Thursday, September 27, 2012

When You've Been Reborn and You Want to Say Thanks



Dear Nathan,

I've heard it said that when you lose someone you love, there's this one thing you can't quite understand:  How the whole world keeps turning as if nothing at all has changed, as if your heart's not shattered on the floor, all this life draining right out.

But it wasn't like that for me.

When you left us that evening in late September, the world shifted clean off its axis, everything known and familiar gone and me just grasping about in the emptiness of what used to be.  There was only this I needed to know:  How the world could ever start turning again.  How all of us could ever start living again.  How anything at all could ever be the same again.

But maybe the real truth is this:  I didn't want anything to be the same again.

I said it once before, how you were the beginning of the end for me--the end of who I was and who I was going to be.  But I think what I should have said was this:

I chose to let you be the beginning of the end.

Yes.

I chose to grieve long and hard for you--a choice that hasn't always been understood.  A choice that's cost me more than I can say.

But it was the right choice.

Because saying Yes to the grieving, it's really saying Yes to God.  Yes to being torn down and someday rebuilt.  Yes to being wrenched out of God and someday reborn into Him.  Yes to becoming the woman of God He's always meant for me to be.

Because sometimes the world needs to stop turning before we realize what's been true for a lifetime--that we don't know who we are.  That we don't know Who God is.  That we don't have any idea what we're supposed to be doing here on this great big spinning earth.

Yes.  Sometimes we have to grieve in order to find God.


The first two years after your leaving, this new world and this new me and this God I was discovering--it felt all wrong, as if none of this was ever meant to be.  But it was the third year when the One True God found me and He gave me a new name.  He called me Loved.

And for the first time in my life, I believed Him.

Maybe that's the moment when the earth started turning again, when I started living again.  But I was right about one thing.

Nothing at all is the same as it was before you left us.

And that's exactly as it should be.

Because the woman I was and the life I called mine and the home I made for myself?  They weren't what He wanted for me.  Just pieces of a broken soul who wanted to be loved more than she wanted to breathe.

You drew your last breath that Autumn night, and 2 years 9 months and 14 days later, I drew my first.  Because all those unloved decades that came before?  They were more like dying than living.

But the first year of being alive, of settling into being loved?  It's been full of loss and struggle and a whole heap of aching days.  It's not what I expected.  Not what I hoped for.  And it's left me wrestling for weeks with what I should say to mark the fourth years since you left us.

But today I'm starting to understand that being reborn into Him, it's this life-altering moment of brilliance.  Of awakening.  Of hope unquenchable.  But the growing up?  The making of a life in Him?  The building of a home on nothing else besides Him?  This is what living is all about.

And maybe this year's been more about tearing down than rebuilding.  More about pulling up the old life by the roots than planting seeds for the new one.  More about leaving the home of what used to be than settling into the Home of What Is and Will Be.

But that one moment of waking up into Him, of being born into Love?  It tells me that new life is coming.  And everything that came before--before your life ended and mine began, before God stopped the world from turning and rewrote the story for us all?

There's no going back.

And, oh, for that I am grateful.

It's been four years since you left us behind.  Maybe the hard, breaking days have outnumbered all the rest, but I wouldn't give any of them back.  Because the only way I know to honor the life that's been laid in the ground is to use every last day I'm given to honor Our God with the woman I am becoming.

I keep flailing and failing and falling right down in the mud.  But He keeps picking me up, nudging me forward.  And I keep choosing to believe.  To hope.  To bury myself down into Him until the only thing springing up from the soil is a life that points all eyes to the One Who calls me Loved.  The One Who calls us both Loved.

Maybe this one day in September is the one on which I remember you with my words.  But all the other days in between?  They're the ones on which I remember you with my life.

Happy Home-Going Day, Nathan.  You are loved.  You are missed.  And we can't wait for the day we see you again.

With deep love and great hope,

Courtney



In memory of Nathan R. Neahring, July 7, 1990 ~ September 27, 2008

Sunday, September 23, 2012

When You've Been Held and You Want to Say Thanks

For coming out of the dark
and finding Love holding out a hand.
For sister-friends and brother-friends--
the ones who pray and hope and
send Fear packing its bags.
For the choice to believe
when all seems lost.
For the One Who isn't lost
even when we are.
For the last week of Summer
and the way it lingers warm.
For watering the garden at sunset
and finding one cluster of jasmine still in bloom.
For Fall coming in with a chilling grey
and those spiced cookies baking up in the oven.
For Psalm 27
and the way it holds me up
when the burdens push me down.
Yes.
For being held up
but mostly for the One Who holds.


 

and a few snapshots of joy from the week...










Giving thanks in words and pictures for the God Who holds when everything else gives way.  #1660 - #1682 of the Joy Dare.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

If You're In Need of Grace

It's the middle of a church service, my fingers dancing over piano keys and my voice ringing out loud.  Yes, it's right then when I'm struck by the words I'm singing, this well-worn song always taking me by surprise.

Maybe because I've know this song for a lifetime and maybe because I learned it decades before I ever knew Grace, before I ever understood what it meant to be a woman born into Grace.

Crazy isn't it, how we can sing what's entitled Amazing Grace and still be taken aback when we realize it's about Grace?

But tonight it's the third time through when I feel the tears stinging in the back of my eyes and I hear Him saying this one's for me.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come.  Twas Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me Home.

I've already come through shame and grief and chronic illness and oh-so-much loss.  I've already come through doubt and fear and regret and more mistakes than I can ever count up.  Yes, I've already come through three decades of life that have hurt more than they haven't.

And it's Grace Who's brought me all this way, saved my life in a million ways, given me a new start every single day.

But the thing I really needed to hear?

It'll be Grace leading me Home.

I named this year Home and just when I'm certain that this year's named itself Loss, He spins me right around again and says there's more happening here than I can see or feel or know.  That someway, somehow I really am coming Home to Him through all this grief and fear and a whole mess of struggle.

And I wonder now why I ever thought it'd be any different?  Didn't I know that there's no easy path to making a Home in Christ, that mostly there's the ripping out and the tearing down and the feeling like God's walked clear out of this life?

Because who can make a new home when the old one's still standing tall, when we're still standing tall?

Yes.  That's really it, isn't it?  It's ourselves we've got to give up when we've decided that He's the only Home we want to be in.  And, oh, the breaking down of who we are and who we've been and everything we thought we wanted?  It feels like the whole world's crashed right down and there's no Grace in sight--no God in sight.

But I've already figured it out, that we choose what we believe, and that choice we make, it can send up straight into despair or it can lead us right into Him.

I'm choosing to believe that God's not gone and there's Grace to be found if I'll only look hard enough.

But maybe when I'm looking for Grace, I'm really the one who's found.  Because Grace is the One taking me Home.

Yes.  I'm going Home.  And Grace is leading me right to Him.



Capturing drops of grace with a camera phone and a journal....

1618.  My desktop buddy, sleeping right in front of me while I work the hours away


1619.  Amaryllis blooms in August


1620.  Walking into a room and finding Annabelle in her happy pose


1621.  Root beer float ice cream sandwiches!


1622.  Summer haircut


1623.  Chai and marshmallows in a strawberry-covered mug


1624.  When the cats sleep side by side, give up their quarrels in favor of sunbathing


1625.  That accidentally heart-shaped scone, one side all ragged like me


1626.  Happy new curtains in bright green
1627.  The mom who sews them


1628.  Open windows all summer long
1629.  Buddy Cat making his home in one of them


1630.  That one bright spot in the sky and how it looks like a heart to me
1631.  The way I keep seeing hearts because I'm looking for Him


1632.  Breakfast food for lunch--fried eggs and potatoes!


1633.  Wearing sandals for three straight months--best NW summer in years


1634.  Those crisscrossing tan lines that make me laugh every time I look down


1635.  Pile of inspiration from the Library shelves
1636.  Musing over stitch patterns and dreaming up things to make


1637.  Week of "staycation"--housemates out of town and all this peace and quiet to enjoy
1638.  Celebrating the occasion with a piece of piece every. single. night.


1639.  The turning of the calendar page, new month full of fresh starts


1640.  Postcard coming unexpectedly from across the world
1641.  Friend who thinks of me even though we've never met, wants me to see all the beauty
1642.  The way it feels like God's dropped an  "I love you" in the mail


1643.  How the long hours turn into 5 feet of blue lace
1644.  The excitement over nearing the end of a complicated project
1645.  Imaging the joy in a friend's face when she finally holds this gift right up next to her cheek


1646.  First pumpkin spice steamer of the season
1647.  And that piece of berry coffeecake that brings a little sweetness to a hard day
1648.  The best of friends sitting by my side while we sip and stitch and hold this life close


1649.  The last piece of blackberry dessert
1650.  Childhood memories of eating this very thing every summer


1651.  Crochet baby blanket being given as a gift at long last


1652.  Baby Cora coming into the world safe and healthy, only 11 days late


1653.  Listening to this song on repeat, because when it feels like God's missing in action, sometimes you just have to sing the truth loud and drown everything else out

Thursday, September 6, 2012

If You're Waiting for God to Show Up

It was fourteen months ago when I waited an hour and 37 minutes in the cold for God to show up.

And He did.

Twelve months later, I sat on the banks of that same pond and I waited 41 more minutes in the cold for God to show up.

And He did.

Lately,  every day's been feeling exactly that way.  As if I'm standing in the cold, the heat, the aching dark and waiting for God to show up at long last.  And I think I'm finally starting to believe this one thing--

He will.


{Recounting pieces of His Grace from a trip in late July, accompanied by pictures of the last morning's sunrise--only a 41-minute wait this year and I remembered my pocket camera}




1573.  Cousin and me crammed into the backseat, not one iota of space to spare
1574.  That flat of raspberries we "have to" hold on our laps
1575.  Downing raspberries like the best kind of candy
1576.  Our backseat dinner of rotisserie chicken
1577.  No forks, no plates, and only one napkin while we chow down on a messy meal
1578.  That funny movie we watch on the drive--and the way we quote lines from it all weekend
 1579.  Rain shower as we climb the mountain highway
1580.  The way the sun glints off everything washed by the rain



1581.  Dusk settling as we near our destination
1582.  Pulling into camp at last, cousin and me tumbling out of the backseat
1583.  My parents already there and my tent already set up
1584.  Finding a makeshift bed when mine goes flat
1585.  Raiding the snack bins before bed



1586.  Waking up that first morning to the infamous crows
1587.  Laughing to myself because I know my cousin's cursing the birds from her tent
1588.  Lazy morning around camp before everyone else arrives
1589.  Knitting and purling in a camp chair, trying to keep the yarn from finding the dirt
1590.  Hugs and jokes when more family pulls in
1591.  Afternoon rest in my little tent
1592.  Watching hemlock branches waving their shadows across the ceiling
1593.  First campfire of the weekend
1594.  Uncle who tends the fire like an eager boyscout
1595.  All of us making jokes at his expense
1596.  Late-night laughter in the open air



1597.  Waking up to a symphony of chaos--babies crying down the road, crows swooping and hollering overhead, and those squirrels chattering loud and long right beside someone's tent
1598.  Smothering my laughter at the cacophony around me
1599.  Morning fire thanks to the uncle who brings the woodpile and the dad who gets up early
1600.  That first hour after sunrise when the world's still asleep and the day's still opening
1601.  Round of miniature golf with Dad
1602.  The way he insists I start over when I hit the ball off course--which is most of the time
1603.  Failed attempts at shuffleboard in the hot sun
1604.  The biggest "one scoop" ice cream cone I've ever seen
1605.  Trying to eat it all down before it melts
1606.  Being too full of ice cream to eat dinner
1607.  Grazing off everyone else's food instead
1608.  Sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows and laughing late--again





1609.  Waking up before sunrise on the last day of the weekend
1610.  Sitting at the pond's edge, waiting for light to break forth
1611.  All those birds flitting back and forth overhead
1612.  Blue heron strolling right down the road at the far end of the pond
1613.  Me craning my neck to see where the heron will go next
1614.  That moment when the sun finally breaks right over the mountains




1615.  How it never gets old to watch a day being born
1616.  The way God feels near at sunrise
1617.  Hope for better days ahead