Growing Up.

This picture was taken shortly after my sister's death. Mike and I had gone to Paris to spend time with a friend and to clear our heads and get away from the "in-our-face" grief/pain that was present at the time.

I feel like I've grown up. In some ways I'm so thankful. In some ways it's been a painful process, one that often had a lot more "growing pains" than I thought I was meant to handle. 1 Corinthians 13: 11 says "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." I know I have many childish ways left in me, but there is part of me that has grown. Sometimes it's been a rude awakening. My ignorant bliss has been lost. Suffering is not a fun experience but it is a growing one. Through the loss of my sister, through all of Mike's job and school changes, through all the pre-term labor with Samuel and then all of Samuel's health issues/hospitalizations I have seen God in my midst. I have seen Him stripping me of the things I clung so tightly too. Stripped of human relationships, security, and control. I found a journal entry I wrote a couple weeks before I got married. In it was a prayer to God that said, "Lord do whatever it takes to make me wholely yours. Bring me through whatever trials, whatever pain necessary to make me cling to you, to need you. to not take you for granted or to lose sight of you. I would rather have sufferering and know you than to be independent without you and not feel my need for you." I read it crying. Would I have known what I would walk through would I have still written that? It's easier to pray that way when you haven't tasted of it. Yet, I DO praise God for the suffering. Not that suffering is good in and of itself but God uses it to produce good fruit. He uses it draw me closer to Him and to make me more like Him. He was a man of sorrows and Jesus weeps with us. Thank you Lord that you are the source of all compassion!

As I write, it has turned into March. Almost magically. February is lost and March has come. My stomach knots up and there is a lump in my throat. My husband and I have passed on a tradition that my parents used to carry. Every new month one of was will try to beat the other by saying "Happy _______!" Happy June or Happy October... you get the picture. But since my sister's death we have made a rule. We never say "Happy March." 4 years ago it was happy. We were preparing for my sister's wedding. I celebrated my beloved's birthday on the 10th. He had asked me to court on the 9th. It was happy. Now the joy is sapped by pain.

I hope I've become a little less self-centered over the years. I pray for others more and try to think about their needs. I want to be others-focused in my friendships and in my life. I have stopped looking at other's problems and saying that they're nothing compared to mine, instead I feel the pain they're in, the frustration, the difficulty, the pain, and I feel compassion for them, I empathize with them. I suffer with them. I mourn with them.

I went to a Women's Bible Study last night and I lost it. Often I found it difficult to cry when I really need to and when I don't want to cry or feel I shouldn't I end up sobbing. Last night was one of those nights. It's difficult being vulnerable in front of a bunch of women I don't know. But it was one of those things.

I'm going to be driving down to Va tomorrow with Mike and the kids. I have an appt. to see the dentist on Friday to get some cavities filled- I'm excited to get them filled because the pain is so bad. But the pain in my mouth pales compared to the pain of my heart. I'm going to go to my sister's grave. At least that's the plan as of now, when it comes down to it I don't know if I'll actually have the guts. It's so hard to go there. To be so close to her remains but to know she's really gone. I can't hold her hand, I can't hear her sing, I can't smell her Pantene Pro-V hair, or listen to her laugh, or watch her consume ice-cream at 8 in the morning. I miss watching her strum the guitar or the way she would tuck her strands of hair behind her ears... or the way she'd look at me and say "Jeeeennnnnn!" in that knowing tone of voice. I miss that we didn't get to have babies together, or go on trips to a beachhouse for vacation like we said we would. I miss not talking about our guys and realizing that I'm not crazy that sometimes husbands are "just like that!" I miss being an aunt and buying clothes for my nephew or taking him to Target and letting him pick out a toy. I wonder what he would have called me. I miss my brother-in-law Mike and the way my parents and brother used to be. I miss the way we used to laugh together and be carefree and happy and excited. I miss having to buy a Sister's Birthday card or buying her gifts for birthdays and holidays and for just whenever. I miss watching her eat Hershey Kisses. I miss so much about her.

I dreamt about a week ago that my sister had Sam and she was pregnant with her second baby and we were so excited. I kept getting excited because she was having a girl and I would rub her belly to feel the baby kick. The dream felt so real and I woke up with that sad realization that it was just a dream.

I feel myself changing. I'm trying to make new friends. I'm enjoying my classes on Monday nights. I feel like Dr. Tripp is challenging my beliefs in a great way and helping me to see how I need to change. Tuesday nights I'm starting to go to a Women's Bible study that some ladies who either go to Westminster or are wives of students who attend there are heading up. We're studying the minor prophets (currently on Jonah). On Wednesday nights, every other week, we have our small group meetings where we bring our children and potluck dinner and talk about the message. I've really enjoyed the fellowship there and am coming to love the women in that group. I'm enjoying finding ways to serve people in our church. I'm loving my anatomy and physiology course for my nutritional degree. I'm enjoying cooking and finding new meals to create. I'm starting to get a system for the household. I have enjoyed having my quiet times and have grown in true consistency. These things are all good and they're evidences of God's grace in my life. It doesn't mean that I don't struggle. Sometimes I still feel alone and wonder if people up here even know I exist :) Othertimes I'm just exhausted and wonder if I will ever stop cleaning up throw up or changing diapers. I know God has good things ahead. He has given me so many good things already, a wonderful family, friends that love me (and yes, they do know me!), good health, a warm home, a car that works, a good marriage, a church that's helping me grow, education, the ability to exercise, food, clean water and air. He has provided me with more than I need; fun magazines to read, a house that I like aesthetically, a safe neighborhood, children that are beautiful and a joy to be with, a laptop, camera, and IPOD... more than I abundantly need.

"Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own we have given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building your house for your holy name comes from you hand and is all your own." 1 Chronicles 29:11-16

This was David's prayer but I take it as my own. He has given us so much to be thankful for. On Sunday our pastor was talking about the story of Joseph and suffering. He was talking about weeping, but not despairing- we have much to be hopeful for. He was also saying that God does not rejoice in evil. He doesn't delight in bad things happening. He is Sovereign and He is Good, but he doesn't think it's good that bad things happen. He uses those bad things and makes good out of them, but He doesn't need bad things to work His purposes. I hope that made sense. It did for me. I am thankful to know that God is walking with me. He is comforting me and weeeping with me as I weep. He is such a good God.
So for those of you who have read this very long blogpost wow, I'm amazed you kept reading. I'm just thankful I can write and release some of these bottled feelings. I hope you can take comfort and joy in God's goodness and His care in our lives...even in the midst of pain.


Michelle said…
Jennifer, I've been thinking of you and your family all week, and will continue to pray for you. I was even dreaming about you all last night. Maybe because Jeff and I were talking about the loss of Libby before I fell asleep. I love you and can't wait to see you Friday. If you need someone to go to the cemetary with you- maybe even sit in the car, but just be there- I am available. xoxo
Ashleigh said…
Jennifer, I'm praying for you and your family.

Again, thank you for all of your prayers, emails, support, encouragment, and friendship regarding Ava. It has really ministered to me and meant a lot.
Bethany said…
I am praying for you.

Hey I am going to send you an email with a woman's blog that might be helpful to you. Her child was killed in March by a woman driving her car into a building trying to commit suicide. Well the woman is still alive but this gal's 4 year old daughter was killed. She is a Christian and her thoughts are wonderful and might be very encouraging to you. In fact her post today is similar in feel to yours being that it is the start of March. So check you email and if you feel ready give her a read.

Jenn said…

Thank you for sharing. God's love and care shine through your words and more importantly your life, my friend.

Love you,
Billie said…
Jennifer- Thank you for your willingness to share such hard things. I have been praying for you and your family as this time of year draws near. I do not know what it is like to go through the hard things that you have but I only pray that I would trust in our Savior the way that you are. Thank you for your example. I will continue to pray for you.

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