Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014: Expecting Rainbows

a year ago, this was me.

looking at this picture is incredibly difficult and gives me a very weird feeling. to be honest, i can't really look at it. i barely recognize this person and the hope and expectation bursting out of her.

2013 was not the year it was supposed to be. in fact, it was the worse one ever. i lost my heart, my innocence, my son.

but 2013 was also miraculous and beautiful, as it brought a love i had never yet experienced. this year we welcomed our son into the world and my heart was stretched wider than i thought possible. 2013 will always be the epitome of bittersweet.

one thing i've learned this year about love is that it's impossible to sincerely love without complete and utter vulnerability. 

love requires an openness, an acceptance that whomever you love might be lost. might break your heart. might hurt you.

love takes a broken heart and has the guts to hold it out and say, i'm willing to have it break again and again for another opportunity at love. love doesn't hold back.

so i continue to hope, even though it's risky. i continue to believe that there are good things ahead, even if there is only more heartache. because love is worth it and i would regret it the rest of my life if i gave up.

it would be so much easier, and safer, to recoil and shut off my heart to the world, afraid of the pain that's possible when my heart is free. my instincts say to mercilessly defend the tiny shards of heart left. protect yourself. don't be naive.

but i will fight these lies and boldly say, with trepidation and shaky knees, even without knowledge of what may come, 2014 is going to be a good one.  because i expect brilliant, awe-inspiring rainbows this year... i see them on the horizon.

bring on 2014.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, 
I am making everything new! 

[revelation 21. 4-6]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Dream Themes: Weeping and Worship

the last few months i've been having some weird and wacky dreams. sometimes vivid, sometimes scary, sometimes non-sensical. but there are two very consistent, running themes in almost all of my dreams. weeping and worship.

i've never been one to pick apart my dreams, analyzing every little detail to gain some divine meaning, but i get the feeling that certain emotions that i'm not able to fully express in my real life somehow are seeping into my sub-conscience while i'm asleep.

last night was the perfect example. in my dream, i wept in the arms of a stranger, for what seemed like hours. sobbing and wailing with grief for the loss of noah.

then, at another point in the dream i sang boldly, and with quite some volume and passion, a worship song that just spilled out of my spirit while i was driving alone in my car. (it wasn't a song i knew or recognized, i was just making up my own little ditty for the Lord.)

weeping and worship. these are two expressions i believe that my soul longs to "get out of my system," they just aren't given the space to do so in my day-to-day existence.

i cry, yes. most of the time deep tears and almost always in the privacy of my own bedroom. but i'm realizing how much more despair is really down there, and i'm spending a lot of energy just bottling it up. for the depth of pain i feel, i could probably sob for years and years. my soul is willing, but my flesh is so weak.

and then there's worship. this act of love to Jesus has always been very near and dear to me. it's a part of who i am. and as i sort of described in this post, i'm standing on some pretty shaky faith-ground right now and my relationship with God is going through some, how do i say, "refining changes."

it's a comfort to me, however, that even when my body and mind don't have the strength to reach out to Jesus in such an intimate way as worship, that my inner being, my core, my spirit, is still worshipping.

"my soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."
-psalm 84:2-

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Only Prayer I'm Able To Pray Right Now

this last sunday john and i returned to church after about a five month hiatus - probably the longest stretch of time in my entire life without attending a worship service.

we pretty much went straight back to church right after noah died and we were either standing there like robot zombies or weeping uncontrollably. it's hard to explain, but church felt incredibly vulnerable. during the worship music i would get pretty emotional (it's always been a very personal experience for me), and i felt uncomfortable because i could tell i was making other people uncomfortable.

also, john and i were/are carrying some intense anger, at God especially, and we just felt fake and like we were just going through the motions of "church." and i hate that. i want my faith, and its profession, to be authentic and real.

and there were definitely times i felt guilt about not going to church. not because i was ever one of those people who went to church out of obligation or because i "should" like a good girl, i felt guilt because i believed, and still strongly believe, in worshiping God in all circumstances, not just when life is going well. no matter what, i desire to have a heart that seeks after God when i'm broken and disappointed, just as much as when i'm filled with gratitude and joy.

i was chatting with a friend about my feeling like a hypocrite a couple months ago, and i said something like, "how can i go from, not only believing, but preaching the importance and necessity of praising God through all things, and then when my world is rocked, i can't even attend church or speak to God directly, let alone praise Him."

and you know what she said? "you are praising God, every day, by getting up in the morning and continuing to take your next breath, by pursuing Him with your questions, by holding on to hope."

i'm standing on some pretty shaky faith-ground right now. it's very scary and foreign to me. my God, and faith in Him, has always been like a solid rock. my life's total constant. i love worship, and absolutely everything (and One) about it. i love church. i miss this huge part of my life.

i feel like i'm not me anymore.

prayer has been a tough one for me lately, too. again, prayer has always been to me, very personal, because my relationship with my Lord is very personal. and just like in almost every other relationship where i feel hurt, i have been giving God the silent treatment. there was nothing i felt i had the strength enough to ask or petition for. (how am i supposed to go before God and say, "bless this food to my body" or "protect us from evil" when my most heartfelt, deepest desire and prayer, the physical healing of my son, wasn't fulfilled?)

however, i believe prayer isn't all about asking God for things, or just getting what we want, and i'm realizing more and more how that's not the purpose of prayer, at its core. (i've "known" that all my life, but it's now settling in to my foundation of beliefs.)

so, this sunday. john and i back at church. i was nervous. (i knew i was going to be very emotional and people might stare awkwardly.) i was curious. (had we given ourselves enough time or am i still going to be too much of a zombie and have another out of body experience while "participating" in worship?)

but thank goodness, john remembered that this particular sunday was worship through music. something our church does two times a year, where the entire service is music, with some scripture and encouragements along the way. it was a perfect ease back into a once familiar environment. and how emotional could i get to "o little town of bethlehem"?

but about halfway through the service, my heart found it's first prayer in six months through this song...

O Living Word, please come dwell in us
Lord wipe away these tears
O ancient Son so long foretold
We're desperate souls, draw near

Our Shepherd King, please come and dwell with us
To fields of grace, lead on

And we will stand,
Securely in the strength of the Lord
Every heart will surely come and adore
The Great I Am

We need You now
Break our chains by Your glory and power
Make us captive to the holy desire
Come to us, O Lord
Come to us, O Lord

Prince of Peace, Emmanuel
Lord draw us close unto Thyself
King of Kings, God's chosen One
We need You now, to Thee we run***

"come to us, o Lord" - these five words are the only prayer i'm able to pray right now.

and isn't this the heart of christmas? Jesus coming. i understand its meaning this year in a way i never, ever truly grasped. we have a God who came to be with us. Emmanuel, God with us.

he joined us on earth. he suffered along side us.

and i'm desperate for this God who is near, because there is no way i can get through this hell on my own.

praise God for a God who didn't stay distant, protected from pain and brokenness. praise God for a God who loves us too much to ditch us in our weakness. 

praise God i don't have to do life on my own, in my own strength.

so come, Lord Jesus, with your powerful peace and presence. i need You.

***song by young oceans 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Stories from #13DaysOfRainbows

wow. wow. wow.
we have been SO blown away by all the kindness that is being done in noah's name for 13 Days Of Rainbows. thank you to all of you who are participating.
it's day 4 and i thought it would be fun to share some of what's been happening. it's inspiring, encouraging and makes my heart just want to burst with joy. so much love is being spread around and what a great honor to have baby noah somehow a part of that. my mama pride is pretty much at it's peak.
here are some stories!! enjoy.
"To honor Baby Noah, who went home too soon to his Heavenly Father, I looked for something special I could do for someone during a very cold motorcyle event yesterday. I walked around a local mall parking lot with thousands of people - most of whom were pretty bundled up. All I had with me was a package of hand-warmers and a little card with Noah's name on it. Then I saw a family of 5, with one little person on Daddy's shoulders and the Mama holding another little one's hand. I started to walk away, but something tugged at me and told me that THIS family should be the lucky recipient of my hand warmers. Not a big gift, of course. The Mama was thrilled and the Daddy gave me God's blessing. I could get used to doing this. I hope Noah is smiling."
"We donated Christmas gifts today at church, for kiddos who would go without."
"4 Starbucks cards + 4 random people + 4 days + 1 baby boy remembered and honored = #13DaysOfRainbows"
"Planning to drop this off for our sweetheart pastor today."

"Went to a friend's house today to give her toys and clothes we don't need anymore."

"So this morning...Rainbows for Noah card in hand I head into my Starbucks excited to bless someone on this cold morning with a cup of coffee and start the day thinking about our precious Noah when I realize as I get out of the car, my debit card is not in my pocket. I reached back in my the car for my purse, it isn't there either. I am so disappointed because of course, I have no cash on me. As I reach to shut the door, there I see on the ground a $10 bill. I could hardly contain my tears. Talk about a God wink...or better yet, a Noah wink! Not only did someone get a nice hot cup of coffee this morning but so did I!"
"Challah for our sweet neighbor Judy."
"Pumpkin bread for the ladies in the church nursery."
"For tonight's random act of kindness to celebrate the 13 days of Noah's life, we paid for 3 cars to go through Christmas in the Park and left a card for each family."
"Shhh! #13DaysOfRainbows for Baby Noah.'
"Helped my crazy neighbor push her car out of the snow so she could get to her garage."
"Gave away a bus pass to someone who was going to pay cash for his ride. But then, the pass didn't work for that particular line. Bummer. Even though it was kind of a 'fail', the man was grateful and able to use the pass another time."
"Brought a little food basket to a family who's sweet boy has been in the hospital."
"Yummy treats for two families with new babies. Hot soup and warm cookies to fight this cold front. Celebrating Noah Butler has already blessed our family beyond words."
"Left $10 to pay for the next person or two at Starbucks!"
"Handing out donuts and coffee to workers at the lumber yard!"
"My favorite 'magic medicine' for a sweet 5 year old girl with chapped lips :)"
"Had the privilege of blessing a young family with their own precious baby boy at lunch today. Love you blessed Noah!"
"Made a donation to a local halfway house and brought dinner for sweet friends."
"I think I've been rainbowed." (A single mother's home was decorated for Christmas!)
i'm sure there are many, many more acts of kindness honoring noah, but we just haven't heard about them because they are being done sneaky-secret-like. and guess what? that's totally cool. I love it. each act is beautiful and loving, no matter who knows.
i'm in awe of how many people are being blessed and loved on, through YOU - all because a little boy named noah lived.
thank you, from the absolute depths of my heart.
looking forward to the next 10 days.
My soul glorifies the Lord
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
      for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
                              -Mary, the mother of Christ


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

13 Days of Rainbows

my sister emailed me this morning with the most thoughtful idea to remember and honor noah this holiday season.

13 Days of Rainbows. (you know, kind of like 12 days of christmas...)

for 13 days this month, beginning tomorrow on noah's half birthday, we'll spread love and joy with acts of kindness in noah's name.

please join us. december 5 - december 18.
commemorating six months after noah's 13 days of life.

do one kind deed anytime during those 13 days, or something everyday. totally up to you! follow your heart.

*bake cookies for firemen *buy a stranger coffee *take a care package to a family at a children's hospital *bring soup to a neighbor *give a christmas gift to a child in need *give up your seat on the bus .... do whatever you wish to honor noah, whatever feels right for you.

click here to print or download a cute little card that you can use to pass out with your kind action (made by my ever-talented sister).

and if you feel comfortable, let's flood Instagram and Facebook with pictures of good being done across the world in noah's name by using #13DaysOfRainbows to encourage and inspire us all.

on my very first blog post a few months ago i spoke about how even in this awful and tragic time, i have to believe that God is working this situation for good. it is our deep desire that noah's life and legacy somehow brings love and grace to as many people on this earth as possible. and we believe 13 Days of Rainbows is a beautiful and perfect way to demonstrate that legacy of noah's, through showing kindness to others.

thank you. thank you. thank you.
...for loving our boy and honoring his life with us.

looking forward to seeing all your kindness-spreading!
and please feel free to share this opportunity with others!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 Recap

well, we survived the thanksgiving holiday. and it really wasn't all that bad - not nearly as difficult as i thought it was going to be. the dreading and build up was definitely worse than the actual day.

the hubs and i had a very low-key, quiet morning. walked the dog. cleaned. made buffalo chicken bites for apple cup the next day. we pretty much pretended it wasn't thanksgiving, just a nice day off from work.

we knew we had an open invitation to my parent's house, so we made a last minute decision and decided to go over there. we played cards. we ate chili, cornbread and pumpkin pie. we spoke fondly of noah. we guessed flavors of jelly bellies. there was laughter and joy. (mostly from the antics of our older, more "serious" dog, samson, and my parent's new, playful puppy, oscar. their dynamics were a little crazy and made for a lovely distraction.)

it wasn't a typical thanksgiving, or the one i had hoped to have this year, but it was sweet and sacred in only the way a very ordinary day can be. and sometimes ordinary is the most beautiful.

last thursday i was reminded how thankful i am for family. for their flexibility and willingness to deal with our "maybe" responses. for their ability to welcome us graciously at the last minute. for their continued selflessness. for understanding.

i'm sure it's not easy, convenient or anywhere near what they'd really like to do on a holiday. but they've adapted. made tweaks to traditions. given us space, yet were never too far away. and in all of it, showed us deep and overwhelming love.

sometimes i feel like a real debbie downer. and especially now, around the holidays, i'm highly sensitive to the reality that my acute depression could potentially ruin the fun and excitement that others are feeling during this special season...and i hate that. so for the family and friends who are riding our emotional roller coasters along with us, dealing with our flaky, "we'll see how we feel" plans, and genuinely embracing two grieving parents when it would be easier to just "be happy" and ignore us -

you are making our holidays, and our lives, a little brighter.