Endings and a Beginning

I am the sort of person who panics long after the emergency is over.  A person who mourns some time after the emergency of the loss has ended.  A person who processes catastrophe after it has passed.

I think this is part of my mother-ness.  I have to be able to compartmentalize enough to get through the emergency, the loss, the catastrophe.

I remember Hurricane Isabel which was a kick off to a very hard season.  The Hurricane came and washed over two feet of my house, leaving us with three kids, three cats, one dog and no place to live.  I remember going to the house, working hard all day trying to salvage things and just Getting Through It.  I did not cry as I looked at our possessions, water logged and molding.  I just saved what I could save and threw away what I couldn’t.   Weeks later, we were settled into an apartment and I laid awake and wept…pictures of the carpet rolled up, frames of family members ruined, my children’s toys destroyed.  The catastrophe had passed…but I mourned.

Very shortly after the crisis of the Hurricane, my sister gave birth to her first child, my niece.  What was supposed to be a time of celebration became an emergency.  She had complications from her c-section that her made her gravely ill.  About a week or so after the baby was born, we were told to come and see her…or we might not get another chance.  She was in the hospital for such a long time.  I steeled my heart and did what I had to do.  Nearly daily I drove to Norfolk to spend time with my sister and the rest of the family, to stand with my brother in law and to love on my new niece.  Some nights, I brought my little niece home with me.  It was uneasy, and it was stressful but I got through it.  I did what had to be done.  The day my sister called to say that she was being released from the hospital, I fell on my bed and cried and cried.  Relief, grief for what she has missed with her daughter, fear, anxiety, worry…it all came out then.  After it was all over.

Bethany and Eden in 2011

Less than a month after Bethany’s discharge from the hospital…something else happened. Our dear friend, A.C. was in a car accident and after ten days in that same Norfolk hospital…she slipped into the arms of Jesus.  And I don’t have enough words to say what A.C. meant to me. She was a younger sister, a partner in crime and a treasure. I loved her, my children loved her, the community loved her. She was the sort of person who made you laugh until your sides hurt. She loved fully and lived big. She was rare. I think of Enoch, who was such a joy to the Lord that he was just taken up to heaven. This was A.C. She died and I went into crisis mode. Planning a funeral, comforting my children and tending to my flock. A.C.’s death rocked our little world. At the funeral, I cried nostalgic tears and smiled at her send off. She brought so many people together to celebrate a life that was fully lived, even though she was only twenty four. Days later, I was bustling around, getting kids ready for school. I hustled into my room, went into my closet to get a jacket and found myself in the closet floor…tears came, angry, broken sobs came. I despaired and I mourned.

This is my pattern.  Hard thing…time of work, duty, pressing through…grief.

And I find myself in this pattern again.

Lately I am reminiscing.  I find that my mind, when left to wander, wanders on over to the section of my memory marked “Hope”.  Hope was my church from 1999 until 2011.  Twelve years we walked together.  And those twelve years are cherished.  Rich with memory.  God planted, watered and grew so many good things in me over that twelve years.  It is right that I grieve the ending of this long season.

This week marked our new beginning with Waters Edge Church, a place that God practically sent us an engraved invitation to attend.  God has rarely been more clear about the path, we are where we are meant to be.  We are excited to dig in, get involved, become a part of things.  But it’s an odd thing too, because we know lots of people and we are known, but it’s also unknown. It’s new.

Sunday was my first day of serving and it was good.  It’s an exciting thing to be a part of.

Monday was our first day of community group and it was good.  We’re excited to make some connections and go deeper with the Lord.

But it also underscored the ending of the season of Hope.  Making these two commitments meant that we have truly moved on, moved forward, that we are moving with the will of God.  We’re investing, and we’re expectant because we are where He called us.

And so the mourning begins.  I am full of memories and it is so bittersweet.  Thank you are the weak words I offer to God for the home and the family that He gifted me with for twelve years.  Thank you are the weak words I say to the One who grew me up and changed me in the midst of that community.  Thank you are weak, weak words for the sense of Who I Am in Him that I gained there.  My memories are fond…little jewels that I picked up along the journey.  Every memory an Ebenezer stone that marks how He’s loved me, grown me up and changed my heart and my life.

Twelve years ago, I was married to someone else.  I had a six year old, a four year old and a not quite two year old.  I was only just meeting the people I would be doing life with for a dozen years.  People I am still doing life with; because where you go to church doesn’t negate relationships.  These are the ones who walked with me through that hurricane, through my sister’s illness, through the loss of our A.C., through my bed rest pregnancy and the birth of Lila, through my separation and divorce, through my tumultuous post divorce time, through my meeting, dating and marrying John, through the birth of Claire, through court and custody stuff.  These are the ones God gave me.  He has been so good to me.

Today, I give myself permission to shed a tear or two of loss.  I will give myself a break when I pause to let a memory run its course.  Today, I will look back over the jewels and the stones of the past twelve years.  I will say that these things are Good.  That He is Good.  That He is the giver and the keeper of every gift.

I will allow myself a time to mourn, intermingled with a time of hopeful, excited expectation for what will come next.


As Christ Loved The Church

Valentine’s Day draws near and all day, when I’ve put my mind to writing, I can think only of my husband.

When the subject of men and marriage comes up, he always says, “Men are supposed to love their wives like Christ loved the church.  And Christ was crucified for the church.”

Christ was crucified for the church, He suffered and died to bring her to life.  This is how a husband should love his wife.

John does this everyday.

He does it when he gets up before the sun, prepares for work, wakes a stepdaughter for school and makes coffee for me.

He does it when he drives an hour to and an hour from work.

He does it when he stays away from home for two extra hours four days a week to teach a homebound student to bring in extra money for our family.

He does it when he wakes in the night to soothe a fussing baby or chase a child’s nightmare away.

He does it with every diaper he changes.

He does it when he takes out the trash, every day and without being asked.

He does it when he drives big girls here and there and everywhere.

He does it when he plays video games with a stepson.

He does it when he goes fishing with a father in law.

He does it when he prays and prays and prays for each child in our family and for the ones that are in our heart.

He does it when he leads our family Bible study every Sunday night.

He does it when he graciously receives anger that was really earned by my first husband.

He does it when he calmly and kindly points out that I might be losing it.

He does it when he gives Lila and me a big hug.  All three of us at once…she waits for this each day.

He does it when he prays healing for my aching joints and when he prays for God to give us just one more baby.

He does it in the way he encourages me to write, the way he loves my words as much as I do.

He does it in the way he listens to the oldest daughters in this house….respectful, calm, wise.

He does it in the way that he loves us well- all of us, me, Julia, Deanna, Aubrey, Chase, Lila, Claire and even Caroline.  His thoughts are on what we need and how best to serve us.

He does it in the way he loves me just as I am.

He does it in the way he believes.  His faith is solid and strong and like a mountain.  He believes, always, that God is good and He is with us.  He does not struggle with believing that the way that I do.

He does it in the way he leads.  He makes his decisions based on the leading of the Holy Spirit and with the whole of our family in mind.  He is a gentle leader, gentle with discipline and with exhortation.

He does it in the way that he laughs with us.  Our house is a place of joy.

He does it in the way that he values family time over any other time.  He doesn’t subscribe to “me” time.

He does it in the way he delights in these children.  Every one is a miracle to him, from the very oldest to the very youngest.

No, we are not perfect.  But we are blessed.  And while our marriage is not without it’s flaws, I count it every day as a joy.  There is no one I would rather do life with than my husband.  There is no one who is a better friend to me.  There is no one who loves me as fully as he does.  He is a gift.

Happy Aubrey’s Birthday, Sweetie.