Retrieve Lament: Rachel Spies' mourning story

Throughout this week that we call Holy, I've invited a few friends who have companioned in suffering with Christ and His people to share a bit of their stories with us. I'm grateful to today's guest - a friend from our beloved church family (and writing group) in Austin - for sharing from her experience of a relentless lent. I'm also grateful to Rachel for her skill in expressing the inexpressable in a way that welcomes us into her grief, and thereby, our own. This is no small gift, and I pray that God will raise up a canopy of protection over Rachel's family, as she and Jonathan continue to wait for resurrection. I pray this for all of us in the various forms of suffering we encounter waiting for the help of a risen Christ. Would you read with me, and listen with an open heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you through Rachel's story?

Walls From Words and Stories by Ines Seidel (source)

Walls From Words and Stories by Ines Seidel (source)

Retrieving the lament of that which is almost unbearable to name

The past five years I have lived in Lent. The church calendar has ticked by but I have stayed here in the barren place, the dark place where hope is for others and resurrection is a belief but not tangible. It’s one of those long stories, too long certainly for this space, with long emotions and long components, but familiar too – grief, hurt, expectations not met, illness, grief, uncertainty, abuse, adoption, mental illness, destruction. Many families enter into these lands, and many families fall apart. We did. Some families are able to weather the storm. We couldn’t.

Last year I had four children, this year I have three. Or maybe I still have four. I don’t know how to answer that question. Last year my daughter knew nothing of violence or crime or the physical power that men can yield over women. This year, at eight years of age, she is a sexual assault statistic. I will never be over that, never.

Five years ago when I heard the word “rad,” I thought of 1980’s slang. Now I think of attachment disorders and all the hell they entail.

I am a writer, a poet of sorts I suppose, and my offerings are often written on the page. These are a few of the laments I retrieved over the past few years.


I had a son

I had a son
With tight black curls
and
Tight black skin
Bright white teeth
and
Bright white smile

He had
Tight slit eyes
He told me
Tight white lies

He had a mom
With slippery hands
and
slippery heart
Who couldn’t hold on
when she slid away
on slippery feet
Into the dark

I snatched him up,
grabbed him up,
stole him -
Carried him over the sea
Told him to forget who he was
Told him to be like me

I had a son
He had nothing
but
A name, A country, A tribe

I had a son
He gave me
hate red cheeks
And
a dead black heart

And the saints sang Hallelujah,
And everyone worshiped a thief.
They all bowed to the abductor,
all hail the savior in chief.

Before and After

Notice the clouds
balled together to form the very
likeness of a brontosaurus,
free-roaming gentle giant now trapped
in plastic molds
and skyscapes

One scream and
the world ends,
the clouds forgotten (already drifting apart)

One scream and
sirens come
surrounding

One scream and
How can sixty seconds
violate innocence so
casually completely forever?

Real Live Monsters

Once monsters were
beasts
who lived in
pages of fiction -
hairy giants, with
sharp teeth and claws

I was wrong.

Because this fall
I met
A. Real. Live. Monster.
And though beast,
It blended well
In a human suit

It had fire-breath
And long arm tentacles
Strong as ten men
hidden beneath its clothes.
It crouched in wait,
and struck.

And all I was left to do
- hold my little girl
open gash in her side
As she sobbed in my arms for hours on end

Support for South Sudan

We are a tribe of neon-chested armor clad warrior women
Dressed ready for battle
Cecilia leads us out with a mighty cry
“Whoo-eee-ooo-eee!”
and heads out the door toward the open field beyond
Someone starts a rhythmic clapping
we stomp-skip-clap
No words are needed now
we fight as one, but each a different battle
Mary fights malaria five times,
Teresa and Eunice fight to keep going
past their dying babies
Janie fights eight mouths to feed with no food
Everyone knows what to do
We form a dancing circle as we keep
up the clapping and the stomping.
Very Old Martha
Has three fingers, very few teeth, walks with a cane
She starts a new song with a new beat,
and everyone is now slapping a knee on a down
beat while clapping and stomping.
We move counter-clockwise, as one.

Rachel Spies.bio.jpg

 

 

 

 

Rachel grew up and still lives in Austin, TX, where she enjoys writing, her family, and searching for the perfect margarita

Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem for a Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)

Retrieve Lament: Jen Thompson's mourning story

Throughout this week that we call Holy, I've invited a few friends who have companioned in suffering with Christ and His people to share a bit of their stories with us. My friendship with today's guest is one of the best surprises of the past year, and one that is full of a resurrection kind of grace. I never got to meet Lydia, but I feel a bit like I know her because her beautiful life is forever impressed on the collective memory of of the church community we now call family. So are Jen, Micah, Levi & Meg. Would you read their story with me, and listen with an open heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you through them?

Jen and Lydia (8 months old), April 2010

Jen and Lydia (8 months old), April 2010

Retrieving lament with the broken-hearted Father

I won’t ever forget her last day with us…

Watching her labored breathing, knowing her time was coming close.

The feeling of her body in my arms as we tried to figure out a way to say goodbye.

Laying her tiny, lifeless body down for the last time, knowing the next time I saw her face would be on my last day.

Turning away from our daughter and taking my first step into a new life that I couldn’t begin to comprehend.

They are heavy memories. I keep them piled like discarded bricks in the back of my mind. Every now and then I try to put them into some kind of shape that makes sense, all the while knowing that there are pieces I won’t ever figure out how to fit together. Despite my faith, there was a descent to dark places. I struggled to understand the purpose of pain, of loss. I questioned God’s goodness and His love for me.

Faith was hard. Sometimes, even seven years later, it still is. There has been only one thought that has brought me any comfort some days, and it is this: I serve a God who watched His only son die.

He watched His son’s labored breathing, knowing the time was coming close.

He too, had to figure out a way to say goodbye.

He had to watch as His son’s lifeless body was taken down from a cross.

He turned away.

The desperate feeling when I looked to things that had always brought me comfort, but now left me feeling empty and broken, dissipated when I looked to a Father who entirely understood my pain. If, on that last day, I could have made the sky fill with the darkness I felt I would have. If I could have, I would have pounded the ground until the whole earth shook and broke apart.

When I look at the death of Jesus now, these are the things I see more clearly than ever before. Of course I still see Jesus giving all so I could live. I still see His pain and know that He died for me. But when I look to the background of the picture, I see evidence of the God who is not visible there - the broken hearted Father. The Father who knew from before time that this would be the outcome of Jesus’ life. The Father who was sorrowful, even knowing that only three days stood between Him and seeing His son again. The Father who darkened the sky and shook the earth watching His son suffer. And the Father who finally had to turn away from His son. And not because a new life was starting for Him, but because He couldn’t bear to see the sin that covered Him. He let His son feel forsaken, something I cannot even begin to comprehend.

And the thing that keeps me near my Father in heaven, more than knowing that I walk a road of grief that He has walked as well, is the knowledge that He chose this path for me.

He left His son alone so I wouldn’t ever have to feel alone.

It’s a kind of grace I can never fully hold onto, a love I can barely grasp. Because I know how it feels to watch your only begotten die. I know the pain of separation, despite the knowledge that a glorious day of reunion will come. But I do not know nor can I comprehend anyone ever choosing this. But He did. For me. For my daughter. For you.

So when I look to honor Jesus on these days before and after His death, when I sing with a broken but joyful heart of what He has done for me, my eyes now look to the Father too. I lift my hands in praise to sing about the grave being opened with my eyes on the Father because I know that even though His sorrow was deep, His joy at being reunited with Jesus was so much deeper. And I can sing with joy of death defeated because His sacrifice has made that joy reality for me. I’m still waiting, but I wait with a kind Father who did not spare His own Son and who longs with me for the day my joy will be complete.


Jen is a daughter, pastor’s wife, mama to two on earth and one in heaven, woman walking through this world doing her best to keep her eyes on Jesus. She enjoys naps, dance parties in the kitchen, a good caffeinated beverage, and making baked goods and forcing people to eat them.


Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.”
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)

Retrieve Lament: Natalie Murphy's mourning story

Throughout this week that we call Holy, I've invited a few friends who have companioned in suffering with Christ and His people to share a bit of their stories with us. I've been watching today's guest walk, run, climb, fall down, and get back up again for more than nineteen years. Her tenacity and commitment to love challenge Brian and me, and make us glad to be her parents. Last week, our family read together the Scripture passages for the day which included both Psalm 22 and Jeremiah 29. I asked Natalie how she felt about the lectionary's pairing of the suffering and hope in the psalm and Old Testament passages. You can consider this story Natalie's response to the question.

Packing up and cleaning out the dorm room.

Packing up and cleaning out the dorm room.

Retrieving the lament of giving up a dream

Maybe I shouldn’t, but for the value of being honest here I will admit; I have a least favorite bible verse. It’s the verse. You know, the one on every good Christian girl’s Instagram bio, and home good decorations, highlighted in her bible, tattooed on her left shoulder blade.

For I know the plans I have for you.

The Lord declares it to His people through Jeremiah. He seals it with a disclaimer. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. He even provides a neat and tidy ETA. Plans to give you a future.

If you had sat me down when I started high school, my acne-free fifteen-year-old self would have looked you dead in the eye, confidence in her shoulders, and told you I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life. I could have laid out for you the five year, ten year, maybe even twenty year plan. After high school, I’d leave Texas for a new city, enrolling with scholarships to a four-year best friend machine of a university. My new city BFFs and I would have a house to our own, filled with memories made and a home good sign over our kitchen table that reads Jeremiah 29:11 in hand-lettered script. After graduation, I’d leave my college with teary goodbyes, probably from the podium at my graduation, since of course they’d want to put the poster child for the perfect college years at the mic. But don’t worry, the sadness wouldn’t last too long, because I would have a shiny ring on my finger and a husband who’s training to be a youth pastor, or a missionary, something like that. We’d get married in June. Our apartment would be covered in hand-painted scripture, but that Jeremiah 29:11 sign would be the centerpiece, of course.

The day after graduation I was ready to put my plan into action. Everything perfectly in place, I packed my bags for Philadelphia, a place I was convinced I needed, but more importantly, needed me. I was ready to be Queen of College! And I was going to rule all by myself, thank you very much.

Fast forward, January 17, 2017, one day before the beginning of the Spring semester. I’m back in my dorm room, which is stale from a month of no residents and the yogurt I accidentally left in the fridge. I am sobbing uncontrollably on the dusty, linoleum tile floor.

This is not what I want anymore.

Maybe it was the silence of waving goodbye to my father as he drove away in our minivan. Maybe it was the sight of my world map, fallen off it’s esteemed place on my wall and crumpled on the ground, that perfect symbol of my deflated heart after a semester of crippling loneliness, long anxious nights, and cafeteria sponsored weight gain. This was not the plan.

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment a dream officially dies. I know this because I still wake up each morning expecting to find myself living the super excellent fantasy life so clearly laid out in Natalie’s Plan to Be Good at Everything and Take Over the World, Probably. The Dream I once put my whole life’s purpose in is gone, like losing a friend whom I once turned to for comfort every day. The Dream was the one who woke me up and said ‘you can do it! I believe in you!’ Now when I wake up in my twin sized bed in my parents home, with no plan or purpose for the day, the Dream isn’t there to greet me. So I slide out of bed and pour a cup of coffee, my bathrobe hanging from my shoulders like a shawl of disappointment.

How do I lament this loss? How do I bury this lifeless thing I never really had? How do I explain, when asked by well meaning people making small talk, that I am taking this year “off,” not doing anything in particular, but thanks for asking. How do I grieve when I am so well taken care of? How do I explain my deep sorrow while having a perfectly lovely home, warm food, and generous parents who show me sacrificial love every day? Do I dare complain?

These days, the promises Jeremiah gives in his book don’t seem quite so pretty anymore. I hear the Lord’s declaration and say, “Sure, I’m glad You have those plans all figured out, do you mind emailing me a copy? Because I’m a little behind on this one.”

The mourning isn’t over. Actually, I’m unsure if it’s even begun. Instead, I’m left only with a promise of goodness and hope, and a shield from harm. What comes next, I don’t know. But I do know what comes last, I do know the final destination for this nomad heart of mine. And for now, today, that is enough.

Zion, I’m coming soon // To where you are

‘Til then my love’s with you // Though worlds apart

This will take much longer than I had planned

But I will wait to see you // And hold your hand

--  Zion, by Kings Kaleidoscope


 

 

Natalie likes to write about Jesus, camp, and where she's at. She claims New York, Texas, and Connecticut all as her home, but really she's a keeper of the Kingdom. 

Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)

Retrieve Lament: Alicia Nichols' mourning story

Throughout this week that we call Holy, I've invited a few friends who have companioned with Christ and His people in suffering to share a bit of their stories with us. Today's guest is so very dear to me, and her story one I've mourned from much further away than I'd ever hoped to be when one of my siblings suffers. Even with my ten years advance, I often find myself learning and leaning into my sister's wisdom. Watching Alicia and my brother-in-law, Richard, continue to nurture hope in the middle of so much pain, and watching the Church come around them, time after time, has changed me for the good. Would you read their story with me, and listen with an open, prayerful heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you through them?

Alicia's chromosmal analysis

Alicia's chromosmal analysis

Retrieving lament with the family of Christ

Only a third of the way or so into the hill, I could just feel it all drain from me. Any motivation to keep pushing up the hill, gone. Weird, considering the one strength I bring to running is the ability to keep moving. So, I walked. Defeated. I noticed this same pattern in other areas, as well. Like when I was laboring in the birth of my son a year ago. No emotional reserve to work from.

Because this wasn’t typical of me, it stood out and made me ask, why? It became apparent that it was undealt with grief draining my soul.

Driving home a few weeks after my 2017 New Years’ resolution to allow myself to feel my grief whenever it came up, I was overcome with anger and wept out: Why couldn’t God just have answered in a relational way? Yes, I know we got the answer “no” through the death of each of the four babies we miscarried, but why couldn’t He have had the kindness to be present with us in that “no"? Just silence. Like He didn’t have the nerve to speak the answer to my face. I just had to wait for His “no” in the bleeding out of each of these lives.

My almost four-year-old daughter has a deep, pondering mind and the ability to ask questions that I have no idea how to answer. It really bothers her that she can’t hear “God and Jesus.” She often asks about this, and part of my reply is that God speaks to us in a variety of ways, including through His people.

He is present through His people.

Oh, the abundance and tangibility, the extravagant solidness of the community around us in the waiting and hoping and grieving, in the throes of each loss.

For example, two years ago when I found out that the cause of our miscarriages was a chromosomal abnormality, the feeling that each of my cells was broken consumed me. I hated my body. In fact, I could feel myself trying to pull away from my own body, which caused as much internal conflict as you can imagine. I turned to a few friends and asked them to pray with me. So, in my living room they sat as I ranted and wept, and they listened to God with me. And with their strength of presence, we together poured my anguish into the cross. They spoke to me truth and grace and forgiveness and release. They were God’s presence to me, such tangible presence.

At that same time, I shared with our small group and the women gifted me with a massage. A massage is usually a good idea (am I right?) but - God made us body and soul. The first group of women helped me find God with my soul and the second helped me find God with my body. They were God’s tangible presence to me. 

I could tell you about my sister-in-law showing up quietly with a quiche the day we came home from brutally miscarrying our first, or the time she responded to my frantic text and watched my daughter as I started to miscarry our third. Or the time she and my brother showed up a year later with beer and cookies, just to say they were with us as we processed understanding the brokenness of my body. Or I could tell you about the verses of encouragement persistently showing up in the mail during the season that I was miscarrying our fourth, statements of truth to assert and limply hold on to when my heart was not there. Or the flowers given from family to say we’re here and we honor this life. Or the meaningful necklace from my good friend, because she knew this would stay with me and always be close to my heart, and physical remembrances help. And her gift of asking me how I was doing months later when it would be easier to hope I had moved on. Or the gift of listening friends who had experienced great loss who could validate my pain with the words “I know” with a kind of weight only they could offer. 

Arms and ears and gifts and words; the tangible kindness of God so present with me.

Emmanuel in grief.

And, the number of people who pleaded with the Father for my son (who is currently healthily crying upstairs. His life may be an answer to prayer, but that doesn’t mean he wants to take a nap). When I visited my sister’s church in Austin, TX in January of 2016, nearing 7 months and clearly great with child, the woman who came up to me and put her hand on my belly and said, with boldness, “I am invested in this child!”, I knew without a doubt she and so many others were.

God present through His people in life, too.

 As a way to grieve the loss of the four little ones we lost through miscarriage,, I decided to make four baby blankets in their honor and donate them to the Life Choices Center. I honor the lives of my little ones with this small gesture, and lift my ache to the God of Hope who is so present with us.

 As a way to grieve the loss of the four little ones we lost through miscarriage,, I decided to make four baby blankets in their honor and donate them to the Life Choices Center. I honor the lives of my little ones with this small gesture, and lift my ache to the God of Hope who is so present with us.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alicia Nichols lives in Gaithersburg, MD with her husband, daughter and son where she spends her days chasing her children through various parks and libraries and engaging with the diverse community around her. 

Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)

Retrieve Lament: Les & Renee Aylesworth's mourning story

Throughout this week that we call Holy, I've invited a few friends who have companioned with Christ and His people in suffering to share a bit of their stories with us. I asked my friends Les and Renee if I could share an update on their lives three years after Renee, at age 38 and the mother of 5 children, ages 20 months - 13 years old, suffered a stroke. Les was a God-send to us when we were first figuring out how to be parents to teenagers - befriending our oldest son at a key time in his life. We've grieved Renee's illness from a distance and have grown in our ability to understand what suffering-bourne love looks like -- in marriage, in family, and in community. Would you read their story with me, and listen with an open, prayerful heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you through them?

Renee's stroke took the use of her dominant right hand, but she has taken up painting with her left hand. This is a watercolor she painted near the third anniversary of her stroke.  Les shared Renee's interpretation of the painting this way:  "The 6 bright flowers in the bright sunny blue skies on the left side of the painting represent me and our 5 kids. The tallest is me, the next is Ivan, and so on. If you look closely, you'll notice another flower in the middle, leaning into, almost consumed by, the dark, stormy area. That flower is Renee, and the dark area represents aphasia and her inability to communicate and connect to the rest of us. While the rest of us stand straight and tall, her flower is bent and weak, and bends from the bright side and into the darkness. It's as if she's in this "in between" place. Her mind is stormy and dark because of the aphasia caused by her stroke, while part of her is still in the sun. I know there is a storm raging inside there that causes confusion and despair, but my hope and prayer is that that flower strengthens and grows tall once again in the sunshine, and the storms dissipate and once again she can connect with us as before."

Renee's stroke took the use of her dominant right hand, but she has taken up painting with her left hand. This is a watercolor she painted near the third anniversary of her stroke.  Les shared Renee's interpretation of the painting this way:  "The 6 bright flowers in the bright sunny blue skies on the left side of the painting represent me and our 5 kids. The tallest is me, the next is Ivan, and so on. If you look closely, you'll notice another flower in the middle, leaning into, almost consumed by, the dark, stormy area. That flower is Renee, and the dark area represents aphasia and her inability to communicate and connect to the rest of us. While the rest of us stand straight and tall, her flower is bent and weak, and bends from the bright side and into the darkness. It's as if she's in this "in between" place. Her mind is stormy and dark because of the aphasia caused by her stroke, while part of her is still in the sun. I know there is a storm raging inside there that causes confusion and despair, but my hope and prayer is that that flower strengthens and grows tall once again in the sunshine, and the storms dissipate and once again she can connect with us as before."

Les and Renee's journal entry from February 26, 2017

(the third anniversary of her stroke)

It struck me tonight that 3 years ago was the last night we went to bed without stroke being on our minds.  Renee was going to go to the doctor to get her headache checked out...but that never came.

I can hardly believe that 3 years has passed. I remember when it was 3 months and that felt like an eternity; and the thought of 3 years was nearly impossible to fathom. And yet, here we are.  I think we always tend to reflect on anniversaries of any kind and this is certainly one that makes you think a lot.  People who have survived strokes call them a "strokeversary", so Renee is having her 3rd Strokeversary.  It truly is a badge of honor, because surviving a stroke is a big deal!  Especially considering in those initial minutes Renee thought she was going to die and meet Jesus, and in the initial hours, the hospital thought the same.  But she didn't and one of our first prayers of many prayers prayed for Renee was answered.  She lived and I'm able to share about life 3 years post-stroke.  

I remember in those early days, when we were in the ICU, every time I went back to Renee's room I prayed and hoped that I would walk in and see Renee sitting up in bed and say, "Hi Les." I hoped after she went through the initial procedure to attempt to remove the clots, just hours after the stroke, that she would come out of the procedure all better. I had hoped after our stay at the rehab hospital that they would help put Renee's brain back together again and that she would be all better.  "All better" is what the kids and I have prayed thousands of times since February 26, 2014. But "all better" hasn't come; and that is hard for all of us.

Yes, we strive towards some kind of new normal, but that is hard to swallow too. I think it's because we rarely believe or think that the "new normal" will last very long. We tend to think it's more like going to another country where there are different customs and languages and foods and even restrictions, and everything seems different and for the duration of your stay that is your "new normal." But you know that you will eventually come home and the "new normal" will have been temporary, and you will resume your "old normal." That's at least how I imagined it even as I tried talking myself into accepting our "new normal." But the "old normal" is gone and the "new normal" is here and as far as accepting it, I'll be honest, I'm not there. I want to, I really do, but I still haven't come all the way to full acceptance of it. I'm, after 3 years, still grieving the loss of the wife that I once knew.

Now I'm aware that's normal, to some degree. Others I've spoken to that have survived stroke said that it wasn't until after 5 years that they felt or knew it was going to be OK. Five years? I don't know if that gives me relief or gives me chills. Still, I want to feel OK now; and I wrestle with that tension. But, I was recently reminded that it wasn't until many years after Joseph was abandoned by his brothers, then sold into slavery, then thrown in prison, that he could tell his brothers that what had happened to him, God meant for good. So I try to have grace for myself.

And for Renee, this strokeversary is mainly filled with disappointment. She was certain she would be doing much better by now. So was I. But her days, after Aviah goes to school, are mostly boring for her. That is, when she's not battling the many effects of the stoke. She wishes she could read a book. (As an aside, literacy is more important than you can imagine. It truly allows people to expand their worlds; but being unable to, Renee's world has shrunk.) She wishes she could call a friend and shoot the bull. She wants to hop in the car and go visit someone. But she can't, and so she spends half the day alone and lonely.  

Life is harder than we thought it would be at this point. We had hoped for more progress by now.  We had hoped we would be feeling better about the whole thing. I find that we are still very much in the dark forest in our journey. And yet, when life has felt darkest, God has always sent a little light for us to give us hope.

Renee hasn't had a seizure since July. Last year, at this time, I wondered if we would ever be past them; and here we are. So now Renee is released to start driving again. Which of course brings about a whole new slew of worries for me (especially now that Ivan recently turned 16 and got his permit). Most of the things that give me hope, like most of the things I miss, are little things: a new word, a new phrase, the fact that she makes most of our meals now, or that she gets the coffee ready for the morning most of the time. She even has been waking up earlier, many times before me, and making me coffee! She was always a morning person, so it's good to see a little bit of the old Renee coming out. She has been able to stay home alone since the start of school year. This has removed a huge burden off me, because one of the biggest logistical tasks I had to perform every day was making sure there was someone to stay with her. Now I have so much time on my hands I don't know what to do:)!  There really are too many to share of how God has provided little lights to brighten our lives.

I recently stumbled across a kids' book that came out recently called The Voyage to the Star Kingdom. The book primarily deals with the loss of child, but there is something in it that speaks to all who have gone through prolonged suffering. It's about a family that finds itself deluged by a storm cloud that settles only over their house and won't stop raining; and the rising waters threaten to destroy them. And this is how it's felt for us these past 3 years - like a storm cloud has settled over our home and won't go away. It just won't stop raining; and it has felt like many times we were going to be swallowed by the flood. I very much resonated with that image and I'm sure many of you can too.

But, the book goes on to describe how the Star King, even though he may not stop the storm, always sends a gift of something or someone to help meet a need. And this too has been our experience. Over these past 3 years, even though the storm cloud has continued raining down on us, we have seen the hand of God provide in so many ways that I suppose could fill books! So many of you have faithfully prayed for us.  Over the course of several months this past year, Renee kept getting anonymous postcards from someone as they traveled around the world, telling her that they were praying for her wherever they went. You can't imagine how that encouraged and lifted us. 

Renee with a painting from a friend

Renee with a painting from a friend

So we covet your prayers still. We need wisdom and open doors for Renee to enter a clinical trial for stroke treatment. We need safety as Renee starts driving again. We need no more seizures to continue. We need Renee to make more tangible progress in her speech. We need her ankle to stop rolling and constantly being injured. I need wisdom in just doing life as Dad, Mom, Caregiver, Neurologist, Nurse, Chauffeur, Cheerleader, Secretary, Speech Therapist, Physical and Occupational Therapist, etc...oh, and Husband too.  

We really want to do this journey well. We really do. We want God to smile down on us. And for Him to be glorified somehow through this. Even though it is hard to accept our "new normal" I want to trust Him - no matter what!

Isaiah 42:2-3a: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior"

Thank you again for helping us weather this long storm, and helping us not be swept away. We love you for it!


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Les & Renee live in central New York with their five children.

You can follow Les & Renee's journey on their Caring Bridge journal.  

Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)