i debated on whether to backdate this post to the exact 18-month mark - july 11 - but decided to keep the actual writing date of aug 30. truth is, i'm afraid of what i'm about to write. i will try and be as concise as i can but the journey over the last 7+ weeks has been long...
the 18-month anniversary of giving matthew to Jesus came...and went on july 11. we were here in annapolis. it was a sunday and we didn't make it to church, but we did finally make it to small group late, around noon'ish. while it's rare for me to not talk about matthew during our discussion or prayer requests, i didn't. no one there even knew.
i mentioned it to ken later that day because i was pretty sure he didn't remember. 18 months is not really an anniversary most people would recognize, but i did. last year after we returned from living in greece, we were at matthew's grave on this day. we put in a bench in the sweltering heat, prayed, cried, took photos, screamed, read scripture, cried harder, and grieved at our son's grave for the first time since the burial.
but this year, july 11 came and went. no visit to the grave. (of course because we live in annapolis, md right now.) however, i spent some time reflecting and praying and this is what i heard from Jesus:
let it go.
let him go.
let go. ok, you want me to trust You, again. let "it" go. ok, You want me to ditch the anger. i think i can finally, really, do that.
but the last one i couldn't shake. are You kidding me?? let him go. i can't and won't ever be able to do that!
a gentle stirring began and grew to a roar that lasted for days and days. i heard many things from Jesus and mostly tried to ignore them because they were breaking my heart.
he is safe here in heaven.
he loves you and wants you to live and experience life again.
he adores his baby sister and wants you to enjoy every minute with her.
he wants you and daddy to get along better.
he desires you to have joy.
he doesn't want you to be angry anymore.
he prays you will have peace.
he WILL see you again in heaven. you WILL have all the embraces, kisses, smiles and laughter you didn't get on earth...and you WILL have them for an eternity.
i tried to fill my days that week with activity so i didn't have to think about what i heard. in other words, i was running! but that only goes on for so long. i was weary and afraid.
the night of my birthday july 16, actually in the wee hours the next day, i had a significant and life-changing conversation with one of my best friends, angie, while we were visiting bill and joni in raleigh. i won't go into all the details but what i needed to hear her say was that God has been the same God my whole life.
Exactly the same. Unwavering, steadfast, heartbreaking love for me. for ME! matthew's death passed through his hands but it wasn't because i wasn't doing something right. it wasn't because God wanted to wreck my life. He loves me still. i could be as angry as i wanted to be, but he loves me still.
after that conversation i realized i had to make a choice: the bitter, angry road that pretends to accept what happened and carries on the facade of christian living while trying, unsuccesfully, to cover up a resentful heart................or the grace road.
i choose the grace road. today, again tomorrow, and again the day after tomorrow...
what does that look like?
it means i have to spend EVERY day, asking God to give me the strength, will, power, and grace to live. not in the 'lord, help me today because i don't wanna live' kind of way. been there, done that.
exactly the opposite. i want to truly live life! in other words, a total dependence on Him. a complete surrender. a passionate love towards Him and others. a fervent ear to His calling. all the while knowing, there will be more tragedy and more heartache in this broken world. realizing my total brokenness, unworthiness, and imperfection continues in this human body apart from God, but He gives me grace anew each day. until the race is over and we go Home to Glory where we will finally be restored, reunited and redeemed.
while i know i have experienced this surrender in my life when i came to know Christ as a teenager, and at different stages of my life thereafter following down wrong paths, it has taken on a whole new meaning after the loss of a child.
i can better understand God's sacrifice of His Son, given for us. i didn't want to understand it better....
...but i do.
the following week on july 22, after that conversation with angie, i showed up mid-study to sarah cochran's healing hearts bible study who was going through "grieving the child i never knew" by kathe wunnenberg. sarah leads this study knowing personally how important, but difficult it is. she lost her sweet mikayla, one who resembles God, 8 years ago.
i did this study with sarah from nov 30 last year through sometime at the end of february, after we dug ourselves out of the four feet of snow! she was instrumental in helping me grieve my sweet boy and i adore her, for who she is and what she does for others, especially those who are in the "baby loss" club. i knew i needed to do the study before kennedy arrived and she accomodated that. it was very hard, but such a blessing. and now 6 months later, i needed to revisit it.
sarah said i was changed. that i was much better. night and day difference from six months ago. i didn't really admit much better was only in the last week.
i reread my journal entries from 6 months prior and thought, i have changed. i am better. and in some ways, worse. lots of work to do, indeed. the most important kind of work - relationship work. starting first with a loving God, then with my sweet, patient husband. then with my precious daughter and my unwavering family. then my amazing friends and some nice strangers. lots of i'm truly sorry's, asking forgiveness, and giving it.
i realized i needed to say it out loud. i needed accountability. so on aug 1 at our small group. i told the group with tears streaming down my face:
i think i am ready to let matthew go. not let go and forget him. just let go and give him to God. and to move forward with our life without him on this earth. i know we'll be reunited with him one day.
i barely got the words out. and out of the corner of my eye i saw ken tear up. it was the first time he was hearing it too.
one of our members spoke such amazing and encouraging words to me. i would love to share those but i need to ask permission first because it would be telling a part of his story.
there was work to be done. i couldn't let the grief of losing matthew overtake him.
we left and the sun was brighter that day. but i was scared of what i had just professed.
what does this mean?
what will it look like?
and almost a month later it's lollipops and roses. but of course not! we face an enemy that wants to kill and destroy. every test will be presented. every test will be battled. but every test will be WON. i've got a BIG God on my side and his armor is pretty darn good.
ken's driving still drives me crazy. it's pretty safe and sound, even though i like to call it aggressive. i drive the speed limit or maybe a little over, sometimes. ironically, when i'm a passenger while he's driving, i would just assume we drive in the right hand lane going 40 mph with all of the sweet little old ladies. i know...clearly i've got issues! but i love that man with all of my heart. God gave me a precious jewel when he allowed me to be his wife and i look forward to spending the next 50+ years with him.
and as for kennedy, she has stolen my heart. i have been, and continue to be, so in love with both of my children. matthew made me a momma for the first time and it was such a privilege to give birth to him and be apart of the journey of his short life and his long legacy. kennedy has made me a parent. her sweet kisses and smiles melt my heart. i look forward to parenting her all the days of my life.
my family is my heartbeat and i know i need to do a better job of showing them how much i love them. because they do a fantastic job of loving me.
my friends are such a blessing and without many of them i would not be making it through this. your prayers have sustained me, beloved friends.
i am so glad you are apart of this journey. your prayers for me and my family are so appreciated. i am thankful God has put you in my life and wish many blessings for you today and all the days to come.
blessings come in different forms. some are immediately recognized, some take a little time, and some take a lifetime.
many, many, blessings...
there will be more to say...there always is...