a good reason to celebrate

It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone…and a strange, mixed-bag sort of year at that.  I told Terry yesterday that I think 2014 is going to be a “good” year for us, whatever “good” means.  I can’t say I’m sad to see the year come to a close.  It’s been brilliant and tumultuous, much like 2012 in that way.  I’m hoping for some sort of leveling off next year.  We have big changes to go through (Terry just started a new job, Jude is still a baby, we are hoping to move out of our home, etc.), but I’m thinking we can handle those things.

So here we are, back in the Christmas season.  For me, things don’t feel as raw in regard to Reece as they did last year.  I’m thankful for that, because I can’t say this is the case for every member of my family.  I can’t say I’ll always feel this way, so I am appreciating that this year I don’t feel down about Reece.  I miss him, but not in a depressing sort of way.  Every day has some raw moments, but the sum of all of the day is generally positive.

Nevertheless, this time of year is interesting, because it conjures up a whole host of emotions about certain things in regard to Christmas, Jesus, the nativity story, and the way society frames this.  I’ll admit, I didn’t grow up in a household that put a big emphasis on Santa, so it’s never been a big draw to me.  In fact, Terry was displeased to hear that when Reece was two I told him Santa wasn’t real.  I know, I know…bah humbug.  However, the following year he had completely forgotten I had told him that, so I didn’t totally ruin it for him.  Still, I’m not a fan.  I do have some Santa décor in the house and we do visit Macy’s Santaland every year.  That said, I was totally shocked at my frustration with Christmas in general last year and that it had very little to do with Santa.  I certainly think we need to celebrate Jesus’ birth, don’t get me wrong.  But many people would say things like, “I’ll bet they are having a great party in Heaven!”  I think this was meant to console me and I certainly am not bashing on people for attempting to say something to be cheery and with good intentions.  But after hearing this a few times it made very little sense to me.  We celebrate Christmas in December because of other pagan holidays (and I’m no history buff, but I did enough “Google research” last year to know that Dec 25 is not likely to be Jesus’ actual birth date).   Then I became lost in the realization that every day in Heaven must be a huge celebration of Jesus…not just one day or month (or for some people from the day after Halloween until well beyond Jan 1st when all Christmas décor should be taken down…in my humble opinion).  I realized that our view of Heaven is so minimized here.  We give it such little thought and I now spend so much time thinking about what Heaven must actually be like that it drove me batty to make an assumption that Dec 25 is different than any other day there (much too long of a topic to get into in this post).  Thus, last year I walked through the motions of Christmas and found myself exhausted with trying to imagine Heaven’s reality, yet being trapped in society’s version of Christ’s birthday.  I was not exactly looking forward to going through it again this year.

Thankfully, this year has felt a little more relaxed.  I’ve come to the conclusion that while Dec 25 likely isn’t the day Christ was born, the citizens of Heaven and Jesus Himself must also know that it is important for us to celebrate His birth.  It isn’t about the actual day, but about the fact that He was given as a gift.  I’ve found my way back to having an enjoyable Christmas season.  I’ve found some ways to make Reece a part of our family’s traditions so hopefully it won’t feel completely void of him.  I’m thankful that we started traditions with him while he was here so that we can continue those traditions and have the continuity between all of our children in that regard.  And truthfully, those things are important to me and encourage me.  Those things matter.

One thing I have done recently is watched “The Bible” miniseries.  It is really good.  We recorded it off of the television and I have been watching bits and pieces during nap time.  I normally lose interest after about an hour of any movie–especially a miniseries, but this one kept me captivated.  Yes, I do understand that it is someone’s interpretation of the Bible and that these people are actors.  However, there is something about watching what biblical events probably looked like, what the people looked like–the culture, the background, the various situations they were in–that made it powerful.  Because I was fitting in bits and pieces here and there, I started with Jesus’ ministry, worked back through the Old Testament, ending with Jesus’ birth.  While so many things stand out from the series (including the struggles of all of the Jewish people, the Patriarchs, and certainly Jesus’ disciples), watching the portrayal of Jesus was quite impactful.  For me, seeing His compassion towards people and a representation of how He handles various situations with grace towards others (unwanted and unloved people, sick people, outcasts, greedy and rich people, friends who betray Him, and even those who mocked Him while He was dying) made me appreciate Him even more.  Instead of just reading words on a page about Him, it actually portrayed that He had emotions as a real person, because He is a man.  It also showed His love for people, even when they didn’t love Him.  And when they killed Him, wow, did it feel personal.  It made me want to jump through the tv and start kicking and screaming at people to figure it out!  Overall, it made me weep for what He did for us.

I told a close friend of mine, shortly before Reece entered the hospital, that if we lost him during the BMT process I would spend the rest of my life struggling to not elevate my desire to see Reece over my desire to see the Lord.  This was an accurate statement and often one that weighs on my mind.  Although I know the Lord understands the pull, I have in the back of my mind that it will be a challenge for me in my life.  Well, I got to the end of this miniseries…again, not the exact representation of Jesus, but one that tried to stick closely to what the Bible says.  I felt so much gratitude and love for Him.  I’m just so excited to see Him.  It’s personal.  It’s personal because of Reece, but it’s also personal because I am so incredibly grateful for Jesus.  I love Him and I’m so darn unworthy of His love.  It felt reassuring to have those feelings.  I love Jesus because of Reece but I also love Him for reasons that are completely unique to me.  I see this as progress in my life.

The other big thought I had when it finished was that I am so grateful that Reece is with Him.   There is no where else I would rather him be.  Jesus is perfect and His love is perfect.  Words can’t describe how thankful I am that Reece is seeing Jesus face-to-face.  I can’t wait to see both of them!

When Reece was in the hospital I remember praying for the people reading our blog.  Since Reece passed, I don’t have any memories of praying over this particular blog and its readers.  However, I am going to pray that anyone who reads this post understands how awesome (and I mean truly awesome) Jesus is and how incredibly wonderful it will be to see Him face-to-face in Heaven.  Better than Hawaii in winter.  Better than a hug from mom when you are sad.  Better than the Vikings actually winning a game.  Better than your morning cup of coffee.  And certainly better than whatever you may have wrapped under your Christmas tree.  I pray you know Him personally.  He’s not a gimmick and He’s not fake.  Jesus really is real.  We really will not make it to Heaven without knowing Him and loving Him.  He is truly something to celebrate…every day of the year.

Merry Christmas!

a body never forgets

There hasn’t been a ton of time for blogging lately, mostly because I tend to blog on Thursdays when I am out of the house for a while sans children.  As time has passed this year, it seems my Thursdays fill up pretty quickly…it turns out that coffee with a friend is actually relaxing when you aren’t chasing little ones!  As of late, my Thursdays are booked with PT appointments to manage an old running injury from grad school.  This is only the third time in 11 years it has reared its ugly head, but–wow–is it painful!  It is actually an SI joint injury I managed to achieve during my ridiculously-obsessed-with-running years in the early 2000’s.  It isn’t related to pregnancy, but the last two times I have had to go to PT I have been pregnant…the pregnant part only makes it worse.  I’m hopeful that I’ll be back running and active in a couple of weeks, but it has made life interesting, considering I have a one-year-old that demands I carry her most places.

This injury is timely in light of one of our recent bible study questions, “How are you suffering the consequences of a former sin?”  When I got to this question, I immediately thought of my body–both physical and mental.  I could point out many things that I “carry” with me that have been a result of some form of sin–things that ail me either physically or in my own thinking and memories.  I really hadn’t considered this injury as a result of sin before this week, but the reality is, it likely is.  I got it at a time when I was glorifying myself and body over everything else.  I obsessed over my weight and I planned everything around when and how I would work out.  It is no wonder that an injury occurred.  Yes, I have been able to manage it so well that I am unaware of it for the most part.  I’ve reworked my running gait, changed my posture, changed my exercise habits, and have mostly been healed of the obsession–the root of the problem.  But every few years it manages to resurface and keep me humble.  I think without some of these ailments, I would forget how I have been dealt with mercifully–I would become self-reliant in an even bigger way.  I need to be reminded that sins have consequences.  Paul speaks of his own circumstance with a thorn in his flesh:

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”                            2 Corinthians 12:7b-9

As I further thought about the question from BSF, I reflected on Reece.  I don’t believe our bodies ever truly heal here.  I think of Reece’s body and how the biggest concern going into transplant was not all the germs that could come into his body, but rather what already lived there.  All the Work-up Week testing that was done included a history of what he had already been exposed to, as it resided in his blood already.  Even those tests had limits as to what they could tell us in regard to exposures.  It demonstrates that not only do our bodies record our own sin (like my injury), but also they record the world’s sin (like the common viruses we acquire and build up immunities to).  It’s pretty humbling. I don’t for a second think of Reece’s diagnosis as a result of his own sin.  I think his MDS was a result of a fallen, imperfect world.  In a child, I view it as more of the weight of the world’s sin, versus the result of things he chose for himself.  But Reece’s life on earth became–as most of us will eventually become–a casualty of sin.  Sin outweighs us, outnumbers us, outsmarts us…here; on our own.  Some of us will have to deal with decades of it and others, like Reece, will endure a short, but powerful few years.  At some point, our healing will have to come from our Maker.  A sub-standard, human, bandaged effort–albeit sophisticated in many regards–will not be enough.  But the reality is, until we are healed into Heaven, our bodies and minds do not forget what they have endured.

Likewise, our minds are subjected to ailments, including damage from what we have lived through; they also keep a record of hardships.  We routinely refer to mental wounds as “baggage” or “issues”.  Speaking of which, I was feeling pretty mentally damaged myself a few weeks back.  I hit a low spot as I was overwhelmed with the pregnancy, our girls, and the reality of Reece.  Terry and I had gone out on a lovely date night, but as dinner wore on, we inevitably started discussing Reece.  At first, we talked about happy things.  But then it turned to some of the memories from about a year ago and it ended the night on a somber note.  I just kept thinking about our life and how we would manage it all.  Like I said–I felt like damaged goods–unrecoverable.  Thankfully, the sun rises and the sun sets and there is a new day on the horizon.  As I have gotten a little distance, I realize that every time I look at the obvious hardships of losing Reece, it becomes completely defeating.  Outside of God, the grave nature overwhelms me every single time.  It’s only in the context of Eternity that my mind is freed, that I can feel hope in the larger purpose and encouragement in the ultimate healing that comes from knowing Christ and being forgiven of the mess of sin that devours our lives here.  There is no remission in Heaven; it’s the only place we can truly declare ourselves cured.

In this context, I can understand why we don’t ever rid ourselves of our past while we are here.  I need some reminders that I have messed up, that I continue to mess up, and that I’ll be messing up for the rest of my days.  But instead of thinking about it in terms of “just bad luck” or “overuse” or “baggage”, I am reminded this week that my own ailments are part of a much larger picture for my life.  They serve as reminders to myself, as lessons for myself and those around me, and as opportunities to examine my own self and how I conduct myself while I’m here.  I can’t rely on myself to be perfect, because I’m a proven failure at it.  I’ve got the bumps and bruises to show for it.

“If I’m thinking of the person I’m going to marry, I won’t be an easy target for seduction. Likewise, when I’ve meditated on Heaven, sin becomes terribly unappealing. Our high tolerance for sin testifies to our failure to prepare for Heaven. ‘Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.’ (1 John 3:3, NASB).

~Randy Alcorn, “Heaven”