13…

Every year around Hannah’s birthday, I Google things that girls her age like. I’m not sure why; I think because it helps clarify what she might have been like, had she lived. This year (today, actually), she’d be 13, so I looked up what a 13 year-old girl would like. I’m now convinced that I’m secretly still a teenager, because EVERYTHING on the list is something I like!!! 🙂  Seriously–a mini Polaroid camera? A tie-dye kit? Bluetooth headphones? YES, PLEASE!

I can look back on myself at 13 and remember what I liked (Lisa Frank EVERYTHING! Flamingos! Pink notebook paper!).

lisa frankI have to laugh–it was such an awkward time for me. I was all neck and legs, big puffy hair, and glitter. I was finally old enough to wear makeup; I was too tall for the dress code; and I was still wearing the Coke-bottle plastic frames that everyone wore in the late-80’s/early 90’s. I was in the 7th-&-8th grades; I was a dramatic, hormonal mess; and I had deep, deep hatred of hairbrushes (my hair had just decided to be curly, and it was a shock). I blogged recently about what I’d say to myself at 15; I think it’s totally different than what I’d say to myself at 13, because the drama level at 13 is A LOT. I think I barely survived that year. 🙂

Back to 2019…Thirteen year-olds today are VERY different than 13 year-olds in the 90’s. The threats they face; the exposure they get; it’s more than I can comprehend at almost 42. I don’t have a CLUE about how they make it, or what kind of parents they have to have. What would David & I be like, if she were here? Would we ever let her out of our house?!?!  How does anyone let a teenager out of their house?!?!?!?! I’m considering installing invisible fences. 🙂

I’m kidding, of course…..of course…..well, mostly…..

My little girl would be 13 years old…almost grown. And as much as I want to sit and reflect on what she’d be like, I’m finding that I can’t. There’s been a tremendous amount of healing that has happened over time, but when I try to fill that hole with what might have been, I realize that although I have a fantastic imagination, it doesn’t stretch that far.

I have no idea what she would be like.

I don’t want to sit here and say that it’s “okay” that she’s with Jesus. That will never be okay, if I’m honest, because I will always miss her, and I will always wonder why she died. The longing and the wonder will never go away, and I don’t think that I need to justify that. It’s not a sign that healing hasn’t or won’t continue to progress. It’s a sign that I am a mother that is missing her child, and that it’s unnatural for us to not be together. Moms want their babies, period, whether they’re 5 days old or 50 years old. We’re created to be with our children, and when that is taken away, there’s a hole. The only thing that can close that gap is Jesus, and even with that, the scars are sensitive. After 13 years, it’s a “tolerable” grief, but it’s still grief. I miss her.

I don’t have answers when I get asked questions like, “why?” All I can say is that I believe she’s with the Lord, and that one day, I will be, too. I can tell you with all sincerity that I believe in Heaven and in Hell;  I can tell you that I believe one day in His presence is like a thousand years on earth, and that what I feel like is a lifetime, is a split-second where I know my daughter is at. I believe in Jesus, and in His will, even when I don’t understand it. Faith means believing when we don’t see. We don’t see things clearly on earth; we see them once we’re in eternity. I can rest when I put my eyes on Jesus, and let Him sort out all of the details. He knows what He’s doing.

Tonight, before we get home, Jericho & I are going to stop and get a little cake (or I might bake one, depending on how I make it through the day), and he’s going to goof off and make me laugh, and I’m going to tell him a little bit more about her. I might show him some more pictures, and he’s most likely going to ask some uncomfortable questions–that’s totally okay. More than anything, I want him to understand that we’re grateful for the time we had with her, and for the impact she made. I want him to understand that Jesus brings restoration and healing, even in the midst of confusion and questioning. I don’t know what kind of situations our son will face in his future, but I know that if we can impart to him the undeniable love, compassion, and plan that God has for his life, then we’ve done our job as parents for both of our children.fb_img_154071595978315789262.jpg

I was reminded the other day that my story is His story. I can’t tell the story of Hannah’s life, or of our life before, during, and after her loss, without starting and finishing by pointing everything back to God. We’ll always miss our daughter, in this life. We rest securely in the knowledge that Heaven is real; we also have peace in knowing that salvation through Jesus Christ is possible, and that He can redeem any person and any situation. Grief is temporary (temporary is a relative term); His love is permanent, and Heaven is eternal.

II Corinthians 4:18: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Grief doesn’t win. Death doesn’t win.

Love wins.

And it’s because of His Love, that I can still say, “Happy birthday, Hannah Elizabeth Gayle!” I can know that she is loved and cared for, and that I have such hope:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” –Revelation 21:3-4

 

Diaspora…

During worship on Sunday, I had this moment where I felt the presence of God hit so strongly. I almost said something, but held back–how do you verbalize something like that? In my mind’s eye, I could see a giant, navy-blue blanket cover the congregation as so many knelt and prayed…it was like the Holy Spirit was covering us with His love and comfort.

I spent a lot of time this week at church, during the Feast of Tabernacles. There will be more on that later, but for now, I’ll say that spending 8 days straight with any person usually results in a lot of tension and aggravation. You get sick of each other, and I know some personalities get sick of others more readily. We didn’t have any of that, that I could see. Every night was different, and every time we met together, there was the most amazing sense of community and family. It was awesome, and now I can’t wait until next year. Like I said, more on that, later….In the midst of all of this, come Sunday morning, I was so ready to come together with these people; I felt like we had a better understanding of each other, and where our hearts were. Guess what? We’re all on the same page. That’s so ridiculously cool and amazing–we’re united. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Anyway, Sunday morning worship hit, and I felt such an impact and clear vision in my spirit–I truly felt like God was holding us together in such a loving way.  This poem/prose/whatever came out of that:

“Diaspora”

We don’t know the day or the hour

But the season of power comes

Like a hurricane to believers and unbelievers alike.

But what one thinks is devastation, another knows is declaration,

And the world changes and what we see revolves around the Son.

What does the blind man see but the darkness?

But we who have accepted Him are blinded by the light,

And we walk in faith

Trusting Him for sight,

Every step a testimony of faith.

And when the blind reach for us,

We’ve walked away, toward the glorious outpouring;

And their hearts are hardened,

And the darkness grows,

And the earth is split in two

While we run onward to the place He’s prepared.

Take the blinders off and march to the rhythm pouring out of Heaven.

Let the revelation become your motivation,

Stepping out of the shadows of destruction,

While the veil is shattered and the truth covers us all….

He is coming….

He is coming…

And we are going Home….

 

When you’ve spent a week communing with family, outside and under the stars, you learn so much…you learn where you’re from, and most importantly, you learn where you’re headed as a community….Coming together is a beautifully powerful thing. The word “diaspora” literally means, “the dispersion,” and it refers to the scattering of the Jewish people across the earth. As Christians, we’re scattered in a different way, but when we come together, amazing things happen. All of us will be reunited some day.

In getting closer together as a church family, I found my heart often thinking of Heaven as our true Home…how everything before then is a dim reflection of how beautiful and whole Heaven will be. How kind is our God, that He goes to prepare a place for us? How amazing is it, that we should have such a thing to look forward to? And how great is the testimony of each one of His children, that we come out of darkness, into His Light? We gain eternity in our hearts the second we accept Christ as our Savior, and it never leaves.

I get to spend eternity with some pretty amazing people.

I get to spend eternity with a pretty amazing God. 🙂

And so do you.

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Suddenlys and Falling Leaves…

One of the Millennials that I work with said something very interesting to me a few weeks ago…

[Please note that when I say, “one of the Millennials,” it’s with a surprising amount of love and respect. I say, “surprising,” because a lot of people in the “millennial” demographic have honestly bugged the holy heck out of me. This girl though (this young woman, excuse me)–she continually surprises me with words of self-empowerment and wisdom that I WISH I had at her age (or at MY age), and I learn a lot from her. When I turned 40, I told myself I was going to stop making apologies over everything. Emma has been a very influential voice that has echoed that sentiment, and even though we don’t always agree, I can’t help but to admire her strength and almost-frightening level of self-acceptance. Her story is encouraging and beautiful, and tough and scary, and it’s not mine to tell…but what I can say, is that she’s still standing, and that she has so much more becoming to do…There is so much beauty in her, and she doesn’t know it, but one day I will tell her just how much she’s taught me. I just want to sit on the sidelines and watch her bloom; there’s such a richness in her soul…she’s amazing.]

I digress.

Anyway, Emma looked at my Instagram feed, and said something to the effect of, “You guys LIVE for weekends.” It’s so true. My house is a wreck, I’d hire a housecleaner to bulldoze the kitchen in a second, and I barely stay on top of the laundry, but you know what? No one talks about a clean house when they tell the stories of their childhood. David & I are two very busy adults trying to keep a roof over our heads and raise a kiddo while working full-time and not abandoning either our families or our marriage, and it gets challenging. Monday through Friday, we barely seem to have time to carry on a full conversation, but on Saturday and Sunday? We refuel and burn it up in laughter.

Every weekend isn’t awesome, for sure. We’re far from rich, so we’re always doing things on the cheap; by the end of this hot summer, we’re sick of parks and tired of sweating to death…but October? Oh, you sweet, beautiful, melancholy month, how I love you!!!

I used to face the end of October like Grover in the “Monster at the End of This Book.” Hannah’s birthday is on the 30th, so every fall, I’d watch the days change on the calendar, and with every leaf that fell, my heart would break. For five long years, the month of October was crushing…but then, we were given the gift of making new memories, and of filling those painful places with peace and joy and anticipation…I have the greatest gift of having been given beauty for ashes, and for that, I can only sit back and praise God.

October still comes with “suddenlys….” I still have moments where my breath will catch, as a memory comes back, or with different realizations (I think I mentioned in my last blog that I realized out of nowhere that Hannah would be turning 13 this year. I’m still coming to grips with that one). Today, I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a picture taken at Thee Abbey in Arcadia Valley. The owner had posted a picture of her two children with puppies, and I suddenly remembered that we had been pregnant with our daughters at the same time. She was baking cinnamon rolls in the restaurant, and I was working long hours doing makeup on a film project. We were pregnant at the same time, and there was her beautiful girl, showing up on my social media feed. I doubt they remember me, or that we were pregnant at the same time…Thee Abbey holds a very special place in my heart, for multiple reasons, and we go back there several times a year, but it’s not like we’re friends with the owners or anything. We were just two women with dreams of families, who had very different outcomes from the same seasons in our lives.

It’s in those moments that I still make conscious decisions. Those are the “sink or swim” moments, those “suddenlys.” Do they become a noose or a beacon? Do I drown in the waves? Do I pause, take a breath, and let the tears fall? Oh, my Jesus….how many bottles in Heaven are marked with my name? He knows, because He cares about every tear that’s fallen on this journey and beyond…

Do I rush through the thoughts that hit, ignoring them even as I know they’ll come back to me later, when I finally have some quiet time to process them?

Should I even be affected by these moments anymore?

Those moments…some of those moments are huge, while others are minute, but they do still happen. When they do, it’s a conscious decision to move forward, to pause, or even to fall apart (which doesn’t happen very often, thankfully). There are conscious decisions to remain hopeful and wholehearted, to not become bitter or faithless. Sometimes, I hear other women tell their birth stories, and it gets hard to not be angry or hateful. Sometimes even now, old pieces of things I thought I forgave, as far as my medical care went, come up and I get mad. Two women in line next to me in a resale shop were bragging about how they had their babies out in public at 1-and-2 days old. I said, “Wow, you’re brave.” They laughed and said, “well, that’s how you GOT to do it!” One of them went on her way, but I quietly said to the other, “We lost our first from something very common…I didn’t leave the house with my second, except to go to the doctor, for 6 weeks.” The look on her face said it all–perspective. When other moms look at you like you’re some kind of germ-phobic freak or a helicopter mom, it’s hard not to lash out. There’s a conscious decision that’s made, to either tell the story in kindness, say silent and put up with the awkwardness and feel completely inauthentic, or to tell the story in a way to slap them upside their heads for judging your parenting. I’ve done all of the above, and I’m not proud of that fact.

There are conscious decisions made that people who haven’t walked this road will never understand, and that’s perfectly fine. I refuse to apologize for the fact that I am a woman who has given birth and said “goodbye,” and that this is the season where those memories and dreams are the closest to the surface….

So, like Emma said, we “LIVE for the weekends,” ESPECIALLY in the fall. October is full of everything beautiful…the trees are putting on their finest colors just before they blaze out into their rest, and I want to celebrate every one of them. I want the “basic” life of pumpkins and spice and bonfires. I want my (second-hand) UGGs and my leggings, and I want to jump into every pile of leaves I can find. I’m not a huge fan of corn mazes (I did my first one last week; it was a kids’ version, and it freaked me OUT), but I dig pumpkin patches! We didn’t do that kind of stuff when I was a kid, but we’re sure enjoying them now.

When the second lady in line at the store was talking to me about Hannah, Jericho jumped into the conversation: “I’m a rainbow baby!” I don’t know if she knew what he meant, but I laughed because it was the first time I’ve ever heard him tell a stranger that fact. It kind of blew me away–what does it mean, to grow up, knowing that about yourself? I had a friend chime in on an Instagram post that she was a rainbow baby, and that she loved knowing about what that meant; she said she loved that her parents never hid the truth from her, and that blessed me. I never wanted to keep it from him, but I also never wanted it to be a burden, so we always want to paint his birth as the miracle to us that it truly was. He knows he’s special (maybe a little TOO well, LOL).

We have this chance–we have this GIFT–to LIVE, and to live well. We have this opportunity to seriously carpe diem–to seize the day (can you tell I grew up in the 90’s?)–and to make amazing memories of each season. Jericho is no doubt spoiled. He hates the weekends where we’ve stayed home, and I get it. We don’t stay home on the weekends very often (although to be fair, we don’t go anywhere during the week. Total hermits.), and he expects an adventure. When he doesn’t get it? He’s kind of a punk, and I can say that as his mother. 🙂 And even today, after we drove for 2 hours, did a cool hayride, got lost in a maze, shoveled pizza in our faces in the car, and ate something amazing called a “cinnamon chimney,” he STILL had some bratty moments–he’s 6, and there was a LOT of walking–and I found myself wondering why I try to do cool stuff. Um, kiddo, I’m going to admit that sometimes, I am the one that wants to do the cool stuff, and you’re along for the ride. I want to make these memories with you, so stop whining and smile for the camera (“You will smile for this picture, or SO HELP ME GOD!” #TheStruggleIsReal). I want to make the cool memories, and I want to look back at that awesome photo book that I make at the end of every year, and look at this amazing life that God has given us.

I know that life in pictures is only part of the story…but what a beautiful part of the story it is. I have to laugh–when I was 8, my mom took my sister and I to Disneyworld. There’s a really cute photo album somewhere that shows us in all of our glory in Florida…but do you know what we still laugh about to this day? The fact that my sister and I were absolute MONSTERS on that trip. OHMYGOSH, I can’t–we whined so much, and my mom had to have busted her rear to pay for that trip; we were SUCH punks, I can’t even…AND I AM REMINDED OF THAT TRIP, EVERY TIME I TAKE MY SON TO DO SOMETHING COOL, AND HE WHINES. Like, #KARMA. I have to laugh. We have the pictures, and we have the memories, and oh, what a life we get to experience!!!!

Life is hard. It is–it’s a struggle for so many of us. But we have each day to start over, to make new memories and to make the conscious decisions to breathe, to move forward, to celebrate and to grieve. We have the opportunity to celebrate the sweet and to not become bitter…we have the chance to stop apologizing when we’re doing our best, and to accept the love Jesus offers us. We have the choice to pick grace, and to put one foot in front of the other on this journey, and to help others to do the same. Fall is the season of such incomparable beauty. I hope and pray that you get to embrace it and the changes that come along in it. “LIVE for your weekends,” and if you can, let the dishes wait a bit while you make some memories–and don’t make any apologies for it, dang it. You carpe that diem, dangit, and light up your Instagram feed!!!!

Seriously, though–take every chance you can to enjoy this season. May your “suddenlys” and your fall leaves remind you that you are loved by our Creator who made all of the beauty that you see, just to bring you closer to Him. ❤