.  There is an unsettling in my spirit.  It's as though I need to be shaken and sifted through the grief sieve yet again.   Every new stage of grief begins with this unsettling of spirit.  I can remember these times of growth and the pain that accompanied them.  How can it be five years already?  It has been one bend at a time.  Oh those early days of grief were so engulfing.  Surviving each day, week, and month took every ounce of strength.  Standing at beginning of the path of life looking at the daunting road ahead without my baby was devastating.  Where did I think I would be in five years?  I couldn't even fathom it.  I couldn't see past that first bend, nor did I want to.   Yet, gingerly I took a step forward, and at times a step back, each moment propelling me towards the next bend.

And here I stand at this milestone, looking back on this crooked road.  What a journey of pain mixed with joy, brokenness intermingled with healing, and a heart once filled with discord has been beautifully woven into harmony.  As I look ahead, I can see the next bend.  This year will be the first year that I will work/teach on her 'dates.'  Every year I have simply guarded Valentine's Day and March 3rd by not working or taking on engagements on those days.  This year will be different as I am working both dates, and so begins the shifting yet again.  I am wrestling with the opposing emotions and caught in this delicate balancing act.  Part of me is so thankful for the healing that I've experienced and the strength that has been borne of the pain and hard work of grief.  Yet, parts of me resist the change as it means I have moved forward, and find myself around yet another bend.  I see others around me caught in battles that rob their lives of loved ones, and my heart breaks.  I know the pain of starting over and the overwhelming feeling of looking ahead at the next bend in the road with no strength left after running on empty for so long.  Yet, just as Christ held me when I was running on empty, I know He will hold them too.  No matter how dire and devastating your situation, He will be there to give you the strength to move one step further.  If you are in such a place today, I want to encourage you that this is not the end.  Hold on to that hope.  When all else fails, and you've come to the end of yourself, hold on to hope.  If you are feeling like you are at the end - take a listen to this song titled "This is Not the End" by Gungor.  It has inspired my heart and reminded me time and time again of the hope of heaven.

Every year I choose a verse to by my theme verse for the year.  This is my 2014 scripture - to find my hope in HIM all day long. Psalm 25: 4&5

Show me your ways, Lordteach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior,
 and my hope is in you all day long.

Blessings on each one of you dear friends and family.