Why I would not trade my story for another

On July 7, 2015 I was surprised at the words I found myself writing in my journal.  The past 8 months have been a season of wrestling with God in the darkness.  It is why I haven’t written much over these last several months, and yet in the darkness God has been doing a work in my heart that I have only begun to see.  He has moved my posture towards Him and shown me that even in the burning questions in my heart, He is a safe place to bring my pain, anger, sadness and grief.  I studied Job many months ago and was struck by the fact that it was out of Job’s deep lament before God that God revealed Himself to Job  in a way that he had never seen before.  I longed for that, to know God in such a profoundly deep way.  And I sense that this journey God is taking me on in teaching me to lament, in teaching me to wrestle towards Him is giving me a taste of what Job says in Job 42; “I spoke of things I did not understand, things to wonderful for me… I had heard of you by the hearing of my ears, but now my eyes have seen You; Therefore I repent.”   So, I share with you a taste of the fruit of what God is doing in my heart through this season of lament, a picture of beauty in ashes, of hope in the midst of pain, of a young momma learning to embrace the story God has given her.

“Lord, 

If I could have more of you and lose my daughters or less of you and keep them.  If I knew the tastes of glory I would see through the short lives they would receive.  Oh, I want them back so much.  I want a different story so badly.  But, a different story would be two different little girls and less of you.  And I want the more of you part and the two little girls you gave me.  I do not wish that death invaded my life so abruptly, so painfully, but if this is the way to you, if this is the way to know, to taste your glory, your majesty, then I receive it.  With arms wide open and tears of joy mixed with pain running down my cheeks and breathes of hope mingled with often suffocating loss.  So be it.  No, not only so be it… but a resounding YES LORD.  Yes to the story you have chosen for our lives.  For my life. For Sophie’s life.  For Dasah’s life.  I do not understand it.  I do not claim to know the depth of your ways or the greatness of your love in this story but I know it is intertwined throughout.  I would not trade my story for another for in doing so I would lose so much.  Perhaps it would seem I have already lost so much.  But whatever was loss I consider as gain.  In fact, “I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”   

This I know, that today, I love you more then I did two years ago.  But more than that, today your greatness, your glory, your profound worthiness of my life is both more a mystery and more clear at the same time.  Your holiness has been revealed to me in ways I never knew.  Your greatness at the cross is clearer because the reality of the tomb being empty is more profound.  Life has won.  Death is defeated.  And you Lord have become my greatest hope.  Yes.  Yes to your ways, for your ways are good and right and even in death your ways lead to life.”**

“I spoke of things I did not understand things to wonderful for me.  Although I had no right to ask, my God knelt and answered me.”  -Ghost Ship, Where were you

**I first shared this journal entry at a recent conference where my husband and I were asked to share our story.  You can watch that interview here.

Sharing our story at our Cru National Staff Conference

On July 20, 2015 Kevin and I had the honor of introducing our daughters and sharing our story with around 4,000 other Cru staff members.  It was a privilege to share a taste of what God has been doing in our lives through our daughters and I wanted to welcome you into that as well.  Enjoy!

https://cru15.cru.org/archive/main-sessions/07-20-kevin-lindsey-dennis.htm

You can read the journal entry I share here.

You can watch the full 3 minute video of Sophie and Dasah here:

When all is not as it should be

A little over a month ago I wrote this as I was processing attending the burial of a 19 year old young man, the first burial Kevin and I had been to since burying our own children… in the same cemetery.  The cemetery was a holy and sacred place that day.

Where to begin? What to say? Today I stood before the casket of a 19 year old young man and watched as his parents, brother and sisters, countless family and friends shed tears of longing, sadness and hope. We grieved and looked to the Lord for hope only He could bring.  I had only met him a few times a few years ago, but I knew his parents. And I shed tears for them, and have shed tears since because in a small way I knew the pain of sitting before the casket of your child, barely able to breathe and comprehend this moment that never would you have fathomed would be written into your story. I would not have written this moment, twice into our story and I would not have written this moment into their story.   A son, a brother, a friend should not have been buried today. Too young.  Too soon.  And yet he was.  I should not have had to bury two daughters, having only experienced their life for mere moments and yet I did.  What should not have been was, what should not be is.  And yet today, two things I recalled to mind, or perhaps better said… Jesus recalled to my mind.

His grace IS sufficient.  All I could think of as my heart filled with pain for this family was a recollection that in the darkest moments of my own experience, His grace was sufficient, is sufficient, is ENOUGH.  This free, undeserved gift of His grace.   What we get because of simply who He is, is enough.  And somehow, it has become enough for me.  A tender, merciful grace that has continued to bring freedom to my broken heart.  Freedom to bring my broken self to the foot of the cross and see the pain etched on His face meet the pain etched on my face.  Freedom to bring my broken self to the tomb, the empty tomb and see His resurrection power and hope resurrect my hope.  Freedom to bring my tears, laughter, groan, joy, heartache and experience to a Savior who meets us in the moments we are aware, brutally aware of the nothing we have to give and the everything we have to receive.  And this is where his grace meets us, where we know the beauty of his grace.  Today, I saw that beauty.  I saw it in my own life as I reflected on the moments I stood before my own daughters’ caskets and tears rolled as I watched another mother stand before her son’s casket.  And though I only know my pain and can’t begin to know her pain… the grace in that moment was a thankful heart that I could weep with this family because of the pain of this moment I had tasted as well.   Thankful that this story, I would have never written for my life, now enables me to step into the pages of another’s unwelcome chapter in their story, with greater empathy, greater grace and enter in the groan of all creation with another.

And this is the second thing He recalled to mind. That this grief, this recognizing with fists in the air that death, though a part of life, was not supposed to be a part of life is a part of the groan of all creation.  This grief, a reflection of Paul’s words in Romans 8;   “The whole earth is groaning as in the pains of childbirth… and we also, longing, waiting, anticipating, the redemption not just of our souls, but of our bodies.” No, it shouldn’t be this way.  A mother, a father, shouldn’t stand before the casket of their baby girls… twice.   A family shouldn’t sit before the casket of a brother, a son, a friend and know that this box carrying his body would be soon lowered into the ground.  From dust to dust, ashes to ashes was not what we were created for.  And yet, what shouldn’t be is.  But thanks be to God, death doesn’t have the final say, but ushers us into not what shouldn’t be, but what was always supposed to be for those who know Him.

Today I felt the groan.  I felt the groan as I watched a family say good-bye to a 19 year old young man.  And I felt the groan as my husband and I walked a short distance from his burial site to our daughter’s burial sites.  I was reminded that the breath that cries “this should not be” is the groan that points to the day when all that was meant to be, IS.  It will not always be this way.  One day, the aches of this life will give way to a glory like we have never seen.  And as we embrace the groan, and what it points to we will be in even greater awe at the redemption Jesus brings in the here and the not yet.  And as a mother sits in the euphoria of a new life in her arms, forgetting the pain that was just hers, so we will sit in the euphoria of new life restored and the groans of the life will pale in comparison to the glories that will be revealed to us.

This plot of land was sacred and holy ground today. For the same breath that accentuated the ache of our hearts, accentuated the unfathomable hope of Christ.   It shouldn’t be this way. And one day, it won’t be.

Our Happy Ending…

The wrestling of the past year has been HOPE.

Where will we place our hope?

Will we place our hope IN bringing a child home?

Or, will we hope FOR that, but not IN it?

Many, many people… family, friends and even strangers are hoping with us that God would grow our family. We are so grateful for that.  We are hoping for that too.  But God has been taking us on a journey of discovering that EVEN IF He does not grow our family here on earth… it is enough what He has done. He is ENOUGH for us. His grace has been sufficient in our lives and will continue to be.   Our gaze is being lifted to the kind of hope that doesn’t disappoint.   Jesus.   The kind of hope that Paul talks about in Romans 5 where “suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope: and hope does not disappoint, BECAUSE the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”   I don’t know about you, but I want the kind of hope that doesn’t disappoint, thats rooted in something and someone one far deeper than my circumstances.  It is a hope that is anchored in the one who gives us life, who redeems us, who has poured out His love on us and in us, who is the source of living water that satisfies EVERY need… yes, EVERY longing of our heart… from the ache for our children, the ache to get to parent a child, to the simple, daily things we struggle to find life in that hold no life at all.   He satisfies us IN the longing, IN the ache not from it.   He is our thirst quencher. He is the one who can bring peace IN our pain, not from but IN.   And as we look to Jesus, he holds the keys to our happy ending. He IS the key to our happy ending, when ALL is redeemed…. ALL.   Oh, we pray that a taste, a mere glimmer of that sweet redemption would mean bringing home a healthy baby. But, if that were our goal, if that is what would produce the happiness and joy we long for than we are to be pitied for even that will hold its own set of disappointments and no doubt, still leave us only half full.   No child, no husband, no new car, fancy dress, perfect body, (the list could go on) can quench the thirst our hearts have. Only Jesus can. Nowhere in scripture does God tell us that we can find true and lasting hope in the circumstances of this life, even the good circumstances. Hope is always spoken of in connection with Him.   So yes, celebrate with us when and if the Lord continues to grow our family and then eagerly await all the more with us the day when all is made right.   Our happy ending is nestled within the here and the not yet of the Kingdom of God.   It is founded on the promise of new life that God gives to us now and will be seen in fruition when Jesus returns and restores this world, our bodies, wiping every tear from our eyes, and eradicating every ache of our heart. Perhaps better put, we should say we are living in our happy beginning, for there is no end to the Kingdom of God and His kingdom people.

He’s always whispering

They are whispers of His love.

Happening amidst the chaos of the night, amidst the moments when all I hear is my own heart shouting in protest of this pain. And until I step back, I hardly know there have been whispers at all.

Like a dark cloud with only moments of sunshine, the grief still looms large over my head.  If I keep my gaze down, I miss the sun all together.

“Look up, Fix your eyes on me. I am here. Whispering of my love to you in the dark places of your soul.” He gently calls.

They are whispers when I realize I’ve invested my life in another and found myself energized and not utterly exhausted.  A whisper of His strength flowing out of weakness.

Whispers of His promise as I picture the day I stand in a sea of people worshipping God and imagine Sophie and Dasah running up to me. Even more joy erupts, tears of knowing all has been redeemed… and hand in hand we go find their Daddy (the earthly one) and I see him see them for the first time and we look at each other, and look at our Savior peering at the sweet reunion, and we know the truth of the words…

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared

with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Will it be like that? It will be better.

They are whispers of the promise of new bodies. The resurrection of us all… to hope, to Him.   And we get new bodies all together. We…. Kevin, Sophie, Dasah and I will all experience this newness together, for the first time.  We don’t miss all the “firsts”.

And He whispers “You’re not missing out, there’s more, so much more coming.”

They are whispers of His love that extends to others as I find myself praying. Yes, praying, talking to God beyond the ache that often leaves my voice voiceless before Him.   The few words that have formed on my lips have become a few more.

And my prayers… His prayers have begun to include others.  They are whispers that His promise to bind up the brokenhearted is happening.

The gaping wound of loss is not so gaping. The scar is beginning to form, still a scar, an ugly and yet beautiful scar that shapes who I am now and who I am becoming.  I realize it is the whisper of His beauty in the ashes.

And I notice joy. The whisper of His Joy breaking through when I find myself laughing with another, simply enjoying the richness of what life still offers.

Oh, joy is not the outward expression of life and happiness but the deep inner moving of the soul that once it is known, rooted, it comes out in life, in hope. It’s a glimmer, a boisterous glowing, picture of His joy. His delight. All is not lost.

And I wonder if He tells my girls the joy that’s being tasted and they roll in laughter too. They know what’s coming… MORE.   Much more. And their delight in Him grows each day. And He whispers to them sweet things that I long to know in the fullness they now know. What glory.

Whispers. Is He whispering of His love for you today? Amidst the chaos of the night can you hear His still small voice… like a soft quick breeze? Don’t miss it. It’s so easy to miss when we keep our heads down, when the darkness is overwhelming. Look up. He’s always whispering…

Embracing the ache

Mother’s day is over.  Just the day before I had lamented to my husband… “this is the stupidest holiday” in the midst of an emotional downward spiral where all of the sadness stirring in me just couldn’t stay well… in me.  But, as I fell asleep at the end of Mother’s Day, the day I was so anxious to have just over and done with, I found myself thankful.  Thankful for the ache in my heart that this day was stirring.  Thankful for the longing that it awakened in me on a far more consistent basis in the days and weeks leading up to it as everywhere there were reminders of this upcoming holiday and so, everywhere there were reminders of who I was missing… not that I am ever prone to forget, it’s just that the ache in my heart isn’t always bubbling at the surface in an explosive “I hate mothers day” kind of way.  I don’t hate mothers day.  I just hate that my two girls who made me a mom aren’t with me to celebrate.  And on every mothers day there will always be an ache, always a longing no matter when/if we bring home more children, always there will be two missing.  And it is this ache that will be a continual reminder that this world is not my home, eternity awaits and all has not been redeemed yet. YET.

You see when life is full of joys, everything is going my way, and all is well in the world… or should I say all is well in MY world, I can far too easily turn a deaf ear to the suffering that is always around me.  For everywhere we go we are rubbing shoulders with suffering, always there is pain present around us and if we’re honest, probably in us somewhere… regardless of whether or not we choose to see it.  And yet, in the seasons where the joy is full, I find I ever so subtly (or not so subtly) think my home is here, that I can find the life I long for…hope for… here.  I get confused in the way I think and and begin to live as though I’m a citizen of earth and not heaven.   And then when sorrow hits, when death strikes, it’s like an awakening to reality.   My mind, though it feels as though it is a far more muddled mess these days, is actually experiencing greater clarity then ever before.  I know where my home is. I know where my hope is.  It’s not just theological head knowledge that doesn’t so much seem to affect me now, but experiential heart knowledge that now matches what I’ve known to be true for so long and now affects the way I think and live and breath.  And though at times I fight it (okay, a lot of times I fight it), because I want to find my hope here… because well, I want the ache to go away NOW instead of point me to something greater.   Perhaps, I am simply experiencing a taste of what Paul means when he says in Romans 8;

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” 

Yes, it is this groan that I now know.  Yes it is an ache that is internally like the pain of childbirth (that I often wish I could be so free as to allow that ache to come out in the same unashamed screams and cries as a woman in labor), and it is the ache all of creation is experiencing, the longing for the redemption of all things, the hope we are waiting for.  My ache is not just because I am missing my girls so very much, it is so much deeper.  It is an ache of the soul for all to be made right, for all to be restored, for the ache itself to never be again.  And so I am learning, ever so slowly to embrace the ache. For it is in the wrestling with this ache that my heart is more fully realizing where true joys lie.  I’m far less confused even in my confusion, my mind is clearer even when it feels all muddled inside, my hope is more fixed on Jesus and heaven because any hope I try to find here doesn’t satisfy.  In the midst of my grief nothing and no one makes sense but Jesus.   And so I know, that there is One who one day will take away all the pain for He has redeemed me for my full redemption, and not just my full redemption but the full redemption of all who know Him and Creation itself… for His great glory.  And that full redemption, is what I am waiting for, longing for, hoping for… for myself and this world that everyday reveals the groan of all of our hearts.   Come Lord Jesus. Come.  

I am a citizen of heaven and a sojourner on this earth, “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”*   Two little girls who made me a mommy and now live with our King in our home in heaven, have been two beautiful vessels of their Creator’s hand “to show the surpassing power that belongs to Him and not to us”**, and to clear their parents muddled minds and help us see with growing and striking clarity…

“this slight, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17,18

So, as Mother’s Day came to a close I found my heart at peace in the midst of my pain.   I found myself unexpectedly thankful for the deep ache that my soul felt as I fell asleep. Thankful that this ache, in the midst of all the things I am hoping for, points me to the one I am hoping IN.  

 

*2 Corinthians 4:10-11

** 2 Corinthians 4:7

 

 

God’s Ink Of Love…

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About a month ago I was contacted by a new blogger friend, Lindsey (great name btw) who writes about homemaking, parenting, grace and Jesus.   She had been following our story and wanted to do a series on motherhood and asked me to be a part of it.   Slightly daunted by the task to share specifically about motherhood when my experience has been so different from most I knew immediately the one word, the one verb that God has both grown, challenged and cultivated in me as a mom is that of surrender.  Would I be a mom who surrendered my life, my children’s lives and stories to Him?   Would I trust that He writes stories with a pen dipped in the ink of love?   I invite you to read my guest post With Child: God’s Ink of Love at Redeeming Naptime and pray your heart would be moved to greater surrender too!

To read more of the stories of the momma’s who have written in Lindsey’s “With Child” guest post series click here.  Enjoy!