Dec 20th, 2013

The Year of the Eagle

Lenya Lion

“I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Exodus 19:4

The other night at bed time we were tucking Alivia and Daisy in. We were talking about how we were close to the one year mark of Lenya being in Heaven. Alivia said, “Wait, how many days will that be?” “Three hundred and sixty five days,” I said. She looked surprised and sighed deeply. I asked, “How many days does it feel like it’s been to you?” She thought about it for a moment and then said, “Sometimes it feels like it’s only been two days and sometimes it feels like it’s been a thousand.”

She is exactly right. In some ways time has stood still. It seems like it was just a moment ago that we were clutching Lenya’s hands crying out to Jesus to send her back to us. The adrenaline, panic, hope and peace of that night seared all of that so deeply into my memory I can go there, whether I want to or not, very easily. In other ways it feels like we have lived a lifetime of grief and sadness, faith and worship in the last year and it is difficult to remember ever not having this thorn in the flesh.

As of today, Lenya has been in Heaven for exactly one year. She broke camp on December 20, 2012. Her earthly house, this tent, dissolved and she got to go Home. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. By earthly time, she has been there in Paradise for 12 months. The Bible says that to the Lord a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day so whether it has seemed as a moment to her, or an eternity, I don’t know. Perhaps like in C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” she has experienced more in this year than could fill 100 books, or maybe we will enter into eternity just moments after her.

There have been moments of unbelievable, incomprehensible pain in the last year. Having to walk into the waiting room and tell Alivia that her little sister and best friend is with Jesus. Standing in a snowy cemetery on the day after Christmas, watching as an all-too-small box is lowered into the earth. Coming across her favorite pair of boots, scuffed and beautiful. Seeing the notch marks on the pantry door where we measure the girls height continue to shoot up for her sisters while Lenya’s stays still, frozen in time at December 15, the last time she put her back to the door and giggled (and tried to get away with standing tiptoed) while we drew a line. I get sick to my stomach and nearly hyperventilate whenever I see someone giving CPR in a movie. Ambulance sirens make me lightheaded too.

But there has been breathtaking beauty too. God’s presence has been palpable. I have never known Him so closely or sensed His Spirit so strong as in this season of sorrow. If it weren’t for this pain I would not understand His strength the same way. I have screamed in the night and sunk to my knees in despair only to rise to my feet with supernatural strength that was not my own. We have felt Him hold us and breathe life into us while our hands were shaking and our hearts were aching. The name of the Lord has been a tower to run to, a shield to hide behind, a song to sing and a banner over us. The Spirit of Jesus has wet cracked lips, dried wet eyes, and defanged our fears.

Added to that is the way we have seen the Lord use our story and Lenya’s life. Our pain has been a microphone. The more it hurts the louder it gets. We have not only been able to minister to many other hurting and suffering people who are facing similar waters, but the Lord has broken us in ways that has allowed us to speak to people who might not have ever listened otherwise. We believe that nothing is wasted. Jesus has put to use what He has put us through and we know He will continue to.

The ramp-up for Christmas has been very hard because all around us are reminders of painful moments, but they are also reminders of God’s goodness and His faithfulness. Yes, when I see a lit-up tree or hear a Christmas carol it makes me remember what we lost one year ago today, the fact that we set up decorations with Lenya for a Christmas that we never got to experience. But I also remember the way He sustained us, anchored us and gave us peace. Besides, the reason there ever was a Christmas in the first place is because of death. That’s why Jesus came — to defeat the grave. I choose to remember that because of Christmas, our life with Lenya is not over, it is just on hold for now. Until we see her again she is with the Prince of Peace, urging us on in this race of faith, reminding us to cue the eagle whenever we grow weak and reminding us to make it count.

If you didn’t have the chance to meet Lenya, the celebration of her life is available to watch online here. Through it you can really get a sense of the amazing person she is and what an impact she has had on so many people.

Posted in family, heaven, Lenya Lion


  1. Love you guys. I’ve been praying for you throughout the year and especially this week.

  2. Nadeen Mayfield Says:

    Praying for you and your family. I’m so sorry for the heartache
    you are going through as parents. I can’t imagine it.
    I can only imagine what her heavenly time has been like.
    Lifting you all up in the name of Jesus for strength to get you
    all through all your days.

  3. Levi, thanks for sharing this hard road with us. Many prayers today for you and your family from the East Coast.

  4. Djones Says:

    I came upon your church website about 6 months ago or so through following Crystal Lewis on Instagram. It took me months to watch Lenya’s celebration of life. I would get a huge lump in my throat every time I tried to watch. I finally did and was uplifted and inspired. I have three beautiful girls of my own that God has so blessed me with so I can’t imagine. I lost my dad suddenly 18 months ago and the pain of just missing him made my heart just ache. Trying to figure out the numbness and reality of the fact that he is no longer with us was nauseating. One day I read something Jennie had written about seeing Lenya again “That Day” and it brought relief and joy to me to think oh, I will see him and many others on That Day. I found such peace when you wrote on your blog how you are afraid of Christmas. I felt that last year and this year. I shared that with several of my close friends who had recently lost their mother. They both found peace in reading that. You know how to put into words exactly what I was and am feeling. God has blessed you with that gift. I’m afraid of Christmas too but your writing reminded me that God promises to be close to the brokenhearted. I have shared Lenya’s life and her love for Jesus with friends and with my daughters. They love, love her sense of fashion!! My girls are 21, 16 and 11. Two of them had to have combat boots after seeing her with boots all dolled up.
    Your family’s faith has blessed me. It has strengthened me somehow. It’s made me crave to know God deeper and helped me understand we have a purpose here.
    My dad was so silly and funny. He was such a hard working man who worked for CSX RR since he was 19. He was less than a year from retiring. His hands were the strongest of any man I knew. He always had a cut or bruise from working. Days he had off he still found work to do around our house. He loved to work with his hands. When we knew we had just a short time left with him I just sat and held his hand and thought of how hard he had worked his whole life for me and my siblings. He now could rest. He made so many people laugh. He loved kids. I bet he and Lenya just might be silly together and just hang out. Until That Day.

  5. Karen Mateeff Says:

    Just the words, being with, the “Prince of Peace” gives me chills. May God wrap you in his Eagle Wings. May God bless you, your family and ministry richly with his amazing love this season. In Jesus we have all the hope we need.

  6. Ben McClain Says:

    You guys are a true example of “casting your cares on the Lord”. God’s strength through you has encouraged and strengthened so many. You don’t know how many people were eternally impacted through your family’s story, but you will soon enough! I’m sure Lenya will be the first one to tell you all that God has done through this! Love you guys all the way from CT!
    -Ben McClain

  7. You and your family have been on my heart all week. Will continue to hold you up in my prayers today. May God’s peace surround you today.

  8. This type of heartache is beyond comparison. I lift you up before the King of Kings to strengthen you like never before. You Christmas message is the best one I have EVER heard. It encapsulates Chirst for in the midst of your deepest pain. You chose to stand and offer HOPE to all others. God bless you and your family!

  9. Lisa Brown Says:

    I’m with Alivia on that one sometimes it feels like 2 days and sometimes it feels like 2000 days. My heart is filled with sadness for you and your beautiful family as it is for my own family who suffered the same loss and the many many many others that I have had the amazing opportunity to share, comfort and encourage through the same heartache. Praying for your family always.

  10. [...] (December 20, 2014): Click here to read Levi’s heart on the one-year anniversary of Lenya’s [...]

  11. Eileen Algaze Says:

    So very moving. The pain you and your girls experienced and are still experiencing is a process of grief. In the beginning the pain engulfs us. It’s like if a part Of your body was yanked off. You can still feel that part of your body (known as a phantom limb) but can’t see it or use it. You have no other choice but to learn how to live the rest of your remaining days on earth without your limb. I know it’s a weird analogy but that’s how I feel. I lost my father at the age of 12. I promise you, that it gets easier. The trauma that you and your family experienced will forever be a part of your life, like a scar but like all scars, it takes time to heal. I hope you and your family encourage each other to talk about this greif and maybe even seek counseling if you haven’t done so already especially with the girls. It really helps in the grieving process especially children that may not know how to grieve. Sometimes children feel that if their parents watch them grieve they may feel guilty because they know you (the parents)are in pain and don’t want to see you grieve or cause you to become upset so they don’t usually get to grieve the way they should. I promise you that the first few years is hard but it gets easier…. And the pain will eventually get easier too.. Hang on Lusko family…. Your anchor is in Christ… Our solid rock and foundation.

  12. Katie Chamberlain Says:

    Many prayers and blessings to the whole family!

  13. Cristy Says:

    You guys are amazing and we continue to pray for you. Whenever I think of her and your family I get a little teary eyed but it quickly turns in to a prayer for your family! I I pray God continues to use you guys and all of your stories for the greater good as He has so far. Your wife is seriously one of my modern day heroes, I admire her strength, passion and detication. You guys are awesome – with love from CA (Calvary San Jose )

  14. God is moving. Inspiration. Hope. Love. Deep faith. So thankful for her life and her story. Nothing is wasted and I wanna thank you for helping us see that. In memory of how much she impacted my life, God’s story over her, I want to name my first girl in memory of Lenya. Such a powerful story. Impacting lives still. Thank you. We love you Lusko’s!

  15. Kathy Shaver Says:

    Missing Lenya’s smiling face, and eager attitude in Kid’s ministry to this day. Thanks for sharing your feelings in such an exquisite way. Many prayers coming your way Lusko family. May the peace that transcends all understanding overwhelm you.

  16. Jesse Moore Says:

    Love you guys so much and praying for you. My family is lifting you all up in prayer today. Thankful for your leadership. Expecting God to do huge things this weekend.

  17. thanks for sharing levi. love your descriptive words! praying for your family.

  18. Charlotte Says:

    I was just thinking about you and your little girl yesterday [as I have done often throughout the year] and wondering how you have made it through this last year.

    Thank you for sharing your life and heart in this most beautiful & probably very difficult to write, update.

    God bless you & family. May He continue to give you all His strength to sustain you and His joy for your sorrow.

  19. I am praying for you and your sweet family.

  20. Through your families faith in Christ, grace is spread to many! Thank you guys for sharing!!!

  21. words cannot express the love we have for God, our Church and the Lusko’s. Through you our lives are richer. Through your pain, we have learned. Through your teachings, we grow. Through Lenya, we’ve learned to have more faith than you can imagine. God Bless you Lusko’s.

  22. Amanda Minatra Says:

    We say heart and soul so often, what does it mean? It means we’re with you, Pastor. We’re weeping with you, rejoicing with you, charging into battle with you, following the vision God has given you with everything in us. It means we’re on our knees praying for you, lifting your arms up. We love you and Jennie and the girls, so much. We love Lenya and ache for Heaven with you, but until that day we fight tooth and nail to see those stranded in sin find life and liberty in Christ.

    Words cannot properly convey, but we continue to say #heartandsoul and mean it from the depth of our souls.

  23. Jane Burleson Says:

    Dear Levi and Jennie,
    The pain you have endured is what would be described as ‘the worst pain one could experience’-the loss of a child. No parent wants to outlive their children. Levi, you are so articulate and your words bring honor to this process, to Lenya and to the Lord’s faithfulness. Our pain in this world can be so, so deep; yet like a well of water, no matter how deep the well of pain, the water of Jesus’ love goes deeper still. More pain: more love poured in. Could sound stupidly poetic but it is sincerely true just the same. Our hearts share in your sorrow and in your joys. Sincerest regards to your precious family.

  24. Nancy Harwell Says:

    Joining the circle of the many hearts, all across the country, who are praying for your beautiful family today. Arms around you in Christ’s love.

    2 Corinthians 4:18

  25. Kathryn Berg Says:

    Dear Levi and Jennie, I have been anticipating this day along with you and praying for you each day. My heart breaks and tears flow whenever I think of you all and the heartbreaking loss of Lenya, so young yet so FULL of life! Lenya’s legacy is one we can all only hope to emulate no matter how long we live but with your guidance and teaching we are growing in our walk and our outreach. We want to share in your grief and can only hope that with our tears we can spare you some of your own. I believe that only those who have lost a child can truly identify with the Father’s own loss of his only Son, our Lord. May God bless you and keep you. May he make His face to shine upon you and give you peace this day and in the days to come. We love you and are sooo grateful to God for bringing you to us and bringing us to Freshlife! God bless you and all your family. PS Your Christmas card was so beautiful and so poignant. Thank you. In His love…

  26. Benjamin Brady Says:

    Bless you very much I’m kinda tearing up having a day walking up steep cliffs and reading this is bringing tears if a sort of joy in my heart. God bless you.

  27. Bonnie williamson Says:

    Prayers for continued strength and comfort of our Lord. Little lenya lion has touched so many. I am positive she heard those wonderful words….well done good and faithful servant! Looking forward to meeting her one day. Much love

  28. Teresa Hilderbrand Says:

    Pastor Lusko, I had the pleasure of meeting you just two weeks ago while visiting my daughter in Kalispell. She, along with my mother and I were having dinner at the table next to you at Lattitude 48. I had been curious about Skull Church since first seeing the sign; my daughter assured me that you wouldn’t mind being asked about it. We tried to be polite, although interupting your meal…and you were kind enough to explain the “why” that surrounds the name of the church. It made so much sense as you explained that if you can get people to ask questions, then you have a great opportunity to share Christ with them.

    My heart goes out to you as I read your post today with tears running down my face. May God richly bless you and your family this Christmas season and in the coming year. Know that I too, will be lifting you up in prayer.

    In Christian Love,

    Teresa Stockton Hilderbrand

  29. Angelina Says:

    Thank you for your humble and honest spirits! In your darkest moments you have given so much light to what GOD can really do! How beautifully he can turn bad into good, pain into joy and death into life! Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

  30. Adriana Says:

    I attend Harvest Riverside church with Pastor Greg, and I have been praying for you and your family throughout this year. :(

    Only God will give you strength your family needs.
    Love you guys…


  31. Laney Corbett Says:

    Wanted you to know that I prayed for your family this morning and y’all have been in my thoughts throughout the day. I heard you share your story at Elevation. May God continue to be you strength and bless you as you continue to serve him.

  32. Carly Merriman Says:

    Although you have no idea who I am, know that you are often placed on my heart by our precious Savior and I weep tears with you and pray for God’s grace poured over you often. What a joy to know that you are being so greatly used by Him. Love from Calvary Chapel Bozeman.

  33. Mcgregor Says:

    Such deep pain for your family!! Raise our grandchildren & want to attend your church! We are lost! Need Guidance however told children cannot attend service! Sad!
    We are free floating! Feel forsaken!

  34. Debi Berg Says:

    Dear Levi, Jennie, and girls,
    I have been lifting you all up in my prayers and holding you close in my heart, especially today. It is gut-wrenchingly painful to face those firsts or those tenths, when grief seems to consume your joy and fear chokes out your laughter, when your hand that once held another’s is empty. But then God pulls your head to His chest and slips His hand in your empty hand and whispers, “I’m right here.” Then you know you will be ok because this separation, as horrible as it is, is only temporary because Jesus gave it all up to be the bridge that crosses that gap and makes all this pain just a temporary journey, until we meet again on that beautiful shore, always the anchor for our soul. Much love to you all.

  35. Margie Anderson Says:

    You don’t know me but I heard about Lenya through Calvary Community Church. Just wanted you to know that I have been praying for you all since last year and will continue to do so. May you be blessed and encouraged and comforted by The Lord.

  36. Gail Walashek Says:

    My mother’s heart is breaking for you and your family Levi, and also my own family as we make preparations to bury my precious son this coming Monday, even as I also rejoice in the hope of where Chris, his father Mike, and Lenya are, and the glorious reunion our families will have with our loved ones in the Lord’s timing. May He comfort you and your family and continue to give you His joy in the midst of sorrow and heartache.

  37. Jay Knott Says:

    Keep up the good work Pastor Levi. I know a ton of people are praying for you and your family. I got to see your story when you came to Charlotte and visited Elevation on a Saturday evening. Since then, I’ve tried to make just about everyone I know watch it on the Elevation website. I go back to it from time to time, whenever I feel my faith tested even the slightest. I hope your family has a wonderful Christmas, though I know it will be difficult at times. I just wanted to say thank you, for sharing your story. I can’t imagine how many people you’ve reached. I can only tell you, I’m definitely one of them. Thanks again man, and may God bless you and your family.

  38. Dave Everingham Says:

    Dear Levi and precious family, WOW! your story and life spent with your Beautiful Lenya is a mirror image of my own painful journey and I am so so sorry for your loss. My Beautiful 13 yr old Rachel died suddenly and unexpectedly from an undiagnosed heart condition on 23rd Dec 2010. Tomorrow is the third painful anniversary of her death and as you have said it feels like the time has flown amidst the confusion, pain and absolute heartache of my loss and grief, but also feels like an Eternity since I have held her and looked into her eyes. I had tears streaming down my face as I read about your experience, as I too tried my guts out to perform CPR and simply do what we fathers do………fix stuff for our kids! How can I not fix the most important thing that Rachy needed from me when I had always fixed everything else for her??? I also have the breath sucked from my lungs at the sight and sound of an ambulance in full flight. But, right from the very first moments of realising that my life had just changed for ever, I have never have acknowledged God’s absolute sovereignty over our circumstances and that he in fact has chosen to use Rachel’s death to reach and teach others about the truth of believing in Jesus and about the Hope that underpins the lives of his people, even in the stormiest of seas. Levi, I too am extremely thankful to Jesus that Rachel’s real salvation means that she has spent the last three years in Glory, safe in the everlasting arms of Jesus! While I daily thank him for all that he has done to allow her to be with him there, I also ask him to teach me how to serve him best and most effectively within the new reality of what is now my life. After reading your message its Interesting that my reading this morning 22/12, was on the flight of the Eagle. Also for me every aspect of my faith has been highlighted. My Eternal perspective has been Zoomed in immensely and as you said, I have never known Jesus in the way and on the level that exists now within the suffering and the DEEP pain. Hey, I wonder if our little girls are hanging out together in heaven?? The day before Rachel died, she wrote on the ‘to do’ list on our fridge – BE HAPPY LOVE EVERYONE! and we happened to come across it while walking round the house in a pain filled daze on the day of her death. This statement sums up who she was/is, and her faith and message challenge us to be all that our God has in store for us. Thank you for having the courage to share your story Levi, and I hope that your Christmas, as painful as it will be as you too deal with the empty place at the table and the absent beautiful face, will be filled with the Peace of Jesus. I will continue to pray for you and your family. Take care and as many people have said to us – be kind to yourself.

  39. Rachel Cookston Says:

    Wow, I saw a video on youtube last year. My friend had just told me about you. So I listened to you on the night of Lenya’ s memorial….. I am so sorry for your loss, I can’t even imagine your pain. I will be praying for your family.

  40. Tears in my eyes as I write this.. Words can not express the sorrow within. Love you guys and am praying for you during this time.

  41. Glenda Brown Says:

    Levi and Jenny, so many threads of my new life leading back to you two. Because of your faithfulness and the strength of God’s message to us, my husband was saved four years ago… and because of this, the Lord used him to refine me…. and I was still here when my mother died Nov. 4, 2013… and I was able to pray with her as she died to receive the Lord’s forgiveness and peace…..and her flailing and calling out gave way to a peace that remained until she drew her last breath here on earth… and I will see her in a totally new way in heaven… because of your faithfulness and strength. How can “Thank you” cover it? Praying faithfully that you be strengthened through this joyous season.

  42. [...] Pastor Levi Lusko of Fresh Life Church in Montana lost his daughter suddenly to an asthma attack. A post on his blog this past Friday marked this painful anniversary. One year ago, instead of deciding on those last minute Christmas [...]

  43. [...] She is exactly right. In some ways time has stood still. It seems like it was just a moment ago that we were clutching Lenya’s hands crying out to Jesus to send her back to us… Read full article on Levi’s blog>> [...]

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