Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hope of Christmas

For the first time in my life Christmas scares me. It is a blatant reminder of what I am without. It almost taunts me with movies with perfectly happy endings, constant commercials, sayings, and songs about how Christmas is for kids or the child-like wonder of the season, and every carol seems to lead back to a birth, angels, or Noel... Quinn Noel.
I once heard that suffering is pain plus the knowledge that it could be so much better. Many times in the last couple of months I've thought bad thoughts about Adam and Eve. God's original plan was for us to live in a perfect Utopian Garden with Him.... a paradise. But like anyone who has been in a relationship knows,  love involves free will. So, of course, there was the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Once we took of that apple- things forever changed. Ignorance is bliss. I wish I could go back to that garden, living in paradise with God, the way he initially intended, without death, tears, or suffering. But no, now I have to live with knowing that death, pain, and tears are an everyday part of my life. And that is the beginning of suffering... experiencing pain and knowing that it could have been better.
But here is where we get to the good part... the hope of Christmas. See, for thousands of years after Adam and Eve the world was dark with this knowledge of suffering until a tiny baby was born in a stable in Bethlehem and EVERYTHING changes,  because essentially Hope was born. Jesus was our way out of this mess and His birth was the beginning of a beautiful story of redemption, and of restoration. My favorite Christmas Carol of all time has ALWAYS been Oh Holy Night. And in this season of life I focus on this phrase:  "The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks the new and glorious morn..."
Romans 15: 12-15
                "And Isaiah says, 'A new king will come from the family of Jesse. He will come to rule over the
                 non-Jewish people, and they will have HOPE because of Him.   Isaiah 11:10"
Romans 5:1-4
                "Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. This happened
                  through our Lord Jesus Christ, who through our faith has brought us into that blessing of God's                 
                  grace that we now enjoy.  And we are happy because of the hope we have of sharing God's          
                  glory. We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce          
                  patience, and patience produces character, and character produces hope."

See, God doesn't promise an easy journey. In fact, the root of all our joy and hope seems to stem from our troubles. I have learned in recent months that hope means everything. The days when hope seems farthest away, are the hardest.
Proverbs 13:12
                 "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
But what exactly is Hope? Vaciav Havel puts it well:
                 "Hope is definitely not the same as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out
                  well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out."
See, I am not naive anymore. I know that life doesn't always turn out well, but I know that if tomorrow brings another disappointment, that I can still rest in the HOPE that Christ will be with me through this disappointment.  Our objective is not to get through this trouble, silently waiting for life's next struggle.  God has a higher goal for us... to put Him at such a place in our lives where the storms of life may come, but hope rises above it. That I build my relationships with Christ in such a way that it can't be broken  That I will have the same response to Him no matter what happens.
Romans 8:24-25
                  "For in this hope we were saved. but hope that is seen is not hope at all. Who hopes for what
                   they already have seen? But we have a hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it
Although my heart is still broken, although this has been the hardest time of life, although hope seems so distant and is my ONLY prayer for Christmas this year, there is something ever so small rising up in me and it feels a little like hope. What do I have to be hopeful for in this season of life you might ask? Not that I'm going to have a perfect life after this or that this is where my sorrow ends. I know I will wake up tomorrow and my heart will break all over again. My hope is found in a meek manger, because in that lies my future. It starts the chain of events that will eventually lead me back to that perfect Utopian garden where there will be no more tears, and death is just a memory. I'll leave you with this quote from Max Lucado:
                    "Hope is not what you'd expect; it is what you would never dream. It is a wild, improbable tale
                     with a pinch-me-I'm-dreaming ending...Hope is not a granted wish or a favor performed; no, it
                     is far greater than that. It is a zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise
                     us out of our socks and be there in the flesh to see our reaction."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The River to Thanksgiving

Today marks 4 months since Quinn's death... on the day before Thanksgiving. I have found in these four months that grief is not a state of being, but a journey, there is an ebb and flow to it. It is much like a river. Always moving. At some points, especially in the beginning, it is a rapids where, at times, you feel like you might be overcome by it.... that you might drown in your grief. Then, all of a sudden, you put your feet down and realize that you can stand, but it takes every ounce of your strength just to stand because the current of grief is so strong, that sometimes, out of no where, it knocks you off your feet and just when you thought you had it figured out it overtakes you again, threatening to close in on you. All the while there are times you cannot see through the mist of the rapids, while at others there is such a clarity of life and its meaning. There are rocks and debris along the way that are painful, but you can't just cling to them, dwelling on them, because then you are in a rut and will never let yourself move on, where yes, it might get worse down the river, but it will get better as well.
I can't help but think that David felt the same way in Psalm 69:
          "God, save me, because the water has risen to my neck. I'm sinking down into the mud, and there is
            nothing to stand on. I am in deep water and the flood covers me. I am tired from calling for help;
           my throat is sore. My eyes are tired from waiting for God to help me."  v.1-3
His prayer is similar to mine:
           "But I pray to you, LORD, for favor. God, because of your great love, answer me. You are truly able
            to save. Pull me from the mud, and do not let me sink....Do not let the flood drown me or the deeep
            water swallow me...LORD, answer me because your love is so good. Because of your great
            kindness, turn to me. Do not hide from me, your servant. I am in trouble. Hurry to help me! Come
            near and save me."  v. 13-18
Yet, in this season of Thanksgiving, David ends his psalm (v. 29-36) with thanks:
           "I am sad and hurting. God, save me and protect me. I will praise God in a song and will honor him
            by giving thanks. That will please the LORD more than offering him cattle. Poor people will see
           this and be glad. Be encouraged, you who worship God. The LORD listens to those in need and
           does not look down on captives. Heaven and earth should praise him, the seas and everything in
           them. God will save Jerusalem and rebuild the cities of Judah. Then people will live there and own
           the land. The descendants of his servants will inherit that land, and those who love him will live there."

I wanted to end this post with thanksgiving, but everything in me finds it so hard to be thankful this year. I told Tim the other day how we are so blessed. Really, so many areas of our life are so good and yet the loss of Quinn is so huge that it seems none of the other areas matter if they are good. But just as David said, "I am sad and hurting" and in the next breath said, " I will praise God in a song and honor him by giving thanks". And just as Job, after everything in his life was destroyed said, "The LORD gave these things to me, and he has taken them away. Praise the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). I will thank Him. I have always considered myself a grateful person, so it is hard to adjust to this new season. But maybe I was so grateful because life was better. I don't think God calls us to thanksgiving only when things turn out right, only when we are given what we want. I think God is honored more when things don't go as planned, when things are taken away, and still we turn and say thanks.
So even though I want to continue typing about sorrow, I will choose to be thankful. Here is what I am thankful for:
- Tim. I married this adorable man that I met in college and always thought was just a goofball. But that is what I am so thankful for, the way he can lighten the mood, the way he makes me laugh, but even more, the way he loves the Lord, the way he draws people in, and mostly the kind of incredible father he was. Tim was there for EVERY prenatal appointment, by my side every hour of the 28hr labor, up with every middle of the night feeding. He adored Quinn. And as much as I hate to admit this, Tim could make Quinn smile so much better than I could. I could NOT walk this road without him.  Because he knows exactly how I feel, his disappointments are my disappointment. When I say I miss Quinn, he knows the depth of those words because he does too. I know the statistics on couples who lose a child and I will NOT let us be a statistic because I know a cord with three strands is not easily broken and this is the time when those are not merely words, but survival.

-My Family. Most of you know that I have some of the best parents out there. They have taught me the real meaning of life. They loved Quinn like parents: coming up here most weekends, taking night shifts, cuddling with her, changing diapers, Skyping during bath time. The only way I can withstand this storm is from the solid rock of lessons on Christ, on loving others, and staying positive that have come from years of the blood, sweat, and tears of my parents. And my sister... where do I begin? She has had a tough role this year. I have always been the big sister who has jumped in and saved the day. And now, she has so play that role. Just this weekend, in fact, she held me until I cried myself to sleep. That is not something that is at the top of 25yr old's list. She left her single life in the fast lane life in LA to come live with her grieving sister and brother-in-law in South Dakota. I know the sacrifices she has made and for that I am forever grateful.

-Tim's Family. It has been a tough road the last couple of weeks. 2weeks ago we found out that Tim's dad has esophageal cancer. It has been a long couple of weeks of finding out stages, survival percentages, and discussing major surgery. But all the while God has shown his hand on our family. The cancer was caught miraculously early, he has the best surgeon in the region, and on Dec. 10th they will remove the cancer in a tedious 4-6hr surgery that includes 1-3days in the ICU, 2 weeks in the hospital, and 3 months of hard recovery, BUT a 90% survival rate. The family has been extremely supportive of us through it all, and I think this continues to bring us closer.

-Extended Family. My extended family has been there every step of the way. Multiple times in my week they will send me texts that they are thinking about me, praying for us, verses to help us get through, or encouragement. They will call, drive up to visit, or set up girls weekends to make sure I'm doing okay.

-Friends. All my life I have been blessed with amazing friends in each season of life. My high school friends- They all flew in for Quinn's funeral and stayed the week after, holding my hand to cry, helping clean the house, running errands, doing thank yous, and just being there for us. You guys will never know how much that meant to me. My college friends came too and are still writing cards and checking in on me. And our friends here in Sioux Falls have been amazing. Tim's friends from high school have arranged get togethers often to spend time lovin on us and some have even given a huge financial blessing to us- you know who you are and we are so grateful.  And our neighbors are a rare gem. One night we looked out and one was mowing the front yard, one was mowing the back yard, and another had the weed-eater going. They have held us, dropped by, and called often to show their love. It would be wrong of me not to mention our best friends April and Darin VanderWell. They honestly could write a book on what it means to love on grieving friends. I cannot even list how they have been there. Darin just sat for 2 days with Tim. April arranged meals, wrote the obituary, wrote thank yous, calls daily to check up on me, prays for me, and honestly just has the most beautiful heart. I will never be able to repay all of you for what you have done for us.

Our Church Body- Thank you for holding us up in prayer, being there for us during some of the hardest moments of our lives, the texts, emails,  phone calls, meals and the thoughtfulness. Thank you. You are more than a church, you are our family, our brothers and sisters.

Colleagues- We both have felt so supported at work. Tim's boss has been so good about giving Tim the time off if he needs it and his co-workers have been supportive. Teachers and administers at my school have set up people to be on-call if I ever need to leave the classroom. They have called, left notes in my mailbox, stopped and checked in on me, and sat and cried with me after school. We both love what we do and the people we work with are a huge part of that.

Jesus Christ- Thank you for making away for me to be with Quinn in eternity through your own suffering. Thank you for your word that has been my only source of light in some very dark times. Thank you for loving me even when I am angry and a mess. Thank you for glimpses of joy in the midst of our sorrow. I could not even get out of bed if it wasn't for you and the people you have placed in my life. I honestly don't know how people do it without You.

Quinn- Even though I miss you every minute of the day and my heart is broken beyond repair, I would do it all over again to have the honor to be your mommy. 4 1/2 months was not enough, but not for one second would I give up what I had with you. Thank you for your smiles, cuddles, and what you have taught me about life. I am so thankful you were mine. I love you.

To those of you who I haven't kept in touch with in years or who don't even know me, but have sent heartfelt cards, Facebook messages, or comments on the blog- thank you. You have no idea at how some of those comments came at the perfect time and were just what we needed to hear. I have been so humbled by our support in this trial of our lives. I think of 2Cor. 1:4-5 "He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God give us. We share in the many suffering of Christ. In the same way, much comfort comes to us through Christ." I am thankful, for the support we have received and the love we have been shown. If love could take away the pain it would've been gone a long time ago from the amount we have received. Even though I will never be able to repay all of you, I promise I will try. I know I have been comforted so that in the days ahead I can comfort others. The LORD gives and takes away but I will continue to praise Him.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Found in the Aftermath

Everywhere you look this week you see news of Hurricane Sandy and now the aftermath of the storm. And I have found that some of the descriptions of life after the "Perfect Storm" I can definitely relate to. In fact, some of the headlines could be the headlines to my own life: Life After the Perfect Storm: The Aftermath. I know what it feels like to think this would never happen, to have everything lost, to live through the fire of life, and the floods that come when you least expect it. I looked up the meaning of aftermath in the dictionary and reads: "A period of time following a disaster or misfortune"... I couldn't have said it better myself. Life as I knew it is gone and I'm lost, left wondering how to go on, missing so much what I had before this storm. I wonder how long this period of time will last, I fear it is forever.

I have been reading through the gospels in the Bible this month and have seen that Jesus' disciples know a bit about life in the aftermath. The days following Jesus' death the disciples locked themselves in a room and were devastated. In fact, when Jesus met two of his disciples on the road a few days later:

             "The two followers stopped, looking very sad... They said, "About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a
               prophet who said and did many powerful things before God and all the people. Our leaders and
               the leading priests handed him over to be sentenced to death and they crucified him. But we were
               hoping that he would free Israel."                                                               Luke 24:17-21

They too were not only grieving the loss of a teacher, friend, and father, but also the loss of hopes and dreams.

Horatio Spafford, the writer of the hymn It Is Well With My Soul, and his story have been on my mind a lot this week. I had heard it before in Church growing up, but it means so much more now. The following is the story:

Horatio G. Spafford and his wife, Anna, were pretty well-known in 1860’s Chicago. And this was not just because 
of Horatio's legal career and business endeavors. The Spaffords were also prominent supporters and close friends of D.L. Moody, the famous preacher. In 1870, however, things started to go wrong. The Spaffords' only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, it was fire rather than fever that struck. Horatio had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1871, every one of these holdings was wiped out by the great Chicago Fire.

Aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on the family, Horatio decided to take his wife and four 

daughters on a holiday to England. And, not only did they need the rest -- DL Moody needed the help. He was 
traveling around Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns. Horatio and Anna planned to join Moody in late 1873. And so, the Spaffords traveled to New York in November, from where they were to catch the French steamer 'Ville de Havre' across the Atlantic. Yet just before they set sail, a last-minute business development forced Horatio to delay. Not wanting to ruin the family holiday, Spafford persuaded his family to go as planned. He would follow on later. With this decided, Anna and her four daughters sailed East to Europe while Spafford returned West to Chicago. Just nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read: "Saved alone."

On November 2nd 1873, the 'Ville de Havre' had collided with 'The Lochearn', an English vessel. It sank in only 
12 minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck, with her daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta clinging desperately to her. Her last memory had been of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved from the fate of her daughters by a plank which floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up. When the survivors of the wreck had been rescued, Mrs. Spafford's first reaction was one of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, "You were spared for a purpose." And she immediately recalled the words of a friend, "It's easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God."

Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved 
wife. Bertha Spafford (the fifth daughter of Horatio and Anna born later) explained that during her father's voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge. "A careful reckoning has been made", he said, "and I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep." Horatio then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his great hymn.

The words which Spafford wrote that day come from 2 Kings 4:26. They echo the response of the Shunammite 
woman to the sudden death of her only child. Though we are told "her soul is vexed within her", she still maintains that 'It is well." And Spafford's song reveals a man whose trust in the Lord is as unwavering as hers was.                                          (

In these stories the storms of life threaten to take away all hope with their devastation but each story encourages me that there is hope in the aftermath. Horatio's song has comforted thousands: "When sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, It is well, It is well with my Soul." And the disciples went on to reach thousands with Christ's story. A song I have loved through my storm is Aftermath by Hillsong United. The song, along with it's lyrics can be found:

When we hear the word aftermath, we think of devastation, which is one of the definitions. But there is a second definition of the word, found in the dictionary as follows: "A second crop/ New grass after mowing." And I am clinging to that definition of aftermath for my own life right now. That is my hope, that new grass of joy is springing up where the old was cut. A second crop is growing where the first is gone. And that is where we can be found... in the aftermath.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Taking the Cup - A post from Quinn's Dad

God, how do I take this cup from you?  The night when Jesus was betrayed by Judas, Jesus asked the father to take away his cup.

Matt. 39 "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will."

He was so crushed in his Spirit that he asked God to take it away multiple times.  Three times he got up to go and see if the disciples were keeping watch for him.  All three times he found them fast asleep.  In one of his darkest hours he had no one to share in his sorrow.  Three times he realized how very much alone he was and would be in his final hours.  It was in that moment that he had this revelation and then acceptance.  This was God's plan and there was nothing he could do to stop a plan God had written long ago.  It was a perfect plan that he had been building for centuries.  Jesus soul was overwhelmed with grief and in this moment he spoke one of his most faithful of words.

Matt. 42 "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

Jesus already knew the outcome.  He knew the betrayal and suffering that would surely follow.  He knew he would be alone.  Most importantly, he knew of his pending death and yet he uttered those words.

Just like Jesus prayed to his father many years ago to take his cup away, here I sit praying to my heavenly father that he would take my cup away.  This cup that Ali, I, and our families have been given is almost too much to bear.  It is terribly bitter and the last thing we expected in our lives.  I also find that my soul is crushed almost to the point of death.  It is comforting to know that Jesus knows what we are going through.  Some of you reading this can probably relate and have asked many times for God to take your own cup away.  A cup that is also very bitter and one that you never dreamed of asking for.

I feel like their are two directions we can go from here.  Either fight and do all we can to not drink this cup that God has given us, or we can learn one of the most important lessons that the greatest teacher ever taught us.  To drink, and faithfully say, "my Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."  This is still an unreal and overwhelming thing to state and actually believe in.  It is tough when we don't know the plan that God has for us.  Jesus had faith that his Father's plan was bigger and better than any other alternative.  His death is the reason for our hope, the reason that I can sit here and type these things.  His death teaches us a great lesson, a lesson we can see in Hebrews 5:7-8:

"While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could deliver him out of death.  And God heard his prayers because of his reverence for God.  So even though Jesus was God's Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered."

Even though Jesus didn't want the cup he was given, he was obeying his heavenly Father.  Similarly, though I do not want this cup, I will daily and momentarily lay down my own plans and dreams and say I will drink the cup that God has given me.  I will daily strive to obey my heavenly Father, not because it is something I want to do, but because I have faith in a plan that was written long ago by a God who understands.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Living in the Moment

Where do I spend most of my days?  Am I stuck in the past of the "good ole days" when life was a lot easier? I look at pictures of us before Quinn died and I think... "You poor girl. You have no idea what is about to hit you. You are about to be struck with great sadness." WM. Paul Young describes this great sadness perfectly in his book The Shack. He states:
          "He ate, worked, loved, dreamed, and played in this garment of heaviness, weighed down as if he
           were wearing a laden bath robe- trudging daily through the murky despondency that sucked the
           color out of everything. At times he could feel The Great Sadness slowly tightening around
           his chest and heart like crushing coils of a constrictor, squeezing liquid from his eyes until
           he thought there no longer remained a reservoir."
That is a lot of what my days now consist of. I have laughed again and I have dreamt again, but not without a garment of heaviness. It is as if I am captive to this sadness. It is my ball and chain and even if I do go about my normal day, my grief is always there. Physically it feels like I'm never getting a full breath, like my chest is just so tight and heavy.
But the future... that is where I spend most of my time contemplating. Will I feel like this forever? When it is Quinn's 12th birthday will it still hurt like it does now? What if I'm in the same place? What if this is the end of our story? What if we never have any more kids? What if the same thing happens to future children? I fear the future. I think I am trying to plan ahead so I can avoid feeling like this years down the road. But what I've recently realized is that when I look to the future and fear, I forget one key piece of the puzzle of life- God. God is not part of the future I fear. I talk, sing, and write about God's love that never fails me, and yet I don't allow it to follow me into the future. He is already there.
Most importantly, this is not where God wants me to live. He wants me to live in the present. The verses I've always liked, but are vital for my survival in this circumstance come from Matthew 6:33-34:
      Seek first God's kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well.  So
      don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have it's own worries. Each day has enough 
      trouble of its own.
I wrote in an earlier blog about facing the darkness, experiencing the grief so that healing may begin. Part of that facing the darkness is experiencing the grief that today brings and taking it moment by moment. This is all part of the journey. As Christians we think we should handle suffering differently, that God will heal us of it sooner than the rest of society. That when we pray for those we love we should pray the suffering out of their life. When really that is not always what we need. Suffering is part of our journey to our best selves, it is part of the journey to coming to a spot where we are leaning not on our own understanding, but on God. Larry Crabb in his book Shattered Dreams writes this from the perspective of God,
       "I have called you not to the secular journey where you must make everything in your life now as
       pleasant as possible. I have called you to the spiritual journey, to a process of enlarging your heart
       to desire Me above everything else. Do not be troubled by all the dreams that will shatter while you
       remain on earth. You will feel deep pain. But every sorrow you experience will be used by My Spirit
       to deepen your desire for Me."
So daily I have to remind myself to just get through the trial of this moment. That even though I am experiencing deep pain, that it is all part of the journey. And that someday I will experience what Isaiah 61:3-4 speaks of:
        I will give them a crown to replace their ashes, and the oil of gladness to replace their sorrow,
       and a garment of praise for their heaviness... They will rebuild the old ruins and restore the
       places destroyed long ago.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Beautiful Mess

Broken. That is the only way to describe me. Just when I think healing is starting to begin something happens to shatter all the pieces of my life again. Today Quinn's headstone was laid on her grave.... and here it comes again. My whole world is imploding, crashing in on me. This is real. This is permanent. These moments are like the aftershocks of an earthquake. Just when you feel like the worst is over, there is more to come. I still don't realize how deep the denial runs. A small part of me still feels like I am going to wake up from this. But seeing a headstone with her name on it and my name makes it all too real. Then I look a few stones down and see a birthday balloon for a baby that would've been 15 and I think, "I can't do this... this is too much."

On Sunday I had a sweet quiet time. A time when I couldn't write fast enough for the words that were flowing. Today, I'm not really that fond of what I wrote, it is hard for me to read because it is so opposite of what I am feeling right now, but God is laying it on my heart to write it and proclaim it right now so here it goes...

Jerimiah 32:40-41 "I will never stop doing good to them... I will rejoice in doing them good."

Larry Crabb in his book Shattered Dreams writes,
       "There is never a moment in our lives, from the day we trusted Christ till the day we see Him when
        God is not longing to bless us. At every moment, in every circumstance, God is doing us good. He
        never stops. It gives Him too much pleasure. God is not waiting to bless us after our troubles end. He
        is blessing us right now, in and through these troubles. At this exact moment, He is giving us what He
        thinks is good."
So it is time for me to examine what I believe is good. It used to be getting what I wanted. But everyone who is a parent or teacher knows that giving children what they want is not always what is best for them. Am I shallow enough to think that anything that feels good is good and anything that causes pain is bad? Working out causes pain- does that make it bad? No. So after I learn about it then I get to change my mind? My reasoning is sounding less and less reliable. But if I admit that God's ways are higher than my ways, then what I view as good or bad for my life is so much more than what "feels" good or bad. Feelings fail us God doesn't. What does God think is best? Being in an intimate relationship with Him.

I will never forget the day I was talking to by dad about his best friend from childhood who had developed Leukemia. My dad was very empathetic for him, but by the end of the conversation my dad said something that forever changed me. He said, "Ali, you know what is the craziest thing in all of this?" Now I thought he was going to say something about how terrible Leukemia is or how great of a person Tom is, but he said this, "I am actually jealous of his Leukemia because of how close it has made him with the Lord." I still think about that statement. Leukemia is the worst possible thing to wish for and yet, it was the means by which one person became so intimate with God that it made others yearn for it. This is so hard for me to wrap my head around and I still can't fully understand what is good and bad in life. How can my only daughter, the joy of my life, being taken from me at 4 months old be good? I don't know, but I can tell you that nothing stands between the Lord and I right now. I have never in my life yearned to be with Him, read His word, worship than I have right now.

I have been thinking about how my relationship with Quinn teaches me about my relationship with God. As Quinn got a little older I started laying her in her crib for naps and bedtime. She would lay in her crib and cry a little bit. It killed me to see this as I was standing right beside her crib, just out of her view. It pained me, not because she was hurt or in danger, but because I knew in her little brain she was crying because she thought she was alone, that I had left her. It pained me so much that sometimes I would cry, even though I knew my purpose- getting her to learn to fall asleep on her own. I wanted to give my daughter a precious gift- the gift of sleep. Quinn did not know my purpose, and there was no way of me explaining it to her, because my brain was more advanced than hers.

I have told many people how odd it is that in an instant I have switched from being a caregiver to needing to be taken care of. I have found myself in Quinn's role, feeling alone, not understanding. But God is here with me, just out of view, crying with me because he knows I don't understand- nor is there any way I ever will- His ways are higher than mine. But I have to believe that he is trying to give me a precious gift in all of this. Larry Crabb states that,
      "The highest dream we could ever dream, the wish that if granted would make us happier than any
        other blessing, is to know God, to actually experience Him. The problem is that we don't believe
        this idea is true. We assent to it in our heads, but we don't feel it in our hearts."

2 Corinthians 7:10-11 states,
       "The kind of sorrow God wants makes people change their hearts and lives. This leads to salvation,
         and you cannot be sorry for that... See what this sorrow- the sorrow that God wanted you to have-
         has done to you; It has made you very serious. It made you want to restore yourselves, It made
         you angry & afraid. It made you want to see me. It made you care. It made you want to do the
        right thing. In every way you regained your innocence."

    -Larry Crabb, in Shattered Dreams writes:
      "One way He works is to allow our lower dreams to shatter. He lets us hurt and doesn't make it better...
       In fact, what he's doing while we suffer is leading us into the depths of our being, into the center of our
      soul where we feel our strongest passions. It's there that we discover our desire for God. We begin to
      feel a desire to know Him that not only survives our pain, but actually thrives in it until that desire
      becomes more intense than our desire for all the good things we still want. Through the pain of shattered
      lower dreams, we wake up to the realization that we want an encounter with God more than we want
     the blessings of life. And that begins a revolution in out lives."            

Even though I have written all of this, I am still in a world of hurt, and would give all of this up in a heartbeat to have my baby back, the way it used to be. I believe what I wrote to be true, but I am human- It sure doesn't feel like I am being blessed. But I am continuing to trust that God was good 3 months ago and God is still good today. As crazy and as reckless as it sounds, I am choosing to trust that God has my best in mind. That his desire is to bless me, bless me in ways completely different than I think of as blessings but that he is in control. That I am broken to the basic core of who I am, but that he is going to restore me in His way, in His time. This is the darkest time in my life, but I believe that someday, when I get to heaven, I will look back on this time in my life and see that I had it all wrong. That this was not the darkest time in my life, but that it was the sweetest because this is when I met God.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Power of Choice

Many days I feel like I am in an alternate world. I wake up asking questions like, "What just happened?" "How can this be?" "Is this real life?" The current conditions of my life are not the direction that my life was supposed to go. I sometimes wonder if this loss was just a dream or if even having Quinn was real. This doesn't happen. People don't lose perfectly healthy 4 month old children in an instant. There is a sense of terror in the randomness of it all. I've said it so many times, but this is not fair. I did not choose this for my life, this is not because of a bad decision or a consequence of wrong-doing.

I have recently discovered the power in choices. This circumstance is so random, so final, so tragic that I feel utterly powerless. Having no choice in this situation makes me feel so defenseless.  Yet, there ARE choices that I have found I DO have power over. I can choose to see meaning in suffering. I can choose to be bitter or choose to invest in the lives of others. According to the rest of the world, I have every right to be bitter, angry, and selfish- but those are all choices. I did not choose this for my life, but I can choose how I respond to it.

The last couple of months I have been reading Job. I feel a kindred spirit with him. I understand completely when he says, "Everything I feared and dreaded has happened to me. (Job 3:25)" We both know what it feels like to have everything one moment and have it gone the next. I used to hate how Job seemed like such a pawn to God, but lately I have chosen to be inspired by the choices he made and how his choice mattered. Even when the rug had been pulled out from under him he chose to worship God. Jerry Sittser in A Grace Disguised writes:
               "I trembled before the power of Job's freedom to decide how he was going to respond to his
                suffering. How he exercised that freedom had repercussions even in God's heavenly court,
                where the hosts of heaven, including Almighty God, watched to see how Job's life would turn out.
                Job's choices really mattered to them. He had no idea how far his power reached, but he was not,
                as he was tempted to think, a solitary figure whose decisions counted for nothing... He discovered
                that God is the answer to all his questions, even questions he had not thought to ask. Job learned
                that behind the apparent randomness of life is the existence of God, whose greatness transcended
               Job, but did not nullify the importance of Job's choices."

So what do I choose to do in my life? I choose God and to believe in His promises... that He is good, that He promises to stand by me through it all. That heaven is real and that Quinn is there in the best hands- His hands.  The hands I choose to believe formed her, the hands I believe were pierced at the cross for her and I. I choose to believe that this circumstance is not random but is part of a beautiful tapestry that God is sewing. I choose to believe that even if I can't see His entire plan that His plan is good. These choices are choices I have to daily, even momentarily, choose because most days they don't come easy. But I believe in what Jerry Sittser quotes as "God's transcendent purpose." He uses the story of Joseph, who is sold by his own brothers into slavery but later transcends to become the king's adviser to explain God's purpose:

               "God's transcendent purpose makes Joseph's personal story a part of a much bigger story.
                 Although Joseph suffers at the hands of his brothers, all the while God is planning to use
                Joseph's experience to move his family to Egypt, where they will live and eventually become
                slaves. Then, many years later, they will be led to freedom by Moses, one of the greatest leaders
                in the Jewish religion. Joseph has no idea that his story fits into this larger plot involving thousands
                of people and centuries of history. As it turns out, however, his life does not consist of a
                succession of isolated events randomly strung together but rather of a story with a purpose that he
                does not see and will never entirely understand... The Joseph story helps us to see that our own
                tragedies can be a very bad chapter in a very good book. The terror of randomness is enveloped
                by the mysterious purposes of God."

So tonight, in this moment, I am choosing to see that my life does not consist of a "succession of isolated events randomly strung together but rather of a story with a purpose that I do not see and will never entirely understand". That this season in my life is a very bad chapter in a very good book written long before Quinn was born, long before I was born.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hope in a Hopeless Place

I have had a hard week this week. A week where I can't see any hope in our situation. A week where I want to throw in the towel on taking the high road and I just want to feel sorry for myself. A week where, even though I know the cliche answers- I don't care about them. I want to scream, THIS IS NOT FAIR! We go to Quinn's grave every night and water her grass and I think, "I should be giving her a bath right now, not watering her grave." A week where either Tim or I have cried ourselves to sleep. I am in such a hopeless place: I will never have Quinn back. This pain is not going away. Nothing can fix this. I think of those moments in life where you think, "life doesn't get any better than this" and realize I will never again have one of those moments, because life could be better... if Quinn shared it with me. There are no words to describe how much I miss Quinn, every day more and more. I want to act like the little kid in the store who never got their way and throw a fit... I want Quinn and I want her NOW!

I have also felt that God has not been as near as he was the first weeks. But last night I opened my Bible to read Jeremiah Chapters 29 & 30 and God spoke right to my heart. The following are the verses:

            4 "This is what the Lord, All-Powerful, says to all those people I sent away from Jerusalem as
                 captives to Babylon: 'Build your houses and settle in the land. Plant gardens and eat the
                food they grow. Get married and have sons and daughters... Also, do good things for the city
                where I sent you as captives. Pray to the Lord for the city where you are living because if
                good things happen in the city, good things will happen to you too... Babylon will be powerful for
               70 years. After that time I will come to you and I will keep my promise to bring you back to
               Jerusalem. I say this because I know what I am planning for you," says the Lord, "I have good
                plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. Then you will call my
               name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will search for me. And
               when you search for me you will find me. I will let you find me. And I will bring you back from
               captivity. I forced you to leave this place but I will gather you from all nations... At that time I will
               break the yoke from your necks and tear off all the ropes that hold you... So people of Jacob,
               don't be afraid. Israel, don't be frightened. I will soon save you from that faraway place where
               you are captives. I will save your family from that land... I will completely destroy all those nations
               where I scattered you, but I will not completely destroy you. I will punish you fairly, but I will
               still punish you. You people have a wound that cannot be cured, your injury will not heal.... but I
               will bring back your health and heal your injuries... The city will be rebuilt on its hill of ruins....
              There will be the sound of laughter again. I will give them many children. I will bring honor to them.
              I will set them up as a strong people before me."

At my darkest moment God spoke truth to me through those verses. I felt like he was saying, "Just like the Israelites were captives in Babylon, so are you a captive here in this season of grieving. This might take awhile so I would advise you to set up shop here (build your house here and plant gardens, this may take some time so make the most of it). But I feel like he was also telling me, "hold tight, I have plans for you and they involve hope." That he was telling me, "I am good so my plans for you are good." That he was telling me that I will break free from this captivity. That even though I have this wounded heart that the rest of the world would say there is no cure for, that God can and will heal my heart. That just as God rebuilt the city on its hill of ruins, he will rebuild my life from this pile of sorrowful rubble. We WILL laugh again. And we WILL come out of this a stronger people. So that is what I am clinging to this week. Although I am in a hopeless place, someday, my God will set me free... and that is my hope.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Letter to Quinn

My dear Quinn,
6 months ago today you were born. I will never forget the way you looked when I first met you, the way you looked at the world with wonder. I have not witnessed any babies being born, but I expected you to cry a lot because you missed being in my warm belly. But you didn't. You cried a little to let us know you were ok. But for the most part you looked around with those big beautiful eyes, trying to soak up the world. Maybe you always knew how short your life would be, so you didn't waste a second. Maybe you were just wise- like your name meant. I remember finding it hard to believe that you were actually mine. Since that day, I have loved you more each day and that hasn't changed with your death.

I was so proud of you. I wanted everyone to get a glimpse of this beautiful creation knit together by The Creator. At the same time I was so so tired. I was new at this and NOTHING could prepare me for being a 1st time mom of a newborn. I had no idea what I was doing, but your daddy and grandma Marcia helped me in the middle of the night. They were hard times, but precious times. I would get up in the middle of the night to check on everyone and your grandma Marcia would be rocking you, singing to you, and holding you close and it gave me an intimate glimpse into my own childhood and how my own mother looked when holding me in the middle of the night. She loves you to the moon and back and visited so much just to be with you that she was more like your 2nd mommy.

And your daddy? He is the best dad there ever was. He is absolutely smitten with you. And you felt so safe and comfortable with him. If there was ever a time I couldn't get you calm or when it came time to sleep, your daddy would hold you close to his heart and you would relax and sleep. That is still where you remain... so so close to his heart. Quinn, you are so loved. I sometimes feel guilty for how hard of an adjustment being a mommy was for me. But being YOUR mommy was not hard. You were so easy to love. Not only did everyone who met you fell deeply in love with you, but even people who didn't know you fell in love with you. I wish you could see how many people love you, how you have affected more people in your short life than most people do in their entire life.

I'm lost, so lost without you. I don't know how to go back to not being a mom. I miss you.... so so much. I don't know what's worse knowing that you miss me too, or knowing that you are alright and don't miss me at all. I don't want either... I just want you here with me. I want milestones, like today, to be spent together. I'm sorry, Quinn. I'm so so sorry that I couldn't prevent this. It was my job to care for you, to protect you, and I feel like I failed you. I'm sorry I didn't hold you longer or sing to you more. I'm just so sorry that you couldn't be with me longer. But I want you to know I will work my hardest every day to make you proud. I promise to love the Lord hard so that we can be together in eternity someday. I promise to work hard to take care of, pray for, respect, and love your daddy so that we will stay together. I promise I will NEVER EVER forget you, stop missing you, or stop loving you. You will always be my daughter and I will always be your mom. I am so proud of you Quinn Noel. Being your mother is my greatest honor. Hold tight and in the blink of an eye I'll be there to hold you for eternity.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Waking up from the American Dream

Silence... something that fills our house, now, with deafening volumes. Silence has never been so loud. The silence screams that something's not right here. The silence speaks volumes about an empty house that is supposed to be filled with laughter, cooing, and splashing. The silence bellows of plans, hopes, and dreams dashed. The silence makes me physically ache for a daughter who got gypped out of a full earthly life, a life that has a steady course: crawling, walking, birthdays, school, summer camp, vacations, sleepovers, sports, falling in love, graduation, college, weddings, children, white picket fences.

That's our plan for life right? The "American Dream." That is what I hoped for in my own life and definitely for my child's life. But I'm beginning to discover that the American Dream is just that... a dream, then we wake up to reality. A reality where we don't get the dream job after college, or get married by 25 or have kids by 30. The reality that most of life is not how we envisioned it. Larry Crabb in his book, "66 Love Letters" writes this from the perspective of God and what he is trying to tell us:

                 "You will begin every new adventure in life with naive hope and excitement. Every wedding
                   will begin with passion then move into problems. Every decorated nursery will receive a
                   baby that will present unanticipated challenges. Every new ministry that starts with happy
                   hopes- everything you do, no matter how well organized and well intended- will run
                   into trouble. If you are in touch with what I (GOD) created you to enjoy, everything in
                   this life will disappoint you, even the best spouse, the best kids, the best job, the best
                   church, the best vacation. And that disappointment  will lead you to wonder if you've
                   missed the right road, if perhaps there is a better, more satisfying, less bumpy road
                   through your life. There isn't, not one that leads to real joy... The road to life will expose
                   you to terrible failure and crushing conflict. But only that road leads you to the life you
                  want, the life I (GOD) give you."

When I read this I feel defeated. Why can't life just be easy and go the way I want it to? But I have been constantly reminded that God's plans for my life are better than my plans.
Proverbs 16:9 states:

                  "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps."

Isaiah 28:29 states:

                "All this comes from the LORD almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent."

Jeremiah 29:11 states:
                 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,  "plans to prosper you, not to
                  harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

No matter how painful it is, I have to give up my own plans and dreams and live into the plans God has for my life, plans that are ultimately better than I could ever dream or plan myself. How do I know this?  Because of the example Jesus set. See, lately I have been grieving the loss of Quinn, the loss of my hopes and dreams, my plan for my life. I have been grieving over my loss so much that I have honestly thought to myself, "This is it, this is how I am going to die... of heartbreak." But I read a verse the other day that let me know, I wasn't the only one who had felt this:

                [Jesus] took Peter and Zebedee's two sons, James and John, and he began to be filled with
               anguish and deep distress. He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.
               Stay here and watch with me."                                               -Matthew 26:37-38

This was right before he was taken to die on the cross for our sins. See, even Jesus, who knew the whole picture, was grieved to let go and live into God's plan. A plan that lead him to the cross so that we might be with him in Heaven someday. This was God's ultimate plan, but it didn't come without pain and suffering. So, I am slowly loosening the tight grip I have on my own plans I have for my life so that someday soon I will have an open hand to what God has planned for my life.

Monday, August 27, 2012

I Will Not Be Silent

A silent suffering- that is where I am currently at. Strangers pass me in the street and have no idea the storm that is going on inside of me. That pain that is threatening to strangle me and builds, becoming toxic until it bubbles over, spilling out of me as if floodgates had just been opened. I HATE THIS. I hate that this is now part of our story. That suffering knocked on our door a month and a half ago and decided to move in for what seems to be permanently. How can this happen? How can I experience the best year of my life and the worst year of my life all in the same year? How can the direction life is going change so drastically? Because of this abrupt direction change, I'm so lost.

I long for the day when I am on the other side of this. The day when I can look back on this time and see how far I've come. Jerry Sittser writes:

               "The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun & 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."

I love this analogy because if I run from this suffering, this darkness that comes along with losing someone you love so dearly, I will maybe have fleeting moments of comfort, but the darkness will always catch up with me. So I've decided to run straight into the darkness- facing all those things that scare me: Quinn's nursery, pictures of her, talking about her and our memories, my fears of never having more children, letting go of MY plan of how life was going to be. Once I do that I am down to the most basic, primal parts of me. Even though it hurts so bad, I know it has to be done or else I'm just delaying the inevitable.

I don't know where we (including me) got the idea that life isn't supposed to be hard. That bad things happen to "other" people, but if we're "good" enough it won't happen to us. We (including me) have this sense of entitlement. I was reminded of this last night when reading Romans 8:15-17:
               "The Spirit we received does not make us slaves again to fear; it makes us children of God. With
                 that Spirit we cry out, "Father". And the Spirit himself joins with our spirits to say we are God's
                 children. If we are God's children, we will receive blessings from God together with Christ. But
                we must suffer as Christ suffered so that we will have glory as Christ has glory."

As I was reading that verse in my Bible I noticed I had  previously read this and had the entire verse underlined but stopped at the last sentence beginning with BUT.  See, I failed to underline the suffering part. We want a nice neat box to put Christianity in and throw in those fuzzy verses about love and conveniently leave out the suffering parts.  Brennan Manning writes:

              "Christianity doesn't deny the reality of suffering and evil... our hope... is not based on the idea that
               we are going to be free of pain and suffering. Rather, it is based on the conviction that we will
               triumph over suffering."

Just this week I realized something pretty simple that I can't believe I've missed all these years of growing up in the church... Those whom God loves dearly, the faithful, the righteous, they all have some of the deepest suffering. Moses was given away as a baby, kills someone and goes into exile. David was chased & sought to be killed by his mentor and then loses his baby boy. Mary has a son who is born in a barn, is persecuted most of his short life, then dies a criminal death for no crime. AWFUL! But we skip over those parts and go right to the triumph of Moses leading his people out of slavery and seeing the very face of God, David being the greatest king to ever live, and Mary being the mother of the Savior of the universe who rose again.

My cousins came last weekend to spend some time with me and asked me about this blog. They were surprised I was doing it because I'm normally more private with things of this matter. I waited a moment to answer them because I had not put into words why I was writing this. But the answer came quick. I had so many dreams and hopes for Quinn. I envisioned her being a character, charismatic, loving people hard, and changing every life who she came in contact with. Now my daughter is gone. And the only possible way that she can still change lives is if her story is told through Tim & I. Here is her story:

Once upon a time there lived a mommy and daddy who prayed and cried and prayed to have a baby. Finally the time came where God blessed them with that baby. When she was born their whole world rejoiced because a light was born and she grew into a round-faced, happy, beautiful, blue-eyed baby. Then, quicker than she came into the world she left the world and that flame went out. The mommy and daddy were heartbroken and thought they'd never see that kind of light again. But that's when others around them caught fire. Mommies and daddies held their kids longer, told their kids how much they loved them, and vowed to be better parents, friends and coworkers dropped their differences and showed each other more love and grace than ever before, and that world turned to the Light Of The World for their own struggles. Even though the one little light had gone out a wild fire had started and there was no putting that out.

So even though I am silently suffering in my day to day life- I will not be quiet about how my daughter changed me, how she moved me from a place of complacency to a place of fervency.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Are You Afraid?

By Quinn's Dad

Are you afraid?  I am.  I am so afraid that I don't know how to live on.  The thing that I cared for the most in this world has been taken from me.  If you would have asked me a month and a half ago what I feared most, it would have been Quinn dying.  I am living out my worst fear, my nightmare.  The one that wakes you up screaming and sweating in the middle of the night.  Now, everything scares me.  Getting in the car I think, "What if I get in an accident?  Will Ali be OK here alone?"  What if I wake up next to Ali and she doesn't wake up.  I am just waiting for the next tragedy to hit.  I already can't stand living without my little girl, how am I supposed to get through life that is filled with this kind of pain and suffering?  And please listen and believe that this will not be the last thing I suffer.  I know and expect this and it scares me.

Then, I remember the one thing that comforts me, the one thing that I simply cannot ignore... Jesus Loves Me. It is a simple truth that we learn as little kids in Sunday School. It may sound strange, but I believe this more than ever right now. Yes, I am bitter. Yes, I have never had so much anger. Yes, I am working through some serious trust issues with God. I have never questioned God or something I think I believe in so much. My life is in complete shambles but the fact remains that God is the same perfect God he was 2 months ago.

I used to hate it when people would say, "God never said being a Christian wouldn't be hard."  Why not? Why would he make our lives seem so hopeless sometimes? Why would a God that seems to love us allow such grief? What kind of God would do that?  I will tell you right now, from personal experience, that if life was good all the time, I wouldn't need God. Why would I need him if I have everything? For me, I have realized that He has been a God of convenience.  Still, I can't escape the finality that my little girl is gone. What kind of thing could come from this that would make it worth it? I don't know and I don't think it is possible, but I have faith in a God that could someday show me.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jesus Wept

And Jesus wept (John 11:35). Words that mean so much more to me now that tears are such a regular part of life for me. My soul, mind, and body all long to see Quinn, to have her near me. I carried her for 9 months, went through 28 hours of labor to be with her, I spent 24 hours a day caring for her... she is a part of me. I feel like someone took a chainsaw to me and cut out a huge chunk of me and now I am hurt, raw, with some of my most intimate parts for the whole world to see. I know I will eventually heal, but it will take a long time, I will forever have a scar, and it will never be the same.  C.S. Lewis in "A Grief Observed" relates grief of losing a loved one to losing a leg... yes it will heal, but nothing is the same again- not the way you put on your shoes or pants, not the way you walk or stand, nothing. You will never again be known as a biped.

That is another aspect of my grieving- over the loss of who I used to be... trusting, sarcastic, naive.  And the loss of who my husband used to be. We will never be the same. We can't be...part of us is missing. My prayer is that Tim & I will be better versions of our selves after this, but the verdict will be out for quite some time on that. Sue Monk Kidd in "When the Heart Waits" describes the word crisis as "a holy summons to cross a threshold. It involves both leaving behind and a stepping toward, a separation and an opportunity." Tim & I are at that threshold. Isaiah 43:2-3 states:
                 "When you pass through the waters,
                   I will be with you;
                  And when you pass through the rivers,
                  they will not sweep over you.
                  When you walk through the fire,
                  you will not be burned;
                  the flames will not set you ablaze.
                 For I am the Lord, your God,
                 the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

Tim & I are the definition of walking through the fire and as much as I want to walk around it, or jump over it or just stand still, I can't- but i have to keep reminding myself that MY LORD, MY GOD is walking me through it. That he knows what is on the other side. See... In the story of Lazarus when Jesus wept- he knew the ending of the story. He knew what he was about to do. He knew Lazarus would be resurrected.  Jesus wasn't weeping because Lazarus was dead. He was weeping because he saw how much hurt and pain Mary & Martha were in. He wept because he knew they couldn't see the whole picture, they didn't know the ending, they couldn't see what was on the other side of the fire. He empathizes with them. He is fully God and knows all things and how they will work out, but He is also fully human understanding our pain- hurting with the people he loves dearly.

When Quinn first passed away Tim & I poured over 2 Samuel 12 when David loses his first child and the verse that struck both of us is when David said, "Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me."  I will go to be with Quinn someday, but she will NEVER return to me. That hurts. Children are supposed to run to their mothers. I know someday I will run to her, but that is not the way it is supposed to be. And that is why Jesus wept. Because to Quinn it will just be but a moment and she'll be reunited with her mommy and daddy, but Jesus knows it will seem like and will be a lifetime for me.

I have said in the past that death doesn't scare me because I know where I am going. But now, in hindsight, I think I was just saying that because that is what Christians are expected to say. But I can say to you today that Heaven has never seemed more real to me. It is sad that is takes something earthly for me to declare that, but it is what it is. I CANNOT wait to get to Heaven and run to my babies (Tim & I had a miscarriage before Quinn). To have that first time when you meet your child here on Earth is such a heavenly experience, but to meet my first child in heaven will be surreal. But mostly when I think about heaven, I think about Quinn. I think about holding her again and singing to her, I guess singing with her praises to the King. And knowing that I won't cry for her anymore and that I'll never have to say goodbye to her again, but that we will be together for eternity. It seems so far far away, when all I want to do is hold her now. But it makes me look forward to Heaven more than ever before. It makes me more thankful than ever of what Jesus did to make that possible and ironically God- who watched his only son die so that one day I may be reunited with my own children. Until then, I am homesick.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Quinn would've been 5 months old today and the words escape me for how much I miss her. It has been 3 weeks since she passed away and the reality and longevity of her death are finally starting to set in. I miss her big beautiful eyes and infectious smile. I miss coming into her room after her nap or sleeping to find her smiling at me. I miss her voice ,that she had just found, filling the house.  I miss taking showers with her in the bouncy seat and poking my head out and looking at her. She usually had no idea I was looking at her, but when she looked up from whatever she was playing with (usually Rosie or her hands) she would smile as if to say "Hi Mom". I hear other children calling for their mothers and I long to hear her say my name... "Mommy", I see other children passing me in the street and they haunt me like ghosts. They are all my "what ifs" siting in the backseat of the SUV. But I don't see children & feel bitter. I don't want those children. I WANT QUINN.
This death is different from other deaths because I am not just mourning the tiny memories I have with her. I am mourning the death of hopes and dreams I had for her. The things I will never get to do with her. This morning I cried because my daughter never got to know me & I prayed, "God, will you tell her about me and what I would've been to her? Will you tell her about how much I love her and miss her? Will you tell her how funny I am, or how her mommy and daddy fell in love, or how much she moved and changed us?"  I know no one can love her like The Father, but what is so wrong about her being here with me? I know many parts of this are selfish, but it was who i was made to be... a mother.
The song that kept running through my head the night we lost Quinn was "Worth It All" by Rita Springer. My hope and prayer is that this pain, heartbreak, brokenness, and suffering that came at such a HUGE PRICE will be worth it in the end when I see my Maker's face. That he will say "Well Done", that lives would be moved for Christ. Psalm says that God is near to the brokenhearted and I believe that with my whole heart- Tim & I have both commented on how we have felt it.
Tim & I are in Vail, CO this weekend as a short getaway and I have started the 1st book of many that people have given us to read through this journey of suffering. It is called "I Will Carry You- The Sacred Dance of Grief & Joy". In it the author, Angie Smith (who lost a child of her own) writes about the relationship between joy & suffering. This is the quote that hit me...

                   When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
                   & you shall see that in truth you are weeping for
                   that which has been your delight,

                   Some of you say"Joy is greater than sorrow"

                   & others say, "No, sorrow is the greater"
                   But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

                   Together they come & when one sits alone with you

                   at your board, remember the other is asleep upon your bed.

                   Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

                                                                        -Kahlil Gibran

This is the beautiful mess Rick McKinley talks about in his book "This Beautiful Mess" of an upside down kingdom of heaven here on earth. One that Psalm 34:18 talks about:
                   "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted & saves those who are crushed in spirit."
The one  Matthew 5:3-4 talks about:
                   "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
                    Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted"
The one Lamentations 3:13, 19-22 speaks of:
                   "He shot His arrows deep into my heart. The thought of my suffering
                    & hopelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful
                    time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet, I dare to hope when I remember
                    this. The unfailing love of the Lord never ends. Because of the Lord's 
                    great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  
                    They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness"
The one Lamentations 3:55-58 speaks of:
                  "I call your name o Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea:
                      'Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.' You came near when I
                   called you, you said 'Do not fear.' Oh Lord, you took up my case, you
                   redeemed my life."
SEE?... FOR IN OUR SUFFERING HE IS NEAR! Don't get me wrong. I have been in some deep depression... that "deep pit" & have been in the most bleak, dark parts of life. It has been hard to get out of bed some mornings, some days I won't talk, some I will cry all morning. BUT GOD IS NEAR TO ME. I haven't doubted that for a moment. I have been reading John 11 a lot lately of the story of Lazarus & I believe that Jesus knows my pain & is weeping with me.
Even before Quinn was born my main prayer for her was that she would bring joy to the lives of others. And even though this situation is as far away from my prayer that it could ever be, I believe that God is still working to answer that. That through this grief & suffering that joy will come to the lives of other through Quinn's story. A joy that doesn't fade, but an eternal joy.
As I read through this joy/suffering relationship yesterday out on the deck in Colorado. A huge storm rolled over the Mountains about the same time I was reading a verse in the Bible that said "I am God"- thunder rolled. I felt that God was letting me know that this was not my plan for my life, but that he was still in control, not me. But as that storm rolled in, I was still sitting in the sunlight (really, I was! Tim couldn't believe it, but still told me to come in). I felt it was a physical reminder of this crazy dichotomy of suffering and joy. That I am in the thick of the storm, but that over this mountain will come joy. And so in my darkest of days, that is my hope.