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The Soundtrack of Christmas

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Steven and I started sharing devotions this month through decorating a Jesse Tree. Tonight’s scripture is from Luke in which it tells of Zechariah and Elizabeth and their wait. Have you ever noticed that? The waiting in the Bible? There’s a lot of it. . .waiting for Isaac, waiting for Moses, waiting to enter the Promised Land, waiting for Samuel, waiting for the reign of David, waiting to get out of sea creature’s belly, andywaiting for John, waiting for Jesus.

Tonight as I cooked supper for us, I listened to my favorite Christmas album–Andy Williams’ Merry Christmas–on record actually {I’m old enough to remember asking for records as a child at Christmas}. I got to thinking, if I were to put together a Christmas album, what would it be about?

I haven’t completely come up with the plot or the conflict or the resolution.  Mostly because I don’t actually know it all yet.

What I do know and do want to share is that suffering can bring a multitude of blessings, if you let it. My soundtrack has sorrow, and joy, and love, and loss, and mercy, and grace, and waiting.

Perhaps that’s what Christmas is. All those things. Maybe it’s not that I need to create a soundtrack for Christmas, but I need Christmas to be my soundtrack. Christmas brings a different kind of reflection where we take account of all those things and meditate on the impact of each. Maybe I need that kind of reflection to be playing throughout every part of my life–it aids in compassion and empathy and healing.

What I have seen in our Jesse Tree is that in all the waiting, there was still all those things and people kept moving forward.  One step in front of the other, carrying each of those things towards hope, love, joy, and peace.  Towards Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone. May your life dance on through ALL the things that make it worth the living.

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The messiness of life

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Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I have heard many prayers that ask for the peace that surpasses understanding.

Look at the verse.  It’s not just any peace.   It’s God’s peace that surpasses understanding.  And when you realize that, there is an aha! moment because, of course, it doesn’t make sense. God is bigger than our minds could ever comprehend, therefore, so is His peace.

On August 6, 2017 the pastor at the church I’m attending delivered a message based on this scripture, and I had my aha! moment.

On August 7, 2017, seven months after Nugget had been cut from my womb, I had our first ultrasound for our second child. We saw its heart beating.

On August 14, 2017 our second ultrasound revealed that our little one’s heart had stopped beating.

On August 21, 2017 my body shed all its preparations and the tiny little person that had started there.

And through it all, even though there was sadness, I was at peace.

This, in no way, has been an easy road to travel.  However, the good that Steven and I have found along the way can’t, in any way, be replaced. As individuals we have grown.  As a couple we have strengthened.

The messiness of life. . .we’re ok wading through it and cleaning it up together. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When Peace

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In the last ten months, I have spent much time in grief. It’s consuming. And it’s frustrating. My head knows that there is an abundance of beauty and love surrounding me, but my heart just gets a bit stuck.

I have been angry. . .and defensive.  Defensive of my feelings.  Defensive of my God.

I have been depressed, consumed by all that was lost and all that would never be.

Mostly, I have been at unrest.

But, today. Today, I had a breakthrough and peace descended on me like the river. It refreshed my soul.

Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God IS with you wherever you go.” {emphasis mine}

I’ve read and heard that verse before.  But today it was so deeply personal.  And when the preacher said that it showed God’s divine presence in each of our lives and how He is with us in our journey and waiting for us at the place He’s taking us, it was like eating one of my grandma’s peanut butter balls with her at her kitchen counter.  It was bliss.

God is not surprised by the events in my life. He has been patiently waiting for me and cheering for me as I navigate these unexpected waters.

I am not perfect. But I am loved.

I am not strong. But I am held by the God of the universe. . .and, He is the Almighty.

I am not without wounds. But I am filled with the joy of knowing that Christ is my success.

When peace like a river attends my soul, the balm of Gilead is there applied, and my soul sings loudly.

Just Keep Swimming

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I do love that little fish, Dory. But, this isn’t about her.

Several years ago, I had a bad year professionally and this became my mantra.  I knew that I just had to keep going, moving forward, doing the best I knew how to do.  And I made it.  It wasn’t without exhaustion, and it wasn’t without tears, and it wasn’t without bruises.

I would take that bad professional year again if I could trade in the past six months.

But, I can’t. So I have to keep swimming.

I’m not a strong swimmer, actually.  I can stay afloat.  I did pass the swim test in order to receive my degree from college–a requirement when I matriculated. I’d much rather lie on a float though.

This school year began with my maternal grandfather being moved to Hospice House for his last days.  Being a support to my mother and being by his bedside was emotional. Knowing that I wasn’t creating those all so important first day relationships at work was stressful.  A month later my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with brain cancer. Barely past Opa’s death, I launched into watching my grandfather’s love for my grandmother as she said the things she needed to say and did the things she wanted to do.  And after a month she took her last breath on this earth.

And then there was Nugget.

Grief is not something you deal with or get over.

Grief is something you swim with.

Some days, I want that float or to just lie on the bottom of the pool and watch others float on by.  Some days, that’s exactly what I do–hoping that grief will soak off.

But, it doesn’t.

It’s part of me now. And every stroke of swimming with it strengthens me in ways I may not understand now–but will one day.

Because, I have hope.

We Called You Nugget

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It’s not what I thought you would be called when we found out you were coming.  I thought you would be Monkey because, well, everything is monkey in our house.

I won’t say that we were trying to have you.  Your daddy and I just said we were staying out of God’s way.  The week before I knew you were with us, I asked your Aunt Jerri what her pregnancy symptoms were. Hers didn’t help.

I was exhausted that week. . .being who I am, sleep is no stranger, and I’m quite good at it, but this was different.  It was a real struggle to stay up past eight.  If the phone rang at nine I wanted to know who was calling so late.  Jerri and I texted every day.  She wanted me to take a test, but I kept saying no.  I was waiting.

December 3, 2016 I took the test while your daddy slept.  He had to work that night.  The little line showed up! You announced your presence! It was difficult for me to not go jump on the bed. But I didn’t. Instead, I thanked God for you. He thought we should be parents.

And, so we are.

I left the positive test with a onesie I bought in Scotland that summer on your daddy’s sink.  When he finally went in there, he asked, “Do two lines mean positive?” It made me laugh because why else would I leave a onesie and a pregnancy test on his sink?

And when we started telling people, you were Nugget.

My excitement was so strong, I couldn’t stop telling people.  Two weeks after we knew you were with us, we were able to get with your grandparents and tell them.  They were so excited. We gave them all a book to read to you when you came, some baby wipes, a burp cloth (or vomit cloth as your daddy says), and a clean onesie.  I have to say, though, telling your great granddaddy Coleman was probably my favorite.  We got to his house and told him we had news.  He made us wait so he could lean against the wall since “it sounds important.” Then we said, “We’re having a baby!” He started to grin, and then said, “You mean a human baby, right?” How well does he know his family that he had to clarify if the baby was human or of the animal kind?

It was Christmas Day when I realized just how excited your daddy was. He filled my stocking with baby things.  But it wasn’t the things that let me know; it was seeing how lit up his eyes became when he talked about being in the infant section of the store.

You got several things for Christmas from your family.  Things they wanted you to have when you got here. Money for a savings account. Ornaments that were all your own. Every one couldn’t wait for you to get here.

When I went back to work, I decided I could tell the people at school.  My students were excited to know that you were coming.  They encouraged me and let me know that I would be a great mom. We felt sure that since you’d been with us for over two months, we were safe to tell people.

But that Friday, January 6, I spotted. We went to have an ultrasound for peace of mind because twenty percent of women spot during pregnancy. But in a heart beat, the breath was sucked out of us.

You had decided to hang out in my Fallopian tube–stubborn child. And some time in week seven your little heart stopped and you went to Jesus. Your great grandparents were waiting for you. You saved my life, most likely, by doing that. Had you continued to grow where you were, I would have had internal bleeding, and you still would die.

It all was too fast. To be so full of joy and hope and then to be shaken with grief and loss.

To not get to hold you.

To have someone cut you out of me.

To question why God would answer prayer this way.

To not understand.

Your father and I have grieved, cried, and prayed together. He has been my rock, and I pray I have been his. His first words in the midst of all the shock were that he didn’t regret a moment of the time we had with you. And later, he said, you see the whole puzzle with God while we see only a piece.

I don’t regret it either. Feeling my body change.  Telling people. Planning for you. Dreaming.

And one day, we’ll see you again because we have Hope.

But I miss you.

Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

 

Defining Special

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My Opa died September 2. 

He would have been 95 on September 7. We had planned a birthday party for September 10, and since the family was already going to be together, the decision was made to make it a memorial luncheon.

It was a nice gathering. My brother made a beautiful box for Opa’s ashes. We enjoyed the company of each other. Wished Opa a happy birthday. But that was it. 

I need a service.

I need to hear what people outside the family remember and love about this man who was larger than life to me for so long.

And I need a song.

So, this is my attempt to have a service for my Opa.

Growing up, Opa came to see us maybe twice a year. He was exotic, and it was always exciting when he was coming. There was a time when he had a little camper and parked it in the back yard. I was fascinated by the original tiny house. He lived in Europe for part of my childhood and had extensive travel experience. The gifts he brought always seemed quite extravagant.

But one of my favorite things was trying to learn Dutch from him. I was not successful. I think mess means knife.

I was an adult before I knew anything about Opa’s amazing past. He was taken off a train by Nazis in occupied Netherlands, forced to work in a plant in Germany, escaped, joined the Dutch resistance, became a Dutch Marine, trained in the United States, met my grandmother.

 I was always proud to say that my grandfather was a naturalized citizen who had taken hold of the American opportunity and worked hard. I thought it made me special that I was second generation on that side of the family.

But it is also as an adult that I appreciate this man who, quite honestly, somewhat intimidated the me child. He had a sense of humor that I can still smile about. One of our last conversations included a joke about his medication. And he worried about my well being and happiness. Not long ago when Steven and I went to visit him, we had a few minutes alone and he encouraged me in my marriage to be kind and thoughtful so we would have a better chance of making it work.

What makes me special is not my immigrant grandfather, but his love.

Resurrection

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Pictures from our elopement.

I got married!

And then we moved.

Finally, sold our house.

And he started a blog.

So, I missed mine.

Stay tuned for more to come….

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