In Death there’s a reminder of love…

“Mommy, how old is my brother?”  I stared into the eyes of my little boy and realized, quite startled, that he had not asked the question in the past tense.  I was taken aback.  I fumbled for words for a minute.  He waited patiently thinking I was just computing it in my head.  Really what happened was that I had honestly forgotten.  It was the first time I had ever let an April go by without thinking of it, and it had slipped right by me and now we were into June.  And I also realized that it wasn’t something that was just mine alone.  It was his too.

“He would have had a 4th birthday in April, about the same age as your cousin is.”  Instantly my eyes moved to a framed picture of my three kids with their faces all smooshed together in our front yard, laying on a blanket.  It was the one where the new baby should have been sitting up and one of the girls protectively placing an arm around it as we got the “first” fall picture of him in the leaves.  It used to be hard for me to look at that picture.  Now it sits over my sink because – well – life moves on.

Drake – now 7, turning 8 – moved off with his new information.  I have no idea why he wanted to know, but he does that sometimes.  He will ask a question and take it in and move on.  But he always seems to process things in the present, not past…  And yeah, just because this happened in the past does not make his brother a past event – he’s still his brother, just a brother unmet.

One day he asked why the baby never was born.  That was a hard one.  I am lucky enough to have been blessed to know the “why” of it.  An odd thing happened during the birth of Drake and the healing after.  We never knew anything ever happened, but long story short – if I had had this last baby, I would have hemorrhaged and bled to death and died before anyone would have known what happened.  They found all this out years after it happened, while fixing other issues surgically.  But I never could have carried another baby safely.  God protected me by taking our son.

For one small moment, when the doctor told me that info, I felt the hand of God upon me and it was heavy and warm.  It took a long time to realize what a blessing it was, and not just a painful realization of a baby lost.  When I finally put all the pieces together, it was the first time I didnt feel like a failure as a mom.  If God wanted me to stay and be a mom to these three kids that I DID have, then He must think I am doing a good enough job.  I always felt like I was failing them.  But here God said to me, “I will take this baby so you can stay and raise these 3 babies for Me.”  It was life changing.

So every time I think of our baby who never smiles in our family photos, who doesn’t run up and down the hallway, who isn’t clamoring for a turn on the Wii or computer, I try real hard to say thank you to God for that blessing, and I ask him to give our little guy a hug for me.

And yeah, as we gear up for a big 8 year old birthday party for his brother, I DO remember the little guy who I’ve missed these last few years.  Give him an extra hug for me tonight, God.  Let him know that I will aways be a mom of 4 at heart, even if only 3 of them are in the pictures I so proudly display.

And tell him I love him.


The painful truth

Facing facts can be a painful process.  Doing so while in pain… well it is even worse.

I was flat out – dead on my back Monday and Tuesday.  No idea what caused it exactly, but the knife like stabbing between my shoulder blades radiated across both shoulders, up my neck, down my spine, and into my hips by the time Monday evening rolled around.  I didnt sleep a wink and was confused because the normal way this pain thing goes is it starts out after getting up from a night of being still and acts like stiffness till it progresses.  This was the opposite.  I took meds that would act like muscle relaxers and it took the edge off, but nothing let me rest.  Then my headaches began to make it a merry mess.  I was mad, frustrated, and irritated.  But it wasn’t anyone’s fault.  It just was what it was.  Happy Anniversary Honey – joy of joys.  Good thing we aren’t celebrating till the weekend or I would have missed my alone evening out with my college sweetie of 15 years.

The kids understand my pain issues only too well.  I hate that like you wouldn’t believe.  I hate that they have a whole series of things they do when I am down and out.  Lindsey always makes pudding – chocolate to be exact – because since she was 4 years old she has understood that chocolate makes everything better …and her grandma taught her how to make pudding.  So even though she is 12 now, and often puts it into a pie crust and gussies it up, she still needs to make her mom smile.  Both she and her sister clean when I get “sick”.  They always do the kitchen and organize and straighten the house.  The kids dont fight, they are good, sweet, and work together to make surprises for when I am well enough to get up and move around again.

I love that they are so dear and thoughtful.  I hate that they know this like an internal software program.  It saddens me that they will remember whole days and parts of weeks where I was out of commission, where I couldn’t manage to get out of bed, where their dad had to help me with simple things like getting to the bathroom and find creative ways to eat while laying down.

While I laid in bed with the stupid pain rolling through me like waves, I realized something.  My kids were growing up.  Duh, Christi.  Are you just now seeing that?  No – No… but listen…no one shushed them.  No one told them I was down again.  They just somehow knew…  No one told them they’d be making their own breakfast and lunch, and playing quietly inside since it was storming outside.  There were no fights for the TV, computer, and they never once came to me and bickered over who’s turn it was on the Wii like they would have if it was a pain-free day.  So the truth of the matter is this – they already know nearly everything I spend all my waking hours trying to drive home to them.  They already get the lessons I am trying to teach.  Really what I do on a day to day basis is just reinforce the truths to them – but they are already in there.  That is what struck me.  They may need me for a long time yet, but they are not babies, and they really do know what needs to be known.  And somehow?  Somehow that was a bit painful.  Cant tell ya why exactly.  Just a bit of a wistful realization I guess.

I’m proud of them.  They know patience, self control, compassion, kindness, love… and they also show an amazing array of friendship between them that I hope lasts a lifetime.

I know – I am a bit rambling here…  forgive me.  I am not overly clear-headed today.  But I wanted to capture the moment.  So often I wonder if the kids are even hearing a word I say… and today I realized that it really doesn’t matter.  What I’d hoped they’d learn before they left my house – well they have.  I just have to keep reinforcing it and make sure it stays in their hearts for a long while to come.  Who knows, maybe God can even take my crappy pain filled days and use it for good – to help teach my children a life lesson they needed to know.  Maybe He can take and use the experiences they have now for when they are grown adults…  Because if anyone can take muck and make it beautiful, it’s God.

Through the peephole

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary.  Hard to believe that the college sweetheart I fell head over heels for is still choosing to stick with me after all these years.  I am so blessed.  I still remember the night that completely swept me away…

It was an unmemorable night.  Truly.  When I say that I mean that nothing truly spectacular happened.  Derek showed up at my apartment on time, but since I had been watching out the 3rd floor window for nearly a half hour, he felt late.  Not wanting to seem over anxious I casually walked to the door and looked out the peephole (just for safety) and saw this handsome guy staring back at me.

I opened the door and grinned like an idiot, and invited him in.  Neither of us had anything intelligent to say.  It was awkward, uncomfortable, and juvenile.  I took all of him in; the washed out denim jeans, loose polo shirt, and the red baseball cap which sat backwards.  His deep sky blue eyes crinkled around the edges as he nervously smiled at me.

I’d never really had guys over to my apartment before and was all thumbs.  I asked if he wanted something to drink.  Nope, he was good.  Okay, so now what?  We had not been dating long.  Just before fall break we had gone out on our first dates.  Nothing grand – just hanging out.  Maybe knowing that this was only the fourth time we’d ever been “out” or together alone at all would help… and maybe you’d like to know that our first “date” was spent squished in the back of my brother’s car with his friends as a group thing – we’d gone out to see Frankenstein at the movies that night.  (how romantic I know)  We’d met in Sunday school at church, in the college class, a few months back, but we’d never really done anything.  I asked HIM out that first time because I wasnt patient enough to wait for him to get around to asking ME out.

So here we sat, on my little sofa, having nothing to say and not knowing what to do with ourselves.

A truly unmemorable evening in and of itself, until I asked if he wanted to put up my Christmas tree with me.  I made it sound as if I needed his help so it didnt seem too forward. I wondered if a guy would see putting up a tree with a girl as a bit “committed” in a relationship.  What he didn’t know was that my heart already was.

As he hung decorations on my little tree with me, my heart jumped three paces ahead of what was safe,then leaped a few more farther.  I could feel just how right this guy felt.  That sounds nuts I know, but it sounded even nuttier to me because I had never trusted a guy before Derek. Not further than a Hi, how are ya.

I had reasons, and I firmly kept my guard up at all times.  But Derek was different and for the first time I wasnt scared.

As we both reclined on the sofa looking at our handy work, I noticed how the nook of his arm seemed just made for me.  Silly, again, but it really did.  I fit there safely and comfortably.

When he left that evening, I don’t even think we kissed beyond a small embarrassed kiss.  We just awkwardly hugged and waved the silly finger wave,  and promised to see each other at church the next day.

We hadn’t said a whole heck of a lot to each other that night.  Most of what was said was me nervously filling in the silent gaps.  I had yet to become comfortable with the quietness and peace that Derek brings with his laid back and introspective personality.  I found it difficult to hold a traditional conversation without seeming to provide both sides of the banter and my nerves made me ramble like a bumbling goof.  If it annoyed him, he didnt let it stop him from continuing to see me.

But after he left, it was like a switch had been flipped.  The apartment was now suddenly large and empty.  I felt lonely.  I’d never felt that way before… not in this way.  And something inside me just knew I had to find out more about this guy.  Quiet or not, this guy filled in gaps in my heart already that I didnt know I had.

And so we began studying together, sitting in church together, going to movies, having dinner at my place when we couldn’t afford to go out, and we began to be knit together in ways only God can do.  Often it was wordless.  Just being near each other was enough.  Side by side at the library, working. I am chatty by nature, so what often happened was I supplied all the talk needed for the both of us.  But slowly Derek taught me that silence was not negative.  I began to learn that sitting in silence is a good thing, and some of the best conversations can be had without a single word spoken.  This would one day impact my prayer life in dramatic ways – as I learned to sit and listen to the silence and let God fill my heart where before I always incessantly talked.

When I remember the first time I fell in love, I picture that boy in the peephole with his red hat sitting backwards, waiting at my front door.  Yep – you heard that right.  The man I married was the first guy I ever fell in love with.  My college sweetie, and the love of my life.  I spose that is even a bit fairytale-ish huh?

I always make sure we have a red hat on Derek’s hat rack.  I cant help it.  I’m nostalgic…and so very much still in love…  Because what knit us together wasnt worldly things, not gifts, presents, and over the top date nights.  It was simple chats and study sessions.  It was real, honest, and very casual.  We both were flat broke.  So what made us so good for each other was simply what God did as he took the two of us and began to make something unique and wonderful.

Now 17.5  years post 1st date night – 15 years of marriage, 3 kids, 1 dog, a house, couple cars, and bills galore later – we still know that what first made us work is still there.  Love.  And that’s all that you really need.  Each other and a whole lot of patience, understanding, and love.

So, thanks for giving this chatty girl a chance,

Love ya Babe!

Happy 15th…


Light up the NIGHT!

I was flipping through my notebook I keep in my purse.  I write a bit compulsively, and I keep notebooks full of quotes, sayings my kid’s have said, random thoughts that flip through my mind as I travel through life, inspirations that come via sermons at church, and at odd times waiting in lines, parking lots, and other things too numerous to bother to bore you with.

I found a note I made while in church one Sunday and it really seemed to hit me hard today.  It was “memorable” when it was said, but it was meant for me to read today.  It was almost as if God wrote it there for me for a time such as this…

It was a question, “Are you a glow stick christian?” I liked the sound of it, thought it was catchy, and thought – sure – i was a bit glow-ish.  I’ll write that down.  But then my life got a bit messy.  It got a bit tough.  In fact, it threw me for a loop.  Nothing so life altering that the whole world was askew, but it really got my attention, and fast.

The quote went on to ask… “When life snaps, do you glow brighter and more intensely when shook up?  We cant afford to break and fizzle out.”

Wow.  That was a tough hit to the gut for me.  Was I glowing as brightly as I could be?  Or did I fizzle at all?  I know my light was flickering when the Chiari diagnosis was first issued.  I got scared.  That’s to be expected…  but longterm…  was I gonna shine bright for Him, and honor Him in all I reflected back… or was I gonna flicker and fizzle?

I’d like to say yes, burn bright and true… steady as the sun.  It’s what I am going to keep my eyes trained on, and my heart focused on, with the goal each day being to let this shook-up-life LIGHT up the night.  Only God can take a pile of crappy mess and turn it into something beautiful.
I realized that there are so many times I am tempted to just pull in and hole up. I just want to sit this one out. I want to forget what’s happening. Take a pass. No thanks.

I think I will just sit this rocky climb out this time, if you don’t mind, God… I’ve had a lot lately in the last 2 years to deal with. I think I am good for the “growth” in my christian walk for now. But that is NOT what was being asked of me. I’m being asked to glow, period.
So God took me, broke me, shook up my life, then said GLOW baby, GLOW. Show them what it looks like to step out in faith, with grace, and see ME in all that you do. That sounds easy enough, but it requires keeping an upward focus nearly every waking moment. It’s impossible to do if you take your eyes off God even for a little while. It doesn’t mean every waking moment you are studying the Bible, listening to Christian music, and digging deeper. But it does mean your focus is not worldly. It is not about stuff and trivial things.  You have to keep your head in the game and remember what it’s all about.

And it takes work.  Lots and lots of work.  But it’s worth it.  It is so worth it.

So yeah, I am a whole lot broken and pretty shook up… but watch out, cause God’s got some kinda plan here and I’m gonna glow baby!  He is working on revealing an amazing plan and it’s all about revealing His awesome Glory.  I cant wait to see just how brightly it is gonna light up the night!

In the Image of the Father…

With a flash, the entire room was lit up, creating devilish shadows in every corner. Thunder roared like an angry beast as the rain beat the earth unmercifully.

She lay curled in a ball at the foot of her bed, under the covers, with all her most precious stuffed animals. Sweat beads dripped off the small girl as she lay in fear, silently praying her pleas to God for protection. She wanted whatever was out there to go away, she cared not where, just that it go away and to do it NOW!

With the next flash and ear splitting crack the small girl leapt from the bed and was running. She ran to the one thing that always made everything okay. No matter how big or how small.

As she rounded the corner, she prayed a quick child like prayer and stood shivering with tears still fresh in her eyes. She looked up into the caring eyes of her earthly protector, storm calmer, and hurt healer… her Daddy.

She looked up at him as he slowly folded his newspaper and lay it beside his chair. He smiled a slow and sweet grin at her. His eyes were warm and understanding. He reached out his arms to her. The small girl quickly crawled up into his safety and instantly forgot about the storm.

“I love you Chrissy,” he whispered as he kissed the top of her forehead, his fingers dusting her bangs from her eyes. She lay back against him and listened to his heart beating in a steady rhythm. It calmed not just her fears,but also her very soul.  He took her hand and gently traced the lines and patterns that made her unique.  He took her thumb and made slow circles upon it.  His hands were so much larger than her tiny ones.  

His warm embrace, gentle touch, soft words, and soothing acceptance of her in her darkest moments wrote upon her heart the love of her Heavenly father, so that she might recognize Him someday in her darkest adult moments; amongst the storms of life.

Her little heart had the foundation of what to search for, and what to find.  She would carry it with her forever.  It was a gift given that only he could give her.  If only all little girls could receive this precious gift, what a different world this would be.

God bless the earthly fathers who reflect their Heavenly Father’s loving arms. And God bless my godly earthly Father for the love he has shown me every day of my life.


Back it up – Detours are dead ahead

We had a garage sale this past weekend and it was a raging success.  I wont bore you with annoying details of the prep work, the massive prayer that went into praying the rain away – (which God granted so graciously) or even give yawn inducing rundowns of the sale itself.  But I absolutely must share one side note…  one that seems to grow more and more vivid and inspiring with time.

As the sale was ramping up to it’s fever pitch around 11am on Saturday, we noticed a nerve racking situation happening with regularity in front of our house.  There were 4 sales within a 4 house square and the traffic was getting nuts.  Both sides of the streets were lined the whole block with parked cars leaving one single lane to drive down.  When people came up from both sides of the block, they met in the middle about where our house was.  They would come nose to nose and NO one wanted to be the guy to back up.  NO way!  More cars join them and so there would be a line of cars behind the ones shouting at the other to back it up.  We wondered if we needed to call 911.

Fists raised these crazed garage sale shoppers met in front of their cars, spewing lewd comments, steam boiling from their ears, and growing more and more enraged by the second.  It was a bit scary.  At one point a crazed woman on her cell phone, unwilling to wait another second, lunged forward, hitting the car in the parked lane and took off down the street never to be seen again.  I sat there and was shocked.  People!  There is enough junk and stuff to go around!  CALM DOWN!!

Just because the desination you plan to go to is straight ahead does not mean that it’s the best direction to drive.  Sometimes a detour will get you safely to where you need to be.

Whoa!  Did I really just say that?  UGH.  Yeah – even a stupid garage sale can teach me a life lesson.  It’s been coming at me from all angles lately.  I feel like I am nose to nose – heading toward my desitnation straight ahead, unwilling to back it up.  The way I planned to get to the answer straight ahead is NOT the way God has chosen.  So now I can either back it up and take a detour, or sit miserably screaming about it.

God can have a reason for making us back up and take a detour when the end destination is right there, in plain sight.  Only God can see the traffic patterns from above and know the best route to take to make it SAFELY to the end point we are praying to reach.  He always has our best interests in mind, even if it seems He’s steering us away from that place.  I have been stuck and refusing to see past the tip of my nose.  I don’t want to hear that I have to figure out a new way to get to the place where I don’t live daily in this pain induced fog.  I am sick of thinking about it, trying to figure out what to do next, and just wish this whole blasted Chiari Malformation thingy was some bad dream.

But God is asking me to surrender my will.  He’s asking for me to back it up, to move aside, and to turn it around.  He is recalculating the route.  While He is changing the direction I move in, he is not changing the destination I arrive at.  If I can just get over myself, my need to control things, and allow myself to be led, I will reach that destination a whole lot faster.

So here I go… backing it up.  I’m turning around, and headed a new direction.  I am grateful that He walks beside me and no matter what direction I go, he’s already one step ahead, paving the way, making a way where there seems no way.  Moving mountains so that His glory can be revealed in the end.