Sweet Eva: Miracles on Earth and in Heaven

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On this last day of Anencephaly Awareness month, we wanted to share the story of sweet Eva. Sufficient Grace Ministries Comfort Doula Kelly Gerken and SGM Remembrance Photographers: Erin Foster (maternity) and Kristi Bodey, along with the teams from Life Connection and Purposeful Gift had the privilege of walking with this family through their time waiting to meet their beautiful baby girl. Eva is so loved. She defied many of the odds, living much longer than expected…a life filled with miracles…even though it was brief. She was able to donate organs for research, as described in her mother’s brave and beautiful words below. Parents, Katie and David, were surrounded with the love and support of their family and friends, their support team, and covered in so many prayers…every step of the way. Sufficient Grace Ministries was honored to attend appointments with this family, helping with the planning process.

One of my favorite memories with Eva and her family occurred during the last moments of her life. The song Good, Good Father was playing on the computer. I sang along quietly as Eva took her last breaths while being held by her mother and father. Miraculously, her color…which had been slightly purple due to low oxygen and blood flow…changed minutes after she was taken to heaven. She was restored to a typical rosy newborn color. No one could explain Eva’s miracle. But, her family knew it was just another gift from their heavenly Father…a reassurance that she is perfect in heaven and that they would meet her again one day.

The beauty, courage, love, and faith Katie and David share shines in their eyes and in the telling of their story. It was an honor to watch them walk this path with beauty and grace…the sweetest beauty…even in the broken.

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Let me tell you about my daughter…

by Katie Yankee

Let me tell you about my daughter…

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva I would tell you that she was a fighter. She fought the odds. She proved everyone wrong. She fought to give us almost 6 hours with her.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva I would tell you that she was strong. Just when we thought she had taken her last breath, she took another.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you she was strong-willed. She was sassy.  She knew what she liked and what she didn’t like and she wasn’t afraid to let us know.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you that she was beautiful. She had the most perfect little lips.  Even amongst great pain, even amongst the ashes, she brought us beauty.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you that she was a miracle. Her skin lightened just seconds after she had passed into Jesus’ arms, something no doctors could explain.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you that she was light in the midst of darkness. She showed us that there can be joy in the midst of great sorrow.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you she was a hero. She donated 6 organs for research, to help improve the lives of others.

 

Many people said that I did something special because I chose to give Eva life even when I knew she would die. But let me tell you something about my daughter… It was Eva who gave me life. It was Eva who taught me to treasure each moment, to protect the ones you love fiercely. She taught me to fight. She taught me to be brave. She taught me to live with no regrets. She showed me that there’s a strength in me… Not because I’ve done anything special, but because He died for me.  That strength comes from Jesus.

 

Let me tell you something about my Jesus.. He holds a piece of my heart in His hands and her name is Eva.

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Don’t Cry for Me

Written by Kevin Park (Eva’s Grandpa) from the perspective of Eva Kathryn Yankee

Don’t cry for me Mommy, I am happy and blessed.. Jesus called me home and my soul is at rest.

Don’t cry for me Mommy, you and Daddy gave me life. Five hours and forty-two minutes was a miracle, and there is no strife.

Don’t cry for me Mommy, they said I would not breathe. But I breathed and I cried and I held Grandpa’s finger, and because you asked- Our Father let me linger!

Don’t cry for me Mommy, my body is perfect.  My cry used to be hoarse, but now I sing with a big voice, of course.

Don’t cry for me Mommy, I am running in a field.  My bare feet are squishy in deep heavenly clover, and then I see Jesus and He just called out to me, “Eva Kate, come on over!”

Don’t cry for me Mommy, I am sitting on Jesus’ lap.  Everyone is belly laughing because Jesus just began to rap.

Don’t cry for me Mommy, Jesus is telling me a story.  When I was in your tummy, He whispered into your ear.  He said my name means life and He helped to take away your fears.

Don’t cry for me Daddy, daily ice cream here.  Blizzards in heaven have more chocolate and whipped cream.  I know yours are good Daddy, but ours are like a dream!

Don’t cry for me Daddy, I know you would like it here.  The wine is so sweet and the deer are all running.  The does are very fast and the bucks have racks that are stunning.

Don’t cry for me Grandmas and Grandpas, I know you held me tight.  You loved me so hard and you helped me fight. Your prayers and your faith helped me see the light.

Don’t cry for me Kelly, you helped my mommy so much!  Especially your love and dedication, your faith, your smiles, and your touch.

Don’t cry for me friends and family today, because although my life was not long, our God was glorified and Mommy and Daddy’s faith was so strong.

Don’t cry for me anyone when you think of me today, for I am with my Savior and friend Jesus who said I am a keeper and he asked me to stay.  God the Father and the Holy Spirit, too, have given me the chance to laugh and play and do a heavenly dance.

There is no reason to cry and no reason to mourn, for I was so blessed since the day I was born.

My Mommy and Daddy are forever blessed for their commitment to life and our Savior- passed the test.

My life is recorded in history today!  Eva Kathryn is my name and I came to say: My life gave my Mommy and my Daddy and family a chance to profess their faith and think about the eternal dance.

Heaven is a place that you could not describe until you knew me and could see where I was going.  So don’t cry for me today, because now you know what I am knowing.  That our faith and our love of our God helps our minds to see the showing.  The angels and the cherubim are dancing and singing and I am dancing and singing too, and my dress is glowing.

I love you Mommy and Daddy.  You are so awesome and your faith is so strong.  But don’t cry for me- for I will see you again soon, I promise you it won’t be very long!

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“You’ll Miss Me,” she said.

“You’ll miss me,” she said.

I shrugged and made some smart remark. The kind kids make to their moms. Avoiding. No way was she going to make me “feel”.

And, no way would I admit it if I did.

My son does the same thing to me. Pride runs deep in this blood.

“We have to talk about it sometime…the big elephant in the room. You will miss me so much when I’m gone…you don’t know. The doctor said I have to prepare you.”

We never stop mothering.

“Mom, I’m not talking about it. I’ll deal with it when I have to. That’s how I’m coping. I know it’s happening. I don’t need to talk about it. You’re alive now…so enough of this. Now, let’s go shopping or something.”

Oh, pride…how big and strong you are. How mighty and wise. You don’t need anyone.

Only, pride wasn’t so mighty when death came calling. Oh, how she tumbled, as I crawled into the bed beside my tiny giant of a mother, the one I rarely hugged in this life, and cradled her in my arms like a baby, stroking her hair and singing soothing hymns. Singing the fear away. It’s funny the things that disappear when death comes calling.

Nothing remains…but love.

What you think is so big right now, in life, in the pride of it all….it won’t matter in death’s shadow. That’s the one beauty in the darkness. The stark, incredible beauty of being stripped of everything….except the love. The love remains.

Years of broken promises and not enough lay crumbled in the corner. Pride…she falls first. And, you know what they say about the bigger they are, right? Grudges, hurts, anger…none of it can stand in the face of death.

And the missing…

There is nothing like the desperate longing for another person that cannot be satisfied this side of heaven. The realization that I could search the entire earth and never find her overwhelms my psyche. Overwhelms isn’t even big enough to describe it. There isn’t a word to express it. So intertwined we were, she and I. Six years later, I remain stunned that I seriously have to continue living on planet earth without her. Sometimes, I’m 8 years old….and I don’t know how.

Mom…you have no idea.

I’m glad she never knew this level of missing. The thing is…even if your mom makes you crazy. Even if pride stands ugly between you, smug in it’s victory….life is different, as long as she’s here.

And, I am left here, without pride’s thin layer of protection. No longer captive under the façade. All the raw reality of my love and longing for her is exposed, released in a flood, and there is nothing I can do to hide the truth of it. No mask.

Sure, life goes along. And, then…it washes over me. In the moments. The times when a girl, no matter how old she is, just needs her mom. Some things you can only trust your mother with…and how…how do you face the unspeakable things, the woman things, the deep, sacred things….

Without her.

How?

I know the right answers. And, His Word will forever be my soothing balm. I know about dwelling in the shelter of His wings. I’m there…even in my broken, crazy missing. Still, even as He carries me, this ache remains…until heaven’s reunion. As it should…because we weren’t created for goodbyes like this. This earth, in it’s current state…this is not our home. This is not what our loving Father intended for us.

Oh, Mom, I miss you with a consuming missing.

And, you know what…it doesn’t even bother me to picture her smiling, just a little…with the knowledge that she was right.

 

Life Without Numbness and What Strong Really Looks Like

I’ve been on this journey of learning to love with abandon for a while now.

God has impressed on my heart this past year or two…the importance of freedom…in the giving of our heart…in the grace we offer. The importance of tearing down the walls we build to protect ourselves. Taking off the masks…being real.

I grew up with women who had been beaten and bloodied by this life enough that they had learned to numb the hurt with a tough exterior. My mother rarely cried in front of us. I’m not sure if I can recall seeing a tear fall from her hazel eyes. She wasn’t huggy and didn’t shower with compliments. She was beautiful and strong. I watched her stand with resolve when husbands and fathers walked away. She must have had emotion….must have been afraid. Must have felt some grief over the shattered dreams. But, I never saw it.

I love my mother very much. And, there were many amazing qualities she displayed…qualities that I longed to emulate. But, I never wanted to be tough like that. I remember as a young girl thinking that I had to keep my heart soft and vulnerable. I would counteract what I saw, with the idea that it was ok to cry…to feel deeply. I used to think that was the key to really experiencing love….to feel it all fully…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

My mother was often appalled by what she viewed as weakness in me. I could cry easy and was often willing to give my whole heart. Even though it was soon trampled the way hearts get trampled when broken people offer them up to other broken people. Part of loving is getting your heart broken, after all. It’s inevitable.

I always wanted to believe in people….to think the good was possible. She thought I was a fool. Sometimes she was right. Sometimes, my heart was left beaten and bloodied. And, she would shake her head in disgust at my determination to feel anyway. I was never good at shutting off. Some people can. Some people can just turn off their hearts and walk away when the hurt is too much. I was never very good at that.

I tried to pretend that I was able to do it, sometimes. But, in reality, before I knew Jesus, I just started to use things to numb the pain a little….when the hurt was too much. I’ve never been good at leaving or being left. Not one to walk away once I give my heart to another….or to take it back…ever. Even if the broken pieces are being flung at me, my offering rejected. Maybe that’s weakness. Maybe it’s foolishness. Being so vulnerable.

The first time I stood by the grave of my babies, I remember thinking, “Now that I’m His, there’s nothing I can do to numb this.” Yes, I did. I’ve thought it a couple times when grief was so intense, and I was desperate for escape. I thought for a moment that I really would like to be able to numb it…to shut it off. To be tough enough to cover it. To drink it away. Eat enough comfort food to make it better. Drown the relentless sea somehow. I didn’t do it, because I’m His, but the brief, fleeting thoughts crept in, when I was vulnerable. Dinah would call that kind of thinking….putting on our “graveclothes” or what the bible refers to as “a dog returning to his vomit”. The temptation to do the things we used to do, when the pain of life was too much.

So, instead of looking to numb it, I felt every inch of it. And, laid my broken pieces at His feet. The world might call that weak, but let me tell you something. There is nothing weak about having your heart slayed again and again with nothing to numb the pain. Feeling every inch. Facing it…and carrying it with a limp to the cross. And, the thing is….that’s the only way true healing can come. To feel every inch and to allow the Lord to put your broken pieces back together again. There is no easy escape…the only way out, is to walk through it. He can make the burden lighter, and promises to restore you. But, He didn’t promise the path  to healing won’t hurt.

On the day of Thomas’ funeral visitation, my mother walked up to me, and asked if she could hug me. We had been distant, and I stood stoic, beside the body of my son. It was one of the brief times in my life, I was allowed some relief of numbness. Perhaps God knew I wouldn’t be able to stand there without it. I hugged her, and she said, “I always thought you were weak. Now I know, I was wrong. I have never seen such strength.”

I still don’t think she got it. Not then. (Eventually, she did, though!) And, I often recoil when people talk to me about being strong. I’m not, and I don’t want or need to be. “His strength is made perfect through my weakness.” And, I’d rather have His strength any day of the week, than some numbing coping mechanism, some mask that covers what’s real.

Grief comes in all forms. It doesn’t just happen beside the grave. It happens when we give our hearts to someone and they disappoint us or hurt us, or reject our humble offering in some way. Broken people do that. We are all just broken messes doing the best we can with these pieces, hoping that God would will make something beautiful out of the mess. If you’re wondering how this journey of loving with abandon is going, I’ll tell you….it isn’t all happiness and sunshine. Sometimes, I get in the way, and fail to just be the vessel of His love. Sometimes I get hurt, and disappointed. Sometimes I wonder about this crazy idea to be vulnerable, to embrace others, to give so much of me. Then I remember, true love is about dying to self. So, if it means a little more brokenness, I will just lean into Him. It takes courage and strength to love fully….to give the sacred places of our hearts to another. But, it is still worth the risk…even when hearts lay in pieces. Love is still the only thing we take with us to heaven. And, He can give us courage to pick up our pieces and go back in. That, my friends, is the opposite of weak.

Our Trip to Chicago and My Dad

This weekend, I drove to Chicago. Alone with my boys.

If you know me in real life, you realize what a crazy big deal that is. I don’t even like to drive on the highway an hour away! So, six hours on the turnpike, without Tim…now that’s something! (Tim had work obligations, and couldn’t join us.) But, I did it…and we survived. Sometimes you have to just pray, trust, and leap! I remember one of the lessons that hit home when my mother was battling cancer had to do with the song I Hope You Dance. The words: Whenever you have the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance were a message for me years ago. So, this weekend, I danced, driving to see my father’s house for the first time, also to see my brother for the first time in close to a decade, and to meet with the ladies from The Haven Network. I’ll be posting later this week about my visit to The Haven Network, as well as doing a special Chicago-style Traveling Food Fest. So stay tuned!

Tonight as I write this post, emotions and thoughts of family and ministry happenings tumbling around in my mind, I’m not sure where to begin.

Thursday, we left in the morning, beginning the six hour drive to the Chicago area. We stopped in South Bend, Indiana, to see Notre Dame, (Timothy’s favorite college football team). He has always loved the movie Rudy, and it remains his favorite. After our visit, I have a hankering to watch some Rudy myself!

And, yes, James is wearing an Ohio State jersey on the Notre Dame campus! =)
We had lunch at the Legends of Notre Dame restaurant. A really cool place, if you’re a Notre Dame fan.
We lingered for a couple hours, soaking in the architecture and the atmosphere, snapping pictures, and browsing the bookstore.
We arrived in Geneva a couple hours behind schedule, spent a moment freshening up in my dad’s office located on the second floor of a historical red house with yellow trim, and took the short walk to the train station, through the kind of neighborhood you would read about in a book about a summer romance in a quaint town on the lake.. Much to James’ delight, we boarded the train for the hour ride to Chicago.

Downtown Chicago
At Navy Pier

I hear they dye this river green on St. Patty’s Day. Wouldn’t it be fun to see that?

My Dad, smoking his pipe, walking through Chicago. He has smoked a pipe for as long as I can remember.

The boys and I with my Dad…

After our Chicago visit, we drove to my father’s home in Rockford, Illinois. We spent the next few days meeting friends, neighbors, and my dad’s wife, Carol’s side of the family.
This is my handsome brother Colin. On Friday night, we rode with my dad to Milwaukee to pick him up at the airport.

During my visit, we flipped through photo albums filled with pictures I had never seen before.  Like this one of my dad holding me as a baby. I love this one, because he is wearing a fisherman’s sweater. Fisherman sweaters always remind me of my Irish dad.
And this one…both of us so young. 
And my grandparents, who both passed away years ago. 

As I turned the pages of the albums, I reflected on the memories. And, the mystery of time and love…of roots and connections and family. We love the best we can. We do the best we can, being the flawed vessels that we are. God is teaching me about love, gently and patiently…freeing, grace-filled love. Have you ever considered that it is no accident the people God places in our lives? Whoever they are and however they stumbled into our lives, we have the opportunity to love them.
The family we know well, the family we know little of, the friends we share laughter and tears with, our neighbors, even those that drive us crazy and push all of our buttons. Even fleeting meetings with random strangers. Every encounter we have is an opportunity to show love and grace to another soul. What if we lived that way? 
He is teaching me. And, I’m trying to learn…slowly and clumsily, like flawed vessels do.

Unlikely Blooms ~ Enduring Love

A couple weeks ago, Timothy and I spent the morning with my friend Dawn and her husband Steven, from Marshall Photography. We stood on the golf course as he swung with natural rhythm and posed every once in awhile. Later, we walked down alleys in the midst of midday downtown busyness…alleys with stories untold and chipped paint from years of standing silent. Tim played his guitar as Dawn’s camera clicked away, and I stood in awe that my oldest son has grown into a man that can create such beauty as his fingers glide across guitar strings. I was glad he couldn’t see my eyes filling with tears under my  big brown leopard-print sunglasses. 
But more on all that later. 
Right now, I wanted to talk about the picture at the top of this post. I snapped it when we were walking down one of the time-worn alleys. God often works in themes, as I’ve mentioned before. And the lovely white petunia sprouting up from the concrete-covered ground, against the brick building reminded me of one of those recent themes He has been revealing to my heart. 
The kind of love that suffers long and is kind. The kind of love that never fails. The dying to yourself, laying it all down kind of love. The kind of love that always hopes, always endures. The kind of love that is full of gentleness, yet strong and determined enough to push up through concrete and bloom, shining forth beauty and life where there was none.
I have spent some time at the bedside of those in the twilight hours of their earthly lives, watching the valley of the shadow of death pass over. And, there is one thing that is certain. 
All that matters in that moment, is the love we share. 
It isn’t the running to and fro, the fretting over schedules and bills, the daily tasks of keeping order, the petty things that drive us crazy, the gray hairs and extra padding  we carry around, the way we are perceived by others, our successes, our failures, our careers or lack of. It isn’t a decision weighing on our minds, our checkbook balances, our last names, our abilities, or the size of our waistline. It isn’t even the hurts or the arguments. It isn’t the words we can’t take back or those we left unsaid. 
All that matters…all that remains when we lie stripped of all earthly glory and gray from death’s shadow…all that matters is love. 
Nitty gritty, soul laid bare…love. 
Every circumstance in life, no matter how crooked and

 distorted and ugly it appears to be, if it is reacted to in love

 and forgiveness and obedience to Your (God’s) will can be 

transformed….” 

From the book: Hinds’ Feet on High Places.


That’s the kind of love that God wants from us. The kind that blooms despite impossible odds. Transforming, 
redeeming, life-giving, grace-filled love. 

The way that He loves us…the kind of love that never stops and never gives up. The kind of love that covers a 
multitude of wrongs. The kind of love that means we are never separated from Him.

Because of His love, I am like that petunia, growing against all odds in a place I never should have grown. 
The impossible, made possible. Blooming when I should have shriveled and died.
 Living instead. Thriving even. 
Many of you are like that petunia, as well. 
Because of His great, life-giving love.

And, since love is all that matters…

I will be driving to Chicago later this week, with my kids (Tim has to work) to see my father. It has been a few years since we’ve seen him, and I have never been to his house. While I am, in general, a big chicken when it comes to driving, I made a promise to Tim, myself, our boys, and most of all to the Lord that I would not let another summer pass without making the trip. So, even though Tim is unable to join us due to work demands, after much prayer, we have decided to take a leap and go. After all, God has not given us a spirit of fear! I will also be taking some time to meet with the amazing staff from The Haven Network while we’re there. Please keep our travel and the meeting in prayer! 

Hinds’ Feet on High Places (Giveaway)…And Some Precious God-Whispers of Truth

CONTEST CLOSED: WINNERS TO BE ANNOUNCED SOON!

Many of you have probably heard of the classic, Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. Dinah always wanted me to read it. We would chat for hours about the spiritual lessons that God was teaching us and the mysterious ways that he would weave His truth and grace into the tapestry of our lives.

When I talked of the ways that God brings beauty from suffering and restoration out of brokenness, strength from weakness, and grace that is always sufficient…as I walked through grief and pain and found sweet healing, Dinah would say: “You really need to read Hinds’ Feet on High Places”.

Dinah went home to heaven this past February, and a month or two or three (I’m not really good with time these days) later, when I was in the thick of “the missing”, my friend Joyce handed me the book. (Joyce is also one of our faithful, hard-working Comfort Bear ladies.) O.K….o.k., I conceded. Obviously this is a book God wanted me to read! I could just picture Dinah nudging the Lord…”Tell Joyce to have Kelly read this book…she really needs to read it.” Now I’m not sure if that’s how it works in heaven, but down here on Earth, Dinah’s constant suggestions and persistence were quite effective. I wouldn’t put it past her, that’s for sure.

Anyway, I started to read the book, and sat astounded at the parallels in my Christian walk as I related to little Much-Afraid with all of her flaws and weaknesses as she struggled to resist her Fearful relatives. Some of the truths that spoke to my heart in this book are the very truths God has revealed to me over the years, as I walked my own path toward the high places, resisting the tools of The Enemy, desperate to know the kind of love that never leaves, embarking on the journey holding the Shepherd’s hand, learning about acceptance with joy in my own desolate Valley of Loss, embracing the surrender that comes from having Sorrow and Suffering (who later became Peace and Joy) as companions, realizing that such journeys lead to the transformation from Much-Afraid to Grace and Glory.

All of the truths I have clung to and battled deception with…the very truths I have claimed as my own…truths that defined my walk over the past seventeen years of clinging to God… painted in word pictures by a woman years ago. Even the place I am in now of learning about the love that lays it all down…it’s in there. I thought how silly to think that it is just my walk she is describing, even as the words resonated with my inner core. This is the walk for all who choose to follow Him. Our paths may not look exactly the same, but the truths…the lessons…are all the same. This is one of the most beautiful and perfect descriptions I have read of the ways God works in our lives. Of course, I’m sure it only scratches the surface of His deep mysterious ways.

I just want to share an excerpt that depicts the essence of the lessons that God has taught and is teaching me. I have spoken of this same truth over the course of my life, but never as eloquently or perfectly as the author shares in this incredible book:

“First,” said she, “I learnt that I must accept with joy all that You allowed to happen to me on the way and everything to which the path led me! That I was never to try to evade it but to accept it and lay down my own will on the altar and say, “Behold me I am Thy handmaiden Acceptance-with-Joy.”


“Then I learnt that I must bear all that others were allowed to do against me and to forgive with no trace of bitterness and to say to Thee, ‘Behold me – I am Thy little handmaiden Bearing-with-Love’, that I may receive  power to bring good out of this evil.”


“The third thing that I learnt was that You, my Lord, never regarded me as I actually was, lame and weak and crooked and cowardly. You saw me as I would be when you brought me to the High Places, when it could be truly said, ‘There is none that walks with such queenly ease, nor with such grace, as she.’
…”My Lord, I cannot tell You how greatly I want to regard others in the same way.”

O.K….I just have to interrupt Much-Afraid’s commentary for a moment and say…Do you realize that is the very essence of what God wants for us…to love others and see others as He does? He doesn’t want us to look on them the way they are…but the way they will be when they are made perfect one day in heaven’s glory, without the muck and sin in this world. Oh Lord, put that love into our hearts. O.K….back to Much-Afraid and what she learned. (Even though the author likes to say “learnt”, which I must admit pains me to type.)

“The fourth thing,” said she with a radiant face, “was really the first I learnt up here. Every circumstance in life, no matter how crooked and distorted and ugly it appears to be, if it is reacted to in love and forgiveness and obedience to Your will can be transformed….”


It may seem like I gave the most precious nuggets of this book away, but believe me when I say that you must take the entire journey of reading this book to fully grasp it’s meaning…to fully experience the truth God is whispering about this journey.

For this is the story of every Christian’s journey…the one we are meant to walk. The love God pours into our lives is meant to overflow into the lives of those around us. And, everything we experience has a purpose in leading us to being the person He created us to be.

Thank you, Dinah and thank you Joyce for sharing this book with me. I’m sure I should have read it years ago, but I was busy living it. I have ordered a few copies to share with others, because it really is a precious picture of the way God works in our hearts to transform us. Truly one of the best books I’ve ever read…and that’s saying a lot!

So, of course, I want to give a few copies of this treasure away on this post. Just leave a comment to enter.


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In other news…for those praying for Tug, there is a VERY important update at the bottom of this post….click over and join us in rejoicing for all God is doing. And, please keep praying as the journey isn’t over!! Thank you so much!

The Kind of Love that Lays it All Down…

God often works in themes when He’s teaching us something. At least that is my experience. Lately, His theme with me has included addressing old wounds…revealing neglected hurts…and allowing Him to heal the oozing mess inside. The path to healing isn’t exactly what I expected. As with most of God’s ways, it doesn’t make sense by the world’s wisdom standards. But, spiritually…it makes perfect sense.

The path to healing involves learning to lay it all down…

Last week, I opened James’ Great Adventure Bible for his bedtime devotion, and I was promptly smacked right between the eyes with this…

Love Passage for Kids

If I can speak beautifully and sing like an angel, but don’t love others, I sound like a child banging on a piano or a screeching radio. If I’m very smart – almost a genius - but don’t love others. I am nothing.

Love will stand in line and wait its turn.

Love looks for the good in others.

Love doesn’t always want what others have, and it doesn’t brag about what it does have.

Love is polite, even when the other person is rude.

Love doesn’t have to be first.

Love doesn’t get angry over small things, and it doesn’t remember one reason after another to be hurt.

Love isn’t happy when someone else fails but is happy with the truth.

Love will always protect others, especially those who are often picked on or teased.

Love always believes the best about others and is steady and true.

Love never gives up.

The three most important things to have are faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
~ I Corinthians 13

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not really a grudge-keeper. Frankly, there just isn’t room for all the heavy, nor energy to keep myself feeling hurt and angry. I never thought that the verse about keeping a record of wrongs was about me. Until I read the children’s version of the chapter. While teaching James, I was being taught…as is usually the case.

A pastor once said that we can measure whether we are truly loving others by inserting our own name in place of  the word love in each verse. James and I inserted our names and felt the conviction set in, groaning a little after each one. I ended the lesson with the truth that we can never love others this way in our own power. We will always fall short, and we need the Holy Spirit to teach us to love…to love others through us.

The words: 
Love doesn’t get angry over small things, and it doesn’t remember one reason after another to be hurt.

Love looks for the good in others….

Love believes the best about others…

…ran through my head as I pictured the few people in my life I’ve struggled to love. If you asked me, I’d say, “Sure, I love that person.” But, when I measure my behavior against God’s word, I have to admit, I have failed. I have failed to always find the good. I don’t often get angry over small things…but what about the bigger things? The things that leave wounds that run deep? I thought of how I have allowed certain hurts to run through my mind over and over, pushing out my love for the person. Replaying hurts, clinging to them, instead of to the Lord….that isn’t love. Love looks for the good in others…believes the best…always protects.

Love…lays it all down. The expectations we have, the disappointments, the hurts. Love lays it all down. What if we loved like that? What if we looked at our family…our friends…our loved ones and really laid it all down at the feet of Jesus? What if we embraced the relative at every gathering that drinks too much and says inappropriate things? What if we reached out in genuine love to the one who caused our festering wounds? What if we released them and most of all ourselves from the grip of unforgiveness? What if we lay down our expectations of what a mother, father, child, sister, brother, husband, friend, aunt, uncle, or grandparent should do, be, or say…and just enjoy the person before us…just as they are? What if we closed our eyes to the things that annoy and disappoint us…and even the things that are meant to hurt us intentionally? What if we could carry those hurts to the feet of Jesus and leave them there?

We can, you know…

It isn’t easy…and it hurts. But, we can lay it all down. And, how free and light we will be when we do.  I’m learning…and trying…and sometimes failing and falling. But, while I’m weak…He is strong. Through my brokenness, He will bring healing and restoration. For now, my (sometimes difficult) prayer is that God will give me eyes to see those before me as He does…that He will enable me to love the person before me. To lay it all down, and allow His grace and love to pour over us.

I used to want to protect my children from the ways others can disappoint them. I wanted to keep them from every imperfection in others…from every poor influence. I have realized along the way that I was wrong. While I still believe children should be protected to some extent from certain influences and we should guard what their eyes see and what their ears hear, I no longer believe they can be sheltered from being around people who may let them down. It’s not possible, and it’s not teaching love. How will others know the love of Jesus if we hide our light under a bushel? Sometimes, we have to venture into the dark in order to shine our light.

Man…I don’t want to miss it. One of my favorite things He does is to make something beautiful out of so much ugly…to restore the broken…to save the lost…to transform a life. I don’t want to miss out on that…so I’m praying and one baby step at a time, with His help, learning to love with abandon. (O.K…so I’m learning slowwwwwly…but He’s not finished with me yet!)

Love to all…

Snapshots of Love

                                                       What Love Really Means

Giveaway is now closed…winners have been announced!

I am joining with Mattie and several other sweet bloggy-friends to share What Love Really Means during the month of February. I must say, this post has been tugging at my heart, hanging over my head, and nagging on my mind since I agreed to write it. Love is such a vast topic, and we, with our finite, human minds are so inadequate to describe such a glorious mystery. I know I cannot share the depths of all that love really is in this little post. So, I will share but a piece of what love has come to mean to me. Snapshots of love God has bestowed on our lives and a few of love’s many languages spoken into our hearts.

The greatest love story ever told, is of course, the story of Jesus, coming to redeem and save His broken people. The greatest earthly love story I’ve ever known is my own, or rather, it is the story of the love He has woven between us.

Some snapshots of our love…

Laughter…

That’s the first love language Tim spoke to me. He made me laugh like no one ever has, and he did it in the midst of such teenage angst and brokenness. That laughter was music to my soul and a healing balm to all my broken places. He stole my heart with his quick-witted humor and chocolate brown eyes. There was an honest purity in those eyes. I trusted him.

Steadfast…

I was a spitfire. My own storm. A huge pain in the neck. (Sometimes I still am.) And, he stood firm in the midst of my fury and passion. I close my eyes and remember a shouting match that was mostly me shouting and spewing forth too many words, and him standing steadfast. He knocked on the door I had just slammed in his face, and thrust a tiny diamond in front of me, asking me to marry him, with a sheepish grin, while I still seethed with ugliness. The beginning of a life filled with moments of imperfection covered by grace, I said “yes”, and slipped the dainty ring on my finger.

Doing the Hard Things…

The Ashes…

Working, going to school, staying when others would have walked away…
Sitting by Timothy’s hospital bed, laying down his own plans…choosing us…
Scraping by on minimum wage…
Hanging on by a thread, two clueless young hearts trying to be grown-ups before our time in a tiny one bedroom apartment with a baby bouncing in the crib….
Me on my knees, surrendering at the foot of the cross, and him breathing in the black air of the factory and studying government…
Stolen moments of laughter in a foreign place of sorrow through the fresh heaviness of grief, laughter that only he could deliver as my arms ached for the girls I held for moments in my arms, but forever in my heart…
Standing by the grave of our only daughters on a cold November day, coaxing me to leave with his words of reassurance…
Him, going to work still freshly broken and coming home to me, collapsing in his arms in a puddle of grief and emptiness…
Trying again…an attempt to fill the emptiness…
His face, drained of color and the agony gripping my heart when we heard the words “incompatible with life”.
Driving home in the rain…
Another tiny coffin, this time lined in blue…
Weeping together…
Me, on my knees again at the feet of Jesus…
Abiding, remaining, loving through the hard. Letting God love through me, when I was too weak.

Redemption and Grace…

The Beauty…

A sweet miracle and the sound of our newborn baby’s cry…the sweetest sound…
Coming home…
His hands, calloused from hard work, folded in prayer on Sunday morning.
Him, standing in the food line, dressed in his suit on the day we buried my mother, carrying our plates, thinking when my brain stopped…
The guitar music that fills our house…
The sound of my voice blending with his guitar, lifted in worship…becoming one.
The teasing from our boys as they learn the love language of their father…just make her laugh, and everything will be o.k.
Me…the sucker for a good laugh. The three of them, all wearing a satisfied grin.
Riding home from the golf course in the truck beside him with the windows down, inhaling the sweetness of summer, with my hair blowing free and Need to Breathe turned up on the radio…

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Love is in all of those things…in the good, the bad, and the ugly of life. It’s in the laughter and the tears, the exciting and the mundane. It holds you beside the grave and laughs with you in the back yard. It stays when the world leaves….when all you want to do is run away…it stays to do hard. Determined, steadfast, true. Giving when you’re empty. In the weeping, in the laughing, in the music of it all…love remains.

I am in awe of God’s love. Continually in awe, as I watch Him weave this beautiful tapestry through our lives. His abiding love has carried us through laughter and tears, and continues to cover us with mercies…new every morning. I pray you know that kind of love. If you don’t, start looking for it…in the everyday. In the hard things, in the little things, in the beauty of the world around you. Ask God to show Himself and His love to you. Ask Him to fill your heart with His love for those around you. That’s a prayer He is just waiting to answer.

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. ~ Ephesians 3:14-19

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A Little More on Love Languages…

When I was a young wife and mother, some wise women from the church began to mentor me shortly after I gave my life to Jesus. They taught me about honoring my husband and training my children, and keeping my home. But, one of the most valuable lessons was to learn to be a student of my husband. To learn how to speak his love language. While Tim, in his manly-manness, differs quite a bit in what makes his heart skip a beat from what makes my heart flutter in my girly-girlyness….we have found a common ground in laughing together. Laughter and teasing were love languages spoken in both our homes, growing up…and that is a heritage we have passed on to our children.

Sure, sometimes I wouldn’t mind a little sappiness. And, Tim…being a student of his wife’s love language has learned that, and occasionally obliges. (I must urgently interject here, though, that it is important to keep your focus OFF the idea that your husband should be a student of you, learning to speak your love language. Instead, keep your focus on learning his. Many times, he will follow suit, but that should never be your goal or focus. Love always yields. Don’t worry about what you will get back. Love gives without expectations.) In general, my boys show love by teasing me or getting me to laugh. They probably would never say anything this sappy, but I imagine my laughter is music to them, like their guitar playing is to me. They don’t say things like that with words, but with the satisfied grins on their faces once they hear the coveted laugh.

The other simple thing I’ve learned about loving my boys…and I believe this is almost universal for boys of all ages…is to listen and take interest in their stories. They love to tell their stories, and make us laugh. It is a great compliment to you, if they are willing to share. So, accept that as a gift of love…even if it’s a story about how they beat the next level on the Star Wars game or the crazy thing Jimmy did in science class today.

For more about Loving Your Husband in His Language, click here.

Giveaway!

In honor of love and marriage and all the good stuff God gives us in both, I would like to give away two CDs…one to each winner. One is Beauty Will Rise by Stephen Curtis Chapman….because he and Mary Beth have shared a beautiful love story, with God’s grace woven throughout. And JJ Heller’s When I’m With You, because I love her…and I love that she and her husband make beautiful, God-honoring music together. Plus, there’s a song on the CD called, What Love Really Means…which seems quite fitting! To enter, leave a comment on this post telling me which CD you would like. You can also share a snapshot of love in your own life…or share a bit of your own love language if you want. Or not. We like grace here! =)

A Love Letter From My Father

My friend Dinah left this on my porch on the week of my birthday. The scriptures blew me away. It is a love letter from my Father. The very thing I needed. The thing my heart longs for. I hope you can read it, because it is a love letter from your Father to you, as well. You can click on the photo to enlarge it if it helps to read it.

Before I really knew the One I serve, my heart was desperate to know that I was loved. I was never really secure in that knowledge…never certain that I was loved, worthy, or had value when I was younger. I think people often have preconceived notions about God based on our own experiences in human relationships. When the tough stuff comes our way, we often revert back to those preconceived notions.

There’s a great book that talks about this called The Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free. This post would be so much better if I could find the book and insert some quotes from it. But, alas, I am confined to this dungeon/basement of mine, working on digging my way out of the piles of disorganization that I have allowed to manifest here. And, I haven’t yet reached the place where that treasure of a book lies in wait. Please take my word for it, though. This book is worth your time.

One of the lies talks about feeling forsaken. I have shared here more than once that is the place I have gone in moments of great sorrow. That is the lie that has been whispered to me in the darkness over the years. “God is able…His love is amazing. But it’s not for you. You didn’t measure up. He has turned from you…forsaken you. He left you.” I won’t get into the reasons behind the fact that this particular lie was so effective for me. That is the lie that I battled before kneeling before my Lord to surrender my life to Him. It’s the lie that threatened when Faith and Grace left this earth. The lie mocking me on that rainy day when we heard the words that our Thomas was “incompatible with life.” It was the same lie as I stood watching my mother suffer greatly and die slowly and painfully. “What if He doesn’t come? What if He leaves us here?” I believed His promises, but I have struggled at times with wondering if they were for me.

God’s truth has squelched the lies of the enemy each time he has roared his ugly lion roar. And He has given me victory in many ways over that weak place of doubt and fear deep inside my heart. He has brought me such a long way, into a place of confidence in His love and in the person He has created me to be. A place of surrender to His will for my life. A place where I can rest in the promise of His love and the sufficiency of the grace He provides. Recently, I’ve learned that there are still some soft spots that haven’t been healed. Still places of brokenness that He wants to restore. He has more to teach me about the depth of His love…the love I still long to know more of.

So, this love letter…from my Father…touched my heart more than I can say. I hope it touches yours as well…and I hope you are able to read it. You are His child…He loves you beyond reason…He delights over you with singing. You are precious to Him. And so am I.

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ~ Ephesians 3:16-19