Friday, May 30, 2014


 Guilt.  This is a word I wrestled with before May 2nd entered our lives, but now it’s a whole new wrestle.  Like I said before a couple days ago, there are days where I’ve felt really sad and days where I feel happy.  On the days where I feel sad I find myself getting frustrated with myself.  I shouldn’t be this down.  What’s my problem?  Other people have it way worse.  I should be handling this better.  Do people think I’m depressed? Do people think I’m taking it way harder than I should?  And then on the happy days, where the Lord grants joy in my life, I find myself feeling guilty.  How can I be laughing when a week ago we buried our daughter?  If Karis could see us right now, she would be hurt that we were happy.  If I’m happy does that mean I’m “moving on” to quickly?  If I don’t cry every time I talk about Karis, so people still know that I’m hurting inside?  Oh, the wrestle that comes. 

Then the big guilt struggle hits.  Don’t get me wrong, Avery has brought more healing into my life than any other human being on this planet could.  But she is 2.  She is a toddler, a toddler that demands a lot of my energy and attention every day.  This can be hard when you’re having a down day and you just want to take a nap or read your Bible.  She pushes me to keep going which I’m thankful for and other days I struggle with.  On the hard days I feel incapable of “staying in it” as a mom.  By “staying in it” I mean, staying consistent with discipline, staying patient during distraction, staying entertaining as the day drags on.  And sometimes, as bad as it sounds I feel unmotivated to be a mom.  Being a mom is sacrificial.  You give so much of yourself, your time, your energy to this other human being.  During a time of grief you tend to want to grab those pieces back for yourself to survive.  But then the guilt comes in like a flood.  How could the very thing I’m mourning be the very thing I’m frustrated with?  Let me explain. 

I’m mourning the loss of my daughter, Karis.  I’m mourning getting to be a mom to her.  I’m mourning never getting to do “mom stuff” with her. Yet, that is the very thing I’m struggling to do this day… be a mom to Avery.  Do you see the tension?  I’m grieving the loss of my daughter, yet struggling to be present with the daughter I have living.  And guilt settles in, and makes it’s home within me. 

My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.”  Psalm 38:4

I’ve been trying to define the word guilt for awhile now and how it makes me feel.  This verse explains it well…..heavy.  Loaded down.  Can’t breathe.  Stuck.  Pressure.  Heaviness.  And it keeps heaping on. 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest....for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

His burden is light.  If his burden is light, whose burden am I carrying that I feel so heavy?  Obviously not the burden God calls me to carry.  It must be a false burden.  Either something I am putting on myself or something the enemy is lying to me about. 

Recently, I’ve been reading Scriptures that have to do with “guilt” and “condemnation” to get more perspective.  I have realized that the Scriptures discussing guilt and condemnation I have come across almost always involve how the person has sinned against God.  So I have to ask myself when I’m feeling this guilt and this heaviness… I sinning?  This guilt cycle I find myself in regarding Karis- am I sinning?  No, I’m just feeling bad.  I should feel bad about sin.  But if I’m not sinning, I shouldn’t feel bad.  The only way I could be sinning in that cycle is that I’m not trusting God.  Instead I’m choosing to carry false weight, instead of trusting God to carry it for me.   

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.  He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”  Psalm 55:22 (NLT)

He will carry my heavy burdens.  I will carry his light one. 

God continues to use my daughter’s name, Karis, meaning “grace” to speak over my life.  His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).  The grace and kindness he extends to us, covers us now and forever.  It’s enough.  There is nothing else we need.  He extends it to us and I need to extend it to myself.

In his blog on the  “The Gospel Coalition,” website, Keving DeYoung talks about guilt here
He makes the point that a lot of times we feel guilty (not for sinning) but for the vague things that the Bible doesn’t draw a clear line.  The Bible tells us to pray so we feel guilty we don’t pray enough.  The Bible tells us to give tithe and we feel guilt if we don’t give enough money.  Should we be doing more?  Is it bad if our kids go to this school instead of this?  Is it ok if my family eats out at restaurants a lot more than this family?  We should not feel guilty about those things.  We should feel challenged, stirred, and inspired, maybe moved to change, maybe not.  But we should not feel guilty. 

So what’s the answer when I start to beat myself up for what I’m feeling on a specific day? The answer is embracing grace, not guilt.  Guilt is a heavy burden; grace is a light one.  God makes it clear to carry his light one.   

Deeper grace will produce better gratitude, which means less guilt.”  -Kevin DeYoung

“I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.” –Anonmyous

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2

"Grace is Sufficient"- Shane and Shane

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My Anchor

I don’t know how anyone would go through loss of a loved one apart from Christ and survive it.  Hope is so crucial to our lives. There have been times where I’ve asked the ugly questions.  I didn’t want to, but it’s hard not to.  I asked the famous question, why are you letting this happen to me? And as soon as I opened that door, all the rest of the questions came flooding after. Where are you?  If you are good, how could you allow something so bad to hurt us?  What is your plan in this?  Why did you allow this?  Do you really hear our prayers? 

How do you answer these questions?  If you’re a Christian and you live in this broken world, you are either asking them yourself or being asked them by someone around you.  Are their answers?  I’ve spent a lot of time in my car listening to youth of my neighborhood pour their hurts out.  I don’t know why it always seems to happen in the car, but it does.  Usually I pull up to their house, ready to drop them off, and then it all starts to come out.  When I’m driving home after those conversations, I question God a lot.  I feel so confused.  How can you let this happen, Lord?  Do you see their pain?  If you see it why aren’t you doing something about it?  What am I supposed to tell them?  The only things I have to say, seem so….cliche. I’ve kind of errored on the side of always telling them I just didn’t know the answer.  “You just have to trust God, hold on, pray and read your Bible.”  That seemed to suffice until the next event happened. Then the cycle would repeat.  Car.  Pour out.  Hurt. “I don’t know? Pray.  Hold on.”  Drive Home.  Question God.  Move on.

I so badly wanted to have something for them, something that would encourage them.  I wanted to give them an answer.

Something happens when you start to ask the questions yourself.  God takes you on your own journey and you see things in a little different light.  Instead of asking God questions on behalf of others, praying and then falling asleep at night; I was asking them, demanding an answer, unable to sleep until I got one. 
            He gave me an answer. 
A beautiful, beautiful answer.

I was driving for a long period of time without Avery in the car the other day and I put on a podcast of Louie Giglio’s.  It was titled, “Hope When Life Hurts Most.”  I thought it would be a good one and it was.  It’s where God gave me his answer.  My answer was found in Hebrews chapter 6. 

We have this hope as anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19

Our hope is in the cross of Christ.  The Cross is an anchor for our soul.  My answer…..The cross.

The cross answers all our questions….all our ugly questions.

When the bottom falls out, and we ask the ugly questions, I believe there is one question that we scream louder and deeper than any other.  I think it’s the foundation for all the other questions that come out of us as well.  I know it has been for me.  The question I’m really asking God the loudest is “Do you love me?”

He answers that question when I look at the cross. 

 “This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” 1 John 4:9-10

My circumstances aren’t telling me that God loves me. I have to stare at the cross and fix my eyes upon it and let it tell me of God’s never-ending and relentless love for me.  Let the cross answer my questions.

Louie shared a second thing the cross tells us in our trouble.  The cross tells us that God allows freedom, but he maintains control.  At the cross men crucified Jesus.  The people chose to release Barabas and crucify Jesus.  God didn’t brainwash everyone, they chose it by their own free will. Yet he was always in control.  He never stopped being in control.  Somehow and someway he allowed freedom and he maintained control.  He is still doing that today, in my daughter’s death.  We live in a broken world where we have trouble, but he is an overcoming Savior.  Those two things exist at the same time.  One day he will put an end to all the brokenness, and it will be over.  But until then he is allowing freedom and he is maintaining control.  We have trouble.  And we have an overcoming Savior. Trouble.  Overcoming Savior.

There is a third thing Louie shared the cross tells us in our trouble.  The cross tells us that God can use the worst for eternal good.  The Friday that Jesus was horribly crucified was the worst day this earth has ever known.  Jesus, God in flesh, brutally tortured and killed by the very people he created and loved.  It can’t get any worse than that.  Yet today, we call it Good Friday.  Because as it was the worst day then, it is the best day now.  That day, is the day my sins were paid for and my salvation was available.  God used the worst for eternal good.

Because of the cross, my car conversations are forever changed.  I have an answer.  I can confidently look each student straight into the eyes and tell them that the cross of Jesus Christ can handle their ugly questions. 

When we ask him, “why are you letting this happen to me?”  He will say, “it happened to me too.” 

He will tell us, “I know, I understand.”  I know pain.  I know death.  I know hurt.  I understand when others mistreat you.  I understand feeling alone.  I understand betrayal.  I understand loss.  I understand heartache.  I understand suffering. 

Because of the cross,  he knows.  He understands.

And then God spoke so straight to my heart. “I know what it feels like to lose a child.”

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son.”  John 3:16

Yes you do Lord.  And because of that, I know what it feels like to be loved.
Thank you for the cross.

“Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Hebrews 12:3

We can claim our unique journey as God’s way to mold our hearts to greater conformity to Christ.  The cross, the primary symbol of our faith, invites us to see grace where there is pain; to see resurrection where there is death.  The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads to new life.”  Henri Nouwen

"Anchor"- Hillsong United

As have this hope
As an anchor for my soul
Through every storm
I will hold to you

With endless love
All my fear is swept away
In every thing
I will trust in your

There is hope in the promise of the cross
You gave everything to save the world you loved
And this hope is an anchor for my soul
Our God will stand, unshakeable

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

No More Normal

A lot of my friends have asked me how I’m doing this week and this has been my response to all of them.  I’m trying to get back to normal, not feeling normal, knowing that is probably very normal.”  I’ve grown a bit cynical towards the word normal.  It’s dominated so much of my mind these past few days.  What is it about normality that I long and desire it so much?  Is it really that good?  Before May 2nd, was my life really that normal?  It didn’t feel that way.  But all of a sudden, the bottom falls out and I’m longing for whatever it was I had before May 2nd that I didn’t know I had. 

I’ve found myself having the weirdest thoughts, yet giving myself a ton of grace, that those thoughts are probably somewhat normal for a person to have that just lost someone they loved.  Today I panicked when I realized it’s been 1 week since I delivered Karis.   Why did I panic?  Because I couldn’t believe a week had already gone by.  Time was moving too quickly.  I wasn’t quite ready to be a week removed from that day.  I wanted it to feel closer.  Now, what’s really weird to me is May 20th, 2014 will always be one of the hardest, most difficult, most tragic days in all of my life, it was the day I gave birth to my baby that wasn’t breathing.  Why on earth would I want to be close to that day and hold it and cherish it and not want to part from it?  I don’t know.  I guess it’s because it’s all I have of her and I want to hold onto anything I can.  I find myself replaying the day, the birth, the way she felt in my belly, feeling pregnant over in my head because I don’t want them to fade off into space and forget what I had of her.  As painful as the grief is, I don’t want to be distant from it. 

Anyone who has gone through grief knows that there are some days that are really sad.  And there are some days that are really happy.  I’ve found myself crying hard this week; the kind of cry where you can’t catch your breath. And I’ve found myself laugh and feel happy this week.  How can the two of those exist?  I’m not sure, but I’ve learned to welcome them both.  And I’ve learned that when I’m sad, to let myself be really sad; to feel it and be in it.  And I’ve learned that when I’m happy, to be truly happy, to feel happy and embrace happy. 

Today after Kory was done with his day of work, and all the meetings he had we decided to do something special as a family.  We’ve always wanted to take Avery to Build-a-Bear and get her something special and this was the perfect timing.  We took her together and as a family we built a light pink bear and named her Karis Bear.  That way every night Avery can sleep with her Karis Bear.  And in some non-logical way it will feel a little more like we still have a piece of her with us. 

Tonight was happy, and for that I’m not going to over think it, I’m just going to feel happy.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Stone

Today is Memorial day.  We are packing up the house, getting ready to move.  It’s been hard to not feel physically pregnant anymore.  It is a physical fact that gives way to emotional reminders.  I feel a bit empty without her close to me.  It’s been a bit strange to see people that I haven’t seen since before May 2nd, when our life forever changed.  All this change happened so fast: we found out her diagnosis, a week and a half later her heart stopped beating, a week later we delivered and a few days after we buried her.  All in 22 days.  So there were a lot of my friends and family that I didn’t see in those 22 days.  It’s always hard to know how to approach someone who is grieving, you never quite know what they will want from you… I get that.  However, through all we’ve been through this month I think I will always choose to error on the side of asking about how someone is doing, and talking about the elephant in the room instead of ignoring it.  It can be hurtful when your pain is ignored.  I’ve learned that I am a person who wants to talk about it, however awkward or hard it is, I rather talk about it and be asked about it.  But everyone is different. 

I had a really good conversation with my good friend and college roommate who tragically lost her mom a few weeks after we graduated from college.  She is amazing and I look up to her faith in the midst of the bottom falling out of her life.  She was such an encouragement to me as she helped me process what grieving is like.  As I hung up the phone I was reminded again of the story of Jesus healing Lazarus. 

Right after the people are confused and questioning Jesus, he approaches the tomb, and asks Martha to “take away the stone.” (John 11:39).  Jesus invited Martha into the miracle he was about to do.  He could of moved the stone away, he could of healed him without even moving the stone, but he wants us to be invited into the miracle process.  Martha hesitates.  “But Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been in there for four days.” And here comes the two options: fear or trust.  Will we trust Jesus knows what he is doing?  Will we trust that he has every detail thought through?  Will we trust that he is enough no matter what is behind the stone?  Physical healing or not, whatever situation we find ourselves in, the Lord invites us to be apart of it, to trust him.  Angie Smith puts it this way, “Jesus isn’t saying that her faith enables Him to perform the miracle but rather that it allows her to see the glory of God.”  Right after Martha questions him, Jesus replies, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40).   Smith continues, “as we walk through trials, He invites us to trust Him.  We aren’t guaranteed anything as Christians as far as the outcome, but we are loved enough to be a part of the greatest story ever written…..what we are called to do is to agree to move the stone, no matter what happens next.”

When we grieve, whether a child we never got to know , or a mother we knew deeply for our entire life like my college roomate, God calls us to put our hands to the stone, and to trust him.  We are invited to be apart of the process. We are not expected to sit on the sidelines as if we are a pawn in his hand and he does what he wants with our lives.  We are invited in to trusting him at a deeper level than we did before.  To see the glory of God as it is revealed throughout our lives and beyond our lives. 

So I’m learning to trust.  Day by day by day, some days it comes easier than others.  But today, I’m choosing to trust him and to move the stone.

“Faith is to believe what we do not see, the reward of faith is to see what we believe” St Augustine

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

Sunday, May 25, 2014


I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that were to come after the funeral.  Yesterday I experienced a sense of relief.  The pressures that had subconsciously been on me to honor her life well, were gone. The “events” are all over.  The is a good and scary place to be at the same time.  A time to take a deep breath at what is passed and to buckle up for the unknown months ahead.  This is when everyone starts to go on with their lives and you are stuck and numb, confused at how to “go back to normal.”  That’s because you can’t go back to normal.  This is when it’s time to throw the word “normal” out the window because it doesn’t exist anymore. 

We got together with some good friends today and it was really good to be with them.  They didn’t say anything wrong or make it hard in any way.  They were exactly what we needed them to be; ready to talk about Karis if we did or ready to talk “small talk” if it was better to get our mind off of everything.  But for some reason it was still hard.  Kory and I still found ourselves spacing out and feeling disconnected from what was going on around us.  You start to wonder if life will ever feel normal again.  Is feeling disconnected my new normal?   Not only is it hard to not feel normal, it’s hard to see your spouse not feeling normal.  It’s one thing to grieve yourself and it’s another thing to watch your spouse suffer and grieve.  Today was a hard day for Kory.   It’s hard to watch your husband grieve the loss of his daughter. 


Now that the “events” are over, everything seems so final.  This is how the story ends.  No miracle.  No surprise to the doctors.  No proving science wrong.  She is gone. 

It’s easy to be a believer when God gives you a miracle.  In John 11, right before Jesus heals Lazarus he is weeping, taking in how much death hurts and affects those he loves.  The people watching him are confused.  “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37)  In the book I’ve been reading, the author talks about this verse that the people weren’t questioning whether or not Jesus could heal, they were expressing their curiousity about why He didn’t.  That’s where I find myself today.  Do I believe God could of healed Karis, absolutely.  But why didn’t he?  And the answer to that is and will always be, I don’t know. 

But what I’m learning more of is I don’t have to know.  There is a safe place with the Lord where we don’t have to have all of the answers, and I will rest in that place.  So many Christians expect God to work neatly and wrap up each hurt with a bow and make it all better.  But I have been invited into a story of God’s that did not end with a bow.  In fact there are a lot of holes and gaps into why he is allowing certain things to happen.  But I choose to press into those gaps, not afraid, but confident that God is big enough to handle my limited views, struggles and doubts. 

In the book “Hiding Place,” Corrie Ten Boom is with her father asking him something that was a little too mature for her to understand……

“He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing.  At last he stood up, lifting his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor. 
“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.
I stood up and tugged at it.  It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
“It’s too heavy,” I said.
“Yes,” he said “And I would be a pretty poor father who would ask his daughter to carry such a load.  It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge.  Some knowledge is too heavy for children.  When you are older and stronger you can bear it.  For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”
And I was satisfied.  More than satisfied- wonderfully at peace.  There were answers to this and all my hard questions- for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.”

And that’s where I rest today, knowing that all the answers to my hard questions are in my father’s keeping.

Karis has taught me to understand God’s miracles in such a new way.  Often times we think of a miracle much like God tying a big bow and saying “happily ever after.”  We are so used to every movie ending that way, but life just doesn’t.  God has taught me what true miracles are through Karis’s life.  True miracles are all around me if I choose to see them.  Karis is a miracle, her life and her legacy.  Avery is a miracle.  My marriage is a miracle. My faith is a miracle.  The ministry God has allowed us to be apart of is a miracle.  The kids I get to love on everyday are miracles.  Jesus Christ is my ultimate miracle.  That we can have life after death…..what beautiful miracles.  They aren’t “happily ever afters,”  they will be hard at times, but they are miracles given by a loving God who sees, hears and knows his children.  We are invited into abundant miracles, daily.

In the book, “I Will Carry You,” Angie brings up a scripture that I have never read before.  In 2 Samuel 12, King David finds out his infant son has died.  King David says, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept.  I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’  But now that he is dead, why should I fast?  Can I bring him back again?  I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Sam. 12:19-23).

She will not return to me.  The reality of those words cut deep into my heart.  For whatever reason, one I will not try to understand, God will not allow Karis to ever return to us.  But my God is gracious and loving, and he, oh yes, he will allow us to go to them. And that is a miracle.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Our little Pink Rose- Karis's Funeral

The sky was blue, the sun was warm, the breeze blew gently, it was a beautiful spring morning.  The three pink balloons moved with the wind, the light pink roses gave color and a pretty smell, the chimes sang a sweet song.  It was a calm, peaceful morning at the cemetery, everything seemed just right-except for one thing.  Except for the precious, small pine box that sat in the middle of it all, holding our daughter.  It was delicate and petite.  It was innocent and simple.  It was so small.

We hugged family and found our seats.  Terry Bley led us well, as he opened up in prayer and gave attention to sweet Karis's life.  I went up and read the Scriptures that had been the most meaningful to us during this time.  (1 Peter 1:6-7; Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 62:2; 
My cousin, Michael, led us in a song that has carried us through that first week of finding out the diagnosis.  "Cast My Cares"  Kory then went up and read the letter both him and I wrote to Karis.  Many tears were shed.  Our hearts for and journey with Karis were captured in the letter.  We sang "Though You Slay Me" a song that was felt heavily May 20th, the day we delievered her lifeless body. Terry then shared a message of encouragement.  He talked about how God loves children and how children challenege our faith.  After he spoke, Michael led us in the song Sovereign Over Us and during that song Kory, Avery and I went up and released three pink balloons.  We then went and prayed up by the casket.  Sovereign Over Us, was a song that we felt captured our hearts as move forward on this journye.  As dark as the path feels, we know our God is Sovereign over us. After that we all sang "It is Well", accapella as a family (note to self, our family cannot sing acapella again!)  As we sang it is well, I sang it to the Lord, telling him that all this heartache, all this pain, it is not easy, it is not wanted, but it is well with my soul because he is with us.  We closed the service as everyone came around us and surrounded us in prayer.

The whole service captured our journey thus far.  The songs we sang, the scriptures we read and the letter we wrote to Karis expressed our dance of grief and joy.  Sometimes the dance was full of sorrow and darkness and other times it was hopeful and healing.  Regardless, as I stared at the petite pine box with roses draped over it I realized the dance would not end at the end of this service.  We would continue dancing.  Grief and joy would continue to intertwine in our lives.  They would continue to exist together, not one without the other. 

The entire service I stared at the pine box.  Forcefully pushing away the thought and reality that my daughter lay inside.  Was she comfortable?  Was her blanket laid over just right?  Was her head on the pillow?  All these thoughts came to my mother's mind, yet quickly I dismissed them, knowing it didn't matter.  She was not inside, just her body was.  As a mother, staring at the casket with your child inside,  you feel as though you are not allowed to do the only thing you know how to do.  We are made to comfort our children.  It's in our bones and our blood to want to hold, caress, kiss, stroke, comfort, and love them.  In the midst of such pain, how was I not allowed to do those things? My mind couldn't comprehend that she was gone.  Never to have a first birthday, never to snuggle and read to, never to tickle and giggle, never to ride a bike and eat an ice cream cone.  Never to stroke her hair and sing to her.  Never to know her.  How could this be?  I don't think our human mind has or will ever have the ability to understand. Or to understand what had began that morning..... my milk came in.  I sat their sore and swollen, leaking out what should have been hers.  Even my own physical body didn't know how to respond to this.  My own physical self didn't understand death.  Of course it would create milk, that is what is supposed to happen when a baby is born.  It made sense to have milk ready, it did not make sense to stare at my child in a pine box. 
"This is not how it's supposed to be!"  I screamed at God to myself, unaware to what was happening during the funeral around me. 
He whispered back something I will always hold onto.  "I know."
God knows this isn't how it's supposed to be.  He never planned it this way.  He never intended it to be this way.  This is sin's fault, not his.  God never meant babies to die in their mommies bellies.  What a horrible thing, he hates it just as much as I do.

It's funny how things that aren't even quite logical comfort you during grief.  As we tried to make the decision of where to bury Karis I knew I wanted her to be right here in this cemetery.  The reason being is because I wanted her to be with her Grandma Theda and Grandpa Bob Dawes.  I wanted her to be buried right beside them so they could hold her while they lay peacefully, so that she would be comforted by family.  Now I know that none of their spirits reside there in the ground, but the fact that their physical bodies were side by side brought comfort.  What brings more comfort than all is knowing that their perfect, whole bodies are side by side in heaven as well, knowing they belong to each other.  All of those that have gone before are with Karis now, and that brings more comfort than a mother can express.

As the service came to a close, I whipsered to God "thank you."  Thank you for a family that has stood beside myself, Kory and Avery, not afraid of the darkness that threatened to destroy us.  I embraced the intimacy of the service with just my immediate family members there.  I felt a sense of relief, that we had honored her life well.  There is pressure as a mom, and as family members to honor your loved one well even though they aren't there to see it. A pressure to give them what they deserve in their moments after death as we celebrate their life.  I was so thankful I felt at peace with honoring her.  At the end of the service we passed out a pink rose to each person present.  This rose has great meaning:

As we've walked this journey we've come across many people who have walked before us on this road.  One couple in particular told us of a symbol God gave them to remember their sweet daughter by.  I prayed God would give us something similar.

The night we induced labor, my sister-in-law Kels, shared with me a moment God spoke to her.  Kyle and Kels were at Notre Dame visiting the Grotto.  This is a place where you come to light a candle and pray for someone or yourself.  As they left they noticed a statue of Mary.  She was kneeling before God with her hands open as if she was offering something up to him in surrender.  Someone had a placed a little pink rose in her hand.  Kels bent forward to smell the rose, that was small, delicate and looked as if it was dying, yet the fragrance was beautiful.  With tears in her eyes, she told me she went home and looked up the meaning of a pink rose and it meant "grace."

God could not have been more clear to us that day, through my sister-in-law, that Karis Faith is our little pink rose.  She is grace, and she is being offered up to the Lord.  I pictured my self as Mary, bending down holding Karis up to him.  I pictured myself doing this at the funeral, and doing it everyday from this point on.  The dance will continue.  Grief and joy will surely be our companions from this day forward.  But even as the pink rose was dying and delicate, what a sweet fragrance it's little life offered.  Karis, your life has been a beautiful fragrance to us and to the world. 

"Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God....a life giving perfume."  2 Corinthians 2:14-16

I kissed her casket goodbye.  My lips pressed against the fresh pine and the harder I pushed my lips, I thought, maybe somehow it could get to the top of her little forehead.  My sister-in-law Kristin had hand knit her the most precious blanket that lay with her inside that casket.  It was a soft pure white blanket with pastel pink and green woven in.  It was a Karis size blanket.  She also knit Avery an identical blanket so that she could always have with her what lay with her sister. 

After the funeral we spent time with extended family over lunch, great conversation, and the pool on a hot day. As I observed those I loved around me having fun, splashing in the water, and talking I wished Karis could have known her family.  I wish she could of known her cousins and aunts and uncles.  I wish we could of known her.

We got home, and got ready for bed.  I couldn't quite wrap my head around the events that took place that day.  But I laid my head on the pillow knowing that all I know is that I need to trust God, and that is all I will know and be sure of for awhile.  Tonight, both my girls laid with a white and pink blanket over them, one breathing earthly air, and one breathing heavenly air.  Oh, to have them both here, under the same blanket. 

As my thoughts gave way to dreams, I remembered the lyrics from the song "I Will Carry You" of a mom who had lost her daughter,

"There were photographs I wanted to take
Things I wanted to show you
Sing sweet lullabies, wipe your teary eyes
Who could love you like this?...."

And God responds..

"I've shown her photographs of time begininng
Walked her through the parted seas
Angel lullabies, no more teary eyes
Who could love her like this?"

Thank you God for loving sweet Karis, and tucking her in tonight.
Our little pink rose.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Jesus Wept

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about my new favorite story in the Bible, Jesus healing Lazarus in John 11.  After we found out Karis’s diagnosis this passage helped me learn to pray for her.  To simply offer up her circumstance and let God respond, trusting in his sovereignty.  This passage allowed me to see I have a limited viewpoint as I sit and wait for God to act.  I am not privy to his thoughts and I have to trust his love for me even as I wait.  It also taught me that even in my darkest hour, God continues to ask me where my faith is at.  Do I believe He is who he says he is?  Yes.  Again, I would never of been drawn to this passage in Scripture without reading the book “I Will Carry You,” by Angie Smith.  These are truths God has taught me through his Word and through this book.

This next truth he has taught me, isn’t just one that I’ve learned and continued to move on.  This truth has sunk down deep into my soul and I am forever changed.  This truth he didn’t just show me in His word, he spoke it over my life and I see my trials differently, very differently. 

First of all, it didn’t occur to me what Jesus “gave up” to come to Judea to heal Lazarus.  Jesus knows that heading back to Judea and the city means that he is walking towards the Father’s will for his life (his death).  He knows that this is the start of a series of events that will lead him to the cross.  With every step he takes towards Judea, he knows what he is walking towards.  He knows that if he heals Lazarus it will cause a big uproar with the Pharisees, and it did.  The headlines in John 11 go from “Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead,” to “The Plot to Kill Jesus.”  He was in a sense, risking his life to heal Lazarus. 

Secondly, what happens when Mary meets Jesus at the city gate is healing to my soul.  “When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33).  The Greek word here is embrimaomai, which refers to anger.  Angie Smith explains “many scholars suggest that this emotion was not aimed at the women and men who were gathered around Him but rather at death itself.  He was angry at the hurt it was causing.”  I fully believe that 3 days ago when death stole our daughter from us, Jesus was angry at death. 

They took Jesus to the place where Lazarus lay and the most beautiful thing happens, Jesus weeps (Jn 11:35).  While Jesus is weeping (dakryo), the women were wailing (klaio).  Angie Smith describes “This is the only occurrence of dakryo in the entire New Testament.  He isn’t crying over the death of Lazarus but rather the hurt He is experiencing with people He loves dearly.  He isn’t crying because the situation is hopeless, but because He is an empathetic God.  He knows that in a few moments Lazarus will walk out of the tomb.  He also knows they can’t see that hope.  And neither can we.  There is a difference in despair and deep sadness over the time that will pass until we see her again.   It is a conscious, daily choice to experience dakryo, the sadness that allows one to grieve with the expectation of redemption.”

Jesus wasn’t weeping because of death.  He knew that death did not have the final say.  He knew that just a few moments after he composed himself he would heal Lazarus completely.  That proves he wasn’t in despair.  That proves he wasn’t weeping because death had seemed to steal his friend from him.  Now the women, they were wailing.  They mourned deeply the loss of their brother.  Jesus is weeping and broken as he feels and sees those he loves mourn and grieve.  He is angry at death, saddened and troubled by how death makes us feel.  He knows death is not the final say.  He sees the bigger picture that we cannot see.  But his heart aches to see our hearts break.  And that is the most healing thing to me as of right now in all of Scripture.  That as my heart is completely and utterly ripped to pieces over the loss of my daughter and burying her tomorrow, my Savior is right next to me weeping at our loss.  He sees the bigger picture., In fact, he welcomed her into heaven.  He knows she is completely healed.  But he still weeps with us because he hurts when we hurt.  That is the God I serve and love.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16


Today I've spent a lot of time with Avery girl.  She is so great.  Her little curls and ponytail bobbed up and down as we walked. She pointed and got so excited at the little flowers along the road.  We threw sand in the lake about a hundred times and then "rinsey rinsey" our hands in the water.  She has helped me cope so much and she doesn't even know it.  I'm thankful she is young enough that a lot of this grief hasn't affected her a ton.  She did know that mommy had a baby in her belly, as she would often give Karis kisses, try to share her food and milk with my tummy, and point to my belly and say "baby."  Before I went into labor and delivery I tried to explain to Avery what was going to happen and told her she could say goodbye baby Karis.  She bent down, kissed my belly, waved, said "bye bye," and ran off to play.  Along the way, we've tried to tell Avery everything that's going on and explain it to her even though she may not understand all our words.

There was one moment in the hospital after Karis was born and we were getting family pictures of the 4 of us.  I was holding Karis and Kory was holding Avery.  Avery looked down at the bundle I was holding and said "Baby!  Baby!"  It took me off guard.  I immediately felt like she knew everything that was going on.  That this was her sister and she was not crying and alive like she should have been.  Avery seemed confused why we weren't showing her this baby and letting her tickle her toes.  It overwhelmed me with sadness.  I grieved for Avery.  My heart hurt for her, and the sister she lost.  She loves babies so much and is such a helper with all our friends' babies.  She was going to be the best big sister.  I was sad she and Karis would never get to have that sister bond, as they were only going to be 2 years apart.  Kory reminded me that she didn't know as much as it seemed.  She is used to seeing bundles in blankets and knowing that means baby, but didn't think she understood that it was her sister.  That helped.  Regardless, it's hard.  But it's easier knowing that Avery has been somewhat protected from the hurt because she is younger.

As we celebrate her life tomorrow at her service, I doubt Avery will really know what's going on.  But I want her to be there.  I want someday to tell her that she was there.  And I know she would want to be there, because that's what big sisters do for their little sisters.  And even though Avery would rather be tickling her wiggly toes, and bringing her warm blanky to snuggle, she will kiss her casket and wave and say "bye bye."  But either way, she is such a good big sister, and we are so proud of her.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Dance of Sorrow and Joy

Grief is starting to settle in.  I thought that after labor and delivery we would feel a sense of relief that such a hard hurdle in the race was behind us, but instead I was met with feeling so down.  I remember feeling weird when we were driving home from the hospital, seeing people out walking around, going about their day and having a normal life.  How was it possible that life kept going on around me?  For me, life was frozen and stopped.  How was May 20, 2014 a normal day for anyone?  For me it was marked with such pain and suffering.

WHen I got home from the hospital two days ago, I just remember feeling as if things just weren't as they should be.   I kept saying over and over, "this isn't right, it's not how it is supposed to be."  I was supposed to be figuring out breat feeding, getting up at all crazy hours of the night, changing dirty diapers, singing, reading and rocking.  Instead my arms were empty.  Nighttime was quiet, and Avery just had her baby dolls to pretend to feed and tickle, instead of a real sister.  Again, we invited the sadness in.  We felt it and didn't try to ignore or deny it.  We were sad and that was ok.

Today, I did what I probably shouldn't of done.  I went to the mall to try to find something to wear to the funeral service on Saturday.  Big mistake.  For one, dresses do not look right on me with my body just going through labor a couple of days ago.  For two, the poor people who were simply doing their job and asking me if I needed help finding anything "specific?"  Yes, I need to find something to wear to my daughter's funeral service.  I obviously didn't tell this to them.  I just gave them a half, fake smile, nodded no, and dashed in the other direction to hold back tears.  At one point I lost it in the dressing room.  NO one should have to figure out clothes to wear for occasions like this.  Kory came in and rescued me and we left.  I didn't need anything new to wear, old clothes would suffice and save our emotions for things that mattered. 

I also did the second thing that I shoudl of done tonight.  I got on facebook for the first time since April.  There were a lot of sweet messages that I hadn't seen yet, and that was a nice surprise.  But what followed was shocking.  I was in awe that people were having a normal life.  College graduations, funny jokes, funny stories, people starting summer activities, going on trips....I was amazed.  These people obviously have every right to post these pictures, I wasn't in any any way offended by them, I just forgot what it was like to feel normal.  That felt like so long ago.  For three weeks we've been living in a fog, swimming in a sea of hurt and confusion.  Our conversations went from what we should have for dinner, to where we should bury our daughter.  From what activity we should play at ISI, to when we should induce labor to deliver her lifeless body.

Will life ever return to normal?  What is normal?  And do I even want normal to return?  Those thoughts scared me.  How long would this pain and ache accompany me?  Would it tag along to every good moment and put a shadow on every fun experience?  But yet, the thought of not feeling pain scared me.  I don't ever want Karis's life to fade into a memory of the past.  I want to hold on to what it felt like to be pregnant with her, I want to feel the emotions she brought, even if they were hard, because they were connected to her.  I quickly started to panic and wanted to hold on to both sorrow and joy at the same time.  Was that possible?  I don't ever want to "move on" from this, but I don't want to be sad forever.

I thought of the Scripture, "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing."  2 Corinthians 6:10

Was it possible to be sorrowful and joyful at the same time?  In Angie Smith's book, "I Will Carry You,"  she writes about this through a visual picture and it spoke volumes to me tonight.

Sorrow was beautiful, but her beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the wood, and making little pools of silver here and there in the soft green moss below.  When sorrow sang, her notes were like the low sweet call of the nightingale.  She could weep in tender sympathy with those weep, but to rejoice with those who rejoice was unknown to her.

Joy was beautiful too, but his was the radiant beauty of the summer morning.  His eyes still held the laughter of childhood, and his hair had the glint of the sunshine's kiss.  When Joy sang his voice soared upwards as the lark's and his step was the step of a conqueror who has never known defeat.  He could rejoice with al who rejoice, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to him.

"But we can never be united," said Sorrow wistfully.
"No, never."  And Joy's eyes shadowed as he spoke.  "My path lies through the sunlit meadows."
"My path," said Sorrow, "leads through the darkening woods, farewell Joy, farewell."

Even as she spoke they became conscious of a form standing beside them; dimly seen, but of kingly presence, and a great and holy awe stole over them as they sank on their knees before Him.  "I see Him as the King of Joy," whispered Sorrow, "for on his head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory.  Before him all my sorrow is melting away into deathless love and gladness, I give myself to Him forever."
"Nay, Sorrow," said Joy softly, "but I see Him as the King of Sorrow, and the crown on His head is the crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of great agony.  I too, give myself to Him forever, for sorrow with Him must be sweeter than any joy I have ever known." 

"Then we are one in Him,"  they cried in gladness, "for none but He could unite Joy and Sorrow."
Hand in hand they passed out into the world to follow Him through storm and sunshine, in the bleakness of winter cold and the warmth of summer gladness, as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing."

God, I trust you in my grief.  Let me know that I can hold on and let go at the same time. Let me know that you allow sorrow and joy to exist at the same time.