Saturday, May 9, 2015

When you have to trade in your red flower...

I grew up in a traditional church where women wore flowers pinned to their dresses on Mother's Day Sunday. I was always fascinated by this from a very young age. Red was pinned with joy in the knowledge that your mother was still living. White was pinned in grief and remembrance that your mother had passed away.

Although my mom's mother passed away long before I was ever born, I don't remember my mom ever wearing a white rose pinned to her choir robe.

I was pondering this tradition this weekend as Mother's Day approaches and I decided that I am not trading in my red flower for a white flower.

I'm not in denial. In fact, I have very much come to a place where I can speak those words and say that "my mom is dead" if someone asks. I hate it when the words leave my lips, but it is my reality.

But I'm still not trading my red flower in for white. I'm trading mine in for pink.

Do you know what happens when you mix red with white? You get pink. Pink is a much more accurate representation of where my mom is.

She is neither dead nor alive. Yes, she is dead in terms of her Earthly life, but she is still very much alive. She is alive because on May 21st, 2014, The Lord gave her a new body that He had promised her when she accepted Him as her Savior.

She is more alive than you and me.

I feel closest to my mother when I am singing worship music at church. I can imagine her standing at His feet and singing worship music to Him. So when I am worshipping the Lord...well, I just always feel this deep connection with her when I know we are both doing the same thing at the exact same moment. I know her worship looks different from mine. I am still a sinner while she has been made new. She has seen God in all His Glory. She knows more about God than I do.

So instead of skipping church on Mother's day like I had originally planned, I will wear my dress covered in pink flowers and honor and be near my mother. It may look different than the time you will spend with your mother. But when I feel the presence of God and think of my mom being completely and fully in His presence,'s the way I can be with her this Mother's Day. I am so thankful for how brave God can make us when we are so weak and broken.

So, I'm not trading in my red flower for white. No...I will proudly have pink and remember that my mother is very much alive.

Happy Mother's Day to you all. And for those of you wearing pink flowers, you are not alone. This life is our temporary home.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Glorious Unfolding: the gift of time

I rarely write in this little space anymore. It isn't because of lack of material, but rather, lack of time. One of the many things I truly realized and embraced after my mother died was just how fleeting our time is here. I'm convinced that even if we knew the number of our days from the very beginning, it still wouldn't feel like enough time. I rest in the peace that God knows the number of our days even before we were created, yet it still doesn't keep me from feeling like "it was just too soon, Lord."

I was reminded of time when I found myself in the mall a few days ago and was bombarded with "Mother's Days" advertisements everywhere. How has it already been almost a year? I can remember last Mother's Day like it was yesterday, yet it feels like a lifetime ago that I last saw my mother and felt her hugs.

I can remember feeling grumpy that I had to leave my own family to go see my mom on Mother's Day. I wanted to have a lazy day to myself (because I am selfish), but I decided I really needed to go see my mom. I can't explain it, but looking back I'm so glad I got over it would be my last Mother's Day and my last real conversation with my mom. I took her a dozen hot pink roses (her favorite) and a sub sandwich. My mom didn't even really like sub sandwiches now that I think about it.

I stayed for about 5 hours and left around dinner as she was not feeling well.  She would always walk me outside and wave as I pulled my car out of the driveway. But this time, my dad had put some water in the bathtub for her and I said my goodbyes then. Why didn't I stay and help her wash her hair? Why was I in such a rush that I couldn't wait a little longer and serve and help the person who brought me into this world?

The next weekend during Ella's ballet recital dress rehearsal was when I got the call. I still have her ticket in my wallet. It sits next to the EKG strip where she took her last breath. Maybe that is strange to some people, but grief is bizarre and makes you do seemingly strange things to outsiders. But that ticket and EKG strip are a reminder that you never know when your last breath is...and your only purpose is to serve the Lord while you are here. It's not about you.

I did get a chance to serve my mom her final few days here on Earth. I got to be with her as she left this world and entered Eternity. I had a chance to wash her feet and brush her hair. I am forever thankful that God gave me that second chance to serve my mother. 

This week, I watched my two girls practice their recital piece on stage.

It was brutal.

Just like the Mother's Day advertisements, it was a reminder that just when you think you are healing from this emotion of grief, you are still such a broken human being. God is so good in how He reveals himself when you are broken, but it doesn't change the fact that it is all so very painful. I've heard people say "grief is a journey, not a destination." It's so true. Time has made it easier to deal with the pain, but things like Mother's Day and ballet recitals will always be a reminder that my life was forever changed last May.

I stood behind the curtains and watched Ella dance to this song called "Glorious Unfolding". I had to hide my face behind the camera because the tears were getting too hard to hold back. The words to the song were just so applicable to where I am. Seeing those girls dance the emotions to the was just the most beautiful thing I've seen in a long time. I hate that my mom will never see them dance again on this side of eternity.

Lay your head down tonight

Take a rest from the fight

Don’t try to figure it out
Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding

Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

Those words. 

They make me weep. They make me weep because though my heart aches for Heaven, I know God still has so much left for me here in this temporary home. He has given us all the gift of time to use  for His glory. It is such an honor and gift to be able to serve where God calls you. 

God’s plan from the start

For this world and your heart

Has been to show His glory and His grace
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing Love
And the story has only begun

We were made to run through fields of forever

Singing songs to our Savior and King

So let us remember this life we’re living
Is just the beginning of the beginning

So, while there are still days where grief sneaks in, I'm reminded of how much of my story He is still unfolding in front of my very eyes...even in that little girl in pink, who had low muscle tone and we thought may never walk...

One of God's many miracles! 

Not only does she walk, but she runs and dances and leaps and can stand on those little toes so perfectly. Speaking of miracles, I just spent two weeks with my dad and Europe and he climbed every step of the Arc de Triomphe where we watched the sunset over the entire city. While those on the ground could only see the beauty from their small view, I got to watch the sunset in all its beauty over Paris. I wonder if that is how Heaven will be? We see such tiny glimpses here to give us hope. How marvelous will it be when we see God in all His Glory! Moses wanted it...but God basically told him he couldn't handle it yet. 

Sometimes I feel beyond joyful when thinking of my mom seeing God in all His Glory. Her new body...I can't imagine her being more beautiful. She is friends with Moses, Noah, Mary, Esther...she's met them all by now. She sees the full story! 

I think if my mom was able to whisper in my ear, she would say "Sarah, if only you could see what I see. Just keep your eyes forward on The Lord. Keep loving people and serving the Lord. Keep showing the world the love of Jesus. This world you are in is over in the blink of an eye. Go and live and love the hurting and the lost."

We will watch and see and we will be amazed
If we just keep on believing the story is so far from over

And hold on to every promise God has made to us
We’ll see the glorious unfolding

Spending those two weeks with just my dad seeing the was priceless. That gift of time with him is something I will hold onto for forever. 

Time is so fleeting. 
Love and serve those around you.
At the end of the day, this time here on Earth is just temporary. 

This Mother's Day, I will celebrate my mother. Death does not change that she was my mother. And I will still take her hot pink roses...but, they won't be placed in a vase on her dining room table. 

And I will weep as I watch my daughters dance on stage: partly because I hurt knowing they will not remember my mother and partly because I am so overwhelmed by the beauty of God's hope and promise that He instills in my heart when it aches with grief. 

And I will mourn all over again as I remember her on the 1st anniversary of her death on May 21st. But, I hold on to the promise that God has made for me (and you): that this time here on Earth is just the beginning of the beginning. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Christmas Wrap Up and Happy 2015

My first holidays without my mother have come and gone and I feel a secret sigh of relief. We hurt and cried, but we survived and even had moments where we actually enjoyed these difficult holidays. One thing I learned about surviving your first holidays after a death (and still in the midst of grieving) is the importance of continuing traditions and bringing a few new ones to the table. It's so important to keep living! I hosted Christmas Eve and Christmas Day complete with our annual gingerbread making contest. The holidays are both sad and happy, but I'm hoping that as each year passes, it will be less sad and mostly just happy.

Here's a few pictures of our Holidays:

Three very excited little ones waiting to see Santa! 
We made it to see Santa the Saturday before Christmas. Miraculously, there was almost no line.
 I know people have various opinions on the Santa debate. We choose to spend the majority of our season talking about the birth of Christ, but we still enjoy a little magic of Santa. Santa does not generally bring our children lavish gifts. In fact, they are only allowed to ask for one sensible gift and any other requests are made to mommy and daddy. Luckily, our children have never presented us with some long list of demands...yet. 
Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at our church: My absolute favorite tradition

 Here are a few pictures of my pretty table scape. I think it is quite lovely if I do say so myself. One of my New Year's resolutions is to use our fine china more often: to stop saving all our "special dishes" or even "special outfits" for that matter. If there is one thing I've learned in 2014 is that life is so very short. Every day that you wake up is a special occasion!

Complete with fresh garland and pine cones

Mommy's travel tree complete with an Eiffel Tower tree topper. The children had a live tree in the family room with their colored lights and homemade decor. But this tree is ALL MINE!
Andrew and I bought these Christmas dishes 12 years ago when we first got married. They are by Mikasa and called "Holiday Traditions". I just love them so much! I even pulled out the real crystal...because life is too short to eat on paper plates and drink out of red solo cups. 

 The garland on my table has a very sweet story that I have already shared with a few of you. I went to Home Depot two days before Christmas and asked a man if he had any tree scraps I could have. I explained I just needed a few to put on my table and mantel and didn't mind going through the trash. He asked me to follow him, which I did. After a couple minutes, he presents me with an actual Christmas tree. He said "this is my Christmas present to you. You don't need to go through the trash." I was a little confused at first and said "Are you serious? You're giving me this for free?" He replied that it wasn't a big deal because they were just going to throw them away and again said "this is my Christmas present to you." At this point, I have major tears in my eyes and told him he'll never know how much this meant to me. I told him it was my first Christmas without my mom and I had a child throwing up at home and I just wanted my house to look a little more festive. That act of kindness and the beauty the limbs made to my table and mantel were just what I needed: hope...a little bit of hope that there is still good in this world. You never know what little or big acts of kindness mean to someone.

Something new I did this year with the children was read the Christmas story out of the Jesus Storybook Bible in the morning. We've always read this in the past during the season, but this time I read it right before we opened gifts. Afterwards, we thanked The Lord for His many blessings He has given us this year. We also prayed that we would all have thankful hearts as we opened our gifts and that we would remember that this was a celebration of the birth of Jesus. This will definitely be a tradition we continue each year. I think it really did help them have good attitudes on Christmas morning.

Praying before opening gifts.

 New Years Eve, we headed to my dad's house to spend the night and celebrate the new year with him and my sisters family. We stayed up until almost 1am playing board games (just the adults and my sisters older kids of course). The next day we ate our black eyed peas and pork for good luck. Here's our attempt at our first family photo of 2015. Jacob has the 2, Ella the 0, Audrey the 1, and me the 5.

Happy 2015! Andrew wearing his Georgia Tech shirt with pride! Go Jackets!

A New Year and the fresh start it brings has brought a little happiness to my heart and hope for a better year. Happy New Year to you all! May it be a year of living life to the fullest.

And in case you were wondering...less than 3 months until Paris! Le sigh...