Sunday, August 17, 2014

Does God Give Us More Than We Can Handle?

I grew up using the phrase, "God doesn't give us more than we can handle," and it works great as an encouragement for us when times get rough. It helps us to believe that whatever is thrown our way we were made to handle. But what if that is all wrong? I mean, I thought this was scriptural, but when I looked it up in 1 Corinthians 10:3 it stated, "No temptation has overtaken you except that which is common to man, but God is faithful, he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able."  I don't know about you, but I believe that this verse is talking about temptations or sins in our lives, not to circumstances in life. In fact I'm going to be as bold as to say I think that phrase is wrong and we should stop using it. Because I believe God does give us more than we can handle because He doesn't want us to get through it ourselves, but to lean on Him.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9 "I was crushed... so much so that I despaired even of life, but that was to make me rely not on myself, but on the God who raises the dead."

I believe I am living proof of this. Eight weeks ago Tim and I found out that after 21 months of trying, I was pregnant! We went in to do the blood work and my numbers looked great. We went in for the 6 week ultrasound to hear the heartbeat on July 7th. We had been in the ultrasound room a short while before we knew something was wrong. The ultrasound tech said, "It looks like the pregnancy is in your Fallopian tubes, but I'll get the Dr." The doctor came in and told me that because of my numbers, I was too far along and would have to go into emergency surgery to remove the ectopic pregnancy. So on a day we were trusting and looking forward to, everything changed in an instant. And as I lay in bed the next week and recovered from the surgery I thought, "This is too much!" I have gone from a miscarriage, to a child that died, to infertility, and now this ectopic pregnancy and surgery two weeks before the anniversary of Quinn's death. When is enough, enough?! I have been given more than I can handle!

I listened to a sermon on disappointment that week online and it really spoke to me. It talked about 4 stakes we need to secure our tent (or the dwelling place where we meet God) for when the storms of disappointment come and the 1st one hit me like a ton of bricks. YOU ARE NOT GOD.  It seems so simple, but if we really reflect on that, we are all living our lives claiming God is #1 but acting as if we are God or like we could do a better job. We live in a society where I can build my own house, I can post pictures of how great I am and people write me praises, I can sit in front of a TV and push a button and it turns on. We are the gods of our own lives and when that is threatened (we don't get the job we thought was perfect, we don't meet the man of our dreams right away, we don't have children when we want to, etc.) that is the root of our disappointment and really most of our "whys". If there is a supreme being, that we call GOD, who sees the whole universe, our past, our surroundings, our future, our heart, who is all knowing, who IS love, then why do I secretly believe I (who am selfish, and have only been to this continent, and have only lived for 31 years, and have probably met 5,000 people in my life, and AM HUMAN)  would have the 1st clue on how life should be?

Isaiah 29:16 "You turn things upside down as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'You did not make me'? Can the pot say to the potter, 'You know nothing'?"

Jeremiah 18:3-4 "So I went down to the potter's house and saw him working at the potter's wheel. He was using his hands to make a pot from clay, but something went wrong with it. So he used that clay to make another pot the way he wanted it to be."

And this is why God gives us more than we can handle: 1. Because He is God and He can- He knows what he is doing and how our story is going to pan out and 2. Because He is God and we can trust Him and His ways. We don't have to "handle" it, that's God's job.
I don't necessarily think that something was wrong in my life, but I do think that God is the potter and He is making me, his clay, into something new. Right after Quinn died, Tim and I mourned for many things, but one was that we will never be the same. That a part of us died with Quinn. And even now I still believe that to be true, but I don't think any of us are meant to stay the same. This life brings us joys and struggles that continually evolve and change us. Some are more subtle, some more drastic. And with that change is pain, but also rebirth.

Revelation 21:5 "Behold, I am making everything new."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My Sacrifice

Sacrifice. It is defined as “to surrender a possession as an offering.” And I've been thinking a lot about it lately with lent and especially with Easter just around the corner. I was always amazed at the sacrifices Jews were asked to make in the Old Testament for their sins but the story of Abraham and Isaac has always gotten to me. In short, Abraham and his wife were barren but they were promised by God that his descendants would outnumber the stars. They wait, and wait, and wait, and wait until Sarah becomes pregnant when she is close to 100 years old. And then one day God says something atrocious, “Take your only son whom you love up to the mountain and kill him as an offering/sacrifice.” WHAT?!  Abraham trusts God and takes his son up to the mountain and as he is about to sacrifice him, God stops him and says, “Now I can see that you trust God and that you have not kept your only son from me.” Abraham then sees a male sheep caught in a bush and he sacrifices the sheep instead. And for generations the Jewish nation makes sacrifices on the alter until the ultimate sacrifice was made hundreds of years later when God sacrifices his only son whom he loves on a hilltop to atone for our sins and the veil is torn and sacrifices don’t have to be made on the alter anymore because of this ultimate sacrifice. But that isn't the end of the sacrificing altogether. Sacrifice is part of love. Good relationships involve sacrifice, surrendering something we hold dear to honor another. Today our sacrifices look different than they did in the Old Testament, but it doesn't mean that they are any easier to give. What do they look like today? Let me give you an analogy…

I’m playing on a beach. It is a sunny day & I decide to get into the water. I am having a blast and life is good, but within an instant a storm rolls in. Before I can get to shore, it starts pouring, and the waves get bigger and the under tow takes me farther out. The shore and the memory of the good times that were just had gets farther and farther away until I can no longer see them. I am now alone with no protection, out in the middle of open water while a storm rages around me. I am shocked, I am scared, I am helpless, and I am making little progress, just keeping my head above the water. It is taking all the strength I have just to stay afloat. I have no idea how far out I am, if I will survive this, or if I will ever see the shore again. I am now so exhausted, I have been fighting to survive every way I know how until… I give up. I relax my body and slowly start to sink. I think to myself, “This is it… this is how I am going to die.” I close my eyes and am surprised at how much peace I have. In fact, the storm is still raging but it now holds no power over me. I have not gotten rid of the storm but I have been freed from fighting against it.

This is my analogy for my life since Quinn. Life was good, but in an instant it changed and I have been fighting ever since to stay strong, to stay afloat, to figure out the whys, to understand God and it is exhausting! But the last week has been different. In a sense I've stopped fighting it. I've daily made the decision to quit carrying this burden and to lay it down. I have taken my hopes and my dreams for the way that life is supposed to be and I have chosen to daily lay them down on the metaphorical alter as a sacrifice to God. This whole time I thought that if I gave up fighting against this, if I gave up asking why, then I would just fall into nothingness and I would be giving up on life. But that is the lie the world tells us. The norm in our culture is to sacrifice whatever we have to get what we want. The way of true sanctification is to sacrifice everything we want because of what we already have in Christ. In fact I am starting to believe that we have it all wrong. That taking that strong grip we have on how we think life is supposed to be, loosening the grip, and letting it go lifting our now open hands to heaven is not the end of our hopes and dreams but it is only the beginning. It is the place where we are open God’s hopes and dreams for us and they are so much more than our own, and what’s even more amazing is we are freed from the constant treading of water to try to keep those dreams afloat. And the Bible tells us so:

1 Corinthians 15:36 “You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.”

John 12:24 “”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls onto the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit.”

Matthew 16: 24-25 “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Romans 8:13 “If by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

I have discovered through all of these verses that the secret to truly living is dying. Daily dying to my self, taking those hopes and dreams I have for my life and laying them down on the metaphorical alter as a sacrifice for the God who gave his son as an ultimate sacrifice so that I would know that he loves me and has hopes and dreams for me that are better than my own. Some days I pray that God would provide a lamb, like he did for Abraham, and that not all of my hopes and dreams would die. Are any of us where we thought we would be in life? Are any of our plans going exactly how we imagined? This is life as we know it and the sooner we quit treading to keep all our dreams afloat the sooner we will be free to truly live.

**I dedicate this post to my cousin and friend Natalie Kuns who is being baptized this weekend on Easter Sunday. May the act of going under water, leaving your old self behind & buried and coming up as a new creation in Christ be something we all try to emulate daily.***

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Celebrate Quinncidence Year 2

Thank you. I don't know what else to say, but that the way friends, family, current & former students, and total strangers honored Quinn was something I will never be able to express my complete gratitude for. I wish I could personally thank each of you and let you know that your acts, big and small, meant so much to us.

Many people have asked us, "How did Wednesday go?" Those of you who have been faithful readers of this blog know that I don't sugarcoat information. Wednesday was amazing, but it was also really tough. The day was different this year. I'm sure every year will be different. Last year, Quinn's birthday was hard, but we were in such a deep spot in our grieving that it wasn't much different than the day before or the day after because every day was extremely hard. This year, after we have had a year more of healing, it was a harder day because we had to go back there... back to the place of deep grief. Because when you lose your child birthdays aren't just a celebration of life, but they also remind you that life is no more, that someone is missing and something is definitely wrong with this picture. It is also hard because, even though I wanted Quinn to be remembered and I made it a public thing, it is also a very personal thing. Seeing and hearing Quinn's name all day was incredible because it told me that she is not forgotten about, but at the same time her name holds such a precious spot in my heart that it also tugged at my heart strings all week when hearing it.

I am such a teacher at heart so I want you to know my objectives in all of this. Why did I want to do random acts of kindness again this year?

1. I don't want Quinn to be forgotten. And I went through many emotions on Wednesday, but one thing I knew for sure is that QUINN WAS NOT FORGOTTEN THAT DAY and you will never know how much that means to me.
2. I had so many prayers and dreams for my child. I remember praying that she would bring joy to everyone who met her. I wanted my daughter to make this earth we live on a better place. I wanted Quinn to affect every life she came in contact with. And although those dreams looked very different in my head when I prayed them. I still want those things. I don't want her life to mean nothing. I wanted you to help someone and I wanted it to ignite something so wonderful in your heart that you wanted to help people more and more. See, I know it is awkward to walk up to a total stranger and bless them. But I also know that is what we are called to do. This life is hard enough to do on our own. We need each other. The personal stories I received that day about how many people were moved to tears because of how powerful their interaction was or how much it changed their life is the greatest gift this mother could get.
3. I pray that others will see Christ in us. I want to be honest and let you know that I am grieving, but I am grieving with a hope. And I pray that you see something different in us, something that drives you to Christ.

 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14:
"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him."

You can see most of the stories & pictures from the day at: But here are my personal pictures:

A former student of mine is now an elementary school teacher herself and had her 1st grade students make encouraging cards for each student in my first and second period class:
 Here are a few of the acts of kindness students at my school did that day:

 This was the act that moved me the most from the post its:

Lastly, thank you for all the prayers on that day. I felt them. We could not have made it through the day without the prayers. We are still in need of them. For God to heal our hearts and for Him to give us the desire of our hearts. Thank you, we are so humbled by your generosity.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Quinn's 2nd Birthday

We turned the calendar to March yesterday and it's amazing how much weight was in that page we flipped. I knew this would never be easy, but I thought I might be in a different place this year. But it feels just as unfair as it always has. I think of how our life would be different with a two year old running around our house. I try to picture what Quinn would look like and it's all so heartbreaking. I have tried to write a blog all week about Quinn's Birthday and words escape me. I just want to avoid thinking about it, because it hurts too much. But just as I said last year, Quinn's birthday is not about me. It is about Quinn and what she was to me. She deserves more. I have this little light and I would be keeping it to myself. I have said time and time again that I just want my daughter to be known. I just want her life to affect others and if I stay in bed on the day she was born, her life and what she was to me stays in bed for the day and she deserves more than that.

People have asked me if I have any stories to tell about Quinn and it is such a hard question because she was 4 1/2 months old. She wasn't moving around on her own, she wasn't talking, her life consisted mostly of eating, sleeping, and observing the world around her. So I only have a handful of specific memories or stories about Quinn and they are some of my greatest treasures. But one in particular is my favorite. Quinn was 9 days old and she had only been home a few days. I had just fed her in the early morning hours and was rocking her back to sleep. She was a little fussy. So I started singing to her. My dad was up with me and watching tenderly as I sat with my daughter singing her a lullaby. I started singing "Smile" by Nat King Cole. I have no idea why that is what I sang to her but I just kept thinking I want her to know that she might feel like crying, but I just want to see her smile, so I began singing...

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though its breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile 
If you just smile...

A few lines into the song, the most amazing thing started happening. Quinn started humming along with me. Now, obviously it wasn't to the tune, it was just the same note. But when I stopped singing, she stopped humming and when I started back up she started back up. I looked over at my dad and his eyes were glassed over and he said, "That is amazing, she's trying to sing with you!" I sang the song 3 times and she sang with me 2 times. The third time my dad had found the camera and tried to record it, but it's like she knew she was being recorded and fell asleep the 3rd time through. We never did get it on camera, but I won't forget it never the less. I have probably thought about that memory 250 times since she died. And analyzed every angle of it and I wonder if she wasn't singing it to me. If she knew I would need the words of that song in the coming months. But it has also spoken to me lately with her birthday. It will be my anthem of getting through that day and I will imagine Quinn singing me through it.

I have prayed about it and we have debated over whether we would do our "Celebrate Quinncidence"  a second year and we felt that it really carried us through a really tough day. But I would be doing a disservice if I didn't mention our ultimate source of strength that will really carry us through, Jesus Christ. This was the verse I read yesterday in my quiet time that is my theme verses for the day:

"Share your food with the hungry and bring poor, homeless people into your own homes.
When you see someone who has no clothes, give him yours, and don't refuse to help your own relatives.
Then your light will shine like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. 
Your God will walk before you, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.
Then you will call out, and the LORD will answer. 
You will cry out and he will say, 'Here I am'."                                        (Isaiah 58:6-9)

We have decided to do Celebrate Quinncidence again this year. Using the money we would have spent on presents, cake, and decorations for Quinn on others who need it through random acts of kindness. Your acts don't have to be big, you could write a nice note to someone who you appreciate, pay for someone's gas, coffee, or groceries, leave a big tip for a waiter, leave quarters on a vending machine or car wash, put flowers on someone's car, bring donuts to work, etc. I am opening this up my school, Washington High School, as well and will kick it off at the end of the week there, We were so blessed by the friends, family, and strangers who joined us in celebrating Quinn's birthday last year and we would be honored to have you join us in blessing the lives of others on Wednesday March 12th. Here is the link to the post last year: Celebrate Quinncidence .  Sioux Falls Education Association has offered to make a Facebook page where people could post their pictures and acts they did: Thank you SFEA. For those of you not on Facebook, post your acts in the comments below and I will take a few of these pictures and do a blog post with them on Thursday March 13th. And please keep us in your prayers for an abundance of grace this next week and a sense of peace in a time that feels so unfair. Thank you everyone in advance.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Shameless Audacity

Have you ever watched a great battle scene in a movie and imagined what you would do? What kind of strategy would you have? I have and it always involves me playing dead. I would lay on the battlefield and play dead until the enemy passed and then I would cut his Achilles Tendon. I guess that is why I haven't blogged in 3 months. The battle of grief and unanswered prayer is still waging in my life and instead of fighting it I have metaphorically "played dead" the past couple of months- especially when it comes to prayer. I don't know what to pray because I feel like I have said it all in a thousand different ways. God definitely knows the desires of my heart, and part of me thinks He already knows what He's going to do, right? Are my prayers really going to change things? I prayed and cried out to God for a baby and I got Quinn.  The night she died in my arms, my entire family cried out for Him to save her, cried out for a miracle and God let her die. And now I have prayed in a million different ways for Him to give us another child and every month I am let down. It is hard not to question if prayer works. It seems this year has been one giant wrestling match with God and I finally yelled "uncle!" That's when the silence came in my prayer life and yet, my questions to God about unanswered prayer have only grown stronger. The issue of unanswered prayer has been tugging at my heart strings so much that I have begun searching like an archaeologist in search of a rare treasure. The Bible verses that have struck me most are:

Luke 18:1-8
Then Jesus used this story to teach his followers that they should always pray and never lose hope. "In a certain town there was a judge who did not respect God or care about people. In that same town there was a widow who kept coming to this judge, saying, 'Give me my rights against my enemy.' For a while the judge refused to help her. But afterwards, he thought to himself, 'Even though I don't respect God or care about people, I will see that she gets her rights. Otherwise she will continue to bother me until I am worn out.'"  The Lord said, "Listen to what the unfair judge said. God will always give what is right to his people who cry to him night and day, and he will not be slow to answer them."

Luke 11:5-10
Then Jesus said to them, "Suppose one of you went to your friend's house at midnight and said to him, 'Friend, loan me three loaves of bread. A friend of mine has come into town to visit me, but I have nothing for him to eat.' Your friend inside the house answers, 'Don't bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.' I tell you, if friendship is not enough to make him get up to give you the bread, your shameless audacity will make him get up and give you whatever you need. So I tell you, ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you. Yes, everyone who asks will receive. And everyone who knocks will have the door opened."

Both of these verses seem to go against everything I know. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So to me- continually saying the same prayer over and over again is insane. Yet, there is a secret in both of these verses that tells us there is something God desires in continuing to ask and I think it lies in what it does to our hearts.
I remember when I was younger I loved the story of Aladdin. A poor boy who stumbles upon a genie in a lamp. Aladdin gets 3 wishes, but in the end, the story is so inspiring because the genie becomes more than a vending machine on steroids, he becomes a friend. The story goes beyond having all our wishes granted into an enduring relationship.  How many times have I used God like my own personal genie? And if He doesn't give me what I want, what good is He to me? Like his chief purpose is to grant my wishes. Jerry Sittser writes:  "I am learning that my natural inclination is to use God, not to love God. I am like a spiritual junkie. I want the quick fix that answered prayer can provide. Once I get what I want, I return to my normal state of spiritual indolence. Unanswered prayer can actually serve to fan the flame of spiritual desire to know God as my supreme end in life."
Maybe the story of Jacob in Genesis 32:22-32 can teach us something about what God values in the asking. Jacob is about to go back home to face some of the "demons" of his past but the night before he reaches home the Bible tells an interesting story of Jacob wrestling with a heavenly being/God throughout the night until the sun came up. Jerry Sittser finishes the story best in his book When God Doesn't Answer your Prayer: "The divine being finally seized the advantage by putting Jacob's leg out of joint which caused Jacob to limp for the rest of his life. Then he gave Jacob a new name, "Israel." It is a peculiar name, and not particularly complimentary. Yet the name reflects a quality of character that God values. It literally means, 'one who strives with God.' Jacob was a fighter, so that became his name- and not only his name, but also the name of God's chosen people."
Persistence is the key theme interwoven though the middle of each of these stories. Maybe because "it takes one to know one." The Bible is full of stories and parables all leading back to a God that continually chases after his people like a loving groom wooing his wayward bride. Jerry Sittser continues, "That is what God looks for in us. He wants us to strive with him, as he does with us. To wrestle with him as if our life depended on it, because it probably does. To persist in prayer, no matter how much the odds are stacked against us. To refuse to take "no" for an answer from God, just as God has refused to take "no" for an answer from us, no matter how long and hard we have resisted him. It is the least we can do, what God has done for us, what love requires and prayer demands."
So that is my new year's resolution. To pray with persistence. To come before the Lord with "shameless audacity." To convince my God like he daily convinces me and maybe somewhere in the wrestling, something beautiful and unexpected will happen. He will stop being my genie and become my groom. That I will go against my spiritual inclination of using God and start loving God.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thanking God in the Wilderness

Barren is defined as a land too poor to produce much or any vegetation; a place that is bleak or lifeless.  I feel like God has dropped me off in a barren desert and left me here. A couple of weeks ago we sang this song in church and the chorus states, "Not for a moment, did you forsake me. After all, you are only good." And my heart and mouth would not sing it, I could only sob because I can't believe those words. To be completely honest, deep down I believe that I was forsaken by God. That He took my trust and crushed it in an instant. I can not say, with full belief that God is good. I know what the Bible says, I know what I've been taught over the years, but I can't help what my heart keeps telling me.
And because of this belief, something has crept in to my heart, a silent toxin that slowly oozes its ugliness onto everything... bitterness. I once read somewhere that bitterness follows unwanted experiences- failures, disappointment, set backs- that are perceived to be beyond our control.  It occurs when we believe that other people could have prevented the undesirable outcome. It is one step more complex than anger... it is anger plus helplessness. In the beginning I prayed against this bitterness and because I didn't experience it much in the first year, I felt protected from it, but the moment you think you are above something, that's when Satan sees your weakness and attacks. Bitterness has oozed its way in to my life by means of the other definition of barrenness. We are going on a year of trying to have another baby, with no success, and I can feel the bitterness creeping up- a student who didn't want to get pregnant has a baby, Facebook pictures of ultrasounds or kids birthdays, and I can hear my inner monologue saying, "Well isn't that just great for you."

I wish I could tell you that I am beyond this, that this character flaw is in my past. I wish I could just be a forgiving child and run to my Father in Heaven whenever I felt this way, but because I feel like God has forsaken me, like God doesn't love me, like all my trust in Him is gone, a painfully apparent division has formed  in our relationship and it makes this ultimately worse. I was talking to my mom on the phone the other night about some of my feelings and she said something that I've heard a hundred times in my life, but spoke to me in a different way this time. She said, "I know that those things seem true to you about God right now, but remember, 'We walk by faith, not by sight.'" And it struck me that by sight it may seem like God isn't good, that he doesn't love me, that he has forsaken me, but I need to go back to the Bible and write down what it says to the contrary and meditate on those verses until I can believe them again.

"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."                                                            Deuteronomy 31:6

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with an unfailing kindness."        Jeremiah 31:3

"But Zion said, 'The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.'
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hand."             Isaiah 49:14-16

"I will make rivers flow on barren heights and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs."                                                                           Isaiah 41:18

And as I am reading these verses it hits me. What has gotten into me that I have forgotten this steadfast love? Isn't this where all our sin originates? From the belief that God isn't good, that he has withheld something from us? In the garden- in perfect unity with God- Adam conveys ingratitude with his actions. One Thousand Gifts by Anne Voscamp states this so pointedly:

"I wake up and put feet to the plank floors and I believe the serpent's hissing lie, the repeating refrain of his campaign through the ages. God isn't Good. It's the cornerstone of his movement. That God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us... I say no to what He's given. I thirst for some roborant, some elixir, to relieve the anguish of what I've believed: God isn't good. God doesn't love me."

I am now painfully aware of how much I need to repent... repent of my jealousy, my coveting, repent of secretly desiring bad things to happen to other people so someone out there is more miserable than me, so I won't be alone. I want God to take away this bitterness and fill it with a sweet fragrance. I want Him to take this unhappiness and replace it with a joy that can not be shaken. I am sorry... sorry I am hard to be around, sorry if you have had good things happen in your life lately and you are scared to tell me or I have not reacted like you would've liked. To repent literally means to turn away. This bitterness is bigger than me so I will have to choose to turn from this daily. Sometimes I will fail, but if I make this public- it will hold me accountable. If I am turning away from bitterness then I am turning toward something. What am I turning towards? Gratitude. As I enter the months leading into Thanksgiving I have been reading One Thousand Gifts by Anne Voskamp which encourages us to enter into Eucharisteo (or the act of thanksgiving). She uses the verse in 1 Corrinthians 11:23-24:

"On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it."

See even when he knew the terror that was about to ensue, my Jesus thanked his Father...

"The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God- even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion- this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all that sin estranges us from Him."

Why haven't I seen this before? It is scattered throughout the Bible. The Lord's call to the Israelites was a call to worship and serve him in the wilderness (Exodus 7:16). Jesus' greatest challenge was to remain faithful when he was led into the desert to be tempted and the last thing he said in the desert was "You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him," (Matthew 4:10). Thankfulness is not just when things are going well, but the secret to a full life is when, in faith, we give thanks, despite what life throws at us.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 states:

"Fig trees may not grow figs, and there may be no grapes on the vines. There may be no olives growing and no food growing in the fields. There may be no sheep in the pens and no cattle in the barns. But I will still be glad in the Lord; I will rejoice in God my Savior."

Two Months from tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. In light of the scripture God has led me to, lately, I have decided, starting tomorrow, to find 2 things each day that I am thankful for and write them down, maybe even take pictures of them. It could be something big like my amazing family or the little things that bitterness tries to steal the joy from like sun shining through my curtains in the morning. I will not make it public on Facebook or Instagram but it will be like secret love notes of thanks to my Savior each day. My prayer is that by Thanksgiving, thankfulness will not be a choice, but my natural reaction to each day, that in repentance I will turn from bitterness toward thankfulness.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Year in Review

A year ago I wrote my first blog entry. Some days I think this grieving process has been so slow, that I haven't made it very far at all. But when I think back on that first blog, I remember I was in the deepest darkest place and I realize how far I have come. That step by step I have begun the healing process and that I have learned so much over the last year. Many times we learn from experience, but we can also learn a great deal from others who have traveled a journey that we might not have been given. So I thought I would write what I have learned this first year.

*Please know when reading this that I wrote this as what I have learned on my personal journey through grieving. Also, I did not write this with anyone in mind. *

What have I learned from Year 1...
1. There are good gifts and there are not-so-good gifts. Sorry to all of you who might feel offended by this, and I would've been in your same boat and given the same gifts had I not been here. After Quinn died we had so many cards and gifts pour in. All of which really were so thoughtful and I really do appreciate but when all was said and done, I was left with a storage room full of statues, figurines, and plaques that had some cutsie quote about losing loved ones. Those quotes are fine in cards, but having them around your house is a constant reminder that my child is dead and I was left not knowing what to do with them. Also, stuffed animals are not a gift you give to someone who lost their only child.  Good gifts were more practical- stamps, food, and gift cards for restaurants. To tell you the truth, some of the most meaningful things we received were heartfelt notes and cards. In the end, it really is the thought that counts.

2. You will not survive something like this in isolation. It is good to surround yourself with good people as a general rule, but look at the people you spend time with. Would they drop everything to help you? Will they be sparse when life is not one big ball of fun? I have been a less than desirable person to hang around with this year. I hate surface conversations, avoid talking about kids, and trying to make me laugh... forget about it. But I had friends, family, and co-workers who went beyond the awkwardness to truly be with me, encourage me, and love me through this dark year.

3.You have to do the hard stuff. You have to let yourself grieve... EVERYTHING.  If I had to title this year it might be titled "Trudging Through the Tough Stuff: All the Firsts." First time holding a baby, first time in Quinn's room, first time back at the hospital, first time someone asks you if you have kids... the list is so long the first year it is exhausting. The anxiety leading up to it is the worst, but I felt so relieved after it was done. That doesn't mean the 2nd time isn't hard, but it gets just a little better every time. Most people would tell me, "You don't have to do that." But I did. Because maybe today I don't have to, but at some point I will and then it might be harder or people won't be as supportive when you are breaking down doing something 10 years later. The longer you wait to do things that scare you, the more they take hold- they almost become an idol. Doing all this made the first year extremely hard, but it reminded me of Jerry Sittser's quote from one of my first entries, "The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise." If I delay the hard stuff, I delay the grieving process.

4. Do not say you are praying for someone unless you really are. I am fully convinced prayers are what got me through this year, what got me out of bed each day. I didn't miss one day of school this year and I know it was because of prayer. I don't take it lightly. I heard, "I'm praying for you" so often that I cringed when I heard is sometimes because I thought, "Are your really praying for me or are you just saying that because it sounds nice?" If you say you are praying for someone, do it, because a lot of times they are counting on those prayers.

5. Do not be a fair weather friend to God. I am so thankful I grew up in a home that emphasized scripture because there were many days I couldn't open my Bible, but scripture I had learned as a child came to mind and got me through some really hard times. I can remember wanting nothing more, when I got home, than to spend time in the Word. My Bible is what got me through those times. This process would have been a lot slower had I not already had the foundation I did. It was like preparing me for the battle. Tim said the other day, "I have learned no matter how hard life gets, you will survive if you have a foundation in God." This is not to say that the pain isn't real, and that God makes you feel any better but he is our only hope.  The only hope we have of eternal life, a life with no suffering, reuniting with Quinn.  Without that comfort, life seems pretty dire.

6.You might think, "I don't know if I should say something to them about how they are doing or feeling.  What if they are having a really good day?" I found (and I know not everyone is like this) that I appreciated people who said something more than people who ignored the elephant in the room. I'm already thinking about Quinn 24 hours a day so bringing her up isn't like you just reminded me of it. Ignoring it sometimes felt like people were belittling what I went through like life should just move on. Sometimes people didn't say the right thing, but my perspective was "where love abounds, grace abounds." I had to have a lot of grace for people because they were just saying it because they loved me and didn't know how to express it. Which brings me to my last lesson for this entry which I feel really strongly about:

7. Do not reduce holy mysteries to slogans. So many times people don't know what to say so they came up with something cliche. Most of the time I had grace for them. But I want you to know, there is nothing you can say that will fix this. There is nothing you can say that can solve this holy mystery.  For example people would say, "God just needed another angel". How do you know that? I don't know why Quinn died. I don't know if God did it, or allowed it, or Satan won some battle. I won't ever know for sure. There are some things that are just a mystery.

Ecclesiastes 11:5 states:
"As you do not know the path of the wind, or how a body is formed in a mother's womb, so you can not understand the work of God, the maker of all things."

Job 11:7&8:
"Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the almighty? They are higher than the heavens- what can you do? They are deeper than the depth of the grave- what can you know?"

I like how the Message translates the following verses:
Matthew 7:6
"Don't be flip with the sacred....Don't reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you're only being cute and inviting sacrilege."

Psalm 40:1-3
"I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a rock to make sure I wouldn't slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God."

I have learned that I don't have all the answers, none of us do. Sometimes we just have to accept that God is higher than us, that he knows the whole story. And we must "enter into the mystery, abandoning ourselves to God."