Becoming Holy

Why I Share…

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This precious picture was taken on Gabbie’s Baptism Day, August 25, 1995.  Jennifer had fallen asleep in her wheelchair and Gabbie was asleep as well so we tucked them in together for this picture.  It takes my breath away…Literally.  It makes the tears run down my face. I really miss that Gabbie, Madison, Nicole and Max did not know Jennifer.  I really miss Jordan.  I play “make believe” sometimes in my mind. Jordan is home.  Jennifer is healthy and soon to be 21.  Gabbie is healed and has a sister close in age to hang out with.  There are even a couple more kids between Gabbie and Madison because I wouldn’t have been so afraid to trust. Each of our miscarried children: Harrison, Jackson, Hallie and Maria/Will are thrown into the mix. Minimum of ten children.  Maybe a dozen. Of course the house is a disaster and it’s crazy homeschooling so many kids.  But what a FUN story!  What a happy, crazy, full life!  Right?  Wrong!

I’m living the Plan.  God’s Plan. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28   From the time of Jennifer’s diagnosis to the present, I have felt God’s mighty presence.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t been angry at Him, sad at our situation or frustrated beyond belief.  But, I KNEW He was there with me.  We moved to Twin Falls shortly after Jennifer died and joined a RENEW group at Church.  One day, a member of the group came up to me and thrust a rolled up paper into my hands saying, “Thought this might help you with your dead kid.” Taken only slightly aback at his choice of words, I slowly opened the scroll.  On it was a beautiful pencil drawn image of Jesus embracing a woman.  The woman is obviously mourning.  Her head is tilted back and the look on her face was one I could easily identify with as a newly grieving mother. Devastating, heart-wrenching loss was written all over her features and posture. The truly fabulous part about the drawing was Jesus.  He wasn’t smiling.  He held the same sorrowful pose.  The same grief lingered on His face. He wasn’t smiling. He was experiencing anguish with this woman. This image contradicted almost EVERYTHING people had said at Jennifer’s funeral. This Jesus contradicted phrases like, “God must have needed another angel,” “She’s in a better place,” or “God wanted her with Him.” It is an amazingly comforting image.  I connected INSTANTLY. I was so excited to see and to know this new Jesus.  A Jesus that wasn’t out to take Jennifer from me.  This was the same Jesus who wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.  Why hadn’t I seen Jesus this way before?  I’d read that Gospel story many many times.  For some reason, in my heart, Jesus’ grief over death had only applied to His friends.  Suddenly I realize, “I’M HIS FRIEND! He is weeping with me as well! He doesn’t want to “take” our loved ones. He doesn’t “need another angel.”

He did promise in John 14:1-3: 

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Jesus wants to BE with us.  He is with us in our grief. He is NOT a God of separation. He is a God of unity. The more time has passed, the more I am aware of the very thin veil that separates us from those we love in Heaven. God is also not limited by time. He is the Eternal Now. His love from the beginning is as fresh and new today as it was when He sent His only begotten Son. Death and grief carry some of this timelessness. I believe that is why one can experience tremendous loss, go through seasons of mourning, continue on in faith and Joy and then return to grief. Grieving, after all, is acknowledging the loss of something or someone wonderful. It is accepting a new reality while acknowledging the pain of living without those we love. We also grieve because we have HOPE! If there were no hope for reunion, one might emotionally disconnect and move onward in robotic fashion. St. Augustine boldly stated, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee o God.” I think that phrase applies most directly to God, but also to those who have gone before. We will have restless hearts until we are all together again as one Body of Christ.  One people of faith. No veil to separate.  St. Paul says in Romans 8:38-39, “

      For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I thank God for my friend who thrust that scroll into my hands that day.  I thank God for using him to show me a more accurate image of His Son. I share my story for anyone who has gone through loss or knows someone who has gone through loss. I am thankful for all those who have opened their hearts and trusted their pain to me. Last night, a friend invited me to speak at a Bereavement group she facilitates. I told her I would be delighted. Her parents, too, had lost a child. They were the first people I thought of when Jennifer died. I remember thinking of them and speaking with Joe. We spoke of this special couple in amazement. They gave us hope. They are joyful people. They laugh and joke. They have fun. They love life. They are faith-filled. We looked at them and knew we would be okay. Their joy and faith spoke more loudly than words. Grief will belong to most of us, eventually. How blessed are we to have confidence in our Risen Lord. To know that He has gone to prepare a place for us. To know that He will come and take us to Himself. And to know that ultimately, nothing can separate us.



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Where the light enters…

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“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  These words are so fitting this time of year. Bear with me as I make my way through this week. Time to reexamine the wound of grief.  All month I’ve been picking at the corners of the band-aid…trying to see if this year I could maybe ease it off bit by bit.  You know~sort of a slow progress approach with the goal of not feeling any pain or hurting my heart or any of that sticky business! (As my Aunt Anna would call it!) However, the band-aid has been on for 18 years, removed and reapplied~sometimes I think with superglue~so as to make the following years’ removal all the more painful. Well. Here we are. I’m two cups of coffee into the morning and it isn’t even seven o’clock.  The neck knot has added shoulder pain and sort of a continuous headache this past week. 

Timeout.  Intermission.  Have you listened to the words of Tenth Avenue North’s “Healing Begins?” I cry and heal each time I listen. It’s all about striving to present a perfect image to the world, building up walls, letting the walls drop and being vulnerable.  It’s about light and dark and letting the light of Christ work healing. Please check it out.

A friend who has recently lost her sweet mom and I were talking about grief and my sharing it in this forum. Being honest about how awful grief is means being vulnerable. The walls are down and there is a complete revealing of the soul. Part of me wants to “dress it up” and sound really together.  You know.  The “I’ve got this” kind of mentality.  The voice of experience. The “Time heals all wounds” myth. But honestly, I can’t do that. It’s not fair to anyone around me going through loss, wondering why things AREN’T better. Wondering why the loss continues to hurt. Time certainly helps but complete healing is the stuff of Eternity. 

Thinking of processing this one day at a time…1years ago today, it was Saturday.  I was so thankful Joe was home for the weekend. Jordan was four years old. Jennifer’s third birthday was coming up in two weeks. Gabbie was nine weeks old. I was REALLY, REALLY tired. I was working on sewing a sweet little Pocahontas costume for Jordan to wear trick or treating. Jennifer’s would be sewn next OR she would wear a sweet little furry Holstein cow costume.  The girls had worn them the year before and they were snug and warm. Gabbie was going to be a pumpkin. It was hard to get any sewing done. Jennifer had just had surgery to place a feeding tube in August.  She was finally putting on weight but her oxygen saturation was down. Gabbie had severe jaundice and had to be taken to the Clinic every other day for blood work. Jordan was excited about her costume and we were going to shop for a Pocahontas turtleneck to wear underneath the suede dress to keep her warm. There was a lot to get done. There was a lot that wouldn’t get done. Looking back, we had no idea it was our last Saturday together.  The following Saturday would be little Jennifer’s funeral…

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A Night at the Museum…

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Dinosaurs~Everywhere!  Our recent trip to take Jordan to New York City included an afternoon in the American Museum of Natural History. We had placed this stop high on the list of things to do, having recently watched the movie, “A Night at the Museum.”   What fun to exit the subway and walk into a magical land of dinosaurs!  We were all intrigued by the archaeological findings, but none of us more than our little Max!  Photos had to be taken with every different type of dinosaur and he would break into the “Stegosaurus Song” at the drop of a hat!

We have a renewed interest in dinosaurs at our house.  There is a dinosaur collection of toys at the local drug store, including a dinosaur egg that only needs to be placed in water for 24 hours before it begins to hatch!  We purchased the egg, placed it in water, and debated on a name.  Max’s new baby dino would be called “Roger.”  Roger began to hatch the following morning.  A grand discussion took place about how this happens.  Max thought maybe the dinosaur “toy” had sharp claws and teeth which would cause the egg to crack as it grows.  I asked him what we would do if it were REAL, like in the movie!  Both of our eyes got really big as we discussed what we would do with a LIVE dinosaur in the house!

Max’s cousins came to play and in the course of showing off the dinosaur, Roger was REMOVED from the water!  GASP!  With tears just on the verge, Godmother Lisa, took Max’s hand and off to the drugstore they went.  Max returned with not one, but THREE, dinosaur gifts!  Aren’t Godmothers the best?  And so we have been excavating dinosaur bones out of chalky eggs, submersing additional eggs in water and studying dinosaurs on every available space in our kitchen/school room!

It’s amazing how something as fun as a unit study on dinosaurs still draws us back to God.  Discussions on Creation and when Adam and Eve lived came up.  We all want to know if there were dinosaurs “in the beginning.”  How did everyone get along?  Which part of Bible History saw the “end of the dinosaurs?  Were they placed on earth for fossil fuel?  Does the massive size of the dinosaur help remind us of the awesome power of God?  Great questions!

Roger, by the way, is still making his way out of the egg.  The water removal may have arrested his development, but he is slowly making his way into our family. As our dinosaur family grows, so does my awareness that this season is one to enjoy and embrace~knowing that the seasons of life are far too short. Thanking God for the gift of little boys, museum trips, dinosaurs, godmothers, cousins and big sisters who love Little Brother so much they share in his joy at all times!

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October Pain

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The calendar turned and my heart dropped…October…I love this month and yet, I don’t. It’s full of memories and pain and every year since 1995, I find myself reliving the days that led to Jennifer’s transition to eternal life. I really don’t care for the emotional toll this takes on me.  I’m fairly certain my personality twists a bit this time of year.  I have a knot in the back of my neck the size of an egg~I know it’s from tension. It’s that anticipation kind of tension. Like when you are watching a movie and you know something bad is going to happen and you tense up and wait…

Two years ago, we experienced loss again in October.  September had brought news of a baby coming~we were astounded and ever so joyful!  Feeling like Abraham and Sarah, we kept it quiet but anticipated a baby the following May.  We had already decided on the name “Will” for a boy because this child was certainly God’s Will.  Maria for a girl after the Blessed Mother.  How exciting!  Max would have a brother or sister to enjoy.  In early October my blood work suggested all was not necessarily well.  I went in for an ultrasound and we were delightfully surprised to see little baby and a strong heartbeat!  Hooray!  The two week follow up ultrasound however showed no heart beat.  Absolute devastation!  We were at the three month mark and our joy was stripped in moments. It hurt my heart and it continues to hurt. I was so angry at God! To bring this surprising news of a new baby and then take it away…in October, no less. A black month made even bleaker.

If you’ve not experienced loss, you might share the thoughts of those who think it is time to “get over it.” If you have experienced loss, you understand that death and loss is not something one “gets over.”  Loss becomes a part of us and anniversaries are going to have impact.  To truly love someone is to become part of each other.  Those who have lost a spouse have truly lost a part of themselves~for God says that the “two become one flesh.”  A child without a parent has lost his parent, his friend, his home.  I think especially to lose one’s mother is to lose one’s first home.  Mind-boggling that at one time, each of us was nestled safely inside the womb of our mother.  The physical loss of our first “home” is going to be painful. The loss of our fathers means loss of security and protection. The loss of a child leaves a sense of failure.  Failure to protect and provide.  Failure to nurture and comfort. These are deep aches. 

The pain of loss cannot be left on the surface continuously.  It would be too exhausting. Too painful.  And so the body puts the pain “away.” Survival requires this. The anniversaries, birthdays, etc. sort of force one to find the “event box,” take it out and examine the contents.  It’s painful and yet good. It hurts~like ripping off a bandaid~revealing the wound beneath.  God comes in and breathes His Spirit over the wounded memories and allows healing in if we let Him. In the words of the poet, Rumi, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” The Light is Christ.  The ache is good.  The tears are good.  The hurt is good.  The questioning is good.  Why?  Why did this happen?  What did I do wrong?  Why me?  Why our family?  And then the quiet. The answers in our heart that this is not punishment.  The slow realization of the good that has come from this.  The knowledge that God does not hurt us.  He hurts WITH us and FOR us.  The realization that we are walking a walk no different than He did, than Mary did.  These answers won’t completely satisfy this side of Heaven, but time passes and gradual healing occurs. The Light enters.  The Light brings healing.

So, it’s time.  It’s October.  Time to rip off the bandage.  Expose the heart wounds. Own the pain. Seek healing. Cry. Cry Out.  Hurt. Pray. Receive His grace. Receive His Light. Recall His love. Feel His Presence.  Bless His Name. 

“The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

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