The honeymoon is over

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When you first get married there is a newness to it that causes everything to glow. It is surreal, like living in a dream. No more saying goodbye at the end of the night. No more falling asleep with your mobile phone because after you dropped her off you still wanted to talk as you drove home and got ready for bed, brushed your teeth and drifted off together. (Thanks Verizon.) Now you get to brush your teeth together!

When Jennie and I first got married we didn’t want to leave the house. We had spent our engagement at church, restaurants, other people’s houses and public places in order to avoid being alone in our two apartments like the plague. We knew ourselves and our desire for each other too well to put ourselves in a place of temptation. So once we said “I do” we had no desire to go out. We played board games, cooked, ordered food in, and pretty much became shut-in’s. It was awesome. A new marriage is like a new car, everything is so fresh and magical.

This is a wonderful thing but it is not sustainable. The euphoria and newness of it all has no choice but to give way to the reality and inevitably of life. Goosebumps can’t last forever. Marriage is an endurance sport. You can cultivate those initial feelings by doing the first things but you can’t count on them. Try as you might that elusive new car smell can’t be kept longterm. Believe it or not, this is actually a good thing.

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Today is Daisy’s Birthday!

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My little Daisy Grace turns three today! She is such a funny, sweet, and sensitive little girl. Of all our kids she is the most independent. She doesn’t need other people around her to keep herself busy, amused or entertained.

She is incredibly smart and has a great memory. I love going on walks with her and holding her hand. It is a huge honor to be Daisy’s daddy. I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for her life.


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I am so excited to announce my wife’s new website! God has given her such a gift and calling and this will be another avenue for her to vocalize the things that are brewing inside her. I am thrilled to see and learn from her posts. Check it out!

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Today is our wedding anniversary

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Jennie and I have been married for nine years today! I remember the morning of our wedding day vividly. While my groomsmen were still crashed out at my place, I left the house early to drive around and process what was about to happen. The song, “Amazing Grace” came on the radio and I was singing along and thinking about this girl that God had brought into my life who was about to become my wife. I was overcome by the grace of God, that He would entrust such a delicate beauty to an ogre like me. Tears of joy and thankfulness began streaming down my face as I worshipped and asked Him to bless our marriage. I can only imagine what other cars thought was happening in the next lane!

Nine years later I still am blown away by God’s grace in giving Jennie to me. She is velvet coated steel. Her touch is soft and her soul is strong. There is no one I would rather do life with.

We have been through so much together. Sickness and health. Good and Bad. Life and death. We’ve done ministry all over the country. Seen God move in power through His Holy Spirit. We have brought four children in to this world and we have one waiting for us in Heaven.

I love you Jenni-flower. You have ravished my heart.


Arrows

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I love that the Bible describes children as arrows in the hand of a warrior. They are weapons to be launched out as bright lights in a dark world. As parents we are archers and our job is to do all we can to help them hit the target.

The honor of being a mom or a dad is that you are entrusted with one of God’s special little arrows. He wants you to fit each one to your bowstring, aim carefully, pull with all your might and then whenever He calls you to, you must let it fly. Our number one concern should be that while we had them in our hand we did everything we could to help them reach heaven at the end of their mission.

Jennie and I have been blessed by the Lord with four little arrows. Three are still in our quiver and one is now in the target. Lenya flew straight and true. Though her flight on this earth was far shorter than we thought or would have liked, she struck the dead center of the bullseye with great eternal impact.

We are not going to take a second we have with Alivia, Daisy or Clover for granted for we aren’t guaranteed how long we will have with them either. As long as God sees fit to trust them to our care they will be planted in the house of the Lord all their earthly days, and our absolute highest prayer for their lives is that, like Lenya is now, they would dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, matters more than this.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. (Psalms 127:4 NKJV)


Alivia shares from her devotional


Alivia was looking back in her daily devotional and re-read the entry from the day her sister Lenya went to heaven. When I got home today she was telling me about it, I was so blessed by her insight and sweet spirit I wanted her to share it.


The Vanishing Point

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While on a recent trip to the coast Alivia snapped this polaroid of Jennie and I staring out into the mysterious and gloomy sea on a foggy day. When she showed it to me it seemed to perfectly encapsulate life for us right now. Our eyes are straining to see something that we can’t. The sun is hiding behind clouds and refusing to shine. Life is unfolding in muted colors and in a minor-key.

It has been six weeks since Lenya left this world. She is not gone, just out of our sight. In his book Heaven Randy Alcorn compared it to standing on a dock watching a ship sail away and head to the horizon. Though it seems like it is gone, when it finally disappears from sight, it is not. The ship hasn’t actually vanished, it has just gone somewhere else. To those at the port the vessel is heading to, it is just the opposite. The ship appears where you lost sight of it and grows as it draws near.

That is how we see this through the lens of faith. Our daughter set sail for Heaven 42 days ago. Though we can’t see her, we know that she is with the Lord. Her departure was also an arrival–a Homecoming.

Our eyes are teary and red, standing on the dock where we last saw her, struggling in vain to see even a small speck of her on the horizon. It feels like each day she is drifting further and further away and I hate the passing of time for it. I dread the thought that tomorrow it will have been 43 days since we snuggled and laughed and it seems she will slip away. In one sense that’s true, time is taking us away from our past together with her. But in another more real sense it is doing just the opposite. The day is quickly approaching when we will embark on the same voyage that she did and set sail for Heaven ourselves. As the hours and minutes pass we are getting closer and closer to our future together. Time is our friend, not our foe.

So even though it feels like “goodbye,” it’s actually, “see you soon.” And that brings great comfort to our melancholy hearts.


The happiest place on earth

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One of the girls’ Christmas presents this year was a visit to Disneyland. We were supposed to fly to California the day after Christmas and spend a day riding rides and meeting characters, and if Lenya had her way, eating lots of cotton candy. Things turned out very different. Our airplane took off without us as we stood shedding tears in a snowy cemetery.

A smaller, stunned and broken-hearted version of our family eventually made it to California. We hadn’t kept the trip a surprise so they had all been talking about it for several months and had mapped out which rides we should go on while we were there and in what order. Though she wasn’t with us, we headed to Lenya’s first choice and rode it right off the top. It was all bittersweet. We have terrific memories of her all over the park, from previous trips, that we cherished and were stung by as we laughed, smiled and cried our way through the day.

One of Disneyland’s nicknames is, “The Happiest Place on Earth” and, even though adults love to bag on this title because of the long lines and dollar signs, I think it is pretty fantastic. Especially when you experience it through the eyes of your kids. The sights, smells and sensations are all carefully crafted to be warm, bright and exciting. That was Walt Disney’s whole idea, to build a utopia for children of all ages, a perfect little world where fantasy is reality and dreams do come true–if you wish upon a star. Of course it’s all fake. There is a dude inside the Mickey costume, you can’t live in the castle, and it all closes at end of day.

The good news is that Jesus said that there really is a place like the one Walt tried to create, where every dream comes true. It’s not the Magic Kingdom, but the Messiah’s Kingdom. It’s called Heaven. He promised that there is room for us in His Father’s House and that He would bring us there one day. My daughter Lenya is there with Him right now. The Bible also promises that the day is coming when all of Heaven will come down and be permanently fused to the new Earth. When that day comes there will be no unhappy places on the planet. All of earth will be as cheerful as It’s a Small World, but much less creepy.

What gave us great joy as we waited in line for Dumbo, one of Lenya’s very favorite rides, ate six dollar churro’s, and took photos that have a conspicuous absence in them, was the thought that Lenya is in the place Disneyland is trying to be. Paradise. Though we wished desperately she could be there with us we held on to the comforting reality that she was not missing out on the fun. We were. Our sadness was for us and not for her. We wanted her there with us to laugh at the silly faces we made for the camera at the end of Space Mountain, to meet Ariel and to spin furiously in the Mad Hatter’s Teacups because it would have been better for us. But returning to this fallen earth would not mean more fun for her but far less.

The reality is even the happiest place on earth, on it’s best day, can’t hold a candle to Heaven. Disneyland is like a cross between the DMV and the Dentist compared to the slightest sliver of what Heaven will be like. David said that one day in God’s courts are better than a thousand elsewhere. She is with the Lord in a perfect place and she has been made perfect too. In the Kingdom she is in there really are princesses living in the sparkly castle, and she is one of them. And maybe just maybe the animals really do talk where she is. We miss her with all our hearts and I have no doubt that she is looking forward to the day when we will see what she is seeing and experience what she is experiencing. I can’t wait. Until that day I want to reach as many people as possible so they can go there too.


30 days in Heaven

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It has been 30 days now since my second born child Lenya stepped into eternity. Her last breath, which she took in my arms, was immediately followed by her first breath in the arms of her Savior and Creator Jesus Christ. Scripture promises nothing less than an instant transition to Heaven for the believer–to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. In her final moment on the earth, like Stephen, she saw Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, standing to greet her as angels brought her into God’s presence. Her consciousness which was lost to us on the earth was transferred seamlessly into a place Jesus made specifically for her in His Father’s house where she is safe from harm and waiting for us to join her.

I believe every single letter and every single word of the paragraph I just wrote. Tears streamed down my face as I typed them out and I had to walk away from the computer before I could continue because I started to hyperventilate–I am trying to write about the single most traumatic and painful moments of my thirty years of life after-all. But I believe what I said with all my heart. Thirty days ago, for Lenya, life was upgraded. She was brought to a place that is FAR better than the one she left. The last thirty days for her have been the best of her life. No doubt each day has been better than the one that came before it. She is in Paradise.

Our life, on the other hand, was downgraded. Life on this earth, which groans for redemption, is even more bitter without her. I have never longed for heaven more in my life. She is experiencing fullness of joy and pleasures evermore but we are being hard-pressed by grief and horrified by the prospect of living without her. Death is ugly. But it has been defeated. It’s still got a nasty bite but it’s venom has been removed, therefore we do not lose heart. We choose to look at all this not through just what we can see but what we know to be true. Not just by sight but by faith. I don’t have the strength to go through another thirty days of this, or thirty minutes for that matter. But God does. Lenya is with Him and He is with us, supplying us with strength we need and leading us in triumph. I choose to look at all of this and trust not what is temporary but what is eternal. Not what is in front of my eyes, but what is written in God’s Word.

I wish I could have heard her beautiful voice squeal for joy at the sight of that Land or watched the light of God’s glory illuminate her face for the first time. I wonder what it was like for her to taste a blackberry in that Country. Did she laugh that she ever could have thought one here was sweet? I will have to wait to find out. But she will be there waiting for us and leaping to greet me as I arrive at the distant shore she has already sailed to.


Hurting with Hope