Sunday, May 5, 2013

Living in a paradox

First of all, aren't we all? I really want to acknowledge that we are living in some kind of tension. There is always something pulling us at least 2 different ways. I in no way want to minimize your pain and suffering and exalt our own, but this is where we are feeling it.

Gabby is a delight. She is demonstrative and full and energy and crazy and smart and silly and adorable. We have such fun together. We enjoy her for who God made her to be and have a total blast celebrating her. Here is our tension: often when we have a wonderful day as a family we feel both incredible joy and love and incredible pain that Liv wasn't here to celebrate the day with us. Now listen, I know she is always "with us" but she is no longer physically present with us. Brian and I talk about her a lot on family days. Talk about what she liked, what she would have thought about what we did, what she would think about Gabby, how tall she would be...the list goes on. We feel like thats an honest way to bring her memory into our daily lives without making the day all about her.

I used to have a lot of anxiety about whether we were doing this whole mourning and grieving thing right. I have come to point that I can acknowledge there is no "right". We want to celebrate and remember Liv. We want Gabby to feel that she can talk to us about her sister any time. But, we do not want to uphold Liv to something she was not or make Gabby feel that she is in the shadow of her sister's memory. We are living (and so are you) on this pendulum swinging continuum. And by the way can I say I hate that? I want rules and laws and just tell me outright what to do. Life, somewhat unfortunately, is not about that.

But, what you gain is a full, honest, difficult life full of struggle that has brought us, anyway, to a clearer and more front row seat to God. In the realm of suffering, many theologians have spoken of the difference between knowing about God and really experiencing God. We are grateful now for our suffering. We are grateful for Liv's rest and glory with Jesus. We are grateful for the tension of daily living so that we see we are not capable of solving everything in the world and see very clearly how much help we need. Help, we believe, that can only be sufficiently and ultimately satisfied in Jesus.

Tension is not comfortable, but it is necessary.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


So, we took some time off from blogging. It wasn't intentional, but in hindsight, I guess we needed it. We're doing fine. We're having no crisis, no big news, no anything substantial or life-changing, but I figured after a while enough was enough. Never mind the two and a half month gap I feel that needs to be filled. Trust me, I don't think you want a play by play of the last few months. We'll just start where we start and say what we have to say and maybe I can get myself over the anxiety of starting this little corner of our life back over...


So.....................................Trolley Run 2013. Who is in? By the way, its next weekend: Sunday, April 28th very early in the morning because, I guess, thats when its appropriate to have these kinds of events.

Seriously, we have a team call "Remembering Livi" and we would love for you to join us in the walk/run or just give us your money. Well, not us-- CCVI (Children's Center for the Visually Impaired). As a family we don't wave a lot of flags, but if we had one for them we would. This is where Liv got therapy and eventually went to preschool for a year. The money goes to the school and helps more kids and families with visually impairments navigate a world that is difficult without help. The staff here is beyond remarkable and we could never say enough good things about them. Please help us say "thank you" to our amazing friends by signing up to run or donate. Follow the link at the top of the paragraph to register.

Monday, February 4, 2013

I Hate Welcoming People To My Club

Hey, it's Brian.

So, it has been a while since we put anything on here...a long while. I assure you that is not because we have nothing to tell you about. I promise a post soon on all of the Gabby updates (and there are many). 

Tonight I have a heavy heart. That isn't uncommon these days. Last week I preached on the 6 month anniversary of Livi's death and have never felt so physically weakened by what I was feeling emotionally. But, the Lord's carried me and gave me all I needed to preach all three services. But back to my point....

My heart is heavy tonight, because I have been reminded again about the sting of death. A couple that I went to high school with, Jason and Meredith, lost their baby girl, Emma, yesterday morning. I grew up playing baseball with him in the summer and he was my QB in high school. Great couple. You would all love them. 

In the middle of scanning social media during the Super Bowl, my FB newsfeed greeted me with news of their loss. My team (yeah, a 49ers fan from TX...makes no sense to many) made some bad plays, bad calls, and ultimately, lost the game, but I was reminded in an instant that it didn't matter. It is just a game. Nothing strong enough to carry your hopes...just a game. Only able to allow you to momentarily escape reality, but powerless to do anything about it...just a game. 

In the moment that I read that status update, I was brought back to reality and in that moment of clarity, it occurred to me that I am a member of a club that I want no one else to ever be a part of. 

In elementary school, I was told that it was unkind to exclude people from your clubs (you know, "No Girls Allowed," etc.) and often got in trouble for doing so. But this is a club that I wish I could bolt the doors to and allow no one else to enter. Not because I am hateful and exclusive, but because the pain we carry is a pain I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

I am a grieving parent. 

In recent weeks, I have been reminded that this sojourn that we are in called life isn't home and I have been longing more and more for Heaven. I am waiting for that new city in Revelation 21:
[3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. [4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” [5] And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
I am increasingly thankful for the hope of the gospel. Thankful that the finished work of Jesus means that I won't always be welcoming people into my club. I am also thankful that God the Father knows the pain of losing a child. In the gospel, we get a God who isn't detached, but a God who can sympathize with his people. What is even better news is that not only can he sympathize; he offers hope. Because he gave up his Son, we won't always be giving up our kids. What a good day that will be.

Please join us in praying for Jason, Meredith and their oldest daughter, Maddie.

If you are interested, you can read their story here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

mourning through the holidays

We knew our first holiday season without Liv was going to be particularly difficult. We had heard, unfortunately, from so many others who have traveled this road before us which was incredibly helpful. We talked with mourning parents about what to expect your emotions to be like, how to celebrate with your living child while remembering your child who has passed, starting new traditions that include remembering your child who is gone, etc... (As a side note, most of this information and advice came from some very wonderful people we met on a retreat for grieving parents called Respite Retreat held by the Guthries. You should look it up.) That being said, even though many families' experiences include similar things, we had to prepare for feelings, events, questions, and tears that we could not foresee. I have to say, we fared rather well, I think.

Christmas for us this year was not a day full of tears, though there were some. It was not filled with family, though it usually is. It was not about opening presents, though there were plenty. The three of us woke up late, ate breakfast and casually introduced Gabby to a few of her presents we had set aside from an earlier family celebration. We took some Christmas flowers to the cemetery and laid them next to an adorable macaroni wreath that a friend of Liv's had made and left with her. Then, we went to Children's Mercy to pick up a memory book that the staff had made and we had been waiting to see since September. The afternoon was filled with cooking before going to have dinner with some very dear friends. That night Brian and I lit a candle for Liv and cried, talked about how much we miss her, and remembered funny and sad stories.

This season has been difficult. It also happened to fall between four and six months since Liv has died, which we had heard often can be the most difficult months. I won't say we "made it through" because the pain won't stop just because we're taking the tree down. Yet, this Advent season (the four Sundays before Christmas) has taught us, more than ever, to long for heaven. I think in some ways I always have, but my understanding of the pain and the fleeting nature of this earth is ingrained somewhere very deep in me now because of our experiences these past 3 years. Because of that understanding, my grip on and devotion to the promises of God is locked tight. I truly, very deep down in my spirit, believe the things he promises, concerning heaven and otherwise. I have to. I wake up everyday and though I love so many things about my life here on earth, I understand even the best things to be broken and cracked and riddled with wrong intent or selfishness-- especially in myself. Thats exactly why Jesus had to come and I am realizing that the more you see this life for what it is, the more you realize the cost of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

Sometimes thats why I go to the cemetery. To read Liv's headstone and remember that He is faithful in promises great and small. Faithful in life and in death, in plenty and in want, at the beginning of time and even now.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

winter happenings

I would apologize again for waiting so long to blog, but I know thats getting old and obviously I'm not that sorry or I wouldn't do it anymore. Moving on...

A couple of weeks ago Gabby turned one. Can you believe it? I can't. I know its often that someone makes a comment about time going so quickly. I guess they do because its just so true. I am LOVING this stage of growth and maturity in Gabby. I feel like she is learning (and saying and doing) something new every day. Many of those times its learning (again and again) what NOT to do which constitutes her poised to do something "wrong" saying "no no" to me, and then doing it anyway. I appreciate her tenacity, but those are not always fun times. I did have to inform her the other day that its too bad for her that the only person in this family more stubborn than her is me. She'll learn to love me for that-- one day.

We had a little party for her and interestingly enough, she fades to the background a little with so many people around. Must get that from her father.

We tried to start some new traditions with her for this holiday time. We, of course, were not really sure what to do. The last few years around Christmas Liv had been too sick for us to go many places, so we had to take a cue from our friends. We spent a day (her birthday) at Crown Center. It was great. She, of course, is interested in everything, especially if its lit up and shiny. Lucky for her...

We spent the weekend before Christmas in Joplin with family, including her cousin who is 10 weeks younger than her. They were a hoot and kept every entertained, for sure.

As you would expect, parts of the holiday season were difficult for us, being the first Christmas without Olivia. We are definitely going to blog about that more in the coming days. We had to peek open the door of blogging just a bit with a fun and easy post.

Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Written in stone

So, I know its Thanksgiving and I'm probably supposed to write some kind of a post about that. I think we'll end up there-- I think. But thats not where we're starting.

Last Friday I was driving two crabby girls around in the back of my car waiting for them to either lighten up or fall asleep. I had 10 minutes to spare before I had to be someplace, so I stopped by my old "sure-fire waste 10 minutes" place-- the cemetery. I like to go at least once a week, mostly a few times. It had been a few days and I drove on in hoping I could escape the car a few minutes to visit Liv's patch of grass. Before I even pulled the car up I saw it and my breath caught in my chest and the hysterical tears began.

I hadn't been expecting it. They hadn't said that they would call when it came in, I just figured they would. But they didn't, and I couldn't pretend like I hadn't seen it. Thanksgiving to Christmas had been the time frame-- I guess it came a little early. Nevermind that they forgot to attach the vase...

After I finished my hysterics, a phone call to Brian and my mother, and a visit to Liv I really looked at the headstone. It seemed a bit plain, but then again, thats kind of our style. All the information is correct and I began to really focus on that sentence at the bottom. We really struggled for a while with what to add to the stone. We could have put the "you will be missed", "she was beautiful", "and angel among us" type sentence and none of that would really be wrong. But Brian and I thought that we would be the ones looking at it-- not Liv. We will always remember her silly, ornery attitude, that she was SO beautiful, and what her short life meant to us. We thought, though, there might be days-- either days or decades from when this stone arrived-- that we might be tempted to feel entitled, to wag our finger at God, or to be angry with Him that he shorted our family. We thought that lyric from Liv's song would remind us of what we really need to know when we visit her.

We needed to remember that the promises of God are certainly true all the time and are the ONLY thing we can really trust in in this life. He does not promise a happy, easy life obviously. But His promises are so much more expansive and long lasting. They are promises for the soul and not so much for the body. Those promises are what I am thankful for. Late at night when I'm thinking of Liv and the loss that we an incurred when she left, I have NOTHING else but the promises of God to hold onto. He is faithful-- all the time. It is against His nature to ever be contrary to that. There is so much consolation in His word-- not only consolation, but joy.

So, Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A "good" Livi day

I love my daughter and treasure so much the memories I have of her. But (much like our view of God) often the intensity of her spirit dims and the scope of her touch shrinks when I don't have others perceptions of her. Today I have been loaded up with the words of people who loved her-- not because they had to, but because they loved to love her. This surplus should last me for a while.

The way Olivia touched mine and Brian's life will never leave me. It will always be at the forefront when I think of her, which is often. But how she reached out and touched others without having good muscles or words to do it with is beyond me. I do understand that after someone dies its everyone's instinct to make them some sort of a "saint".  Olivia did have a nasty attitude from time to time and did plenty of "naughty" things-- don't get me wrong, but she was a very special girl who had the intense pleasure and incredible opportunity to connect with others.

Today I was reminded that hosts of people at Children's Mercy Hospital here in Kansas City, other patient families and especially staff were truly touched and honored to know my child. They all still remember her and tell stories of her sassy little attitude and determined spirit. I am SO proud to be her mother. After that very touching phone call with a CMH employee I got to turn in my volunteer form to CCVI (Children's Center for the Visually Impaired) where Liv attended preschool. It had been several weeks since I had walked into that building and honestly I was a little worried about how emotionally overwhelming it might be. There were a few small moments that I saw Liv so vividly in that building, but it was a beautiful array of memories and happy, not sad. Again, we were welcomed by everyone in the building who knew us. They wanted to say "hello" to Gabby, but also to hug us and remember all the things we both loved about Liv.

These people who have surrounded us for years, both at the hospital and the preschool, are part of what our family misses so much about missing Liv. They were family to us and spurred us on to care for our daughter well and to never, NEVER underestimate her. If someone did once, they never would twice, that is for sure. Thank you, if you are reading this as an employee of either facility. We dearly love you and miss you tons. Thanks for your care for Liv and our family, and especially thank you for keeping her memory alive--we are astonished and flattered.

And, just because I can't help it...