It’s not like I want to post a picture of a grave

It’s not like I want to post a picture of a grave. It’s not like I’m looking for attention twice a year, when I say something about it on facebook. So I started thinking about why I do it.

When my baby brother, Adam, was born on August 4, 1996, his doctors found that he had a heart defect, which resulted in him having three open-heart surgeries before her turned two. On January 26, 1999, he went back into the hospital for a routine procedure, and to this day no one understands why this brave little boy, who was just as comfortable in “his hospital” as anywhere else, simply didn’t wake up.

I was eight at the time. He died ten days after my birthday, as if that’s significant at all. There’s no meaning to the fact that my life gained another year right before his stopped short forever. It just is.

They say grief comes in waves, and when you’re eight and your brother passes away, or in my particular case, one of your four brothers, the littlest, the waves are spaced out years apart. I’m sure this is true whenever a child is lost, whether it was your sibling, child, or another loved one. When this happens when you yourself are a kid, at first you just give yourself over to whatever your initial reaction is. It doesn’t have to make sense.

The night Adam died, all the grown ups were acting like I had never seen them act before. Though he had undergone three major surgeries, I don’t remember anyone having The Talk with me or my brothers – the one where they explained that Adam could die. I might have happened, but I put it out of my mind. I remember being grateful that Adam was alive, but I was never actually worried that he was not going to live. I had a brother seriously close to death, but Death was not a thing that touched my mind. I was eight. I didn’t notice it touch the minds of my parents, or the other adults around me, until Death had happened, and my dad was crying. The other adults were looking at me strangely, probably bracing themselves to be prepared for any kind of reaction from the little siblings who had just lost a brother.

I’ve always been one to tease other peoples’ expectations. I don’t like to be figured out. I could tell that everyone was expecting me to be sad. I moreover knew that they didn’t want me to be sad. I think I knew that being sad was okay, but I wanted to go above people’s expectations. There were purple polka dots on the floor of Children’s Hospital, and my brothers and I had taken to skipping from one to the next when we went to visit Adam during his hospital stays. The night we walked out of that room – the one you know is for bad news – I still skipped from one purple dot to another. To act happy, to make the adults think that I wasn’t sad, I had to not think about Adam being gone. I might have cried, but did I sob, like everyone knew I was capable of doing? No. Not once (that I remember).

I don’t remember what life was like immediately after that, except that people brought us food, and my uncle took us to see A Bug’s Life in theaters and we sat in the front row, but the whole time I knew we were there because my parents were picking out a tombstone for Adam. I remember when we stood on the land that would be his gravesite.

I remember the funeral – that Adam looked nothing like Adam, and he was bright pink. Everyone had to wait in line to see him, but because he was my brother I could go up and see him whenever I wanted. I could even touch him (no one was watching me, probably, to tell me that this was inappropriate). My dad’s southern gospel quartet sang, except not with my dad. My best friend’s dad sand his part instead.

As I grew up, I knew that I was special because I had a brother who died, but there was only one time that I remember when I used that to get attention. Or as an excuse for bad behavior. Nothing makes me understand kids as much as remembering my thoughts and actions after Adam died. It sounds so ridiculous now that I thought we were special – which sounds like a good thing – because a bad thing had happened. Maybe it’s kind of true, but no adult would want to think that. But kids will take what they can get.

From those few years after it happened until I was a full grown adult, I remembered Adam on two days – his birthday and his death day. I mean, I thought of him often, probably a little bit every day, but I didn’t try to bring up memories or think, What if he was here? I didn’t bury memories of him or suppress grief, but I was just kind of okay with having those two days to dedicate to him. That was enough. When we were still all pretty young, we would release balloons at his grave site on his death day, and we would go to McDonalds on his birthday. We would throw around memories, like how much he loved the vacuum cleaner, and that one time he cried all night long until Eric got out of bed and held him. And that was grief, the remembering.

In adulthood, a new wave of grief is cresting and crashing. I see my parents as other people, with actual feelings, and it’s a whole new thing. When my husband proposed to me at midnight after January 26, 2012, and my parents gained another son on that day, it was such a beautiful thing. And the memories are different now. His voice in my head has always been clear, but it wasn’t until this week, on the sixteenth anniversary of his death, that I had this vivid memory of what it felt like to hold him. And it’s the strangest thing… I’ve always loved when people’s ears stick out, and the other day when I looked at the picture of him that’s set into his tombstone, I noticed that his ears do that. How did I not know that before?

My other brothers graduated high school, and I miss him. They have birthdays, and I miss him. They get engaged and married, and I miss him. They stand in a line as groomsmen at my wedding, and I miss him. Through their lives, I see what his life could have been, and it just won’t stop. In adulthood, I value my three other brothers’ precious lives more than anything else.

On his anniversary this year, I took him the flowers that had been a birthday gift because they still looked beautiful. I wouldn’t even have gone if those flowers didn’t remind me. Maybe he died so close to my birthday so that I would have something to bring him.

So it’s not that I want to post a picture of a grave, but I have a little brother whose name is Adam. And he has brought people to Christ through his testimony, and through my mother’s. He has taught us to be tender and compassionate toward everyone, because we don’t know what they’re going through. He has taught me to love and cherish my brothers, more than anything, and celebrate every milestone. He’s shown me what bravery and joy look like, and how to charm strangers by having a good attitude. He’s taught me how to cry in public, and how to honor someone in memories. He’s taught me so much about heaven, and what a welcoming place it must be for little children.

And I’m just so proud of him. So yeah, I want you to know that. Here’s a picture.

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Tuesday Thankfulness party

Tonight I’m thankful for…

* Brett being on his way home. Life’s not the same without my husband by my side. (Life is preferable with my husband by my side.)

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…But I’ve been coping.

photo (1)* Thankful to be digging into my extensive reading list.** And the fact that drinking an American chai latte while reading Around The World In Eighty Days makes it taste more like Indian chai.

* Friends who have not let me feel lonely not once the whole week+ that Brett has been gone.

* This kind of homework, and getting to do it curled up in the corner of my squishy couch with the cozy smell of spinach pie baking.

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* Truth that hits hard (from the Soul Healing workbook)

… too many Christians simply see themselves as sinners trying to be better Christians… You can’t become more of a child of God than what your spiritual birth gave you. Our efforts… must begin by believing that this is true, rather than trying harder to make it better.

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come! – 2 Corinthians 5:17

 * This journal that is truly becoming an epoch of a transforming life.

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 And because it makes this face.  :|

What are you thankful for today?

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**Current reading list: Around The World In Eighty Days, Twelve Years A Slave, A People’s History Of The United States, Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, Soul Healing, and (my book club’s book of the month, if you want to read along) The Cuckoo’s Calling

The burden of Love

I had a moment today. It was one of the most powerful and overwhelming things I’ve ever felt, and only being able to explain it in my simple, elementary words only makes my point.

I’m sure everyone bothering to read this already knows that I’m involved in a production of Hairspray. (This post isn’t about Hairspray, so if that kind of talk annoys you, you can keep reading.) I haven’t been involved in a show since my grand debut as a plate in Beauty and the Beast six years ago, and community theater is a whole new experience for me. I had no idea the cast of people I would meet or how much they would mean to me. Being at daily rehearsals, having fun, and handling stress creates an environment where love and conflict coexist, just like a family. This is just the context for the moment I had today. All the new, amazing people in my life who are so different and each perfectly unique.

I was thinking about the show and my show family, when suddenly my heart was ten sizes too small. And not just because of them, but because of like, everyone. There was light breaking my heart apart because it couldn’t contain it. I locked myself in the office bathroom and, not knowing what to do, did something I have only been compelled to do a few times in my life – I fell to my knees and tried to cry out to the Lord all the things my soul was trying to say.

Uncontained, inexplicable, don’t-know-what-to-do-with-it LOVE.

Faces came to my mind, and all I could feel was that it’s not important to me that they change a thing. It’s not important to me that they reciprocate. It’s not important to me that they acknowledge. All that matters is that they feel and know this love. And I know that Jesus is burdening me with love. He was pouring out on me what it feels like to painfully, perfectly love someone who doesn’t know you. Someone who thinks that they would need to change themselves to be accepted by Jesus. Someone who doesn’t want to know Jesus because of the rumors they’ve heard about Him. Someone who doesn’t understand that God’s love for them is blind and reckless. Someone who can’t believe.

Jesus’ love doesn’t give up, even when it isn’t accepted. But it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s a contained, uncontainable love. It turns into pain. It turns into hot, burning tears. It turns into moans and cries that I felt in my soul but could not utter. For a moment. It lasted one moment.

I hate to think that with me, the flow of love stops. But it’s true. I am so helpless to love others. I can be overwhelmed with this feeling, but it won’t translate. I can see them beautifully with the eyes of Jesus, while they are totally unaware of the adoration He has for them. It is simply a burden, but one I would never give back. When my life is filled with other people, my need for God expands because there is no where else to turn when I need Him to love people how they need to be loved. I am so grateful for this clarity of my powerlessness and His strength, but it makes me so desperate. I wish Jesus would overwhelm them as He did me, even for a moment. I wish, I wish, I wish. Because this love is contained that cannot be contained, and it is a burden. It is painful. It drove Jesus to the cross to say, “I can’t take it anymore! Know my love! This is how much I love you!”

Oh, please know that. Please accept that.

There is someone I’ve prayed for for years, saying, “Whatever it takes.” Lord, whatever it takes from me, from You, from others, from life’s circumstances, let him know who You are. Now I pray that for so many more, and for many I haven’t met yet. The burden is greater. I can’t even.

Oh my God, I love people so much! I need them to be happy. I need them to be well. Make them happy. Make them well, body, mind, and soul.

Meridith Regina

If you follow me on instagram, you’re probably worried about me.  For two weeks I’ve been incessantly oversharing photos of my niece. She is brand new, and I just got to meet her over the weekend, when she turned eleven days old.

Meridith made Brett and I an aunt and uncle for the very first time, so pardon this last dose of oversharing. Because she is very special.

It was so great to spend time with Brett’s sister and her husband and their baby. It felt eerie, but in a good way, because suddenly Jenn & Ryan had created a family. Brett & I got to be a husband & wife tag team and take Meridith’s newborn photos and some family photos of the three of them. This is a selection of my favorites.

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And my favorite…

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Favorites from the Met Ball Red Carpet

Remember this post, when I shared my favorite fashion picks from the Golden Globes red carpet? I had a lot of fun doing it, and it made me feel good to post something during a busy time when I didn’t have a chance to write something substantial. Like I said before, I’m not a fashion expert. I just like what I like. So here are my favorite looks from celebrities at last night’s Met Ball.

10. Blake Lively

10_BlakeLively2 10_BlakeLivelyBlake Lively’s dress was beautiful, and it might have been my number one choice a few years ago, but at this point I’m a little bored of seeing dresses on the beige/nude scale. But I LOVE the glam her makeup and hairstyle add to this sparkly dress. She looks like a freaking goddess. Also, hooray for happy couples!

9. Victoria Beckham

9_VictoriaBeckhamSpeaking of happy couples, number nine on my list is Mrs. David Beckham. In the absence of Kerry Washington, the event was severely lacking a touch of Olivia Pope-ness, that is until Posh Spice got there (she’s come a long way). I like this crisp, clean, beautifully structured gown in much the same way as I loved Lupita Noyango’s red gown from the Golden Globes – though this really could never top that.

8. Claire Danes

"Charles James: Beyond Fashion" Costume Institute Gala - ArrivalsI didn’t even notice until just now that the top of her dress is actually burgundy velvet, which only makes me love it even more. I think she looks perfectly classy and lovely, from her loose undo to her point-toed shoes. I like the plain structure of the top of the dress paired with the draping of the bottom. And those two fabrics together! I just can’t find anything wrong with this.

7. Jessica Paré

7_JessicaPareI‘ll admit I might be blinded by my  newfound love for Jessica Paré since I started watching Mad Men this year. Megan Draper is my girl! I was kinda hoping to see something flowy with bell sleeves or bright psychedelic colors on her, but I should probably let that go and recognize her as an actual person. She’s near the middle of my list because I totally grazed over her look when I first saw it, but it grew on me. I looked at it again and really liked it. I like her choices in the matching clutch and bracelets all topped off with a red lip. Somehow she looks young and fun as well as elegant and sophisticated in this dress. So Megan.

6. Dakota Johnson

2_Dakota JohnsonOkay, so if I was her stylist, I’d, give her a big, fat, shiny choker, put her hair up, and take away those black gloves. You’re wearing a navy dress, girlfriend. But as for the navy dress… I really like it. The flattering silhouette stands out in the lineup of a-line and mermaid dresses. The silvery top and full bottom are both on trend, and on top of that it even looks… comfortable? If I was going to the Met Ball, this is a dress I would want to wear.

5. Reese Witherspoon

5_ReeseWitherspoonAs I was looking through pictures, it was so nice to finally see a color! This made my list because of that and the unique neckline. I also love the short train. The dress simple, but it stands out, and who better to pull off this bold color than Reese? Elle Woods forever. #BendAndSnap

4. Lily Aldridge

"Charles James: Beyond Fashion" Costume Institute Gala - Arrivalsenhanced-7492-1399389119-7It looks like someone spun silver silk directly onto her body and made a dress. It looks like water in moonlight. Or a space blanket. This dress is obviously a stand-out piece that should be worn on any and every occasion. Her natural makeup just makes her look even more beautiful (must be a VS model thing), and that choker wins my best accessory award. Hands down.

3. Rihanna

3_Rihanna2 3_RihannaI‘m not even crazy about the open back, and this is still number three on my list. It has just the right amount of shoulder pad, sleeves, choker neck, train, and cut out (RiRi’s obviously been doing some crunches). She didn’t need anything to add to the drama of this dress except some sparkly chunky rings and a crazy updo that looks like a 90s prom hairstyle after sleeping on it (in the best way possible). Plus, serious makeup game. Perfectly pink lip.

2. Karolina Kurkova

6_KarolinaKurkovaI want to make this into a duvet cover, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It looks amazing as a dress too. LOOK AT THOSE FLOWERS. You all know how I am about flowers (or maybe you don’t?). This is a whole new level of floral print, and I hope to see more like this in the future! That’s really all I have to say… FLOWERS!

1. Emma Stone

1_EmmaStone4 1_EmmaStone3 1_EmmaStone2This might seem like a simple choice after the awesome drama of some of the other ones, but I like everything about it. Pink on pink. Two pieces, yet still a gown and so appropriate for the event. The hair. The makeup. The fact that Spider-man was her date… There were lots of two-piece getups at the Met Ball, but Emma’s was the best and the classiest. I’ve always loved Emma’s underrated girl-next door vibe, and she kind of plays that up here wit her hair and makeup choices, but her gown is like, “Look at me! I am pink! And I’m touching this red carpet and I don’t even care!” I just love her.

So there’s my top ten favorite fashion choices from this year’s Met Ball. I have them ranked, but I still find myself going back and forth with some of them. And those may be my favorite dresses for the event, but as far as I’m concerned, in the grand scheme of things, Kirsten Dunst won the whole thing.

Kirsten Dunst2May the Force be with you.

What were your favorite fashion choices from the Met Ball?

Jesus + Jerusalem

So I’ve started a lot of blog posts this past month, but due to many, many, many things (happy things!) happening in my life right now, I haven’t finished or posted any of them. I’ll write an update sometime (as if you actually missed me) (who even are “you”), but here’s just my thoughts for now, not super polished or researched, just my thoughts, so that something new will actually end up on my blog today.

Like a lot of people, this week I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Different aspects of this have intrigued me through several lenten seasons in recent years. Just that phrase from Luke 9:51, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem,” struck me so powerfully one day. For the first year I noticed that, I thought a lot about what that meant. Jesus set out for Jerusalem… to be killed. Jesus set out for Jerusalem… to be betrayed. Jesus set out for Jerusalem… though he could have gone back. And He resolutely set out! How did He have the strength for that?

That phrase makes me see my sin so well sometimes. The second year during Lent, I would think, “Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem right now, and I am ______.” Fill in the blank with some useless waste of my time. While I’m idling, while I’m complaining about how I can’t be a missionary right now, while I’m – get this – disappointed at God and the Christian life, He is resolutely headed toward Jerusalem (and all that that entails) FOR ME. Nothing I’m doing here and now will change that. He heads out resolutely just the same.

I have done nothing to deserve His grace. And I have done nothing to deserve the way that He’s shown it. Not only did He die to save me, He resolutely died to save me. He decided, way ahead of time, to do all that He did.

This year I’ve been thinking about that a lot. In between Jesus resolutely setting out for Jerusalem and what happened in Jerusalem, what did He say? How did He act?

…What did I find? That as the day got closer, He was only more concerned for His followers to know Him for who He truly was. He was only filled with more compassion for every person. He continued to teach about good, good things, like faith the size of a mustard seed. Like the parable of the prodigal son. Like heaven. The pages between Luke 9 and Luke 23 are filled with healing in His name, turning praise to the Father, and His welcoming of children, lepers, rich men, and poor women. Did He even know all these people would leave Him alone when He needed them? YES. Did He even realize where He was going? YES.

Jesus, how I don’t deserve Your grace. I don’t deserve to enter those gates, even when You’ve made a way for me. I don’t deserve to be saved, or to have a second chance. But I definitely don’t deserve YOU. I don’t deserve for You to be the person You were while surrendering Yourself to what awaited You in Jerusalem. Maybe You loved me at first, but how could You love me while heading to Your betrayal and gruesome death? How could You love me now that You’ve felt my sin on Your shoulders, in Your gut, infecting Your purity? Now that You’ve known each ugly thought like it was Your own? God may forgive me now, but I deserve Your resentment. Your bitterness toward me. At least Your indifference. But no, THIS was your prayer for me on the night you entered that city to be killed:

“I have given them the glory that You gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them, and You in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You have sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me. Father, I want those You have given me to be with me and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

Those words are from John 17, one of my favorite parts of the Bible, when Jesus is praying to the Father in the garden right before He is betrayed. And they are still what He wants for me. He wants me to share in His glory, and to be with Him. He wants me to know the Father’s love as surely as He knows it. He doesn’t wish that the Father would NOT pour out on us. He does not wish for the Father to see the sin He paid the price to erase forever. !!!! Friend, if you don’t see yet that Jesus is GOOD, I don’t know how I can help you. Read the red letters in the Bible. They are everything. Come with me to church on Easter Sunday. Though it is Good Friday, and Jesus is hanging on the cross and bearing our sin, let us rejoice that He is STILL the Savior full of lovingkindness toward us, every. single. moment.

with all Your waves.

A handful of people in my life know that I’m on a sort of soul healing journey, but now all of you will know. I won’t get into it all – just trying to work you up to where my thoughts are coming from today – but it’s about letting Jesus enter into places where wounds have happened in the past so He can redeem part of what’s been broken. Of course, this means peeling back the band-aids, picking at the scabs, getting to the wound and having it bleed all over again so He can stitch it up. Luckily, my church has a ministry where I get to do this in community, guided by people who have been through it before. It’s been a hard, blessed soul-seeking journey so far, and I am only about halfway through (with the class. I am told this becomes sort of a lifelong thing).

It’s part of the recommended list of things to do before becoming a missionary, but it’s become much more than checking off a box on the to-do list.

For the past week we’ve been talking about emotions (like how valuable it is to be able to name the actual emotion you’re feeling, and how emotions can be trusted. Who would have guessed that I – who grew up & lived in conservative Christian circles my whole life – would believe that emotions can’t be trusted?! Ha! *sarcasm, in case you didn’t read that*). Anyway, our assignment this week is to lament our biggest ungrieved loss. So far I’ve had several strong reactions to that.

1. “Whoaa, why does this have to be so heavy? I don’t want to have a bummer week because I’ve been thinking about what to lament. It just doesn’t sound like a good time.”

2. Pretty much denying that there are “important” things I haven’t grieved, and further doing the opposite of the *Christianese* pressing-in.

3. Igniting my brain’s waffle-mode, where I plan out when to focus on lamenting and be emotional when it’s most convenient for me. When it feels “safe.”

4. Suddenly having a hyper-emotional week anyway. Believe me, I know my body’s habits very well when it comes to my emotions, and my sudden needs to cry this week have been completely out of the blue. And sometimes public. It seems that God knows better than me when I need to do my homework and when I don’t.

So this morning I finally took the time to start sorting through it. I made a list of losses I can remember pretty well and tried to decide if I’ve grieved them or not. It was kind of overwhelming. Don’t think that because you’re young or your life hasn’t been dramatic that you don’t have major wounds from loss. We all lose a lot. Even the loss of the smallest thing can lead to the biggest wound, especially if it happened when you were a child.

The truth is, all of us have experienced the vast range of emotions that come with life, and I think we come to realize that fact more through life with Christ. I think walking closely with Him can help us experience emotions that we wouldn’t have an understanding of otherwise. I mean, just look at what Jesus did on the cross. Doesn’t that cause you joy AND anguish AND happiness AND sorrow AND a whole host of other things?  When we’re really in touch with THAT, or something He is doing in our lives, or how we’ve been wounded, or things He has told us, feelings can put us in a place where God wants us to be.

I read this morning in Psalm 88, a psalm of lament, “You have overwhelmed me with all Your waves.”

Yes. The waves of goodness, the waves of mercy. The waves of joy & delight. The waves of sorrow, of anguish. The waves of hunger for You. The waves of hurt for the lost. The waves of love that carry me through dark doubts about my worth and seasons of loneliness. You’ve overwhelmed me with both the good and the bad. Thank you, Jesus.

Emotions are a gift. They let us know we are deeper – we are more than flesh. And all the emotions under the “sadness” umbrella help us know what our wounds are, and when we know what our wounds are, we see God redeeming them. Letting myself feel the sadness, the grief, and whatever else pulls lamenting from our mouths, brings me closer to him.

Bring the waves, and I will feel them & find out who You are making me to be.

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c. Hanna Osterwyk, 2009. Mission Bay, San Diego, CA.
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