Feb 28, 2014

Preaching An "I Miss You."


Every one's eyes in the room were looking at me for the answer.

I wasn't sure I had heard the question.


The last two days had been such a blur, I would often stare into space thinking I would awaken in a few moments and I would have only been dreaming. I often would pray that I was.

The funeral director was taking notes and we had come to the part of the meeting where we had to decide who was going to "officiate" my brother's funeral.

"I am."

I heard the words and then couldn't believe I had said them. Did I really think I could preach, officiate or even stand up during my baby brother's goodbye ceremony? But I had been thinking and praying about it a lot.

I had a number of people who would have gladly preached. We live in Oklahoma for crying out loud. I could have walked out of the front door of that funeral home and hit a pastor with a rock if I had wanted. There were at least four pastor's cell phone numbers in my purse.

But if we were all going to be gathered on a Saturday for an event no one wanted to be there for, let's not choose someone who my brother had never even met. If saying "see you soon" to the only baby brother I'd ever have was going to be the order of that day, I owed it to him as his big sister to do it myself. I couldn't think of another way.

The air must have escaped out of the room, because for a moment time stood still.
Mike, the funeral director, tried to reason with me.

"Have you thought about how hard this is going to be?"

I had.
I knew.
Did he know how hard it was knowing that my life as forever broken into two places: life with my brother and life without him?

A bad highlight reel had been playing in my head about the funerals I had attended where afterwards, I felt as though I knew the deceased less after hearing the same old hymns and dismal words said over a casket. If this were good night, it was going to be one of which my brother would have been honored to have played a part.

"I do. And I don't know that I can pull it off, but I have to try."

As we drove home, my sister looked at me through tears and said "If we have to do this, then we have to do it together. I'll be in charge of his graveside service."

I'm not sure what Laura and I said that Saturday afternoon. I know we both made it. Before I got up in front of that church, The Hero squeezed my hand and said "you've got this. You can do it. It's not goodbye; only 'see ya soon'."
My baby brother was so felt and present that day that Mike pulled Laura and I both aside afterwards and thanked us for letting him be a part of a funeral that was honorable and fitting for the "I miss yous" we were making.

And I guess that's a song my heart will sing for now until my last day because some days there are no other words than "I miss you."

Feb 25, 2014

A Break Up With Words

How do you plan a funeral for a 29 year old, hazel eyed wonder who hadn't been inside a church in ten years? The first answer would be "you don't because that kind of crap should never happen." That was my first answer at least.

But last week my sister, mother and father had to answer that question together because it was our reality.

My brother loved music and most of his play lists it couldn't be played inside the walls of a church building and it wasn't something we could have asked anyone to sing. There were also so many funny things that he would say or do or pranks he would pull on us through the years, but again, none of them were "appropriate" for a church service or graveside burial.


The first time some member of my family said that word, I wanted to slap them. Yup. They were right, my brother dearly loved rap music but leading his casket out of the church to anything by Jay-Z or Dr. Dre was definitely not "appropriate" but how "appropriate" was it to be laying my baby brother to rest one month after his twenty-ninth birthday. "Appropriate" and its converse "inappropriate" can take a flying leap out of my dictionary after these last few weeks. I have lost the ability to discern or care what is and is not "appropriate" during this stage of my life. 

No one has words for this kind of agony. There is no script for telling our mother that her baby boy and only son was no longer here on this earth. There is no pre-written dialogue for driving out to my grandparents farm to break the news to them because we didn't want them reading about it on facebook.

I left the music up to my sister. She was always the lyrically gifted one anyways and she did a stellar job. She weeded out our family's insistence of anything by Adele or Whitney Houston's version of 'I Will Always Love You."

We were able as his final song at the grave site, to play Blink 182's 'I Miss You." If you know my brother, it was the only song he would have approved and it was MOST appropriate. 

Feb 24, 2014

Musical Monday: Josh Garrels

I had never heard of Josh Garrels before the tenth of February, 2014. When my sister and I were planning music for my brother's funeral, she suggested a song called Farther Along. We played it at the graveside service. It is one of the few songs throughout this grieving process that has brought me hope. I hope you enjoy!


Feb 19, 2014

Preciously Beautiful

After my brother's near fatal car accident in 2002, he was diagnosed with a severe brain injury. I think my family was medically advised about his condition and the limitations that would forever be placed on his life, but I don't think one person ever fully prepared us for the side effects of his medication. Since the accident he was evaluated and re-evaluated only to leave yet another doctor's office with a new prescription for his depression. Nothing worked. The side effects were weight gain and sleeplessness, which only reduced his self-esteem. And those are only the side effects I know he struggled with because they were the only ones he told me about.

He became more and more alone. As we searched through family photos of the last several years, he was always in the background, never at the forefront of the family merriment. In the few pictures we have, he was always forced to partake and I think he forced his smiles too. I don't think anyone truly knew how much he had been struggling. I think that was the point, he never wanted us to know.

I hash tagged a picture of him a few nights ago to my Instagram account with #depression. The people who responded to that picture ranged from friends to people who are searching under that hash tag quite often, to people who have named entire social media accounts to depression. It got me to searching even further and I searched Pinterest for #depression posts. I thought for sure that since we have grown into such a visual society that there would only be pleasing posts and pictures of triumph and celebration over such an ailment.

What I really saw broke my heart.

The harshness and rawness of what people are willing to display to people they know and those they have never met only reaffirmed that my precious baby brother struggled fiercely and his struggle was not unlike a lot of other peoples and I am broken all over again that I never saw it.  He could not see how preciously beautiful he was to those who loved him.

And he remains preciously beautiful. 

Feb 11, 2014

Why You Must Separate Your Days

If your family is like us, we strive through the week, so we can make it to the weekend. From the end of school on Friday until early Monday morning is the most celebrated time of our week. I usually combine these days into a collective "we had a great weekend", "we spent the weekend..." 

I think most people do. It's why I thought nothing of telling everyone of what my plans were for last weekend. 

I packed my bags last Friday, drove to Austin and spent two amazing days learning and being led deeper into my faith, for the IF gathering. I felt renewed and more focused in the direction my life was to go than I had in any recent time I could remember. I drove the six hours home on Saturday night, so I could attend church with my family. I thought my first blog post would be recounting the weekend in Austin and unpacking all that I had learned. 

But the weekend wasn't over. 

We lingered longer in church because the Ugandan director of our church's mission program was speaking. We met friends for a late lunch and I responded to texts from my baby brother throughout the day, pushing off a phone call he wanted to make to me. 

When we finally spoke, he was grumpy, but no less than a regular bad day. We texted again later and even later still and the theme grew more somber with each text. 

I began to worry. 

I tried to call.

It was too late. 

My baby brother was already with Jesus. 

I've heard so many people say that you can't waste moments of your life, but the past few days have taught me that I must stop trying to process my life into seasons, a series of days, or even moments. I can no longer claim that "weekends" or "work week" are allotted to us. This inhale of breath may not be followed by an exhale. That every rise and fall of my chest or your chest is not guaranteed to us. 
I want to relive EVERY. SINGLE. BREATH of Sunday. Because Sunday was the separation of "weekend" into a day; a day that was given and not seen for the gift that it was meant to be. 

It is a lesson that I will remember for all of the breaths that I am gifted with on this earth and a reminder that days and breaths and moments are to be separated and cherished. 

Feb 6, 2014

A Great Opportunity To Change A World

             I started blogging five years ago to chronicle our adoption process into Ethiopia. Throughout that time, you as blog readers have teamed up with me to do some other amazing things. We sold a book, we sent some kids to school, sold over 500 t-shirts to benefit adoption families, and we've prayed over families stuck in the adoption process.

             Sometimes it is the only reason why I even keep this blog around; to keep begging you dear readers into using our collective power for good. It's snowy and ridiculously cold this morning in Oklahoma. I am supposed to be working, but an email from one of my favorite organizations has sent my heart into passion mode.

Here's a portion of the email:

"HopeChest is facing a dire situation in Uganda where approximately 800 unsponsored children are facing a severe outbreak of Hepatitis E. This is a brand new area where HopeChest has no presence or ministry established.  You, as a sponsor in Uganda, certainly understand what I'm talking about.  As a board member and fellow ministry partner, I'm asking for your help to raise $10,000 in emergency funds to provide a clean water well in Ongongoja. That's $12.50 per kid. Will you join me by making a gift today?"

The Hero and I have seen what amazing things sponsorship can accomplish and you guys know I am eternally passionate about clean water. Often in these situations, I throw my heart up to God and ask what can I possibly do to make any difference in this world. But today, with this situation, I need only look to my right and see a possible answer. There are still four remaining boxes of I Walk For Water books stacked in my office. This entire weekend, if you go to the "Buy It Now" button on the side of this blog, and buy a book, $8 from the sale of each one, will be donated to build this well in Ongongoja, Uganda. I'll even sign them for you.

You can also go straight HERE and donate directly to the well project through Children's HopeChest.

****As of this morning, Hopechest has already raised $4100 toward the well!! Let's finish it before the weekend.

Feb 3, 2014

Musical Mondays: Where I Belong

I've struggled a lot lately with feeling as though I am doing what I am supposed to be with my life. Almost every area of my day feels under attack. I struggle with feeling like a unworthy wife, employee and mother on almost a daily basis. It's during these times of my life that I desperately want God to part the heavens and just come back. It will all be worth it when we are with our King and honestly, I yearn for such a time more and more often these days. 
I use to think that this made me odd. But a few years ago, I ran across this song by Building 429, which was the sweetest reminder of Psalms 143:6 "I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You; as a parched land." 
So for all of you who need to be reminded as well this week, THIS world is not where we belong. With this reassurance, have an amazing week.