Grades…

School is starting. The pictures are up on Facebook. This morning I was scrolling through and it hit me afresh that Kaitlyn would have been 10th grade and Zach 8th. I have no one in a grade this year. The pictures from the first days of school from past years are a bit painful to look at right now. Last year’s pics on the porch are some of my favorites of all time.

I find it hard to believe they would have been in 8th and 10th grades but instead they are locked forever in 7th and 9th. We don’t get to know them as anything higher.

Occasionally I wonder what this week would have looked like if nothing had changed. I don’t spend much time thinking about it, mostly because I don’t know how. We would have made all kinds of decisions together about finishing up summer in Port Alsworth and getting Sam to school and helping Kaitlyn and Zach be ready to start and cross country practices.

Instead I’m here in Wenatchee with Ben and Pam and their kids. We leave for Bozeman today to get Sam moved in at MSU. This time next week I’ll be heading back to Port Alsworth.

So even as my heart squeezes as I see pictures, I’ll focus on being present where I am. The both/and just keeps coming.

Turning the page

Last night as I climbed into bed and throughout the night as I woke and went back to sleep I had to fight feelings of panic on this monumental day. We’ve done life together in this house, learning our new normal for 8 months. And today it is coming to an end.

It’s not that we will never be together again under this roof, sharing meals and playing games, making messes and cleaning them up, finding solace in solitude and welcoming people through the doors. There might still be some weeks or even months that we share this space again, but never in quite the same way.

This change was coming even before the accident. This part of the story is not new. So, I try to remind myself that is day was going to happen anyway.

There is an odd calm about it. It is time. It needs to happen. There are new adventures for Josh and for Sam that need to be had far from here. And they are embracing that. And it is so good. And I pray for new levels of healing to happen as they walk into what is next.

Because there is next. We can’t have next and now at the same time. So we walk into this new season. And I remind myself to breathe deeply. It is a big deal. It is a big day. It was always going to be so. And I do not have to face it without hope or comfort, though I am the one who needs to walk it alone. But it doesn’t have to be a lonely alone, though I acknowledge there are moments when that is how I feel.  Intensely so. But my feelings do not determine reality and I will fiercely cling to Jesus and hold Him to His word that He will never leave or forsake.

Today I will preach the Gospel to myself again. I am fully known and deeply loved by the Creator of the universe who has made a way for me to have intimate communion with Himself. Provision has been made for my sin and failure to be paid for and what is astounding is that redemption and restoration are possible because the debt was paid and then death and destruction conquered with the resurrection. It is so hard not being able to see it all now. So by faith I walk, crawl, am carried in the not yet.

Today I will picture myself held as many times as I remember. I will be present where I am. I will take the pain to Jesus. I will look forward in hopeful anticipation of this next season and of the ultimate Day. And in the moments when I don’t, or I can’t, I will be where I am and trust that the Lord will lift my eyes in the way only He can.

Feet hitting the ground

A few weeks ago I found myself saying that I thought maybe I felt some solid ground under my feet. Maybe I had drifted closer to shore after months of bobbing in waves of unknown depth.

As I thought about that today I do feel like a shift is happening. Like the beginning of learning to walk on solid land again. And my legs do not know how to hold me up after this season at sea. The ground seems mired in sticky clay as I try to take some steps on this uncharted shore. Each step is a painful reminder that I am in a new land.

There seem to be no trails here. Floating with the current suddenly seems easy compared to this. Bushwhacking is exhausting business, but everywhere I look both physically and emotionally it is my job to move in unfamiliar ways.

I do not feel equal to the task, but there seems to be no alternative. I must walk. I must keep doing the hard things and facing reality. Scott would often remind me that “reality is our friend.”  It feels anything but friendly.

Reflections from the seventh 7th

The day itself came and went with preparation for weeks of being gone, the transition away from home. I flew the same route they had taken. It crossed my mind that I was glad it was a different time of the day than they flew. Not sure why that suddenly seemed significant to me.

No way to know what to expect as time goes by. It just seems like it’s been forever. I feel more settled in this new normal than I would have thought I would at this point. I’ve stopped trying to figure out how it all works and I walk.

I just said to someone yesterday that maybe I’m starting to find the occasional solid bit of ground under my feet. I was surprised to hear myself say it. That’s new.

I’m sitting in another airplane now headed to Colorado for the time Scott and I were going to have attending a conference in Fort Collins. There are things I’m looking forward to and the anticipation of being washed over with overwhelming emotions at times. I wonder what my capacity to engage will look like. The only thing to do is take it one moment at a time. It’s really the only thing to ever do, but sometimes I get ahead of myself.

I feel privileged to be the one who got to love Scott and Kaitlyn and Zach as wife and mom. That’s my special spot for each of them and each grief journey is as unique as the relationship I mourn.

I feel amazed at the fact that I see life ahead. I see glimmers of beauty in the midst of the ashes. Is it a backstage pass or a front row, VIP seat to God’s amazing grace? I feel ushered into a very intimate place. I relish the moments I spend in the arms of Jesus. He loves me best. He lets me see His heart for me.

I somehow find that Psalm 16 resonates with me and I marvel. “The Lord is my chosen portion and my strength. You hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.” How? How does that not seem to only apply to someone else? I have nothing to point to in myself. It isn’t because I’m “doing this well”. But I do run often to Jesus’s side to unload, to listen, to hand Him the troubles of the moment. It’s what I’ve been doing for years in, what I now feel like was small measure, and now get to receive lavishly.

It seems pain is somehow connected to the capacity to press in. At least it has been for me. Desperation perhaps. It’s doing its job. I long for more. And the treasure is endless.

Get in the car

Road trip. A familiar phrase in past years and a rare treat in this stage. Only this road trip is the one I picture in my mind.

I see myself sitting in a sedan of some nondescript variety. Colors are neutral, the scenery a road through varied trees a ways off the road offering me a fairly broad horizon. There are no land marks or road signs.

In the car is the present. It contains the physical things that need to be done to make life work. There is often music playing on the radio. I just realized I think my picture has me in a British car but still sitting in the left seat. Strange. Is it that perhaps I am a passenger after all?

The rear view mirror is the past. It is always in my peripheral vision. It informs my decisions about driving. But it is not safe to drive staring intently backward. At times I pull off and allow myself some moments focused there. It is bittersweet.

Through the windshield I look out toward the future. It is much larger than the rear view mirror. I need it to be. There is life to live.

The challenge I sometimes have is staying in the car. I find myself anxiously running out ahead. And then the gentle reminder to “be where I am”, to get back in the car. It is the only place for me.

There are days I feel like the car has run me over and, as a friend so graciously pointed out, when you’ve been run over the thing to do is rest and recover. I need to remember that.

So today, I will choose again to stay in the car and trust the route and the destination to my very capable Driver.

Socks, smiles and fish

Today was a…celebration…day of sorrow…time to recount blessings. All of it. It has left me wrung out and still with a small smile that creeps to the corners of my mouth.

I wore Zach’s darn tough socks today (they’re pretty awesome). I made some rhubarb bars. I went fishing. I looked at his picture. I heard his voice in videos. His smile and laugh bring a smile and a deep pain. Oh I miss him. So much wondering about who he was becoming.

And I walked around like I was going through molasses. This is hard. He would have been 14. The verb tenses. The math. Amazing how much they signify.

And I remember going fishing with him and Scott and Kaitlyn last summer. It was perfect day. I don’t think I caught anything. We just were together. Predictably Zach caught the most fish. He sure loved to fish. So many things made his face light up. Time together was definitely one of them. He loved it when the whole family was home together.

He also loved playing games. I’m not sure it much mattered what it was. Together. Life with. Presence. The here and now. He did it so well. I knew it but now I know it. I see it. He even knew it. He would comment on how he was content wherever he was. Being. Funny how I can learn from him the very thing we thought we were teaching.

Hogan’s Heroes, Larkrise to Candleford, Chopped. Some of his favorite shows. Adventures in Odyssey was often heard playing in his room no matter what else he was doing.

Today I caught a pike. It might be my first. I can’t even remember. But I think I’ll remember this one. It was good to get out and do something he loved. I’m grateful to have such a great guy to remember. I got to be his mom. What a gift. 

The miracle of beauty from ashes

Along this journey I have become more and more convinced that God wants all of me, all of you. And it’s not so He can control me, it’s so His grace can transform every part. So I can see Him more clearly. So the Gospel can give life and walk itself out.

This includes the pain, maybe especially the pain. It does not negate giving Him time and talents, worries and cares, gifts and blessings. But meeting Him in the pain is a newer journey for me, a deeper one. I find myself wondering what would happen if ALL my pain was brought to Him in trust and hope. What if I started that conversation with myself with, “that really hurt” instead of “that shouldn’t bother me”. All of it. What I deem big or small. Engage. Bring it to Jesus. Let Him use it.

Something I’ve noticed is that I now have a more sensitive radar to pain, my own and those around me. Along with that is a lack of capacity to always enter in. I know this is a season of extreme rawness and healing for my own heart, and I find I must hand other’s pain over to Jesus even as I give Him mine. I feel like my perspective on my role in the process is being put in its proper place. He may choose to use me to help bear the load, but He’s the One who has to do the miracle working.

This should have always been my response, really. To trust Him with the pain, all of it. As I’ve held up my pain before Him instead of minimizing or pushing it aside, miracles happen, miracles I tell you. There is joy. There is beauty. What?! Shouldn’t pain erase joy? Kill the capacity for hope? It should in the enemy’s scheme. It’s logical. Steal. Kill. Destroy.

And I’ve seen that in action. The pain that kills life and steals joy and fertilizes bitterness and sucks life. This pain causes one to turn inward instead of upward in awe, being hopeful of the transformation. The pain that comes out sideways toward others. I have talked with some in pain who have a hard time hearing where I really am. Often in a genuine desire to connect I feel like their journey is superimposed onto mine, my responses assumed instead of inquired about. In those moments God gives me grace to see their pain and that they see mine through theirs. My heart hurts for them. I want the pain to produce life in them, but it sometimes produces death.

What I am in awe of again today is the beauty in the ashes. It is available. How does He do that? It isn’t natural. How can there be hope for the future? Dreams to pursue? Passions being awakened? I. Don’t. Know.

But it is beautiful.