Thursday, January 19, 2017

"It wasn't worth it, Mommy!"

Each night I read 3 chapters of the Bible to the older 3 kids.  Tirzah reads on her own and she's ahead of us.

We just read through the story of Joseph.

When we were done, Zion (11y), looked at me...with a lot of emotion on his face. "It wasn't worth it, Mommy!"

I felt like I could hear the pulse in my temples as I tried to appear totally normal and ask what he meant.

"Well...you know. Joseph.  I mean he was thrown in a pit by his brothers. Sold as a slave.  Then thrown in jail for something he didn't do. For TWO WHOLE YEARS. Then the man he saved by telling his dream...forgot about him for another long time. Then after he finally gets out...he's second in charge of all Egypt. And it's an amazing story...but it wasn't worth it.  Like...if I were him, I wouldn't look back and go 'yeah...I'd totally go through that all again to be where I am now. I just wouldn't.' "

And I knew he was talking about so much more than Joseph.

His eyes were kinda glossy. Azlan looked at me and said "I'm totally with Zion on this". I quickly assured them...so was I.

So I spoke about the very large, scaly, elephant in the room.

I put my hand on Zion's knee. He looked away.  We were all talking about us, not Joseph.

As I was reading the story...I couldn't help but see the similarities to our story. But they are children.  I thought they were taking it at face value.

I spoke up.

"We will never, ever, ever, ever, ever....ever....say it was worth it.  Never.  No matter what God does with our story and how he redeems it. It will never be 'worth it' in our minds. The ends won't justify the means.  We will always be heartbroken over our story. Always.  But.."

There were now tears.  Azahria was weepy.  Azlan was looking back and forth at Zion and Azahria watching how they were doing. Zion's eyes were full...on the verge of spilling over.

"God will redeem. It's what He does. He can take any mess meant for evil and make something beautiful.  But it won't lessen the pain.  It won't erase the horror.  It just won't.  But it will still be beautiful. Somehow. Someway. It's just what God does. Just like with Joseph. He had to leave the room to sob.  Years later. Now in a whole different position. The emotion was right there."

Zion looked at me. "Yeah. You knew what I was talking about all along, right?"

Yeah.

Dean said to me last night..."someday this will all be a memory. A horrific memory...but a distant horrific memory." And I long for that.  Because right now? My heart physically hurts.  It hurts.  Some nights...? It hurts to breathe. It hurts to think.  It hurts to remember. It hurts to not remember.  It hurts to smile.  It just hurts.

I think I'm used to hard things and pain that get better and easier with time.  But this...? No.  Not this.

Time reinforces our reality.  I don't know how to see the last 6 years.  I can't unsee them.  I can't un-remember.  And my memories are so very different from what we now know was our reality.

I have always said that my strength and my weakness are the same.  I am all or ... nothing.  Awesome when I'm all...right?  I've worked very hard to be all. All...not nothing.  And for the last 6 years I can honestly say I gave all. 100%.  I loved with abandon.  I gave everything.  100%.

So...right now? My heart is 100% broken. 100% shattered.  All.

The depths that I feel this horrendous loss is so extreme.  I've never said "I can't..." so much in my life.  And some how, some way...I find the strength to find my "can".  Even here.  Even in this.

How will God redeem this story? Each piece of it? So very complex.  Yet, He knows. All of it. And all of us.

Though I will always say "it wasn't worth it"...I pray the pain someday...somehow...lessens. As God continues to write this story.  Each story.






Sunday, December 25, 2016

Hope was born.

It's Christmas Eve night.

My house is quiet. Azlan is finally asleep after just returning from the ER for a rather terrifying asthma attack.  Three full nebulizer treatments later, oral and inhaled steroids and we are home.

This year has been traumatic for our family.  You know that.

But we are not the only family that has suffered this year.

There are so very many.  So much sadness. So much pain. So much...loss.

Perhaps things have been 'merry and bright' all year long for your family, and if so, I'm sincerely glad.  This post might not mean much to you, if that's the case.

For our family...? No.

In the quietness of this evening...by this beautiful tree, with the sound of my snoring kids sprawled around the living room tonight...I wonder.

Did it all happen? Is this really where we are? Is this truly our reality?

My head starts spinning.  My heart beats much faster.

No...it's true.

All of it.

Just a few days ago, I sat on the floor with one of my older kids. Holding hands, tears streaming down both of our faces, we promised to never ever stop fighting.  He...with a deep feeling heart like his mama, had just said "I feel I just can't do this"...and I assured him I understood that completely.  Yet his 'this' seems so manageable compared to mine.

It doesn't matter, does it? We all have a 'this'.  And in that space...'this' feels too much. We can do anything...but 'this'.

My 'this' and yours this year, I could guarantee are very, very different.

Yet, our journeys have probably led us to a similar place.  A place of brokenness.  Hearts that feel they are half beating.  Minds going non stop.  Time in a noisy blur.  Late night wide eyes as you question everything you once knew.

This.

Somehow, days pass.  Perhaps...miraculously.   Days just keep passing.  And what you didn't think you could do...you see that somehow...you have 'done'.

So many have whispered to us that time heals.  Does it...?

In my story...I've seen that time can have the opposite effect.  Time has deepened my pain. Time has made my vision more acute.  Time has allowed the numbness to wear off. The shock of the horror of it all.  With time passing...pain deepened.  The awareness of where we are...and why.

For me? There's no comfort in time moving on. With our without my permission.   No.  Time won't heal my 'this'.

Tonight...I sit here, trying to imagine a world in all of it's stillness.  Doubtedly December 24, but it was an evening. It was a 'night before'.  It was a moment in time...right before everything changed.

What was the world like that night?  Unaware...moving along...time racing at the very same speed as it is tonight.  Oh...the night before.

It's easy for us to minimize what happened that day.  A baby.  Born to an unwed girl.  "In a barn" as my 3 year old would say.  But it was so much more.

That was the night that Hope was born.

Everything everyone longed for. The emptiness that people feel today going through the mundane...they felt then too.  We were created for so much more.

As I sit here tonight...deep in thought about all we have miraculously survived...it's all because of Hope.  My Hope that as anchored me in the greatest storm of all (my) time...is exactly what we are celebrating tonight.

Jesus came.  He came.

He came.  Heaven and Earth truly collided.  Heaven chose to come down.  And in that moment...Hope was born.

This Christmas, for many reasons, is deeply emotional for our family.

This Christmas, more than ever before...we celebrate Hope.  That Jesus came...lived...and then chose the ultimate sacrifice. To die.  To change our forever.

We can face our 'this'....our tomorrow...because Jesus lives.  Because Hope came. Hope died. And Hope rose again.

For those of us that have shed tears this Christmas...I don't know your story.  Mine isn't the same. But I, too,  have sobbed leading up to this day.  What do I even do with the old memories? My brain doesn't know what steps to take.  Do we start new traditions? Do we carry on with the old? What...how...oh...WHY...?

Hope.

Merry Christmas.  May you find the courage to face your 'this' because of Him.  And all of that started with Him coming to earth. One 'Christmas Day'.


This morning my friend asked me if I had heard this favorite song of hers. I just listened to it with chills. I wish I heard it weeks ago.  It's perfect. For us and so many of you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSE6ziYcqm0


Saturday, November 19, 2016

This gift.

A friend (who does not know what we are going through) messaged me this link today.

I read it.  Then I read it out loud to Dean.

We were both just quiet.

Few things have been so perfectly written for where we are right now.  All of it.

After I read it I remembered blogging several years ago, shortly after adopting Zihao and Taizi. We were at the Oregon Coast. I can feel the moment.

Dean and the kids were sitting by the fire on the beach, it was dark. I walked to the shore.  I heard God speak.  Yes...I did.  Audible...inaudible...I would never say which. I just know I heard him. For sure. So much so, that it startled me and I whipped my head.

"Janice...I have such great things in store for you..."

I still remember thinking "YES! It's finally my turn for easy street!!" I mean, let's be honest. The last several years have been one hard surrender only to be followed but a much harder surrender a few years later.  And ... repeat.  Hearing that great things were in store for me...I mean, really. This...this was what I was waiting for!

He continued...

"Great Sacrifice...

Great Surrender...

Great Reward..."

I remember my heart sinking. No...please no. This is much too heavy. No...please.  And at the time...had no idea what He was talking about. Assuming it was the daily hard of parenting a child with profound special needs.

No...no...it wasn't.

Now I'm there.

And....woah.

Today, we played music as Dean was making breakfast. This song came on. It's old.  And every single word hit me as if I had written it myself.  This...this is where I am. This is exactly my cry. Right now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEz2PsLJ-RI


Take a minute and read about The Gift.

http://www.lisaleonard.com/blog/the-meaning-behind/the-unexpected-gift

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Grief. In all of its glory.

The quiet ache all day long...that almost takes over at the end of the day.

Hiding behind your smile ... because you can do that.  But when alone it all hits you.  And in a moment it feels like you just...can't.

I don't know where you are. But I do know I'm not alone here.  Whatever your pain is...somehow we all end up on the same path don't we?

Grief.  I've felt every horrific stage of it.  From the devastating heartbreak...to the anger that could likely be categorized as 'righteous' (well, momentarily anyway)...to the fight mode that kicks in and surprisingly lasts for weeks with inexplicable energy and vigor...to the total utter exhaustion that follows it...to the sudden realization that all this pain and horror was not a bad dream but indeed...your reality.

Grief.

Though I've cried a million tears on many different moments...somehow it feels like this whole story wasn't real.

Is it possible to love so deeply...to give so much...and lose more than you can fathom?

It is.

Is it possible to look back over moments that you clearly lived...and in some sense, perhaps even lived well...and wonder if you watched it on tv instead?

It is.

Is it possible to be so in the moment and intentional and yet look back and see nothing but a blur of moments that have gotten you to the here and now?

It is.

Is it possible to survive what you simply have always known that you never could?

It is.

Is it possible to actually feel you have used up your tank of tears and start to worry they may actually be forever gone?

It...is.

Is it possible to ever sleep in peace again?

I am told...it is.

Is it possible to have such deep soul friendships that are safe enough to be transparent at every stage of the journey and they will actually find a way to love you all the more for it?

It most certainly is.

Tonight I was looking up Narnia quotes to paint in Zion and Azlan's room. (Yes...he's named after Aslan and yes he's all lion). I saw this one.  And somehow it reminded me to keep fighting.  To find passion again.  I could feel that heart beat quicken and though I had tears...I had a smile again.

Lucy: "Why didn't you come in roaring and save us like last time?"
Aslan "Things never happen the same way twice, dear one."

I did indeed hope...pray...and perhaps even beg that He would come in roaring like a lion and rescue us.  He didn't. Not that way, at least.  That doesn't mean He isn't rescuing us.

And...you.



Monday, October 31, 2016

All things new.

Have you ever seen such an in-your-face connection that you don't want to see...?

Yeah. Well this is me. Now.

Every time we drive up the hill to our house I try not to have my eyes land on the obvious...the bright, out-of-place vibrant green hillside.

It's almost November.  Everything is dead here. All the surrounding hills are brown. As would be fully expected.

Then there's ours. It's not just a little contrast...it's bright, in your face green.  It's full of new grass.

Remember a few months ago I posted about the massive fire? Where our entire hill burned to a crisp? All summer it's been jet black.  I mean...not pretty. Black. Burnt.

Now it's full of new life.

I've tried to not talk a lot about it as we drive home. The kids all marvel at it.  Dean does. We all do...I just don't want to talk about it.  Because I know the message applies to everything.

After the death of something...comes new life.

There's been so much "death" in our family lately.  And it's been the hardest thing I've ever 'survived'.  And I know God will make something beautiful of it. I know that because I know Him.  I know that's what He does.  No one can comprehend it. No one can make sense of it and definitely can't predict the final outcome. But if you know Him...you know what He does. And bringing new life into the darkest, most burnt places...well...that's Him.  That's what He does.

And this hill? Brighter than it's ever been in the history of ... ever...stands as a very in-my-face reminder. Something beautiful will come out of this darkness. The old has died. New is coming.





Revelation 21:5
And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.” 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Raging Seas.

I woke up a few days ago with the storm of Acts 27 on my mind.

So...obviously...I read it. There was clearly something for me to see.

The Shipwreck

27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic[c] Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet[d] deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet[e] deep.29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.
33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke itand began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.
39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.
42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

Growing up, I had read a youth book on that storm so it was always a favorite. You know when you have a favorite Bible story...? You know all the details about it? Yeah.

Or not.

I didn't remember AT ALL that an angel appeared to Paul and told him they would all survive.

I did remember that they went through a horrific storm.

But reading that the angel appeared and told Paul they'd all survive...yet they still went through a horrific 14 day nightmare on the sea...

Well that's a big deal.

It was so horrific that the other men refused to eat the full 14 days. Paul however...he had this calm.  He knew they'd survive. He actually knew not a hair would be lost from anyone.  And that carried him through the storm in peace.

We have been very clear. We are in a storm.  THE storm.  God has shown up time and time again. I've woken in the night with the song "good good Father" in my head. I have had friends who knew NOTHING of what we are going through tell me they felt strongly they should tell me a verse or devotional they were reading that God nudged them it was for us. And many times, we have been brought to tears reading them. They were so very applicable.

God telling us...we would survive the storm.

But...not calming the seas.

We are still in the storm.

There is so much light at the end of the tunnel...but it still (for me) seems a long ways off. Can we humbly ask that you pray for our family? All of us. Please pray.

Life has been a whirlwind of events and I have zero doubt that I will look back on this year of our lives and wonder if I really lived it.  Or if it was a fuzzy dream.  Yet forever we will have the scars to remind us...we indeed lived it.

Broken.  Shattered.  Beaten. Barely the strength or desire to 'keep eating while on these raging seas'...yet hearing God's promises over and over. Many times...through you.  The random gifts in the mail from people we barely know. The messages that show up with verses I don't even remember reading before. How could they be so applicable?  Seeing a movie and walking out sobbing because the parallels of our story were so unexpected. The people near and far...rallying around us to do battle with us.  In this storm.

Please, we are once again asking...rally around us with your prayers.  War Room style prayers on our behalf.  Pray that our family would be protected at every level.  That God would part seas. Open hearts to see truth. And set up an army to fight for us.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Open my eyes that I may see.

I read a book recently that hit me right between the eyes. I often hesitate to recommend a book because it really depends where you are when you read it.  For me...this book...at this time in my life...was life changing.

Through the Eyes of A Lion by Levi Lusko.

One of the parts that brought me to tears early in the book was when he said to put the book down and go look at the sky.  I was reading outside, on the deck, at about 11 am.  So...I did. I felt a little odd doing it but...I did it.  And of course...I saw a clear blue sky.

I sat back down to read the book.  He asked if I saw hundreds of stars.  Hmmmm..no.  Not quite.  But then he went on to say that just because I didn't see hundreds of stars...doesn't mean they weren't there.

That's all it took for me. Everything hit me right there.  I got the point. I knew what he was saying and it hit me right where I needed it.

The heart.

Later that night I came outside. I stood on the same spot on the deck and looked up to the same sky. It was amazing. Stars as far as I could see. And I suddenly flashed back to a few hours earlier when I was standing there looking at a clear blue sky.

Same sky. Same stars. One time I saw them, another time I didn't. They were always there.

I ran to get my Bible and read one of my favorite stories.

Elisha Traps Blinded Arameans

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.”
The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” 10 So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.
11 This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”
12 “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”
13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.
15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lordopened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
The angels were there.  The whole time. But until Gehazi's eyes were opened...he couldn't see them. 

In a practical every day way, this helped me so much a few days ago.  As most of you know, I hate to fly. Like...really hate to fly.  But if I can see down...I fly much better. In a cloud? I feel totally claustrophobic and it's ... not good.  Well...we had zero visibility.  And this all came back to me.  Janice...the stars are right there...the lights below are right there.  It's all there. Just because you can't see it...it's still there. And in a moment the sky instantly cleared and I could see above and below.  To all nearby passengers I looked a little crazy as I was smiling from ear to ear (still with white knuckles) looking out the window.  

Then there's the moment where I was trapped.  In a situation so dreadful I've never even feared it.  Yes...it's that bad.  And as I'm hearing the most horrific things said and slung about the room...my heart pounding out of my body...I was trying so hard not to let emotion win...

but it did.

And the tears came and I couldn't stop them. And in this situation, in this place...in this moment... I DID NOT WANT TO CRY.  Over and over and over my mind prayed "open my eyes that I may see". Ahh...to see an army of angels swarming around that room would have changed everything.  I don't think the smile made it to my lips but inside it was actually starting to form in my heart. Just because I couldn't see them...didn't change a thing.  

They were there.

Where are you? I know. Not in the dreadful situation we are in. And I'm so very glad.  I wouldn't wish this on anyone.  But wherever you are...in whatever hard you are facing...perhaps you needed to read this.  

Just because you can't see Him...doesn't mean He's not there.

He is there. 

In fact...He promises to never leave. Never forsake. 

Ever.

Though I was feeling like the plane was out of control and going the wrong direction and all was lost (yes..I know. It's an awful way to fly!)...the stars were still there. The city lights below. It was just a cloud.  It blocked my view but didn't change where I was.  The stars weren't any further away.  

When your life is going awesome...God is no closer. Or to state as well often feel...when you are in the valley of the shadow of death...God is not far away. Heaven is not silent.   In fact Psalm 34:18 states: 
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

I get it.  I do.  I get faith being an active choice.  I do.  But oh to have our eyes opened. And see what's really happening. To see the army there and ready.  

Open my eyes...that I may see.