Saturday, January 13, 2018

Where was God?

It's a question we hear often.  Where was God when...? I've heard it my entire life.  So have you.

And honestly...I had never asked it before. Until...

There are certain pains that, though heartbreaking and oh-so-hard, we comprehend.  We somewhat comprehend sickness. Death. Betrayal.  Perhaps only because of exposure.

We live in a broken world. Full of broken people and broken...ness.  And though we don't fully 'get' it...we are familiar with it, so we comprehend it.

Then there are some trials...that...we simply don't get. They are beyond our scope. Beyond what we feared in the long lists we record in our hearts.  They just...are too big.

Ten years ago...yes, ten...we went through something with my husband's family that fit this description. While on vacation together at a neutral location, his mom suffered with back pain. No big deal, right? Chiropractor, acupuncture...then ER.  In a blur of confusion, lack of information and a quick decline in her health that left everyone begging God for answers...we were in that place. That place of "wait...what??" When you have heard of such a thing but only on the news with total strangers, in freak incidents... but was it something we ever thought about? Considered? Feared, even? No.  And yet..it was our reality.  We stood around his beautiful mom's bed side and sang hymns as she entered Heaven just a few days before Christmas.

Yes...we know diseases and horrific diagnoses come and are no respecter of persons. We get that.  We feared those. But this? What? No. The entire long drive to her hometown to prepare for the funeral, we were left with spinning heads, more questions than answers and total shock.

We still talk, ten years later, of the ways God showed up during that time. Beautiful ways that left us with no doubt God was still in control.  Yes...when our world appeared spinning out of it...we didn't just blindly believe, God showed us so clearly...that He was in control.

Here we are...in a place with enough space to look back and what unfolded in our lives, and finally... exhale.  And then go "wait..what??"  As parents, as a mom...I admit I had fears. Many were unrealistic.  We all have them.  Yet...this?  This was deeper and darker and so much worse than my heart could ever fear.  I could not comprehend this happening...ever. To any family. In any reality...let alone ours.

Two nights ago, I sat on the couch and had a vivid flashback. Suddenly I was back to that place, I remember it so clearly.  I had just woken from a light, barely-there sleep.  I remember sitting up in bed only to be quickly aware that my nightmare was indeed a nightmare...but my reality.  I stumbled out of bed to the bathroom and leaning over the sink, just hunched in front of the mirror. My eyes still puffy from a few hours before. Deep stains of mascara under my eyes, why I bothered to put it on those days...is beyond me.  I remember hearing the quiet of our house. The deep breathing of my husband and two little girls.  Out loud, I spoke the words I had been trying not to ask.  "Oh God...where were you?" and with that unlocked yet another part of my heart into deep wails.  I remember looking up at my face in the mirror and seeing the horror in my own eyes, affirming this was now our story.  This was not someone's story...not one we could walk beside and empathize with...not one we could shake our head in disbelief at, as our pretty life went on. No...no. There would be no days in the near future where our brains and hearts and memories were not tormented. This was our story.  I looked back to the mirror and again, the wails came. Not tears. Wails. If you've been somewhere in that valley of deep grief... you know.  You know.

And then my heart softened. "Did Heaven cry...? Did you weep? Did all of Heaven mourn...?" My pleas now got louder. I was begging God to somehow show me He was broken for us, long before we knew.

Instantly I remember thinking of the injustice of living in a place with three hundred days of sunshine. How wrong that we would wake each morning to clear blue skies and sunshine and birds chirping as if...as if...there was peace? As I looked back in that moment I fell to the floor saying over and over "why didn't it pour day after day? Why? Why didn't Heaven mourn and wail as it witnessed horror upon horror?"

Suddenly my shoulders were held.  My husband's warm touch. He picked me up, pulled me into a hug and said "come on Janice. We need sleep..." and back to bed I went.

I've never forgotten that night.  I remember waking the next morning and texting my dad. My preacher-dad.  He sent me verses to comfort and for the first time I took so much peace from the fact that Jesus cried at his friend's death. Knowing He was about to raise him from the dead, he still cried. He fully entered in...to the pain of death. Loss.

As I sit here tonight...with thoughts racing, confusion still swirling...in the darkest of valleys...God was present. He was so near.  Oh...don't think for a moment that I didn't have moments of extreme doubt. I did.  I would be far from truthful if I said otherwise.  I did.  But faithfully, gently...over and over and over and over and over...He showed us how near He was.

I sit here tonight, still with a fragile heart.  Sewn so loosely together with frayed threads. And I know He is good. He was there...and He is good.  Though our situation was anything but good...He walked with us every step.  In the many, many moments that I could not see Him and began to sink...He was still there.

Pain. Deep, deep pain.

Brokenness so much beyond what I ever feared.  Yet a faith that is on a solid rock.  A choosing to believe, with eyes wide open, that He was and is...fully in control.  He took us through the fire.  Wounded? Scarred? Oh..yes.
But not burned.




Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Alive...even though a part of me has died

So many have asked how we are doing.  And I can't get this song out of my head...I think because it perfectly describes where I am.  Thank you for praying us through.  

Why?
The question that is never far away
But healing doesn't come from the explained
Jesus please don't let this go in vain
You're all I have
All that remains

So here I am
What's left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I'm alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide



Breathe
Sometimes I feel it's all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through

So here I am
What's left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I'm alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide


It's the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty
When grace is ushered in for good
And all the scars are understood
When mercy takes its rightful place
And all these questions fade away
When out of the weakness we must bow
And hear You say "It's over now"

I'm alive
And even though a part of me has died
You take this heart and breathe it back to life
I fall to your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear
Awake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here
When the hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear
Awake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here



Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas gratefulness.

We sat around the table tonight ... talking about gifts.

It's Christmas Eve.  The night before the greatest gift the world has ever received.  As we heard today...the 'why' behind all the 'what' in our lives. The reason, the purpose, the hope, the answer, the peace, the foundation...the why.

And it inspired a wonderful conversation with our children about gifts. We asked each one of them what the greatest gift they have received aside from Jesus and family.  The answers were wonderful...and then they turned to us to ask the same.

For Dean and I...there is one gift that trumps all last year. A tangible, given-gift.  It changed the course of our year and without a doubt...our lives.  Ever receive a gift so big that you know you will spend the rest of your life thanking the giver..? We received that gift.

And it made me think all evening long of wonderful gifts we received.  Yes...if you have been following our journey...in the hardest year and a half of life.

I sat and wrote friends text messages. To the one who taught me how to use the wings I never knew I had. The person who taught me how to fly and assured me that I could and would.  Oh...my heart is so thankful for the gift of her.

To the friend who never ever left my side. Through the heart break, through the confusion, through the despair...she was with me 100%.  Oh my heart...we are bonded for life.

To the friend who barely knew me at the time but felt led to reach out to me for reasons she didn't yet know...and in doing so...connected me with the giver of the greatest gift.  I don't have words for her...but feebly expressed the best I could.

For the gift of Topaz Treasure.  The baby girl who gave me more than she could ever comprehend.

Tonight I sit here in the quiet of a sleeping house...a modest tree glistening with wonderful surprises under it...and most importantly with hope.  Hope of healing. Hope of joy. Hope of better days ahead. Hope of redemption.  Hope of an empty slate of days around the corner.

There's so much excitement in our house on December 24...but there's more in my heart.  I can feel the world in anticipation for a gift it could never fathom receiving.  That God Himself would become man and dwell among us...who could ever even hope for such a gift? Ahhh. He came.

May our hearts be inspired to gratefulness today.  Through the pain, through the loss of the year gone by, through the broken promises, shattered dreams, dreaded diagnosis, unexplained loss of jobs, betrayal of once-loyal friends...may we each take a moment to identify the gifts we have been given...yes...in the pain.  I can honestly say that the gifts are more beautiful this year than any other.  Pain and loss has the ability to do that....who knew?

Merry Christmas, friends.

Merry Christmas.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Heroes.

We were doing our norm for over 5 years now...driving well over an hour (each way) for a 45m speech therapy appointment.  He was reading his book for the second time...because "it's THAT good"...until Mom interrupted.

"Are you a hero?"  It was immediately followed by a jolt and a quick glance my direction. "What? Me?" Laughter. "No! Definitely not."

"Oh. Really? Why not?"

"Well...for one...heroes like...save the world. And..I haven't exactly done that." Laughter.  Looks back out his window. Back at me. (What in the world is Mom thinking? I mean, really!)

"So...do you know any heroes?"

"Uhhh...in real life? No. Never met any.  In my books, I know heroes! But...yeah, not in real life. Like...do you know any...?"

Long glance my way. I knew I was smiling.

"Ahh yes. I do.  I'm sitting by one..."

"What? Are you serious? Mom...really. I'm not a hero. Are you joking? What do you mean?"

"We'll...why don't we define a hero.  I think we need to re-define it. Do you know what that means?"

"Yeah. Change its meaning."

"Yeah.  So how about instead of a hero being only a fictional character in your books...what if a hero is really someone who is really courageous and does the hard thing...when others wouldn't....? What if it's someone who, by doing the hard thing...does make a big impact on someone else.  And by doing that...actually...does change the world? Just not in the way you are thinking."

He smiles.  Sparkles. That's what he did.  He can't even help it.  He sparkled long before he ever smiled. 8 weeks old. He was sitting in his infant swing. I'll never forget it. He sparkled...his eyes fully smiled before it ever made it to his mouth. I remember his plastic surgeon telling us that God gave cleft babies extra sparkle in their eyes. Right from birth. And he was so right with Azlan.

"So...now that we redefined what a hero is...I was wondering if your answer has changed....are you a hero?"

No hesitation.  None.  Looking over at me...not out his window.  "Yes.  Yes...I am.  And so is Zion...Azahria...and you. Definitely you. You are a hero! So I guess... I do know real life heroes!"

His smile said it all.  We didn't need to fill in the unspoken gaps...because our newly clarified definition...well, it said it all.

Change the world? Oh yes he did.  Spoke up when it took some boldness, courage...when he felt a little silly...? Yeah, that for sure.

Impacted someone's (more than one's) life forever? Oh...without a doubt.

He went back to his book.  Random chuckles from his own little world of fictional heroes that save the world...maybe they had more meaning now that he knows he's one of them.  I could hope.

As we said our goodbyes after FIVE years with his therapist...there were some misty eyes, no question. I asked if he had anything he wanted to tell her based on our discussion. He smiled. "Yes, that you are my hero..." She pulled him into a hug.

Heroes.

Everyday normal people...that are courageous enough to stand up, speak up, do the right thing even if it's not popular.  People that do hard things with us and for us and impact our lives forever. And those, who in doing so, change the world...our world, forever.

Heroes.

May we know them....recognize them...thank them.  May we raise them...and most importantly may we all find the quiet courage within ourselves to be them.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Saying goodbye.

Saying good bye, first, to all the things.  That's all they are.

And I can tell you though I have loved the things...I've loved saying goodbye even more.

As we sit here in our strangely empty house...we feel so free.  Yes...we are leaving with only what matters...each other.

Any crisis will show you that's all that ever did matter. We just tend to get lost in the things.  Chasing things...and ironically... though we think it's for what truly matters...the people in our lives...we end up trading time with the people in order to get the things.

Sad.

I've thought a lot about saying good bye to this state. This state that we came to as young, still wet behind the ears, newly weds.  Pregnant with our first child...clueless in many ways. We leave...wiser...to be sure.  How we gained that wisdom...we'd never wish on anyone.  We leave with our oldest having just turned 14.  What the what...? Crazy. And yet...when we look back on the last fourteen...they have been full. Full of beautiful, wonderful, crazy, and oh-so-heartbreakingly-hard moments.

My mind wants to immediately gravitate to the strong thought that this state stole so much more from us than it ever gave...but.

But...it didn't.  As much as it stole..more than I thought was possible even in the land of the worst of the worst fears and nightmares...we are choosing to believe it gave much more.

Yes. It gave these precious 7 babies that were born here. Children that I could not possibly love more.  Ones that know beyond all doubt that we will fight for their safety, their freedom, their healing.   It gave depth and fierce commitment to our marriage.  It gave friendships that will last forever. It gave our counsellor that we never would have known if it weren't for all that it stole.  And she? She's changed my life forever.

So to you, Washington...I say farewell.  We couldn't be more ready to wave goodbye.  And as we go...there is no question what you stole is begging to be front and center in our minds...but we are choosing to look at what you gave.  Maybe most of all...you gave us wings.  And though we wished we never had to use them...that we were never pushed to the cliff and put to the test...we were. And now...we fly.



Friday, September 15, 2017

Run towards the roar.

The same beautiful friend that sent the book to me at the most needed time in my life...often messages me with a reminder to 'run towards the roar'.

"Through The Eyes of a Lion" changed my life. Yes. I said it.

And if you are in the storm of all storms...or the deepest of grief...it just might offer you hope too.

The very idea of running towards the roar is against every fiber of my being.  My nature is to duck. Hide. Retreat. Back to my four walls.

And honestly, at this point in our journey...? I'm tired. Truly...just, plain...tired.

I have fought for so long, so very hard...and only done so with strength from Christ, Himself.  I...am...tired.

Tonight...I took the plunge.  And it's so very hard.

I don't know where this goes...but tonight was step one.  Of running towards the roar.  And don't get me wrong...I'm sitting here at my desk...crying. My house is quiet. I should be watching Fixer Upper or something much more light hearted than what I'm doing.  Just sipping coffee sitting out on the deck. Over a fire. Anything really...but what I'm doing.

Last night, one of the people that has impacted my life the very most, sent me a song. I've heard the song many times before. But this time...something caught my attention.

Though, quite frankly...well-deserved...I had taken a seat.  Stopped standing.  My legs...well...they are tired. Perhaps even...broken.  Wobbly, for sure.  And then I watched this:

https://www.google.com/search?kgmid=/g/11b8cc_2x0&hl=en-US&kgs=2330e47c3d3a9310&q=passion+conferences+in+christ+alone&shndl=0&source=sh/x/kp&entrypoint=sh/x/kp

I realized...it's time to stand.

So tonight I begin to write. To write the story.  And though I'm told healing will come from writing it...I'm not feeling it tonight.  It's horrific. No one should ever have to live this nightmare. And telling it...has me sitting here crying. Wanting to run and puke.

But the time has come. The time to stand...so that I can run. Run towards the roar. The very thing I fear...the very thing that terrifies me.  That thing.

In Christ alone.



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Freeing.

Freeing. The act...of setting yourself free.

So for me...this was walking into our closet and feeling all the emotions that I have felt for so long...and choosing to be free.

Associations are powerful.  I would see a shirt...and remember when and where I wore it, if it was attached to a bad memory.  So this resulted in me having a full closet...and yet "nothing to wear".

Does that resonate at all?

The problem is...I love my clothes.  I only buy what I love.  And this means many of my pieces are 7 and 10 years old! SERIOUSLY.  (Doing the kids baby books...proved it!)

I stood in my closet a few weeks ago...holding pieces I didn't want to part with...crying...and choosing to be free.

99% of my wardrobe went to consignment.  Things I wasn't 'done with'. Things I 'still loved'.  Things I wanted to keep for years to come.  My 'favorite pieces'.   But it was time.

Time...to set myself free.

At least now when I walk into my closet and groan that "I have nothing to wear!!"...it's legit! I really...truly...don't. And you know what? I'm ok with it.  Because I chose freedom over stuff.

A few nights after that big moment, Dean came home with a Starbucks and an envelope.  The kids all gathered around for me to open it.  On the outside it said "Janice's clothing fund".  I opened it to see 5- $100 bills inside.  And I cried.

Yes. We share a bank account. Yes...what's his is mine. But he knows...I would never spend the money on me.  It was an amazing gift and the fun part? I still have $432 left.  I have spent it only on things I love.

Not things on sale. Not running to the clearance, as I have my whole life. But just buying things I love...that I will love to wear.

I stopped in the most adorable boutique a few days ago.  I found a shirt that I truly love.  In every other moment in my life, I would have choked on the price and put it back.  But this time...? Without hesitation I walked to the counter with my cash and bought it.  And for good measure...? Bought a pastry to enjoy on my way home.

Free.

This was so freeing to me...much more than I could have anticipated...that a few weeks later I walked into our little girl's room.  I saw our six year old's shoulders go up...her body freeze as I started pulling out dresses out of her closet.  I looked at her and asked if she saw happy memories or sad memories with each piece.  99% was sad.  I asked if she was ready to say good bye to the sad and get some new things with happy memories.  Bags of clothing later...they now love going into their closet to choose what to wear.

Free.

For you...it may not look like emptying your wardrobe.  It's really symbolic of something much greater. But I suspect each one of us can take a step towards freedom. An active step...towards being free.

This is a small step compared to what we are taking in a few weeks.  But really...should any material thing hold us back from freedom?  Isn't it all just 'stuff'...? Just a car...? Just a house...? Just clothes...?

If you see me...and I'm wearing what you saw me wear 2 times in the prior week....know this.  I am much freer than I was six months ago with a fabulous wardrobe.  In fact...I don't even go in my closet and whine about nothing to wear. Because everything in there...? Reminds me that I'm free.  Nothing has a powerful negative memory attached to it.  And it's all just clothes.  Just stuff.

My heart being free is worth so much more.

So is yours.