charlie's song


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Passed Over

One of my absolute favorite things about having kids…is seeing the world through their eyes. They just see things better.  They see things with a resilient, child-like hope.  They see things with an incomparable joy, like everything is a gift that they feel so privileged to even get to see.  They see things like they haven’t seen them before…because sometimes they really are seeing those things for the very first time.

This works for butterflies at the park, and lady bugs in the grass, but it’s also true for much, much more important things.  The other day we were reading the story of Passion Week together from the Jesus Storybook Bible.  After the Last Supper, it says that Jesus and his friends finished eating and then, “walked to their favorite place…an olive garden.”  

You should have seen the joy on little Fred’s face when he heard those words.  “The OLIVE GARDEN,” he cried.  “That’s my favorite place!  I didn’t know Jesus has been to the Olive Garden!”   He was so tickled about that one he couldn’t even concentrate for the rest of the story.

But that’s how it is when you’re someone who’s new to the world.  When you’re someone with a new heart, new dreams, new questions, and two beautiful, new eyes.  They read about Jesus washing His disciples feet…and they’ve got a million questions about why their feet were all so dirty and stinky in the first place.  They read about Jesus’ anger in the temple…and they shiver just thinking about what it feels like to even be in trouble with mommy and daddy.  They read these things…and it isn’t like, “Ho-Hum, la-de-dah…Jesus left for the Olive Garden again.”  They are fresh, and new, and at the very beginning of getting to know Jesus for a lifetime…and the whole thing is very exciting.

So, why am I saying all of this?

It’s not that I think every grown-up who reads the Easter story, should totally expect to marvel at every detail in the same child-like way.  I think there is a preciousness to childhood that we crusty, old adults simply cannot replicate, even if we tried.  Jesus made it so clear, how very special and unique little children were to Him, every time He let them crawl into His arms and wreck His robe with smudges of fig jam and fish grease.  He knew exactly how precious little ones, with their endless questions and insatiable joy, were to the Kingdom He and His Father were building.  Are building.  And even today, I know that my little ones are on His heart and mind…as they fight through each long day.

But at the same time, as much as we can never be exactly what they are…I think we’ve lost something precious, if we don’t read read those age-old, worn down pages, with the same awe and wonder this week.

We have to fight harder to get there, because they are simply not new anymore…but they are still, precious indeed.

I read about Jesus and His friends heading out the Olive Garden, and I mostly just want to weep.  Just thinking about how heavy each step must have been for Him…as He trudged towards that long, dark night.  His sweat heavy to bleeding, and His heart heavy to breaking, as He lived through a miserable night, that was only a prelude to the even darker day.

And I wonder, if maybe just maybe, He was remembering another dark night.  A night similar to the one He was in…with warm bread, bitter herbs, and blood-red wine.  The night, way back when, when He watched as His Father commanded His people to pour blood on the doorposts of their lives.

Passover.

I’ve been thinking about that word all week.

Passed Over.

And to be honest, images of blood on doorposts, is not what immediately comes to mind.  One Passover ago, as I sat in a grief counselor’s office, I felt the weight of a passover in another way.  I remember one day in her office particularly vividly.  The counselor had asked me to describe what it felt like to have Charlie taken away.  And this was the first image that came to my mind…

“I feel like…I have spent eight excited months in a long line of pregnant women.  I, and everyone before me and after me who were pregnant with me, are standing in a line… waiting to get our babies.  Like kids…lined up outside a candy shop, hands eagerly outstretched, so very excited to get our special candy.  And then, Dad comes out of the store, and slowly hands each person their beautiful piece of shiny, bright candy.  And then when He gets to me…He rips the piece of candy right out of my hands, slaps me over the head…and walks away.  Like a very bad game of “Duck, Duck, Goose.”  And the worst part…is that everyone else…gets their candy.”

I am not saying that that is exactly how it all went down in the heavenlies regarding my life.  But that is exactly what it felt like to my broken and bleeding being.

I got passed over.

You might even be reading this and feel a little offended that I would say such a thing.

But there is nothing like being in a line, and then suddenly, not being in a line.  There is nothing like having your womb stretched out, and your hands outstretched, eagerly awaiting the absolute best gift you could ever be given in this life…and then suddenly, horrifically, the gift is snatched away.  This is a not a statement about the heart of the One who took Charlie…it is a statement about what it feels like from our human perspective, to be someone who has experienced the snatching.

You feel…passed over.

And this is a feeling that I know is not totally unique to me.

The godly woman who has waited her entire life for Mr. Godly Right.  She reads stupid things on Pinterest like, “God gives the best gifts to those who leave the choice to Him,” and she wants to throw something at the computer screen.

Because God doesn’t always give the “best” gift…the one you’ve always wanted…to those who give Him their lives.  Following Jesus is not a sign-up for an amazing life.  HE is amazing.  HE is real and near and powerful and present.  And He promises only one gift…if you chose to trust Him with your life.  The best gift.  The gift of Himself.  And all other gifts…He may take away.  All other gifts…may never even give in the first place.

And what you get or don’t get, has far less to do with how well you “left the choice to Him” than ANY of us would like.

You may not know what I’m talking about,t and that’s totally ok.  But there are so many moments in life where many, many people are left to feel completely “passed over” by the God whom they have always trusted implicitly.

The godly older couple who love every single neighbor-kid like they are their own…but never, ever get a grand baby.  The retired woman who had such dreams of a life of adventure with her husband, and she is the only one of her friends whose husband left for heaven far before “his time.”  The couple who has waited for ten years to have a baby, and absolutely nothing is “working.”  The college girl who is literally the only one in her friend group who did not get her “ring by spring.”

It is a horrible, horrible thing to feel passed over.  Especially when you have trusted Him so deeply.

I sit here this Passover week, with a body so sick I can barely function, knowing that every single person who lost a baby in the same year that I lost Charlie…has already brought a baby home, or has one on the way.  I sit here this week, in a house full of stuff I did not own two months ago, wondering where one goes to buy a linen table cloth for Easter, since all of my grandma’s tablecloths got thrown out with everything else in our life.

And most of all, I sit here this Easter, wondering why my babies precious bodies are stuck in the cold ground of spring, and everyone else’s babies are in their arms today.  Wondering why my little girl was sobbing at bedtime the other night, because she is so terrified that Mommy is going to die of cancer, from the lumps the doctor found in her thyroid.  Wondering why my life has been passed over…from so very many joys.  Wondering why our family seems to literally go from misery to horrific misery, instead of from glory to glory.

And then all of it…all of this wondering, all of this pain…gets stopped breathless by one simple truth…it is Passover week.

For all that I have been passed over from…there is one pass-over, that literally saved my life. 

The angel of forever death…has passed over me.

Because the Jesus who went to the Olive Garden with His buddies on that long dark Passover night…went there for me.  And the God who has taken things deeply precious to me, is the same God who passed right over His Son’s anguished prayer of, “Father, if there is ANY way…please take this cup from me.”

Because for all of the cups of suffering that God has chosen for our family to drink…there is none that compares to the cups He drank.

Cups of bitter betrayal.  Cups of demoralizing denial.  Cups of holy wrath.

All.  For.  Me.

And for all of the times that we have felt passed over this year, as God doesn’t give us what we want, and often gives us exactly what we don’t…nothing compares to the gift He gave that Good Friday, which probably felt nothing but bad at the time.

He left that olive garden, and hung on a cross for you and me.

And He didn’t just hang there, going through the motions, just putting in His time.  He hung there as sin overtook His body.

He, who knew no sin, took on lies, and rape, and fornication, and child abuse, and murder and infanticide, like worms wreathing inside His very being.  He became those wretched things.

And the punishment for every one of them, passed over you and me.

There may be many Passover left until the return of Christ.  This may be the final one, before He comes back to make this big mess right.  I honestly check the sky every single day now, hoping it’s today.

But whether they be few, or many, one thing remains…the newest eyes we can ever have, the ones most child-like a full of faith, are when we do not miss what He took for us that day.

When we do not miss what He spared us from.

When we do not miss what did not Pass over…our Savior who bled and died.

When we do not miss the depths of the wretchedness that fell upon HIM…for the sake of our unworthy lives.

When we do not miss that His doorpost stayed empty…so ours could be covered forever by the blood of His suffering.

And that the Passover Lamb, who may have chosen in His wisdom and sovereignty…to not give us every longing in this life…has given us a far greater thing.

The gift of Himself.  Bloody and bleeding, on the old, rugged cross where He died.

 

 

 

 

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One More Week

It’s been a very long week.

We began the week with hard news.  Eight weeks ago, our mold doctor did a nasal swab test on each one of us.  She put a very long Q-tip, a very long way up each one of our noses, and we have been waiting to see what cultured over the last two months.  The lab found several different kinds of rare fungal growth in my nose, as well as Reid’s and Emma’s noses, and we are still waiting to hear back on Fred’s and Sophie’s cultures.  We didn’t really need a reminder of how very sick we are, but this was a reminder nonetheless.  And now we know that the mold is actually trapped inside our noses, we know that the road to recovery is probably going to be even longer.

To make matters worse…I have to retest my mycotoxin load this next week.  The way that the mold medicine works, is that we drink it on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, and then take “sequestering agents” like charcoal and bentonite clay, to bind to the mold that the medicine is pulling out.  But, in order to accurately test for how high the mycotoxin load still is, I need to take the medicine for the next week, without taking the sequestering agents.  It’s a great way to make yourself sick.

And each day I am getting sicker and sicker as the mold is released from cells and fat reserves where it’s been stored over the last two years…particularly in my brain.  So basically, my body is on a downhill slide.  My thyroid and lymph nodes are so swollen, that I can no longer lay on my neck.  My stomach is so full of inflammation, that I look like one of those emaciated third-world children, with skinny arms and a bloated mid-section.  A very thick brain fog has rolled in.  And my left eye has started twitching so violently, that I’ve had to wear an eye patch.  I look like a very disgruntled pirate.

So, yes.  It’s been a long one.

As I crawl through the day, aching with inflammation, snappy with my kids, and constantly readjusting my pirate patch, I just keep telling myself, “One more week.”   I have to remind myself constantly that there is purpose in this suffering, and in one week I will be back on the sequestering agents, and we will finally be able to do an updated test on my mycotoxin load.

One.  More.  Week.

It will be a nice Easter present.

And as I limp along towards that goal, Easter has been on my mind and heart.

There was a time, in what feels like forever ago, that the passing of time used to make me really sad.  I would get to moments like this coming holiday and think to myself, “Oh man…only ELEVEN more Easters together, and our sweet Emma will be heading off to college.”  I would get so sad just thinking about how quickly time goes by, and how desperately I wanted to cherish these precious moments.  How desperately I wanted them to never run out.  And though I would have never said it, or maybe never even thought it, I clung pretty tightly to the very best things in this world.  I really didn’t want them to end.

And if Charlie were here, I would be getting his little Easter outfit out this week…and thinking the same thing about him.  I would be thinking, “Soon, you won’t be able to wear this little bow tie and suit!  Sweet Charlie, please stay little forever!”

But I’m not thinking that.  We don’t even own that little suit anymore.  It went out, along with everything else we once owned.  And I don’t have the luxury any more of looking at this Easter, as one of the many Easters with my sweet kids in the fleeting passage of time.  Because half of them, are gone.  They.  Just. Aren’t.  Here.

And now, my only thought as Easter approaches is this…I’m one Easter closer.  

One Easter closer to the end.  One Easter closer to knowing my son.  I survived last Easter, one horrific, grief-filled, moment at a time, and now I’m on to my second Easter without him.  And even while all around me, as even my own little ones are growing up so unspeakably fast…I am so thankful that we are one day closer to the end.

The other day, the kids and I were making cookies for Emma’s Easter party at school. “Cookies” is a lose term, because they’re actually gluten-free cookie balls made out of flax seed, chia seeds, honey, and almond butter.  But the kids love making them because they get to roll them up into fun little balls.  As we rolled ball after ball, they would tell me who they were making each one for.

And then, as it always does, grief swept in unannounced.

Fred was rolling up a cookie ball in his pudgy little hands, and he suddenly said to me in his cheerful Fred voice, “Mommy!  This one’s for Charlie.  I made it for him when he comes back with Jesus during the Resurrection!”

He’s four.  Four.  Years.  Old.  Still so very little and new to this world.

And yet…he already knows all that really matters.

That someday…Jesus is going to come back.  And that when he does…Charlie is coming back with him.  And that even though it might not be soon enough to eat one of the cookies balls we made for him this week…it is going to happen.

I am so very thankful that in the midst of a year where there was, quite frankly, very little Bible teaching on our part, and where, at one point, even his children’s Bible got tossed out…Fred somehow knows what matters most. Jesus is coming back.

And as I prepare for yet another Easter without my sweet Charlie, and the two little ones who came after him…I’ve started to have thoughts about Easter that I’ve never had before.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that last week before the crucifixion, and what it must have felt like from the Father’s perspective.  As I’ve read through the book of Luke in preparation for Easter, I’ve been amazed at how many times Jesus predicted his death.

In Luke 18:31-33 He says to his disciples, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished.  For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.”  

From the disciples perspective, they heard him say “One more week,” and then probably gave each other the look.  The look that said, “We’ve only got one more week to talk him out of this craziness.  One more week to change his mind.  One more week…to stop Him.”

But I think it was different for His Father.  I know that watching His Son suffer, was something God never looked forward to.  But I really believe that the Father looked at that first Easter, much like I look at this one.  One more week…and I’ll finally get to see my Son again. One more week…and He’ll be on a countdown to coming home.  One more week...and I won’t have to live in one place, while He lives in another.  One more week…and he will no longer have to suffer.  

Sometimes we act like the crucifixion was the only hard part about Jesus’ mission to earth.  But I’m sure it was no picnic hanging out down here with us wretched sinners. I think the Father ached as He watched His son belittled by the Pharisees, scoffed at by the critics, and disrespected by the disciples.  And then, in one more week…the worst was yet to come.  Peter.  Judas.  And the Cross.

I ache thinking of what my little ones have endured, both the ones still with me, and the ones who have gone before me to heaven.  And I am quite certain that Jesus’ Dad ached even more…as He watched His Son endure this world for us. For thirty years.  And then three years.  And then the worst week ever.  I am sure that the Father’s heart was wracked with sorrow, in ways we will simply never comprehend…as that last week approached.

And though I know that Jesus didn’t immediately descend to heaven after Easter Sunday, I am sure that His Father’s heart was so full as the sun shown on that first brilliant morning as the tomb was opened.  Knowing the worst week was finally over.  Knowing His Son would soon be Home.

And as we approach this last week until Easter, I am praying that my heart will be more like the Father’s…than the disciples.  That I will anticipate the resurrection with the same gusto that little Fred does.  Eagerly anticipating the return of Christ, and hoping it is very, very soon.  Eagerly letting go of the things of this world…because of the promises of the next one.

And I am praying that I will be able to say with joy, and not just a heavy heart over all that has been lost…ONE MORE WEEK.   One more week…and we will know Jesus that much more.  One more week…closer to the resurrection.  One more week…closer to being with Jesus forever, face-to-face and heart-to-heart. One more week…closer to meeting the little boy, I had wanted to know so very, very much.

One more week…closer to the end.  The end of all of this, that we all cling to so very tightly.  An end, which is really much more of a beginning, than an end.

Tonight, Emma asked if she could pray before dinner.  She said, “Dear Jesus, thank you for dying for us and for the resurrection.”  And then, with a very deep sigh she said,  “And thank you for going through some really tough stuff for us.” 

Some really tough stuff.  On one hand, it’s the ultimate understatement.  And on the other hand, it’s simply put, exactly what it was.  Some really tough stuff…to get us out of some really tough stuff.  And in one more week we will celebrate the tough stuff.  We will celebrate all that He did, so that we could know Him forever.  So that all of life could be a countdown, not towards the end of something wonderful…but the beginning of the very best.

One more week.

 


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Almost Easter

It’s seventeen days until Easter.  I don’t remember much about last Easter, it was such a blur of searing pain and sorrow.

I do, however, vaguely remember standing in line at Target with my Easter baskets, and suddenly hearing the piercing cry of a newborn.  Target is the absolute worst place to go if you want to avoid Babyland.  Because Target is full of new moms who don’t know what to do with themselves, so they go there to wander the aisles.  I know this, because I used to be one of those moms…about a billion years ago.

But a year ago, as I stood in the checkout line with my Cadbury eggs and my fractured heart, I absolutely couldn’t breathe when I heard that shrill newborn sound.  It was one of the most excruciatingly painful moments of my life listening to that newborn wail.  Because my baby boy…was buried in a dark hole in the ground.  My entire body…was wrecked from labor and delivery, and there was no cooing bundle beside me in the cart.  And my heart…was bruised and bleeding everywhere.

I heard that cry, and literally fled Target as the tears poured down.  I remember getting to my car and crying out over and over again, “I can’t do this.  I can’t do this!  God, I JUST CAN’T DO THIS!”

That was last Easter.

And one of the worst parts of the 365 days in between then and now…were all of the times people told us that we could.  I cannot tell you how many times people have told us over the last year, “I know that I could NEVER go through what you have gone through…God must have known you could handle something that I just couldn’t.”

know that they meant well.  I know this, because it was said by some of the people who have loved us the most.  I know what they were really trying to say was, “I am encouraged by your faith.  I am encouraged that you still believe, and I don’t know if I would.”

But there are just so many things wrong with that well-meaning statement.  And it bothers me for two reasons…

Every time someone tells us that we have “amazing faith,” or are “stronger” than they are, or that, “God just knew you could handle it, and I couldn’t,” I just want to scream out, “But, I…CAN’T!  We’re…NOT!   We’re not “handling” it.  We’re so broken and capacitated that we can barely even function!”

A few weeks ago, someone wrote to ask if they could nominate us as “Hope Hero’s” for a radio station contest.  It was super kind and thoughtful, but the only words that came to mind in that moment was Princess Anna’s from Frozen, “But I’m completely… ordinary.”  

And we really, really are.

In the last year we have had to bury three babies, lost almost everything we owned, and struggled daily with significant neurological damage and chronic illness.  That part…does feel kind of extra ordinary.  But, we…well, we’re the most ordinary people in the world.  We don’t have extraordinary faith.  We have ordinary, fragile, prone-to-wander-Lord-I-feel-it-faith…just like you do.  And most days, we are barely hanging on.

This isn’t false modesty.  I mean it when I say that we are just ordinary, messy, sinners who need Jesus.  And I can start to feel all this pressure to suddenly be something extraordinary…something we’re just simply not, every time people tell us that they, “Just couldn’t handle this.”

Which brings me to my second problem with that statement.  Some day…regardless what you think that you “can handle”…you just might have to.

I couldn’t “handle” any of this…and the hits just keep on coming.  It doesn’t matter what you think you can handle…you may be called to endure infinitely more than that.  January 28th, 2013 at 11:54pm when I sat alone in that hospital room and the doctor told me that my baby boy was dead…that was my breaking point.  And all of the pain that came after that, well, all that just pushed me to way past broken.

You have absolutely no idea what you will be called to endure.  

And you’re going to be in a really bad place when you get there, if you believe that, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

He gave us more.  Infinitely more.  More than we could handle.  He gave us things that only He could handle, and then the grace to somehow walk with Him as He handled it.

And His deepest grace…was the daily reminders He gave us that we worship a God on a cross.

I have a very different appreciation for the weeks ahead of us…because of the year behind us.  And a much, much deeper appreciation for the cross.

Last night…was date night.  Since we’re new in town, it took us forever to decide on a new restaurant, and by the time we landed at one I was pretty wore out from the endeavor.  But not one to waste a wonderful date night, simply because of a disgruntled wife…my husband started the night off with one of our “Five Questions.”

It’s our list of questions we ask one another on dates when we want to go to the depths together.

1.  What has God been teaching you about Himself?

2.  What has God been teaching you about Yourself?

3.  What has God been teaching you about me as your spouse?

4.  What has God been teaching you about our kids?

5.  What has God been teaching you about lost people?

6.  What have you learned in the last week that has caused you to repent?

7.  What is God asking you to yield?

I know, I know..it’s not really five questions, but more like seven.  But when we started this years ago it was five, and we hardly ever get to all of them anyways.  Last night we only made it through two.  But I was deeply encouraged by Reid’s answer.

We were talking about the cross.  About the weeks coming up.  About the Jesus who has seemed close to us over this last year of suffering…because of His suffering…in ways that sometimes the Father, just simply has not.  There is a nearness that Jesus’ suffering brings, simply because it makes Him one of us on a deeply profound level.  And as we talked about all of this last night, Reid said something that really pierced my heart.

He said to me, “You know…If someone asked me to endure the last year of suffering we have been through FOR THEM…I know I wouldn’t have done it.  I wouldn’t have willingly gone through this last year for a friend, let alone my worst enemy.  But that’s exactly what Jesus did.”

Sometimes we sing about Him, and call him “bud,” and act like we’re all chummy with Jesus of Nazareth.  But the bottom line is that when He saved us…when He suffered for us…He was suffering for the enemies of God.  Each and every one of us.

And when His Father watched in anguish as the one He loved most was brutally crucified in humiliation…He was watching His enemies at work.  Some of them enemies who were about to become friends, but enemies nonetheless.

As we prepare for Easter this coming week, I know it’s going to be another holiday filled with pain.  Holidays always are.  They are painful because we had expected them to be happy, and yet now they are filled with aching reminders of the depth of all that we have lost.

I’ll be reminded of it…when I dress Fred in his dapper little bow tie…and there’s no baby boy with nut-brown hair, in a matching bow tie beside him.  I’ll be reminded of it…when the kids get out their matching woodland bunnies, and Charlie’s isn’t there.   I’ll be reminded of it…when we have our family sharing time on Easter…and Charlie isn’t there for it.   Emma has this new idea that she wants us to confess our sins together at the table during Easter dinner.  She told me, “That way we can be reminded of Jesus and all He did for us.”  It’s kind of precious.  And I so desperately wish Charlie was going to be there to drive his big sister crazy by making a racket during the special Confession time she’s planned.  But…  He.  Just.  Won’t.  Be.  There.

He missed all of it.  The bow tie.  The confession time.  The bunny.  And, even now, 14 months later, I can’t breathe because it hurts so much.

And maybe that’s why Easter means even more to me than it used to.  Because without Easter, there would be no resurrection hope.  Without Easter, I would never, ever get to see my babies again.  Without Easter, I would not know the extraordinary God who walks with us through each long day of sorrow.  The suffering God, who alone, got us ordinary souls…through the suffering of this last year.

A God who, I assure you, will give you far, far more than you can handle…and then give you the daily grace to walk through it.  All the way to the end.

It is a deep comfort to me that Jesus struggled in anguish on the cross.  That He cried out in desperation in the garden…checking in with Dad one last time to see if there was any possible way out of such horrific sorrow.  That He wept as He looked up into the heavens and cried, “Why have you forsaken me God!?”

Because we have struggled.  We have begged for ways out.  And we have wept into the heavens.

But completely unlike Jesus…we didn’t choose any of this.

And He chose all of it.

Ever since date night I just keep thinking about Jesus and asking, “Who DOES that?  Who willingly suffers such sorrow…for the very people causing it?”

Our extraordinary Savior.

I wish Charlie was here.  I wish the next baby was here.  And the next.  I wish I wasn’t sick. I wish my kids weren’t sick.  But for all the things I wish for that simply are not…there is something infinitely precious that is.

Easter is.  Easter happened.  And Easter is almost here again.  I still have mornings where I wake up and have to ask myself, “Did all of the last year actually happen to us?”  And it did.

But so too, did something else.  Something precious.

God on a cross. Dying for those who put Him there.  Dying to get us back.

 

Happy almost Easter.

To you beloved…

Who were once His greatest enemies…and are now His forever friends.