Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Broken Hallelujah

The Lord has promised good to me.  He has promised, and yet sometimes I feel so... so disappointed.

My story, the story of grace and forgiveness and hope? It's not the story I imagined.  I struggle to accept the wearisome battles I am facing.  I wrestle with the painful realities that have replaced some of my dreams.  Is that the point; reach the point of giving up? Perhaps only in my giving up, He will make something beautiful of my story.  I am weary. So weary.  Searing tears have brought me begging, "please take this, carry it for me because it's too heavy right now."

Will He gather the sharp fringes of my story, until I can bear this chapter?  My desperation to see the beauty woven with these threads runs deep. I want to believe there is loveliness beneath the turmoil.  I want to see that the salty burn of tears has watered to life something magnificent, and that the conclusion of my story will be something to cheer about.

I know He knows the story of every tear, and even in the deep raggedness of these chapters, I have not walked alone. I've seen joy and I've seen pain, and oh my weakened soul may you not forget the mountains you have stood on!  It is so easy for me to see the darkness swallow the light in the epicenter of my brokenness, but hasn't He promised:

"A bruised reed he will not break,

   and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice."

Isaiah 42:3

That's me; I am bruised, I am smoldering, and He is faithful.  He will vindicate my inmost hurts and soften the sharp points of my disappointments.  Hold on soul! Don't let go of His promises; they are true even in the murk of these hard, hard days.  Sit back, and let God be the one who writes your story. When life is filled with things you don't expect, respond with trust, worship, hope.  He wants your praise, even your broken hallelujahs.

Have you ever seen the back of a piece of cross-stitching?  It is messy! Messy and confusing and not pretty to look at.  But the front of the piece? It's beautiful, every stitch placed perfectly.  Without that messy back story, that work of art wouldn't exist.  I hope that will be true of my story; disheveled magnificence.


How do you find peace in the difficult pages of your life?



The other day I came across  this picture I hadn't seen before.  It is simply, beautiful.  My heart melted to see such a perfect freeze-frame of her little button nose and her sweet, tiny lips.  Truly a gift to this mommy's heart.

This picture though, it released a wave of  hurt so deep I sat in my closet and cried; an ugly, red-faced,  runny-nosed, swollen-eyed, hiccupy cry.  I didn't cry because she's precious, I cried because I. Am. So. Tired. Of. Missing. Her.

Her 3rd birthday this March, I really felt like I had turned a corner.  I finally felt joy, genuine joy about where she is, and really came to a place of  being happy looking forward to being with her again someday.  I felt like I could see Heavenward, past the deep wounds that had been left.  I was able to smile for all the good memories.

One step forward, three steps back.  I don't know why; I think the death of my brother brought me back to those days, the horror days of  losing her and walking empty-carseat home, folding vacant blankets, packing up hopes and dreams.

I am tired of being a bereaved mother, tired of  being told how I should and shouldn't grieve, tired of  all the things that remind me that she's gone.  I am worn by the tears always hovering beneath the surface, by the questions, and the guilt, and the sheer agony of moving on without her.

I can barely stand right now, and I'm wondering where You are, wondering when You will make beauty from these ashes. . I know you can hear my heart.  It's raw, it's exposed, and it's waiting for Your healing touch.

This broken bone, it's never going to heal right.  Please help me learn to dance with this limp.


Monday, May 26, 2014


I was asked to write a memory of my brother. . .   In the vast expanse of our lives intermingling, there seems no single recollection that could justify the deep intersections of him in my life.

Ben was often misunderstood.  Misinterpreted, misdiagnosed, misjudged. Determined to have an impact on his world, he overcame challenges, pushed past labels, and stood tall in his dreams and aspirations to be who he wanted to be.

A tough and quiet front, he was shy to speak up and flushed a cherry red when attention was on him.  Rather than launching his opinions, he often held back, reflecting deeply on what was spoken and keeping his judgement harnessed for a more intimate conversation.

He was all guy.  Video game loving, hot sauce pouring, practical joke playing, fart-laughing, animal catching fellow.  Underneath all that rough and tough though, he was one of the most tender hearts I know.  He cared so deeply, sympathized so gingerly, loved so infinitely.  He never fought to show a facade to anybody, he was real and sincere and trustworthy.

This dear brother held close many of my secrets.  He was the first I could tell that we were expecting because  I knew we could give each other secret winks across the room of those we weren't ready to tell yet.  He could give a most impressive eye roll as we giggled about the most recent frivolous family drama.    He was an extension of my heart, as I was confident he could hear my burdens, rejoice in my triumphs, and be unwaveringly supportive because no foolishness could come between us.

When distance separated us, he visited more than anyone else.  He made an effort to spend time with us whenever he could, sometimes staying for weeks. He became the favorite, silly uncle who not only snuggled them close as babies, but grew to be the most patient, funny, and "cool" uncle around. He loved a good xbox battle or Nerf war, but also wasn't afraid of dress ups and tea parties.

When my husband had to deploy and I was scared to be so far and alone, Ben sat and wrote my fears, acknowledged the unease ahead of me and the strength we would need to pull through; a poem folded into a cherished rectangle of  solace.  He worried with me and stayed available when I was overwhelmed and needed to vent my inadequacy of being a single mom for a time.

After endless months of effort and exhaustion, he was the one who celebrated with me when I finally got to pin on the badge of a paramedic.  In a crowd of no one who seemed to notice, he was proud of me, and spoke of following in my footsteps. He made me feel valuable and important.

When we stood at the gulf of my daughter's grave, his eyes spoke what his words didn't need to.  His embrace told the weight of his grief, and his gentle words laid empty consolations aside when he apologized for the self-involved, and blurted,
                          "somebody died here, can't you all get along, for funeral's sake?"
There was no ease in his words, but the fierce protection and sensitivity with which he spoke them soothed cooling over my heart wound.

Ben was the one as weeks ticked by and life moved on to remember my heart. He knew it hadn't all melted away when everyone went back home.  He called just to ask how I was, to acknowledge what was lost, and to make sure I knew in his eyes she would never be forgotten.  He dared to imagine with me what she would have been like,  and didn't fear upsetting me to speak of the things he would miss in her.

He texted all hours of the night to relay what exciting new call had brought more passion to his life as an EMT.  He wanted to hear my stories too, and in a world where it takes one to understand one, I had a soulmate, a punch line, a sounding board.  When the world showed disinterest, he admired my trade in a way that gave validation to what I believe in, and made me proud to blaze our trail.  He grinned with satisfaction when I taught him how to achieve what became our trademark; a lustrous spit-shine on toil cracked boots.

Ben didn't wear his emotions on his sleeve, he wasn't quick to blurt out his point of view, but his enduring strength and quiet compassion made him an irreplaceable friend.  Had anyone gone to Heaven before me to love on my little girl, I may have been jealous, but Ben? I could think of no company sweeter to be with her while we finish our earth days.

My words are too small to capture my brother, but my memories swell to hold every bit of him I can cling to.

It's going to be one marvelous reunion when I get there someday, and many more memories to be made.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Day for Mothers

As Mothers' Day dawns, bright flowers and sticky painted hand prints will shower the women who get to be called "Mom."  In this 24-7-365 kind of job, this day is set aside to say thanks for the late night feedings, the story-time snugglings, and the driving from here to there.  These hearts may feel tired or weary or discouraged, but the love lavished upon them from those sweet, chubby faces will give them new strength to do all that comes with the privilege of muddy footprints, Legos in foot, and piles and piles of laundry.

With all the joys that come with this Sunday, I know there are just as many hearts with wounds salted deep by the imposition of this day.  There are souls aching for mothers passed on, tears spilled over empty wombs, and pangs of grief from arms where a child last slept.

On this day of thankfulness for what God gave us in motherhood, may joy flow in each embrace of your little ones; may hope soar to each waiting cradle, and peace blanket each knee bent graveside.

Me and my Mom

You made me a mommy


Friday, May 9, 2014

Fractured Glass

I promise my life story won't always be about grief, but that's the season God has me in right now, and I'm  doing my best to learn from it and move through it.

Bad news is always a bit surreal until it sinks in.  I don't know if I quite believed my brother had died when Mark told me.

I don't remember how we got packed, only laying in a daze telling the nurses my IV needed to go faster because I needed to leave for my brother's funeral.

Then, we were there.  The familiar Kansas plains stretched on in bright sun as if everything was right in the world.  Some part of me expected I would see him, well as ever once we arrived.

  Settled at my mother's house, he never walked in to spend the evening with us like he usually did.

That's when I knew what my eyes needed to see.  I set out with my hubs to drive to Ben's house, needing to be surrounded by everything that reminded me of him.  Maybe this was all a dream and I will walk into his kitchen and see him pouring hot sauce on something, or cleaning silvery meat from a successful day's fishing trip.

It was night, and his house had a dark stillness to it. All was quiet except the usual cracking of the aged deck beneath our feet.  That's when my eyes saw it, and my heart started to believe it . . . The bookmarks of the horrible thing that brought us here.

His window smashed by the first rescuers trying to make their way to him, and once inside, the air felt thin, watery, lifeless.  There was no warm assurance that the nightmare was over.

His toil-stained caps that hung waiting  across the dining room, because what bachelor wouldn't?

The cluttered bookcase where his firefighter books slumped, tattered by his earnest ambition to one day brave the hot flames and quench to victory its fiery talons.  The pulse of his passion for fire now blood-drained, left slouching in frayed pages of blank words.

I knelt at the place where he died, arms spread wide,  an empty embrace held closed-fisted by his absence.

Walking into his bedroom it seemed he had simply hurried off to work, not gone forever.   His sheets and pillow still rumpled from a night's rest, as he wasn't expecting visitors.  For a seemingly  unending  clock face of minutes I sat soaking up the essence of him.  Looking at the strips of all that he put his life into.  So many memories, happy, joyous, tender, but still mirrored by a veil of  heartbreak.

The realness my eyes took in was stored to solidify these truths once my heart is able.  For now it has been too much.  The pictures, the music, the seeing him still and breathless rakes too deep a hurt to occupy my emotions.  I scarce can think of it because it hurts so profoundly that fears rises and unease comes crippling to shatter my soul.  There's just not time for that, I have to be solid for so much more.

There will come a day of facing it head on, of grappling with what's left and realizing what never will be.  That day I will stand strong and feel all that I feel and not run; let loose the gravel that binds heavy with my sadness.  This day however, I can't think on the pain, I have to only gratify the knowledge of his current wholeness, and acceptance, and rejoicing as he is no longer weighed down by this world.  I imagine the tenderness with which he scooped up my small daughter and held her close in the city of light, waiting for our homecoming.  My heart longs deeply for that day.

For now, days hammer on, and I still my heart-screams to focus on the ones who need me present.  Soaking up every memory made, thanking for the ordinary amazing graces that soothe the emptiness, and walking, walking stranger-like through this world that is not my home.