on a day i’m needing some courage

DSC05420_2There are some parts of my life right now that I am actually getting excited about again, where I see amazing things happening and I am getting to be part of how God is working in a larger way. Some of those things have come as a direct result of Naomi and the path I’ve gone down since she went to Heaven. I don’t for a minute believe that she had to die for these things to happen. I don’t think God works that way. But I do see that there is good coming out of something that was and will always be bad – because death was never in the plan originally. It wasn’t what we were meant for. We were made to live, to live abundantly. It really does amaze me when I can sit back and see these places where I see life coming out of the death of someone I love so very much and out of my deep grief. I am thankful for that.

But then there are these other parts of my life that feel so incredibly hard and insurmountable. These are things that were there before we knew Naomi was sick. For a large part of this past year I just ignored them because I couldn’t handle anything else and really I found I didn’t care so much about those things because I was hurting so badly. But recently I’ve been starting to face them, to wake up, so to speak, once again to these realities. Today, it all seemed so big that I just wanted to give up (and just maybe the screaming and fighting and needs of two little boys on top of these things was just pushing me a bit over the edge?)

One of the things that I have found in myself over this past year is, I guess, courage. Perhaps I could call it candor? I struggle incredibly with self-doubt and with wanting to please others. However, this past year I think that I have come to a place of seeing how futile the self-doubt truly is. I’ve begun to learn to trust more of how I hear the Lord speaking to me and who he has made me to be. And because I have faced what I never thought I could face, I’ve learned a courage that is not built on my own strength, but on a deep knowledge of my weakness and God’s all sufficient strength. So these things in life that feel really hard? I know I need courage to face them, but courage and patience, candor and wisdom to do it in God’s strength and as he leads.

This afternoon with these thoughts in my head (and after escaping to the park with those two energetic boys) I opened up my copy of Jesus Today by Sarah Young, asking God to speak some words of strength to my flailing heart. This book of devotionals are written as if Jesus is speaking directly to the reader. Sitting on a bench in the shade while sand flew through the air and a hole to China was being dug, this is what I read:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be discouraged, for I will be with you wherever you go. You can choose to be strong and courageous even when you are feeling very weak. However, the weaker you feel, the more effort it takes to choose to be strong. It all depends on where you look. If you gaze at yourself and your problems, your courage will melt away. The choice to be bold rests on your confidence that I am with you and for you…When everything seems to be going wrong, refuse to get discouraged. Remember that I am a God of surprises: I am not limited by the way things are or by the paltry possibilities you can see. I am infinitely creative and powerful…I am good to those who wait for Me.

One of the verses that went along with this entry was Lamentations 3:25-26, one of my favorite passages of Scripture this past year:

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

I so needed to hear these words of truth today. Sometimes it is hard for me to hope for good things in the future, because often I have a very specific idea of what that looks like and yet I know that what I think would be good for me and my family may not actually be what is best. It is hard to hope and dream after one has had their dreams shattered because you wonder if those dreams were right and if they were then why didn’t God bring them to fruition? I don’t understand God’s ways. But I am seeking to trust him and follow him because even though I don’t understand him, I know, deep in my soul, that he is good, that he loves me and that somehow he will bring redemption and restoration to all that is lost.

Her Birthday

Thursday we celebrated the miracle of her life, one year later.

Naomi Ruth Smith, born April 25, 2012…

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DSC03815 DSC03823We made a cake.

DSC03804 DSC03829 DSC03830And our home filled with beautiful flowers from friends and family near and far while our phones beeped with texts of love, reminding me that we are held in the hearts and prayers of so many.

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We released balloons up into the bright blue sky and her brothers blew out her candles.

DSC03869 DSC03889 DSC03893_2 DSC03856We made these fun little butterfly treats, because of course there should be party favors!

While it was not the first birthday I would have wanted for my daughter, with her in Heaven and us here, it was a day in which tears mixed with laughter and I am so grateful that I could laugh and smile. I am grateful for hope and I am grateful that I made it through the day! Thank you to everyone who called, texted, or sent us words of love, remembering the life of our precious daughter with us. We are so grateful for your standing with us on this journey.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

On new life and the intermingling of joy and pain

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“I want to feel both the beauty and the pain of the age we are living in. I want to survive my life without becoming numb. I want to speak and comprehend words of wounding without having these words become the landscape where I dwell. I want to possess a light touch that can elevate darkness to the realm of stars.” – Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds

I stumbled across this quote here and it simply captured me and spoke to some of the questions I am living right now and that, it seems, many others are in light of the events of this week in our country. You go looking hard enough any day of any week and the questions and pain, the suffering so many are enduring, will overwhelm. It is hard to live without answers. It is hard to “live the questions,” as one of my college professors always challenged us to do. It is easier to push those questions and seeming contradictions aside and go on with the day to day living, the day to day numbing.

I’ve had several people remark to me lately of how amazed they are at the openness that we have had regarding this journey of loving and loosing our daughter. I too, wonder at that. And while sometimes privacy is important and the sacred should be guarded and not all stories are meant for public consumption, there has been at the core a need for me to share my story, Naomi’s story, our family’s story. It is a way to feel both the beauty and the pain. It is a way for me to shake off the ever encroaching numbness, to find light in the darkness that I walk through. Every day, I have to look for the light, for God’s presence. These past couple of weeks, I’ve had to look harder. Things have felt a bit darker.

I had the amazing privilege this week of meeting a tiny baby girl, less than twenty-four hours since coming into this world. And after placing her first hand-made butterfly hat on her tiny head, made just the night before, I took her in my arms and thanked God for her safe arrival here. As I held her so her momma could hold her big brother (who was overjoyed to rediscover momma’s lap), I remembered the text this precious girl’s sweet momma sent me just hours after giving birth…that on the day of her daughter’s birth she was remembering me and my daughter’s birth, just a year ago. I tell you, this little newborn girl has one amazing, beautiful momma who has been such a faithful friend to me and my family. It was an honor to meet her third born, her daughter.

Holding this tiny little baby in my arms was a miracle in itself. Me, sitting there, with that ever present question..why? Why me? Why my daughter gone? I can’t pretend that I didn’t leave work early the day before, when I got the news of her birth because I couldn’t stop crying. I can’t pretend that my breath didn’t catch when I saw her older brother holding her, wearing a hand-me-down shirt from my youngest boy, who never got to hold his sister.

I used to think that the pain had to leave for joy to return to my heart. But now I see that the joy and the pain intermingle and the light is made brighter because it shines in dark. I think this is the way it will be until I see Jesus one day face to face. Sometimes I struggle to accept that. But the joy, when I allow it in, comes, and His peace, too.

So this is hard and it hurts but she, this new little princess, is a gift to her momma and daddy, yes, but to me too and to all who love and hope and long for life to overcome death. And me holding her this week, that was a miracle too, because I could run and hide from all things baby and girl because it reminds me of what I’ve lost. I could hide from all my friends who are pregnant or have tiny little ones. But I don’t want to loose out on all that joy, all the sweetness and hope and love and somehow, God, in His amazing love and grace, keeps taking my pain and allowing me these moments of light, these moments where I experience joy in the midst of sorrow and teaching me not to dwell in the wounding but be cradled instead in the arms of love.

Springtime

I’ve found myself rather quiet these past weeks, staying busy in a good way, waiting for the grass to turn green and the trees to bud. I’m beginning to think about our vegetable boxes that are still many weeks away from showing up but I already am hungry for arugula and radishes. I try to ignore the cold that is lingering longer than usual this year, refusing to allow the hats and gloves to be put away just yet. But I did wear a dress on Easter Sunday. My boys were a little in awe at momma in a dress because its been months since they’ve seen me “dress up” like that. I’m not one much for dresses in the winter mostly because I want to be as warm as possible and I am not a huge fan of tights. In the summer, though, I love to wear skirts…soon, I hope, it will be warm again!

Even as we anticipate the blooming of spring and the summer ahead I feel the empty spaces where a little girl, who’d be turning one two weeks from today, would have been. Those empty spaces…I think a lot about how to fill them, because they will be filled. Pain and sometimes hot bitter tears seep into them. At other moments those spaces become the sacred places where, if I can only stand to stay in them, I hear words of Love and Truth whispered to my soul, that death is not the final word, that Jesus is alive, that the days I will have with my daughter will be greater than the days I am without her. Though these empty places feel such a heavy burden at times, a stark reality which seems to highlight this broken world, I continue to find this amazing Grace where somehow God is restoring my joy and bringing healing to my heart in these days.

And I have much to keep my hands full with these days, for which I am grateful, else I do think it would all be too much to bear. God has been good to us.

As you think of us, friend, in the coming weeks as we remember Naomi’s birth and celebrate her life, may I ask, if you are so moved, that you find some way to show love to someone who could use some in their life? If you would help another person in memory of our sweet daughter, it would be a blessing to this momma’s heart to know she is not forgotten. Naomi’s life was full of so much love. In her short life, Naomi taught me how important it is not to take a even one day for granted, that life is a gift and that love is the greatest gift of life, the gift given to us by God Himself.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.

GodIsLove

March

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DSC02361DSC02362 DSC02376We are moving forward into a new season. A season that will require a lot of courage and strength. A year is quickly approaching. The time when we will remember and celebrate our daughter’s one year birthday in Heaven. The time when we will remember the days she lived here on this earth.

We bravely wait for life to be renewed from the frozen earth beneath our feet, trusting that winter will soon give way to spring and the warmth of summer. The cold wind of fear for what these months will bring tries to wind its way around my heart. This month I am stepping out in hope, in faith, in love, on many fronts. I am learning to breath deeply and to be right here with my whole heart.

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I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.