Friday, June 9, 2017

The gift of 'Today'.

Our life came to a crashing halt. And it was the worst of the worst of the worst...yes, of the very worst... of all of my fears combined.  And...nothing could be worse. It was it.

All we did was take the necessary one step at a time...sometimes choosing to just keep breathing to survive it.

But this week I've been hindsight.  Woah.

What was horror then...was only the beginning.  And had I known then...what I know now...? I may not have survived it.

While I wished at the time I had known it all immediately...I have to be honest with myself and acknowledge there's no way I could have handled it all then.

The horror multiplied. And then again.  What we didn't think could ever get worse...did...indeed.

But this makes me think how looking back...the gift of one day at a time...saved me.

If you are like me...and like to at least feel like you are in control (silly...silly me) then you want the full view right up front. Tell me what's coming, tell me all the bad, the good...just lay it out on the table. I'm a realist...I can take it. couldn't.  And though that part of me still struggles with not having known it all right up was God's grace that we didn't.

Could it be that the slow unravelling of all we once knew to be one of the core reasons we've survived...?

Today.  Today is all we've got. Each stage along the way...I've only had 'today'.  I had no idea what would unfold 24 hours later. I had what was right in front of  And now only a tad bit removed from the situation...I can see that was one of the greatest gifts along the way.

God only gave me 'today'.  One day to chew off at a time. One day to a time.  Just one.  I could have never handled even two.

We all know stories...people...who have perhaps been diagnosed with cancer.  The first time they fought with everything in them. Gave it all they had...and they survived.  A few years later...the horrible news came again. It's back.  And they pick up their fight and go for it.  Every day being a choice to survive.  And how many times do you hear those stories of people that have fought 2-3 times over their life? Had they known with the first diagnosis that there were 2 more coming in the you think they would have fought as hard as they did?  Or was it the gift of one day at a time?

We think we can handle the future...but we cannot.

I cannot.  I could not.  And here with my head finally above water more than one inch...I can see that.  I can see looking back that though my 'need to know', 'ultimate realist' personality hated never knowing what was around the large part it's what kept me breathing.  I only had one day to get through.

One day to fight my hardest for what matters the very most. One day to love 100%.  One day to be intentional. One day to laugh. One day to cry.

Just one.

Thank you God...for the gift of a day at time.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Mourn with those who mourn.

Early in the journey of our past year...with a broken, shattered heart...I cried out to God.

I remember it so clearly.  I could barely catch my breath between sobs.  And my question was not "why?" it was a deep longing to know that Heaven cried.

I stood in my bathroom looking at my swollen, blotchy, mascara-stained, notably sleep-lacking face...and sobbed.  All I wanted to know is that God Himself wept.  Did Jesus cry...? Did Heaven mourn as the worst of the worst had occurred?

I think far too often we awkwardly tip toe around people that are grieving. We don't know what to we (wrongly) say nothing.  Perhaps try to distract them and talk about happy things.  No. No one is looking for you to solve their deep pain. No one expects that of you, so why do you expect it of you? In fact...most of the 'wisdom' you have to offer is going to come across as trite at best.

Want to know what we want? We want someone to mourn with us.  Though you could never fully enter in to someone's can for a moment...try.  You can cry with them. There is an odd comfort in knowing that someone is crying with and for you.

Don't worry...your tomorrow will be cheerier than theirs.  You'll get up and go about your day. It's momentary for you. It's ok to go there. And honestly? It's all we want.

Not your words. Not your wisdom. Not anything you are afraid you don't have to give.  Just someone to say "I'm so very sorry".

My dad had reminded me that Jesus did weep. At the death of His friend (even when He knew He was about to raise him from the dead...) He allowed Himself to go there.  To enter in to the pain of His friends...and weep.

And that's what I needed to know.  I actually longed for rain.  I wanted the sky to wail and lament with me.  I truly did. I hated that I woke to beautiful blue skies and sunshine as if all was well in the world...when in my world...? It was not.

The very best advice I could give...please take it from someone who has lived through unthinkable in Romans 12:15. Rejoice with those who rejoice...mourn with those who mourn.

I remember calling my friend and we both just sat on the phone and sobbed.  She said nothing that I recall. I could just hear her sobs.  And somehow that lessened my pain.

Can you be the one to cry with your friend who is suffering? You don't need the gift of words, lots of money or anything just need to be willing to enter in to their pain and...weep. Mourn.

My friend sent me this song today...

Friday, June 2, 2017

Just look.

She was laying on my lap. The kitchen was buzzing with kids. The puppy laying in her kennel not far from us.  She was fussy. Eyes going all over the place. I was leaning over her...6 inches from her face. happened. She caught my eyes.

And everything changed.

Her legs settled...her face softened...and whatever was frustrating her moments before seemed to disappear.  And then those little eyes squinted and her smile took up her whole face.

She's only 10 weeks old.  I was emotional.

I said out loud to her..."ahhh...this is just like your mama!"

In my own world. My mind racing a million miles a minute. Tormented. Down hearted.  Panicking about the future.  And then...I look up.


He's right there.  Just waiting for me to catch His eye.

Whatever it was...I don't even know in that moment. When I catch a glimpse of him.  And I like to think my smile takes over my whole face just like little Topaz.

She stayed smiling at me for several minutes. Locked eyes.  And then...she got distracted and looked away and started fussing again.

It made me think...we can be right there...He can be right there...but we are so internalizing that we just don't see. I never backed away.  I was still looking at her eyes. I was still smiling.  She looked away.

Today...whatever you are going through...I hope you just take a moment to look up.  See how He is faithful. He's never left you.  Not in the worst of the worst of the worst that you have experienced.  I can say this from just surviving the ultimate fire that life could ever bring.  I'm so thankful I had friends that would constantly remind me that He was right there. Because there were many more moments that I couldn't see him than what I could.

Hang on.  You are still being held.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day...redemption.

Mother's Day weekend marks one year of our lives as we knew it ... imploding.

I have dreaded this weekend for a long time.  As it came got worse. And truly it did.  Friday morning was one of the scariest moments of my life...and that's saying something.  Then Saturday. Oh..the Saturday before Mother's Day. That is 'the day'. The day everything changed.  

Mother's Day last year was spent doing unfathomable things. It's crystal clear and yet all a blur in my mind.  I can feel each moment as time stood still...yet it's all blurring into a fog that only profound trauma could do. And last year's Mother's Day was spent making memories. Because I was relentless in my pursuit of not having more days of our lives stolen.  

Today after church, we stopped by Costco. Dean and the older kids ran in to grab a few things. I was in the van with the little children.  

It was in this selfie moment with our 7 week old baby...that I stopped in my tracks and said, out loud "ahhh...redemption". 

So the end of this day...I find myself doing what I have my children do...often. Thinking of what I'm thankful for to get my focus off of all the hard.  It's not easy making new memories. It's not easy working so hard all day long to push out the horrific memories that are forcing their way in to steal your day.  Last night I got a hot bath and cried.  It hit me that one year before I came running into that same bathroom to sob on the floor...and a few minutes later Dean had joined me there.  

I know we often feebly attempt to comfort others with trite thoughts like 'give it time...' 'time heals'... and honestly perhaps enough time hasn't passed for me to know. But I can tell you that in our case the more time that has passed, the more the reality has set in...the deeper the pain.  The deeper the trauma.  

I don't know the why.  For now..I've stopped asking.  That is something time may reveal.  I do know this last year has taken its toll on us all.  

But today...? I saw a glimpse of redemption.  Topaz Treasure.  Collateral Beauty.  Treasure out of the ashes.  


Next year...I hope I remember this moment on Mother's Day instead of the horror of 2016.  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Collateral Beauty.

About a week ago, late one night when the kids were in bed, we rented the movie.

It's a very interesting story. And has all sorts of twists and turns. I'm not here to promote it or say you will love it. I'm in a place of deep pain and so watching a story about someone else's deep pain...often has very applicable moments.

This one was no exception.

When the movie was over, I went immediately to bed and sobbed my eyes out.

How in the world could my story have collateral beauty...? How could anything good come from this nightmare?

I blogged months ago, right at the beginning of this story unfolding...about the complete stranger that told me to look for the gifts along the way. And we did. And we saw them. Many.

That's really what collateral beauty is.  The beauty that comes from the pain.  In the movie, the lady who lost her young child was told the same thing also by a complete stranger.  "Be sure to look for the collateral beauty..."

Then there was this moment.

This moment in time when our world changed. For the better.  It was the strangest moment for me because 2 minutes before her entrance into the world...I looked at Dean and said "I'm still prepared for the worst...I can't even imagine hearing a cry...or seeing a baby..."  Yes. What an awful way to go all the way up to the delivery of your child. Our world has been ravaged by pain and loss and horror in the last ten months. I was just terrified of getting my hopes up that something beautiful could really be my heart blocked it out.

And then there she was.  Actually...for many reasons one I will never forget. My doctor (whom I adore) said "Janice, reach down and help deliver your baby..." and I couldn't even open my eyes. I couldn't see...I just did it.  I grabbed her shoulders and pulled her to me.

I've cried at the birth of all my children. You know...those happy tears. But not these.  This was at least 10 minutes of sobs.  I...sobbed.  I said nothing. I just cried.  The room was full of joy and laughter and she was crying and I had never even entered into that being a possibility.  I was...sobbing.

Dean asked if I was ok and all I could say was "I never believed she'd really be here...that this would really happen..."

I heard my doctor tell everyone that our family has suffered unimaginable trauma and that this was deeply emotional for us.  There was this moment...where the baby is laying on my chest under the blanket and my doctor leaned forward. It was a moment I'm so thankful to have captured. There's a lot of feeling in this picture. Not just the normal feels...the happiness of an amazing entrance into the world. goes further than that.  It was that moment of us both knowing without saying a word...we were looking at collateral beauty.

How could something so very perfect and pure coming from our ashes? How could this story possibly have any positive twist?

Everyone in the room waited with baited breath to hear her name.  My nurse (whom I adored and will love forever) was wiping the tears telling me she had goosebumps.  Her name forever marks the time in our lives she entered the world. The fact that she is indeed our...collateral beauty.

Topaz Treasure.

Topaz is a precious gemstone. A birth stone. Tirzah's, in fact.  A fun way of naming our last after our first.

But it's more.

Topaz is named after an island in the Red Sea called Topazios. An island surrounded in thick fog. It was so difficult to see that only the most skilled of sailors could find it. Once they did...? They were rewarded with the find of this beautiful stone...since named Topaz.  It means "To seek".

Treasure.  A few weeks before our nightmare revealed itself...I woke in the night several times with one line from one of my favorite songs. Diamonds by Hawk Nelson. The line was "Here in the ashes...I'm finding treasure..."


In the ashes of the last 10's hard to imagine anything beautiful being born. But...she's here.

Topaz Treasure.

Our most searched for treasure. Out of the ashes.

Collateral Beauty.

Then the next day...Dean gave me this gift.  Oh...he not only knows me and gets me...he loves me. Deeply.  And this was just one way of him showing me.  This ring.  It's hard to see it...but here's what it says:
"My story isn't over yet; Topaz Treasure 3/23/2017"

I'm crying just writing that.  I have felt like my story was over.  Not in a pitiful, all-about-me way. In a  'where do we go from here...?' way.  In a 'nothing good come every come out of this nightmare'...way.

I love every part of this ring.  That he thought of this. That it was all his idea. His wording.  And that he got right to the heart of the matter. He knows how I feel.  He knows my deepest pain.  He knows I've struggled to find hope.  And yes...he said it so well. She's the proof that our story isn't over.  She's the collateral beauty.

Monday, March 6, 2017


Last night Dean said "oh I got something really awesome in my reading today...I wanted to share it with you...."

He went on to read several verses and I had to be on my left side or I start to black out (anyone else like that late in pregnancy...?) so I was turned away from him. jaw was open.  These were for me.

Whispers...perhaps much louder and clearer than whispers.  They spoke right to my soul.  

I've been struggling so much in our journey with the complete lack of ... how do I say it... justice.  Things have not been 'right' or 'true'. The more the obvious lack of 'justice' the more my heart hurts all over again.  I find myself longing for common sense...heart...and justice. Just for someone to see the story and hear the truth.  I lay awake at night haunted by the lack of it.  Tormented...honestly.  I've learned to see the world so differently than I did a year ago.  And that...saddens me.  I've never lived in a rainbows and lollipops world. My world has been full of 'hard' for years. But doable hard.  Manageable hard.  And hard with great rewards along the way.  Then there was this part of our story. This part that threw us to our knees...literally.  Moments I will never forget so long as I have breath. Moments that increasingly make me wake in the night screaming, sweating, convulsing.  Did this all really happen? Is this really true? Please tell me it's just a horrific nightmare. No. Alas...this is our reality.  And to top it off...a complete lack of justice.  I lay back down to go to sleep and hope for peace just for a few more hours.

And then there were these whispers.

Straight from Heaven.

Psalm 37 (NIV)
Do not fret because of those who are evil

    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good;

    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;

    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord

    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

    do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
    but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more;

    though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
    and enjoy peace and prosperity.

You'd have to know the details of our situation to know how this applies but ... it does. And I'm guessing it doesn't only apply to us.  Verses 5, 6, 7.... tears.  

So right now we wait on Him. To do as He has promised to do.  And to bring peace.  My heart feels more broken and shattered with each passing day.  The healing process is long and grueling and hard. Hard things? Who knew all those years ago when I whispered hope into baby Azlan's ear that he could do hard things...that I was whispering to my own heart for the future? Yes. Yes...God knew.  He knew.  Every step in our journey was leading us right here. To the most heart wrenching, soul breaking, earth shattering place we now find ourselves.  Thank you for praying with us and for us.  It means everything.  Everything.  And yes...this has inspired me to continue to hope and pray for justice. 

Some of you are also feeling stuck in this land ... in between. Knowing His promises, believing His word, and doing your human best to keep your eyes on Jesus instead of the storm...I hope and pray these whispers speak to your heart too.  May He mend us and you. May He bring new life into both of our situations. May you find the glimmer of light to keep giving tomorrow a chance.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The gift of...too much.

That wording our pastor used this morning just hit me right in the heart.

Have you ever been given the gift...of 'too much'...?

He spoke about the spiritual myth I've long detested. You know...that one that everyone consoles everyone with? That made up... "God will never give you more than you can handle."....? Yeah. That one.

I've always hated it. It's not scriptural at all.

And I'm living...much more than I can handle.

I think in this journey, one of my greatest cringe moments has been when someone hears our story and says " are WAY stronger than I am. I'd never survive THAT!".



What makes you think...that I have?

You think I would have ever signed up for this? Who signs up for cancer? Who signs up for the death of a child? Who signs up for financial ruin? Who signs up for a cheating spouse? Who signs up for anything less than lovely? Who signs up for their worst nightmare? Really. I mean...who?

No one does.

Not you. I know. I got that. But not me...either. not stronger than you.  That is also a myth.

I died hundreds of times along this journey. Somehow...? I lived.

I, like you, have heard of people dying of a broken heart...and I don't know how mine survived.


Not stronger.

The likelihood? Weaker. Much, much weaker.

The gift...of too much.

He went on to talk about God telling Paul that His strength was made perfect in Paul's weakness. That.  Broken. Hurting. Weak. Frail.  Done.

And when you are only have one option if you wish to survive.  Yeah. Brought to nothing. All the 'you' stuff is gone.  And God is all of a sudden your everything.

The gift...of too much.

I don't know what your 'too much' is. But I do know I'm not the only broken one. Perhaps in this exact situation...yes. But so many of us are...broken.  Falling apart at the seams.  Amazed we are still here and functioning.  Under the weight of...too much.

Could it somehow, a gift? Don't over analyze it. Because there's little in our story right now that is silver lined. But did it bring me crashing into the only true solid in my life...? Yes.

One of my favorite songs right now is "Sleep In The Storm".


...for the winds that push against me...push me straight into Your arms...

That.  The gift of 'too much' has made my faith a reality.  My absolute foundation. My survival.

You will...have much more than you can handle.  I'm sorry if I'm the first to tell you.  I truly am. But in what you cannot do...He can.  Nothing is more than He can handle. That's not trite...that's coming from someone being tossed to and fro by waves that overwhelm me.

In this gift of 'too much'...let Him carry you. You are not strong enough. You are not stronger.  In our frailty we are carried and see just how very strong He is.