Praise and Purpose

I’ve been reading Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace In His Presence for over a year now. In case you’ve never heard of this little book, it’s a daily devotional written by Sarah Young. She writes from the perspective of Jesus Christ, as if He were speaking directly to the reader. I can’t even begin to imagine the thoughts that must have gone through her head as she wrote this book, the daily struggles she must have had in thinking of how unworthy she or any human is to take on the voice of Christ. But that is a topic for another time.

I started reading this book in April 2013, after hearing about it from my Uncle Kevin. See, he and his wife were reading this together early that year. Not that either of them bragged about it. Uncle Kevin and Aunt Janet would never brag about their relationship with Christ. They just lived it, every day. It was at Uncle Kevin’s funeral on April 5, 2013 that I first heard about this devotional book, though I had probably seen it in stores before then. One of the last daily readings my uncle had enjoyed was shared during the service.

At the time, I was going through a difficult patch in my relationship with Christ. I was so mad at Him. I was angry about my own health issues. There were things that I should have been able to do that I couldn’t. Chronic pain, a heart condition, nerve damage, and life walking on a cane—all at age 37—were hard for me to deal with, and I was so angry that God was allowing this issues into my life. And then He allowed cancer to take away my uncle. Uncle Kevin, who was always smiling and full of life, died a few months short of his 20th wedding anniversary, leaving behind a wife, two adult children, and three beautiful young grandchildren. He believed in God, lived his life for Christ, asked Him for healing, and yet on Easter Sunday left his family to join Heaven’s choir. One more thing for me to be bitter about.

And I was bitter. For a long time. I’m not proud of it. Uncle Kevin and I were not particularly close. But I was already mad at God, and his death gave me one more reason to be mad. So I used it as an excuse to fuel my anger.

At the same time, I was intrigued by his reading choice. The particular cancer my uncle had was very aggressive. It progressed rapidly. Some say that was a blessing, as Uncle Kevin would not have wanted to be a burden to anyone. I don’t know. I know only that even as he grew more and more physically ill, Uncle Kevin stayed focused on Christ. His spirit never wavered. In the days before his death, he continued with his daily devotions, reading from Jesus Calling with Aunt Janet. Shortly before he passed away, he found the strength to sing the hymn “Have Thine Own Way” with his wife and daughter. Even though I was angry at God about my situation, on some level I craved the clarity, the deep level of faith that Uncle Kevin had.

I’ll admit, I am not always as dedicated in my daily devotional reading as my uncle. But I am trying. And I think that God is trying to talk to me through it.

Yesterday, in the reading for October 20, I read the line, “Do not be anxious about the weakness of your body.” I hadn’t marked that line, but it sure grabbed my attention again this morning. As soon as I opened the book for today’s reading, my eyes fell on it. My body is weak. Some days it is much more so than others. They say you are only as old as you feel, and I feel old, oh so very old some days because of the pain and weakness in my body. The past few days have been like that. And it worries me. I try to give it over to God, but when nothing changes, I wonder if He is listening to me. Holding on to the worry doesn’t change anything. There isn’t much that I can do to strengthen it or bring back what has been lost. It seems like all I have is the worry. And when that is all I have, it’s hard to let it go. Does that make any sense?

This morning, I read something else that felt like God talking directly to me. “Remember that all good things—your possessions, your family and friends, your health and abilities, your time—are gifts from Me. Instead of feeling entitled to these blessings, respond to them with gratitude.” Wow. And if that was not enough of a punch, the verse to go along with the reading was Job 1:21—“He said, ‘I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!’”

Not only have I not praised the Lord for what He was taken away from me, I have not praised Him for the things He has given me to replace those things. I don’t think I have fully praised Him or thanked Him for the things He has allowed me to keep. And I am quite certain that I never bothered to praise Him for the things that are gone when I had them. I just sort of took them for granted. I can’t promise never to do that again, but at least for today, I am praising God for the things He has given me, thanking Him for taking away the things I don’t need, and trusting Him to use the things I have left for His glory.

Uncle Kevin was fond of saying, “If you have a pulse, you have a purpose.” His pulse may have stopped, but so long as his life is still touching others, his purpose goes on.

Even If

I left church early today, before the preaching even started. Not because I didn’t want to hear the message. We are in the middle of a series of message based on the book Home Run by Kevin Myers. Wait, that isn’t quite accurate. The messages aren’t based on the book. My pastor is showing a video series of Pastor Myers preaching the messages he used in this book. (We are also reading the book for a leadership series. If you’ve not read it, I highly recommend it.) I didn’t leave because I have a ton of homework to do. Though I do, and now that I think of it, if I am going to be writing I probably should be writing something about Jane Austen’s word choices in Pride and Prejudice. Good thing I like that book, because with the way I am struggling with that, if I didn’t like it I’d be ready to tear the pages out one by one to use as heating fuel this winter. I didn’t even leave because the temperature was too hot or too cold, because the sound was too loud or too quiet, or even because the people sitting nearest to me were completely annoying. (Considering those people were my husband and son, returning home would not have been the best way to rid myself of the annoyance if they were annoying, which they were not.)

No, I left because my body betrayed me.

I have a lot of physical issues. Over the past 3 years, I’ve talked about them on this blog. Some of them, anyway. Some of the issues are too embarrassing to name out loud. I know I don’t deal with a terminal illness. But I do deal with near constant pain and with issues that, well, are not expected of someone my age. Normally, when one of those issues rears its ugly little head at church, I know it is because there is something in the message that will really affect my life, something I need to hear that is going to have a profound impact on me. That makes me glad my pastor puts his messages on our church website, normally by Monday morning, so I can still listen to it. If satan wants to keep me from hearing what God has to say, I certainly do not want to give him the satisfaction!

There are times, though, when I am so frustrated it is hard to stay upbeat about it. Today I want to cry. My first instinct when I pulled out of the church parking lot was to pull into a fast food drive-thru and order chicken nuggets. I’m upset, and food will take away that feeling, right? Sure, for a moment or two. Until the food is gone, my tummy is aching from being so full, and my family looks at me strangely for not eating a meal with them. And then I step on the scale and see that I’ve gained even more weight. Lost 115 pounds with weight loss surgery 3 ½ years ago; I’ve gained back 60 of that. Part of the gain is because the near constant pain makes it very difficult to exercise. Most, however, is because I still have the emotional eating response. I celebrate with food, and I wallow in food. Neither is a good thing to do. Though my van was pointed toward that grinning redhead and her cue little pigtails, I prayed for strength to avoid pulling into her drive thru. That was the only fast food place directly between the church parking lot and my driveway, though I know me—if the urge is there, I will drive across to satisfy it. I prayed and prayed and prayed that I would not give in to the temptation for food I really did not need. And I thanked God when I got home empty handed.

I don’t know why this has happened to me. It’s not something I think I will ever understand. I’ve prayed for healing. I know others—family, friends, friends of family, family of friends—who have prayed for my healing. And yet God seems to be saying no. He could say yes later. I was going to say, “He could change His mind and say yes later,” but I don’t believe God changes His mind. If in six months I can move pain-free and all the dead and damaged nerves in my back are suddenly fully restored, it’s not because God changed his mind; it’s because He planned from the start for my healing to happen at that moment. I don’t think it’s going to. I think the “healing” He has in mind for me is not a physical one so much as a mental one. I think God wants me to be OK with my life is it, to understand that this is the plan He had for me and to adjust my desires and expectations to match. Not an easy thing, let me tell you. But I believe that is what He has been telling me.

That’s not to say I am giving up on the physical healing. I won’t stop asking. And if God offers it, I doubt that I will say no! But if that physical healing doesn’t happen, I am going to love Him anyway. Because I know He loves me.

 

Guidance

I’ve been fighting some monster writer’s block lately. Part of it, I freely admit, is laziness. I am in the midst of an English language class, master’s level, in which I must write a 15 page paper analyzing the linguistic choices of Jane Austen. I chose to study Austen because I enjoy her writing. What romantic heart wouldn’t enjoy her work? The thought that her stories were written over 200 years ago and are still in print is mind boggling. Why is that? What is it about her linguistic choices, her writing style, the composition of the novels that have made them so enduring? While reading Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park and even the biographic information that I have been able to find about Jane Austen is utterly enjoyable, writing the paper itself isn’t. Whether I sit in front of a blank computer screen or a blank piece of paper, I can’t seem to get any words to come out. There are so many facts in my head. I just can’t get them to form an intelligible paper. At this point, one intelligible paragraph, even just one sentence on the subject would be helpful. Instead, all that I can think of when I try to work on this paper are the words of James 4:17—Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

OK, Lord. What is it that You are telling me I ought to do? This classwork is important. I thought this was what You wanted. And I still feel that earning this degree is the right thing. But is there something more? Over the summer, You gave me some ideas that I worked on. Is one of those what I am supposed to be doing? Lord, I know I need to complete this assignment, but I do not want to fail YOU. Please, guide me. If there is something more important that You need me to write, if there is something more urgent that You need me to share this morning, point me in that direction. Help me to write and share those words. I want to glorify You.

I love You, Lord. And I want my words and actions to show that. Today. Tomorrow. Always.

Thorny Flesh

I am having back issues again. Not that again is really the most accurate term for it. The issues have never really gone away. The surgery I had in 2011 to repair a severely herniated disc in my lower back relieved a lot of pain but did not clear up everything. I’ve dealt with balance problems, nerve damage, and pain that comes and goes.

This summer the pain has come and forgotten to go away. It has gotten progressively worse, to the point where I have an appointment with my back surgeon in 7 days.

Now, back surgery is not something I am particularly looking forward to. Though I do remember how immediate the relief was last time. Sure my skin and muscle tissue hurt where it had been cut apart and sewn back together, but that was nothing compared to what I’d felt before. That almost instant relief sounds so good at times. At the same time I remember how difficult the recovery was. The physical therapy. The driving restrictions. The weeks of being homebound, except church and doctor appointments. The relying on others to help with just about everything while I recovered. The no chore restriction-oh wait I actually enjoyed that one! My point is I’m not very sure that I want to have another back surgery. I only know I want this intense back pain to go away. If my surgeon thinks surgery will be the best way for that to happen than OK. God brought me through the last one and I have faith He will carry me through this one as well.

For the last 2½ years I’ve dealt with nerve damage caused by that herniated disc. While praying over the current situation, I asked God again, as I have a few times since those nerves were damaged to please heal them. “Lord,” I prayed, “I know the doctors say nothing can be done and that that this latest problem has nothing to do with the nerves that don’t work right. But could You do something for me? If I do need surgery to repair the disc, could You somehow regenerate those nerves? Can You please wake them up so they can work correctly and the problems they have caused just go away?””

Shortly after my prayer, I opened my Bible study book to a section about health. I read there the following words from the apostle Paul: “I was given a thorn in my flesh…. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said ‘my grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

I said I asked God to heal those nerves, but as I read over the conversation, it sure sounds a lot more like begging than simply requesting. And I know this was much more than just the third time I brought it up. Has God flat-out refused to heal me? I don’t think so. There is always a chance that He will restore complete use of the lower portions of my body. For now, though He is asking me to lean on Him, to trust in His grace, to believe that what the world sees as my weakness could be a beautiful conduit for His power.

I don’t know if the physical healing I desire will ever come. But do you know what is even better than physical healing? The spiritual healing I am experiencing. Day by day my hunger for God is satisfied as my thirst for Him intensifies. If it takes a thorn in my flesh- or a handful of damaged nerve in my back-in order for me to experience that, I gladly embrace it!

It Could Have Been Me

 

Robin Williams played Genie in my favorite ever Disney film, Aladdin

Robin Williams played Genie in my favorite ever Disney film, Aladdin

Robin Williams died yesterday.

When I heard the news, I was at a wedding reception. My immediate reaction was to make light of it. Not because I found even a shred of humor in his death, but because of where I was. I did not want anything to dim the newlyweds’ joy. Yet the happiness of the young couple was not the only reason I tried to shrug off the sadness of Mr. Williams’ death. I just did not want to admit, even to myself right then, how deeply the news was affecting me. I did not want to make room for the thought pushing to the front of my mind.

“That could have been me.”

Every newscast talks about the addictions he battled throughout his life. Most talk about the deep, consuming depression that marked the final months of his life. Some even suggested that Robin Williams was able to use the humor that entertained fans for decades to hide the depth of his family and friends.

I’ve been there. I don’t have the acting chops or comedic timing of Mr. Williams. But I have faced depression and addiction, even suicidal thoughts. I’ve hidden these things from my family and friends. Sometimes I’ve been very successful at hiding, sometimes I haven’t. For years I have lived with the fear that these demons would be the end of me. Even now, when it may appear to others that I have my life together and my issues under control, I am scared that one of those monsters might jump out and grab hold of me.

My addiction is what concerns me most. I don’t do any illegal drugs and I very rarely drink. My drug of choice is food. I am an emotional eater, using food to celebrate victories or mourn losses. Sometimes I crave sweet and creamy; sometimes I crave salty and crunchy. The problem with food addiction is that I can’t stop eating. God designed my body to require food in order to survive. The types and amounts that I shovel into my mouth, though, are not a requirement. Even knowing that, I can’t make myself stop. And that depresses me more. Which makes me reach for more food I should not eat. Which adds to depression. Which….

You get the picture.

I am relatively sure that depression won’t “get me.” Difficult as it has been, I have accepted that this depression is a part of who I am and the treatment for it will always be a part of my life. Those closet to me have learned the signs of an untreated me- because I have made the choices in the past to stop treatment. They know what to look for and for the most part they know what to say to make me choose to get back to treatment. At this point, in time, I feel confident that depression will not bring an end to my life.

I can’t say the same about food.

Robin WIlliams as Peter Pan in Hook in my second favorite of his films.

Robin WIlliams as Peter Pan in Hook in my second favorite of his films.

My sons like the movie Spaceballs. There is a scene where a newscaster says Pizza the Hut got locked in a car and ate himself to death. Now, I don’t think I will literally eat myself to death, but I worry about y food choices could be doing to my body. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. I am not hurting only me, I am hurting God when I allow my addiction to control me.

 

Yesterday, the dual demons of addiction and depression ended the life of Robin Williams. His legacy of laughter will live on through films and internet clips, though the laughter might be a little bittersweet as the world mourns his loss. Today, I vow to fight those same demons in my life. I don’t know yet what my legacy will be or how many lives I may touch. But with God’s help, I won’t let mental issues keep me from finding out.

Rest in peace, Robin. Enjoy Neverland.

Get Your Praise On!!

Because of a reaction to the medication for my back pain, I had to miss church this week. We were able to set up a Skype link (a rather temperamental one) so I could still be a part of the morning worship service. What I experienced moved me to tears.

Normally, being moved to tears during a worship service is a good thing. There is nothing quite like the spine-tingling thrill of feeling  God move through a group of believers. But it wasn’t His movement that caused my tears. These tears were brought on by a broken heart.

The worship portion of the service consisted of four wonderful, upbeat songs about what God has done for us–Hello My Name Is, I Am Free, God’s Not Dead and Oh Happy Day . Despite my pain I was taping my feet and clapping, dancing as much as I was able, as I smiled and sang along.   Halfway through God’s Not Dead, I looked at the Skype window. No one else was dancing or swaying. I saw no evidence of clapping or foot tapping. Since my view was from the back, I don’t know if anyone was smiling. The only singing I could hear, though, came from the praise and the worship track and our worship team. It broke my heart to think my church didn’t care about the words they were singing. I wanted to shout at them through my computer, “God’s not dead- but you sure look like you are!”

That is a harsh thing to say about anyone, I know, especially my own church family. I know these people, and I know how they love Jesus. But would a visitor know that? What I witnessed on Sunday was not a warm, welcoming worship service. It was not the kind of thing that would make a person think, “These people know and worship a living God who set them free.”

If it had been my first service, if I didn’t know the people in those seats, I cannot honestly say I would be back.

The Bible tells us to sing praises to God. In Psalms, we are told to come together to sing praises. Psalm 149:1 says, “Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song. Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful.” Psalm 100:1 tells us to “Shout with joy to the Lord.” There are at least two places in Psalms where we are told to “Praise His name with dancing” (149:3 and 150:4.)

I know that worship, true worship, comes from the heart in a different way for each person. And it is God we should be striving to please as we worship. Yet we are also called to reach others for Him. What does it say to the unchurched traveler when our songs speak the joy of the freedom found in life with a God who is not dead while our body language suggests we are preparing for a funeral?

I can’t change the actions of everyone in the church. In fact, I can’t change the actions of anyone in the church– except me. When the music plays next Sunday morning, I plan to let it move me. I pray that the spirit of God washes over me in ways I can’t contain and the Pentecostal girl inside of me that has been silent for years comes out in full force!

I have prayed that my church would be set on fire for Jesus. If I can be the spark that starts that fire, I say “Bring it!”

Dear Tori

Dear Tori,

I heard a song this morning that reminded me of you. After I woke up singing Strong Enough, I thought Matthew West would be the perfect soundtrack to my writing. After selecting his playlist on my iPod, I settled into my chair to get to work. It’s not new music to me. I don’t know how many times I have heard it before. But today, the words meant something different. One song in particular, a song called To Me, caught my attention. The moment I heard him sing the words, “Well it breaks my heart every time I see the world break yours in two,” the story I wanted to write flew out of my head. All I could think about was my beautiful niece and how rough life has been on you lately.

I kept listening to the song, paying very close attention to each word. Maybe all of it isn’t about you. OK, so I suppose it is fair to say Mr. West probably didn’t have you in mind at all when he wrote the lyrics to this song. But there is so much in it that is just so YOU. If I were to write something about just how special you are (which I suppose I am doing with this letter) I couldn’t do much better than he did.

Your laughter really is one of my favorite sounds. You were the first baby I got to live with and see every day. I used to love coming home from work or school to hear you laughing as you played with your parents or grandparents. No matter how bad my day was, it was hard to be sad or upset with such a happy little girl in the house.

Ever since you were tiny, you have had a beautiful smile. Your smile fills up your whole face. It adds a special sparkle to your eyes. It has always shown the joy in your heart, the joy you find in life. Do you remember when my Rylee went to Heaven? I didn’t think I would smile ever again. But you kept smiling when you said, “Aunt Lynn, don’t be sad. Your baby is with Jesus. And you will always have me to play with.” Your smile helped to bring my smile back.

Now you are 17. Playing with your crazy aunt isn’t nearly as important as hanging out with your friends or boyfriend. And that’s OK. I know you had to grow up sooner or later. (Later would have been better for me….) You have grown into an absolutely beautiful young lady, both inside and out. How can I not be proud of that?

I know you have had your heart broken recently. More than once. I’ve cried right along with you. You probably want to hear that it will never happen again, that the next time you give your heart away it will be to the boy who will protect and treasure it the way your heart deserves to be protected and treasured. Oh how I wish I could promise you that. But I can’t see the future. And I can’t protect you from the pain and heartbreak that it might bring. If I could, I would. I’d happily take all of those bumps and bruises for you—without complaint—if that would keep the smile on your face and the laughter in your heart.

Some day you will find the right special someone for you. I don’t know when or where it will happen, or who that someone might be. But I have faith that it will happen.

Until then, I hope you realize how wonderful and very special you are. The world is a much more beautiful place because you are in it. I can’t say it any better than Matthew West did, so I will close this letter with the words from his song:

            To me you are

Heaven’s finest invention by far

So much brighter

Than the brightest star

What I’d give to make you see

Who you are to me

I love you, Miss Tori.

All my love forever,

Aunt Lynn

 

So much sadness

 

Have you ever had a week that seemed to be defined by the emotions around you? That’s what this past week was.

Last Sunday morning, I awoke thinking it would be a week full of bittersweet moments. The week was to start off with an impromptu picnic with some church friends. Our town has an annual parade celebrating the beginning of summer, and my house is only a few blocks from the parade route. In fact, the street right outside our house, including the space where my husband normally parks his truck, is part of the parade staging area. A family from church was planning to attend the parade, so we invited them to join us for lunch before walking to view the Rose Parade. It was a great afternoon, and something that I thought would be a good way of bracing myself for what was coming. After all, in the coming days I would have to attend two functions at the elementary school that would be “lasts” for my 5th grader—his last student of the month celebration and his last music concert. I was prepared for those emotions, for the pride of seeing the wonderful, intelligent young man he has become, mixed with the sadness of knowing the little preschooler I sent off to Hunt in the fall of 2007 would be entering middle school in just a few short months. Oh, where has that time gone?

And what mother would not be choked up at hearing her son introduce his classmates rendition of Disney’s A Whole New World by saying something along the lines of, “We are looking forward to the whole new world that is opening up to us as we prepare to enter middle school in the fall”?

Those bittersweet emotions associated with celebrating my middle son’s last moments of elementary school, as well as all of the other “normal” end of the year emotions and celebrations with his brothers…those are what I expected this last week to be filled with. What I didn’t expect was the deep sadness of loss that washed over me in waves.

Lost hope, lost life, lost love. It hit me more than once during the past seven days. I can’t be more specific than that, because in no case was the loss specifically mine. Not my loss means it’s not my news to share. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect me at all. It’s left my head spinning and my heart broken. There’s an old Carman song from the late 1980’s or early 1990’s that contained the line, “It’s as if you’re sitting there in that stunned moment while your faith gets violated and all you feel is weak, powerless and lame.” That is kind of how I have felt. Not so much that my faith has been violated, though I will admit that one of these sad events did have me turning to God and asking, “Why is this happening? Why are You allowing this?” I questioned not really God’s goodness or His existence this week; rather I questioned His methods.

But “weak, powerless and lame.” That is a pretty apt description. As I have felt sadness sweep over me, I’ve thought about those more directly affected by these events. I’ve wanted—more than once—to gather my hurting friends and family in arms, to shelter them from the pain, to put all the pieces back together for them, to make the things that feel so wrong right again.

But I can’t.

I can’t fix this. Some of this can’t be fixed, not by me. Some can’t be fixed by human means at all. Even the parts that can be fixed by human hands require God’s intervention first.

God, You the situations and the people who are on my heart. Be with them all. Give them Your strength and peace. Even those who are acting strong now are hurting. Show them that You understand, that You are there, and that You love them all, even—maybe especially—in the midst of this storm. Don’t let them lose sight of You. If they have already been blown off course, Lord, help them find a beacon back to You. It is only in Your arms, in Your presence that they will find true healing and peace, no matter how their situations play out.

Love Letter

Dear Eric and Becca,

I am so tempted to say “I know how you feel.” But that’s not true. Having been in your situation, I have a good idea what you are going through. I know what my pain felt like. I remember hearing the ER doctor tell me I was miscarrying, that nothing could be done to stop it, and that I should go home and rest—and wanting to rip his heart out, the way it felt that he was ripping mine out. I remember the agony, the confusion, the anger, the emptiness. The hopeless longing that it was all a bad dream. And it’s not hard to imagine that the two of you are feeling some combination of those same emotions.

But I can’t say that I know just how you feel because each loss is different. Each parent is going to grieve in a different way. The two of you, as much as you love each other and as much as you both love that little baby, are going to grieve the loss differently. Some days, Eric will hold you, Becca, when you feel like you can’t go on. Some days, he will not be able to stop crying and you will need to hold him up. You will be strong for each other, even when you feel like you have no strength. That love you share, the love for each other and the love for God, is what will give you that strength.

People are going to give you a lot of advice. You have probably already noticed that.  You are going to hear things ranging from why this happened to how to grieve to when to try again. The advice will come from friends, family, and even from virtual strangers. Some will come from people who have gone through a loss like yours; some will come from people who never have. Please keep in mind that every piece of advice is meant to bring comfort. Some of the words won’t sound very comforting. In fact, some are bound to sound downright hurtful. It took me a long time—months, years in some cases—to move beyond the words and see the kindness at the heart of the one who spoke them to me. I don’t want that for you. My prayer is that you both can keep your eyes and your hearts focused on God through this difficult time, that you can do a better job than I ever did of handing your pain over to Him.

Eric, whenever I think of you, I think of you with a smile on your face. You were always a happy baby boys, smiling and laughing. As a child, you teased everyone. The only time I remember you not smiling was when I “forced” you to dance with me at my wedding. But I don’t think I ever saw a brighter, more radiant smile on your face than the one that was there the moment the church doors opened and you saw Becca in her wedding dress. Becca, the only time I met you was the weekend you married my nephew. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a couple as genuinely happy and in love as the two of you. It seems unfair that the strength of your love has to be tested in such a tragic way so early in your marriage. You made the conscious decision to invite God not only to the wedding but into your marriage. And I have no doubt that He will hold you up and give you the strength and peace to come through this challenge.

Will you come through it unchanged? Probably not. You will both carry that baby in your hearts for the rest of your lives. That baby, no matter how brief his existence, was—and forever will be—a part of you, an extension of your love for one another and your love for God. Just because you don’t have the physical reminder doesn’t mean he’s not there. Love him, remember him, cherish him—in whatever way is best for you.

This isn’t the way anyone would chose to grow. But so long as you hold on to each other and to God, you will grow and blossom through this in ways you can’t possibly imagine.

I love you. I pray that God continues to wrap you in His love, peace, and strength in the days to come.

Love always,

Aunt Lynn

Unawarded

I am feeling a little down today. Yesterday was May 31. Bet you already knew that…. May 31 is the date of the annual MomWriters Virtual Ball. MomWriters around the globe are invited to meet up in a chat room to talk, laugh, and have a good ol’ time throughout the day while waiting for the announcement of the winners of the Golden Pen Awards (GPAs). This year’s ball was a blast! With chickens on the loose and a nearly endless string of Conga Rats during the GPA ceremony, how could it not be? (Admit it, you are so jealous that you want to know how to become a MomWriter!!!)

As much fun as it was, I can’t help feeling a little bummed. And not just because it is over, though I freely admit that is part of it. Yesterday was a busy day, between end-of-season soccer games for two of my sons and a meeting at the church, so I wasn’t able to spend as much time in the Ball chat room as I wanted to. My disappointment is tempered a bit by the knowledge that I have the chance to meet a few MomWriters later this year during my family vacation (so glad hubby is OK with it!) and with the excitement of knowing I may meet a few more at an official gathering next year!

It was the presentation of the GPAs that began my sadness this year. Actually, I think the sadness started with the nomination process. In the past, I’ve been nominated for numerous awards. This year, I was nominated for only one. And while I’d love to show the class and maturity that many award nominees do and say, “It’s an honor just to be nominated,” I can’t. Even if I said it, I wouldn’t mean it. Especially since I nominated myself for the award.

In truth, it’s not the lack of nominations or the lack of awards this year that has me down. (I do believe I have won a total of 5 GPAs over the 7 years I have been a MomWriter, so going without for one year isn’t a big deal.) The disappointment comes from the knowledge that I don’t deserve a GPA this year. I haven’t put in the work. My blog has sat idle. I have read books but not posted reviews. I’ve written short stories but only for my college classes. And in all honesty, many of the sort stories I’ve “written” for college classes have been old stories that I found on various hard drives and just reformatted for class.

My frustrations and sadness stem from the fact that I have not done the necessary work to earn an award. Guess there is only one way to keep that from happening next year….