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Photo credit Brenda Joy Photography

This is us.  Mike and I were married in May of 2000.  16 years ago.    We’ve lived on both coasts.  I grew up in Worcester, MA, an hour west of Boston.  I love Massachusetts.  I love it’s colors in the fall.  I love the people and their accents.  I love Dunkin’ Donuts.  I love the Red Sox and the I love the Patriots.  I love it’s history.  I love the snow in the winter (before March) and I love it’s crazy, insane streets.  It is one of my favorite places on Earth.

After we got married, we hopped into a jalopy of a motor home and traveled the country for three months.  We knew before we got married that we would be moving to Seattle.  We got our wedding presents from my parents house three months after our wedding and loaded up our jalopy with our wedding presents and moved to Seattle to go to a church.  We didn’t have jobs yet.  We lived there for 14 years.  The church we attended grew into something huge, and it fell in a big way, but it was never out of God’s hands.  Jesus used the people in that church to be our friends and community through the thick and the thin.  He used people in that church who loved Jesus (and still do love Him) fiercely and to teach us to love Him fiercely and to suffer.  To suffer and to grieve well.  I love Seattle.  I love it’s misty and cloudy days.  I love the days that are filled with sunshine.  I love it’s mountains.  I love it’s water.  I love the people there.  I love how Jesus used Seattle to teach me about loving people (even though I still struggle deeply).  Seattle taught me that politics is not one sided.  It taught me that people were made in God’s image.  It taught me that I am not in the business of saving people, but that’s God’s business.

Throughout our marriage Mike and I have had a lot of adventures.  We’ve travelled the country several times with our children.  Visiting friends and family, national parks, amusements parks, Cadillacs sticking up in the air, followed Route 1 up the west coast, forests with huge trees and deserts and great lakes.  In the middle of each adventure is seemed that we would suffer and grieve and during those times, we would hop in the motorhome and travel to get family time.

In 2004, we had our first son, Josiah.  He is a blessing.  He is helpful, inquisitive, funny, insightful and a great blessing to us.  With a first child, there are always fears, I guess, but there is also a romantic period.  It’s like the planets have aligned and God is smiling on you.  Almost like no bad could come.

In March of the next year, we found out that Mike’s mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer.  She was living in Montana, so we went out to visit a couple of times and to help.  The cancer had already spread considerably and she passed away in May of 2005

We had our daughter, Tullie, exactly one month after Mike’s mom passed aways in June of 2005.  She was 9 weeks early.  She was also diagnosed with Down Syndrome upon her birth.  We were devastated.  To say it was unexpected is an understatement. At the time, I didn’t know how to suffer well, I had an theology that said, “I love Jesus. He loves me. It’ll all be okay. He won’t let anything bad happen to us.” Our daughter is extremely healthy.  Her heart is healthy. We have prayed that she would be a quick learner and be physically strong.  She is both.  Tullie is a story in and of herself. We are grateful for her wit. Her smiles. Her joy and her hugs.

When Tullie was six months old, we found out I was pregnant with #3.  We were excited.  It wasn’t planned, but we were excited.  Everything was going fine, until something didn’t feel right.  I went to the doctor and was put on immediate bed rest.  I stayed on bed rest for 3 weeks in the hospital. Our son, Eli Preston, was born at 25 weeks in 2006. We both almost lost our lives on the day of his delivery.  Jesus took him Home when he was 20 hours old.

By the time the summer came that year, we were more than overwhelmed.  I was struggling with God’s goodness.  I was struggling with relationships.  My husband and I were struggling. Those sentences sound trite and just like a fact. They don’t have much emotion….we were more then struggling.  We were grieving parents.  Grieving the loss of a child.  We were also still grieving the loss of our expectations with Tullie.  We didn’t expect a child with special needs.  No one does. There is a time that needs to be spent grieving what we thought we were going to have.  That’s okay to do.  I learned that late. At this point, we were just trying to keep our head above water.

We decided to sell a house that we had been renting out.  The weekend we put the house on the market, we found out I was pregnant again.  We also hopped into the motorhome to get away for 6 weeks.  We knew that this pregnancy was going to be a hard one.  We spent every other week at the doctor’s office.  We had a whole bunch of rules to follow.  We had pregnancy stress, financial stress (paying two mortgages), grief and daily life.  Life seemed heavy and hard. This whole time, though, I was saving face.  Especially at church.  I acted like I was handling things in stride.  “Jesus had it all under control.”-but I don’t think that I believed it. Things were really unraveling.  We were a hot mess.

Ellison Reese was born just shy of a year after her brother Eli in April of 2007. Ellison is a joy.  She has spunk. She has life.  She is full of surprises.  She loves to create.  She loves to make everyone happy.  She is amazing.  She was what we needed, when we were full of fear.  I was especially.

About 2 years after Eli passed away, I started reading Stepping Heavenward and I started doing a Bible study called How People Change.  These two things were life changing for me.  These two things taught me the Gospel.  Also at the time our church was going through the Book of Philippians.  Finding joy during suffering.  I realized two big things through these studies.  Jesus is good.  Joy is a command.

So many times as Christians we say, “Jesus is good.”  or “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Yes, Paul does say that), but we as Christians oversay this stuff. It sounds trite to the suffering.  It sounds untrue.  I thought that God was good, but not to me.  I knew that the joy of the Lord was my strength, but what was joy?  I certainly wasn’t happy.  I didn’t feel joyful.

Jesus is good, because He gave His life for us.  He sacrificed a perfect, sinless life and died in our place, so that we could have access to the Father.  He is good, because He conquered death.  He is good, because He conquered death, we can have eternal life.  He is good, because He saved us from a world of sin.  He is good, because He covers us with His blood.  The list goes on and on.

Paul talks about in Philippians 4 to “Rejoice in the Lord.” Even though we will face trials of many kinds.  Paul isn’t asking us to rejoice.  He is commanding that we rejoice.  There are so many times that we feel like when we rejoice we need to feel joyful, but that isn’t the case.  We don’t need to feel happy or joyful on the inside in order to rejoice.  We rejoice, because we know the Truth.  We know why Jesus is good.  We are rejoicing during suffering because of what Jesus did for us.  The Gospel.  He died for us.  He gave us access to the Father.  He gave us life.  He conquered death.  Despite the crap going on around us, that is enough for us to rejoice in our Lord.

I started learning the Gospel.  I took everything that I ever knew before and threw it away.  Jesus  taught me Truth.  He taught me the Gospel.  He taught me what He did.  What He conquered.

In 2010, we found out that I was pregnant again.  We were excited.  It was unexpected, but we were really excited.  We found out that it was a boy.  It was a high risk pregnancy again, but Jesus had healed so much fear and anxiety that I had peace during the pregnancy.  Boston Samuel joined our family in February of 2011. Our family was complete.

We got a bigger and better motorhome and travelled around the country with our four kids.  We left when Boston was 4 months old.  It wasn’t a trip of sadness or healing, it was a trip for fun.  For a whole year, we travelled the country.  From the West to the East. From the North to the South to back West again and up to the PNW.   It was a wonderful trip.

When we returned home to Seattle, we moved back into our house for two years and put it on the market.  After looking all around Washington and the Northeast we ended up finding a property in Missouri, a place where we could get to the top two corners quicker. We bought 4o acres and moved to Missouri in July of 2014.

Less than six months later, Jesus gave my husband a heart for our new little town, Humansville, Missouri.  He felt like he should love the community through employment.  Through a series of events we bought an inn on a busy corner just outside of town.  It has 8 rooms and a large shop.  We worked hard to renovate it and moved into the innkeepers house in April of 2015.  (The inn is all Jesus.  That is a story, in and of itself.)

In October, we were getting our front parking lot ready for some company.  We had no one staying at the inn that day.  The kids had been playing with one another, so sweetly all morning.  We had done some school work.  We had cleaned up the house.  The kids had been asked to go pick up some trash in the yard, Boston, who was four now ran out excitedly to help.  That was when the accident happened.  Jesus took Boston Home.

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There are no words to describe the horror of the next series of events.  There was an accident in our driveway.  We had a happy moments just moments before.  Life changed in less than an instant.  Tragedy.  Horror.  Life will never be the same. Ever.  We will never feel better.  I kept praying.  We kept asking Jesus to save our boy’s life, but he was already gone.

I haven’t written much about that day.  I haven’t been able to write it all out.  I can write a summary, but not details. This last year, I learned that Jesus is enough.  I learned that I cannot breathe without Him.  I learned that pain is deep and agony is a guttural cry. I learned that there is agony too deep for words and this is it.  I have no words for all of the pain.

I have wondered if I had to learn the Gospel years ago, so that I could cling to it’s Truth now, because it’s all that I have.  I have nothing else.  My husband, my children, it’s all they have too.  We have Jesus and that is enough.

So, this blog, these words that end up getting written are simply thoughts and musings that Jesus has taught me.  He has brought me out of the darkness and into the light but He has also kept us in dark, broken places, so that His light can shine brighter.  I am broken.  I am simply hoping to suffer well and that Jesus will get the glory.  He died for this.  He conquered death.  Jesus is enough until we are Home, and in the meantime while we roam this earth we will all continue to see a faint glimpse of glory.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12