My fellow blogger and friend, Shelly, recently wrote, “If you want to make God laugh, just tell Him all about your plans for your life.” HA! Isn’t that so true?
Eric is a big planner. Ever so often he’ll try to get me to sit down and think through short-term and long-term goals for our family. I think I’d rather have a stomach bug… seriously. But I can guarantee that neither one of us ever planned to be parenting a brain-injured child. Never. But mysteriously, God had it planned for us all along.
Looking back, I can see very specific ways God led our family to prepare us both financially and spiritually before that fatal April day.
A few months before the accident, I remember being struck with a deep gratitude by how extraordinarily good our lives were. Eric’s job was going exceptionally well. I was serving in our church in a deeply satisfying way. Anne had turned a corner on all her hyper-sensitivity issues and for the first time EVER – all three kids were thriving (at the same time ;-). We were surrounded by a tight community of friends from both church and the community. Every aspect of our lives… was good. I remember praying with Canon one night – thanking God for all the goodness in our lives and then asking God to give us the strength to persevere when hard times would come. Canon stopped my prayer to ask about these “hard times.” And so began a series of conversations we had over the next several weeks about hardship – and how it was inevitable for every believer. We talked about how God is glorified through hardship – how God builds our character through suffering. Canon was extremely interested in the topic. I just remember marveling at how thoughtful he seemed to be at only 7 years old.
Now I know that I should have been marveling at God… not Canon :-) It was God that was bending his heart and mind to thirst after such hard truths at so young an age. Just think about the kindness and gentleness of God to prepare little 7-year-old Canon for what only He knew was about to happen. Those conversations laid the foundation for all the painful talks after the accident about suffering and grief.
Our God is sovereign, and I am. so. grateful :-)
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” Jeremiah 29:11.
I’m so thankful that I spent the first 5 1/2 years of Anne’s life in blissful ignorance. She was a precious child. She still is… just different.
I’ve learned so much in the months following the accident. We must lose our life to gain it… in other words, self-sacrifice is the key to living life to its full. Because of God’s great love for us, he removes the idols of our hearts and gives us great suffering to force our gaze to Him alone. And in return, we find Him all that is good and satisfying… but at Great. Cost.
I look forward to heaven when all the loss and sacrifice will be turned upside down and there will only be fullness and joy. Yes, I look forward to that day!
Last weekend, I attended our church’s women’s retreat. It was AWESOME! The weather was gorgeous. I got to canoe and hike. We didn’t have any fancy-schmancy speaker… just women from our church teaching and sharing. That’s the best kind of retreat (in my humble opinion ;-)
Anwhitney Culpepper talked about the power of God’s presence. Her testimony was powerful as she shared how hardship had driven her into the presence of God. Interestingly, she compared herself with Jonah – and how he ran from God’s presence when given a difficult lot. And I thought, “yeah, I do that.”
I’ve been living life on the surface lately… Avoiding going down into self-sacrifice and grief.
But Anwhitney said something that was like a knife to my gut… She said, “Don’t be afraid of that hardship… For that is the fast-train to the heart of God.” She’s so right. So I’m trying to enter in – to feel again.
I rest on Job 23:10…
But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
Acceptance. It’s the 5th and final stage of grief. And I can’t… quite… get… there.
I’m so tired of feeling sad and desperate. How long could this grieving thing possibly take? I know I must be slower than most everyone else, right? It’s just like a woman to compare herself to others. The idea is ridiculous…
Ideal Griever: “Well, I moved through all five stages of grief in just 5 months. I spent one month on each stage. Very efficient, eh? What about you, where are you in your grieving process?”
Me: Well, I don’t know… I bounce back and forth between stage 3 & 4 – and then sometimes I find myself living back in stage 1 (denial) just to survive the day-to-day, ya know?
Ideal Griever: And how long has it been since the accident?
Me: Um, we just passed the 18 month mark.
Ideal Griever: Oh.
Ludicrous, right? Well, I just wish it was simpler sometimes – more clear-cut. Grieve and done. Let’s just get. it. done. But God doesn’t work that way. His carvings take time… painful time.
I think one complication is that there are so many different things to grieve. I’ve grieved losing the old Anne and all of her unique little ways. I’ve grieved the freedom of having all of my children be mobile and independent. Now I find myself grieving Anne’s health. She has seizures. She is unpredictable. She is demanding. She’s not whole. You can feel the sunken place on her skull where the brain tissue has atrophied from the damage. My sweet Anne is broken – a fragile jar of clay – and we are left learning how to compensate.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7). God always shows me that I am the same as Anne… I am a broken jar of clay – in desperate need of surpassing power. I think we all are. Don’t you?
Eric and I are celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary today. I confess, I’m not that great at celebrating. I’ve always been a bit boring in that category – or maybe I should spin it as “low maintenance.” Yeah, that sounds better :-)
Mile markers are healthy. I’m thankful I was blissfully oblivious to God’s plan for us when we married that day. Thankfully, tragedy hasn’t split us apart, and we continue to fight to stay connected.
This week is marked by a different type of celebration though… a much sadder type. Eric’s grandmother, we believe, is living the last few days of her life under hospice care. She is 96 years old, so we are thankful for her long and full life! Eric was always especially close to his grandmother. He has spent too many hours bedside… First was his mom (named Anne), who died at home after years of fighting brain cancer. Then there was our second little Anne – and all the hours wondering if she would die too – and now his grandmother.
Years after his mom died, I was sorting through her old photographs and found a picture of Eric in his college days. She had hand-written on the back, “My sweet Eric.” …my sentiments exactly!
Sorry for the silence. Canon and Kate had fall-break last week (while Anne’s school was still in session) so I tried to make the most of my time with just those two. I think we squeezed a lot in our mornings, and the two munchkins had good attitudes as they went to all of Anne’s therapy sessions in the afternoons.
Time has a way of healing. When I look at Anne – I see more of our ‘new’ Anne and my longings for the ‘old’ Anne aren’t painfully sharp… they’ve become dull. I don’t think the longings will ever go away – especially as I open my fingers to acceptance more and more. But acceptance is coming easier, and the longings seem more like happy memories than sharp reminders of loss. Time heals.
God is sweet to open my eyes to His work in Anne. She has a way of bringing blessing to others – complete strangers are taken with her. We’re often late as she engages anyone (who will listen) in conversation. We were at Canon’s ballgame on Saturday, and a woman I barely recognized walked up and didn’t speak to me – but to Anne. Anne remembered her name (I sure didn’t), and the woman had remembered to bring Anne a gift. Anne beamed as she held her new, pink, little Mermaid workbook.
I think it’s a privilege to be Anne’s mom. I’m awfully grateful ;-)
Friday night was rich. It was the first night of our denomination’s national women’s conference – entitled AmazingGrace 360. As I sat and listened to Nancy Guthrie teach, and later – as I stood and listened to Laura Story sing, I realized that I felt a connection with both of those women – even though I’ve never met them…
Nancy Guthrie has lost 2 infants to a rare genetic disorder. I can relate (on a certain level) with losing a child. I lost the Anne I had known for 5+ years the day of the accident. I still remember Anne on that morning – and all of my interaction with her… how thankful I was for her quick obedience and her joyful spirit. She was making up songs about Jesus while “cooking” in the kitchen. That version of Anne is gone. I can relate to loss.
Laura Story’s husband survived brain cancer but he is left with disability as a result of the damage the tumor and subsequent surgeries caused. She struggles with living with and caring for someone with disability. Her words tonight… “Disability is hard.” Amen to that. I can relate :-)
Both women have suffered. Both women have wrestled with God’s love and goodness. And both women have chosen to trust Him anyway. I can relate to that :-)
I get a small break this weekend! I am attending our denomination’s national women’s conference, and it just happens to be 10 minutes from my home! Woo Hoo!
I’m excited because the main speaker is Nancy Guthrie. Her book, Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, has been extremely helpful for me as I’ve wrestled with all of my “why” questions. Losing two infants to a rare genetic disorder, she is well acquainted with loss and sorrow. Her answers were deeply satisfying.
I enjoy her writing because she has the unique ability to couple lofty theological truths with her own personal story. She covers several hard questions… Why did God let this happen? Why doesn’t God heal? Does God even care? – but every answer reveals that God cares more about our eternity than our immediate comfort. If you’re a mom, you are familiar with impatience (in our children). And really, if you’re a person you can relate to impatience – because our culture and “delayed gratification” do not mix! So the bible’s timeless message of persevering through difficulty and waiting to attain a greater reward is a much needed reminder for me :-)
So I’ll let you know how it goes!
Canon is studying medieval times at school. Friday’s assignment was to create his own family crest. The students were given lots of options… including colors, animals and objects all listed with its respective symbolic meaning. Canon put a lot of thought into his shield and chose symbols that had special meaning to him and to our family. Here’s his shield:
And here is Canon’s explanation…
Here is a list of the things I chose and their meaning:
- Black: grief (I chose black because of all the grief we’ve had since my sister, Anne’s, car accident)
- Gold: generosity (I chose gold because of all the generosity people have shown us since the car accident.)
- Lion: courage (I chose the lion because we have to have courage to get over what happened to Anne.)
- Wolf: perseverance (I chose the wolf because we have to have perseverance to keep hoping that Anne will continue to heal.)
- Horse: duty (I chose the horse because if you want to be a believer of Christ you have to be ready to do his bidding.)
- Fox: wisdom ( I chose the fox because we need God’s wisdom to make good decisions for Anne and the rest of our family.)
I think all of these things are characteristics of our family.
I’m so thankful that Canon thinks deeply about the spiritual implications of Anne’s accident. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for him!!!!
This past Sunday was my week to sing in the worship ensemble at church. It’s rare that I love all the songs we sing on a given morning. There might be one song that really resonates with me …on a good Sunday, maybe two or three – but never all of them :-) But this past Sunday was different. It’s like Greg (our worship director) handpicked my favorite songs – interspersed them with my favorite scripture – and then asked the Holy Spirit to give me a supernatural ability to hear all the harmonies so I could sing without thinking too hard. It was amazing :-)
Here’s a recap of my morning… Continue reading