Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Crooked Sidewalks

“Crooked Sidewalks” is a picture God gave me a year or so ago that I’m just now starting to put together and understand.  We live in the city, and because of that our daughter Avery will grow up in the city.  I am not unaware of what this means and could mean to Avery.  Life could be hard and not always fair.  The education isn’t as great, the violence is close to our house, and the people have different upbringings and backgrounds that can make it hard to relate to at times.  As a wife to Kory, it wasn’t that hard to adjust to life in the city. It was an adventure with little to sacrifice.  Now as a momma to Avery, there is more I’ve had to sacrifice.  I realize that she may not have all the bells and whistles in her childhood.  Sometimes that’s sad to me and other times it’s exciting.  Sometimes it’s scary and other times I’m at peace with it.  Sometimes I’m nervous and other times I’m refreshed by it. 

When Avery started to learn to walk, that’s all she wanted to do.  She quickly learned that when she put her shoes on and when I put my shoes on she would get to go outside and walk.  She started to bring me my shoes all the time.  When I was doing dishes, when I was folding laundry, when I was cooking dinner, here comes Avery with my shoes in hand, setting them down in front of me and pointing at the door.  Her first word was “mama” second, “dada” and I think third was “walk.”  The good news is there are a lot of places to walk when you live in the city and a lot of sidewalks.  The problem is the cement is all broken up, jagged, uneven and crooked.  This is problematic when you can walk much less when you are learning to walk.  I don’t know how many times I caught my breath and tried to save Avery from falling and scraping knee after knee after knee.  Let’s just put it this way, she had scraped up knees quite often.  But now…now she sails across those sidewalks easier and swifter than an adult.  I trip more than she does.  I watch her dominate those jagged edges as if she’s memorized them.  “Big step” I’ll shout out to Avery as she is a bit ahead and I can visualize a fall.  “Watch, out, Avery.”  “Be careful.”  I don’t even think she hears me, she confidently marches on as if she were born to walk the crooked sidewalks.

And that’s when I realize that she was.  She is born to walk the crooked sidewalks.  I believe that God knew all along that Avery Lantz would grow up in the city, amidst difficulty and obstacles.  Yes, there will be messiness and pain that we will not be sheltered from as a family.  There will be conversations at an early age, trying to make sense of things she will see and start to hear.  There will be questions we won’t be able to answer, and things we will not be able to keep her safe from.  But as I watch her walk the crooked sidewalks, I think she will be just fine.  I think she will learn the bumps and understand she has to adjust in order not to fall.  I think I will be the one yelling, “Avery, big step.”  “Watch out!”  “Be careful.”  And she may not even need to hear it, because she’s already a step ahead, doing what she was born to do, walk the crooked sidewalks.   

Often times, God asks me to walk the crooked sidewalks as well and I drag my feet and complain.  Why can’t I have nice smooth, groomed and flat sidewalks?  If you gave me those sidewalks, God, I would be able to run for you, not just walk!  But he doesn’t let me stay there, he pushes me to keep walking; over every jagged bump, through all the shattered glass.  And as I walk these crooked sidewalks day in and day out, I learn to see the beauty in the brokenness, beauty in the uneven ground.  I pay attention a little bit more when the path starts to smooth out. 

I’m thankful for both of my daughters, Avery and Karis, who have taught me how to walk on the crooked sidewalks.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Firebird and Veggie Tales

I just re-read my entry on June 4, “God, can we get a break”?  That is exactly how I feel today.  Today we are in Sanibel, Florida.  We’ve been encouraged to take a sabbatical and I’m no longer complaining, it’s great to be here.  When we were preparing to get here, I was complaining.  It’s hard to leave.  It was hard to explain why we deserve a 3-week vacation and they still need to go to work and deal with life at home.  It was hard to leave a house that we just moved into and still need to unpack and settle into.  It’s hard to walk away from things you’ve been working on (basketball camp, summer camp) and put it in someone else’s hands while your gone.  It was hard to explain to the kids that we would be MIA for 3 weeks with no way to contact us, yikes.  We have never done that. It was hard to cram in all the people we wanted to see before we left.  We ran ourselves ragged getting to this vacation.  Some nights we wondered if we would even make it to the sabbatical because we thought the prep of it would kill us before we got there.

So now we are here, ready to enjoy J  As I type, Kory is laying in bed with one of the worst migraines I’ve had to see him endure since January.  I hate seeing my strong husband in so much physical pain.  Instead of being at the beach, playing with Avery in the sand and the waves, I’ve been on and off the phone with doctors trying to come up with the perfect mix of meds that will take the edge off this beast of a headache.  We can’t leave the house, because you don’t leave someone who is in that much pain to themselves, but my 2 year old doesn’t understand that.  And my physical body is still trying to process the fact that I had a baby a month ago and struggling to get back to normal, especially in the hormone department.  After I shut the door to Avery’s room getting her down for a nap, I went to my room, cried, and was very honest with God.  I know that other people have way worse issues than us, but sometimes I feel like waving my arms up to heaven and screaming “over here, can I get some help over here???  Do you see me drowing, yes, that is me, can you please throw me a rescue line or something???”

God brought two things to my mind.  Veggie Tales and Firebird.  I love when God speaks to me through children’s stories.  Avery’s found a new obsession since being on vacation and that is her love for “Bob” from veggie tales.  We don’t watch TV or movies much at home and I think she is making up for lost time, all she wants to do is watch “Bob.”  We will be at the beach and she will say, “Bob?” Oh boy.  I didn’t know watching some “Bob” in the morning would cause her to think about it all day long.  Anyways, the veggie tales show we have is the story of Joseph out of Genesis.  His brothers sell him into slavery, Potipher’s wife lies and he goes to jail, and basically has a ton of “not fair” things happen to him in his life and he did nothing to deserve any of them.  Veggie Tales breaks down the story in such a simple way, I see it in a different light.  There’s a scene where “Little Joe” (Joseph) is in jail and Bob (the jail keeper) asks him why all this bad stuff is happening to him if God really loves him.  My ears perked up.  I listened to a cucumber on the screen say some profound things.  I don’t know yet.  But I know God loves me.  My job is just to keep doing good wherever I'm at” I went back and read the whole story of Joseph and was amazed.  In all he went through, he had to be screaming the same thing I was.  “Over here, God!!!  Do you see me?  I’m drowning!  This is not fair!  Why are you not helping me?”

Firebird asks a similar question.  It’s the story of a small orange bird who loves the sunshine.  Firebird is sad when God allows the storms to come and take the sunshine away.  Why would God let the storm take the sun away?  He asks.  We all ask it.  Firebird’s momma told him that he wouldn’t understand until he took a walk on the clouds.  So firebird flies straight into a storm to try to break through the clouds and see what his mama is talking about.  He about gets ripped to pieces when he is in the midst of the storm, but then it happens, he breaks through the clouds.  We get to experience this in an airplane.  We finally reach that point where we break through the clouds and see the beautiful sunshine beaming in the blue sky.  Firebird realizes, God never took the sunshine away, it is as constant as his mother’s love. 

God is like that sunshine, constant.  He never goes away.  He is always there.  But sometimes the storm gets in our way and we can’t see him anymore. That doesn’t mean he has left.  The rain, thunder and lightning is what surrounds us, but he is waiting for us, just above the clouds. 

If God has taught me anything through the life of my daughter, Karis, he has taught me that his love is constant and that I have a choice.  My choice is to be grateful or my choice is to become bitter.  Again, Henri Nouwen’s quote comes to my mind, “Will I relate to my life resentfully or gratefully?”

Today I’m grateful I have the husband I do.  I rather be with him with a headache than apart from him.  I’m thankful that we didn’t have to cancel plans, today there was no agenda to keep.  I’m thankful that God has given us doctors that know how to help.  I’m thankful he has given me family to text and ask for prayer, to lean on. I’m thankful we have generous friends who have opened their home to us to be able to be here at all.  I’m thankful for leadership who pushed us to take a break even when we pushed back not to take one.  I’m thankful I’m in Sanibel, Florida, a beautiful place to enjoy God’s creation.  I’m thankful he has given me a daughter, full of life and energy, who helps me to stop and see things I would never see like the lizard on the rock and the puffy white cloud in the sky. Thank you Lord, thank you for sending your lifeboat of gratefulness to me.  I needed that.

 “O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you.  Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.”  Isaiah 33:2

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31

"Your Hands" JJ Heller

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Narrow Place

Today is one of those days where the wave called “emotion” comes crashing over you and you have no power but to let it.  For whatever reason I was hit with emotion of missing Karis.  I can’t point to exactly what led me there or why, but I was hit hard. There is no getting out but to feel it and be in it.  Grief is so strange.  You don’t know how, when or why it will hit, but it does.  You continue to conquer it by allowing yourself to feel it.  I’ve noticed that what I thought would be hard (having pregnant friends) has not been my struggle, and things that never crossed my mind are where I’m getting hung up.  What’s been hard lately is seeing and watching sister pairs around me. Watching sisters interact that are about two years apart.  The way my mind works is that I will get the chance to be pregnant again, I won’t get the chance to raise sisters two years apart again.  I’ve noticed myself grieve on Avery’s behalf, a lot.  She doesn’t even know what she’s missing, but I find myself grieving for her.  Grieving that she may never have a younger sister like she was supposed to.  I’ve also grieved on Karis’s behalf a lot.  She doesn’t know the family and friendships she is missing out on.  I wanted her to experience vacations with us and to know what it’s like to be Avery’s little sister.

I’ve been specifically reading through Scriptures that talk about trials.  In the book “I Will Carry You,” Angie Smith looked up the original meaning in the Hebrew language and the word “trials” means “to bind, tie up, restrict.  Thus the noun comes to denote a narrow place in life where one is bound or restricted.”  I would agree that a trial feels very similar to a narrow place.  You feel bound, you feel restricted, you feel like the world is closing in a bit.

We are in Colorado this week at the Rocky Mountain National Park with family.  We have done some really cool hikes.  One of the family’s favorite hikes is summiting Long’s Peak.  Long’s Peak is the tallest mountain in the whole park, making this the hardest non-technical hike in the park.  This hike is not for the faint of heart.  I was asking Kory to describe it to me (it’s on my bucket list) and it was interesting. He started telling me about this part on the hike called, “The Narrows.”  He said it’s one of the scariest parts because on one side there is a rock wall that goes straight up and on the other side is a thousand foot drop off.  The part that you have to walk on is very narrow.  He said you have to get on your hands and knees because if you stand, your shoulders touch the rock that goes straight up and you feel like it will push you over the edge.  I imagined what that part must feel like.  Narrow.  On your hands and knees.  Holding on so you don’t go over the edge.  A place that feels restricted and tight.

I imagine our life as a mountain path.  Some parts are wide and smooth.  Some spots have beautiful views where we marvel at God’s gifts.  Some spots are steep and rocky.  Some spots we stop and play, eat and fellowship.  Some spots we are breathing hard and being mentally tough.  And then there’s those spots called “The Narrows.”  The thousand feet drop offs, where we fear if we don’t crawl through we may go over the edge.  Trials.  It’s where I’ve found myself these past two months.  I may be crawling, but I’m not here to stay.  I will keep moving forward.  Even if I’m crawling.

I’ve been drawn to the book of Isaiah lately and the intense trials they faced during this time period.  The Jews have been attacked by the Assyrians.  Cities are destroyed. People are being taken captive.  Judah is in chaos.  The King turns to Isaiah for help.  Isaiah quickly points to the Lord as the only one they can rely on and put their trust in.  

Isaiah writes, He (the Lord) will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.” Isaiah 33:6

The Lord will be the stability of our times.  Stability.  Stability in the narrow places.  When going through trials we long for some stable ground.  No matter what the landscape of our life may be, he is keeping us stable and balanced, so that we will not fall.

"If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm: though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand"  Psalm 37:23-24

"I lift my eyes to the the hills- where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip- he who watches over you will not slumber."  Psalm 121:1-3 

God doesn’t promise smooth ground and easy hikes, but he promises to be our stability through it.  He promises to be a firm foundation that we can stand on when so much around us is shaken and unknown.  He is constant.  He is sure.  He is unchanging.  He is stable. 

Lauren Chandler, wife of Matt Chandler (pastor at the Village Church in Texas) says she held onto this verse when they found out Matt had a cancerous tumor in his brain.  She wrote a song called, “The Narrow Place.”  In it she talks about how we are living in the “already, but not yet.”  We are living in what is, and waiting for what is to come.  She explains, “In Christ, there is stability now in knowing that because of his work on the cross and his resurrection, all things work together for my good (Rom. 8:28); but there is to be a stability at the consummation of all things, when Zion is filled "with justice and righteousness."

As believers, we are all living in a narrow place.  This world is a narrow place.  We long for healing from this broken world.  We long for heaven.  But until then, we will be in a narrow place.  Jesus would you come and fill this place.  We need you.  Be our stable ground.  Be in our narrow place. 

“When you trust in the Lord, through the unfailing love of the Most High, you will not be shaken.”  Psalm 21:7

"Faith to Believe" Shane and Shane

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer Camp

We just got back from Branson, Missouri.  Kory was asked to speak at a summer camp for Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, a church from Kansas.  We know a guy that went to be a pastor there and through a variety of events and people we decided back in the winter we would go to the summer camp as a family and pour into the middle schoolers there.  The church has their camp at Point 11, which is a Kanakuk Kamp.  (We take our ISI kids to KAA Kamp every summer, which is also a Kanakuk Kamp) So we were in familiar territory. 

I have to say, on our 13 hour drive out there with our 2 year old in the back seat we asked ourselves what we were thinking heading out to speak and serve at a camp all week in the midst of everything.  Looking back on it now, it was a highlight to our summer, an incredible week where not only did God’s kingdom expand and grow, he grew us right along with it as he always does. 

Kory and I had a blast with each other.  It was one of those weeks as a couple where we were very in sync with one another.  I love summer camp in general and feel alive in those settings, and Kory is the same.  I would help craft his messages and he would give them.  9 to be exact, every morning and every night he spoke.  The kids were great.  The leaders were great.  The staff was great.  It was nice to be “away,” and to feel a bit like a kid again at summer camp.  Watching Kory goof off with the boys jumping off the blob and the flying trapeze was truly a joy.  Going myself on the slip n slide and watching Avery bond and connect with the pastor and worship leaders’ kids was life giving.  Eating camp food and meeting new people and hearing their stories was fun for me.  Worship was healing.  Watching Avery worship and lift her hands like all the kids was so precious.  This song, "Give Me Faith"- Elevation Worship was played a lot at camp and I resonate with the words so deeply.

            Give me faith to trust what you say
That you’re good and your love is great
I’m broken inside
I give you my life…

I may be weak
But your spirit’s strong in me
My flesh may fail
But my God you never will

There were so many awesome kids there that were really growing in their understanding of Christ.  One of the coolest things happened.  The first night Kory shared about being vulnerable about who we really are and leaving our masks at the door.  He led by example and was vunerable with the students. One of the things he shared was about Karis.  I didn’t expect middle schoolers to be able to grasp how hard having a stillbirth would be, but wow.  Their response blew me away.  So many kids came up to me during the week and talked about their miscarried siblings that their parents told them they would meet in heaven, so many kids.  I was in shock.  There are so many miscarriages that happen.  So many parents that will arrive at the pearly gates and have their children come running to greet them and show them all that heaven is and has been to them. 

One girl in particular I was drawn too.  We shared the same first name, and she reminded me a bit of myself when I was her age.  She shared with me all about her sister she never got to meet on earth. With a sparkle in her eyes she shared that her parents had named her middle name after her sister that had passed.  She loved her middle name.  She was so proud to be named after her sister.  Wow.  I was touched.

A few of the leaders came to me as well and talked about how hard it was when they had miscarried in the past.  One woman in particular came to me and said that her first child, she delivered stillborn at 5 months, same as me.  Hers was a boy.  Now she had two high schoolers and God has done a lot of healing in her life.  Another woman came up to me with her high school daughter, and shared that when her daughter was two she had one of her kidneys removed, just like Avery. 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the suffering of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-5

I love how Karis brought about all those conversations and opened up the doors for us to remember all the loved ones we have never met who are in heaven.  If I would of showed up to camp pregnant as planned, none of those doors would have been opened.  Not that it made it “worth it” by any means, but it’s God’s perfect way of taking the bad and using it for good (Rom 8:28). I love how God uses Karis’s life to do his kingdom work even without her breathing earthly air.  He is a big God.

At the camp they had a spoken word artist who I became close to.  We were about the same age.  She intrigued me as she grew up in the city with parents who were urban missionaries. I picked her brain on behalf of Avery and it was enlightening.  She and Kory did breakout sessions in the morning and one of her sessions spoke to me.  It was called the Raindrop Project.  She talked about how as Christians we all want to be the tsuami.  We want to be the big deal.  We all want to have the big name. We all want to have the platform….”in Jesus name.”  But God calls us to be a raindrop.  A small, usually unnoticed by others, little drop that maybe just touches one life.  He calls us all to be raindrops.  And when the raindrop hits the water, it ripples.  We do one small thing and God uses the ripples to touch other people, lots of times in ways we don’t even know of.  I thought to myself, I want to be a raindrop for God.  And I thought about my daughter Karis, she is God’s little raindrop.  Her life came and went about as quick as a raindrop, but he will use and continue to use the ripples in ways I don’t even know or understand.

The last night the leaders got together and recognized that it was June 20, 2014.  It had been exactly one month since delivering Karis’s body into this world.  I was amazed.  I hadn’t even thought that deeply and here these people who I had just met six days earlier had.  It’s amazing how unifying the body of Christ is.  These people we had just met really did feel like family.  They prayed for us, read Scriptures over us and presented us with three little light pink roses in honor of Karis’s life.  How they knew a light pink rose was our symbol from God for Karis is beyond me, but I was so grateful. 

The theme of the week was “I Am Known,” and in that moment I felt known by people who were strangers just days ago.  Most importantly I felt known by my God.  My God who sees, hears, and knows.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Body of Christ

We have the greatest support in the entire world.  Really, I’m not biased I’m just stating the facts.  We really do have the greatest family and friends in this entire world.  We have been blessed beyond what we deserve.  My friends and family’s crowns in heaven will be so heavy from all the jewels and medallions on it.  People will ask them “how did you get so many jewels on your crown?” They will answer “I was friends with Kory and Ali and well, between you and me, they needed a lot of help, so they kept me busy on earth and I guess the Lord decided to give me all these jewels!”

For real.  My jaw drops open everyday in awe of people who continue to wrap their arms around us and pour their love and support onto us.  It’s been tangible ways, their time, acts of service, words of encouragement, meals, quality time, helping with Avery, cards, letters, gifts, hugs, listening, crying with the, giving us grace, loving on us…there’s been so much.  I would be sinning if I didn’t give high props to the beautiful body of Christ in this hard time.  The body of Christ has functioned SO beautifully and wonderfully on display for us to see and experience this month.  It’s been a breath-taking, refreshing, awe-inspiring sight to behold.

During this time, most of my closest friends have been pregnant as well.  We were excited to have kids weeks apart, guessing if they would be the same gender and be best friends, or opposite genders and marry each other (well, we didn’t say that for the cousins).   When I was still in shock after we found out about Karis’s diagnosis, I remember being very scared for these relationships.  How would we still function?  How would I handle their joy and my pain?  The Lord has been so gracious to me in the way my friends and I have been able to walk this road together as the body of Christ. 

A couple weeks ago we had some of our very close friends bring us dinner.  We were sitting in the living room and the way the conversation was going, I had to ask.  “Are you guys pregnant?”  Their response was interesting to me.  They both kind of looked at the ground and quietly and gently said “yea,” as if they were apologizing instead of telling us they were pregnant.  “That’s awesome!” I said, and I really meant it.  But I totally understand why they responded the way they did.  I remember being in their shoes 2 years prior.  We were sitting across the table from them, telling them we were pregnant with Avery and they were in the midst of infertility struggles.  I felt the same way- guilty.  My joy was their pain and I hated that.  For the person that’s pregnant- it’s hard to really be joyful when you know it’s hurting your friend.  And for the person that wishes they were pregnant- you don’t want it to be painful, you wish you could tough it out, but it’s really hard.

As they sat there, looking at my living room floor, feeling bad about the greatest gift given to them, I thought to myself- this is friendship.  Sharing joy and sharing pain, at the same exact time.  We, together, give God praise and celebrate the gift of a child he has given them, and without missing a beat we cry and mourn over the loss of our child.  Grief and joy were dancing together in the midst of our friendships.
Two days after we buried Karis one of our best couple friends delivered their precious baby girl and we went to see her at the hospital.  I didn’t feel like I had to go, I knew my state of mind, I wasn’t going to let myself have a breakdown in the hospital room.  I wanted to go.  I want to share in their joy.  Their daughter is a beautiful life to be celebrated.  She is my gain as well. Kory and I will help raise this little girl too.  That’s what friends do.  She matters to us, we love her.  Of course she reminds us of what we’ve lost, but she also reminds us of God’s miracles. 

As we shared labor stories, I didn’t go back to six days ago, delivering a lifeless baby, I went back to 2 years ago, delivering Avery girl.  That helped.  But what helped the most is our amazing friends.  They weren’t just “sensitive” to our pain and tip-toed around what they said, they felt our pain with us.  Our pain was apart of them.  It wasn’t just our experience that made them sad.  It was a part of their experience as well, because they loved Karis.  They lost when we lost.  That’s exactly what Kory and I felt about their daughter.  Their joy of this new life was apart of us.  She was a gift to us as well.  We weren’t just happy for our friends, we were happy for us- what a beautiful baby girl we’ve gained that is now apart of our lives.  That’s the beauty of friendship within the body of Christ.   You share in each other’s pains.  You share in each other joys.  You both gain.  You both lose.  It’s done together.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”  Romans 12:15

I will never forget, Kyle sharing with us one night after we found out Karis had passed.  He shared that he wasn’t just grieving on behalf of us losing our daughter, he was grieving that he lost his niece. She was his niece.  She wasn’t just ours.  She was his too. Karis was his son or daughter’s cousin.  Shared pain.  But on the day when their child is born, we will share the joy.  Why?  Because that will be our niece or nephew.  Ours.  Shared joy.

Things change when you allow other’s situations to become apart of you and your situations.  When it’s not just something you support them in but it’s something that you carry and share together.  That’s powerful.  That’s healing.  That cuts through feelings of jealousy.  That rips through bitterness.  Pain and joy are shared.

I had two conversations with two dear friends, one who is due 3 weeks before Karis was, and one who I just found out she is pregnant a few days ago. We made a pact with each other.  Our pact was that we will not hold back from one another.  We will be real.  I don’t have to be happy all the time and fake my way through our conversations, ignoring the times when I’m struggling.  And they don’t have to be sad about their joy.  They can be honest on the days when it’s hard to be pregnant because they are sick.  And they can be honest about the excitement pregnancy brings.  It will work as long as we keep sharing each other’s pains and joys.  If I continue to realize their new child is a gain to myself and my family and they still realize that Karis is a loss to them and their family, we can walk more closely in our friendship.  That’s how friendship has to work.  We made this pact with each other because we need each other.  I need a piece of joy in the midst of my grief.  They need a piece of brokenness to keep eternal perspective in the midst of joy.  We need each other.  The body of Christ needs each other. 

What a beautiful picture we give of Christ as we function this way.  Strapping on each other’s burden’s and saying “let me feel the weight of this load you are carrying.”  “Let me feel the joy you feel as you experience this wonderful gift.”  Unity.  It’s a beautifully healing thing when we experience it.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

You Make Me Brave

Kory and I were able to getaway and spend some time in Saugatuck, MI and it’s been really refueling.  We were at a coffee shop yesterday and I was listening to music on my headphones. A song came on that spoke so deeply and resonated so profoundly with my soul, I just took it in.  I closed my eyes and felt it.  The words were rich with truth. The song was "You Make Me Brave" Bethel Live Music and here are some of the lyrics…

            As your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of heaven you made a way for all to enter in

I’ve heard you call my name
I’ve heard the song of love that you sing
So I will let you draw me out beyond the shore
Into your grace, oh your grace

As your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of heaven you made a way for all to enter in

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves

You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way
No fear can hinder now the promises you’ve made

You make me brave

Jesus, you have made me brave.  So brave.  You have done it, no one else gets the credit, no one else deserves the glory for what you have done in our lives and my heart.  You are not a god who allows us to sit, stale without growth.  You continue to call us out beyond the shore and into the waves.  You keep drawing us out towards yourself, even though it demands every part of our being to get there.  You don’t let us settle, Lord.  You push us to our limit.  You push us past our fears, past what we thought would destroy us.  You call us to trust, even if it means the waves.

The first step off the peaceful, calm seashore is the hardest and usually forced.  Whether it’s circumstance or our own doing, our first foot is in the water.  And you do the rest.  You call us to keep walking towards you.  So we step, we get ankle deep, then knee deep.  We wonder why you would be calling us out into deep water.  Do you want us to drown?  What is your plan, what are you thinking?  But we continue to walk.  We continue to trust.  We know that no matter how afraid we are, we want to keep walking towards you.  We get down to shoulder deep and we start to panic. “But Lord, I can’t walk any farther, it’s too much!”  Then the waves come.  We get large gulps of salt water and can’t catch our breath.  We think we will be destroyed.  And that’s when we realize what we are swimming in, a sea of grace. 

Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of heaven you made a way for all to enter in

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

You make me brave.

And here I am, a braver person because of my God who would not let go.  My God who would not allow me to be destroyed by sorrow.  My God who invited me into part of his story of grace.  He has counted us worthy of suffering, that we may know him more deeply and more intimately.  Thank you, Lord,  for not letting me sit, stale and dry, but for allowing me to be drenched and soaked from head to toe in your grace.

“If grace is an ocean, we are all sinking.”  David Crowder

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”  Isaiah 43:2-3

Saturday, June 7, 2014


I think I know now what it feels like to be in a whirlwind.  We buried Karis Saturday, May 24th and spent the next week trying to adjust “back to normal life” while packing up our house to move to a different house deeper into the heart of the city of South Bend (and running around with our heads cut off trying to plan ISI Awards night).  It’s hard to get back into a routine of “normal” when you are packing up your house to move somewhere else.  Somehow Kory went to a conference down in Indy during the midst of that week as well.  ISI Awards night was over June 5th and by June 6th we were packed up, moved out and sleeping in our new house on Cushing Street.  I don’t even know what happened to us.  It all happened too fast.  With everything going on with Karis in the month of May, I literally forgot we were moving and don’t think I really realized we were moved until last night when I crawled into bed and realized I was not in our house on Roosevelt Street. 

Moving is a big life change and we barely had time to think about it our mind was so clouded with other things.  We only have two nights in the house and then Kory & I are headed to Saugatuck, MI for a few days to “getaway.”  We will get back Wednesday and then by Saturday we will be headed to Branson, MO for Kory to speak at a summer camp for middle schoolers.  I’m not sure when we will actually be living in our new house, but for starters we lived there this weekend so that must count for something. 

We are used to living in a whirlwind, I’m just not used to grieving in a whirlwind.  It’s definitely made this grief process interesting.  Even though this is only our second night in the house tonight, I already find it all so surreal.  Did this really just happen?  Two major things just shifted in our life.   Our family.  Our location.  Those two things look very different than they did a month ago. 

When we moved yesterday I didn’t know how to articulate what I was feeling.  We got a great deal on an old house in an under-resourced neighborhood that we have had our hearts and minds on since the day we moved to Keller Park.  It’s a beautiful house.  It’s a beautiful neighborhood.  It feels like a dream come true.  But in the wake of grief, I don’t know how to accept it.  That sounds so weird, I know.   This sounds even weirder, but it made me feel better.  Last night I was getting ready for bed and brushing my teeth.  I was staring at the new bathroom, the woodwork, the floor, the walls.  And I told my house something. “Yes, you are beautiful and I’m very grateful for you but you won’t fix our pain.”  For whatever reason I just had to remind my house that though she was a beauty, tall and strong, she will not fix anything, and she better not try.   The physical move to me did not feel like moving a half mile away.  I felt like I moved into a different world.  I went from pregnant at the Roosevelt House to not pregnant at the Cushing House.  It was a weird shift to make.    
Whenever a big change comes I like to think of it as unfamiliar territory.  I was really excited to explore this unfamiliar territory of a new location a month ago.  New people to meet, new relationships to build, new neighbors to get to know, new place, new parks, new roads to walk, new house to make a home, new landscape.  I felt like an exhibitioner, ready to discover this new land.  But now, with everything that’s happened with Karis, I feel like an injured exhibitioner.  The fun of the adventure seems to be taken out, and now it all somehow feels a bit overwhelming to me.  I don’t want to meet new people, I don’t want to decorate a new house.  I don’t have the energy and desire I once did.  I don’t want to feel this way.

In Henri Nowen’s book, Turn My Mourning Into Dancing, he says, “Our choice, then, often revolves around not what has happened or will happen to us, but how we will relate to life’s turns and circumstances.  Put it another way: Will I relate to my life resentfully or gratefully?....I can either focus on what I have lost or what I have gained.”

This thought really hit me square in the face.  Through all this hardship, I haven’t just lost; I have also gained.  I have gained eternal perspective.
I have gained greater trust in the Lord.  I have gained a deeper faith.  I have gained a walk with Christ that is closer and more intimate.  I have gained a greater awareness for the miracles in life. And most of all I have gained a precious daughter in heaven.  And this is where my focus has to lie.  These are where my thoughts need to rest.  In life we can become bitter or we can become better.  I want to cultivate a heart that is thankful and grateful.

Thank you Lord for this change in location.
Thank you for the new opportunities that await us.
Thank you for the new neighbors we met yesterday and their sweet girls.
Thank you for this home.
Thank you that for the opportunity we have to host people in this home.
Thank you we get to live in an awesome neighborhood with awesome people.
Thank you for this moment.

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.”  Psalm 30:11-2

"Desert Song"- Hillsong United

This is my prayer in the desert
When all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides

This is my prayer in the fire
In weakness, in trial, in pain
There is a faith proved in more worth than gold
So refine Lord through this flame

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall be made
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and he is here

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship