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.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hope.

Our time in Florida has come to an end.

Even though at day 3 or 4 I was already dreading this day, it does not come as I expected.  I am not sad. I am not filled with dread.

I've thought today about how I could someday write about these 2 weeks here. And I felt a lump in my throat immediately.  You know those moments in your life that could never be told as they really were...? The emotion something that could never be verbally explained...? The birth of your child? The death of someone you loved? Sure pictures and memories attempt to tell the story but it never really gives the full picture.

This trip.  The fact that I start to cry when I think about this trip...tells you more than my words ever could.  Someday...I'll try.  I'll try to paint the full story.  This was our healing trip. But...not our two weeks to be healed. No...no. No...definitely not.

This was the first big step in our healing.  And oh...only Heaven knows what has happened on this trip.  The gift to my soul in these last two weeks is something I could never fully articulate.  Ever.

The gifts have been so many.  So very many.  I've not even shared the half of them.  The fact that a friend of a friend works at Disney World and blessed our socks off with helping us with tickets.  Or the friend that contacted me not knowing anything that we are going through saying God laid it clearly on their hearts to give us a certain amount of money.  The many many many notes I've received from people that know me so very little...with words they will someday know God gave them to send to me. Or the friend that heard we are coming back through their way and graciously invited us to stay and get to know them better. And of course...the gift of this condo for 2 full weeks.  Fully gifted.

Through it all we have been humbled...grateful...and most of all in awe.  Both of us have said that over and over.  We are simply in awe of how God has shown us we are right in the palm of His hand. And in this storm? We needed that reminder. And will need it.

For me as I look back on these two weeks of bliss...I see so much.  Sunshine every single day. Lots of little brown faces and yawns at the end of every day.  The quiet, consistent crash of one wave after another right off our deck.  All of it...what I walk away with most...is hope.

I came here with very little.  Very, very little hope.

I was a mess.  Many questions. So very few answers.  Honestly...I came with a decision. A decision to still have faith. A decision to believe.  A decision to not doubt.  A decision.

But I'm leaving with hope.  I've seen it.  I've seen what I could never have even wished for.  I've seen the look in a child's eye filled with wonder and joy. I've seen laughter come alive that's been missing . I've seen life...totally renewed.  And like a warm Gulf wave over a shattered soul...it's given me hope.

I remember when my sister, Joanne, graduated just a year ahead of me. She chose this quote for her year book photo.  "Never deprive someone of hope...it may be all they have." I have never seen her year book since 1997 and I have never ever forgotten that quote beside her graduation picture.

I have thought of it so many times in these recent months.  As my hope waned and I felt the lifelessness take over...I knew I needed it breathed back in to me.

Could I ever fully express what has happened here? Not the physical...not the fun and the memories. No...I'm talking about something that has happened inside of me and I'm sure you can see it on the outside.

This is one of my favorite verses.  It puts things in perspective.  I know the here and now isn't what my story is all about.  I know there's a greater picture being painted and I love how this verse reminds me of that.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

We don't lose heart.  Oh...I have.  I have.  Those nights when I collapsed on the floor sobbing saying over and over and over "I can't! I can't! I can't do this!!! I can do anything but this!!"  I love this verse.

I know right now this is all so very vague.  I want you to know why I made the decision to blog now. In the thick of it.  I'm a realist.  To the core.  Tell me all the worse case scenario stuff and let me prepare for the worst.  It's how my brain works.  And for me...when I'm going through something like I am right now...I want to read someone's story when they were right there. Right there, in the eye of the storm.  Not after they made it through. Our tone changes then. Doesn't it? Hearing my children talk about the scary rides at Disney a week later...? So different than when they were on it! Screaming and clutching my arm for dear life.  Now? "It wasn't THAT bad..." "I mean...I'd do it again..." and I smile.  Not quite.  That's not quite the real story.  And they may do it again! But tell us how it was IN the moment. That's me.  And so when this storm hit I knew I was faced with a decision. I couldn't tell you the specifics...but I could choose to stay silent and tell about it after (if...) we survived it.  How there were so many gifts that offset the pain. How my faith was still rock solid (forgetting that it was shaken to the core and I questioned every thing I knew to be true...) That's when I knew.  I decided to tell the story...in real time. Though I can't share the details now...someday when they are known...you can look back and see this story 'in the raw'.

Hope.  Tonight as we pack the van to leave early in the morning...my heart is filled with hope.  There IS a future.  There IS a path that can be filled with joy here. There IS something bigger happening that I can't see. God CAN use this story for good.  I came so very empty. Frail. Weak. Full of questions. I'm leaving still frail. Still weak. But knowing there is hope.  I have seen it.  And it has changed me.

For I know the plans I have for you. declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. — Jeremiah 29:11(NIV).


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Courage.

We were at Disney's Magic Kingdom last week and I had finally convinced Tirzah and Zion to go with me on the 'log ride'.  I remember from our Wish trip 3 years ago that there were some surprises on the ride.

Well we made it on.  Zion was looking awfully nervous.  Tirzah was starting to regret it.

But just before we got on, we had counted in 1-1000's as people would go over the 40 foot plunge. We determined it was just a bit over 2 full seconds. That's it.  A great ride...with 2 seconds of terror.  We could do that.

What I forgot about was the first drop...in the dark.  So I already had kids clinging to me from behind...from the start of the ride.  The funny part about this all is that I...their mama...am not brave on rides. I don't do crazy roller coasters and I'm really not brave.

Yet in this moment...I'm the bravest one.  Funny how parenthood does that!

So we had finally come to the part in the ride...where the log climbed and climbed.  I turned around to see Azahria holding on tightly. Zion looking terrified and secretly begging for a way of escape.  Tirzah's eyes already closed. Zihao and Azlan were on either side of me.  I had time to catch most of their eyes and say one last time "2 seconds of courage, you guys, we can do this!".  I tried to keep my eyes open and I even tried to scream. Something happens at about the 20 ft mark where you literally...physcially...cannot.  You can't breathe. You cannot see.  And you just fall.  When we landed I looked back to see Zion let out a scream he had been unable to release...and then he started to sob.  Tirzah shook her head at me and said "never ever ever again".  I'm laughing more at the fact that I, Janice Walker, am consoling anyone since I'm the biggest wimp ever.  Azlan said he was fine til half way when he was sure we were dying. Azahria was a little pale.  Zihao said it was pretty scary.  And Zion is still sobbing.  Tirzah's head is still shaking.

I kept trying to get in there that we did it.  We did it. We didn't like it...but we did it. And to keep it in perspective it wasn't a scary ride, it was a very scary 2 seconds.

And yes...this thought is so powerful.  There was a Toby Mac quote on fb recently that said "was it a bad day? Or was it a bad 5 minutes that you let control your day?" (something to that effect).

We see what we look for.  I believe that with all my heart.

Right now? Our family is looking for gifts.  And we are seeing them. In abundance.  And in the grand scheme of our life...the big big picture...this trial is not our whole life. At the moment it feels like it. No question. But ... it's not.

What I have seen this week is so beautiful it's hard for me to express it here.  I've seen a little girl come alive.  Literally find her wings and fly.  Not even start to fly...no...she's flying.  And that...that was the purpose for this trip.  Our healing trip.

Courage.  There are many ways to describe it. One of my favorites is "being terrified and doing it anyway".  It's kind of like my "I can do hard things".  I think what resonates with people with that line is that we are acknowledging it's hard!  That's not a sign of weakness. No...that's just stating the facts. I'm a realist.  It's hard!! But it's the next part that the courage comes into play.  I CAN DO IT!  So it's hard. So what.  We got that out on the table. It's hard. Harder than I'd ever choose.  Harder than I wanted life to be.  Harder that I was prepared for.  Ok.  What next? No quitting. No throwing in the towel.  No burying myself under a mountain of blankets and curling into a fetal position until someone assures me that it's easy.  No.  No.  It's terrifying. It's hard. But let's do it.

Shortly after our world fell part early summer...I remember thinking very vividly that the tendency would be to just survive through this storm. And honestly..even that would take divine intervention. But I didn't want that to happen.  I didn't want our children to look back on those dark, horrific days as the darkest days in our lives.  I became fiercely intentional.

Fiercely.

I didn't sleep a wink that first night. I sobbed ALL night.  At 7am I had a feast on the table and we went for a picnic that afternoon. The middle of a work day.  The next day we went out for a family movie...something we never do.  The next day we went to a friends house and had lunch in their back yard. The next day we played a 2plus hour game of Monopoly in the middle of the afternoon.  And every single day...there was something we did as a family...to own that day.  When I could barely breathe.  And I mean that.  My chest hurts as I type just reliving those moments. That doesn't make me stronger. I assure you.  I'm so very weak. So very frail.

It's that childhood stubborness finally being channelled the right direction.  I will not quit. I will not roll over. I will let these days be destroyed on my watch. I am TERRIFIED.  But I will do it anyway.

One of the children recently said this past summer was the very best summer they can ever remember.  And I got goosebumps.  It was the worst months of my entire life.  No question.  I'm not a sugar coater.  They knew what was going on.  They came in to our room many times to see me sobbing and hitting my pillow.  They knew.  But they also saw determination and courage to be intentional.

When we absolutely didn't feel like it. When every part of us wanted to give up.

As we are sitting at the bottom of the log ride...Zion finally stops crying long enough to give me his attention.  I held his hand and told him to focus on the fact that he did it.  He did it. He had the 2 seconds of courage. He did it.  And to not sit there reliving the terror of that drop.

His face changed.  It was like I had just pulled him out of that place...into this place.  A place of defeat and regret to a place of victory.

As we got off the ride...I smiled.  Not because of the ride. But because I know one of the greatest battles is the battle of the mind.  And little does Zion know that i'm in the same fight. Every moment of the day.  In many areas of my life.  Do I sit reliving the horror and feel the weight of the terror and all the regret that comes with it...or do I look back and go "Ahhhh. God...we made it.  This far. We made it here. We are alive." Do I feel the victory or sit in the regret? And we are by no means in a place of where this is all behind us.

We were walking towards Dean and the other kids when Zion looked at me and said "ok I'm glad you named me Zion Courage, I need that".

Yes.  That is his name.  He's not the one that naturally has it. He's the one that needs the reminder that he can choose.

Courage.