the death of winter

the death of winter

It’s been unseasonably warmish here this February. The other day the kids wanted to eat popsicles outside.

Okay, it’s not that warm, but whenever my kids see a patch of blue sky and sunshine, if the temperature is above 40 in February, it’s summer to them. And they eat popsicles as they turn blue and ask if we can open up the pool.

I have some feelings about this winter, though. I complain about the cold and the snow. Every time I get in my car, I am actually surprised at how cold it is.

Every time.

I don’t know why I do this, but I do. The cold always catches me off guard, perhaps because of my sunny disposition. 🙂

Anyway, this winter went by really fast, mostly. Some days did seem to drag on forever, but here I am on February 15th and there is not a single patch of snow on the ground and people are seeing baby flowers popping up…

and it feels like spring is just around the corner, because it is.

A few weeks ago, I would have laughed at the idea that it would be this warm, this bright and sunny. In fact, a few weeks ago I thought winter would never, ever die.

And I know it probably will get cold again–winter will have one last stand against the inevitable oncoming spring, but it will be a moment and then–sunshine and green grass and leaves on the trees….

Isn’t that how it is with grief? It seems like it will never end sometimes–and then suddenly–quite suddenly–it feels like it’s time to go on. To let it fade away. The ice begins to thaw, and it feels like perhaps spring may come again–there might even be some blue.

Even that small ray of sunshine feels so very warm in comparison to the cold and dark that I have grown accustomed to, yet am constantly surprised at the biting intensity of the frigid winters of grief I experience.

And it seems that just when I decide I can let go of it all and open my heart to the idea of feeling really, truly happy, it comes again–a blizzard of hurt and anger and sadness and darkness, and the force of it takes my breath away.

Then it’s gone and I am standing in green grass growing at my feet wondering how I can make sense of this beautiful, terrible, wonderful life.

And then I can say goodbye to certain things, certain heavy drifts of grief I have been carrying, and I feel lighter and warmer and brighter.

Oh, I know that winter will come again, and, like the snow that falls, each frigid flake of grief is unique and different and I wonder at how I can feel that many different shades of pain, but I know it is somewhere out there in my future, silently waiting for me.

It is comforting to know that there will always be spring and that the winters are part of this journey I take around the sun, over and over. There is purpose in it.

The overcoming of the winters of my grief changes me every time.

I become stronger and deeper and, yes, kinder for every winter I face. I am better able understand the grief every human being who has ever loved bears until at last we each, in our time, finish our final circle around the sun.

And by then, I know I will understand that through all of the winters, there was always the promise of spring, and beyond the spring, an eternal summer where the light never stops shining and the grief is forever melted away in the warmth of “a grace too powerful to name.”

in which i realize how very much i love my life

in which i realize how very much i love my life

When I write my blog, WordPress has something called “Distraction Free Writing” mode. They have clearly never met me. For me there is no such thing.

In spite of my distraction, or maybe because of it, I am just sitting here in the living room in the dark and everyone is taken care of and I am breathing and I realize how very much I love my life.

My life is interesting and full of hijinks and antics and madcap adventures. It is not what I expected or wanted, but it is everything I wished for, once upon a time.

Once upon a time I was a little girl and an idealist (I still am). I just wanted…well, everything. I wanted to have it all.

And all, to me, was not this. But it actually IS this. This is my everything. This life. This sitting in the night in the dark, alone and quiet and wondering if I can survive tomorrow.

Once upon a time I wanted to be in the front lines. I wanted to fight. And now, here I am, fighting the most intense battle in the history of humanity–the battle for good to triumph over the powers of darkness.

This is How I Fight The Powers of Darkness. The Fact That He Exists and Is Happy...

This is How I Fight The Powers of Darkness. The Fact That He Exists and Is Happy…

Sometimes it feels like nothing. It feels like scrambled eggs and forgetting peanut butter when I went to the store and running up and down the stairs and laundry and what does s-a-t sound like for the hundredth time, and it feels very…tiny.

But it isn’t. It’s my dream. And I have created something here that is almost flickering into extinction–a home that is far from coarse noise and full of love. Real, messy, mundane love. The kind of love that notices a sigh or a downcast glance or the slightest change in the tone of voice that indicates a need or a cry for help.

I went to the mall today. I hadn’t really been to a mall in quite a while. It was a beautiful place. It was lovely. A creek flows through it, there are fountains and beautiful sunshine flows in and around it. It really was beautiful, but I found myself walking through it and it almost felt like I was the only real thing there.

The Mall

The Mall

The building, the stores, the monuments to the wants of a very affluent society seemed almost ghostly to me.

And I realized it’s because I deal with soul loving and healing and that is a thing of forever.

I am loving my people, and they come from the stars.

What are malls to such a thing?

IMG_9889

What Are Malls to Daniel Job’s Masterpiece?

It’s not easy, and it’s not fun all the time. It’s easy to want to create a distraction sometimes. I mean, when my nearly three year old can’t figure out the difference between soap and toothpaste…after two months of toothpaste-y hands and soapy teeth…well, it’s difficult to not want to be distracted.

But, luckily, I have a “Distraction Free Parenting Mode” button I can push, and then it’s all much better.

I have Joy, and because of her I also have Perspective.

It pulls out the noise and the sidebars and reminds me that toothpaste as soap is just part of the glorious time we have here. And soap as toothpaste? Well, I don’t know anyone else who does that so maybe it’s just us.

IMG_9458

My Soap Is Toothpaste Girl…

I love my life. I used to be so mad that I was still here after Joy wasn’t. I felt guilty for every breath I took without her.

Now, I am amazed at every moment.

I am starting to see what I know she saw all along…

moon-kissing-ocean

eleven weeks and growing up (or not)

eleven weeks and growing up (or not)

He is eleven weeks old.

It seems like forever ago. I actually had a breakdown today.

I just want to be normal again.

I said to no one in particular, as I looked in the mirror at my haggard face and interesting body shape.

I haven’t bounced back, even though I really wanted to.

I wanted to have redecorated our family room and landscaped the front yard and read Shakespeare with the kids and done a million things by now, and I haven’t.

I have done a lot of sitting. And lying. Not liar-liar-pants-on-fire lying. Just lying down.

I’ve been tired.

His birth was the most beautiful, peaceful set of hours I have ever experienced in this mortality. Angels were near and I realized just how much I meant to him…before he appeared.

And there was a push–and there he was.

10 Minutes Old

10 Minutes Old

And he is perfect.

And then I started to feel a little…almost dead. And I lost a lot of blood. Nearly half.

That did not feel so great. I remember saying before I nearly lost consciousness:

John–I am not going to nearly die again. I won’t do it! Don’t you dare let it happen!

And he didn’t. Also, the most incredible nurses on the planet–probably in the universe–also didn’t want to let that happen. And neither did the anesthesiologist. So, everyone agreed that not nearly dying would be better than nearly dying so we did our best and I am happy to say we basically made it work.

Then the rest of the best nurses in the entire universe in Mother Baby made sure that I didn’t nearly die, but recovered through laughter, which is truly the best medicine.

It was a blast.

And I think, a little magical.

No, a lot magical.

My nurses were magical, the doctors were magical. The hospital food was not magical but earnestly tried to be….

The bed also did its best but fell a little short of magic. It tried to evoke a bit of whimsy, but that’s about as far as it got.

I came home. The SMeE decided to join me, and I have been having a small problem with him. It hurts. A lot.

SMeE Returns...Grrr...

SMeE Returns…Grrr…

I went back to the hospital later with trouble related to pre-eclampsia, which I still had.

It’s been eleven weeks and I want to be and do everything I’ve been waiting and wanting for so many years and I am impatient.

It has been busy. Since he was born, we have had birthdays and mission calls and trying to get back into the swing of life.

I even took a trip to California with my sister in order to try and kickstart myself into you know, bouncing back. It was absolutely wonderful, even if I did overdo it just a bit.

I don’t know why I do that, but I really wanted to be finished with feeling…pregnant and the SMeE just flaring up like this and the no blood thing. I just wanted to be perfectly recovered and have fun.

Today was a really hard day when I just had to realize it’s only been eleven weeks.

July 5th was Joy’s Day. The day she went back home, and as I was lying in severe amounts of pain after church, I wondered about these eleven weeks.

Joy

Joy

Eleven weeks after Joy died, I was still a mess.

Still crying.

Sometimes I would laugh, but mostly I would shake and not know what to do with myself.

Our family was a mess. We were eating corn dogs for breakfast and cereal for dinner. The bathrooms were hideous. Our lawn wasn’t mowed. We were really having a difficult time just surviving.

And while birth is not the same as death, there are similarities.

Eleven weeks ago, the being known as my Peter, was not here. Our family is forever is changed because he is now here. Eleven weeks after Joy died, we were forever changed by the absence of her presence.

If it took awhile to get used to her absence, it stands to reason that it should take awhile for us to adjust to the presence of a new soul.

Something from heaven right here in our midst.

Fresh

Fresh

So I think I should be able to give myself a little bit of patience and relax a little. There will be time after this to do all that I want to do. There will be time for trips and landscaping and visiting museums and redecorating the family room and all of that.

But there will never be another time that Peter is brand new from heaven.

When I was in Florida, I used to go to Magic Kingdom and watch the fireworks after a long day of walking…of making myself walk. I wanted to be able to walk and move and do for my kids and I often felt that it was only appropriate after a particularly hard day of hundreds of painful steps that I should reward myself with fireworks…

I Wish We'd Never Have To Grow Up...

I Wish We’d Never Have To Grow Up…Off To Neverland

During the show, the audience learns about wishes and how they come from the heart and all of that. And at the beginning, we hear Peter Pan wishing:

I wish we’d never have to grow up! Off to Neverland!!!”

And that’s the part where I would always inevitably get emotional. I always thought of Joy…and how in a way, here in mortality, she was granted Peter’s wish–to never grow up. She lives in a kind of Neverland–where she never has to experience pain or growing up the way we do….and I would always kind of be a little sad about that. I would always feel very much like Wendy in Chapter 17:

“Good-bye,” said Peter to Wendy; and he rose in the air, and the shameless Jane rose with him; it was already her easiest way of moving about.
Wendy rushed to the window.
“No, no,” she cried.
“It is just for spring cleaning time,” Jane said, “he wants me always to do his spring cleaning.”
“If only I could go with you,” Wendy sighed.
“You see you can’t fly,” said Jane.
Of course in the end Wendy let them fly away together. Our last glimpse of her shows her at the window, watching them receding into the sky until they were as small as stars.

And as I watched the night light up with beautiful fireworks over a magical castle, I felt a stabbing pain and realized what it is like to “grow up,” something I vowed I would never do when I was first introduced to Peter so long ago. But it felt as if I were Wendy at the window, letting Peter take my Joy with him off to Neverland….

Ironically, at the time I also had a Jayne. And I knew when I saw those fireworks I would name my last baby, who would be a boy, Peter. Maybe it was in a hope that I could somehow reverse the growing up that had so sadly happened to me.

Maybe I thought he could somehow bring something of Joy back to me, and in some way keep Jayne from growing up too fast, too.

Maybe I thought he could be the balm to my sorrows and the end of the worst part of the grief of losing her.

Maybe I thought he would be the one to give me wings–to let me fly again–because I had forgotten.

For to have faith is to have wings…

Maybe I thought he would let me keep them all in my heart as my beautiful little children–that somehow by naming him Peter, all my precious treasures could somehow “never grow up” and I could stop time and remain in the environs of the magic timelessness that is childhood. And remain in the time when Joy is a sweet, close almost-here-again memory, where I can still recall her smell and her laughter…

Maybe I thought in naming him Peter, my life would be always as it is just now–surrounded by pixie dust and faeries and make believe and stories and crocodiles and jungles and islands and adventure and the feeling of never being scared unless it is for fun…

It’s been eleven weeks, and I don’t know if the name bestowed the magic, but I begin to feel it.

Even in realizing that in eleven weeks I do not have to tidy up the house and be grown up.

I can rest and daydream and even take the time to feel restless because my mind is ready for more than my body.

I begin to feel it as I look at my son, who will be leaving home to serve a mission for two years. Looking at him in his suit and tie, seeing my 13 year old in his uniform at Civil Air Patrol looking like he wants to be 23…seeing my 16 year old girl acting like, well, an adult….like me. Only better…

I see them growing up but there is something else–I see the faith they have in make believe and childhood and Joy–and to have faith is to have wings–and to have wings–well, to have wings and faith is to fly. And I think, in my heart of hearts, that these few children–my loves–maybe Peter brought them the pixie dust and they will never forget how to fly.

And maybe, if I am lucky, I will remember, too.

“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”

 

back to the beginning

back to the beginning

I am back in Utah.

Back to the beginning of when I started to really write.

It feels strange.

I think it’s funny how I kept feeling like everything was different–but it’s not Utah that’s different–it’s me who has changed.

Going back to the ocean was good for me.

I grew up on the coast, and it was good to go to my roots–the sea is in my blood–and the sun and the salt and the water healed my body and spirit in ways the mountains could not. As I sat on the beach and looked out at forever one night, watching the moon and the stars and all eternity seemed within my grasp, I felt connected to them in a way that is inexplicable.

Heaven.

Heaven.

I felt my whole being melting into all of it and for a moment the veil between time and no time was thin and I felt Heaven.

I miss that.

I realize, coming back, that Florida taught me to play again. I miss my fireworks, let me tell you.

I used to cry during Wishes. And Illuminations–especially at Christmas. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by “Let There Be Peace On Earth” accompanied by literally breath taking pyrotechnics.


I never was very moved by Fantasmic.

Pocahontas? I don’t get it. Why not Peter Pan and Neverland?

But, oh, how I look back and think how very lucky I was to learn to walk in a place where everyone treated even me like a beautiful princess.

I miss that, too.

But, I have it with me. All those experiences are now part of my Misty-ness. And I walk around with a slightly befuddled smile on my face because the love and the happiness and the, well, magic–it’s inside of me, and I can’t help myself.

Not even complaining about the SMeE. (Well, not yet, anyway.)

No, it hasn’t shaken the pixie dust off yet.

Maybe I just found Joy and I can handle her being with me without crying when I feel her near.

I don’t know.

Home

Back To The Beginning–Our Old and New Home

I had some news the other day. We took Noah to see his old pediatrician who managed all the testing and everything before. I think before he was just trusting that I felt something was off, even though he couldn’t see it.

But, this time, it was different. This time, he said,

Yes, something is wrong.

And it was hard for me. I felt that same familiar shortness of breath. The feeling that the room was closing in. My mouth got dry and I don’t know why it bothered me so much. I have known for awhile that something was off.

But, I could always say it was just me. Just me being an overworried mom.

But, when he said it, it seemed more real.

And I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

But, even with all of that, I feel peace and calm and joy.

Because I know I am in the hands of the living God and so is Noah. And so are you. And it is a gloriously terrifying thing to be in His hands, because it will always, always be an adventure.

Future Home of J&M Ranch.

Future Home of J&M Ranch.

So I am back to the beginning, and the adventure has begun.

We are building a home, we are helping Noah, and we are stumbling along trying to be a beautiful family, although I believe having only two bathrooms may strain sibling relations until they work something out–which may take legal arbitration.

I am back to the beginning but I am older and maybe wiser.

Maybe just more tired.

Maybe just more aware of pain and suffering and it makes me feel beauty more deeply and I look at the sun and it smiles at me, and the stars laugh and I know that even through pain, there is a reason to brim with overflowing gratitude at the miracle that is life.

The messy, messy miracle. The miracle that leaves tear stains down my cheeks sometimes. The miracle that brings me back to the beginning and makes everything different and new and exciting and scary and amazing.

We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full.

Maybe it is different because I am seeing my life, not through my eyes alone, but through the eyes of others–through the eyes of so many others I have met because I could not walk and could not do what I used to do.

Sitting in waiting rooms looking at other people waiting–I began to ask God to let me see through their eyes. To never forget what it feels like to struggle to stand or step or move or speak or hear or see or breathe.

The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is. –Marcel Proust

Maybe it is different because the ocean got back into me and the sound of the waves echoes in my heart and turns my thoughts constantly to He who rules the stormy seas and then calms them. I can’t help but think of Him, hearing the roar of the water beating against the sand in an eternal symphony of beautiful, simple majesty.

I am finally home.

And it’s not a place. It is me. I am home.

It is in me. All the things that make me feel like I can breathe deep and wear my pajamas and not put on make up and I will be loved anyway.

All along, it was in me–I was always home, I just didn’t know it.

 

going north

going north

I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can. –regarding Susan Pevensie, C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

This is the story of how I grew up. Because I used to be far more like the Susan than I would like to admit.

We were living in Spring, part of the massiveness that is actually Houston, Texas.

I was always surprised at how people there just think, “Hey, there’s some more land. Let’s just build stuff here. And then we’ll build a bunch of giant roads to get here ’cause–well–it’s land and it’s here and it will make Houston bigger. And everything’s bigger in Texas, right?”

And that’s what it was like.

I loved the people there. They were fun and friendly and down to earth and knew their barbecue and steaks and banana pudding. And okra.

Our large family, however, needed more than friendly faces. We needed space and breathable air that wasn’t so–humid and polluted and loud.

We were feeling the urge to get away from city life and find some land and maybe have some chickens.

Does everyone go through this when they get to five or six children?

Does something click inside parents at the number of six children that says you need to find some space for the children? I don’t know.

So, we went and looked at the edges of civilized Houston.

Texas Bluebonnets

Texas Bluebonnets

We even saw what might be considered a rolling hill or two. We saw pecan trees and bluebonnets. We saw some pretty land.

And we went further and nothing was coming to mind.

I told my husband that my deepest, most real impression was that we were to go north.

So, we looked in North Houston. And then we went crazy and looked a little north of that.

We went all the way out to Willis, Texas.

It was definitely “the country.” But, while it felt open and wide and the stars at night burned deep and bright, we went home feeling the opposite of a “good feeling.”

An Hour and Half North of Houston

An Hour and Half North of Houston

We happened at the time to have some wonderful, wonderful friends (who still, in spite of nearly a decade are still our friends!), who wanted to move to Utah or Idaho. We have lived near each other for most of these ten years, usually moving around the same time.

We call them our flip side–the good looking half of the coin.

She was a New York runway model (and looks like she still is), and he is ruggedly handsome. Sometimes we wonder how they can even be seen in public with us! 🙂

So, we were talking with them, and they planned a trip out west to find some land and a house. And, being a friend, I went online and looked for houses for them to visit.

One day, I was looking in East Idaho classifieds, because my very good looking friend had been to a little ski town on the other side of Jackson called “Victor” and loved it. She even told me about the town right next to it, called Driggs, and said it had the most wonderful, cute little organic grocery store called Barrels and Bins.

Barrels and Bins

Barrels and Bins

So, I was looking for her. I was looking for houses to buy, but somehow ended up in the for rent section, and I stumbled across a listing:

Five bedroom home on ten acres with three car garage. Plenty of room for horses and toys.

No pictures or anything. Just that. And I felt it. This was the place for us.

I didn’t even know where it was. The listing just said “Tetonia.” I had never heard of it.

But that was The Place.

I told John, and he also felt it.

He called, and within a few minutes, we were planning a move to Tetonia.

(I might add here that I had felt we were going to move, so I had already started packing. Just didn’t know where.)

I was fine until the day before the move. Everything seemed to go wrong and I was terrified. We still hadn’t even seen pictures of the place. I was vacillating between crying and being completely hysterical. Mostly, I kept that to myself, but some of it escaped, and John, who is a ninja, figured everything out and fixed everything and I have NEVER been so exhausted in my life as I was when we drove away from our very strange (but in the right location), Heavenly Father chosen home at Aldenham Place and started the trek to Tetonia, Idaho.

Texas felt like it would never end. John, who is a ninja and can go weeks without sleeping, was so exhausted from the move that he had to pull over. He asked me to drive. He never asks me to drive.

He heard about the incident where I drove under a moving semi truck and I hypothesize that it has colored his viewpoint of my driving skills. It was only one time. And I was sixteen.

He adamantly denies that and often asks if I would like to drive, but I prefer being a passenger.

So, I was driving and trying to keep my eyes open and then I had to pull over, too. And we kept going. We drove through the night and into the next day and we were still in Texas and it was windy and buggy and we stopped by a “rest stop” and ate sandwiches made with Aunt Camille’s amazing rolls and it made everything better.

But it was still flat and windy and buggy and desolate.

This. Forever.

This. Forever.

And I wondered if we would ever get out of Texas. What if we couldn’t?

But we did, and we drove down Teton Pass at night with a trailer and a car hitched to our van, white knuckled and I was never so glad that I couldn’t see the view down that pass as John maneuvered all of that tonnage up, up, up and down, down, down. It was hair raising.

It was about 12:45 am on Joy’s birthday when the GPS stopped working because we were literally in the middle of nowhere, and it was up to John to find our home.

John, being a ninja, has an uncanny ability to find things that are lost to us. He is really good at it. That night, he was in his element. With nothing but moonlight and instinct to guide him, he found our home. As we drove down the quarter mile long gravel driveway, we slowed down as we watched in the pale, shimmery light, a small herd of horses gallop across.

I thought I might have died and gone to heaven.

We parked in front of a log home. It was beautiful on the outside.

John said he would go in first, just in case.

Just in case it was trashed on the inside or awful or something.

As I waited I looked up at the night sky. I gasped. I had never seen so many stars. It took my breath away and I knew it was going to be alright.

The Sky.

The Sky.

John came out of the house and walked to the van.

He looked worried and serious.

Misty, why don’t you come in first?

His voice sounded tight. I started to sweat. Was it awful? How awful was it? I got out of the van and walked up the steps.

He opened the door into the most beautiful home I have ever seen. It was not too fancy, not too wilderness-y. It was bright and cheery and built with love.

It was Home.

I cried, and we brought the kids in.

Happy birthday, Joy.

It’s so funny. Now that I look back, I wonder if that birthday present was something she was giving to us.

She never really liked the cold. She liked wearing bare feet and running around naked in the sunshine.

She loved summer there, but her visit was cut short. And when it was, the beauty of the people there outshone the majesty of the mountains and valleys and trees and nature paled in comparison to the stunning vistas of human kindness that were poured out on us.

And, now that I am back here for awhile, I often wonder what might have happened if we had stopped going north at Willis, Texas.

What would my life be like now?

I marvel at the brilliant beauty and unimaginable joy I found by going “further up and further in” and by taking a leap in the dark–into the great unknown–because I allowed my mind to be opened to the possibilities that awaited going beyond what I could imagine–beyond what my sensibilities could fathom.

Tetonia

Tetonia

Tetonia is my home in ways that I cannot describe in words. It is my heart in ways I cannot deny. The mountains and valleys hold my soul in its grasp, and when I am here, I feel more like myself and I feel comfortable in my own skin. This valley shielded me from some of the pain at losing Joy. The wind whispered peace, the creeks testified of life forever going on, and the hills hugged me and the stars were my friends.

Thank Heaven that I was able to see beyond Willis, Texas.

(Not that Willis isn’t someone else’s heaven! Just not mine.)

Thank God I went further up and further in.

I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” –The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis

And on days when my head is hurting and my limp is pronounced and every step hurts, I think of even further up and further in, and how even as beautiful and marvelous as Tetonia is for me, there is a far better country, a far better story, if only I will look up and open my mind to the possibilities of Heaven, and what it holds for me.

I have seen it once–through a door–the light of Heaven.

I have heard the laughter of angels and I cannot describe the beauty and I cannot tell you how much deeper and brighter it is. I cannot explain the depth of love that permeates that great and last Undiscovered Country–the other side of this veil of tears….

Joy

Joy in Tetonia

I never want to be so close minded that I miss the pathway to that fair place–to my Home that is more home to me than any on earth–where Joy dances in the sunlight and the silvery blue wildflowers dance with her. Where the breeze ever blows gently and the grass is springy and the earth smells clean and the trees sing along with her to a tune that is too exquisite to be sung here.

I never want to be so afraid or unsure that I don’t take the road less traveled, with thorns and briars and thistles and bugs and hot, dry wind and relentless pursuit of seen and unseen enemies that seek to persuade me to be happy with Willis, Texas when Heaven is just around the riverbend.

Aslan

Aslan

I want to remember that this is only the very small beginning of a much greater story, a story that I very much want to finish.

And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

 

badger creek

badger creek

The last summer of Joy’s life, we spent a lot of time at Badger Creek, BYU Idaho’s Outdoor Learning Facility.

It’s a 250 acre ranch in Tetonia.

I always felt great there because it felt safe. Not like the other places in Targhee where I felt like bears were watching me waiting to pounce on my family. Too scary. Even though we’ve seen moose at Badger, I never felt really scared there.

We would hike and we got to know the staff and the couple who took over running the ranch for awhile became the ministering angels who watched over us during those very difficult weeks right after Joy went Home.

We went over there today.

View From Badger Creek Ranch.

View From Badger Creek Ranch.

It’s different.

I mean, of course it’s different. Because I believe that summer we were there God picked the people there who would help us and make it special for us. Maybe that’s egocentric, but I really feel that way. When we went today it felt kind of more–institutionalized.

A staff worker on the trail who looked very much like a retired public school teacher kept giving us disapproving looks and then jumped at the chance to tell us if we went anywhere near the creek we would need a waiver.

A waiver? To go anywhere near the creek? I almost laughed.

And then I wondered if we had already been deemed disorderly because we had dared cross the bridge to the lodge without a waiver. (I actually understand about liability and all that, but when we used to go to Badger Creek, I guess they just expected people to have common sense.  Or maybe it was a sense of trust. I guess it’s too popular for simple trust now.)

Anyway, it was kind of sad to us. We all felt a little…melancholy.

It was almost as if this woman had snuffed the Joy right out of Badger Creek. But, we tried to rally and my sons rebelled against the dictates of the staff member by brazenly walking back toward the car across the bridge with a devil may care attitude and even haphazardly threw rocks into the creek. I thought we might get thrown out on our way out.

I was a bit melancholy, too, until I quit being hurt by the woman’s rudeness and instead focused on how truly blessed we were to be regulars at Badger Creek during it’s most perfect moments. If it had been the way it felt today, we would never have had those many wonderful, beautiful, spiritual experiences.

Yes, they are making more money now. Yes, it is probably much more professional. Yes, I suppose it is good they have more programs.

Wild

Wild

But, wow. It made me think carefully about how important it is to remember that some things should be–well–a little wild. Like nature.

And maybe Badger Creek.

I watched my kids today, falling and tripping as they climbed the hills and picked up dirt and rocks. I watched how their little spirits nearly jumped out of their bodies for joy at being able to dare and fall and scrape and bruise and blister.

I watched Daniel’s soul grow by leaps and bounds today as he stumbled and landed on his bottom in the water of the pond when he tried to throw too-heavy rocks.

I watched confidence explode in Noah as he tripped over some sagebrush and plopped right on the dusty, prickly, rocky surface.

I watched my son as he dealt with the deep feelings he had of Joy’s death because he was able to sit on a rock and just look at the blue. In silence. No iThings. No earbuds. Nothing but the sound of water and wind and trees and sky and birds. And Heaven.

I watched my daughter retracing her steps from a hundred hikes of the past, finding comfort in the familiar landscape.

I am so glad we were alone then.

Joy's Flowers

Joy’s Flowers

It was holy time to reflect. I cried when I saw Joy’s wildflowers–growing in the same place they were when she skipped down the trail and I felt, perhaps foolishly, that those flowers were there because they remembered my daughter–that they were a memorial.

I would like to say that I smiled and felt true happiness, but I felt that stabbing, painful happiness and my eyes were wet. I held back most of the sobbings of my heart. They weren’t really sad sobbings–just stabbing.

Just being there it felt like the land and the plants and the water and the trees were whispering her name and were happy to see me to remind me of her beautiful little life.

Sacred ground.

I looked up at the darkening sky and decided it was almost time to go, but not before looking up at the hill where I saw the storm come in years before and knew something terrible was going to happen and that God would be with me.

Holy ground.

We can never stay too long there anymore. Too much going on–the ranch isn’t as quiet as it used to be.

Remembering Joy At The Pond

Remembering Joy At The Pond

But, I am so very, very grateful for the time I had today when my Father’s presence turned a dusty old ranch into a temple just for me and my little family.

And I am glad it’s still there. Even with the waivers.

excavation

excavation

I went to look at plans for our home today. We talked about closets and doors and wood and tile and elevations and drystack and insulation.

I have to admit that sometimes I just nodded and had no idea what they were talking about. It’s like they were speaking Jivvanese (as in the language Dr. Seuss talked about in Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?).

Jivvanese

Jivvanese

I thought it would have been nice to have a snack or something. But I had bottled water, so it was kind of like a snack. Like a snack for supermodels and good looking people.

I was thinking and praying before I went. It’s not every day that you plan to create a whole home. We are not pioneers anymore and house building is complicated and difficult and too much most of the time. It’s not like we’re in Peru where we just put up some canvas and aluminum and move in.

It’s so much more…stuff.

Sometimes I think it would be so great to be one of those hippies who build their homes out of reclaimed beer cans and cardboard and junkyard items and pieces of tree branch. It’s so amazing. And it ends up looking fabulous and it only cost them like thirty cents, plus their labor.

Recycled Amazing Beautiful Home

Recycled Amazing Beautiful Home

The problem is, I’m just not good at that kind of thing, and I have lots of kids, and most people who do that sort of thing don’t have children. Maybe they have a dog and two cats, or just a dog, or maybe they just have a partner, or a spouse or a soul mate, but usually they don’t have a dozen children.

Also, most of them have time to just, I don’t know, go find a mentor to teach them how to make their own nails or make staircases out of recycled tennis shoes or something.

I am more like the kind of girl who watches what they do on YouTube and then donates money to their cause. I am a hippie wannabe. I don’t wear commercial deodorant. I eat organic and do everything I can to live a life in harmony with the Universe, but living in a beautiful tiny home and building it myself is beyond me.

Sometimes I wish I could live in a tiny house.

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Tiny Houses Are Just My Favorite!

I mean, we are staying in a little home in Ashton, Idaho, and it is practically perfect in every way (like Mary Poppins), and I love that it is small. Not much to clean up. Not much space to make into messes.

And sometimes I wonder if my big kitchen is really necessary. Then, I think about what I have cooked so far in the kitchen in the tiny Ashton home.

Sandwiches. Some oatmeal. My husband made bacon. Not real meals. Vacation meals, which are different than real life.

But, still, I find myself thinking I could be perfectly happy with less. So, why are we doing this? Why is this the path we feel to take?

I don’t know. But I do know it is right. And I know none of it is really ours. It all belongs to God and we will do whatever He wants us to do with it.

As we looked at the plans and changed the plans and then looked at the plans again and added and changed again, I was thinking about my life.

I was thinking about my plans.

How I try to draw up a plan, usually based on someone else’s.

I tweak it here and there and think I am pretty happy with my plan.

Then I take it to the Savior, and He, the Master Draftsman, changes it. Because He understands what can and can’t be done, and more importantly, what should and shouldn’t be done. Then He shows it to me, and I kind of disagree with some of what He shows me. I think maybe if I can just convince Him, He will see that I had a great plan.

Then, sometimes He waits, without saying much, until I realize that He was right all along. Sometimes, He allows me to change a part of the plan again and then He goes back and tweaks it again.

And then we have to excavate the ground and get it ready for the foundation.

I think I am in that excavating phase.

And it hurts, a little.

I am being dug up and cleared out to make room for my new life. And it is exciting, but sometimes, it’s a little ugly.

Like I always tell the kids, “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.”

My heart is just being cleared of debris and dug out and it is somewhat painful.

I know I am making room for more. Sometimes I just wish I could live in a hut somewhere. Sometimes I wonder if I had a lot less, would I need so much excavation and reconstruction work all the time?

I don’t know. But, I do know that I am here in this place and it is right for my family. And if I let them, all of these things can teach me to be a better mother and a better wife and a better woman.

The miscarriage was so very difficult. Not in a negative, bad, depressing, discouraging way, though. More like just a weeping for life that didn’t get to be. I love life. I love creating life with God. I love all living things that try to exist in harmony with other living things. I just have such a reverence for it.

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Reverence for Life

It is hard for me to let go because I made a promise long ago to God that if He were to send me many children, I would treat each pregnancy as if it were the only one. Meaning, it would be special to me and precious and most important to me every time.

I have kept that promise, and from the moment I discover I am pregnant (and often even weeks and months before), I am fighting for that life. I am exerting my spiritual energy on making the way for that life to grow in a positive, happy, loving environment.

That is hard work.

So, it is hard to let go.

But, I am alright with it. I am incredibly humbled at the many, many miracles that have accompanied this challenge in my life. It has truly strengthened me to know that angels abound, both on this side of the veil and the other. I know I am in God’s hands. It’s scary and beautiful at the same time.

And for those who have had miscarriages, I will tell you that it is the same pain that I felt when I lost Joy, only not as sharp and deep and defined. But it is the same pain. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you didn’t lose a child, or negate your pain. And don’t you negate your heartache. Just know that you can couple it with gratitude and it feels a bit better.

I don’t know what is in store for me over the next few months, but I am excited.

I hope this excavation roots out some of my weakness and makes me stronger. I hope I can be a better friend and woman and sister. One thing all of this has taught me is the remarkable strength and compassion of women. So many of you have reached out to me and just absolutely changed my heart when I needed it most. It is amazing what we women can do when we decide to celebrate our ability to nurture and love and show compassion. You all have inspired me in ways I cannot explain.

I love you all. Thank you so very much for helping me climb my mountains. I do not ever feel alone. I know that even in the darkest abyss, one of you is probably out there in the dark, groping in faith and hope that the light will come.

Lights in the Dark

Lights in the Dark

 

And we are the lights, you know. God lets us help Him by encouraging us to light the way for each other. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

Deliverance

Deliverance

On this day five years ago, I was laboring to give birth to my son, Ephraim.

Ephraim

Ephraim

It was a three day event. I birthed him at home. It was wonderful and painful. It was probably the closest I will ever get to understanding real pain. It was excrutiating.

It was painful because it was a long, slow labor. It was painful because it had been only a little over nine months since Joy had gone back to God.

Life and death had been my companions for that nine months.

And here, at the end, it was so very, very hard.

When he was born, the cord was wrapped around him four times. His hand was wrapped, too.

He didn’t breathe at first. But, then God was there, breathing into my son the breath of life.

And then my son was a new soul, shouting to the world that he was here and life goes on.

And it was so stabbingly joyful to me.

And I was so happy and melancholy and exhilarated and aching.

I was sanctified through water, blood and spirit.

When my son was delivered, so was I.

And I thought about how when we are born, we usually cry. It is an ordeal to get to earth.

And I wondered, as I watched him in the early, early morning hours–those first few hours when everything is…eternal…I wondered if he understood how I felt about Joy. After all, he had just left heaven and maybe he was crying because it was a stabbing joy, to be born and enter mortality.

It means we leave behind heaven for awhile to come here.

Every birth is a miracle. And I suppose, every death is a miracle, too.

Because death is just another beginning and we are delivered, truly delivered from the pains and sorrows of this world.

All because Christ was born and lived perfectly and died perfectly…for us.

There’s a tumult of joy o’er the wonderful birth,
For the virgin’s sweet boy is the Lord of the earth.
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

And we look to the star while the beautiful sing
To the manger of Bethlehem.

We rejoice in the light, and we echo the song
Coming down through the night from the heavenly throng.
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

I love that, especially at Easter, my heart knows this, because sometimes I forget.

But, it’s true. And I want to shout, “Hosanna!” every time I think of the miracle of death–that it is not the end–it is the beginning of an adventure so glorious there are no words.

I promise you, I know it. I have been there for a moment. It is better than you can possibly understand.

It is light.

It is mostly love.

The love is the best part.

I promise. He has delivered us in more ways than we can possibly realize. He loves us far more than we ever understand. And it is so beautiful.

Our Hope and Deliverer promised of old,
For whom we have waited e’er long,
Hath come to redeem us from slavery’s yoke
And deliver His people back home.
Come, Israel, come and see He who shall reign,
In whom we will ever rejoice,
We hear the sound of the glorious refrain
And it echoeth back in our voice:

Hosanna! Hosanna! Thy Savior hath come, O Israel,
And blessed He’ll ever be called!
Hosanna! Hosanna! Sing praises to God,
For our Hope, our Deliv’rer, our All!

Oh, why should we wander as strangers from Thee
And turn from Thy bounteous hand?
Restore and defend us, oh, set us free,
That beside Thee we ever may stand!

He looks, and ten thousands of angels rejoice,
And myriads wait for His word;
He speaks, and eternity, filled with His voice,
Re-echoes the praise of her Lord:

Hosanna! Hosanna! Thy Savior hath come,
Our Hope, our Salvation, our All! (The Lamb of God)

a happy thing

a happy thing

It is good to feel lost… because it proves you have a navigational sense of where “Home” is. You know that a place that feels like being found exists. And maybe your current location isn’t that place but, Hallelujah, that unsettled, uneasy feeling of lost-ness just brought you closer to it. ~Erika Harris

Victor Hugo once said, “What a gloomy thing, not to know the address of one’s soul.”

The other day, I saw a beautiful necklace with a little charm at the end. It was advertised as “The Coordinates Of Your Heart” and you could put in the latitude and longitude of where you first met your husband, where you adopted your baby, your first kiss, etcetera.

I immediately thought I would put the latitude and longitude of where Joy’s marker is, because it’s the closest thing I can get to “locating” that lost piece of my heart, and it would be nice to have something tangible to hold on to in moments when I miss her.

And I also thought about how I have been a bit lost. A wandering soul since Joy left us because I didn’t know the address of my heart…my soul.

Was it in the cemetery in Tetonia? Well, a little. In heaven with Joy? Yes.

And I have always said my heart is in each of my children and my husband. So, if my child is at scout camp, part of my heart is there. If my husband is on a business trip to DC, part of my heart is there.

To love fiercely and much is to have one’s heart in pieces.

My heart is not whole here and I alone can’t make it so, because part of the sacrifice of mother is to voluntarily break your heart into pieces and spread them all over.

I know the coordinates of where my children and husband on earth are, but what about Joy? What are the coordinates of heaven? Is there a latitude and longitude somewhere?

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Beauty

Will I never feel home again? Will I never feel settled and un-lost?

I pondered that and I realized something this evening.

I have discovered the address to my soul.

It didn’t just happen all at once, I guess. But, in a way, it did. Suddenly, it was so clear. The coordinates of my heart–perfectly clear.

I had to let go.

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Florida

Moving to Florida was hard because I was forced by distance to let go of many of the fears and griefs I was carrying. But the lost-ness ended when I watched my friend Colleen get ready for a major life change.

She and her family recently moved to Australia. Before leaving, they sold or gave away everything they owned, with the exception of a few boxes of books and what could fit in suitcases.

My friend lost her daughter last year, and all I could think when I read how they were giving or selling everything was that this was what her daughter wanted for her–that it would be so good to start fresh, with her daughter still a part of her new life.

How come I couldn’t see it in myself?

How often has Joy been trying to tell me to let it all go? I have held on to the black couch that is falling apart at the seams and is missing one foot. Why? Because Joy sat on that couch and we used to watch the sun rise over the Tetons on it.

What about the old furniture and artwork that is outdated and books that are completely falling apart? What about the can opener that doesn’t really work that well all the time? Or the bowl with the dent in it? Or a myriad of other things that are just old and worn and ready to retire?

I just didn’t want to let go.

christrichman

Unwilling To Let Go

I think I am so good at downsizing, and I am. But, I was holding out. Like the rich young man, I was holding back my little treasures, unwilling to give it up even though Heaven was calling for it.

And why? Why would God want my old black couch?

Of course it was for my benefit. How could I not see?

And my friend Colleen–what kind of courage did she have to let it all go? More than I had.

But, I found it. I found the bravest part of my heart, locked away where the piece is missing that is now in heaven.

And I decided to let it go.

And I am giving it all away. All those things I was hanging onto because of Joy. Because she wants me to let it go.

And we are moving back to Utah and I finally know the address of my soul.

After the last five years of wandering, I finally found it.

My soul lives in Christ, and as long as I remember Him, I am Home and He finds the lost pieces and brings them together.

When I forget, I lose my way and I feel like pieces are everywhere, but when I am in Christ, my children and husband are there, too, and we are forever together, wrapped in His infinite grace and goodness. Even the piece in heaven…Christ encompasses it all and we are one.

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It Is Well.

And I know it is well. It’s a happy thing.

And then I can feel wholeness.

I need to be honest, here, though. While my address might be in Christ, there are often times when I am wandering and away. I am distracted and sinful and prone to mistakes of epic proportions and then I don’t feel calm or peaceful.

And it is so much more noticeable because missing Joy when I am like that feels stabbing and piercing with every breath. So I don’t like to lose my way. But I do sometimes.

small_daughter-of-jairus

Sometimes I Am Turned Away…

How great is the goodness of God that He will always take me back and make me feel Home again.

We have wandered these past five years in mourning and agony of soul, not even knowing just how heartbroken we were–not realizing how numbed and detached we felt from the world and things going on. Moving to Florida helped us to wake up out of that slumber and realize that life still goes on and we had to live it.

Leaving home was the only way I could go back. And I knew it, even when we first arrived. When I was kicking against the pricks, I felt that the only way I could return was to say goodbye and never go back.

Because I am not going back. I am returning a different person. A new person, with a new life. A new family. A new mission. A new beginning. I was so afraid of it before. I was just biding my time, waiting to get back to Joy. But now, now–I want to be with her more than anything every day, but I want to do it right. I want to love my way back to her, and I want to love fiercely.

love-of-god

Love

And my family is not just my loves, my children and husband. No, my family is also you and the lady at the grocery store, and the guy waiting in line, and the cashier and the customer service person and the woman crossing the street and everyone.

And I love that we are all children of the same God and we can love each other while we are on the journey buying milk and eggs and walking our dogs and doing the glorious little things….

Loving people that way is the only way I can stay in Christ. It’s the only way to be at Home with my soul. So, I love people. I am not great at many things–I don’t have amazing decorating talents and I can’t sew or bake my own bread, but I can love you. And I can love people the way Christ did. I can try. And loving people keeps me Home.

So, even though my address on earth is changing again, I finally know the address of my soul.

 

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves. ~Henry David Thoreau