Nov 13th, 2013

I am scared of Christmas.

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For the last year I have been dreading the end of fall because I knew that it would signal the start of the Christmas season. Christmas is always a force to be reckoned with. On a normal year it approaches with the subtlety and restraint of a runaway locomotive. We began planning for Christmas at Fresh Life this summer and even then, when it still seemed far away, it was difficult to think about facing the world wrapped in lights, silver bells and and holly. Last week I walked into a Starbucks in New Mexico and saw eggnog lattes were on the menu and they had a big display of Advent calendars near the counter. Ready or not, here it comes.

The truth is, every holiday has been difficult this year. Mother’s day was really hard. My birthday was too. As was Alivia’s birthday, the Fourth of July, Father’s Day, and Easter. These days are when the pain of Lenya’s absence is exaggerated. We miss her every day, but on days when you would always be together or have special traditions the ache just gets a little bit louder. The hardest, by far, this year was Lenya’s birthday. Not being able to be with her on a day that is all about her was unspeakably difficult. We know that Christmas will be very hard. She went to Heaven on December 20th, and we celebrated her life and had her funeral on December 26th.

Back to the runaway train. As I was falling asleep on Halloween I was thinking about how Thanksgiving is all that separates us from Christmas now. Once December begins everything in our society is built into making the ramp up for Christmas as loud and as visible as possible. Twelve days of Christmas. Little numbered doors hiding chocolate. These days and numbers all bring painful memories and traumatizing associations with them. Lenya’s favorite Christmas carol was “Santa Clause Is Coming To Town” by Justin Bieber, but truth be told I wouldn’t really mind it if old St. Nick got lost instead. I realize that I sound like Ebenezer Scrooge, and I am ok with that. Naming your fear is a part of getting through it and I am scared of Christmas.

Fortunately, I know that God isn’t scared of what scares me. Jesus is going to be with us, just as He was last year and just as Lenya is with Him now. I don’t have to pretend like I am not frightened either. I trust Him. He will walk with us through the flashbacks and the associations and the sleepless nights and the tears and the lack of tears. We will celebrate the birth of the One who came to destroy death and bring light and immortality to light through the Gospel. We will sing until our voice won’t let us. We will preach and celebrate seeing people come to know Jesus just like we did days after Lenya died in my arms. We will party if we can muster the courage, cry when we miss her and collapse if we have to. Even though He slays us we will bless His name. We always have a choice and I choose to rejoice.

Posted in Lenya Lion, raw thoughts

comments

  1. Kimberli Wehrman Says:

    Our family weeps for yours pastor Levi. My fear is your reality. That’s raw truth. We love you guys. Thank you for following Jesus and being an example and a humble servant of God. The way you deliver the message woke me up from the dead, joyless, fruitless spiritual slumber I was in for years as a backslidden christian. Your story, Lenya’s story, it is touching lives and changing hearts. All things, work together for our good. Praying, praying, praying!

  2. Donna Hull-Anderson Says:

    I admire your strengths to carry on blessing, praising,and following Christ. I can’t imagine your pains from the loss. I know I only have one son who is a prodigal son that really scares me. My fear of losing him to the worldly things and even death. My prayers for you and your family. I very much enjoy the podcast messages I get from your church thank you. Blessings. From Donna

  3. Donna Russell Says:

    I was 13 when my grandfather died on Christmas Eve, his funeral was on December 27th. He was the only father I knew and the confusion was raw and without answers. God took the only good man I had and left me with an abusive stepfather. The cocktail of poverty and abuse was never more fresh than every December. I’m now 68 years old and although I have walked with Jesus for over half of those years I still dislike this time of year. It reminds me more of those who don’t have and go without. It’s like the reverberations of fireworks in July exploding with the reality there is more pain at this time of year for more than we dare to know. Now a part of Elevation in NC and seeing hundreds come to Jesus at this time of the year I also remember those who can’t wait for January. My heart and prayers go out to you knowing God’s grace sustains you.

  4. Lavon Hill Says:

    Levi,
    Your and Jenny’s strength in the face of such sorrow never ceases to amaze me. I know that your strength comes from our Lord, yet being witness to it causes me to rise up and realize the strength that He has placed in each of us who look to him. Thank you for your dedication to The Lord. You not only talk the talk, but you walk the walk. Showing and teaching each of us that Jesus will be with us as we walk through this life, even if he has to carry us through difficult and heartbreaking situations. I thank Him for you and continue to lift you and your family up to Him. -Lavon

  5. Lisa Beown Says:

    I lived your fear with every passing holiday, birthday, family vacation and just about everything else you can imagine that first year. So thankful for the promises of our Father in heaven and looking forward to when we won’t ever have to celebrate a single thing without our precious children ever ever again! Prayers for you and your lovely family!!!

  6. I am always humbled by your transparency. I still remember reading Mary Beth Chapman’s book, “Choosing To See” and how someone had told her she had a remarkable testimony and how she glorified God through her tremendous loss. She told them that she really didn’t care about all of that, that she would trade it all to have her daughter back. The uncharted waters you and your family are navigating are ones I can’t even fathom and frankly, hope I never have to. You remain in our prayers and I am asking God to tighten His grip as the season is upon us.
    Love and hugs,
    Your sister in Christ,
    Connie Hopkins

  7. His strengh is seen in you/around you. May He pour down His Blessings on You and those You Love. Thank you for Loving Him and choosing to serve Him for in this way you glorify Him and help lost souls for you bring and share His Truth. ☆Jesus♡Never Fails,

  8. Laura Sowers Says:

    Thank you, Levi. You and yours will be in my prayers.

  9. Sue Haugan Says:

    Our small group started praying specifically about the Christmas season as it approaches for you & your family, Levi. Thank you for being real with us as you travel on with tears & fears, yet hope & looking toward our citizenship in heaven. And remember lots of us continue to lift you guys up in prayer!
    Sue & Chris Haugan

  10. Frances Flores Says:

    Press on for the goal brother, my heart is breaking for your family, I pray for you and your wife, my husband and I both care for your family very much. We all get homesick most when the ones we love are there waiting for us. Cling to the hope we have in Jesus Christ brother and love. Your sister, Fran

  11. Paola Gonzalez Says:

    I year ago I listened to your preaching of christmas and that change my life my point of view of Jesus. Thank you for open your heart and let us know that we can grieve but also be in the anchor of Jesus.

  12. Jennie S Says:

    Levi,

    In January I heard you preach at Harvest in Riverside about Lenya’s passing. I was watching the live stream from my ipad in Northern California. My heart ached for your loss. My life changed that day. I realized that being a “christian” wasn’t enough, I had always been lukewarm about Christ. Your message spoke to me like never before. This year has been a year of spiritual growth in my life. I am so sorry for your loss. Sending prayers your way! I watch your Fresh Life livestream every weekend and have been incredibly blessed by your powerful testimony and real teachings! God bless you and your family!

  13. Hannah Says:

    Hello Pastor Levi!
    Thanks for always being so real with your pain and being so encouraging in the midst of it. The last part of your blog reminded me of this song, “Though you slay me” by Shane and Shane. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the song before but hope you enjoy it!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyUPz6_TciY
    Your constant trust in the Lord encourages me so much!
    Your suffering is not wasted!!
    God Bless!

  14. Paul hill Says:

    I can’t imagine, words seem never to help these things. Me and my family love you guys though you don’t know us.I’ve talked to you at the wave a few times, but you guys are always on our hearts. And your family’s strength is amazing.We look forward to hearing the message Fod sends out so powerfully though you.We love you guys.

  15. It will be one year for us as well,on December 4, 2012 at 12:04am my grandson Joshua (28months old)went to be with our lord.

    Joshua 3rd birthday was August 21 and I was just having a difficult time and was feeling depressed. And although my mind and heart knew Joshua was with our lord I was still so very confused as to WHY. Something happend to me when Joshua died that I can’t begin to explain, but it wasn’t good.

    I went to Harvest Crusade, Anaheim, CA hoping to get my FIRE back, but wasn’t sure how. Then I seen you through the giant screens and reconized the pain in your eyes. You spoke of a bit about your loss 8 months prior (same as me). When I came home I googled you and over a couple of days read Lenya’s passing and the testamony you gave shortly after with Greg Laurie at Harvest, Riverside, CA.

    Levi I just want to say thank you. Through your grief you have helped me with mine. I have regained my fire and I’m getting stronger and stronger as a christian :-D

    As for you and your family, you all in my thoughts and prayers.

  16. Bonnie williamson Says:

    Courage…Jesus is coming soon! Prayers for strength and comfort for you, your family, the fresh life congregation and staff.

  17. Rebecca Miller Says:

    Levi, I have been thinking that this Christmas would be awfully hard for your family. I met your wife and girls at ballet class and ever since Lenya’s death, you all have been in my prayers regularly. It’s so wise of you to name your fear. And know that of course it is normal to be afraid. I’m sure the Christmas season will have lots of triggers for you guys. So glad that you are walking through the Valley of the Shadow WITH Jesus. So glad death is not the final word. May God give you strength as you go through a difficult first holiday season without your dear girl. May Jesus be very near to you.

    Love in Christ,
    Rebecca
    Bethany Lutheran, Bigfork

  18. Ashley Says:

    Amen, Levi. “Though He slay me, I will trust Him.” We serve a risen Christ, a Redeemer who lives & loves us wholly, in our broken, displaced, ruined state. Thank you for your transparency. God bless you with His tender mercy in this extremely difficult time.

  19. I’m sorry, man… We’re praying for you and your family. Please, please, please hang in there. We love you guys, and God has used all of you so much.

  20. Brother, I am praying for you and your family. Your faith is strengthening and helping people you don’t even know! That day is soon approaching where every eye will see Him, and as you see Him you will see her as well!! Please know that you have a whole multitude of students and adults praying for you in Georgia and North Carolina! Love you brother!!

  21. I’m thankful for you & Jennie’s honesty, hope, courage and for bringing us along with you on your journey. You are all in out prayers.
    -Jessie & Shannon Quintana

  22. My heart aches for you and your family pastor. I pray that you will feel God’s arms holding you up during this difficult Holiday season. When I wake up at night and cannot sleep it seems my thoughts and prays always go to your and your family. Maybe that is Gods’ way of surrounding you in pray even in the dark of night. I will continue to hold you up in my prayers. Your strength is so contagious. Thank You.

  23. Marilyn Says:

    Oh Levi, my heart aches for you. Once, in a terrible moment I felt that I was actually and literally hiding within The Lord. He is in you, and you are in Him and can hide in Him. He walks with our feet, he talks through our lips. He cries through our tears. And then, when we are worn, he takes us in His arms and hides us under His Wing.

  24. Mary todd Says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart. Well said, I know far too well the pain behind your powerful words. It is incredulous and scary for us to face another Christmas without our beloved Shane. The Todd family stands with you in love and prayer for the sake of the Kingdom. Though He slay us, we will bless His Name. We live for the line, not the dot.

  25. Donita Says:

    I pray for you too.i can relate to so much you say. our only child died on mother’s day after taking me out for lunch. She had to get back o grade her student’s papers and I hugged her,said I’ll see you next weekend (when we would help her move into a new apartment and also celebrate he 26thbirthday) God took her home 1 hour later when someone drove her off the road. Mother’s Day makes me wretch and the commercials start right after Easter. I have learned how merciful God is and how much he loves me every day. A few days after her death I sat sobbing on the can, teeth grinding and snarled “if you think you can love her more than I ” …the words were choked in my throat before I could finish and I felt and heard ” I do and iI am” I go back to that moment when some hard handed devil slap of an ad surprises me and know how blessed I am and ask Jesus to slam the door shut for me on the attack, he does, and move out. keep preaching and teaching you are an inspiration!

  26. Gloria Curl Says:

    I get scared for Dec too Levi. My mother passed away on Dec 20 when I was just a child. Then my son left this earth on Dec. 1 2005. I know the feelings well.
    It would be so nice to walk around Dec….but we can’t…we are asked to walk through it. Just know when you can’t walk…when you are sitting on the side of the road unable to move.. we are there with you. To pick you up…to pull you…to crawl along side of you. We are there with you.
    We love you and your family. Run with horses Levi !

  27. Robyn Tolhurst Says:

    You don’t know me but I’m a friend of Debbie Jones and she sent me your post. I think
    because she knew I could understand what you are going through as much as any of
    any one does who loses their partner way to soon. Yes each of the first holidays are filled
    dread but God is a gracious God. If you let Him in your heart , He will fill it with joy again. Will you forget, no. Will all the pain be gone ruefully no. He will always be with
    you and you will never be alone, even if you are feeling lonely. As you say every feel is ok. Surrouroud yourself with people who understand that.As I lost my daughter first
    and then my husband 10 months later I needed and got lots of up port from the the body of Christ. I will keep you and your family in my prayers not just for the holidays but for the coming year. God Bless You All, Your Friend In Christ Robyn Tolhurst

  28. LA Stone Says:

    I’m thanking God that Jesus bore our sorrows; He was a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. We learn to heal through experience, because head knowledge of the bible just isn’t real till we go through something that flings us into the arms of daddy God. And He does not disappoint. The pain is a reminder of how much we need Him for everything. He carries our hearts so well.

  29. Pastor Levi, Ps 16:8&9 are what Jesus practiced on earth, which is what I desire and am praying for you. Keep the LORD always before you and realize He is at our right side. Then our heart will be glad and rejoice and our flesh will rest in HOPE. Even though, I will! Thanks for giving us practical apps for painful attacks! Love you brother!

  30. Linda Kauffman Says:

    Praying for your family. Trusting in him -
    He’s got you guys- that’s what gets us thru each
    Day here. Your faith and grace under intense
    Fire inspires many- including me!
    Thank you and Thank God for being God:)
    Heaps of blessings on your sweet family

  31. M. Herzog Says:

    Real, Raw, Relevant – You and your family are so brave and so loved. You bless us with your perspective and abondon to worship Him through this journey. God has blessed me and my family through your constant example and testimony, of humility, honesty and faith.

    Thank you and Jenny for answering the call like you do!
    You are constantly on our minds and in our prayers.

  32. You, your family and your faith are a tremendous inspiration and source of strength for my family and I. Thank you for your determination to serve the Lord and I’m praying for you and yours this holiday. I can connect with those somewhat paralyzing reminders of tragedies related to certain seasons and events. God bless you and the Freshlife fam! -Sean Cordi

  33. Sharon Stromsmoe Says:

    Levi and Jenny…just a note from canada to say how much your lives have blessed ours and so many of us up here. cannot imagine the pain because we have not been thru that specific thing although have been through other type of family pain. your messages have been amazing inspiration for so many of us and you have to know that what has come from your life, especially in light of your loss has touched so many hearts….to encourage you today, please know that as you continue to let the Holy Spirit speak through you, you are impacting countless people for Christ. Remember!!!…we keep our eyes on heaven!
    Thankyou again
    Mylo and Sharon

  34. [...] this to say, the holidays are hard. Really hard (my husband wrote an incredible blog about this a few weeks back) I’m guessing, for most people, there is deep aching and pain [...]

  35. Tiffany Kratzer Says:

    Dear Levi,
    I have been sitting here for hours going through your blog over the past year. My twin son, Jacob, died at 27 months old just 3 months after your sweet girl, Lenya. My road has been different. I had such faith before- such awe for God and such a trust. Jacob died in his crib while we slept. He was a healthy little boy, sweet, happy- oh so happy, he loved his life, his twin brother, his family. My heart shattered that morning when my husband brought my lifeless son to me in fear hoping I would say he is ok. I knew he was gone. I am a pediatrician and struggle everyday with what could have happened, how this happened. I am not certain, but he may have died in the same way Lenya did. He was asleep, at least we though he was- he had a mild virus with so very intermittent coughing and mild wheezing and despite the fact that I thought he was ok, I still brought him to our pediatrician never wanting to treat our own children and they believed he was fine. My husband and I struggle with guilt and the pain of not knowing what happened, if he suffered unable to breath, scared and alone without us- wanting us. We didn’t hear anything. I struggle with the guilt that I should have had him in bed with us, my husband with the guilt of closing the door after I asked him to check on him hearing him cough in the middle of the night. He was so peaceful though, seemingly asleep on his belly when he was found. For months, I prayed God would take me- and if he wouldn’t take me, to please help to know that he didn’t suffer. Then I became confused, why. Why didn’t God step in- my God is all powerful and loving so how can I still pray in faith as I did every night for those two little boys who were my biggest blessing from him. I don’t know if you will read this, but I am desperately losing my faith, I have not been able to step in church because I feel abandoned, that God could not love me and allow this- my worst nightmare and fear that has broken me all with no way of ever really knowing what happened to him- my sweet Jacob. I want to believe he Is in glory, that he didn’t suffer and I am wondering if you could tell me more about Lenya knowing she had an asthma attack, did she suffer long? How have you kept such amazing faith? I want this back- I want to believe I will see him again and as you said in one of your entries “that every day is a step closer” to him. Thank you. Thank you so much.

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