You’re 12, Kaylie MayBeth

It’s hard to believe she’d be 12, our Kaylie.  Aunties don’t forget…

My niece Kaylie MaeBeth, was born silently on July 13, 2006 at 25 weeks gestation. She is the third daughter of my sister JJ and her Hubby Dan. This letter was written to be shared at Kaylie’s graveside service on Sunday, July 16. It was read by my nephew Hayden, so grown up, such a Man in the making… Auntie just wanted to be a part of celebrating the life of her precious niece… 

My heart is sad as I sit down to finally write this. I can’t describe the sense of loss I feel for you JJ, for you Dan, and for you Addie and Josie. We are just so very sorry for your loss and wish we could be there in this sacred moment to comfort you, to let you know first hand how much we love you, how sad we are for you.

I guess really, I am sad for all of us. We won’t get to know the beautiful woman that Kaylie had the potential to become, with curly hair and huge blue eyes, so much to learn from her sisters, to do with her family, so much to become. I am sad for Kaylie for although she has experienced SO MUCH life and love already as she lived in her Mother’sa womb, she won’t know firsthand the love that awaited her here in the world, in our family.

For it is true, Kaylie, you were already so very loved. I remember a moment I had on my way to meet my fourth nephew Ryley Dean. As I drove the highway, I was so worried because I couldn’t imagine loving another little boy as much as I loved Cody, Chase and Hayden. But as I held Ryley in my arms that first time I knew that just like any other love, an Auntie’s love goes far and stretches and multiplies. I’ve never forgotten that. I have had SO MUCH love for each of the precious children we are blessed to have in our family. And Kaylie even as I talked to your Mommy many, many times about you, about how you were growing up inside her, all that time I loved you, we all did. We will miss not knowing you here on this earth but we are thankful for the ways you have already changed us, for the reason you were created and lived, even though right now, we don’t understand the reasons you can no longer live on earth with us.

When I asked Jimmie Jo if I could write something ~ I so felt the need to be there this day even across the miles ~ she said that Psalm 139 was the Scripture she picked for this sacred moment. And how appropriate… the beautiful words of verse 13 and following…

For it was you who formed my inward parts… You knit me together… I am fearfully and wonderfully made… my frame was not hidden from you even when I was made in secret

all these words tell the truth of how our inescapable God knows all about us ~ about Kaylie ~ he knew her and what her life was to be, even before we knew she existed. He knew and he created her perfect and whole in his eyes.

Even as these words are so very true I have to say that as I have read this passage over and over again recently ~ this is a special passage for my family, words we have prayed over our children who truly were formed in secret, at least from us ~ I am struck by the hope we find in these words that are bookends to these well-loved verses. Verses 11 and 12 say something like this… If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night, but God, even the darkness I walk through is not DARK to you. The night I am in right now is bright as day as far as you can see, God. For the darkness is as light to you. There’s hope there… pure hope that even in these dark days of sadness at the loss of Kaylie, we who know God can trust that he sees the light in it all. He won’t leave us in this dark night. We can live in hope that someday His light will break through and then, even if we still don’t understand, we will be able to walk in his light. That is hope for today and tomorrow and all the future as we face life’s hard things.

And then the end of verse 18… I come to the end ~ I am still with you. The loss of Kaylie hit me hard and I have to admit that even with the strong and still growing faith in God, that I do believe that he has our best interests in mind, that indeed he is working out everything to be better than we could imagine… even as I trust that God is in control, I am shaken by this loss. Shaken because no one should have to go through this, much less my baby sister and her family. I am shaken… but these words of hope spoken by the Psalm writer to God ~ I come to an end ~ I am still with you ~ leave me feeling safe because I know that I can question and be angry at the stuff I don’t like or understand in life. I know I can do that and in the end, when I, when we, are exhausted by our tears and questioning ~ in the end, there is God. We are still with him. And we can trust that he knows and understands our sorrow ~ after all, His Son died too ~ that he won’t leave us to deal with this on our own, that in the end we can rest in the knowing that God is here and will never leave us.

I also live trusting that Kaylie’s life, no matter how short it has been, means something, or will mean something, to each of us. She was created and lived for a reason. God knew why he made her and sent her to this family. He knows who she is and will be to all of us. I look forward to the ways her time with us will change us for the better, whatever that may be.

I know that Kaylie is with Jesus and he says to her “You are welcome here.” And I know that she is welcomed in Heaven by many who love her, including her little cousins born to heaven like her, before even a breath was taken on earth, her great-grandparents and many others who have gone before. What a hope we have when we trust in God!!!! He will not leave us in the darkness of sorrow as to him, even the sorrow brings light. He will never leave us alone as we cry and question. We know that, in the end, we are still with Him.

Rest in peace Sweet Kaylie… we love you and miss you…

With love from across the miles,

Aunt Hope for all us here

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20, and Being Here.

Be careful not to forget the Lord your God…He brought you out…He led you through… Remember the Lord, and Praise Him. (Deuteronomy 8)

Twenty years ago this past week, Hubs and I took our first roadtrip together to the #GreatWhiteNorth.  Where he’s from.  We had been dating for about 3 months at the time. Both of us were preparing for ministry as single people with calls to very different demographics and places.  In fact. I had returned only a couple weeks before from interviewing with a church plant on the West Coast. We weren’t young.  I was going to graduate in a few months. We had a lot in common but we were also from different generations, very different personalities, different ways of looking at ALOT of things.

But here I was travelling to meet his family.  To see his life.  Talking about how all this would work if we decided God had freed us from our separate calls to be single, to move forward in ministry as a family.  Alot of the trip I was like “what in the world?” So surreal, travelling out of the country to meet the family of this man I’d only really gotten to know well a few short weeks ago.

On the way, it became apparent that all the “what ifs” were starting to aggravate us both.

“If we decided to…”

“If we got married, what would…”

“How would it work if…”

And then he just decided to ask me to marry him, going down the highway at 100 clicks per hour in the middle of nowhere Alberta. (I didn’t find out til after that he had a plan for a romantic spot but in true #GreatWhiteNorth fashion, there was a snowstorm at Lake Louise that weekend!)  Hubs asked me in an act of faith, in order to move our conversation out of the “what if’s” to “what will be”… it was overwhelming, happening fast, but as much as there were so many unanswered questions, we felt we needed a commitment to each other to really find out the answers.

So I said yes.  It was a great day.  It felt right, and real, and wonderful, after being called away from my dreams of marriage and family a few years prior.  I couldn’t believe this was happening.

But it did, and here we are, 20 years later, still riding the roller coaster that is our life together.  And I can’t help but ask myself the very question that popped into my mind a few days after he popped the question, in a quiet moment sitting in a car on a street in a town I’d never been to before…

“How in the world did I get here from there?”

It was a leap of faith in every sense of the word #faith ~ now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1-6) ~ but it was more than that.

It was the power of the Holy Spirit guiding me to places I never dreamed I’d go, into a good land where I’ve dwelled and wanted for nothing, but also sometimes into a wilderness that made me question why I left everything I knew, everyone I loved, for the sake of this.

“How did I get here from there?”

It was God and God alone who guided me to this place to “commit my ways to the Lord, to take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37)  That verse didn’t mean to me that God gave me just what I wanted and asked for, but He, through His Holy Spirit did a work that allowed me to give up things I thought I wanted (the here) to take me to places I never dreamed were possible (the there).  

So here I am, no longer in #thethere but living in #thehere ~ this family I’ve been given is my home ~ that good land that God promises when we walk in obedience.  I don’t deserve the goodness, but I’ll admit I feel sorry for myself thinking I don’t deserve the loss that comes along with the goodness either. But it all… it all…

it’s where I am…here, in this land…

#here.

 

O Death, Where is Your Sting?

In honor of My Daddy ~ Poppy ~ who went to be with Jesus on June 9, 2015.  I know that I know that I know that I will see him again someday.  I know that I know that I know that he is experiencing more of what life is supposed to be as he worships, works and loves us from heaven. I know that he loved me.  And wow, did I love him. 

(This post recorded an experience I had on March 15, 2009, following the dear of my friend Angie and was shared on a previous blog at that time) 

I had this experience ~ revelation, epiphany ~ on Friday night that left me breathless. My friend Angie is gone, and I am so very sad about her loss. I can say that and still know that my life goes on just like it has been on a daily basis. My loss isn’t like others as she wasn’t in my life, affecting my life experience regularly as she was before. My life isn’t really affected, not like her husband or children, parents and siblings, co-workers and church family she left behind. They feel it sharply now. My loss is about the friend I knew when we were together, when we worked side by side, when she was sometimes the loyal person I needed to keep going.

This experience left me quaking with something “Other”. The Other being the desire to meet God, to sit with Jesus, to look into his eyes, to see him face to face. Because for the first time ever, in all the times I have grieved the loss of someone near to me, as much I waited and waited for the agony of MY loss, in the end, as I sobbed on my kitchen floor Friday night while Hubby was out with the kids ~ bless my dear man, he knew, he could tell I needed space to let go ~ all I could feel was joy for what I knew Angie was experiencing at that very moment. #JOY.

And well, a tinge of jealousy for the sheer magnitude of where she was, in heaven, face to face with her Lord and Savior… #home.

She was home. She isn’t in pain. She isn’t struggling with day to day and she isn’t struggling with dying. She is home. She is in celebration and the wonder of where she is, WHO she is with, and the journey that brought her there.

And for me, my sobs of sadness turned to echoing shouts of praise and joy in my kitchen, tears running my face, hands in the air, celebration.  For the people who befriended Angie and introduced her and her family to the saving grace of Jesus just a few short years ago… shouts of praise, for the wonder that is the Reaching Out Body of Christ, whose arms are open to those who are seeking, those who long to know Home, the Home that is knowing and following Jesus.

It hit me… again, and again, and again… that she is where she is because she fell in love with the same Savior I’m in love with, and that she is no longer suffering, she need not fear the sting of death because she knew Jesus, because the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 11) that surrounded her, watched over her while she was on earth are now celebrating her life and the saving work of Jesus in her life these days. We are sad here on earth but there is none of that at Home. No. None of that.

I ended up dancing around my kitchen with joy ~ JOY! ~ for what Angie is experiencing these very moments… questions answered (if she even cared to ask them anymore)… a body whole and able to run and jump and see the neverending sun… a voice not strained because of morphine and exhaustion… a heart free to love and not have to endure the captivity of the sickness that surrounded her.

Yes, she fought as she should have for every single day with her family on earth. I was so proud of her and how she worked to make sure her boys understood what was happening, and told them that they only had today and they would live it for today. I was touched by the blessing of her warmth as she wrapped her arms around me a few weeks ago when we got the chance to visit, how she cared that I was sad, and how she let me love her through my tears, how she embraced the things I wanted to tell her, about what her loyalty and love, her servant spirit meant to me in the years we spent together, how she had made a difference in my world, how I admired who she was as my sister in Christ, fellow mother and worker in the church, as a person created by God.

She fought for her life and then she won in her death… because death does not have victory over anything if we live beneath the saving grace of Jesus… what a fitting lenten experience for those of us left behind… to see the destructive force of death that is part of this earth, and know that we know that we know that death does not have the last laugh. No.

Angie is alive and well and though her body has perished, she lives in the presence of Jesus Christ always. I celebrate that. I celebrate that she is home. She is home.

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death is your sting? (I Corinthians 15) 

Angie is home. She is finally home.

Today I decided to garden.

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

Dogs and I had breakfast and our walk after the kids went to school.  It’s what I always do, at least most mornings. I looked at my to-do list.

Baking.

Cleaning.

Errands.

Bookwork.

Writing.

Phone calls.

All stuff I should be doing.  It’s on the list after all.  Gardening wasn’t on the list for the day.  Did you hear that?  Gardening… was…NOT… in the plan for the day.

But what did I do? I let the dogs outside, and they were thrilled I was coming with them.  I pulled on my gloves, gathered the tools and headed to the closest flower bed that needed attention.  I spent the whole morning, and part of the evening out there, pulling weeds, watering, plucking dead flowers off of the plants growing beautifully in the sunshine.  I listened to music and drank tea.  And not once, did I return to that to-do list for the day.

What a rebel.

I’m learning, slowly, that I can’t just do all the time.  Though believe me there was plenty of weeds to be pulled, so I was doing, but remarkably enough, it didn’t feel as much like it would’ve had I been “doing” that to-do list.

Setting a boundary is hard.  Learning to take a breath and do what I love, what refreshes me, what fills me up, rather than what is required is hard.  It’s hard because of lifelong habits of trying to live up to expectations.  But the silly thing is when I think about it is, no one is here expecting me to get that list done.  I have the freedom, when kids are at school in the care of others, to make my time work for me.  So I chose to garden, which slowed me down and filled me up after several very busy of to=do lists, coping with chronic health concerns, missing Hubs, dealing with kidlet crises, going to appointments, waiting for answers, wondering, worrying about our future and the answers we have not yet received, the decisions yet to be made.

And I realized something as I slowed down, dug in the dirt, soaked in the sunshine, pups piled under a tree close. I realized that I was praying.  And thinking hopeful thoughts. And feeling more and more grateful for the time I have to pray and hope and garden. I realized that in that moment in the garden, I was ok.  That all would be okay, even if nothing or everything changed in our circumstances, even if we had to wait a little longer for answers and decisions…even if… even if…

I realized we would be okay.  When my brain stopped the worry-whirl, I saw God with me, giving us a life full of His Goodness even in the waiting, and wondering, and crises and cares.  He has been with us through it all.  This wasn’t our first time waiting for something…someone…

We would be okay…even if…

It reminded me of a passage in Isaiah, from chapter 58: ”

I will always show you where to go.
    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
    firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
    make the community livable again.

Just like I am there to water the flowers to make sure that they survive in the heat of summer…

Just like He carries me through each day even with the struggles of living sometimes…

He nurtures. He provides. He gives us a full life even when there’s tough stuff around. So just breathe… and garden, pray, be grateful and wait in hope. He’s working on the rubble.

 

Don’t Worry, Bloom!

“Why are you anxious about what you’ll wear? Consider the lilies. See how they grow. They don’t struggle or toil to be that beautiful … yet they are more lovely than royalty.  If that’s how God takes care of the flowers,  will he take care of you —you of little faith?  So do not worry.  Seek His Kingdom first.”  ~  Jesus (to those listening on the mountainside) as told by Matthew, His Disciple. 

Last night, TheFarmer (aka Hubs) finished putting in the carrots with the help of Emme.  We live in a small city, but as they say “you can take the farmer off the land…” (do they say that?) and for the last almost 10 years, #gardening has been a big part of life during the Spring, Summer and Fall here at our little urban homestead.

There’s weeding and hoeing and planting and watering.  Carrots. Potatoes. Beans. Corn. Tomatoes. Peppers. Cucumbers. Our strawberry patch and apple trees are blooming white. Raspberries will set on soon.  Purple petunias everywhere. Bleeding hearts blossoming. Peonies taking their time. Oh, and dandelions!  (I love them.  TheFarmer despises them!)

We planted this year, in this place we love, we call home, not a home of dreams, but a home we’ve made, together as a family.  Nine months ago we thought we wouldn’t put the garden in. We thought we’d have a For Sale sign in our yard and be one the move, forward with a big transition from our little homestead in the city to the country life, close to where Hubs works right now, close to his family, with room to grow more, and work together, no longer needing Hubs to be away so much.  Stuff of dreams for sure… almost too much of a dream.  Dare I say it would be stuff of miracles if it worked out, but who knows?  Maybe a miracle will happen.  We’ve waited.  We’ve trusted.  We’ve done our research, our parts.

But as we’ve discovered over the years, God’s Timing is His Own.  We’ve done our part to move forward on this possibility.  But it is taking time and if there’s something this Momma struggles with is blooming where she’s planted instead of worrying about things like… hey, where will the kiddos go to school? Will we get the money we should out of our house if we don’t sell in the Spring?  What happens if this plan falls through, if doors close? What will we do?  Will we find a faith community as beloved as ours here?  Will my kids make friends easily?  Can we really afford this?  What? Where? How?

Those questions.  That worry.  That’s not blooming.  That’s not letting God clothe us with His Peace and Grace as we wait. God’s time is His Own, and just like our little homestead, all planted, ready to bloom, it takes time for the seeds to germinate, to sprigs of green, to blossoms, to fruit. Time, and care, not worry and stress.

So I’ll bloom here for as long as I am here.  We’ll be okay, trusting God for tomorrow and whatever comes.  We’ll wait and watch for our little plants to grow. We’ll water and weed, and hopefully reap some of the harvest, knowing God has us here, right now, for His Timing is His Own.

So I’ll be over here, blooming.  Or trying to.

 

 

 

 

#PentecostPrayer

I See You: Reflecting on #MothersDay

Writer’s Note: This entry was first written in Spring 2007, It seems like a lifetime again, and yet, I read it through and know that even though I still have my Mother with me on earth, even though I love being my kids’ mother, I feel keenly the losses I’ve suffered, and I pray each day that what I’ve faced will always, always soften my heart for those who I know face the hard things too. I know I’m blessed but I think I would fail in making the most of my life experiences if I didn’t do the work of acknowledging the losses that many women feel in light of all the emphasis on mothering and Mother’s Day every year.
For some, even for me, even as I am privileged to be a Mother, it is a re-opening of a wound I/they work hard to heal, and I’ve come to realize, again through personal experience, and in knowing many women of character who have endured so much, that a huge part of getting through the heartache is for someone to say “I see you”.
And so that is what this is…

 “I see you”. 

I think the celebration of #Mothers is a wonderful necessity in our lives these days. I think a lot of mothers and their influence on their children and therefore on the world has been minimized to a desperate degree. With all the push in the culture towards a woman’s self-satisfaction in her career has overshadowed the immediate role of a person who is a Mother in the life of the child they parent. So celebrating Mothers is good, very good.  And I am blessed to know many exceptional mothers who give all for their children.  And I celebrate these women. 

But what about those who for whatever reason find this day painful, heartbreaking? 

I know women who avoid church like the plague on Mother’s Day Sunday because they know all it will do is highlight the fact that they’ve lost… whether it be a child due to premature death, stillbirth, miscarriage, or a child through adoption… or the dream of a child at all because of infertility or the single life. Or through custody disputes in divorce.

 And yes, children who’ve lost Mothers through any of these avenues as well. We celebrate Mothers, but I think we do a big injustice to other mothers (or people who long to be mothers) by only celebrating, and not taking a moment just to acknowledge that there is pain for many.

Through years of ministry and just plain life, I have met woman upon woman for whom this day is hard, and you would never know it.  They are women who are obviously parenting, but carried lost children in their hearts, and long for the day they will be reunited with their little ones born to heaven or living in another family.  No one would ever know their hearts are heavy by their appearance.  I know women who have lost many children before they were blessed to parent on earth, and they remember them.  I know women who have placed  children in another family, and miss their kids every…single…day.  I know women for whom childlessness is overwhelming, and they long for things to be different.  

For them and so many more living with disappointment and loss in their parenting life, Mother’s Day makes it all the more harder, just one more milestone they have to mark in their loss.  I have known women who struggle because mothering the children they love and are blessed to parent is not what they expected, often because their child has challenges that keep them from being able to express love in return.  For these, and so many more with very unique circumstances, this day is hard.  I see you.

 This definitely gets very personal too.  Our journey to our family includes having to “live through” the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss in front of everyone, and how we needed someone to stop and say “I see you, and you know, you can have a break on this day instead of preaching, leading…we understand you may be hurting”. No one ever did that. I don’t blame them because looking back, how could they know? 

But still, I don’t want that to happen to others now that I know how it feels. We were fortunate during that time to be surrounded by some amazing teens from our youth group, who seemed to be sensitive beyond their years to our pain, who most definitely said, “I see you”  and who celebrated us as people of influence in their lives. But not everyone has that.

 I know that in any given faith gathering this Mother’s Day, regardless of how large or small, there will be AT LEAST one (but most likely more, many, many more) women who have lost a child and no one knows about it. First mothers through adoption. Childless mothers through infertility. Single women who long for the chance to be a mother. Others who’ve lost babes through pregnancy loss. Or stillbirth. Or abortion. Or cancer. Or an accident. Or divorce.  I see you.

 Older women who have outlived their children.  Or live with regret over the breaks in relationship.  I see you.

 Children who have lost their Mothers. Through death. Through adoption. Through divorce. Against their will. Are we ready to remember them, to acknowledge that they might, most probably do, have pain on this day??? We never know who might be hurting even though on the outside, you can’t see it.  But I see you.

 So please celebrate, but as you do, remember the hurting mothers.  See them.  And say a prayer of of blessing and peace for them.