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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Karis Scholarship

There is nothing better than knowing your grief and your loss are not in vain.  That the person you mourn still carries a legacy and is making a difference.  When you are reminded of that truth, it is a gift from God to hold and cherish.  This gift came to me during the ISI Awards night tonight. 

When Karis passed, we had people ask us if we had a memorial fund for her.  The thought hadn’t occurred to us, but the more people asked, we figured we should pray about what and where this money could go.  We have always wanted to start a scholarship fund for our ISI students who graduate highschool and go on to college.  They are in such need financially to make college happen, that we desperately want to help and encourage them in that process.  Kory had the idea of the Karis Scholarship. 

Now we have a fund that people have donated to that allows us to give each graduating ISI student $500 towards their first year of college.  This year we had two high school grads that are going to college next and it was our first year to award them with their scholarship.  As Kory awarded them with the scholarship, he explained that this was made possible by the donations made on behalf of our daughter.  I let that sink in.  Karis’s short life was enabling urban youth to go to college.  What a difference she made without even breathing earthly air.  That is how big God is.  That he can use lives that didn’t even make it out of their mama’s womb for his glory. That is a big God, and I am forever grateful to him that he uses my sweet daughter Karis for his kingdom purposes.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Can we get a break?

It’s days like these where I feel like God is on vacation, or worse yet present, but mad at me.   Questions like “what did we do to deserve this?” come to my head, or “can we ever get a break?”  This must be punishment of some sort, it’s the only logical thing that I can reason with.  These are days when I have to preach to myself and get scripture in my head there like never before. 

ISI Awards night is tomorrow and so Kory and I are busting it to make that awesome for the kids.  But this morning I had a doctor’s appointment where I got not so great news.  It’s hard enough to deliver her, and say goodbye, but then to deal with all the physical body aftermath of having a baby, without having your baby, feels almost cruel.  Then, I come home to a husband who cannot get out of bed because of a massive migraine that literally causes him to be in more pain than any human being should have to endure.  Meanwhile our list of “to-dos” is getting out of control as the two of us are trying to pull this awards night together by the skin of our teeth.  All the while, parenting a lovely two year old who never throws a tantrum or has any needs to think through…haha, right.  Not to mention the daily grief that’s just…there.  God, where are you in this?  Can we please get a break?  We are trying to do this awards night for you, for your kids, why does it feel like you aren’t on our side today?

The other day we saw the second movie to the Hunger Games series, “Catching Fire.”  There is a part at the end where Katniss almost kills Finnick, one of the people that are in the games with her.  She will have to kill him eventually if she wants to win the games, but he has been one of her allies and is hard to think about killing.  As she is pointing her arrow at him, he sees her, and calls out to her to not kill him.  In attempt to spare his life he cries out “Katniss, remember who the real enemy is we are fighting against.”  The real enemy in the movie, are the people at the capital, the president, the one who is making them fight in the first place. Today I need to remember who my real enemy is. 

I don’t want my bitter arrows to be aimed at God, this isn’t “his fault.”  He loves me (1 John 4:9).  He is near to me (Psalm 145:18). He is for our good (Romans 8:28).  Satan is for my destruction.  Every time I feel destroyed, that is Satan’s doing (John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:8).

When I have days like this, I have to remember truth of who God is.  He is not punishing me, he is not mad at me, he is not on vacation, he is not absent from our struggles and pain.  He is not who my arrow should be pointed at.  I’m fighting against the enemy on this day.  My arrows need to be full of Scripture and blow them straight into his face.  My arrows do not need to be aimed at anyone around me.  I aim them at the enemy. 

In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Today I load this Scripture onto my arrow and let it sail straight into the enemy’s face.  Yes, in this world I will have trouble and I will struggle, but my God tells me to take heart, because is the victorious one.  God beat Satan. God won the game. God is the winner.  So when Satan makes me feel like the weight of the world is on me and it feels like too much, I remind him that my father beat him.  My father has it coming to him.  He better leave me alone. 

So today, I will take heart.  I’m on the winning team.

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  Romans 8:37

Monday, June 2, 2014

Breaths Taken

I notice a lot of times it’s really hard for me to explain how I’m feeling, which is maybe why I’m writing and journaling more than I normally do.  The best way I can explain how I’ve been feeling lately is “waves,” and “breaths taken away.”  What I mean by “waves” is the waves of emotion that come and go.  My counselor described it best as, the second stage of grief (after shock) is when your emotions are in the driver’s seat, and they have control of you.  Your emotions decide when something will hit you and you have no power to stop it.  The third stage is when your emotions are still there but you get in the driver’s seat and start regaining control.  You start telling your emotions when they can come and go.  I’m definitely in the second stage.  My emotions are in control and they come in waves.  Sometimes I can be hugging someone that is crying on my behalf and my eyes are dry, the next second someone can ask me how I’m doing and I start crying.  It just depends and it’s so unpredictable. There’s a song “You Make Me Brave,” and in it there are the lyrics, “wave after wave, crashes over me, crashes over me.”  And that’s what it feels like, waves crashing over me.

Then there are the breaths being taken.  This is when I’m going about my normal day and all of a sudden it hits me, a thought, a visual, a song, a smell, a memory….whatever it is, it hits me almost like the wind getting knocked out of me and I can’t catch my breath.  For that brief second, I can’t talk or get anything out.  I inhale and stop.  I’m either going to break down and cry or dismiss the thought and keep moving on with what I was doing.  99% of the time I dismiss the thought so that I can continue to move on, because 99% of the time my breath gets taken away in public and I avoid the public breakdowns at all costs.  I didn’t realize that “grace” was such a common name when we named her.  Now I meet so many little blonde girls by the name of Grace, I lose my breath every time.  This happened the other day, I was at the Notre Dame park with Avery pushing her on a swing.  A cute girl Avery’s age was on the swing next to us and her mom and I were making small talk.  The little blonder 2-year old was named Grace, which I thought was really neat.  Her mom was pregnant and I was running out of small talk questions so I asked her how far along she was and when she was due.  She was five months pregnant and due at the end of September, same as I would have been with Karis.  I about nearly chocked on my own breath.  A daughter Avery’s age named Grace, expecting one the same time I was supposed to expect Karis, and these were people I just had met.  It’s those times where my breath is taken away, but then I push the thought away to keep going and exhale without skipping a beat in the eyes of whoever I’m talking with.  They know no difference while I am swallowing down pain.  Then the weird part.  I’ve dismissed the thought as quickly as it came and I don’t know where the thought goes.  It travels off somewhere, never to be processed or digested well.  It wouldn’t be that big of a deal except it happens so many times a day that I’m constantly swallowing down little tid bits of hurt that I probably should be processing more.  It seems like everything always happens while I’m at a park with Avery.  I need to start a new summer activity. 

The other day I was making small talk with a sweet woman, probably my age, and learning about her kids and family.  They had just moved to the area.  The woman paused, looked down at Avery and asked the dreaded question, “so is she your only one?”  I stopped.  My breath left me for .2 seconds.  I didn’t know how to respond.  No, she’s not my only one, my other one is in heaven, not here swinging on swings with us.  But do I really do into all the details to someone I’m never going to speak to again?  I rather not.

        Breath taken.

“Yes, she is our only one.”
I felt like I was betraying Karis as I said it.  Should I of explained?  Was it worth a break down?    

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing.  Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming.  All we can do is learn to swim.”  Vicki Harrison

At the beginning learning how to swim is hard.  You get water up your nose, you gag on water, swallow water, flail your arms and kick your feet and don’t go anywhere.  You see how deep the water is and you fear your might drown trying to get to where your headed.  Maybe it’s safer to just hold onto the edge and not try to swim to the other side?  Then there’s no chance of drowning.  But then you will never go anywhere.  So you continue to push yourself to learn to swim.  You take baby steps.  You do not fear the deep water, you press forward knowing you won’t have perfect form, but you will reach the other side.  If you get water up your nose a few times here and there, you don’t panic, it’s part of the learning process. 

         Breathe deeply.

We will learn how to swim in grief; by the grace of our God who is the ultimate swim coach. 

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.  He rescued me from my powerful enemy….he rescued me because he delighted in me.”  Psalm 18:16-19