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Thankfulness and Missing- Remembering Kingston’s 2nd Birthday

6 Dec

Soon after we found out that this new baby on the way would be our first daughter, we sat up in bed one evening talking.  We were giggling about pink things and about how she’d certainly become Daddy’s little girl, but not more than a few moments went by before Justin’s eyes glossed over a little, and he said it.

A statement so weighted by the honesty of this season, whispered across our pillows.

“She won’t know her big brother.”

And so here we are.  His second birthday has arrived.  How is it that two years have gone by since you were in my arms, and left my arms, sweet baby?  Your sweet Daddy is making me French toast as I type this, and we both awoke to tearful eyes- to empty arms.  The theme of this season is certainly a dichotomy, bouncing back and forth between two heavily defined emotions:

1.  Thankfulness

2.  Missing

We have much to be thankful for and we miss him, in the deepest parts of our hearts.

God is doing so much with the story of his little life and we are overwhelmed daily by the life change we see taking place in other people’s hearts as they hear his story.  It’s more than we ever could have asked or hoped for.  In just the recent weeks:

There was this beautiful article we had the opportunity to write in the Message Magazine.  My boys featured on the cover of a national magazine?  I’ve never seen anything more beautiful than the two of them together.  What’s the most powerful of it all is the letters and testimonies we received after people read it, the hope that the Lord gave them through it.

message magazine cover

Then there was this speaking and praying for a group of powerful, young, world-changing women at Southeastern University just yesterday.  I tried to teach them about leaning when you are in the darkest moments of life.  Leaning into Him, into community, into worship, into giving and into the truth of eternity.  We told them that hope does not disappoint and that it is an anchor for our souls.  What’s amazing?  We really believe every word we said about hope to the core of who we are, even among these ashes, especially among these ashes.

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Then we’ve been filming, too.  We’re terrible actors, but we have willing hearts and so now, we’re in a music video.  As is our boy’s nursery and his beautiful things and his beautiful story.  The song you ask?  Well, it’s called Smile.  Something we do a lot, even among these ashes, friends.  The brilliant Joshua Cruz will be releasing it soon, and as soon as he does, we’ll be sure to share it with you.  We think you’ll love it.

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You can see it, can’t you friends?  How He and only He makes it beautiful again?  How could we be anything but thankful?

Ah, yes… but then, there’s this: “She won’t know her big brother.”

The missing, in the midst of thankfulness.  There are moments when the ashes still sting the eyes, harshly.  We have a little blue box that holds the ashes of Kingston’s little life, and I don’t know that it will ever stop hurting.

The truth is, you can wrap it in bows and call it pretty and speak positively, but at the core of it all- she won’t.  Amelia will never know her big brother.  Not in the way that we had hoped she would.

There won’t be a two year old toddling into the hospital room this Spring to meet her for the first time, or a two year old kissing my belly as it grows, being taught to say her name and love her early on.  She won’t know his voice, or his protection, or him pulling her hair, or his laughter.  The cupcakes we make today are not for him- not really, anyway- and neither are the balloons or the birthday songs or his little blue clothes that still fill the drawers in his room.  None of us will know the color of his eyes or the sound of his cry or the warmth of his breath.  Not while we are here in this life.  So, we miss him, today and everyday.

“We will tell her about him,” I said as I reached over and grabbed Justin’s hand.  And we will, because that’s all we can do.

We will make space for him, and we will whisper to her about how he is her big brother and we will make sure she knows how he changed our lives, forever.  We will keep telling his story as God allows us the opportunity to: in print, in speaking, at the grocery store.  And we will remember him.  Because he was our gift, our first born son and we love him. And because who could forget this child?  Surely, not us.  When we are 75 and gray, on December 6th, and everyday really, we will hold the secret of his life in our hearts and he will be our first boy and we will be his mommy and daddy.

Tonight, we’ll gather with our best friends, our parents and siblings and we’ll sing to him on the beach.  We’ll stare as the balloons rise to the heavens, we’ll watch as the sun slowly sets, and we’ll gaze on the waves as they crash along the beautiful Florida shore.  Those moments will remind us that God is holy, and sovereign and that He loves us.  We will know, more than ever, that He is the God who climbs into the ashes with those who He loves, and begins to craft beauty.  The children will laugh. We will eat at our favorite pizza place on the beach, because we are Italian and we comfort ourselves with good food and who cares about calories and carbs on days like these?  We will hug, we will cry, we will softly smile and we will miss him together.  In the hardest, most beautiful way: we will celebrate you baby.

We remember you, sweet Kingston boy.  We remain thankful for your life, but we miss you.  More than words could ever express, we miss you.  We wish with all of us that there was a way that you could be here with us instead.  When mommy closes her eyes today, she thinks about Jesus holding you and she wants you to know that she can’t wait to run to Him, and to you, one day. To the place where the ashes can no longer sting the eyes and death is no longer something that separates our hearts.  We love you, Kingston Isaiah.  Happy 2nd Birthday, darling.

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To all of my sweet reader-loves… if you’ve been following along on our journey, or maybe you’re new to it, either way, below are a few links if you’d like them.  They are our favorite ways of remembering, and we want to welcome you in, to the beauty of our mess, to miss him with us today if you want to.

Video of Our Story

Slideshow of Memorial Service

Blog from His 1st Birthday

Message Magazine Article

Blog about Justin on Father’s Day

Blog with links to videos of the first time we spoke about his story

We’ve received all of your texts, and messages, and have read your own posts about our boy today.  We have felt the fullness of your prayers for us.  You, friends, are one of the things we are most thankful for.  We know this journey would be much darker without you and your willingness to miss him, love him and seek God with us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Love, Justin & Suzie

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The Bravest Daddy I Know.

19 Jun

I’m not exactly sure when the first time I said it to him was, but I know it was in one of those transparent, dark and hurting moments that we so often shared in the weeks following Kingston’s death.

“I don’t think I can lose anything else, Justin.  Especially not you.  Promise me you’ll keep talking about this?  Promise.  I don’t want this to ruin us.”

It’s interesting the pleas and desperate questions that are whispered across tear-soaked pillows; that linger among the sleepless nights following the loss of a child.  The color of grief running so desperately over everything you once knew. Everything sounding, tasting, smelling and appearing slightly different than before.

We both personally knew several couples who had lost everything else, after they lost their children.  Homes, marriages, friendships, spirituality, finances.  Somewhere, sometime, it was whispered to me that on average, only 1% of marriages survive the loss of a child. I remember thinking when I heard that… why?  Why wouldn’t you cling more than ever to the love of a spouse after losing a child?  Why give up then?  Why not use your marriage as a way to survive?

I’m not sure if this awful statistic is accurate, but it stuck with me in the months after the baby passed and today, I know the painful answer to those questions that my former, naïve self didn’t.  Yes, I know why.  Why the 99% let it all become ruin and I don’t even dare to judge them for it.

Because the truth is, survival is about our natural instincts and those instincts would take one look at this thing called “marriage” in the midst of such loss and they’d tell you to get out.  To run away.  No one will blame you for trying to survive this… so go ahead, do it.

Close off.  Shut the door. Roll over in the darkness and let the numbness take over your heart as the space between your two souls grows distant, further apart.  It’s easier, after all, to fight over small things, then to dig through the mess left in front of you- isn’t it?

Because the mess in front of you contains so much sorrow.  It’s the place where the regrets are.

The place where the hard questions, and the past and the future and the fear and the dreams all collide and at the core of it, the real reason you should run, is the fact that the marriage-relationship mimics the God-relationship, and the God-relationship is the last thing you want to deal with when your God has refused to answer the most desperate of prayers for the sweetest of babies.

Yes, I know why only 1% of marriages survive the loss of a child.  Because there is this enemy that is very real.  He comes to kill, steal and destroy and when you’re already so devastated, so defeated by loss… surviving could mean just letting this enemy have it all, because surely you’ll fail if you try to fight back in the state you’re in, right? And what are you fighting for, anyway?  One more precious thing that death could take away from you at any moment?

But I think the heartbeat of God would ask you, what is this wild, beautiful thing called life worth, if we’re merely surviving?  Is the purpose behind this vapor you have been given, to merely survive?  Don’t you feel it beating within you?  That you were created in the image of More. 

I want to live this life, not just survive it and to live, in this vapor we have been given, to fully love the rest of what we have left after the loss, that takes more than primal survival skills.  Choosing to stay and to fight for one more thing that you have no guarantee over.  Agreeing to relentlessly love something else you could so easily lose.  That’s not the easy way out.  That’s not the survival way out.  That, my friends, is the narrow road. The path less-traveled, where the beauty broken pieces are found.

We were created for the adventures found on the paths that are less-traveled.  Our Lord, walked the narrow road Himself so that we could choose to be brave and follow His self-sacrificing, relentlessly-loving footsteps.

He was just a boy when I met him, this husband of mine.  Young, tan and handsome with coke bottle glasses and a back pack too big for his thin body to carry.

Different from the boys I had been dating.  Not the most popular.  Not what would “appear” to be the bravest.  Not the tough guys I was used to. But he was gentle.  And kind.  And if I had to pick one word to describe him then, now, it would be: good.  To his core.  He’s just good.

I needed good in my life when we became best friends.  The gangster, broken girl and the shy, nerdy guy.  As shy as he was though, he was never intimidated by my fight.  By the fire and the polarizing force that can be me at times.  In fact, he always let me shine.  Then, now.  A steady, grounding force he quickly became to my heart.

I never knew, when I married that sweet boy.

That we’d be here only a few short years later.

And that the statistic of the 1% would be haunting me.

“What if it all falls apart baby, slowly, years down the road because we miss something or we don’t guard something?”  I desperately would say, and sometimes in my weak moments, still do “Don’t be afraid.  Don’t be fearful.  It won’t.  We’re in this with each other and Him- together.  I love you.” The grounding, steady force of that sweet boy says.

You see it, don’t you? How the marriage-relationship, indeed mimics the God-relationship?

My baby sister told me after seeing us, in the months following Kingston’s death that she learned more than ever why she just can’t settle when it comes to dating and marriage.   How Justin never left my side in the worst of emotions.  How we loved and fought through.  How whoever she is going to marry, has to be someone who loves Christ more than he loves her, so that they can walk through things like that together and do more than just survive.  I nod in understanding and I’m daily proud of her for choosing narrow paths of her own.  Brave Little One of mine she is.

We’re different now, in so many ways.  From the time we met, from the time we got married.

Life has brought us lessons that have put a few grey streaks in our 20-something strands of hair.  Our eyes are surrounded by dark circles that I’m convinced no amount of coffee will ever fix, and there are some lines appearing along our faces that I’m oddly proud of.  Our souls are older and battle-warn, but I’m thankful to report that on most days, we’ve managed together to do a lot more than just surviveWe live, in love with Him and in love with one another.   While we still have weak moments, the majority of our days are filled with tickle fights, laughter, great conversations, dreaming together, and loving each other through our weaknesses.  Joy.

Father’s Day just passed and I’m so deeply thankful for a boy who fell in love with me when we were just children, really.  He may not have “appeared” to be the bravest when I met him, but at the center of that goodness I saw in Justin is a steadfast, passionate love for Christ.  It’s that love, for his God, that makes him the bravest man I have ever known- full of the most gentle, quiet and steadfast strength possible.

You see, it takes the deepest kind of courage to weep over a lost son, feel the ashes of broken dreams stinging your eyes and choose, instead of running, to stay and fight for what’s left.  To love a woman relentlessly, softly guiding her fragile heart through the sea of emotions and back to the throne of her King.  It takes the heart of a warrior to realize that if the enemy had his way, everything else would lay in ruins as well and that we could so easily be part of the 99%… but instead, he daily dies to himself, puts me first and loves the Lord with all of his heart, soul and strength- therefore guarding my heart and fighting for us, in a way, that only he can as the head of my household.

Yes, that boy I once knew has grown into the strongest of men.

And, do you know what he spent this Father’s Day doing?

Missing his boy?  Yes.

Weeping over the breakfast in bed I made him and the sweet card with pictures of our baby? Yes.

But, also, loving some of the teens of our church who have no Dads, in only the way he can.  Pastoring people.  Dancing in the Father-Daughter Dance with our little niece, and loving on our nephew as if he was his own.  Because the young boy, who grew into the strongest of men, has the heart of a true Daddy and really, always has.

Happy Father’s Day, my love.  You are undeniably, the greatest gift God has ever bestowed on this girl.  Our sweet Kingston (and any of our children that follow him), could not have been blessed with a better Daddy.  I hope you know how much of a treasure you are to all of us!  You so beautifully represent Jesus to me and to our family… thank you for being in love with Him, for being in love with us and for fighting for us with such strength even through the thickest of life’s battles. Thank you for helping me find beauty in the brokenness!  I love you!

And to all the mommies and daddies out there who celebrated Father’s Day in a different way this year- like we did- we love you and have taken time to pray for you.  Be strong, be courageous, cling to Him and be part of the 1%.

Consider clicking here: http://angiesmithonline.com/2012/05/pattern/ and visiting another great post from baby-lost parents on marriage in the wake of loss, being lost instead in His grace?

Thanks for hanging in for a longer than usual blog post today.  Love to all of you!

Suzie

Honesty- With a Side of Update!

11 Apr

Ah, here we go again.  Beginning yet another blog with an apology for my completely busy life and the fact that I’ve failed to write enough on here.  Forgive me, sweet friends?

Just wanted to tell you all is well in the Barbour’s world and give you a random and quick update on life.

#1: I’m unemployed.

It’s fun and terrifying all at the same time.

I’m trying to be protective of my time, so that I can be productive- write, exercise, apply for new jobs- all of that. It only works about one or two days a week as there is always something to do, but I figure one or two days a week is progress in compared to the non-existent time I was having when working 60 hour weeks. We’re still trying to decide what the future is going to look like for me in this job thing, and it’s really difficult considering I’ve worked full time since I was 15 years old. The finances are a take it day by day, faith walk… which I hate.

I’m really good at living a faith-filled life when the path is clear and I know where the money is coming from and what’s going to happen. But that really isn’t faith at all, is it?  What’s that you say?  You struggle with it too?  Ok, good.  Thought I was a little crazy.  I might be.  But I’m ok with that and I’m doing this thing.  We’re learning and Justin is so supportive and I’m super thankful.  Prayers are appreciated as we continue to navigate these uncharted waters in our life.

Speaking of uncharted waters, #2: I’m writing.  Or not writing.  I’m learning how “I’m writing” can actually mean “I’m staring at a blank screen”.

Sheesh.  I’m home now and have more time to write, and life is good, so you think I’d be inspired, right?  Negative captain.  Apparently, my “Writing Self” is only inspired to write at 3 am, when I’m working 60 hours a week and need to lose a little sleep like I need a hole in my head.

She (I call her a she because someone so fickle could only be a woman) also only prefers to write when the absolute worst things are happening in my life.  I get it, I get it.  Broken places produce sweet fragrances, one of which is great writing.  It’s a deeply spiritual process.  But, I’m trying to live the dream here… and now “we”, meaning my “Writing Self” and I, decide to be un-inspired the majority of the time. Fantastic.

“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler

Perhaps it is because there is so much non-creative work that goes into organizing book proposals, redesigning author websites, scheduling photo shoots and researching this long process.  I’m an administrative bird, so I get lost in the tasks sometimes.  Intentional creativity is hard for us organizers.  I think what I need is a hammock and permission to drink café con leche in the middle of the day or at midnight.  I also desperately need permission from someone to put REAL sugar in it, regardless of the fact that I’m a diabetic.  I’m a little tired of the guilt that goes along with REAL sugar in my life.  So permission, pretty, pretty, please? In the name of inspiration?

#3: I also need books.  Anyone who knows me knows I adore new books. When hubby gives them to me, I love them like they’re roses or shoes.  I love them most when they go along with roses and shoes.  Yes, he has his hands full.

The whole unemployment thing isn’t doing a lot for my “roses, shoes, and book” budget to say the least. I don’t want to complain too much, because at the heart of it all, I’m really thankful we have enough to buy groceries for this large family.  I’ve been to the places in the world where that’s not an option for most, and so in spite of being unemployed- I’m thankful for the miraculous provision that is a car, a beautiful home, clean water and groceries.  However, I do have to admit that I miss new books.

I think the lack of new pages in my life, also adds to the lack of inspiration and creativity I’m experiencing.  I need to read all different kinds of writing in order to be inspired to write, and I need to smell some new pages like a fat kid needs cake.  That’s not nice.  My apologies to any fat kids.  I’m one at heart; note the REAL sugar frustration, so I understand.  But seriously, I have a list… some of which include (in case you have them and feel like generously lending them to me): Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll, Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, The Gift of Imperfections by Brene Brown, I Thought it Was Just Me by Brene Brown, The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, Still Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren Winners, The Jesus Driven Life by Michael Hardin, Empty Promises by Pete Wilson and The Pastor by Eugene Peterson.  I told you I had a list. Sadly, I could probably name more.

I’m currently devouring the first book in the Hunger Games (I know deep, right)- just because it’s new.  Sharayah lent it to Mandi, and she lent it to me.  I’m flipping through Steven Tyler’s biography and I’m also diving into a small prayer book on healing for our bodies that my sweet friend Annie gave me.  Someone else gave that to her. You see how this is the gift that keeps on giving folks?  Share books!  Seriously, when is the next holiday that you can give someone a gift… Mother’s day?  Gulp.

#4: So, yeah, about Mother’s Day.  The thought of it stopped me in my book rambling tracks- which I bet you’re grateful for.  My throat got a little tight and my eyes a little hot when I typed it.  Since this blog is mainly about my sweet Kingston and his story, I’d be amiss (amiss- take that, uninspired Writer Self) if I wasn’t a little transparent about my feelings as this holiday approaches.  Holidays are super hard in general.  I spent most of Easter thankful for the cross, but not like most Christians are.  To be honest, the driving motivation behind the thankfulness this year was a little selfish.  To me now, the cross means I get to see Kingston again one day.  It means Heaven is real and my sweet baby is whole with Jesus.  It’s amazing the way broken places and painful trials can move you closer to the reality of Christ, to the reality of what He did, Who He is.

The rest of the day on Easter, I looked at people’s cute outfits and also thought about what it would be like to carry around a 16 month old from place to place.  Every place I walked into, I imagined him snuggled on on my hip, diaper bag on the other arm.  I pictured us keeping a close eye on him, taking pictures at the Egg Hunt and taking family Easter photos.  Life sure is different now.

Last Mother’s Day, it was my first without Kingston and Justin tried so bravely to take us all to church- he’s a good dude, I tell you.  I managed to get all dressed, and drive half way there in the car before I began utterly sobbing- not the cute kind of crying- but hysterics.  The rest of the family’s tears followed as Justin made a u-turn and we went home for pancakes instead.

Since Kingston passed, his story has opened up a lot of doors in our lives- one of which has been becoming a resource to families going through similar situations as ours.  Truly an honor.  In the past few weeks, we’ve had the privilege of encouraging a few families who have lost little ones.  And, every time I think of Mother’s Day approaching, I think of them.  And I think of me.  And of all the ways that life is more precious, and just so utterly different now.

There’s a beautiful Easter Lily (more writing on that to come) on my dining room table.  It’s in memory of my sweet little man, but more than that, it’s a reminder of my Lord’s gift, and how even though life is different now:  He was.  He is. He is to come.  So, even in all the “different” that makes up our beautifully broken story these days, we have Him and so much to be thankful for in the gift of His love, yes? Indeed.

“In this world, you’ll have trouble.  But, take heart!  I have overcome the world!” – John 16:33

So there you have it: an honest update on our crazy, lovely life.  A little more honesty, than update, I’ll admit- but cheers!  I love you all and really cherish the fact that you stop by here occasionally.  Tell me, please- how are you?  Do you relate at all to my struggle with inspiration?  What about my need for real sugar and/or my love of books?  What books are on your want list?  Any I should add to mine?

XOXOXO,

Suz

Announcment: Expecting!

25 Feb

Announcement: WE’RE EXPECTING!

Nope- we are NOT preggers (though I’m sure I’m going to get asked for weeks by people who just read the title and didn’t make it this far- yikes).  Even though there’s no baby on the way (yet), we are indeed expecting… expecting great things from our new business and I just wanted to take a moment to share it with all of you.  Tada!

Isn’t it pretty?

Easy Expecting is something I have been dreaming about for years and it’s funny what a week or two off of work combined with a little time working with the fierceness that is Graphic Insight will do for a dream.  I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am that it has launched and how hopeful I am about what it can bring to families in the Tampa Bay area and even nationally one day (big ideas, baby). 

In the maternity industry, just like any other industry, there are vendors who are great and some who are… well, not so great.  My experience as a doula throughout the years has introduced me to so many amazing providers in the area and I’ve been wanting for so long to develop a business platform that would bring us all together to one place.  Now we have it! Amazing, I tell you! So stinking amazing!

We’re offering 15 different service platforms that can cater to any level of maternity clientele, and we’ve even got a Maternity Concierge Service that will allow us to cover needs for families that might not fit into one of our service categories. 

Probably the service area I’m most excited about is the Pregnancy Loss Recovery Assistance area.  It’s been a dream of Justin and I’s to help other families in similar situation to ours ever since we lost our sweet Kingston.  Eventually, our goal is to launch a non-profit called Beautiful Grief that will take this whole recovery assistance process to another level, but in the meantime, Easy Expecting is giving us an avenue to work towards that.  We won’t be charging for these services and we’re so excited to be reaching out in this way.

Many of you blog loves of mine out there have walked through so much with us in relation to Kingston, ministry trials and more- thanks for that.  I would love to ask you to rejoice with us in this new and exciting season as we launch Easy Expecting and also to help us in a few simple ways:

1.       Visit our website and take a look around! www.easyexpecting.com (specifically read through some of the stuff on the services tab- we know you’ll love it).  Feel free to tell us what you think, we’d love to hear your feedback (and we really actually mean that- it would be a good confidence-booster and nerve-settler to know someone else is actually taking a peek at it)!

2.       Like us on Facebook, if you haven’t done so already, by clicking here.  If you’re on Twitter, you can find us there too!

3.       Spread the word for us.  This is so key to any small business having success and ours is no different.  Share our website on facebook or twitter by copying the website above and pasting it into your status update, email our website out to your friends, post us on your own blogs and mention us in your conversations.  Tell anyone you know who lives in Tampa and ESPECIALLY anyone you know who is pregnant.  Pretty, pretty please!  You won’t be disappointed that you introduced them to us, we promise!

4.       Help us with handouts.  We have beautiful brochures and business cards that are being placed in maternity stores, doctor’s offices and other similar businesses in the area.  If you’d like a few to hand out to people you come in contact with or you know of a business that we can place them at, please let us know by emailing me here and we’ll get them to you right away.

5.       Last but not least, lots and lots of prayers please.  We really believe in this and we believe in what it can do.  We’re praying for favor, blessing, wisdom, ordered steps and increase.  We’d love it if you’d agree with us in all of that!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Again, I’m beyond excited (seriously, giddy like a 5th grade girl at a Bieber concert, complete with clapping, blushing, jumping and screaming- it’s ridiculous, really… someone stop me)! 

Love to you all,

Suzie (& Justin)

PS- A huge thank you to all of our vendors who have already partnered with us and all of the business who have already agreed to promote us- we adore all of you and are looking forward to the future!  If you’re a vendor or you have a skill in one of our service areas listed on the website and you’d like to see about partnering with us, email me at Suzie@easyexpecting.com.  

PSS- A special big thanks to the home team: Joshy, Hubby, Sissy, Best Friendy, Mommy, Pastors, Mentors and anyone else who has been an encouragement throughout this dreaming and launching season!  You guys make me brave, and I love that… Smooches!

A Little Reliance in 2012

2 Feb

I walk out of the office an hour later than I intended to, following what was a beastly, brain-busting day from the beginning.  “At least I have this ocean.”  That’s what I tell myself as I wait in the traffic to head over the bridge.  It’s excessively worse today.  I’m hungry.  Tired.  Ready for some peace and quiet, and yet, that’s the last thing happening in my car.  Sure, there’s no one else here but me.  It’s not peaceful, not quiet, though.  I turn up the music in an attempt to drown out the noise.  Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I like loud music so much?  Because it hushes thoughts. 

I’m convinced if anyone could climb into my mind for a few moments on days like this one, they’d be exhausted and ready to call it quits in a matter of moments.  I’m always trying to make it better.  Plan.  Get to the next destination.  I’m learning that stillness is hard for a recovering striver.

I prop my arm up against the window, pull down my sunglasses, prop my head against my hand and turn up the music even louder.  Normally, I enjoy moving through radio stations, but instead, I’m in the mood for something holy.  That means that I plug in my I-phone. And also that it’s a serious kind of day.  I’m searching for something to nourish.  The thoughts reel and as they do, Jesus Culture’s “I Want to Know You” blares through the speakers.  I barely hear it, at first.

These finances.  Maybe if we do this, maybe if we do that.  Let’s give this up.  Well, no, that won’t work.  Maybe in 5 years we could get rid of the student loans.  How will I ever be able to stay home?  Ok, maybe this way.  Or maybe that.

And I somewhat hear it, but I dismiss it:

“Covered by Your mercy, your blood has made me free.  Draw me to You.

I want to know You.  You’re my one desire.

I give you my worship.  All of my passion.  I give you my whole heart.  All my devotion.” 

What about the church?  I love it.  Need to spend more time there.  Need to invest more there.  This is the stuff I was meant for.  We should have more staff meetings, another event, and another prayer meeting.  Are the people praying?  How do we get more people to serve and to share the load?  How do we teach them to walk with You, closer?  How do we draw them into you?  How do we grow? What about giving? What about this building? Oh, I have to tell Megan about that new marketing idea I have.  Did I create that graphic? What should we do for our next young adult small group? Can’t forget those sign in sheets for the nursery.

I glance at my IPhone again and I briefly hear it as it builds, before going back to the worry:          

“My heart is held by love so unconditional.  You captivate me.  You’re the lover of my soul.” 

It’s faint, but it’s getting louder.  Still I dismiss it:               

“I want to know You.  Let Your Spirit overwhelm me.  Let Your presence overtake my heart.” 

Pregnancy.  Try again?  I don’t think I can.  Who can after holding Kingston, full-term, beautiful, born silent.  I want to.  I want 10 little ones- most days, anyway.  But, what if it happens again?  I say I’d go through it again because its precious- and – I would.  What I’m really scared of is not that loss will happen again.  At the core it’s that if it happens again, it will probably be proof that something is wrong with this body.  My fault?  Can’t bare that.  I’m still a broken mess, even though there’s beauty.  The house is a disaster.  I’m supposed to be eating better than I am.  Serving more, working harder at the office, doing devotions, reading more books, spending more time with family, spending more time with my husband, exercising every day and my blood sugars have to get in control.  Who has time for all of that?  Speaking of time, it takes some of that to try to get a book published.  I guess I can just sacrifice more sleep, right? Proverbs 31 women get up early, right?  I’m so not a morning person.  I’m a 30 minutes before she needs to leave, exhausted, throwing her hair into a ponytail, doing her makeup and eating breakfast- all in the car, kind of girl. I smirk a little. Yes, less sleep. That could work.  Up at 4am, bed at midnight… but… I’m already so tired.

And then, for the first time in a long time, I hear Him.  Almost audibly.  A violent halting.  A perfect interruption.

Shhhhhhhh.

And I hush and I hear it, blaring now, a heart’s cry, over and over and over from the speakers… and I love this song.

“I want to know You.  Let Your Spirit overwhelm me.  Let Your presence overtake my heart.”

The drums pound and it slowly gets louder and louder, singing over me.

“I want to know You.  Let Your Spirit overwhelm me.

Let Your presence overtake my heart.”

“I want to know You.

Let Your Spirit overwhelm me.

Let Your presence overtake my heart.”

“I want to know You. 

Let Your Spirit overwhelm me. 

Let Your presence overtake my heart.”

Then, I remember New York as I take a deep breath in and a deep breath out and I hear Him whisper it…

Reliance, Suzie.

It was cold out.  I think we were on the subway when I said to my husband: “I think our one word to focus on for 2012 should be Reliance.  Reliance on each other, on God, what do you think?”

He asks why, and says he likes it, and I explain that I’m tired of failing in my own strength.  I always set lofty goals.  Go big or go home, baby!  Yep, by March I’ll lose 30lbs and the house will be spotless each day, and I’ll blog once a week (What’s that you say? I haven’t blogged all month. It’s the 1st day of February. Darn. Was hoping you missed that.), book proposals will go out in February and the list goes on.  I tell him that I love all of the goals and I still want to set them, still want to go after them with tenacity, but that I don’t want to carry all the weight.  I want God in these same battles I fight each year.  I want to rely on His goodness, His plans, His timing, His strength, more.  Be smaller, so He can be bigger in each area of my life.  Invite Him more into this mess, so I’m not cleaning it all up by myself.  My sweet hubby gives me that gorgeous, reassuring and safe smile of his and says that it really resounds with him. 

Reliance.

Here, in this car, is where the relying is hard.  It’s so easy to get lost in the list and in the planning and in the worry.  So easy to forget that He is near.  That He’s in it. Have you been there?  I pull into the drive way, look up at the beautiful Florida sky, sun beginning to set and I lean back, clothes my eyes and let the tears fall as I ask for forgiveness for forgetting, so easily forgetting how in control of this life He is. How not in control I am.  God, if I’m going to be overwhelmed, I want it to be by Your Spirit like this song cries out for.  If my heart is going to be overtaken, let it be by Your presence, not this stress.  I spend a few minutes in worship before I head in to cook dinner, put away laundry and work on service preparations (and catch up on a little Real Housewives- yeah, about that).  Later that evening, Justin tells me he thinks he is going to teach about it at service this Sunday… Reliance.  I tell him about the car today.  There it is again, that smile of his.

As I sit on the front row on Sunday, only a few days from my car experience, my mind reels in the forgetting, again.  It’s the Lord’s day-sure- but as any transparent pastor’s wifey would admit, it’s a day of doing as well.  A doing that I love, that makes my heart beat, but a doing nonetheless.  Make sure to check folder in office, make sure children’s church has enough coverage, put out new sign in sheets, stock up on snacks, make sure to meet these new families, make sure to ask about that person’s doctor’s appointment, set up for prayer night, memorize announcements, don’t forget to remind pastor to remind the people about 2010 giving statements, help hubby prepare.  As I’m sitting there towards the end of service, I’m so consumed with watching the clock because service is running a few minutes over.  So consumed with thoughts that I almost miss it, until Pastor Hubby says to bow our heads.  He prays.  Tells us to imagine releasing all of the lists, pressures, dreams, goals- from our hands and falling back into the arms of our Father.  Tells us to rest in that for just a moment.  To rely.  Then, it’s there on the front row with my head lowered, and it’s in the car, and it’s in the moments when I grab hands with other couples at the altar and pray for all of us to rely on Him more, that I remember, He’s in this.

That evening, we’re back at the church for a regional district prayer meeting.  Hugging other pastors, meeting, encouraging.  We all take time to pray for each other.  Guess the specific areas that the saints feel they should pray over me?  Increase in health.  Increase in strength.  Increase in power.  Increase in prosperity.  He’s in this, Suzie. 

Goals are great.  If I can succeed at 1% of these dreams this year, I’ll be better off than I was last year.  So will you, with lists all your own.  But more than all of the lists, if I can learn, however stubbornly and however slow, that He is in all this with me, that I can trust Him; I’ll have gained something more precious than gold, or silver.  Something more valuable than paid off debt, healthy earthly bodies, flourishing ministries, and even whole pregnancies.  Because knowing Him, trusting Him, understanding reliance on this Jesus in this earthly life is truly eternity in the making.

So, HELLO to all of you, from 2012!  My apologies for missing January on here.  I will be trying to blog more, I promise!  For today, I appreciate your grace and, I’d like you to know that I’m praying that as you read this, you’ll find a desire to lay back and trust Him with your plans and your goals for this year.  Believing that rest will flood your faith, that grace will abound in your heart and that somehow, you’ll have moments when you remember Reliance.  Here are a few songs (some new, some old) for your drawing near times, or maybe just your crazy drive home:

Jesus Culture’s- I Want to Know You

Jason Upton’s- In the Silence

Kari Jobe’s- Be Still

Misty Edward’s- Dove’s Eyes

Dave Fitzgerald’s- Sweeter

Unlce Kracker- Drift Away (ok, so this one is not a worship song… at all. But, it still makes me take a deep breath, pull my sunglasses over my eyes, roll down the windows and smile- enjoy!)

A little reliance goes a long way, especially when handed to Him.  

Do you have a one word focus for 2012?

Love,

Suz

Things I’m Adoring!

16 Dec

So, though there are many, here are just a few of the things I’ve been adoring lately.

1.2.3. to be exact.

Maybe you’ll love them too?

UNO: Music

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a nut about music- all music.  My IPod is known to be a little bi-polar and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Lately, I adore these few secular gems (and yes, I said secular, and yes, I’m a pastor’s wife. I have a passion for music from all genres that I inherited from the parentals, and well I do prefer to keep it clean, I don’t think God hates every song that’s not a worship song. So yeah, judge if you must, although I’d love you forever and ever with cherries on top if you didn’t.):

–          Josh Krajik’s Version of Hallelujah from X-Factor- just saw this last night. YES, please.

–          Bruno Marrs – It Will Rain

–          God Gave Me You– Blake Shelton

–          Jason Aldeen’s Dirt Road Anthem

–          And how about TLC’s Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls– old school I know, but who can beat it?

And I’ve also found a couple of new Christian music ventures that are too die for:

–          The Story Project (incredible for anyone who loves a variety of music styles and stories from scripture).  They’re actually streaming this live on December 17th at 7pm!

–          Hillsong’s New Christmas Song- Born is the King!

–          Casting Crown’s Version of my favorite Christmas song EVER!

–          Oh, and here’s a Kari Jobe that I always love for worship.

DOS: Liturgy (A New Liturgy to be exact)

Aaron Neiquest is married to one of my favorite authors, Shauna SameLastName.  I’m not sure how I missed the release of No 1, but No 2 just came out and oh my.  Watch the initial video here so you get the idea, then set some time aside- 25 minutes each to be exact.  Play this and then this.  Get some head phones, create some space by yourself and let God invade.  Doing devotions has always been a discipline war for me.  This helps bring that time alive. As a girl who grew out of Catholic soil, I value so much the lifting of words to Him- together as a body.  I didn’t know what it meant then, or why I always loved it, but I know now and the whole “progressive meets ancient” feel of this project is just incredible. Not too mention it’s saturated with anointing. First time I listened to it was at my desk with headphones on and I was undone.  Totally appropriate for the middle of a work day? I think so.

TRES: Christmas Shopping

I have a list indeed (maybe I’ll blog on that later), but more than receiving anything- I love shopping for people!  Giving gifts is such fun.  Although this year, I have to say that there is this small urge to not buy a single thing and send all of my money to starving babies overseas.  Once you’ve seen them (http://destinyvillage.org/), it’s hard to escape their faces, especially at Christmas time.

Even though I see nothing wrong with partaking in our many blessings here in the states, I pray those gorgeous faces of need never do escape me. I think more than ever this year, this little urge has caused me to love sites like the ones below while I’m doing my Christmas shopping, so they had to go on this list.  Gifts that are relevant and amazingly cute, but that have a dual purpose?  Gifts that give back to the world?  Yep, that’s what I’m talking about.  If you’re still shopping around or if you just want to look at some fun stuff, check these out:

Trade As One- http://tradeasone.com/mission/. Here are a few of my favs from their site:

Tom’s Shoes- http://www.toms.com/our-movement

For the record, I have always loved Tom’s mission; BUT I must confess, that I have not always loved their shoes.  Particularly when ALL they offered was “hipster, earthy, I made the rest of my outfit from wheat” type shoes.  Let’s face it, their shoes use to only match people who match skinny jeans, and sheesh- don’t get me started.  But now, they have these beauties- which I can totally get down with.

Oooooh and THESE!!! They’re not Tom’s, but cheers!

Thanks for reading my extremely enlightening, utterly transparent, and so super spiritual blog today!

If there’s anything you’ve been adoring lately, do tell.  I’d love to take a look.

Happy Friday!

Muah,

Suz

A Letter to Kingston.

5 Dec

So… The calls and messages are coming in. How am I doing, the loved ones ask? I promised I would update as Kingston’s birthday approached, but it’s hard to find words. Some moments are so beautifully normal and I am well. Other moments, I’m undone with grief and I’m grasping to stop time because I don’t find it fair that a year can pass without him here.

Many of you know that one of my greatest dreams is to write books. Lots and lots of books! I can’t tell you how much I would love for my first published book to be about Kingston and this story. I’ve been writing to Kingston since he left us. At first, just to feel like he was here. Later, to sort out my thoughts and still later, to come in front of the screen and type out the faithfulness of God. Reminding myself over and over again as I pour the emotions onto the page, that Christ is really the thread in all of this.

And so, I have shared my dream of writing and I’ve asked you to pray, and you have. Thanks for that. Tonight, however, I have something different to share.  A confession of sorts:  I’m truly terrified of this writing dream coming true.  I’m afraid of succeeding, because it means I could face rejection.  What if I write it and then no one cares, or approves, or likes?  I mean, seriously.  Who the heck is going to read this crap!?!?  That’s what I always tell the loves when they ask how the writing is going.

“Justin, come on!  No one wants to curl up with a book and a cup of coffee and then get a few intriguing paragraphs into their newly purchased book, only to cry; and not just cry, but sob uncontrollably- snot and all! No.  They won’t.  No one will ever willingly sign up to read this.  Our story is just too, too sad!!!”  Comments like these often come loudly rolling off my overly dramatic tongue as I typically fling myself on to the bed in full, theatrical despair.  It’s a good thing he thinks I’m pretty.

Then he, patiently reminds me.  And Mandi reminds me.  And Josh reminds me.  And Carey reminds me.  Our parents remind us… And even tonight, my sweet Megan reminds me.  People have already signed up, Suzie- don’t you remember?  Why can’t I see it?

I think that’s the most beautiful part of community.  At its core, when it’s authentic and real, community offers us the opportunity to invite others into our rawness.  Into the sludge of our lives and yes, some may reject; but there are always those who will see that you are worth it and wander into the thick of it, just to be there with you.  So many of you have already agreed to feel this heartbreak with us, and love this child even in his absence with us.  Again, thanks.

I’ve always felt the call to leading and loving and breathing, transparently.  In my marriage, my relationships, my ministry.  This one is tough though.  But here, goes…

In the nature of being brave, the best update I can give you on “how I’m doing” as his birthday gets another day closer is to share with you what I’ve shared with him- in all its rawness.  Written last night, at 4:00am, when sleep escaped me, here is the first “Letter to Kingston” I’m ever sharing on my blog: The Hardest Celebration

If you do have the strength to venture into the sadness, and beauty-broken with us, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please know I whole heartedly understand if you don’t.  Sometimes, I don’t.  Either way, know that I’m thankful. My birthday is tomorrow.  His is Tuesday and God is good in all of it.

*If you still haven’t had time to watch the videos of the service where we first spoke on Kingston’s story, you can link back and do so by clicking here at any time.

I love you all,

Suz