steve and i always wanted to write a book. we just didn’t know what the ending would be. and we didn’t know what the ending of our blog would be, either.
that was ten years ago, nearly to the day from when we started. we wrote to keep the updates that fueled the prayers and begging for Jesus to not let him die.
then our words became a means of sharing what his broken body was showing us about Jesus’ broken body. updates on healing and surgeries and what we needed to believe in order to keep going.
and then steve left us and our words became mine and i didn’t know God like he did. and the gaps in our hearts that started with ian grew deeper and so did our need for heaven, and prayer, and the strange connectedness that words written online created.
then we were married under the big tree next to 14 people that would carry us and in front of 150 that would remind us of why we said yes. my words turned back into our words as we figured out how the heck to do marriage and grief and watch other lives move so much faster than ours ever could.
then videos started and publishers found us and soon work i had wanted to do since i was a little girl was sitting on our lap. we put our words to a book and believed enough about God to believe it would be worth it. we shared our words at events and churches and small groups and somehow ended up in a film that allowed us to share Jesus to the world and put us on national talk shows and cable channels.
and it was worth it. and it always will be.
but then the words started coming less easily and the requests to share our words out loud weren’t coming but my career was and talk of babies was.
and then the cost of the words started to seem like a little too much after giving ten years of our hearts to strangers. the vulnerability and the comments we’d hear and the risks weren’t being outweighed by confirmation from Him anymore.
and that became ok.
because the new beginning of raising our son that we’ll bring into the world in a few short months isn’t something we want to share in our words. and for now, that local church and family is where we want to be.
the 14 that stood with us, as many as they could, met us in the mountains on 9/30, ten years since the 9/30 we wish hadn’t happened. and that’s where we will keep being. living out the rest of our story, for now, not online but in rooms filled with the faces we get to live life with.
we’ve made it this far because of prayer and the local church and the church at large and because of every single plea made on our behalf. until we can hug each of you around the neck in heaven, the three of us give our love and gratitude, always.
year ten of the life that we’ve needed to love, even though we wouldn’t have chosen it. in finding myself reflecting on ten, all that has come and all that has gone, we fluctuate between gratefulness and grief.
you’ll hear about year ten more on here, our long-neglected blog. like my thoughts from this morning, when for some reason, my moments in the bible were taking me back to what those moments felt like before ten.
a young college student (a baby really) eager to read things I’d never read before. journaling as I studied Jesus, seeing all the ways my life would change by following Jesus.
my quiet moments journal was filled with hope for my future, especially a future with this hot new boy i was dating.
they were such innocent moments with Jesus.
now into ten, it’s not so innocent. and I see that throughout the ten, maybe even immediately following that phone call on september 30, it’s been grueling.
my morning moments have sometimes taken long, long breaks.
they’ve become battle grounds.
they’ve often led to more questions than peace.
they’ve been one-sentence pleads.
they’ve been filled by children’s books (something my brain could actually understand), two minute prayers, books that talk about God but mainly make me laugh but they were easier to understand than the bible, and in very rare times, braving the Old Testament.
my quiet moments weren’t as simple after September 30.
they weren’t simple acceptance of scripture anymore. they required faith. faith that the words were true, despite what I saw when I looked at the hurting man in bed next to me.
looking back this morning, imagining the baby college student me, i can’t say yet that I’m grateful that the moments are a battle.
but i can say that I’m grateful the battle has already been won by Jesus and heaven will never be taken from me. no matter what the next ten brings.
“I feel like the third wheel, not being in a wheelchair,” our sister in law said. it was probably the first time she’d felt that and that we’d heard those words. we were making our way up, couple by couple, in the tiny restaurant elevator that was probably only there by law, not preference.
we had only known them then for a few hours, maybe not even 24, but they already felt comfortable. and not because their life was in a wheelchair too. we’ve certainly met others who shared that life circumstance with us.
it wasn’t just because they have a traumatic life story, either. if that were the case, we would all four of us just only ever be searching for friendships with people who are just as bad off as we are.
we like to think it was because of the laughter, that a conference in Austin gave us people who we want to now know forever. the laughter that started immediately in the hotel lobby and continued on stage and kept going with the sad tears too.
it was the laughter of two women arguing over who’s life sucks more, who has more courage to get out of bed, and who is more dependent on a glass of wine at the end of the day.
When I listen to culture Christmas, I think that I need to be happy – the glitter wrapping on packages tied with bows kind of happy.
The culture happy that sends Christmas cards with photos that make it look like the past year was really easy.
The culture happy that gets dressed up and has energy to be at parties. The culture happy that ties a lasso to the moon and warms itself by the fireplace.
This year for my Ian and I, well, mostly me, can’t be a culture Christmas. Because that version is one that tells us our life should be a certain way, a way that it probably won’t ever be.
The culture version of Christmas sends us pictures of warm things, easy things, that life with a disability just doesn’t fit. And unless we just stop listening to that version, this “season” will be even sadder than what normal life feels like. A refusal of culture Christmas, things that are plenty fine for others but are stark reminders for us, means there won’t be any lights on our roof line. Our tree is up only because the one year old niece that lives with us needed it and her dad was willing to put it up. There isn’t the self- inflicted tug to “experience Christmas” and make memories and make every single gift handmade because the memories from Christmas’s before and the memories I had expected to be living in by now have created hollows in my heart.
Which has left me in the time of advent wondering how to live inside of Christmas when my heart is broken. How to live inside and among and beside the happy people whose hearts haven’t been broken yet and whose waiting has been lifted. How to grieve without guilt and hide in the safety of my home because everywhere else requests the impossible of me.
“It’s just like when you cup your child’s chin into your hands and lift their eyes to yours,” Joy said to me. She told me she used to do that when her boys were young so that she knew they were listening. She reminded me that I just needed to look up at Jesus, to know that he was cupping my chin in His own hands, asking me to look up at him. Asking me to never lose sight of his face.
She was intersecting me when the wounds in my heart were growing wider. I needed to look up.
But inside Christmas, inside Jesus Christmas, I don’t even have to do that. Inside this advent season that hurts, I just need to look down and see a tiny baby in a field and the woman who brought Him to us.
I don’t even have to lift my head – it can droop and still see; see the reason I have breath and the hope for my heart holes. My tired gaze just needs to drift down and yet my eyes will find the savior of the world.
When I see this Jesus Christmas, and when I see this labored-for life swaddled into his mama, I see that the Culture Christmas doesn’t have to be inside our little bungalow this year. We can be fine without it and instead just live within Jesus.
a little letter to my lovey on our ten year date-iversary,
a letter because ten years is long and is a third of the time we’ve had breath. we met when we were twenty-something babies and were so good at being babies that we thought we had it all figured out.
ten years ago we were burning with wanting and with love that laid on the surface of everything we touched. ten years has dug that love deeper, so deep that sometimes it can’t even be found on the surface, but it’s there because we promised it always would be.
im glad you asked me to dinner ten years ago and that you wore your light pink shirt. we now live just above that restaurant and I wonder what we would have done if we could’ve looked up the hill and into the future.
im glad you soon told me you loved me and kissed me and told me everything in your heart.
thank you, after ten years, for always choosing love, always choosing forgiveness, always choosing me. even in my darkest, not unlike today, you hem me in and anchor my heart and never feed me guilt.
thank you for choosing to love my broken heart again and again and for believing that this prison of a body we now live in won’t always be lived in and for believing that He will bind my wounds in ways you cannot.
thank you for letting His name always be in your heart and coming out of your breaths. thank you for washing me over with His name, letting me hear His name, praying to His name over me.
thank you you for not giving up – on me, this marriage or this life-long attempt at understanding Him.
grandpa raised a good man in ian’s dad. his minnesota upbringing taught him to work hard and to be faithful to God, his local church, his wife and his family.
grandpa and steve taught ian how to be a man that knows the necessity of grace.
grandpa and steve knew that because of Jesus there was no fear in death.
on the six year anniversary of when steve died, his dad went too. the same day. the same season of red and orange leaves, cold air moving in, and darkness in early evening.
“ian, this anniversary makes me so sad and now your garndpa is gone too.”
“Jesus didn’t focus on anniversaries. there won’t be anniversaries in heaven to be sad about.”
steve taught ian to long for heaven, and his death buried that longing more deeply in us than any of his words could have.
grandpa and steve loved Jesus, a love that erased the fear of death, a love and confidence that is rooted deeply in ian. confidence that Jesus is real, His death defeated sin, and there is nothing left to fear.