From Life's First Cry to Final Breath, Jesus Commands My Destiny...
So I was gunna do Christmas cards. But then I realized I had 3 people's addresses and barely had enough time and brain space to get gifts together for my immediate family. So I thought I'd do a new years card. Then I realized I still only had 3 addresses and didn't really feel like spending 100 dollars on postage. But ALOT happened in 2011 that I feel compelled to write about. So call me cheap and lazy but here is your Christmas Card/New Years Letter. Blog style. Keepin' up with the trends.
I have seen the full spectrum of life in a very compacted amount of time. I can scarcely take it in. Thank goodness it is not my responsibility to completely untangle the mess of my heart, and I can rest knowing that Christ has me all figured out. He knows my needs, and he suplies them. 2011 started with losing my daddy to cancer. At Christmas we had no idea he even had cancer, and by mid January he was gone. His diagnosis to his passing was less than two weeks. I was also 36 weeks pregnant when my daddy died. To this day my greatest heartache is not getting to see him hold my daughter. But through these heartaches God was faithful. My dad was in pain for less than two weeks. His greatest end of life fear was wasting away in a nursing home, and he spent almost every last moment of life living it. At home, with his family. I got to say goodbye. I got to tell him the names we had picked out for our child, something no one else knew ahead of time. I got to witness him face death with confidence and peace. But this is still a painful, horrible loss. It fills you with the kind of saddness that crying does not satiate. Its such a deep pain that you cannot bear being its sole carrier. And God provided again with hundreds of calls, texts, and facebook messages pouring out sympathy, encouragement, fond memories, prayers. Meals were provided, visitors came.
My pastor's entire family (4 small children under the age of 10 in tow) came to the hospital with homemade pictures and cards and giggles and shennanigans. My aunt and uncle who happened to stop by as my father was taking his last breaths, stayed with us so we wouldn't be facing that difficult moment alone. Dear friends happened to show up moments after my dad had passed and sat on the floor with us, and cried with us, and prayed for us. An out of town friend drove in for the funeral, and followed me around making sure I ate, had a chair to sit in, and helped me get into my shoes (since I couldn't reach my feet at this point) and then had to drive several hours immediately after the service to be at a bridal shower. Later that week Justin spent time with a close friend/fellow musician. My dear husband asked our friend if he would sing to him for a while. That it would be a comfort. And he humbly replied by singing songs about the Lord being close to the brokenhearted.
In the middle of all this, our church, Sojourn Community Church was recording a album of Iassac Watts hymns. Justin and I were going to be a part of this project, but the studio time was booked the same weekend as my dad's funeral. So we had to step back. We felt dissappointed but knew there would be other records and other opportunities. However, somehow things worked out that the following week I had one last shot to sing on this record. The songs I happened to sing were about, well... death. That death for those who have a saving relationship with Christ is a victory. In this world we are subjected to sin and sickness and heartache. But God promises us there is an end. That we get to be healed. And that in the meantime he will not abandon us. So here I am, now 37 weeks pregnant, hoisting up my belly and gasping huge breaths and hoping that my baby will move off of my diaphragm so I can belt out words that my daddy is now experiencing.
"I go where God and glory shine
To one eternal day
This failing body I now resign
And the angels point my way"
"And though the hosts of death and hell
All armed against me stand
No more will terrors shake my soul
secure within your hand."
These songs were always a part of my story, because Jesus made them a part of my story when he died in my place. But they are now even more intimately entwined in my heart because of facing loss, and then recieving hope in the midst of that loss.
And then, less than two weeks later: I have a daughter. The second most life changing event of my life within weeks of the first. And this little babe, this tiny, delicate pearl somehow fills my heart up with so much joy I feel like my rib cage may explode from the pressure. A joy that is a much needed change of pace from our grief. A reminder that the Lord makes all things new. That he gives us wonderful gifts in the middle of all this brokenness. There have been many moments where I feel that deep ache of loss sneak up and just when I think I may not be able to get out of bed and function a tiny person snuggles up to my bossom, or pats my face. Even when she screamed without end during those newborn "witching hours" I felt in those moments my soul screaming LOOK! There is life!! There is an itty bitty person who's lungs are sucking in air and pushing out sound! Inside there is an itty bitty heart pumping blood through fragile veins that make tender muscles squirm! Thank you Lord. I don't want to give some romanticized picture of my motherhood. But frankly I'm just grateful for this daughter friend God has blessed me with, even if she wakes me up 17 times a night on a regular basis.
Because of where these events landed on the calendar we had a whole calendar year of firsts ahead of us. First's without Daddy, and first's with daughter. I've struggled through each of them how I am supposed to feel. My intellect tells me it is possible and acceptable to be happy and sad at the same time but when experiencing that on a practical level, frankly its a clustercuss. I've spent many hours on the phone repeatedly asking my friend who is a counselor "am I compltely crazy? am I doing some weird repression thing where if I don't feel like a basketcase at present I will eventually without warning become a homocidal maniac because I didn't process my grief with some 5 step plan I read out of a book?!?!?" And she lovingly reminds me that the gospel is not a 5 step plan, and that all I'm meant to do is to cling to Jesus during sadness and joy and anger and confusion. He has completed the work that was required to bring freedom from this MESS. There is no need to find the proverbial bootstraps to pull up. I don't even know what a bootstrap is. I've also been blessed with a community of friends who when they ask me how I am doing, dont have a mental tally of how many times I can answer "shitty" before they start to become impatient. I am eternally grateful for the people in my life who continue to step into my life and share my highs and lows and point me to truth.
2011 was intense. And these are just the highlights. We have seen job changes, financial stress, broken marriages, babies born and babies lost, friends and family suffer with chronic illness, and friends come to know the Lord we had all but given up on. I'm officially a grown up. Where's the sticker for my star chart? Oh right, I'm promised more then just a temporary accolade for "toughing it out". I'm promised eternity in the perfect home I was always meant for.
"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 eye, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:3-4
What will 2012 bring? I'm not really one for making resolutions but this year I've decided to watch lots of tv, eat junk food and snuggle as much as possible. But whatever comes, I can rest in the promises of my good and true savior, Jesus.
Look I even included a photo! This is a legit Christmas Card.