Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Journey: Pruned

“You may kiss your bride” were the words my heart had believed for decades would mark the beginning of my happily ever after. While I was seasoned enough to understand that marriage was not all butterflies and rainbows, I truly believed that the fruitful part of my life was truly beginning when I heard those words spoken over us on that alter. When I look back on that moment in time, I can still see how I arrived at that conclusion, however, to call these past seventeen months “fruitful” feels like a bit of a stretch for my heart right now.

Entering happily into this season expecting a lot of blooming, blossoming and growing, I quickly discovered that God, the Master Gardner, had something else in mind for us entirely.  Although the hands of the Gardener are always careful not to kill or break off, the life being pruned often has a different perspective.  In the past seventeen months, God, with his pruning shears has cut away the bread-winning job in our household -twice. Has pruned away the joy of pregnancy.  He called our sweet newborn son into his arms in heaven shortly after birth. He has welcomed a beloved grandmother home to heaven, and has allowed for personal challenges inherent with a new marriage on top of many other personal ones. It is a season that has at times felt un-recoverable - almost as if His pruning shears went too far and accidentally severed us from His vine.  But in our hearts we know that is impossible, He knows exactly what he is doing and what is best.  It simply does not feel that way for us in the thick of this season in our lives.

So we have held onto that vine with all of our strength. With every whispered prayer and every cry of our hearts we have held tight as we have also been held.  As is often the case, lest the prun-ee become discouraged and wither, God being the ultimate Master Gardener has also plied us with fertilizer in order to strengthen and prepare us to grow and produce fruit when the season and timing are right.  During this difficult time, He gave us each other to cling to during these impossible days.  He provided community around us to sustain, encourage and to help us stay connected to His vine when we were weakest. He sheltered us in our cozy home, provided a secondary income to help make ends meet and whispered directly to our hearts of the hope of future fruit and harvest inherent in pruning. Being pruned is all about practicing a faith and belief that there is more hope and beauty ahead than what our eyes can see in the moment. Pruning is not just a lesson in gardening, it is a lesson in faith: believing in and hoping for what cannot be seen in this season.  

         -“For, before the harvest, when the blossom is gone and the flower becomes a ripening grape, he will cut off the shoots with pruning knives, and cut down and take away the spreading branches.”

~ Isaiah 18:5

* This is my latest piece for Heartland's weekly online devotional called The Journey....

§ If you are interested:  click here for The Journey in Word format and click here for the Journey in PDF format.  For more resources, feel free to visit the Journey Devotional page by clicking here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Journey

For the past couple of years, our church has had an online weekly devotional called The Journey, which is staffed by volunteer writers. It was a big step for me to "try out" for this team of writers, as it meant saying in a public way, "I like to write" and "I hope you read it."  It was a humbling message to admit and put out into the world and may not sound like that big of a deal, but for me, it was.  It meant making myself vulnerable enough to put my thoughts and writing out there for people to read, think about, form opinions about and possibly comment on- and more importantly, to basically let my efforts go and stand on their own.  It was about developing confidence in an area where my legs felt very shakey. 

The last time I wrote anything for The Journey was last August right when we found out about Luke's diagnosis.  I took a hiatus from writing there and turned my focus to begin writing on our blog and telling Luke's story....until now.  I have recently signed up to write several devotionals for our church over the next six months (about ten pieces in all) and am feeling a peace about writing there again. 

There are many teaching topics at church coming up on the horizon that I felt spoke directly to my heart either in what I've directly or am hoping to experience and learn about.  Feeling this connection with the upcoming teaching made me excited about volunteering to write for The Journey again.  I plan to post the pieces here as they are written and shared with our church community as well as links to where you can find the weekly devotional material that pairs with that week's teaching for anyone who may be interested- of course, there is zero obligation!

We are approaching the one year "birthday" of this little blog and it feels hard to believe that it was not until we found out about Luke that I truly began writing on a regular basis in a way that allowed my "voice" to be heard. This blog has been such an amazing outlet for me, mentally, personally, emotionally, spiritually and has also brought some incredible people into our lives as a bonus. As we move through and beyond this difficult season in our lives, I intend to keep on writing here and I will forever be grateful to our sweet, little Luke for helping me both discover and uncover this part of myself that brings so much life and joy to my heart.

I am also extremely grateful for all of you who have read and continue reading and passing our little blog along to friends- I'm grateful for your encouragement, your support, your words and your friendship. I cannot explain to you the transformation that has taken place for me in this area just in the past year alone since starting to write here. I thank you for helping me grow and for giving my words and our story wings.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Luke's Bench in the Lightbox

It's here... + It can be seen from space too!

  It has been an extremely emotional past few days for us.  Luke's bench is completed and has arrived in its new home inside the lightbox at Heartland.  While I have been eager yet anxious about seeing it for first time, I really did not know how to prepare my heart for the experience.  I took the day off from work so Joe and I could see it together for the first time on Friday and it was nothing short of pure emotion for us.  Walking up to the lightbox and letting our eyes rest upon it there in the shade, the only words that were able to be formulated were "yes," "wow" and "thank you."  Its milky gray color possesses depth and contrast just like a real cloud would while its thickness denotes stability and permanency.  Its gentle curves and lines reflect a comfort and softness not usually associated with concrete and its shape is restful for the eye to behold.  Needless to say, we are thrilled beyond words with how it turned out and we absolutely love it.

We were able to have some private time that day in the lightbox where we sat, admired, explored and discovered its reality and completeness.  It was thrilling to be able to touch it and sit on it after holding it in our mind's eye for so many months.  Our hearts were quivering as we prayed together and thanked God for all he had done for us to bring us to that day.  It is such a powerful memorial and marker for us regarding this journey we have been on and we are determined to always let it be a visible reminder of God's power over our lives.  Lots of tears later, we took some photos, shot some video footage and sat there quietly together thinking of and missing Luke and wishing he was there with us to see his beautiful bench.   

Joe took some time later that afternoon and created this beautiful video set to a song that has been an important part of our journey both together as a couple and with Luke.  There have been times where I have listened to it, sang along at the top of my lungs feeling strengthened by the powerful lyrics, and there have been times where when I listened, the tears just poured down my cheeks as I drove- times where I could barely even mouth the words let alone sing them.  It is a song written and preformed by our friend Jon Shirley and is also one of the ones we asked him to sing at Luke's Honoration service.  You can read all about Luke's Honoration service here.  (You can also find Jon's music on iTunes)

...the LORD said to Joshua, "... tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place..." He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear [revere] the LORD your God.
                                                     - Joshua 4: 3, 24

The book of Joshua has been an absolute touchstone for me during this season.  My journal is packed with passages and reflections and prayers stemming from this book about battles and fears and enemies and promised lands.  I may write more about that later, but the above verses echo our true feelings about what Luke's bench represents for us.  If you choose to read the verses in context, you will see that God was wanting his people to build a tangible memorial while in the midst of their journey to their promised land.  This memorial, made thanks to the assistance of many, had the sole purpose of helping them remember His power and faithfulness for bringing them through a very scary and never before experienced event- the crossing of the Jordan River at flood stage.  I'm sure the Israelites felt feelings when standing on the banks of that raging river similar to how Joe and I felt upon learning we were going to lose Luke- scared, facing so many unknowns while often paralyzed and filled with doubts and fears.  However, this side of the past eleven months, we can see with rich clarity that God was with us every step of this journey.  He was guiding, protecting, loving, providing, leading and strengthening us every inch of way.  He caught every tear and did not let us falter or fall away.

This bench is the memorial we have built (with the help of so many of you) to help us always remember how he loved us, blessed us with a beautiful son and brought us across our own Jordan River at flood stage.  We thank you, Lord, and with every glimpse of this beautiful bench, we will always remember.

*To everyone who helped to make this memorial for Luke possible, we thank you with all of our hearts.  
With Gratitude,
Joe and Sarah

p.s. The bride and groom flamingos seen in the video were part of a special wedding taking place at Heartland that night.  While they do not normally "live" in the lightbox, they bring a smile to our face every time we watch the video.  Congratulations to the beautiful bride and groom!  We are so happy that Luke's bench was a small part of your big day.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sketches of Luke's Bench...

We have had a number of you try to find the photos of the lightbox and the sketches of Luke's bench that we posted several weeks ago.  Sorry for the confusion on where it is located within the blog.  Here is a link to the post and we are so excited for the arrival of his special bench in the next week or so and will of course post more photos of it once it is installed....

*Joe installed a google search engine onto our blog, so in the future it is going to be easy to search for anything- just type in a keyword (i.e. bench)  into the space located on the sidebar - you may have to scroll down a little bit to get to the search engine.  Thanks Joe!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I have been struggling in pretty much every area of my life for about a month now. I feel like my head is underwater and that even simple everyday activities and any forward motion has required tremendous effort both physically and emotionally. Not every day has felt this way during this journey, but the past month certainly has, and I'm not certain why all of the sudden things just started feeling harder.  They just did.  I have struggled to find words to express my heart and as a result have not been writing as much as I would like, because I just don't even know where to begin explaining where I am and how I'm feeling. 

However, this morning I was reading one of my favorite writers, Leigh McLeroy and tears just flowed out of my eyes and down my cheeks as I read her beautiful words.  She articulated exactly and so beautifully what I've been not only experiencing, but also have been so desperate to hear.  So instead of my words here today, I'm posting hers.  What she wrote felt like a gentle, whsipered reminder from God straight to my heart and for the first time in weeks, I could feel my heart's wings begin to spread open a little bit.  Here is what she said that spoke to me most...

"Things fall apart," Irish poet Yeats wrote, "the centre cannot hold." But I challenge his conclusion. I believe it can, and does. The center holds because The Beautiful Son is at the center, holding all things together: For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17, NASB)

Circumstances at edges are perilous, yes. Things are broken. They crash and fall and shatter. But the center is strong.The center holds. Or better, it is held.

The challenge is to celebrate the mending, not mourn the pieces. To be thankful for the repairs, and not lament (at least not for long) the breaking. The challenge is to believe--even before things are put right--that rightness is near and possible...that it will come. Broken things will be mended: one day even our own hearts' cracks and fault lines will be flawlessly fixed, and stronger for it.

The challenges she wrote about are the exact challenges I'm facing and what I'm realizing is that everyone at some time or another faces these kinds of challenges...challenges that make you think, challenges that make you doubt, challenges that make you question, challenges that cause you to feel alone, challenges that make you wonder if you will EVER feel normal again...and her beautiful words reminded me that my God is a mender.  When something is being mended, it is necessary for it to be held close in both hands, it usually takes intentional time, and requires patience as the work is slow.  There is beauty in mending and being mended, and I am determined to keep my eyes open and try to be thankful for every tiny, painful stitch as He mends my broken heart.  Thank you God for holding all of my pieces and for tenderly mending my heart and life back together.  Thank you, Leigh for your beautiful words and for helping my heart to remember this truth and for helping me to re-focus on celebrating the mending instead of mourning the pieces.

* Leigh McLeroy is a brilliant writer who has a passion for seeing the sacred in the ordinary.  She has several books and a weekly email called Wednesday Words. If you have never read her, I cannot recommend her highly enough!  You can check her out here.  Her writing is a gift for anyone who reads it!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Six Months

My Sweet Boy,

Your birthday letter has been so hard for me to write this month. I have so much I want to say to you, but no words to express myself.  It has been six incredibly long months since I got to hold you and kiss your sweet face and hands. The tears have been falling so much and my missing of you has been heavy on my heart these past several weeks. I have every photo of you memorized and burned into my mind. Today is the fourth of July and I remember thinking that there was no way we would ever make it to this day. That it was simply impossible and that it felt like forever away...but here we are.  You would be six months old today.  I remember a year ago today we started calling our family members and joyfully telling them about you growing in my belly. One year ago today we were so filled with hope and excitement for everything that was ahead for our our eyes, our dreams were coming true.... only God knew the heartache that was ahead for us....  He knew that just around the corner were some horrible and sad life events that were far beyond anything we could imagine....he knew that was our only Fourth of July with you and I'm so thankful that my memories of that day with you are so special.  One year ago today, you were with us and we were so happy.   So much can change in a year.  In a month. In a week.  In a day.  In an hour.  In a single minute.  We know that now.  

Day by day we continue forward with you forever in our hearts and minds. We still talk about you every single day and not a minute goes by where my mind does not wander to your face or your impact on my life.  We continue to hold our love for you close and are working to try and keep our hope in God's hands.  We believe (although it is very difficult at times) that although our hearts are still broken into a million pieces and life feels impossible at times, that He again, knows differently for us -beyond what we are feeling in these heavy moments today- and are hopeful that just around the corner, instead of heart break, we will discover that He has happiness waiting for us.  I don't know how much farther we have to travel on this path to get there, but I wish you were here to share in that happiness with us when it does arrive.  Because no matter how great it will be, there will always be a bittersweet element to it because you won't be with us.  However, deep in my heart, I know that when our happiness does arrive, you will be smiling down on us from your beautiful spot in heaven on your special clouds. You will be with us Luke.  Always....and we are so thankful for that truth.

The photo above is a picture of some of your beautiful cirrus clouds. I was feeling very sad and missing you when I glanced up and noticed that there was a sundog among them.  Your dad whispered in my ear that this was God reminding us of his promise of hope and also his special way of making your clouds extra beautiful when I needed it most.

I love you and miss you more than my words can ever say and I cannot wait to be with you again.  I wish you a very happy half birthday Luke.  I celebrate being your mom every day.  You are and always will be a gift to me.

your mom