all over the place…

Literally, that’s where I’ve been this past month.  Physically all over the place, emotionally all over the place and mentally all over the place.  I haven’t written in a while partially because of that, partially because my heart has just felt weary that it seems every time I had thoughts swirling around in my head the effort to bring those thoughts from my head to a page just took too much.   So I’d move on to other less mentally challenging things, like finding new creative things to do on pinterest and looking for great deals on craigslist.   Seriously, I have spent WAY too much time on these two sites (however, I have a lot of great pins on my “home decor” board as a result, and more projects then I could possibly do stirring in my head).   Besides pinterest and craigslist (which you’ll understand why in a moment those sites have so recently captured me), here’s a taste of what our past couple of months have been like.  We wrapped up our summer assignment for our ministry (working with a group of students who come down here for the summer to learn how to walk with Jesus on a summer missions trip) the beginning of July and then moved in with a couple of dear friends for 2 weeks as the new house we were renting (ahhh… now you understand pinterest and craigslist!) wasn’t available until August 1.   We had a family reunion out in Yosemite (of which I continue to confuse with Yellowstone… I’m not from the west), so we decided to head out a week before hand and take Dasah on her first (and really our first) Dennis Family Vacation and road trip through California (It was absolutely refreshing, we made some sweet sweet family memories and I’ll write about that next post).  After 2 weeks on vacation we spent a night with our friends back in Orlando and then moved into our new rental home of which I got sick on the day we moved in (I wasn’t really doing a whole lot anyways since one of the perks of pregnancy is no one expects you to lift anything… so I directed the 15 men that showed up from our church to help!).   We had a few days to unpack before we had a week of wrapping up things for our summer assignment and now we are in the thick of settling into our new home and thinking so much about Sophie as we approach her 1 year birthday.   This past month has been stressful, to say it mildly, but it has still been filled with some sweet sweet times with friends and family and enjoying the time the Lord gives us with Dasah.   However, even in a “normal” season of life, with “normal” heightened stresses (what’s really “normal” anyways?) often the first thing to go is my time with the Lord.  And to be totally honest, it was the same for me this time.   I have to fight to create time to meet with the Lord, to drink deeply from His word and sometimes I just don’t have the energy to fight for that time.   I still walked with Jesus this month, I still talked with Him, but I knew I was trying to get through each day living off of last weeks spiritual bread.  Can you imagine a pregnant woman trying to live off of last weeks bread… she’d be a crazy person after missing just one meal!  That was me… only spiritually (don’t worry… I still ate actual food very often).  My heart was more frazzled, less at peace, more irritable, fearful, anxious for the future, I could go on.   Yet, I am so thankful for His grace, that “His mercies are new EVERY morning”, that He is faithful even when I am not.   Even so, the past few weeks the Lord has opened my eyes to new depths of what it means that His word is my LIFE.   There is NOTHING that has brought me life this month like His word has.   NOTHING.   Stick me by the ocean, with incredible views non stop (like what we had for a majority of our California trip) and my heart is typically happy, free and full of life.   However, this time I didn’t experience His creation giving me life in the ways I’m used to and I realized that what my heart craves, needs in a way I grasped a little deeper this past month… is Him.

“As the deer pants for the water, so my soul PANTS for YOU.” Psalm 42:1

“My soul clings to the dust; give me LIFE according to your WORD!” Psalm 119:25

 “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your WORD!” Psalm 119: 28

“If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.  I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me LIFE.” Psalm 119:92-93 (emphasis mine)

This past month I’ve tasted what the psalmist knew to be true that if God’s word is not invading my heart on a consistent basis I will not find life.   A stressful season for anyone is often an easy time to find yourself soothing the stress with quick fixes, quick moments of what we think will refresh us fully (okay so it does REALLY feel good to finish a project, unpack a box, and pin a few hundred great ideas you know you’ll never get to on pinterest)… but still those moments of refreshment can be so fleeting.   And the moments when I’ve experienced “peace that passes understanding” have consistently been the times when I’m leaning into Jesus, when His words are fresh on my heart and mind, whether simply a verse or a passage I read earlier.  Isaiah 55:10,11 says

10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.
11 It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it ALWAYS produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” (emphasis mine)

Always.. His word will ALWAYS produce fruit, it will NEVER return empty.   Even in the times where I open up His word and it can “feel” so dry and empty… still His words are DOING something in my heart and working for His purposes… that is how powerful His word is.  Not my words, not a great author or speakers words… only HIS words produce that kind of life and fruit.

Are His words your very life? Do you hunger for them in the way that the psalmist does?  I do not like this season of life that I’m in right now, yet even as I write I’m realizing that it is a priviledge to be in a season of sorrow, of stress, where nothing brings me life like He does.   To know Him like that, to know how He really is the only true giver of life and true joy… that is a great great gift.

If you want to know how to pray for us, I could give you a huge long list, but right now… pray that we would find life in the Lord and His word in far richer ways then we’ve ever known this season.

Just a view from a stop along the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway).

Just a view from a stop along the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway).

A little blog hop…

So, a few weeks ago I was asked by a friend, Dayle Rogers, to participate in a blog hop. I’m still learning about what it is, but simply put, it’s a way to learn about new blogs and introduce others to your blog! I feel honored that Dayle, a woman I met several years ago while I was working at Cru Headquarters in Orlando, wanted to include me in hers!  Her blog is Tip of the Iceberg and I’d love for you to check out some of her writings!

So, for this blog hop I’m to respond to a few questions.  I hope they help you get to know me a little more and why I write!

1. What am I writing or working on?

This is a loaded question, what I’m working on in writing is documenting a story that is still very fresh as it unfolds in my life.   I began writing because I wanted to write about how our lives are but a vapor in light of eternity and how that affects the way that we live and who we live for.   My writing quickly evolved into a very fresh experience of the reality of that vapor as my first daughter was diagnosed in the womb with a fatal disorder that would not allow her to live long once born.   So, I began to write about grief, hope, joy, loss, celebrating life and how all those seemingly opposite things can co-exsist and bring great richness to one’s life as we look to Jesus.  I thought what I began writing about may begin to change as we buried our firstborn daughter and begin to walk through more intense grief and watched God begin to restore and heal our broken hearts.   8 months later we found out our 2nd daughter, that I am currently carrying has a different fatal disorder that still will not allow her to live long once born.   So, now I still write about grief, hope, joy, loss and celebrating life but I’m also writing about who God is in the midst of deep disappointment, when dreams are shattered and our expectations for how our lives would turn out are far different from reality.   And for some crazy reason, I’m letting others into this story that is being written for our lives in the hopes that it would bring joy and hope to those who choose to enter in and above all else that this story would point to a far grander story being written by our Creator.

2. How does my work differ from others of this genre?

I write about what I’m experiencing in the freshness of the grief I’m walking through.  Yet, it’s not just a sad story that I write about, but one that is consistently infused with hope and joy.  I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, I began a relationship with Him many years ago and knowing Him has dramatically affected my perspective in the midst of great pain.  This is what makes this story different from many that I have read. And even though I’ve heard many of my entries have brought tears to the eyes of may readers, there is also a sense of hope and joy that comes with my writings.  I also write about the celebration of life ,even a life that may be far too short.  It’s an odd dynamic of extreme grief mixed with great celebration of life.  I don’t try to make sense of how those two aspects of what I’m experiencing co-exsist but simply write about how both are being experienced and how Jesus is meeting me through it all.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Writing is a form of grief work for me.  It’s a way of processing the things I’m learning, gaining perspective and remembering what God is doing in my life.  But many years ago I became convinced that life is not just about me, that the things we walk through in life are not just for our own personal growth and that an authentic relationship with Jesus is living just that, authentically.  So, I write that even the broken pieces of my life may have a ripple effect into the lives of others.  I so desire that others would see what it’s really like to walk with Jesus through the ups and downs of life and experience, even if it’s just through writing, authentic Christianity.   And I write because I know I’m not the only one walking through grief and loss, I’m not the only one whose story is turning out far differently then I thought, and I want those reading who are walking through something similar to know you are not alone.

4. How does my writing process work?

It’s quite simple, I write what God is putting on my heart to write and I write when I’m able to write.  As someone writing in the midst of the freshness of grief I don’t always have the words to say in the torrent of emotions I’m experiencing on any given day.  Yet, as the things I’m learning become more clear I keep a running list of ideas and thoughts in my head that I eventually want to put to paper.  My hope is that each week, at least one of those ideas makes it to paper.  I prefer to write about what is fresh not what I learned yesterday, so that you get my fresh thoughts and fresh wrestlings and so that I get my fresh thoughts and fresh wrestlings!  Writing is a way to let others into what God is doing, but it’s also a way I process what God is doing and am rooted more firmly in what He’s teaching me!

So there you go, some reasons why I write what I do!

Camp KIVU & family celebrate Dasah

A little over a month ago, our friends threw us a gender reveal CARNIVAL, where we let everyone in on the big secret with a “pink” paint fight.  (As a side, I say “pink” because once the paint started flying all the paint was free game… so in case you’re confused, everyone just needed ammo and blue started flying too!).  You can watch the video of that day  here.

Most of our family was able to Skype into the event but weren’t there to participate.  So not to be outdone by our epic carnival, my little brother decided he’d throw a carnival of his own for Dasah… the following text and pictures were sent to us the next day…IMG_5936

Needless to say that made our day and brought lots of joy and laughter!   About a week later my parents, sister, brother in law and nephews surprised us via video with their own pink party…

And then the other day we received this email with the following video, from my other brother, Luke (one of the directors at Camp KIVU in Colorado)…

“Hey Linz and kevin!

So yesterday a little surprise took place here at Kivu.  After your gender revealing and Dan’s goofy picture in the park of celebrating Dasah, I ordered 25lbs of pink powder so we could also celebrate here.  However, after ordering the powder I asked our leadership staff to help me celebrate…and here’s what they surprised me with yesterday before lunch!  Hope you enjoy!  This is for you guys and Dasah!  
Love you!”

We cried our way through the video out of sweet joy that others are celebrating Dasah, and helping our family continue to celebrate her!  These past couple of months have been heavy, our hearts are heavy and many days the cloud of sadness just sits on top of us.  God is working in our hearts and rooting our faith much deeper in this season and providing sweet moments like these to remind us that in the midst of the sadness He will bring sweet rays of light and joy to remind us of the life that He gives, and the life that He’s given our daughter.  Our eyes are lifted,  if even for a moment, to the grander story being written for our life and our daughters’ that is bringing His name great glory.  So thank you, to our family, friends and even strangers (who we feel are like family) who are helping us to experience these sweet moments of celebration and life in the midst of the deep sadness that surrounds us.  We are so grateful!

Our second daughter’s name, and the meaning behind it…

So, we made a little video to introduce our baby girl’s name…

 

 and here’s the story behind it…

“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther 4:14b

 

There is a true story in the Bible of a woman named Esther (in the book of Esther), a common Jewish girl, who was brought into the palace of the king, chosen to become his wife and ultimately used by God to bring deliverance to the Jewish people.   As Esther found out as the new queen that there was a plot against her people, her only hope was to speak with the king on the behalf of her people and ask him to spare their lives. However entering the kings’ presence without being summoned in that time (even as his wife), had the potential of leading to death.   Esther had great fear and yet, was reminded by Mordecai, the man who raised her, that God would surely find a way to deliver His people, but what if God had chosen her to be a part of that deliverance “FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.” Esther called on the name of the Lord, fasted and prayed and determined to enter the presence of the king to plead for her people and declared with great courage and faith “If I perish, I perish.” Ultimately, the king had favor on her, and her people were saved.

 This has been a story of faith, courage, and deliverance that I have always loved in the Bible. Esther has been a picture of what it looks like to walk by faith and not by sight. And as Kevin and I have prayed about the name for this little girl, the phrase “For such a time as this” has continued to surface in our hearts.   We don’t know what God has in store for our second daughter, but we do believe that He has set the stage to produce something in and through our family’s life that will bring Him great glory and hope to many “For such a time as this.”   The Hebrew name for Esther has been one I have always loved… Hadassah.   Hadassah means “myrtle tree”.   Which on the surface may seem insignificant, however as we have studied the myrtle tree we’ve discovered that it is a highly esteemed plant in Judaism.   Its branches were to be used during the Jewish Feast of Booths, where they celebrate and remember God’s presence with them in the wilderness and ultimately foreshadowing the time when we will permanently dwell with Jesus!   Perhaps the sweetest thing I have discovered about the myrtle tree is that the flowers on the tree, though bitter to the taste, when crushed produce an aroma that is sweeter than a rose. It is our prayer that out of the bitterness of this journey the Lord will produce a sweet aroma that flows out of our lives and into the lives of others. We don’t know how He will do it, right now it feels so bitter, but we are trusting Him for the sweet.   And so we took the name Hadassah and shortened it to DASAH for our little girl’s first name.

 In keeping with Kevin’s Irish heritage we knew we wanted a Gaelic name somewhere in there and so discovered the name Brielle. And like Sophie’s middle name, Kyla, Brielle is both Gaelic and Hebrew.   In Gaelic it simply means “Hill” and in Hebrew it means “God is our might”. Surely, He is our might and the one, the only one who can produce life and joy and hope through such a journey as the one He has asked us to walk with our sweet…

 DASAH BRIELLE DENNIS

(pronounced DAW-sa)

 Who knows but God has chosen Dasah to enter our lives “for such a time as this” to leave a sweeter aroma in our lives and those around us then we could even imagine.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” Isaiah 55:13

 

The Dennis Family Float Trip!

The heaviness and weight of the story God is asking us to step into with our newest little girl has been overwhelming, yet has made the days where there is more laughter than tears and more joy than sorrow all the more fun.   Two fridays ago was one of those days.  We embarked on the first of many Dennis Family Day’s to come, with 2 of our dearest friends in town.   We had planned to take our little family (and friends, Josh and Maddie, who are practically family… their little girl, Ruth was one of Sophie’s besties last summer), to a beautiful natural lazy river in Kelly Park (Apopka, Fl… look it up, you should go!).  The day began and Josh and Maddie showed up at our door like this…

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We laughed (and I cried… because wouldn’t friends showing up with “Dennis Family Float Trip” T-shirts make you cry too?).   However, the weather was not looking too promising…

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but like any good family day complete with family t-shirts our trip was NOT going to be ruined by a little rain (or monsoon, but who defines these storms anyways?).   We headed to a delicious BBQ place in Orlando for some lunch and to give the rain some time to pass (4 Rivers Smokehouse… another place you need to check out if you ever find yourself in Orlando)

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And then we headed off to Kelly Park, our belly’s full, our smiles big, and laughter the norm between people asking us “Ummm… what’s a float trip?”  to being determined to drive an hour even if it looked like rain would be the forecast for the day.   We stopped at “Ron’s Discount Tubes and Propane” to rent tubes… and then had the thought… “Ummm… I wonder if the tubes will fit in our car?”

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hmmm…

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and it worked, Maddie being very secure in our car for the rest of the ride.   The skies were clearing, much to our surprise and our Float Trip was a go!

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Such a fun and relaxing day, floating down the most beautiful little river (once Maddie and I stopped freaking out about whether or not an alligator was going to get us… the lifeguards assured us they hadn’t seen any that DAY, though we’re convinced we saw a little small one)…

And our first Dennis Family Day was a success!  We’re looking forward to our weekly family day’s together, celebrating and enjoying the time the Lord gives us with our little girl, making memories and enjoying who God allows us to make those memories with!  So thankful for Maddie and Josh for making it extra special!

“Be Filled with Joy”

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At the beginning of 2014 I needed a new journal. I typically don’t love journals with writing on the front but I saw this one and thought this is the one for me. Joy. That was what I was trusting the Lord for this year and there couldn’t have been a better journal to begin my writings for the year in.   Every time I begin a new journal, I ask the Lord to reveal scripture in my time with Him that would shape how that season that I’m using that specific journal would unfold and in every journal I’ve ever had it’s been amazing to see the passages in the front of each journal reflect, unbeknownst to me, the season God was walking me into. Two passages stood out to me as I was reading early on this year and so sit in the first page of this “Joy journal”

 “Joy comes in the morning…” Psalm 30:5

 “Lord, if your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from this place.” Exodus 33:15

 The first was because I was sensing the Lord leading me into a new season of joy as God was bringing healing to my heart from the loss of Sophie. The second was because we were beginning to get opportunities to talk about Sophie’s story on a larger scale and I sensed that we really needed God’s presence and wisdom to know what He was asking us to step into and out of.

Now, fast forward to a few days after we found out about our little girls’ condition and you could only imagine how my heart felt looking at this journal, much less opening it.   I wanted to burn it. Seriously, I felt like “this is a load of crap”, but I said far stronger words in my heart that I’ll refrain from sharing here. (Not because I don’t want to be raw and authentic… but some rawness is better left experienced by just a few and not on a social media platform where words you say don’t ever go away. Okay, end little soap box on words.)

As I was wrestling with God over these verses I fully believed He had placed on my heart to trust Him for this year, I could not

1. Understand how those two fit together

and

2. Understand how in the world this could still be a year of joy.

Yet, even though I didn’t and still don’t understand I really do believe that God was/is asking me to trust Him for Joy, unexpected Joy this year.   A couple of weeks later, again mulling over these two verses and having a very blunt conversation with God about my feelings of these, He brought to mind fairly quickly the following verse…

 “In my presence there is fullness of joy.

 (“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11)

It was this “ah-ha” moment.  I was reminded that even when I wrote of my hope for 2014, bringing home a child, more joy than sorrow, my greatest hope was that “I would fix my eyes on Jesus, find my hope in Him as I lay my desires at His feet and walk in new surrender. Jesus, my only guarantee, He is the one I’m praying would be the direction of my gaze in the midst of the deep longings of my heart this year.”   If I look at all I feel right now, the disappointment, the longings, the joy I long for is the joy of bringing home a baby, of seeing our family begin to grow and not just saying goodbye to another child.   Though that longing is incredibly valid and that joy I pray will come one day (perhaps even this year, trusting the Lord to do a miracle of epic proportions), I know that when you peel back all the layers of my broken heart there is a seed inside that says “the Joy I really want, the Joy I know I really need, is the kind that comes from simply being in the presence of God.” You know, I don’t know Him like that. I don’t know Him in the ways that Paul talks about Jesus saying “I count everything as loss compared to knowing Him.” But from the things I have learned about who God is, I do know that I want to know Him more. I get glimpses of this Joy that comes from being in His presence and this year I pray that I would discover more fully what it really means that “In His presence there is fullness of Joy.” So there sits a third verse in the front my journal. And I know that I cannot walk through this year, and I cannot experience the kind of joy I long for if His presence does not go with us.  And deeper still, more than even the joy, I long for His presence.

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The time our friends threw us a gender reveal CARNIVAL…

When you know that the time you’ll have with your child may only be in the womb and for a few short hours afterwards, what do you do?  How do you celebrate their life and choose to step into moments of joy and hope in the midst of the sadness?

First. You invite your community to join with you in honoring this little life, because you realize you can’t walk this road alone.

Second. You discover that there are people that want to rally around you and as our community has decided… to be our Supporting C.A.S.T (Come Along Side Them) in this story that is unfolding.

Third.  You try to do things you would normally do… like have a gender reveal party… only sometimes, it just becomes a little more EPIC…

Welcome to our Gender Reveal Carnival… just one of many unique celebrations to come to honor this little life, our 2nd daughter, with our friends and family…

Here are some things we knew before this party… we knew we’d have a party, we had found out the gender earlier in the week, and we knew how we’d surprise our friends and family (thanks to the awesome creativity of some sweet friends, everyone would line up and we’d spray them with dyed water and paint of the color of the gender… not sure how blue started flying but I guess everyone just started looking for any ammo they could find!).  What we didn’t know… is that it would be a carnival, complete with a stilt walker, a magician, cotton candy, a photo booth, face painting and a place for people to write us notes, pray for us and gather their friends from around the world to pray for us and this new life.   We are so incredibly thankful for our family and friends who joined in this celebration, who have chosen to step into our lives and our story and lift our arms up to greater hope.  From the people who have entered in who we haven’t yet met, to those that have been walking with us closely the past year and a half… Thank you.  Thank you for being a part of the cast of this story that is being written for our lives and our community.  We look forward to watching it unfold with you.

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