Valentine’s

I had a doctors appointment yesterday. It’s a new doctor so we had to cover the whole Katie Grace story and she asked me “How are you and your husband doing?

The look of surprise when I told her that our journey with Katie Grace actually strengthened our relationship revealed to me again the enigma that is us.

In the whole scheme of how they tell us the world works, we shouldn’t be where are. We shouldn’t love each other the way that we do. We shouldn’t be as committed as we are.

I get it. We actually shouldn’t. There is no real reason why we should have the common ground that we do, it’s not like we spent years getting to know one another, nor did we even date.  No one would hold us to fault if we just tapped out of our marriage. They would hear the story, look back at how we tried to make it work, and not blame us for giving up.

That isn’t us though, is it? We are tenacious to the end.  Unwilling to relent to quitting. We fight as hard for our marriage as we do when we fight in our marriage. That is who we are individually and it has become who are together. This formidable force of two people, who tenaciously just fight for what they believe.

I asked my Aunt and Uncle, once years ago, when I was in my late 20’s and still single. They were years into their marriage, and he was slowly dying of cancer. I asked them, “Why do it. Marriage looks so hard and people tell me how hard it is. So why do it?” They looked at each, locked eyes, smiled kindly like they were having a conversation where words weren’t needed. After a minute my Uncle looks at me and says…”Because it is worth it.”

There was no way for me to fully grasp the power and truth of his words.  No experience of my life had displayed to me what he had said. They could only be words that I trusted, not an experience I had touched.

Until now.

Charles David, we are a messy tenacious couple.  We fight with as much passion as we live. The journey life handed me was not one my heart could ever prepare for. I didn’t dream of a partner who would run the race with me, I wasn’t sure I would ever find one, or actually that I wanted one.  Single and dating was kind of my jam.  The intimacy of marriage always scared me. Letting my uncle words become not just trusted but touched petrified me, yet here I am, entrenched deep in the experience of it being worth it.  We don’t have our shit together, we literally make it up day by day. Sometimes we hold our breath, hold hands, and just hope we are doing it well. Sometimes we are comfortable in our skin, knowing that we are excelling at this thing that is our life together.  Some days I irritate you to no end. Some days your adolescent humor makes me question my commitment to you. Who I am as a person has changed and continues to change. I have stepped into more of who I am and let go parts of me I tenaciously held onto, you have loved me every step of the way making room for the deconstruction and the mess it causes. You have changed also, some of it we talk about freely, others are still in process require a delicacy that I have learned to give you.  The space giving and the tenacity, those are our actions that hold up our I love you’s. They are the movement behind our I am in this not just because, but because it is worth it.

So this Valentine’s Day, I just want to say, Thank you for being my worth it. I love you.

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It’s been a hot minute

What has it been? Almost a year!   That seems about right and also seems wild that time has flown that quickly.  There is way too much life that has happened over the last year to write.  Long and short goes like this:

  1. We moved
  2. Charles changed jobs and now for the first time in our marriage has a commute…..like a real commute. One that encourages either road rage or prayer.
  3. Isaac is a full-time 3rd grader in Ms. V class!  
  4. I am home full time writing. Obviously not for my blog ( hence the year of silence), I am writing the story of Katie Grace.

Needless to say, there has been some significant changes.

The guys are flourishing. Isaac is loving school, although he is missing being in his pajamas all day.  Charles loves his new job, the commute is what a commute is.

The writing, that has been a thing for me.  It is actually why I am putting out this random blog post.  This week in particular has brought some revelations that are stringently crying out to be spoken.  

 

I spent last weekend in Connecticut with my friend Katelyn.  It was an amazing whirlwind full of laughter and food.  On Saturday I spent some time at the Panera near her work and wrote some.  I decided, out of everything I am writing, the easiest thing would be take my Instagram post of Katie Grace last 5 days and just write them so I can edit later.  No need to add or take away, it was simply moving the words from post to paper.  

 

It wrecked me.  I sat there typing, tears falling. Wiping my nose with my sleeve not wanting to move to get a napkin, and praising the Lord that I wasn’t anywhere where people would know me.  Not that that would stop me, however there was some solace taken this time in knowing no one. The words took me back to those moments. I remember the doctors, the process, the heartbreak at understanding that this was really it for her, that our time was ending. I remember opening up our home, and inviting people in to say goodbye to her. I remember tucking her in every night, not knowing if it was the last night we would do that. The past became very present.  I was overwhelmed.  It felt different sitting there at Panera, then it did when I lived it and I had to stop.

 

Fast forward a couple days at my apartment, trying to find the motivation to write again.  This internal dialogue begins.  In case you’re wondering my internal dialogue, is really me talking to the Lord.

Me: Lord my heart is just ugh. This writing out Katie Grace story is a lot.

Lord: It is.

Me:  I just didn’t realize how entrenched I was in survival mode.  I am not sure I can do this.  It hurts so much more to retell the story than it ever did to live it.  Can that be right.

Lord: That’s what survival mode is for. It buffers the pain. Allowing a person to “survive” without feeling the full extent of the pain in the moment.

Me: That seems so logical and simple.  So how do I know I can do this? Feel the fullness of what I have truly lost.

Lord: Well….how I can be your comforter if you won’t embrace the pain?

Me: …..Silence….

Lord:  You can’t embrace what you won’t acknowledge and I can’t comfort what you won’t invite me into, and you can’t really invite me into what you won’t acknowledge.

Me: ….more silence….

Lord: ….silence…

Me: ….but the pain….

Lord:  I know.  

Me: How do I know it won’t swallow me whole and spit me out?

Lord:  Because you have already done this, and you made it.  

Me: So what I am hearing is I should rest in the pain, trusting that I won’t  be swallowed whole and lost in my loss.

Lord: …silence…

There it is. The resounding revelation crying out for a voice this week.  

Survival mode isn’t bad or something to have a distaste for.  It is necessary to get through the really arduous and painful things that this life hands us.  Appreciating it for what it is, is a superb choice. Using the lens of survival as the means of looking at what you have been through, that is detrimental.  It creates a reality where the pain is always buffered.  If the pain is always buffered, it leaves us unable to acknowledge it. When we don’t acknowledge it, we are left asking the question, how can we invite comfort from the pain if we can’t embrace it the pain.

 

This is probably going to sound harsh, I never understood why women cried when I told them my story with Katie Grace.  I don’t mean it in an unkind way, I just didn’t understand.  I did understand on some level but it was from a place of survival….that buffered place that allowed me to thrive in my world with her.  So I would easily tell her story of medical woe’s and impending death, as if I was rattling off some arbitrary history. It wouldn’t be until I saw the tears falling down the face of who I was talking to, that I would think “oh bring it in….too much.” And when I heard the statement “I don’t know how you do it.” I would think “I don’t have a choice. I just have to do it well.”

 

Today, as I write this blog, and I write her book, I really get it.  REALLY get it.  I can finally truly connect with the tears those dear women cried for us.  I understand every “I’m sorry,” and every hug in a way that survival mode wouldn’t let me. As I lean into the revelation of that inner dialogue and I embrace the pain from the past in the present without the buffer of survival. As I breathe in the trust that I won’t be crushed, or swallowed whole by the vastness of our family’s loss, and rest in the pain. I can say, “I am sorry too.”

 

A note to my daughter

Dear Katie Grace,

I am breathing today. My lungs are expanding and closing yet it doesn’t seem like they are ever quite filling up with enough oxygen. There is a sadness that is dampening their process, taking some oxygen for itself, leaving me just the slightest bit suffocated. I know it’s you, I know it’s my bodies way of feeling the emotion. I want to find you, you know. I want to search this world far and wide to find you, to be able to hold you again. I want lay face to face, nose to nose, to match my breath to the sound of your oxygen machine, to brush my eyelashes against yours…..to steal more moments. My mind knows you’re not here, it knows that you weren’t stolen, I just want to pretend so that I can fool my mind and clasp onto counterfeit hope.

You know what else I know. I know this sadness is stealing away inside because I am coming alive. I promised you, Katie Grace, when you came into this world and stood your ground of love and destiny that I would do everything within my power to be the best me. That I would fight for emotional health and freedom. I planted my feet daughter, deep into the ground, drawing a line that declared I would not stop until I became who I know you saw me as. Your presence relentlessly pursued me, like an announcer on a megaphone yelling volumes of my value and death never silenced that.

Today as I sit here, I see what you saw. The me without the pain, the me without fear, the me without doubt or reserve. I understand now more than ever why you came. I am slowly grasping the pieces of the bigger picture, gently putting together the me I saw in your eyes. The me, who you trusted your broken body with. The me who you knew would draw the line, who would plant her feet deep into the ground, and I want to hold you. I want to wrap you up in my arms squeezing you with gratitude. I want to kiss your cheeks and let my tears speak their thank you. I want to share in this with you. You are not here though. You are running the fields of freedom in heaven….probably giving the Lord a high-five and celebrating with Him.

This note is my squeeze. The words are my tears speaking their gratitude. Daughter, there will be no amount of thank you’s or I love you’s that could ever adequately convey my adoration and gratefulness for you. For how you came into this world, for your tenacity while you stayed in it, or for your resoluteness in who I am.
I love you

Momma

Boxes

If you told me 375 days ago when my family ended their journey from California to Georgia, that God was going to slow our pace down to snails speed and everyday was going to be about identity finding, I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have kindly received your words, pushed them aside in my mind, stuffing them into that place where you put random things people tell you that you either don’t want to believe or you have no grid to understand.

Yet here we are. Here I am once again wrought with realization of the depths in which identity has eluded me all these years.

I am a fan of emotional boxes, or as most people say compartmentalizing, one could even call it rules. I love the emotional feeling of safe lines drawn into the ground of life. Those lines act like a guide of so many things, they reveal right and wrong, good and not good, safe and not safe. They tell me how to act, what to think, and how to know if I am doing a good job. Guess saying I am a fan could be an understatement, I am more of a devotee. Allowing these lines that make up the boxes to shape my ability to know whether or not I am succeeding in life, giving me the peace I need to know that I am doing a good job. And here, this morning, I am finding that, to actually be a predicament. I am realizing I am not the one whose hand has been using the marker to draw these lines that make up the boxes. As a collector of people, of friends, of environments, of community’s, it has been incredibly easy for me to let the environment be the hand which holds the marker which draws the boxes. They have been the artists who have drawn the line of the construct of my boxes, yet here, now I find that very uncomfortable.

This discomfort has left me in a tailspin. A healthy plunging at a high rate in which all the lines of my boxes are becoming blurry. I can see where I have have stood with simple acceptance, pleasurably relishing in the peace and safety of not being the artist holding the marker making the construct of the box. The pressure of discomfort is causing me to question the authority I have given the lines, to ponder why I so easily and pleasurably allow other artists to be the line makers of my boxes.

As my eyes and heart searched for answers this morning, I found myself again taken back to my identity. Have you ever met someone who just kind of knows who they are. Making decisions about what they like and don’t like comes easy to them. Having deep conversations about what they think, agree with, don’t agree seems uncomplicated and straightforward. I have always been envious of those people. It’s like they were born with the marker in their hands and they have always known it, and known how to draw with it. The only predicament they might get in is if someone comes along and raises enough reason for them to maybe change a line here or there, and then just as simply as they made the first line, they erase and re-draw. I have not ever been one of those people. I was born acutely aware of my surroundings and the people in them susceptible to the construct of their boxes made up by the markers in their hands. It is consistently easier for me to lean into my surroundings and use those lines instead of finding my own. You see using the marker placed in your hand, is discovering yourself. It is thinking and deep conversing with the one who dreamed of you about callings, beliefs, values, and temperament. The lines are conversation pieces of you, they are things to lean into when to make sure you are doing a good job. They are the boundaries that help define you. If I don’t know what those lines should be within my heart, if I am not the hand making the marks, then I am just a leaning into the lines of others, using their constructs to measure myself by.

This morning I was overcome with insecurity. Overwhelmed by the blurred lines I am finding in this tailspin so I threw myself at the Lord in worship, pouring out to Him all the insecurity like oil at his feet. He pulled me into his chest quickly, His arms wrapped around me, and his breaths began to breathe me in. That wasn’t what my humanity wanted though, I wanted a box checked, a you’re doing good, or doing bad, so I began whispering what I thought would be my transgressions, reminding Him of the boxes and how I am possibly failing, subconsciously begging him to rebuke me, to check a box, and remove me from His chest. In response I hear:

“You know I love how you live all out for me. How you lay bare all that you are for me. How you face every discomfort and hard thing just to be close to me. My heart can trust you to come to me open and vulnerable. Do you even know how much I love you?”

And I am done….there is nothing I can say…..not that I don’t protest because I really want him to check a box, to tell me good or bad but he doesn’t. He doesn’t even acknowledge my list in our conversation. He simply takes me back to where it all begins, to love, to identity. He neither said yes or no to my list of possible transgressions, instead He took me back to who I am, firm in His stance of love. A person who loves with all that she is. Who lives all out for the Lord. Who faces the hard things of life to be close to him. I stood taller when I leaned up from His chest, not because I had answers but because I a grabbed a piece of myself. I picked up a marker in my hand, and placed my hand in his and together we drew a line to form a box.

The invitation is made, the gesture of his words stating all that I will need in this journey. The promise that this uncomfortable tailspin is the promise that in this life, He wants to be the one who holds my hand as we make the marker lines of my box construct. Please don’t hear any devaluing of people, their constructs, or community. Please don’t hear any disrespect of authority, leadership or the voice of those with wisdom beyond me. That is not what I am preaching. Those people and community, those words, they hold value beyond compare. I believe in the body of Christ. I am coming to believe even more they should be used as a way to sharpen who you are, like a blade upon a sharpener. You have to know who you are, what YOUR construct is before you can be sharpened by another. If not I am afraid what I am seeing, is that you just replace one construct for another, easily tossed around by the beliefs and constructs of others.

I am a lover of boxes and although in the desperate pressing tailspin of blurred former lines, I am finding my love for markers.

Tap..Tap….Um Hello is anybody listening?

I don’t know how all of ya’ll’s 2017 has started out, I can tell you though mine has started with some serious heart revelation that I was not prepared for and to be on the level, it is wrecking me to the literally core of my heart. It started with this simple prayer, that I can genuinely tell you I am not 100% percent sure where it originated from. It was loud though, demanding to be prayed without understanding. As if my physically body was compelled to cry out for my heart no matter what my feelings could understand. Every morning for the last 30 days I have at some point sat and quietly breathed, “Lord, help me to become someone who listens to hear, and no longer listens to be heard.” I had always considered myself to be a fairly decent listener and friend, but as I began praying this prayer, I understood what I thought was not actually the possible truth. That instead my factual capacity to listen to people without forming a response in my mind, or already answering any question, was not as good as I have believed. I don’t know what change I was expecting to see with that prayer; well that isn’t 100% true… in the movie scene that played out in my mind all of a sudden I became someone was focused only on the words being spoken in the conversation. I would be this person who sat still and quiet, simply nodding, full engaged in what the other person was saying not just with their words but with their bodies and then I would respond beautifully with my own opinion after the appropriate amount of time. What I didn’t expect to comprehend is how much wanting to learn to listen to others would reveal a lack of identity within my own heart. That in order to be the person in that movie scene patiently and safely listening, I would need to look within the identity of my heart and see a gaping wound.

Prayer has many purposes, in this case, not only were my words a conversation starter between the Lord and I but it also drove the concept to the forefront of my every thought. I am now acutely aware of me with every conversation I start; am I listening, am I hearing…or just formulating my response. That awareness was like a hand pulling back the blanket of bravado so carefully placed over my heart. What I saw was not a spit-fire woman full of opinions formed bravely in safe places; instead there was fear. A roaring combination of loud words and restricted thoughts caught in the categories of right and wrong, good and bad, leaving me unable to hear a person from where they stood if it didn’t fit the safety of my restrictions. It shielded a tender void of identity. In all honesty it took me a moment to let the realization penetrate, and when it did, I found myself grieving…..it is possible that I have missed a lifetime of truly hearing the hearts of people I have loved, simply because I didn’t know who I was and I felt the need to defend that vulnerability. Grieved that I have missed out on true fruit of deep conversations steeped in differing opinions and experiences. I quite possibly have mis-understood precious friends experiences, their joys, their pains, their losses, and their victories because the lack of identity in my heart calls for protection and protection that looks like iron walls of ‘I am right’ and finite thoughts that forge a false sense of safety.

What happened was the more I listened without forming a thought in my mind, without tempering the words I was hearing with the “beliefs” of my heart, the more I silenced me, the louder fear became. It sounded like the ocean at night when the tide is rushing in, as the water pulls back and then silently builds up, then WHOSH….the wave comes, crashing on the shores. I had to ask myself, what is this fear crashing on the shores of my heart? Why am I afraid listening to another person? What about being silent makes me afraid of their opinions, their experiences, their beliefs? What do I believe I am giving up by simply listening with no immediate response? The Message Version of 1 John 4:18 says:

To Love, to Be Loved
17-18 God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
I had to dive into why fear was possibly crippling my conversations, stunting my ability to hear what someone was saying. I mean I love people, I love hearing about them, their lives, their experiences, yet here I was truly listening without forming a response and I was scared.

That’s when I saw it…..when I saw that void in my heart. When my finite thoughts and loud words were silenced by me, it was noticeable, like the rocks in the sand as the ocean water is pulling back from the shore preparing to build up. That void told me if my thoughts weren’t the same as another person’s thoughts, then mine weren’t valid. As a matter of fact that person’s thoughts/beliefs/experiences actually had the power to make me unimportant. The void, that lack of knowing who I am, that lack of identity, said you are not safe unless you are in agreement. I do not know if there is anything that is farther from the truth of who Jesus is, than that. His example of loving people was not one steeped in fear, unsure of who He was and his place in the world. Instead His example was of one who courageously stepped into the uncomfortable and loved. Who walked with those who opposed him, hated him, argued with him, and he loved. He met those broken emotionally, physically, wrought with sin, beliefs varying from his own, and He loved, unafraid. He was the champion of loving without fear….. the Lord of loving without fear.

As I sit today, processing this out on the pages of my computer screen, lifting up that blanket of bravado that has been over my heart, showing you the inner depths, all I can do is feel hopeful. Hopeful that in this vulnerability, my feet with find this path that Jesus paved, that my ears will continue to do more listening, that void will do less talking, and fear now exposed will slowly find its way out of my heart, as identity begins to seep in.

This forging friendship in appreciating people’s different experiences and beliefs isn’t not a black and white affair. It isn’t simple in its’ manner. It is messy, full of passionate emotions, probably many misunderstandings, a willingness to mature, to see your shortcomings, to see other’s shortcomings and embrace them in love anyway. It requires you to be comfortable with not knowing, and knowing that doesn’t change who you are. It calls you to ask questions, to search out the heart of the Father, and to see how your design (temperate, preferences, etc.) fit into each situation. It demands that you bury you head in his chest and find yourself in His eyes to see what He saw when He created you. When you can see what He saw, it is possible your feet have found their way to the path Jesus walked. The one where He loved unafraid.

This is a journey I am just beginning, a conversation I am just starting. I have more questions than I do answers, I feel insecure most of the time, and I feel more alive than I have felt in a long time. Standing here open wide, I am finally really listening

Welcome 2017

I have pondered about these next 48 hours since we celebrated since December 16th.  What to do, what not to do, do we celebrate, do we not, do we stay quiet, do we go loud, what do we do.  In about 28 hours, it will have been two years since we sat huddled around that olive-green love seat that held my mom, cradled that red-headed 4-year-old, watching her breathe her last breath.  Although my brain has run wild with the what to do thought, my body made the decision this morning when I woke up with the stomach bug.

Staying quiet it is.

Between my short naps and brief reprieves, I find myself scrolling through all the Facebook memories and Timehops I can.  I read and re-read the moments we shared and the comments that came after allowing them to take me back to that time. I have noticed that as I sit here, my perspective has changed, the walls of my heart have expanded. Notes left by friends expressed so much love, so much compassion and caring, but I was in survival mode and could only comprehend a fraction of what was poured out. As I read these thoughts now, I can feel the tenderness, the devotion, the love more than ever. Katie Grace didn’t just give me a chance to be loved by her, but she gave me the chance to be loved by my community.

We seriously underestimate the value of letting people love us, God didn’t though; He never has. I wonder if God the Father looks at Jesus, the way I look at Katie Grace, in awe of what her sacrifice gave me. When Jesus walked into the fullness of his destiny and sacrificed his life, he opened the door for us to the Father. He gave us the ability to expand our hearts, and in that He exposed the vastness of God the Father’s heart for us. It allowed us to walk in the fullness of God the Father; to grab revelations of freedom, of wisdom, and of love. Jesus’s sacrifice didn’t just give the Father to us, it gave us to the Father. It opened the door for Him to receive our love freely, and for us to receive His love freely. I can no longer look at the sacrifice of Jesus, without seeing the greater sacrifice of the Father. Much like Katie Grace and her sacrifice gave me the chance to be loved by community in a way not all have the opportunity to be. Will we ever be able to fully comprehend the sacrifice of God the Father in the laying down of His son’s life, so that we can share in a mutually loving relationship? Will we ever be able to grasp the love The Father looks upon his Son with, as he relishes in relationship with us? As he hears our worship and chats with us in our prayers, knowing that that door is open because His son said yes to laying down his life. I don’t know but as I look upon Katie Grace’s picture and reflect on what her life gave me in the ways of love and relationship, I can say I think I have a glimpse, and that glimpse simply easily stops me in my tracks and fills me with emotion that there is no words for.
Tomorrow I will wake up in 2017 and it will be the day my daughter breathed her last breath, and I will be grateful. That is my word for 2016, grateful. Grateful that Jesus’s sacrifice didn’t just give the Father to us, it gave us to the Father. Grateful for Katie Grace and what her sacrifice gave us, a community of people who said yes to love, and expanded my heart in understanding value, worth, and the depth in relationship. A love that stood during my inability to comprehend and stands today as a reminder. As I look at 2017 and the word that it will bring, I will carry the gratefulness of 2016 with me into it. I will hold onto the revelations and my expanded heart, full of gratitude.

Today you are 6

Dear Katie Grace,

Today you are 6.

This day 6 years ago you blew into our world, according to us you were 2 weeks late, however you were perfectly on your time.  A time frame we continued to live on all the days we had you.

If I were being forthright I am not quite sure how to celebrate you today.  Last year was simply the 1st year and it was so mixed with the beauty and sadness of your graduation, I think we just got by.  This second year seems to demand something different from me, its like a call from within to know how we are going to remember you every year.  You  know what would be the most like you, is to make the tradition a thing we revisit every year.  To be consistently inconsistent.  I mean for all who knew you, they know, that was your MO in life.  Grammie and I always said if you were anything but tenacious, it was consistently inconsistent.

We miss you here.  Although we are joyful always in where you are and who you are with, our flesh can’t help but miss your presence.  Your brother misses you sooo much.  He is continually asking us for another sibling,  we are doing our best but maybe you and the Lord can send us some help on that one.  You left an imprint on his heart that I don’t know if we will ever see the fullness of until he is grown.

This year has held a lot of changes for us, we have rested in a way we haven’t in years.  Our little family of three has connected and grown in who we are.  We have you to thank for that on many levels.  I believe a part of your destiny was to come and love us until death with every piece of you so that we had the opportunity to step into who we are.  You are ingrained into us, and as much as we try we can’t help but talk about you.  About who we are because of you, about what we know because of you, about how we were and are loved because of you. If you hadn’t said yes, and let this day be your birthday, we wouldn’t have had that opportunity.

Thank you baby girl for saying yes to life today.  To coming on your own time and doing life on your own terms.  For choosing us as your family and gracing us with your presence.

We love you with all of us.

Momma, Daddy and Isaac.