20
February

When Monster Trucks Change Your Life

No automatic alt text available.Boston, our youngest, loved monster trucks.  Loved them.  When he was two he had started to playing with the couple of monster trucks that we had lingering around the house from his older brother.  My husband started to show him videos on You Tube of monster jams, and the kid quickly became addicted.  He was feeling poorly on afternoon and he sat and watched monster truck races and tricks all afternoon.  The next morning he was still feeling yucky and when monster truck videos wouldn’t suffice, we ended up taking him to the ER and finding out he had appendicitis.  During the recovery my husband and I took turns with him at the hospital and watching monster truck videos over and over and over again.

We began collecting monster trucks.  We began attending Monster Jams when they came to town and local ones at fairs in the spring and summer.  The whole family got involved.  We would walk the aisles of Target and Wal-Mart looking for the monster trucks that he didn’t already have to add to his collection.  Meanwhile, Boston became a lover of the Avengers and other superheros, so we started meshing the two loves together.

I love little boys. Especially three and four years old. It’s the age when little boys are so sweet.  They love their mamas.  The love to play in the dirt and start making noises when they are playing with cars or guns.  They love little animals, such as frogs, turtles, snakes, lizards.  They wanna get dirty and they still love snuggles and kisses.  Their sense of humor is forming and silliness doesn’t bother them at all.  I love little boys.

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After The Accident, Boston went Home, but he still lingers here.  His stuff is here.  His monster trucks are packed up and his Avenger masks are on a shelf in our son’s room.  His t-shirts are made into a comfy blanket and his pictures hang on the walls of our home. He is missed and he is loved so dearly and fiercely.

Our oldest daughter has two monster trucks in her room that she took off of our headboard, and she plays with them with her Shopkins.  They are the protectors are her Shopkins in her game.  I guess no one can come in until Grave Digger and Crushstation approves their entrance.

When I became a mom I didn’t know that monster trucks were going to hold such a special place in my heart forever, but they do. We like monster trucks, but they are also hard to see, but I remember so clearly Boston’s face during his first monster truck race.  Sweet and hopeful and excited.

Boston is Home.  Boston may be seeing monster trucks and playing with them on a regular basis.  He is in no pain. He has no fear. He has no struggle, but here we do.  The ones continuing to walk the Earth who love him so much.  It’s okay.  It’s life and it is what God in is sovereignty ordained for us to be part of our story long before time began.

This part of our story, makes me crave the bigger Story.  The Story of God’s redemptive plan and I am so grateful that the hope in our hearts are not of this world, but rather of the One who saved it and died for it and conquered death.  I continue to hold 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 in my heart.  It is a balm to my soul and it is the verse that I constantly open to and read when I am struggling with despair and my heart hurts too badly to get out of bed.  I must be reminded of the tension and the Hope of these verses.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

My heart rejoices for eternity and what Jesus has done for us, because He is remarkably good in the midst of our suffering. Till then #Jesusisenough #TillweareHome

 

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17
February

Do we HAVE to Learn Something?

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I was talking with a friend several months ago who is in the midst of grief and while she was talking she said, “I just want to learn what God wants me to learn and get past this.”  I could understand how she feels.  I’ve felt it too, but the more I felt that the more I felt like somehow I wasn’t “learning” what I was suppose to learn and stuff just kept getting flung our way.

Can I submit that if we are already God’s child, and life just happens that God isn’t necessarily wanting us to “learn” something?  I’m not talking about learning something from bad choices, because there are times where we really screw up and we must learn from our experiences and God teaches us through those experiences.  I’m talking about life just happening.  A loved one passes away.  We have a chronic illness.  We have been laid off from a job and finances are tight.  Our child is sick.  We get a surprise diagnosis at the birth of a child.  Suffering is not always meant for us to learn something.  Sometimes there are things in life that just simply happen, because we live in a fallen world.

The pain from grief and suffering is piercing.  It’s a bleeding heart that doesn’t stop bleeding.  There is no plug to stop the heart from gushing. I am certain that grief has no end here on earth.  There are still days my heart will pierce when I look at our daughter with Down Syndrome thinking about what might have been. There are still days I think about where Eli would’ve been in the line up of our children.  There are days I think about how Boston would be turning 6 in a few days and he may have lost his first tooth.  Grief will not completely go away.  We want it to, because we don’t like the feeling of pain, but it will always linger. Always.

Have a learned things in my grief?  Yes, of course.  I have learned that God is good, especially in the darkest moments.  I have learned that His faithfulness and His grace is the only thing that abounds.  I have learned that I can trust His sovereignty. I have learned and have become more confident in that fact that this world is not my home.  I have learned that my hope cannot lie in this world.  I also believe that these are things that we can learn simply from living life and being a Christ follower.

When we say that we need to learn something and then move on, we are putting far too much pressure on ourselves. When we tell the suffering that God wants them to learn something through it, we are telling them that they must have screwed up somewhere and God wants them to be fixed.  Can it not be enough that we are simply living life and that life is hard and challenging and Jesus is faithfully good in the hard times and He died and conquered the mess that we exist in? It has to be enough when it comes to our unanswered whys to suffering, because we will not always have answers to our whys in our sickness, suffering and grief.

We must recognize that God is not cruel to us in our suffering.  He does not abandon us to have us grow alone, rather He is sufficient and gracious and holds us in the palm of His loving, long suffering (hesed) hands.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of  my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (emphasis mine)

I don’t mean to sound cliche, but the Word is Truth. Jesus IS gracious and kind in our suffering. He IS faithful.  He does help us grow when we are in the midst of trial.  He cradles us and loves us and cares for us.

As Christ followers, we are, hopefully, constantly seeking Jesus.  We are, hopefully, constantly being reminded and confirmed of the Gospel.  We are, hopefully, constantly wanting to know more about what He has done and accomplished.  We are, hopefully, constantly learning.  It is not necessarily because of our grief, it is simply because we are living and wanting to be more like Him, because only He can fill the holes in our broken hearts.

 

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14
February

I Don’t Know What to Say…

There have been many times over the last decade when we found out that a friend had lost their child, or a friend of a friend asking what they should do or say to help their friend in grief. Do you want to know what my answer is? My answer is the same. Each and every time.

“I don’t know what to say.”

I am constantly turning in my Bible to Romans 8:26.

 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

I need to be reminded that it is okay to not know what to say.  To be at a loss for words.  It’s okay to groan.

When I got an email from a friend asking what to say to a friend who had a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome, I said the same thing, “I don’t know what to say.” I could say something like, “Your child will be fantastic and successful and full of joy, and it will be really really hard, but I promise you, there will be more good than hard.”  The majority of that would be true, but the fact is, is that when I received my diagnosis, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear.  I wanted someone to sit with me.  To grieve with me.  To grieve the expectations that we had all had for our children.

As humans, we want to have answers to the “why”.  We want to know the reasoning to why things happen the way they do, but we don’t have these answers, so when we give “answers” to the one walking in grief and pain, they sound trite and unkind.  It’s hard to sit in silence when someone is hurting so bad. It’s not in our nature. We want to give advice. We want to help, but sometimes “helping” is simply sitting in the darkness with a friend and grieving with them.

Since I am at a loss for words, even though I have experienced a surprise diagnosis and the loss of two of our children, I have begun sending texts or messages full of the Bible to friends who are experiencing any kind of loss-a child, a loved one, divorce, loss of expectations, a job-anything.  I have no words, but Jesus does.  The Psalmist does.  The heaviness of the Psalms is comforting. The lament and the brokenness and the recognition of where our hope lies in the midst of life’s pain is comforting.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Psalm 16

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the LORD, “You are my LORD;

I have no good apart from you.”  (vs 1 & 2)

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;

you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. (vs 5 & 6)

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;

my flesh also dwells secure.

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,

or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;

in your presences there is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (vs 9-11)

Psalm 6

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;

heal me. O LORD, for my bones are troubled.

My soul also is greatly troubled.

But you, O LORD -how long?

Turn, O LORD, deliver my life;

save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (vs 2-4)

I am weary with my moaning;

every night I flood my bed with tears;

I drench my couch with my weeping.

My eye wastes away because of grief;

it grows weak because of all my foes. (vs. 5-7)

…the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.

The LORD has heard my plea;

the LORD accepts my prayer. (vs 8-9)

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Revelation 21:3-4

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

I have found that the Scriptures are much more eloquent and far more accurate than I am.  When you are faced with a grieving friend or you are in the midst of it yourself the Bible is the only balm for a hurting heart, because therein lies the hope of the Gospel that we all desperately need.

 

 

 

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10
February

Why Seeing Glory

In November of 2009, a new friend called me and said, “Michelle, we found out today that our baby died, can you watch our daughter so we can go deliver our baby girl.”  Within the next hour, their toddler daughter was on our doorstep with her shocked, grieving parents were headed to the hospital to deliver their stillborn daughter.

After I had put all the kids to bed, I headed over to the hospital to talk with them about what could happen next.  Those things that you don’t want to talk about. Taking pictures with your baby, having a memorial, cremation or burial, and leaving the hospital without a baby. While we were sitting there talking, I noticed something, I noticed that somehow, in this pain and grievous day, Jesus was here and His glory was present.

I came home and told my husband, “I hate this and this is so hard, but I saw Jesus’ glory in that room and I can’t explain it.”  Early that morning I was sitting on my sofa holding their daughter watching Thomas the Train with her and all I could think about was that somehow God gets glory in this painful world, and I don’t understand how.

The next several days, were filled with having them over for breakfast and there was a service later on that week, and even as we sat in a friend’s living room singing Be Thou My Vision, I felt a strong sense that Jesus knows this pain, He feels it. It is not foreign to Him.

About three years prior, our second son went to be with Jesus the day after his birth, and for years I was struggling with how Jesus gets glory in these dark times.  It doesn’t seem glorious by any means.  It seems broken and jacked up and uncontrolled.  But during that particular week, in the midst of such brokenness, I realized Jesus gets this glory, because He has died for it.  He has conquered it.  This isn’t the end.

Death is swallowed up in victory. 

O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:54-56

Soon after that I started writing this little blog.  I started seeing His glory in the hard.  Seeing His glory in the beauty around us.  It’s easy when we are in pain to see beautiful mountains, but we have such thick scales on our eyes that they don’t appear as majestic because we are angry and frustrated at the Creator.  His glory shines through even when we don’t want to see it.

I wanted to start searching for His glory, even though it was right in front of me.  I had to see it, because I had to be reminded that He is present and working.  Even if it was just a vibrant red leaf in the fall or the enormous height of a tree in the Redwoods.  Or how the clouds are placed in the sky. I also needed to see the personal things, the moment that Jesus saved my children and they professed their belief.  The times when we were scraping by and somehow we were able to pay our mortgage.  When friend’s heard that their child may not live and then Jesus saved their lives.  That’s big.  Even the day of The Accident, when my husband and I were clinging to one another praying, asking why, crying out broken and chaotic, but also full of peace in our souls and Truth in our hearts.  I cannot explain God’s glory there. I cannot try to explain it. It just was.

Seeing Glory is a place where I hope, I will not water down the Gospel.  I hope that I will not be trite and sugar coat the brokenness and the pain of the world and make light of the struggles that we all face, because they are real and they are hard.  I hope that it will be a place of honesty in the hard and the wretched pain that we must walk through in the world, but that it will also be saturated with the confidence and knowledge of the Hope of glory.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the thing that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

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7
February

Football and Seeing Glory

My favorite sport is football. I have many fond memories of sitting on my dad’s lap watching the 49ers play while my mom made lunch on Sunday afternoons (he’s originally from San Jose, so for a bit after moving to Massachusetts he’d cheer on the 49ers).  He’d cheer and I’d cheer.  He’s grunt then I’d grunt.  As I watched, I learned the ins and outs of the game.  Interceptions, touchdowns, holding calls, fumbles, interference. You name it I learned it from my dad.

I have loved to watch the hard work that players put out on the field.  The gut wrenching hits and effort and drive that pushes them through the next play.  It always amazes me what they put their bodies through for an hour of play time for 17 weeks during the regular season, and then if they go to postseason they keep working.

Being a Massachusetts girl since I was five years old, I never had long lasting affections for the 49ers, however, I did really enjoy Joe Montana and followed him in Kansas City for a couple of seasons.  (I even made my mom, one Saturday afternoon, sit through a playoff game and my dad wasn’t even home.) Anyway, my affections lie with the Patriots.  Forever.  I watched them lose while I grew up.  We’d get so excited each time they were close to attending a Super Bowl or make it to a Super Bowl and then watched them lose. Terribly.  Usually blowouts. 7 to 56 or something stupid like that, and then Monday morning, we’d all be bummed out and not want to talk about it. Then Belichick came along and so did Tom Brady and everyone knows the rest.  They’ve been hot, with losses in between, ever since.

This past Sunday, I was sweating.  We were streaming the game while we were driving home from the airport in Kansas City after a weekend in Seattle, and it was not going well.  Then that fourth quarter happened and no one has ever seen anything like it before.  It was simply amazing.  From a score at half time of 3-28, the Patriots tied the score by the final seconds of the fourth quarter and forced overtime and won the game with a touchdown.  It is more than amazing.  It’s glorious.  It’s exciting.  I couldn’t sleep that night.  I was so excited.  It was the best game of all time.

Yesterday, while I was thinking about the ins and outs of the last quarter (no one in New England wants to talk about the first 3/4 of the game and neither do I), I thought, “Such amazing plays!  Belichick is a genius!  Brady is amazing! Edelman CAUGHT THAT BALL!!!!  It was GLORIOUS!!!!” But then the Holy Spirit started to poke me. Jesus started to tap me on the shoulder.  “I am glorious!  I created those trees and that orange sunset that you look at while you cook dinner.  I am the One who created the planets and hold them into space.  I am the One who created each heart that fills the bodies on this Earth, and I died for them to give them Life and THAT, my beloved, is glorious!”

So often, we get caught up in the excitement of a human feat being accomplished, and as we should, but we so quickly forget the One who created this whole amazing place to begin with and who has given us the privilege to breathe in and out and to get excited for football games and babies being born, kids soccer games, to worship Him in the hardness of life and to appreciate the joys of living as well.

I get just as excited and passionate for my team as the next person, but I also cannot forget the One who deserves all the glory.  The One who sent His Son to die for me. For us.  The One who is the balm to our souls and hearts when they are far broken beyond all repair and the One who will forever keep us in his amazingly, gloriously tight grip.

Psalm 96:1-6

Oh sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all the earth!

Sing to the LORD, bless his name;

tell of his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the nations,

his marvelous works among all the peoples!

for great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;

he is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,

but the LORD made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him;

strength and beauty are his sanctuary.

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