family, gifts from God

A Brother is Born for Adversity

A Friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity. – Proverbs 17:17

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24

I always thought that these two verses were saying basically the same thing, but now I’m not so sure. I took it to mean that good friends can be truer than family. Certainly we all know someone whose family is absent from their lives. Maybe they live physically too far away, or maybe they are just so different in personality and life that they can’t seem to make the jump to close relationships. Friends are those people you choose, so we often find those deep soul connections with our friends rather than our blood.

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But I think adversity has helped me see that a brother may not be born to create adversity, but rather for times of adversity. Sure, my brother teased me growing up. Sure he still mocks me over an incident where I ran screaming from a bottle of shampoo and another time that he convinced me in my groggy state that my teddy bear was talking. But when push comes to shove, my brother is the one I turn to. (And I’d like to add this is just as true for my sister.)

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When my father died months before my wedding, who waked me down the aisle? Who showed up at my house to watch my kids when I was in labor, or we needed to make a run to the ER? Who did I text a thousand times from my mother’s bedside? Who stood next to the grave the day we buried our son? Please don’t misunderstand, I have many a good friend that showed up at these and other hard moments, but I know I can count on my brother and sister in a deeper way, in a “we’re all in this together” sort of way. My siblings have been my rocks through more adversity than I thought it was possible for one person to bear.

I am so very fortunate to have friends who love at all times, but I am all the more blessed that I had a brother born for adversity.

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Christian, gifts from God

Why Grace is Hard

Grace. It is a gift so spectacular that we sometimes cannot wrap our minds around its beauty. Grace comes to us just when we need it. It gives us strength when our strength is failing us. It carries us when we cannot take another step. Grace is life saving and life changing.

But grace is hard.

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I know it is a free gift, undeserved, and glorious, but at the same time grace is hard because it is given out only in the immediate moment of need and only to the one who needs it. Grace doesn’t show up in the worry before hand nor for bystander of the trial. Grace often comes in the most bitter of moments as a companion to the weak and a life vest for the weary. Grace forces us to live in the now, seeking the daily bread.

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John Mark McMillan said it best. “If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking.” At times I have yearned for grace as I bear witness to the heartache of others. Other times, I have sunk beneath the waves of my own struggles in an ocean of grace that has simply allowed me to bob to the surface for a much needed breath at the very last moment.

Grace is hard and seemingly late to the game, but it arrives every time just as He promised.

 

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Christian, gifts from God, marriage

Marriage: Having Each Other’s Back

I wish I could say that I have total faith in God and His strength to carry me through any difficult circumstance that comes my way. The truth, however, is that I rely far too often on the flesh and blood people around me when times get tough. I have an amazing support system of family and friends, which I thank God for. Truth be told, I feel like I could handle almost anything with God and Jay. The struggles we have seen are not for the faint of heart. The strength of our marriage is in part due to the sheer need to cleave to one another as we pass from hardship to hardship. It is something we have done well these past 20 years (though far from perfectly). When I look back on the last few years, the hardest and most terrible moments had less to do with the circumstances we were going through and more with the state of our marriage in the midst. I have grieved many things in the past 20 years, from both of my parents to one of our children, and from my  dreams to my sense of self. I have confronted many trials and worked through many hurts, but there has yet to be a pain that cannot in some way be softened once wrapped in the arms of Jay. There is something about knowing that there is someone whose primary role in life, before any other earthly job, is to have your back. I suspect that it is this mutual goal that makes our marriage strong. It isn’t about seeing eye to eye (though that’s always a nice treat) or everything around us being perfect (it never will be). It isn’t about evenly dividing the chores (though that helps ease some burdens) or trying to meet each other’s every need (we can’t). It’s about “where two or more are gathered,” and one person lifting up the other who has fallen. It is a three-strand marriage, and it is very good.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him- a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

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adoption, gifts from God, grief and loss

Passing Us By

It is not uncommon for some of  the most life altering events to pass us by without our realizing. That moment when the stripe turns pink and you realize you are going to be a parent is typically weeks after conception. The acceptance letter to college arrives days after it was mailed and maybe weeks after the admission board made their decision. That first meeting of someone who will one day become your best friend or spouse might not even warrant you taking much notice. Even that tragic phone call with the passing of a loved one can come hours after the fact. There are moments, days, weeks, or even years in which we live oblivious to the big moments that have already occurred and will alter life as we know it. It is our human nature to look back and wonder, “What was I doing then?” We calculate back to the day of conception or think about those blissful moments before our life shattered.

Sean came into our lives like this, and he left our life in the same manner. I could not tell you what I was doing when Sean was born, completely unaware that someone had entered the world that would change my life forever 15 years down the line. And when he left the world in a similar quietness, he left me blissfully unaware of the pain that was soon to come. Part of me is sad that I cannot go back and know exactly what I was doing at that very moment, but I suppose it is okay. In the quiet mystery, there is deep truth. A sovereign God, who knows all things, is still in control. My knowing or not knowing does not alter the course of such things. Maybe a few more oblivious days/hours of life as I knew it was simply a gift to hold off my sorrow for a moment more.

A year has passed since Sean’s death, but this is a date that I am grateful doesn’t stick in my memory quite like it should. My memories of Sean, however, will never fade.

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Christian, gifts from God, loss

Stained Glass Lives

wreckedThanksgiving Eve in 2015, I sat in church holding a rock. As part of the service that evening, we were each asked to write something on that rock as a memorial. We would place those rocks on a table as a thankfulness monument to what God has done. What was God doing in our lives? What gifts had he blessed us with? Who were we becoming that should be memorialized? The word that kept running through my mind was “WRECKED!” God had wrecked my life. He hadn’t just thrown me a curve ball, nor had he simply turned things upside down. He had wrecked it. He had torn my heart out of myself. He had destroyed my very being. Could I be thankful for this? Could I see it as a blessing? I sat in my own little prison of broken dreams and silent pain, and wrote on that stone, “Wrecked my life.”

It wasn’t an accusation. It was both fact and resignation. I was working things out in my life or maybe more accurately, God was working some things out in my life. I was trying to catch my breath and lean into God in the midst of the pain. I was giving it over to Him and thanking him for the suffering, not in the, “I love agony” sense, but in the, “I know that God is good and I can trust him to turn the pieces of my heart into something beautiful” sense. Jesus and I had been clenched in many a wrestling match over the years, and I had stumbled through some pretty graceless dances with him as he tried to lead me, but nothing compared to this. I was holding onto the pieces of my life and waiting in wretched expectation.

Holding those broken pieces was difficult. The sharp edges cut deeply, and I was bleeding out. I was sure I died a few times. If I’m honest, I wished to literally die several times throughout that season. I couldn’t bear the place God had brought me, and I wouldn’t open up my bloody scarred hands and let him help me. As I was spilling my life out slowly and gasping for breath, Jesus was working his miracle. He was working out His perfect plan. I am certain he had been working it out long before I even knew I was broken.

I wish I could say that it was the end of the breaking, but He had barely begun. There would be a lot more shattering and crushing in the months that followed. I’m not naïve enough to think that he’s done the painful work, but I am far enough along to see the light shining through the artwork that he made from some of those broken pieces. I am far enough along to see that darkness helps us to see the light, and that my mind isn’t big enough to imagine what He had in store for me. This week I found myself counting the blessing that have come from the brokenness of that year, the brokenness of my life. Stained glass needs to be seen from a few steps away or you miss the full extent of its beauty. Sometimes life is like that too.

 

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gifts from God, grief and loss, loss

The Cumulative Impact of Grief

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I’ve been thinking a lot about grief these past weeks as we move into the holiday season. This year will be a hard year for our family as we celebrate the first Thanksgiving, birthday, and Christmas without our son. I have cried a little almost every day since the week before Thanksgiving. I haven’t sobbed or broken down, but tears roll down my face during car rides, certain songs on the radio, or just at random moments. For me, this is the 3rd major loss I have experienced. Each being different, they began with the loss of my father 20 years ago. 20 years ago. It seems like I should be long over a grief that old.

 

“Cumulative grief” tends to focus solely on several losses in a short time. That isn’t me. Yet, I doubt that my grief experience is unique.

For me, the loss of my father was deeply devastating. I was a wreck for months. I gradually worked through the loss. I certainly don’t think I would consider my grief “unresolved”, but I definitely miss my Dad, wish he didn’t have to miss so many life events, and at times genuinely ache to have just another moment with him.
When my mom became sick a few years back, I grieved the loss of my father again. Certainly not anything like the original grief, but I thought of him more often, teared-up over little things more often, and longed for him more. As my mom deteriorated and eventually passed, I grieved for my mom, but oddly enough I grieved for my dad almost as much.

Just over a year after my mother passed, we would lose our adult son. It was sudden, like the loss of my dad, but he had not been healthy, so it was always in the back of our minds. We had long expected the day would eventually come. I cried, was sad, and missed him, but not the level of grief that one would expect for such a great loss. But the grief has built up these past days and weeks. It has grown heavier as we enter the holiday.

I grieved now for all three of them. Memories of any one of them might lead me to tears and thoughts of the others. Our son passed late in June. In early September, I remember crying at a family birthday party, because our extended family had gotten so small. There were so few of us now that we could all comfortably sit at our table. That same thought has crossed my mind so many times since that day. My Christmas shopping list is short. The entire family can comfortably be included in a single group chat. I know one day our family will expand. There will be weddings and babies (hopefully not mine). But for now, it is just small and my losses are painfully evident.

Sometimes I am fearful that growing older means that grief will pile upon grief and that each loss will magnify the previous ones. Do we simply accumulate our pain as we walk through this broken world, this world that was never meant to be marred by death?

Grief sure is an interesting beast. It morphs and changes, with an ebb and flow across the seasons and years. Many days it sits quietly, almost stealthily on the sidelines, but in an instant it can come out of nowhere to blindside you. While there are many ways to protect oneself from these attacks of grief, the truth is that grief is a gift. We are people who love and with that love comes a vulnerability to pain. It is only in our loving of others that we face such deep loss. It truly is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

So, no. We are not bound by a grim future of loss. While, Yes, these deep losses will impact us for the rest of our lives, there is more. There is hope and restoration and a supernatural comfort from a God who counts our tears and holds us through our suffering. And it’s enough. It really is.

 

 

 

 

 

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adoption, Christian, gifts from God, loss, parenting teens

A Million Things Spoken and 1 Thing That Wasn’t

Sixteen and a half years ago, Jay and I made a decision to become foster parents. Caleb was an infant, and I was pregnant with Abigail. There is a longer story of God working in our lives leading up to that decision, but that is a story for another time. We filed the necessary paperwork and took the proper classes. The only piece we had left was the home study, but Abigail was born so we put that step on hold. Then a few months later we met Sean. We were introduced to him by Sarah, a Jr. High student in the church youth group I was leading. In the course of time, we came to better understand Sean’s situation and realized he needed a home. He needed a family. Deciding to take on that role was not an easy one. We had an infant and a toddler. I remember discussing it at length and saying to Jay, “Do you think anyone else is sitting around this weekend talking about wether on not they should take Sean in?” And that was that. We were being called.

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Sean came into our life through an invitation. We told Sean that very first day that we were inviting him into our family, and that family was forever. We meant it. We invited him and he accepted. One of the first things we did was give him a Bible verse. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Little did we know, but about the time that Jay and I were completing our foster care certification, Sean was in the midst of a crisis. We would later read a note he’d written where he state that his life had no hope or purpose. Reading that note, dated months earlier, was one of many moments in life where I knew God had brought Sean to our family. God was already preparing an answer to Sean’s cry long before we’d met each other. And God, in the way only he can do, had provided Sean with a very specific reply to his letter. God literally answered with words and actions.

The years that Sean lived in our home and the years after would not necessarily be easy, but they were good. We had a lot of fun and a lot of struggle. We were all better for it. We are a family of words. We talk a lot. Dinner time is loud and often very ADD. It makes Caleb crazy that we can’t stick to one cohesive thought. But we talk. We talk about pretty much everything.  We say I love you!  We laugh. We cry. We pray. We sing. We admit our mistakes.

There was this one time we still laugh about. Sean was 17 and we had found about about something he had done wrong. I can’t recall what it was, but we were really working on confession at the time with him. Sean came home and we told him that before he could go out he needed to confess what he had done. We left him with paper and a pen. Sean sat there for a very long time thinking and writing. When Jay and I finally read the note we got cracking up. Sean had no idea what we knew so he confessed to about a half dozen different things that we had no idea about and the one thing we did.

 

Sean would come in and out of our home over the years, but despite the offer, Sean didn’t choose to be adopted until he was 23. Adopting Sean was the court putting in writing the words that we had spoken so many years before. Family is forever. With those papers one word would change. Sean would forever take the name Seidle.

Ours was always a relationship of words, but of all the things I will remember about Sean, all the words spoken between us, the love, the jokes, the stories, what I will remember the most is the one thing he never said. No matter what happened, no matter how long he was grounded, or how mad he got, never once did he ever say, “You’re not my mother.”

 

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