“Those People”

It’s no joke that bedtime is an exercise in patience for me! Daniel often teases the kids and chases them up the stairs, Elijah belly laughing as he runs from “daddy monster”. The kids thunder back and forth between the upstairs bedrooms, in and out of the beds laughing. Daddy is all the fun at bedtime… and mom…. Umm not so much… I’m so done. My brain is tired, I want no more loud noises echoing through my head. But the kids don’t seem to get the memo! If dad isn’t there pushing for the fun, they are not deterred! They will make their own fun! However as much as this may drive me crazy, there is still that voice is the back of my head reminding me that I will miss this someday…

One of the routines I do enjoy at bedtime is reading to the boys. Currently we are reading short stories that are walking us through the bible from the beginning to the end. It’s January so we are in Genesis. Let me tell you I have never gone through these Old Testament stories with the kids in this detail before. It’s a little rough! The first brothers in the Bible show us the first murder! This shocked and horrified the boys! And though this isn’t new news to them, the boys are still a bit mad that Adam and Eve screwed things up by eating the “apple”. The story of Noah and the ark is fun with all the animal pictures. But Judah and Asher are now realizing how tragic this story is, “The whole earth was so evil God flooded it and killed everything?!?” Well besides Noah, his family, and two of each animal anyway…  umm this story is dark. Then there is Lot’s wife who looks back in longing at the evil city of Sodom and Gomorrah and she turns to salt. “Hold on mom?! Did you just say she turned into salt?? Like the salt we eat? Did she look like a statue or just a pile? Was Lot really, really, mad at God that he did that to his wife?” And then there is the story of the twins Esau and Jacob, where Jacob, the younger brother, steals Esau’s birthright, and the mother helps Jacob do it! 

These stories have been interesting to tackle to say the least. But it’s also been really good. I’m watching my boys grasp a deeper understanding of God’s Word and I’m watching their brains wrestle through theology. 

Judah looked at me the other night and asked “why are these stories so hard, why are these people doing what they are doing? They are sooo bad!” 

“Well,” I said “We see how much we need God. He keeps saving his people over and over again no matter how bad they are. We see how God keeps using broken people to bring about good things.  And that’s still true for us today.” With this answer He got a little exasperated, this isn’t the first time I’ve compared people today, our family, our church and our friends, to people in the Bible and their need for God. 

His response to this was “But we aren’t that bad! We aren’t like “those” people, mom!”

Ok, sure, you haven’t committed murder, we haven’t lied to the extent that we tricked a son in- law to marry the wrong daughter, I’m not angling for a favorite son to get all the inheritance over another, and no, your father mostly definitely would not have two wives!

My older sons that are wrestling with this are still fairly innocent. They know people today do bad things and they know that they are sinners. But they haven’t truly felt their “need” for a Savior yet. They have a beautiful budding faith in our Lord, and I love watching it grow, but they are seeing these people in the Bible mess up in huge ways, and there is a struggle for them over God using these characters in His story. There are many Godly characters in the Bible that we love, but even those characters still have their areas of big sin and struggles. 

I mean if I’m being honest there are so many times, joined my boy’s in thinking: “I’m so glad I am not like them!”   And yet if that is where we land when we look at these stories, we are missing the whole point. 

God uses these characters to show how much we need Him. 

We need a savior. From the first story to the last, we see how people love themselves and choose to do the wrong thing and yet God keeps extending his love and mercy to them. 

The older I live the more I see my need for Jesus. The more I see my struggles are not so different from the people we read about in the Bible. We have blatant and hidden sins. The enemy is always luring us into sin and then yelling at us to live in its shame. 

But if we see our sin and justify it by saying “Well at least I’m not like them”, then we are missing the point. The key is not comparing my sin to another’s sin. That won’t free me from the weight of guilt and shame. That just numbs, like a glass of whisky pushes away the pain for the evening only to find that the same pain is there the next day.

At the very end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says this:

Matthew 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

There are a number of ways we can justify feeling good about ourselves. Tallying the times we have “paid it forward”, how we have loved others well, kept our temper in check, given to worthy causes, sacrificed hours of time in service to our neighbor or maybe looked at others who we see as a mess, making our circumstances not seem so bad. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us what living a Godly and good life looks like. If we are able to check a number of those boxes, that can make us feel good. But then at the end of the passage Jesus drops the gavel… And it hits us all, whether you feel pretty good about your life or you feel you are too far gone to be cared about. 

“Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.”

Ummm… last time I checked no one has done that… well except Jesus. We may be able to see a few ways we have done things well. But no one has done them all and even the things we have done well are not done perfectly or with pure motives.

We are all different, we all have our own struggles. But each of us has a thread connecting us to the characters in the Bible. The more the light of Christ shines into my life, the more I see how much I am like “those people” and need the saving redemption of Christ’s work. 

Jesus slays us all with the law, not so we can try to uphold it, but so that we realize our need for Him to uphold it for us. 

Jesus shows that we all need a Savior. “Those people” in the Bible need Him, as well as I do today.

I may look at my life and see a mess some days, I’m sure those in the Bible did, but we can see how God was working to redeem and use them right where they were. 

It is in Christ that God can use me in His story for His good. I find my worth and security, not in upholding a standard or in my comparison to others, but in Christ.  

As my boys grow in understanding of faith and wrestle with their own struggles, I pray they will keep going back to God’s Word and remember that there is no sin too big, no place too far, or ability too small for God.

These people in the Bible remind us that we are never too far gone in what we have done for Christ’s saving grace. You are never useless in Christ.  God chases us down with his love and then uses to us further His kingdom. You are loved by God and valued by God. 

Wave After Wave

Some days you feel like you are standing in the sun and all is right with the world. You feel gratitude while joy and confidence surround you. And then there are some days you feel yourself being plunged under the waves only to come up for a breath before being sucked under again. Fear is consuming, gratitude tastes bitter and relief seems nowhere in sight. 

2019 left me broken. Just as relief seemed to come, another wave sent me reeling back into grief and fear. 

When Ava passed in the cold of January 2019, I found myself, fantasizing about being at the beach. About feeling warm under the sun, toes tucked in the sand and the weight of grief lessening. I longed for the warmth of summer and steady beat of the crashing waves.  Eventually I got my wish. That July Daniel and I headed down to the Jersey shore, just the two of us, for a week. It was the first time we had gotten away together with no kids in over 10 years. It was absolutely wonderful. We were also treasuring some new joy in our hearts. I had found out I was pregnant again just a little bit before our trip. We had lost our Ava and while grief was still fresh, the sting had deadened just a bit and we were excited to hold this one in our arms come February of 2020. 

I sat with my toes in the sand writing in my journal feeling some of the clouds of life clearing. 

We got home from a refreshing trip and the next week I had a doctor’s appointment to see baby at the 9-week marker. It was hard to walk back into that room at the doctor’s office. There are so many feelings and memories left there for me. I remember being incredibly nervous and my blood pressure read sky high. But I was hoping for my nerves to settle a bit upon hearing some good news. I laid on the table as the doctor did the ultrasound, she asked me if I was sure I had my dates right. “Yes” I answered. However, what we saw on the screen didn’t match up. There was no heartbeat and I still only looked to be about 5 weeks. This news was crushing. She made a follow up appointment for the next week to check again. But that weekend I started bleeding and my follow up appointment confirmed my miscarriage. 

I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes feeling crushed and a mess. Where was my redemption story? Where was the victory? I couldn’t talk about it. I felt like my mess was too much for people now. They had just heard me pour my heart out about feeling broken over Ava, I didn’t want to talk about another loss. These thoughts seemed to scream through my head “I am too much of a mess for those around me! …I am too much of a mess for myself!” 

But, as with each crushing blow our world delivers us…  eventually you carry on, you wash dishes. You take care of your children. You go to work. You make dinner. You live life. Obviously, there is a lot more to it than this! But for the sake of not writing a book right now I will leave it at that. I read the psalms, the laments and praises that mingled together. They washed over my soul as a balm. 

And then it was fall. Fall is beautiful here. The leaves on fire with their color, the air isn’t suffocating any longer, but there is still warmth in it. I was catching more of those deep breaths of air, the storms of life calmer.  

At the end of October I had another positive pregnancy test. We were excited, but cautious. Suddenly having children wasn’t as simple as it once was, and the pain was still looming. The next few days went on as usual. Daniel’s youngest sister was getting married in the beginning of November, we were getting ready to head out to the wedding the following weekend. Just the two of us were going, since airfare is quite expensive when you are flying 7! 

“June, 2020 that is when this little one would be here,” I thought. But a few days later I started bleeding again. In fact, if I hadn’t taken a pregnancy test, I would have just thought it was a late period. But I had taken one and I “knew”. Into how many pieces can one heart shatter? I felt so broken and so numb all at the same time. Daniel and I sat in turbulent stillness. My emotions seemed to have given up their functions. The wave had hit us again. Would there be an opportunity to grasp breath this time? I looked at my husband and said to him “I can’t even cry anymore… my tears feel as if they’ve been all used up.” He sighed and nodded his head in understanding and then he responded, “I think Jesus is crying the tears for us.” 

“I think Jesus is crying the tears for us.” That statement hit home. 

When we flew to the wedding, I felt like a walking open wound. I felt completely empty of myself, there was no strength left to muster. The one emotion I seemed capable of was anxiety about meeting my beautiful new nieces. I love my nephews and nieces dearly (that’s one of the hard parts about living on the other side of the country from them). But after having 11 straight boys on Daniel’s side of the family the girls had started to come, and Ava would have been one of them. I knew I would be feeling the raw edges of the hole where she would have been with girls for the first time. 

I had an intense conversation with God on the airplane, yelling in my head “You better show up this weekend! You better be my strength because I have NONE left! You’ve emptied me and you are all I have left to keep me going with any semblance of composure!” It was an honest prayer but also an angry one. 

He did show up. It didn’t mean the weekend was easy, or that I didn’t struggle with my emotions. But He did bring some healing to my heart. He did show me that when I am completely empty and I feel like I just can’t put one foot in front of the other, he can fill me for each moment. He can tend to the hurt with people that love me as well.

Deep down, after Ava passed, I was hoping for some victory in the aftermath. For a healthy baby. For another little girl. For a smoother road. Daniel and I did not feel like God had released us from having more children. We did not believe God was done growing our family yet. But, God, I was remaining faithful! Why wasn’t he? We had three devastating pregnancies! Why was he allowing wave after wave to crash over me? Why couldn’t I feel the joy of standing in the sun again, feeling that all was right with the world? 

God didn’t meet me in a place of “victory” that year. He met me in all my places of suffering. He met me in my weakness. He met me with grace for each day. 

The place of Jesus’ suffering, when he was nailed on the cross, was also a place of the greatest victory. 

When I think of His nail scared hands and feet, when I think of the crowd “shouting crucify Him!” I know Jesus knows suffering and rejection. He remained faithful to the world, to me, in suffering and dying for my sins. When I suffer, when I feel empty, I am reminded of how Christ emptied Himself first. He is a God who empathies with my suffering. 

He is a God who “Cry’s tears for me when I have none left.” 

His greatest suffering brought us all victory! Christ’s triumph spans the chasm that separated us from God.

He brought me victory in suffering. Not because of anything I have done, or any strength I could muster. He remained, and remains faithful, when I am faithless. When I am angry at Him or in despair, he is still there. He sustains me through each year, week, day and step. He had me, and He holds me, through wave after wave. 

Even today as I write this it still hurts. In fact, it seemed I could find no words to write in 2020. I needed time. But it’s a story that needs to be told. Far too many of us suffer in silence feeling alone. But you are not alone. Each of us has our own unique stories of suffering and hurt.

As those stories play out, let us remember that God does not abandon us in our suffering. He meets us in our suffering.

Pslam 34:18

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

First Birthdays

When “normal” doesn’t look the way we thought it would.

First Birthdays. They are most often marked with baby smashing cake into his or her mouth which then turns into an utterly adorable mess. Who could forget the toys that make way too much noise!?! And how inevitably the highs of all the excitement and attention eventually turning into the lows of a sobbing, overly tired baby, signaling the end of the party! All in all, I love those first birthdays.

I have been fortunate to experience many first birthdays with my boys. Each child unique with their own personalities. Every one of my boys at some point would have a favorite toy that got toted around everywhere. It went in the car seat, the diaper bag, the crib, and if/when it went missing, then mom and dad would be on the hunt for that special, coveted, toy. The toy that would sooth the crying toddler and calm the moment down. Our children turning one, it’s a challenging yet beautiful time. Often full of laughter… and tears… mostly from baby… but also from me! 

I am so aware of what “normal” looks like around the first birthday. 

And this is why the month of May held some hard moments for me. On the 23rd of May, 2019 was Ava’s due date. 

As that day came and went last month, my mind would often trail back to remembering her. I’ll never know which date she would have actually been born on. But I know she would have had her birthday around then… Truthfully it still hurts. I wish I was planning a socially distanced birthday over zoom with her grandparents. I wish there was cake and presents. I wish there was worry over making sure the stairs are gated off for her. I wish I had to be extra cautious making sure all the Legos were not within reach of her little hands. I wish there were chubby cheeks and smiles.  And… oh how I wish I could feel the warmth of her in my arms. 

Instead, here I sit in the quiet of the evening, thinking about what might have been, and hoping for what someday will be. 

We all have an idea of what “normal” should look like. We usually have expectations on how life will go. We have things we look forward to, and things we take for granted. And then something happens that changes what “should” or “might have been.” Often, we wish we could go back, have a do over, hope that it could be avoided or fixed. But instead we have to walk forward in what the reality of this situation is. And it does not look like the “normal” we pictured. 

I think it’s safe to say unanimously that none of us thought 2020 would go like this. We wish we could go back to what “normal” felt like, or maybe we wish we could jump forward to our “new normal”. We wish to be with our friends and family again. To take our trips and to honor our graduates in the usual way. We think of those who are sick, those who have lost loved ones during this time. Not even just to Covid-19, but just period, the inability to gather and have a funeral and mourn together is a huge loss in itself. I think of those who are not safe at home, and those who are struggling to feed their families. And now we have the cultural unrest and the hurts of generations of our black community bubbling to the surface and overflowing into our streets. It doesn’t take very long to look around and see the massive amounts of frustration, the huge divide for us as humans, between what life “should” look like and what it “actually” looks like. 

There are no quick fixes here. 

I believe someday when we look back on this time there will be beauty to be found, as well as times of joy and there are probably going to be things that we look back at that have changed for the better. However, right now this is still the reality, it’s definitely not what we had pictured and it’s hard. 

So, we sit, we sit in the broken pieces of what life looks like right now. 

However, we also look forward in hope. We hope there is a vaccine that is successful. We hope that social distancing and the warmer weather will make the numbers continue to drop. We hope for that “new normal” people keep talking about, and we hope that we will enjoy it. We hope to listen and to love our neighboring black communities as Christ loves. 

We hope for a better tomorrow. 

This will get better, someday we will have more answers. Some day we will enjoy the places and people we love again. But even when that day comes, it will not change the truth that we still live in a broken world. The effects of this brokenness that are so evident all around us right now will not go away. There is no vaccine for pain, sadness, sickness and death. They have been here since the beginning, since the fall of Adam and Eve, and will be here until the Lord makes a new heaven and earth. 

I’ve known since I was a little girl that our future hope is ultimately not found here in this life. But it hasn’t hit home as hard for me as it has this last year and a half. I’ve been staring my brokenness in the face. I’ve felt the effects of a fallen world deeply. 

The Lord has brought joy and thankfulness to my heart and much healing to my hurting soul. And I know He will continue to heal me. But I also know that there are some things that just won’t be fully healed until heaven. 

So, in the quiet I sit and mourn the loss of a first birthday. I grieve having to live in a world that experiences the effects of sin and the pain it brings. I grieve my “normal” being shattered with the loss her.

But I also look out in hope. Yes, the world will still bring fresh hurt and difficulties over and over.  But there is hope, for I know that my Redeemer lives. And because He lives, there is healing taking place, joy that bubbles up and strength for each day. The Lord has and will continue to meet me and my needs day after day. He meets my needs on the mountains, in the valley’s and through all the journey in between. 

Hope in the Lord never fails. While we struggle with the brokenness here in the world. As we come face to face with it. God doesn’t just leave us there to figure it out. That is why Christ came, to offer an eternal hope. To make things new, to heal the broken and reconcile all people to God. When we look around and see things that are absolutely not right and break our hearts, may we see Christ and His love for us. Christ became broken so that we can be whole. He took our hot mess and clothed us in His perfection, so that each one of us can know the full acceptance and love of God our Father. 

I look forward in hope to the day I will sit and eat cake with Ava and laugh together and dwell in the gracious, loving presence of our Lord, in a place untouched by sin. To enjoy to the fullest what a better tomorrow actual looks like. I know it will be better than anything I could ever dream up. 

The Biggest Miracle

I have been quiet, I know. My heart has been processing so many things as we have walked the past few months remembering the previous year. I feel as though I have been buried at the bottom of a hill of emotions. Some are really hard, some good, and some healing. Some days I allow them to wash over me and some days I just push them down because I need a break. I needed a break from writing as well, I needed to just focus on the tasks at hand for a while, and let my brain calm down. Letting my brain calm down looked like lots and lots of reading and of course Netflix!

However, over all I’m in a good place. And remembering Ava’s heavenly birthday was a good day. 

As I sit and reflect on the month of January, my 1 year of walking through the process of grief, I would like to share with you a passage in my bible reading that sticks out. 

Mark 2:4-5  & v 9-12
Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
v 9-12 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man,  “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Here we have the classic story of the paralytic who is lowered through the roof of the house to Jesus. Jesus then “see’s” his faith and declares that his sins are forgive. Then He goes on to heal the paralytic man, who takes up his mat and walks home. It’s a miracle! The people are amazed!

I think it can be easy to point to this story and many other stories of miraculous healing in the bible and think if I only had enough faith, He would heal me, my child, or maybe my spouse. 

When we prayed for healing over Ava’s little body last year we knew Jesus was more than able. Not only do I see Him heal over and over in the bible, but He had healed our son Elijah, I had physically experienced a miracle, in my own body and most definitely my son’s. I had stared down death that day and God intervened.  

And now we found ourselves praying for a miracle again. As well as many others who prayed alongside us. 

One night in the quiet of my bedroom as I prayed for a miracle, as I prayed healing over my little baby girl in my womb. This quiet voice came to me, it whispered to the deep troubled places of my heart… the bigger miracle is not healing my little one physically for this earth, the bigger miracle is the healing that would need to take place in my own heart after Jesus took her home. Healing for all of us affected by the wake of this storm and tragedy that seemed to be unfolding before me.  

This was not the answer I wanted, but I knew it was true. 

And as I looked at these familiar verses this week, I saw that here too. The biggest miracle Jesus did was not healing the man’s physical body. It was in the healing that took place in his heart. It was in the forgiveness of his sins.

The physical healing took place, not because of how good this man was or his great faith. We see in verse 9 and 10 that it took place so that Jesus could demonstrate in a tangible way, so that us as humans could grasp, could witness, Jesus’ authority over sin and death. He took a physical ailment, that still to this day we do not have the ability or technology to heal, and he healed it, he healed the man to show His power and authority to us.

Jesus loves to make broken people whole.

Our God continues to be that same great God with power over sickness and death, He does continue to do miraculous things to display His great power. But He also allows the brokenness of this world to affect us so that we can see our need of Him, our need of a savior, our need of something better than this world offers. 

We don’t need to have a super faith to see His miracles, we don’t need to do great acts of service so God will do as we pray. He’s already done the biggest miracle for each of us. And that is the forgiveness of our sins. The grace bestowed upon us at the cross. It’s so simple and yet the depth of the work on the cross that was done on our behalf never ceases to amaze me. All He asks is that we rest in the faith that he has given us. That we put our trust in faith, and not in the works of our broken and filth-loving hands.

Jesus is in the business of changing hearts.

It was true for me that day and it is true for you. The miracle surrounding Ava was God picking up the pieces of my heart and putting them back together. He still is doing that. And it’s all because of His grace. He draws me into His grace and there is healing, there is power over death, there is forgiveness for my soul, and strength for each day. 

Did I want to see the physical healing of Ava’s body. Yes. Yes, I did. Very much. However sometimes God’s plan to make things whole looks different than I want it too. I won’t ever have the answer here, besides that the broken sickness of sin affects us all as we walk along on this earth. But I do know that God has done miracles, and continues to work miracles, in me and my family’s hearts as he mends our wounds and restores us. 

And as we rejoice in the little miracles, we rest in the biggest miracle of all: Salvation through Jesus on the cross.

In Jesus you are a part of His biggest miracle. You are forgiven, you are free, pick up your matt and rejoice. 

The Purple Dress

 

I remember early on peeking into the boy’s room, and wondering where we would fit the new baby? The crib was still up, Elijah hadn’t quite made the transition to a big boy bed yet. We wondered how we should make the new sleeping arrangements work. Is it time to move some of them to the bedroom in the basement? Then I moved on and surveyed our bedroom and decided we would need a basinet for the foot of the bed for the first few months. And then I started thinking about our van… it would be tight, but the van still had one more seat in it that had not yet been filled.

Mentally I started creating space for our little one. The little one that one day we planned on bringing home.

The minute you see those two pink lines on the test, you start creating space for that little one. I think the first space created is usually a mental one, as you start processing the new information. Depending on where you are at in life, there can be a whole range of emotions. There can be sheer joy, disbelief, fear, anger, relief, trepidation, worry, laughter, thankfulness…  the list goes on. But from the moment you find out, whether you like it or not, you can’t help but start the path of creating space.

After receiving Ava’s diagnosis, on multiple occasion’s I would walk into the boy’s room, see the crib that she would probably never sleep in… and I would cry.

The space that I had started dreaming about, and planned on creating for her, the doctors told me she would most likely never use it.

In the day’s following Ava’s passing, everything that came into my house seemed to be purple. There was a memory box from the hospital that had a little gown and a few things that were purple. The flowers that came, the little notebooks and the different special things people sent us, the majority of them were purple. It was a special gift from God, I knew my daughter’s color was purple.

Following a loss there are certain things that hit you, and they make you so angry… irrationally angry. Like when I started my search for the urn to hold her remains. This wasn’t the space I should be making. Instead of preparing the bedroom for her to sleep in, I was looking for an urn for her ashes. It felt so unfair and made me so angry.

Another thing that broke my heart and filled me with anger, was not getting to buy my first little girl a dress. I have bought adorable sweaters, jeans, and hats for my boys. There have beenso many boy clothes that I have bought and gone through over the years, and don’t get me wrong I am more than thankful for my little men. I wouldn’t change them for a second! But I was pregnant with my baby girl and I didn’t get to buy her a dress. It hurt…

At some point I decided, I would buy her a dress. I can add it to her memory box even if she is already gone. I wanted to do this for her… for me…

I went to target, hunting for that purple dress. Everything that came in surrounding her was purple, her dress also needed to be purple. After picking up a few necessities, I headed for the baby section. I started looking for that dress, I found pink dress, after pink dress and a few other colors as well. But no purple…

This thought hit me like a ton of brinks in the middle of the baby section at Target…

“Of course, there are no purple dresses! There is no place for her here, she’s gone.”

All of a sudden, I felt like I couldn’t breath, my vision seemed foggy, everything became completely overwhelming and I had to get OUT of Target. I couldn’t stay in this place. The emotions, the fear and the panic, were waging attacks against which I had no defense but to flee. And so I fled.

It’s a wonder I didn’t just abandon my cart… or crumple to the floor till someone found me… Somehow, I got checked out with my toilet paper and who knows what else. Then I was in the solace of my car where the tears came hard and fast once again. Where I waited for my heart to slow, and my brain to clear so I could drive home.

I talked to Daniel about what happened at Target. I told him about my wanting to buy our little girl a dress, even though she would never where it. He wanted to do that with me as well. The next week we went to the mall together to keep looking for the dress. We couldn’t find one there either, purple must have not been the color that was “in” during that season.

We sat down over dinner and lamented over the daughter we will never get to know this side of heaven. We lamented the dresses that we would never get to buy. And we talked about what we wanted to do for her memorial. The nature of some conversations are so incredibly hard to wade into, but in the end bring balm to your open wounds.

I ended up ordering Ava’s purple dress and my dress for her memorial online. What can I say? The internet has everything.

I brought her dress up at bedtime to show the boys. Caleb looked up at me with a smile “I can just picture her running around up here in that dress mom. “ And with that statement, suddenly all of this hunting for a dress was absolutely worth it. We were all picturing our little blond girl running around the upstairs in that dress.

One of the hardest truths surrounding losing a baby, is that the space you created, the space you made and pictured them in, will never be filled. The crib will remain empty, the drawers as well, that space at the dinner table remains void.

But this whole idea of creating space brought me to these verses.

 

John 14:1-4
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
Revelation 21:3-5
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

 

The realization that I would no longer need to create space for my daughter hurt, it was hard.

But we are all finite, someday I will no longer be here either, and my things will be cleared out, passed on, given away, thrown away. I won’t need them. This place will no longer be my home. I will be mourned, missed remembered and eventually forgotten. I’m going to be gone. My place here isn’t for forever.

And while that can seem scary or sad, I’m perfectly content with it. Content to wait, and content to leave. For there is someone who has gone before me, who promises that He is creating space for me, that He has prepared a place for me. That He has a forever home for me, for all who believe in Jesus. And this home is so important. For even though we don’t deserve to be a part of a home that is so perfect there is no sin and death, we have one waiting for us. It is just on the other side of the grave for those who believe in Jesus. Because let’s face it, we cannot deny that on our own, we are sinful, and we drag around our sin and our mess with us. And yet, because of his great love for us, Jesus paid for our sin and our mess on the cross, so that we can be completely forgiven, so that He can clothe us in His perfection. So that we can join Him in His home that he is preparing for us. The space that he has made for us.

Isn’t it a wonder that our perfect, gracious, and huge God promises us that He cares about us so much, that He has prepared for us a place in heaven? That He goes before us and assures us of the space that he has made for us. He loves us, and he walks up into that bedroom we’ll live in someday and smiles about how he can’t wait for us to fill that space for eternity.

This home will never wear out. We will never have to say goodbye, and there will always be space for us. We will never worry about being gone and forgotten.

When I am remined that I never got to bring Ava “home” to the space we dreamed of for her.

This also brings me to the place of thanking God that there was a place He prepared for Her to come Home to forever.

I picture her running free in her purple dress in the perfect care of our Savior, Jesus.

What a loving faithful God we serve.

 

 

 

 

Bedtime Questions

Mommy, why does the bible call me a sheep?

I kiss soft cheeks good night and tuck little feet under covers, the room dimly lit by the glow of the light coming from the hallway. In this place I hear deep questions uttered from the mouths of my boys.

“Mommy, why does the bible call me a sheep?”

I see light come to his eyes with the next questions. “Does this mean that sheep are really special? They are really smart right?” The confounded look he had with the very first question was replaced with a knowing smile, he thought he had figured it out! ‘Sheep must be a worthy, special, intelligent, animal, right?!?’

I breath a deep sigh as I think about how I will answer this question, for this question is deeper than he realizes.

But first! Before, we get to the picturesque moment of sweet boys tucked comfortably in their beds, you need the bigger picture, you need the context, and for this we need to back up 15 to 20min.

This place is chaos, peace is a stranger here. This place contains the bickering over who brushes their teeth first, or if someone got more dessert. It’s a two year old disappearing to who knows where because he loves being found. It’s yelling at them to stop jumping on the beds. It’s children’s feet pounding on the hardwood, belly laughing while they run with no clothes on. The night sky may be cloudy, but there are plenty of moons out, running through the upstairs of the house.It’s tired parents trying to wrangle children who have found a second wind the minute the word bedtime is spoken. The level of crazy varies from night to night. But it’s usually there to some degree.

However after the crazy, the “quiet” turns their minds to talking about everything, from  farts, to questions like “Why are there homeless people? Why can’t we give them houses and food, so they don’t have to be homeless anymore?”

After teeth are brushed, pajamas are on, and they are in the right bed… my brain is tired. Deep thinking is not convenient.  The couch and a bowl of my favorite ice cream is calling my name. Idleness is what I crave when the house gets quiets.

But as I have come to realize, you never know when God is going to call you to attention, it’s most often not what we expect or when we consider it convenient.

I clear my head, and as I look at my son, I chuckle. “Ok, Let’s talk about sheep…. and no, they are not super smart…”

Sheep… Let me share these couple tidbits I found on the internet!

If a sheep rolls over onto its back, it may not be able to get up without assistance, according to the Sheep101 website. A fallen sheep is called a “cast” sheep. They can become distressed and if they are not rolled back into a normal position within a short period of time they will die. When back on their feet, they may need to be supported for a few minutes to ensure they are steady.

  • Live Science.com

 

(What? For real??)

 

Sheep are frequently thought of as unintelligent animals. Their flocking behavior and quickness to flee and panic can make shepherding a difficult endeavor for the uninitiated.

  • Wikipedia

 

OK, so there are more nice things to say about the usefulness of sheep on the internet as well. But these made me laugh, and they also talk about the nature of sheep and how they respond to certain things.

We see here that sheep are not considered smart animals. They can’t defend themselves against their predator’s, they are prone to wander, quick to flee in a panic, and when flipped on their back they get completely stuck in their predicament until help comes… or death…

They need a shepherd to make sure they are protected, to stay with the herd, to be led to pastures that have enough food and a place with water.

If I was going to be compared to an animal, a sheep wouldn’t be my first choice.

I understand why my boys are confused with the Sunday school song “I just want to be a sheep… baa baa baa..”

They would much rather be a cheetah, a horse, a wolf, maybe a dog… but a sheep?? The wheels in their brain spin trying to figure out why God would ever compare them to a sheep?!

Oh, how even in our young minds we cling to the understanding that we have done something to be special! That we are “awesome” enough to be worthy of God’s love and attention.

Let’s take a look at one of the scripture passages that got this whole conversation started in the first place.

 

John 10:7-18

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.  The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

 

When we take a closer look here, it has nothing to do with the sheep and their awesome skills.

The focus isn’t on who the sheep are.

The focus is on the relationship between the sheep and the shepherd, and on the character of the Shepherd.

The focus is on how much the Shepherd loves the sheep and the lengths that He will go to care for them, and to bring those home that are not in His sheep pen yet.

The focus is on the Good Shepherd’s voice, and how the sheep know his voice.

And so, though the Bible calls us sheep, these helpless, stubborn and ridiculous animals, it does not leave us without a Shepherd.

We have a shepherd that sees us with our faults, our flaws. He sees us with our hearts that are so prone to wander from the good pastures in search of someplace ‘better’. He sees us when we get stuck in the muck of life and become overwhelmed and start to panic.

He sees us in the wilderness of certain death, and he hunts us down and carries us home.

He doesn’t hunt us down because of our special behavior in the wilderness, he doesn’t come running for us because we deserve it, or because we have won His approval.

He comes running for us because He is the Good Shepherd, because He chose to love us with this crazy love. With a love that dies for underserving sinners like me.

He has brought me, the underserving sinner into His pasture. He calls me His own, and leads me to life and not just life, but a life of abundant love and grace and mercy and care.

Just because He loves me.

We know His voice. The reason we know the Good Shepherds voice, is all because of Jesus, who laid down His life for us, the sheep. When He died on that cross and took our punishment, He gave us life. Jesus is the gate that we enter through into His pasture by grace. Because of Jesus we can now be called children of God, and children know their Fathers voice.

So… at bedtime when I am tired, when the timing seems inconvenient, and I don’t think I will be able to find the right words. Here God invites me to share of His goodness, His grace with my children. Even here in this conversation I continue to see how the Good Shepherd pursues us, He is always at work, bringing in His lost ones, tending to us and loving us, His sheep.

We are special.

Not special because we are so awesome. But because God has made us so.

 

 

You Didn’t Hold Up Your End of the Deal…


 

I was walking around the pond that is near our house, praying. I often find myself wandering around this pond praying. In all honesty it’s an interesting place to pray. It’s beautiful. There are willow trees, flowers, an old church, and an old barn. They stock the pond with fish in the summer and many neighbors come to do catch and release fishing. It’s beautiful and relaxing. But it also has a darker side. It is known that witchcraft is practiced in the graveyard that shares a fence with the park that houses the pond. I’m told there are sacrifices that have been thrown into the pond on occasion. And while there is much light and beauty, there are times when the spiritual darkness feels heavy. Which just reminds me to pray all the more. And in doing so, every so often I find myself having conversations with God, wrestling through the things that weigh heavy on my heart at this park.

 

At different times these past months I have felt discouraged, or maybe just beaten down. Where I’m just moving forward because I know I need to. At times, I’m just going through the motions. I didn’t want to have any hard conversations with God. I didn’t want to do any more wrestling over the hard questions that deep down were still nagging. 

 

I would rally around who I know God to be and who I am in Christ. “You are God. I will trust you, I will move forward.” But still the rallying cry of my soul would toggle between trust and disappointment.

 

I had done so much wrestling already.  I was feeling weary and just wanted to not keep dredging up emotions, questions and thoughts. 

 

And while I mean all the words that I have written in the past about hope, trust and joy, for me there have been so many emotions, questions and thoughts to work through during this process. I will feel good and at peace about one thing, and then another question or emotion floats to the surface and here I am again with something else to ponder, pray about, and work through. 

 

Two years ago, I thought we were done growing our family. Through a series of events God was firmly telling me otherwise. Then I seriously wrestled, “5 boys are a lot God! People can’t stop commenting on how crazy we are already, and sometimes I don’t blame them!” (this is another story) But I eventually yielded to God, and his call in that. Sure enough, not long after that I became pregnant with Ava. Beautiful Ava. I knew she was a part of God’s plan and I had made peace with the fact that I would have another child. I was excited. 

 

And then Ava died. 

 

God didn’t hold up His end of the bargain. 

 

Or so that’s what it felt like. 

 

But He is God and I am not. He has full view of my story and of Ava’s story. I knew this. I knew that I served a good God that loved me. Even still, the next thought of my wrestling journey surfaced. God You got it wrong this time, You let me down. I made good on my end of the deal. What happened?” 

 

There I sat at the pond. Finally, ready to talk. Willing to start opening those doors of conversation, hashing out my frustration. I wasn’t even sure where my frustration was rooted at first. Just that it was there. 

 

I realized two things. 

 

I was struggling again with how deep God’s love is for me. He had let me down in my expectations of what I thought things were going to look like. 

 

And I had forgotten how amazing the grace of God is. While, yielding, and trusting God in growing my family may be an act of worship pleasing to God through Christ,I had strings attached to my yielding. I had expectations on how God was going to work here. 

 

There is a reason we need to hear the gospel over and over again. There is a reason we so often need to preach forgiveness and grace over one another. We need to keep telling each other how great God’s love is for each one of us. Hearing how much God loves us, isn’t just for children, it’s for all of us. 

 

The gospel changes not just our eternal home. It infiltrates every aspect of how we live our lives. It changes the lens of how we view just about everything. 

 

And yet, so often we put the lens down. We set it aside so that we can view things from our preferred perspective. And we forget the wholeness of the gospel and its message of hope and reconciliation.

 

And so, I needed to hear it again. I needed the lens of the gospel put over my eyes again. I needed God to remind me how deep His love is for me once again. For he does not change. The truth of the gospel does not change.

 

He is God, and he loved me when he carried me through the dark days of my teenage years and overwhelmed me with his love. He was God, and he loved me when he took my little baby home. And he is God, and he loves me, even though I question his plan. 

 

And he is God, and he loves me, even when I sit on that park bench and think: God you didn’t hold up your end of the bargain.

 

That thought, even though I am loath to admit it, is steeped in my pride, in my works, in what I can do for God. 

 

When that thought is exposed at its base level, my pride is undeniable. I realize that I have cheapened God’s grace. And once again need to be reminded of the work that was already done on the cross. 

 

It’s not about me doing the right thing so God can do what I believe, what I want, His plan to be. There is no resting in who God is there. I can’t barter with God. No matter how many good decisions I throw at him, or how many times I’ve submitted to his call in my life, it doesn’t convince God to suddenly see things my way and cause things to work out the way that I had pictured. My works do not earn my desires.

 

For on their own, my works are nothing but sin-soaked rags. My pride a magnifying glass on the darkness of my heart. My attempts at manipulation pointing out that the sin in the world is just a reflection of the sin in me. 

 

There is no way to make beautiful the effects of sin. Living in a broken world just, plain sucks sometimes. I’m not going to give you any platitude’s like “everything happens for a reason” or “this will just make you stronger.” There is a long list of platitudes. Some have truth, some will just hurt. Because the effects of sin are many, and some of it far too ugly to ever understand. And I won’t know why God chose to intervene miraculously in Elijah’s birth and allowed Ava to have T18 which most often means a very short life. 

 

There was nothing I can claim that I offered up in Elijah’s birth. I didn’t have any great wrestling and then yielding to God in having Elijah, we just didn’t feel done. I didn’t pour over him in prayers marked with tears and anguish. I complained at the end of my pregnancy, I was so ready for him to make an appearance. I did nothing on my own merit to warrant the miracle God did that day. 

 

With Ava I can point to what I did! I said yes God! I prayed and prayed and prayed. My family and friends, my Christian community rallied around us in prayer and support. I trusted you God! And yet no miracle this time, that resulted in a healthy life this side of heaven. 

 

I cannot manipulate my God. I cannot have enough faith to bend Him to my will. It is only through Christ that anything I do is pleasing to God. And with that realization I remember that famous prayer in the garden of gethsemane, Matthew 26:39 “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus went before me, He knows. I cannot put forth work with strings attached no matter the situation. Not my will, but your will Lord.  And with His yielding His will to the Heavenly Father Christ defeated sin and death once and for all. He made these conversations of wrestling with God possible. He made it possible to yearn for our heavenly home and have a hope and a purpose for this world. 

 

God does not need to explain to me why He took Ava home. I can rest in Christ and His plan. He will continue to keep me grounded as I walk forward in this crazy journey called life. 

 

So here I sit, going to His word once again. To those familiar and worn pages. And I drink from the well that never runs dry. I am reminded, and I remember. I remember who I am in Christ. I remember what He has done for me. I remember His hand pulling me out of the pit. I remember the rock that I’m standing on. The one who went before me. There is not a situation He doesn’t understand or have great compassion for. Oh, how He loves me. And there is nothing, nothing I can put forward on my own. There is only rest at the foot of the cross for the work that has been done already.

He most assuredly has held up His end of the deal. I only need look to the cross.

Am I Loved?

 

 

Life is funny sometimes. You know how those same struggles keep resurfacing? They don’t often look the same as when they first come up. It takes a while to get to the bottom of what is really bothering you and then you realize, “Oh, here it is again, that same thing, just in a different package this time…”

Am I loved?

This question likes to show up for me in different packages, storms and struggles.

I decided that I should turn back the clock a bit as I pondered writing about this question. I should go back to my very first memorable struggle with God, faith and the gospel.

When I was in high school I struggled with a lot of inner turmoil. Especially early in high school. I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. I wanted to be the fun, funny, loud, confident girl who wasn’t afraid to be herself. Maybe some of that was wanting to get noticed by the cute boys… but a bigger part was being envious of the girls around me that were like that. They just seemed like they were more free, had more fun and made more friends. “They must love who they are, because they aren’t afraid to show it… Right??” At least that’s what I thought.

Here I am, quiet, shy, blending in, and not feeling quite sure where I fit all the time. Sometimes thinking “God I think you made a mistake… couldn’t you have put a little more of this or that in me?? I could really use a little more natural confidence and a little less anxiety”

I remember wanting to show up late to everything to make sure that my best friends were at church before I was, then I could plug into my group right away. I didn’t have to stand there by myself in the back feeling awkward until my friends showed up. It didn’t matter that this isn’t what would usually happen.  Or if it did, is it really that bad to stand in the back for a few minutes by yourself? What looks like a little bit of peace to me now, then felt more like that moment when you are speaking on stage and you realize you don’t know what to do with your hands!!  Do I stuff them in my pockets? Do I talk with my hands??

Back then I wished I could stuff my whole self in my pocket and come out when it didn’t feel awkward anymore.

Side note, my whole starting to show up late to everything makes me laugh now. Because when Daniel and I got married we had the – he wants to be “on time”(early) I want to be late(actually late) fight! Yes, I wantedto be late. It wasn’t a time management thing, it was purely a me thing. And I would drive him nuts!! But seeing as wanting to be late was simply rooted in my insecurities, eventually I let that go. And we are usually early. Now if we are late, it is definitely a time management thing, more rooted in getting 5 kids out the door!

I wish I could say something different about those early high school years. But the truth is I really didn’t like who I was, (some moments I still don’t like who I am.) However, during this time, I spiraled, I fed the negative thoughts. I didn’t bring them to Jesus, I believed them. I let them take root. It turned into this negative, self-loathing talk in my head.

Eventually the way all this mental self-negativity manifested itself, (because I’m telling you, it’s going to come out somewhere!) was an eating disorder. I started struggling with anorexia. I was on a quest for perfection with a distorted image of the truth.

I grew up in church, I grew up knowing Jesus. I grew up knowing that Jesus loves me.

I got it. I mean I could understand God loving all of humanity. But it felt like this big overarching love.  It didn’t feel personal.

I know God loves me. But does He really love ME?

 I wanted to be perfect, I wanted to pull myself up from my boot straps and change who I was! If I could just try harder, stick to the plan…except, there was no perfect plan. I always ran into self-disappointment and frustration. I always came up wanting.

“How can God love someone who doesn’t even like themselves?”

During this time darker thoughts, and questions swirled.  “Can a person get so tiny they disappear?” “Can a person be so small, that the hurt is seen on the outside?” “Can you be loud through silence?”

So much hurt, so much pain we deal with in our hearts where people can’t see.

Here in the middle of my pain and frustration, this was where God reached down once again with His hand of redemption and truth.

None of us like to be faced with our brokenness. None of us want to realize that we are by nature broken. That all the efforts put forth have gained no traction. Or can be taken away by the shifting of the winds of life.

It’s hard when truth hits you in the gut. When you realize that the walls and defenses that you have propped yourself up with, to deal with the pain, are just making it worse. Those props were not real defenses for your inmost being. They were actually blinders keeping you in the dark and knives that are cutting you up where you are vulnerable. It’s hard to let go of those sins that you have been nursing in the dark for so long.

I had finally come to the end of myself and saw my brokenness.

I had been trapped in a mindset that told me God couldn’t love me because of who I was, and how I felt about myself. My understanding of how God felt about me revolved around me and my actions.

But God broke me. And through the light, the truth, of the gospel he illuminated the truth. He showed me that what I did and how I felt about myself had no impact on his love for me. Though I may loathe myself, he would never loathe me. He loved me with a love I could not fully, and still do not fully, understand.

God shined this truth in multiple ways, that all culminated in the blinders I had set in place finally falling off.

It was like a huge spotlight that shined a powerful focusing beam on the truth of the sin that I had been harboring. All the lies I was believing about myself, were seen for what they were- Lies. When I could finally see this sin in the light of the gospel, I saw how ugly and dark it was. The difference between how I saw myself vs how God sees me.

The gospel obliterated the lie that I needed to be perfect. That I could pull myself up by my bootstraps and get it all together. That I needed to love myself or like myself to be loved personally, intimately by God. I already was loved, from the beginning.

The truth of the gospel and how good this news about God’s love and Jesus taking all of my sin and shame finally hit me. It overwhelmed me, it changed me, but most of all it freed me.

I am truly loved.

I dove into the Psalms that summer of high school. God brought me there, He spoke to me in the deep places of my heart.

Particularly Psalm 139.  (Wanted to make this shorter or to pull out highlights from this Psalm. But the whole of the scripture passage here spoke volumes, and I just couldn’t shorten it.)

Psalm 139
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

 

“Really?  This is how God sees me?!? How much He cares for me!?!”

This is not an impersonal love, it’s not the overarching God loves all humanity kind of love I had pictured in my head.

God does love all of humanity, but his general love is also an individual love. He love’s each one of us personally.  This is a God that sees each detail of my life so much clearer than ever I can.

This is a God that is consistently urging husbands to love their wives in the way that he loves each of us. He instructs fathers to love their children the way that he loves us, his disobedient, rebellious kids, bent on self-destruction.

I can’t think of a love more personal than what I feel for my spouse and my children. God knows our hearts, He knows what we cherish most. And that is what His love is compared to.

Except his love is not flawed. It’s perfect. It’s even deeper, wider and more full of mercy than my imperfect love for my husband and children ever could be.

He truly loves me!He loves each one of us. He didn’t make a mistake when He made me. He intentionally made me, and then pursued me with His love. He still pursues me with His love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Big First

I had a big first recently!

 

 

Yes, this is my first tattoo! I know, I know it’s huge for my first one. But I love it!

I have thought about getting one for a while. But the timing was never right. You’re really not supposed to get them when you’re pregnant. Basically, I have either been, pregnant or poor… one precedes the other. And round and round it goes! Haha!

However, the timing was right this spring. After I had Ava, Daniel and I talked about getting tattoos in Ava’s memory. I loved the idea.

Daniel knows how picky I am. Apparently I’m “bougie” … Side note, I learned this new word from my young adults. I’m told it means you like ‘nice’ things. Or ‘fancy’ things. I mean let’s be real I only have a few areas this applies… ok… maybe more that I would like to admit. But a really good tattoo artist was definitely on my list!

That put Daniel on the hunt for a good one, preferably one that does Japanese art well. You see, years ago, back when Daniel first started getting tattoos, I started to think about what kind of tattoo I would want. I settled on a Japanese Phoenix. I just thought they looked so cool, and I loved the coloring and the art.

And then Ava just confirmed that choice. You see, Ava’s name means both ‘bird’ and ‘life’, so getting the Japanese phoenix seemed like a perfect fit.

This was just one more of many things, that fell into place that have deep meaning to us surrounding Ava.

The Japanese phoenix, the tattoo that I had been dreaming about getting for so long.

To our surprise, one of the best tattoo artists in the area has a shop walking distance from our house. I had seen this place numerous times, it’s right across the street from my bagel place! (For those of you not from this area, EVERYONE has ‘their’ pizza place, and ‘their’ bagel place.)

Walking into this guy’s shop… man… maybe it was all the young guys with their beards, or maybe all the tattoos and the laid back attitude. Whatever it was, I felt like I walked into a place in Seattle. It transported me back to hanging out with all the guys in the music scene, when Daniel was in his band. It was pretty awesome.

The shop, the taste of nostalgia, it all just helped Daniel get bit by the bug again and he is more than excited to get going on the rest of his sleeve.

Before I go any further, I feel like I should answer the question that is on most of your minds. Or at least the most common one I get asked. Especially since I have a pretty high pain tolerance.

“Does it hurt?”

Yes, yes it does! Ok, ok! It’s not like childbirth or anything. I got it on my shoulder which is a less painful area. I was expecting it to be an annoying pain. But it was more than that, and it depends on how long the session is too. I think if I had been done in an hour and a half or something it would have been easier. But as the hours tick on… you start to feel pretty raw. However, it’s totally worth it!

I gotta say, it was really fun to go with Daniel and get these matching tattoos.  I’m biased, but I think they turned out beautiful. 😉

 

 

 

Holy Week

 

Holy week, The coming of Easter

Holy week is upon us! Holy week wasn’t such a big deal to me as a child. In fact, I don’t ever remember calling it that until much later in life.

When I was a child this meant the coming of spring, promise of candy in my Easter basket and of course a new Easter dress.

Now that I’m a pastor’s wife this week has a whole new meaning! Those of you that are very involved in ministries at your churches know what I’m talking about. 😉

Holy week for us consists of our final Lenten Wednesday prayer dinner, followed by our Good Friday, and of course Easter on Sunday.

It’s a wonderful season. Full of so much meaning. This week we remember the events leading up to God’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of our sins. We celebrate Jesus breaking the chains of death that once held us all.

During our lent dinners, I am reminded of the fellowship and community we are blessed to have as a church. And not just our church! I’m reminded of the Christian Church around the world that meets with one another and encourages each other in all of their very different settings.

During the week of Christ’s death, Jesus celebrated Passover with the disciples. They broke bread and shared deep community with each other. This is when Jesus blessed us with, when he instituted, the sacrament of communion, The Lord’s Supper. Promising that when we eat the bread and drink from the cup, we remember him, we profess faith in him, and that his body and blood have made full satisfaction for all of our sins. What a blessing to break bread together at the Lord’s table, in Christian community.

On Friday evening, it’s our Good Friday service. This is one of Daniel’s favorite services, if not his favorite service of the year.

Last year we took the wooden cross and walked around the neighborhood and up the main street, praying and remembering the long walk Jesus had carrying the cross.

I love the symbolism, of this walk. The weight of what Christ carried for us. And the desire to be a reflection of the light of Jesus’ love to the community around us. After the walk, we have a somber service, where at the end we nail our sins to the cross, because in fact:

Our sins are nailed to the cross. And they are left there. They are no more.

Sunday Morning.

Easter.

We rejoice in Christ’s victory over sin and death. I have thought more about death these past 5 months or so than I ever have in my life. This morning I was reading John chapter 11. This is the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. And here I just want to share you with verses 11-15.

John 11:11-15 
11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

 

Verse 11 really hit me today. Jesus says that Lazarus has fallen asleep and he is going to awaken him. Most of the time when I’m waking someone up, I’m waking up my kids for school. Right now, it’s not too hard… I mean Asher can be a little tough. He’s not a fan of mornings! But when my kids are sleeping and I have to wake them up it’s a natural normal ‘easy’ thing.

For us death is final. Death means that a person is no longer in our lives. Death means that life with that person is over. It’s hard, it sucks, and it hurts. That fact is also reflected in John chapter 11. This is also the chapter where we read before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, that ‘Jesus wept.’ Jesus understands our grief and suffering over death. But the fact that Jesus is in fact God is so apparent to me in verse 11. Referring to death as ‘sleep’. Why?

Because Jesus knows exactly what awaits us on the other side. And physical death is most definitely not the end for us. Death doesn’t get the victory. That belongs to Christ alone.

 

In 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 we read
 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Death has no power over Jesus, and it has no hold on those that have acknowledged Christ as their Savior.

We celebrate His victory on Easter! We are victorious is Christ.

Holy week.

What a week. What a time for us to step back, take some time and remember the amazing events that transpired. That have shaped and changed the Church, the Christian faith, and my life.

If you all think about us this week, pray!! It is an incredibly busy week for our family and the church.

Thank you and God bless!