Another birthday

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It’s your birthday today baby.  No matter if you would have been 18, should have been 18, or will forever remain 15, today is the day you came into this world.  Today is the day you changed my life forever from a naive, devil- may- care 20 year old into a mom.  The minute you were born I had someone I was responsible for, someone I had to take care of, someone who’s life mattered more to me than my own.  You were impacting me even as a newborn. You were an unexpected gift that had caused me so much anguish and heartache but turned into unspeakable joy and fulfillment.

You taught me true fulfillment comes from putting others ahead of yourself.  Its hard to remember being happier than those days when I was juggling motherhood with going to school, knowing that every early morning and late night studying was going to further our future.  I wasn’t just going to school for myself I was going for us.  My heart ached for you while I sat through classes and taught lessons. I didn’t feel complete until I held you in my arms at the end of the day even if you were already asleep.  I think you may have saved me back then from a potential train wreck caused by my own selfishness.

It’s still very very difficult to bring back memories of your life and I don’t know if that will ever change.  The grief is still so raw and intense and your absence so looming…I am torn every day between wanting to remember the beauty of your life and knowing that it will bring back deep heartache.   I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “he’s in heaven now! He does’t have to endure the hardship and pain of this evil world.” I can’t fault them at all .  The Bible says, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.  For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” Thessalonians 4:13-14

Is it comforting? Of course. Does it mean I don’t miss you in every cell of my being and feel your absence every single day? No. I still selfishly want you here with your family and everyone who loves you so you can continue to change the world for the better.

You would understand.  Your intuition and sensitivity were intense. You would not think my grief for you is over the top, that I just need to get over it, that I need to remember you are in a better place. You knew me better than that.  Empathy was  probably your strongest trait.  There were many places where our brains intersected and I could see myself in you.  Then there were other places where I could only hope to be what you were.  You understood me better than anyone.

You knew how much I loved you and cherished you and how special I thought you were. I know you felt the same despite my many faults.  Though you never personally lost anyone close to you I know you would never have minimized my grief.  How strange to think about how you would have reacted to my grief about your loss.  Yet I think about it.    I think about it because it was you who comforted me so many times.  It was you who always had a hug and a “it will be ok momma.” That was the best gift you could ever give and something that will be imprinted on my brain forever.  I still remember exactly the way it felt to hug you.

It has been another hard year without you with many bumps and twists. So many days I couldn’t get out of bed.  I often feel like this earth is a foreign and hostile place where I do not want to be.  It has taken all my strength to keep my head above water.  This year I have grieved the ending of my marriage.  I have had to accept the hard reality of living alone for the first time in my life and being a single parent. I have experienced the stress and anxiety of trying to find a full time job after being a stay at home parent for 15 years. My plans of finding my dream job that would actually pay the bills did not turn into reality. So many times I have thought of how much easier things would have been with your support. So many times I have felt the absence of your strength.

I have stopped asking why…it’s an exercise in futility.  There are just no answers.  I accept the fact that this earthly life by nature is simply full of pain and the only thing we can do is try to grow from it. We must grasp the blessings as they come to us and realize happiness is a choice.   “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kids, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverence.” James 1:2-4

It feels like a lifetime has passed and then it feels like it has been only days.  The thing about life is most things have a starting and an ending point yet grief is not that way.  When I think about the tears, the struggles, the wrestling, the heartache, the prayers I have silently offered up every day, it feels as if I should have made some significant progress.  Yet today after three years I feel as if I lost you three weeks ago.  I think the hardest thing about your going to heaven, other than the fact that you are gone is that no one understands.  It becomes painfully clear by the things they say… or don’t say.  It becomes clearer and clearer to me as time goes on that despite their best intentions, people just don’t get it.  This experience is very isolating. Yet I wouldn’t wish this understanding on anyone.

Yet there have been a few who have walked this walk with me without judgement or expectation.  They have simply been there.  As Nicholas Wolterstorff said, they have “sat on the mourning bench with me.” They know there is nothing to say that will make it better.  What I need is the reassurance  of knowing they will check up on me and reach out to make sure I haven’t gone under.

You have changed me for the better sweet boy, through your life and through your passing; although today I feel like a bloody mess.  You were, and are, a blessing beyond the scope of the imagination and every part of your life and existence was woven into the tapestry of God’s plan.

You have shown us all what a life worth living looks like in your short fifteen years.  That is a feat few can claim.  Not that you did it loudly or publicly or with even anyone knowing.  It was quiet and sincere and came from a heart of love.  I think what I am most proud of is that you showed the true nature of a child of God.  Perhaps it was because of the way that you lived your life that he chose to take you home so soon…as a reward for being a good and faithful servant.

Remembering your birthday today isn’t for you…it’s for us.  I will never forget your birthday just as I won’t ever forget your life, as it flashes by me in vivid pictures.  So many beautiful memories that leave me in a puddle of tears. I want to hold on to every little detail but I know they will slip through my fingers like grains of sand.  The past is always lost to us except in memories but with you we also lost your future and that is the hardest pill to swallow.

It is what you left behind that is most important… a legacy. Lucas Van Sprange was a young man who showed an incredible amount of kindness and encouragement to others and was a true friend.  Not just sometimes but all of the time. To leave a legacy is rare and precious.    You walked in the way of Christ.  That is why you were kind and selfless and compassionate. You chose that path for your life, not the easy one but the narrow and difficult. The one that requires surrendering of yourself…an incredibly difficult feat in this self-centered world.

Happy Birthday my sweet boy.  Thank you for your gift.

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

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Changing leaves

Okay… so it has been about a year since I wrote.  Maybe its a little overdue, but hey who’s counting?

I have just entered that “it’s his senior year” hell hole that I have been waiting for and just hoping to ignore..I was thinking maybe I could just step around it?

Ha.  Grief is merciless and listens to no one.  Grief can be like a hurricane… waiting quietly and then ripping apart everything in it’s path- leaving the psyche broken and battered.

It started on Friday at the tailgate at FHC.  I had not really shed a single tear since school started…not on even on the first day of school.  I had not planned on going to the tailgate.  I had barely given it a passing thought.  Then the kids came bursting through the door after school and it was a chorus of “mom! mom! mom! (it always has to be in threes) can you pleeeeeeeeeese take us to the tailgate? Theres lots of games and stuff.  We want to go! Please? Please? Please?”

Well for one thing it is rare that I don’t have to work a Friday night at the job I currently have.  Also since I began said job I haven’t been able to do as many things with the kids as I would like to.  Also Rich and I are alternating weekends so that makes the time with them even less.

So without even really thinking about it I changed out of my sweats and threw on some lipstick and away we went.

I was immediately overwhelmed with how packed it was.  I’m not a fan of crowds in the least.  I tried to suppress the feeling to turn and run back to the car.  Here I was in a sea of green and white and pink (pink out?!) and loudness and food and people and two little blonde munchkins holding my hands. People I “knew”everywhere. Kids I “knew” everywhere. Yet no one to save me.

We walked around trying to find games to play and I was frustrated and confused and getting more and more irritable.  Brady didn’t want to play anything.  Bryleigh wanted to play everything.  I was blinking a bit at first, pretending to have a bug in my eye and swallowing the lump in my throat repeatedly.  Finally I could hold it back no longer.  I saw a group of boys Lucas had been in class with out of the corner of my eye, now tall and manly as if they had aged from children in a matter of seconds. I barely recognized them and couldn’t comprehend how they had grown up so fast. Giant tears began to roll down my face as I stared straight ahead, at a wall, just blinking.  Nothing was wrong.  Nobody cries at tailgates. Adults don’t freaking cry in public.  I was mortified.  I didn’t dare move.  I just let them roll down my face and neck and onto my shirt, frozen like a statue.

When I was sure no one was looking I quickly and angrily swiped the tears off my face with my hand.  I announced we were going to find the bathroom despite the fact we would have to walk past a billion people to get there.  People who might see the mascara streaked on my cheeks and my red eyes.

We didn’t last much longer after that but just enough for me to take in a whole vast experience that I didn’t want.  The excitement of planning the seniors final year.  The thrill of celebrating high school football season and community and fun…hip hip hooray.  For a little chunk of time we were part of that…and then we weren’t.

We were a part of the class of 2018…

Until we weren’t.

I screamed and cursed silently about all that was taken from us- not only our boy but those three years he should have been living and learning and thriving and growing.  I have no doubt he would have continued to make an impact on the lives of the people he encountered. How mduch our family has suffered not just by dealing with his death but the loss of a support beam in our family.  He was in many ways the glue that held us together.

What? you say… a teenager who had reached his 15th birthday a mere 10 days before he died?

Lucas was not made of the stuff that most of us are made of.  I don’t think I will ever meet anyone like him again.  I will never understand in this lifetime why God would make someone with such unprecedented kindness, compassion, quiet strength, and purity of heart and take him away from us before he had a chance to truly bloom and grow.

I am sorry that I sound sad and bitter and angry.  I look outside and see the sun dappling the trees that are beginning to turn color and I know Lucas would have reveled in a beautiful day like this.  I will try.  I will try to enjoy it as he would.  I know he would beg me not to cry for him and miss him but at the same time he knew what it was to love and love deeply.  He never wanted me to be sad.  I can still hear the door slamming (the kid had muscles) and his heavy footsteps coming into the house.  The first words out of his mouth would always be,”how was your day Mom?”

What can I do? Keep breathing. Keep moving forward even if it is a millimeter at a time. Try to keep his spirit of selflessness alive in me and hope that he is not forgotten.

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suffering

God is there in suffering.

Maybe more evident than anywhere else.  Dare I say it? He is not just the God of glimmering rainbows and dew covered leaves or sweet soft little newborn babies.  He shouts his glory through those things.  He proclaims himself as the creator of all.

Yet he whispers in our suffering. Sometimes it is the still small voice that is more persistent and convincing than a shout. When we are weak and crumbling on the floor and cannot go on, it is that gentle whisper. “I am here.”

When I cannot get out of bed because the nausea of grief is too great, and all I can do it wrap myself in blankets, the still small voice says, “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

“God,” I cry, “I cannot go on.  I cannot function. The weight is too great. The pain is too great.”

He says,

“we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 3:3-5

Being a Christ follower means embracing struggle.  Yet we have this promise:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” Isaiah 43:2

Is this life supposed to be easy?

No.

It is through suffering that we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

I see him, more than ever through my suffering.  Though my human mind and body is beaten down my soul, my spirit is willing. I will conquer.  I will glorify HIM through this.

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struggle

The struggle is real.

I am personally going through the struggle of a lifetime, the struggle of all struggles, the struggle of a million heartaches.

It is the plague of the human race.  Every single one of us is going through it in one way or another, in some shape or form. To each of us our struggles seem large and looming and sometimes unconquerable.  It does not matter what they are.  Why do we try to hide them? Why do we try to walk around acting like we are fine? We are not fine. No one is fine.

We can’t we be authentic? We do we have to be so perfect? That in and of itself is wrong, so very wrong. To pretend we are someone we are not.  What is to gain by acting like we have it all together? Do people like us more, or do they like us less? Does it matter what ANYONE thinks? When we stand before God at the end of our life is he going to ask us, “well, how many people like you? Were you popular? Sorry, only those with a high approval rating get into heaven.”

So show weakness shows humanity and authenticity and humility.  I am baring my soul before thousands because I have lost that shield of self-consciousness.  When my son was ripped away from me so were so many other things.

Imagine a world where we are all authentic.  We all shared our struggles and felt united in them.  Imagine…just imagine…if we. did. not. care. what. others. thought.

Whoa.

Share a struggle with someone today.  Open yourself up. Allow yourself to be human, imperfect, yet a beloved child of God. Allow someone else in and let them see your weakness.  In my “previous life” i felt like I was the only one who didn’t have it all together.  The only one struggling, and struggling hard.

GOD LOVES YOU KNOW MATTER WHAT. Repeat that to yourself ten times.  A million times.  As many times as it takes.

I have been reading Psalm 25, suggested to me by another incredible friend.

The psalms are beautiful. Breathtaking.

Psalm 25:16-21

Turn to me and be gracious to me,

for I am lonely and afflicted.

Relieve the troubles of my my heart

and free me from anguish.

Look on my affliction and my distress

and take away all my sins.

See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me!

Guard my life and rescue me;

do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.

My integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you.

can’t

There is something I don’t know how to do.  No one can help me do it.  It goes against the grain of everything I know.

How to accept.  That he is really gone.

How does a mother ever accept that her child that she raised and loved and felt his warm skin is no longer? It is incomprehensible.

I watched him learn to walk and throw and ball, ride a bike and play baseball, lay in the warm summer sand, play with his friends, catch frogs and minnows and crawdads….I can’t keep going.  There are too many things.

I have terrible gripping anxiety, it makes me physically ill.- it’s telling me to accept this and all my rational thought says I have to.

But I can’t.

It can’t be.

I sat in a meeting with principals and administrators and friends planning a basketball game in Lucas’ honor.  We talked logistics, dates, numbers, etc. etc. and I just sat there numb.

Do you realize you are talking about my little boy? He should have been walking those halls when I walked in the building. He had life and warmth and blood pumping through his veins less than a month ago.  He should have come home to me that day and gave me a hug and said “how are you momma?”

It’s not just unfair is wrong and cruel and malevolent. Death is not the way God wants things.

We can NOT accept so many things- war, cruelty, abuse, hunger, poverty, violence…

But somehow I have to accept my beautiful boy is gone.

I can’t.

healing

I am blown away.

I am writing at night for the first or second time, usually it is in the morning when I am more melancholy.  Right now I am filled with the Holy Spirit and I am bursting.  Just bursting.

I think I just heard the most important message of my life.  Emerson Eggerichs spoke at a women’s event at Ada Bible.  If you have never heard of him he is an internationally known speaker on marriage among other things.  Who happens to reside right here in Grand Rapids.

How God orchestrated THIS speaker and THIS speech at THIS time- I have no words.  Add it to the list, which is a mile long, of God’s hand in my life directly and undeniably.

His message was called the Wounded Healer.

Wounded.

Healer.

Right now I am wounded beyond compare, bruised, damaged, bleeding, I can barely take a breathe without the stab of “my son is gone and he’s never coming back. My son is gone and he’s never coming back.  He’s in a cold box in the ground and he’s never coming back.”

I did not honestly think I was going to go on to ever enjoy life again.  Only struggle.  Only heartache.  Only that unfillable hole.  I did not think I could go on because the hurt was TOO BAD.  JUST TOO HARD.  TOO INCOMPREHENSIBLE. I would never be able to accept it, much less heal, much less want to live.

I am afraid of even trying to paraphrase Emerson’s message.  The most powerful part to me was when he told of a professor at Wheaton college who had lost his wife and daughter in a car accident. He lost everything and had gone on to be the most Holy, compassionate, Christ-filled, humble healer Emerson had ever known.

When there’s devastation there is always the why.  Why God, Why would you take my son. Why when he’s just begun to experience life.  Why when he was such a beautiful person and had such potential.  Why would you give me such indescribable hurt.

There is only silence.  Yet we know the very nature of God and he loves us THAT MUCH. We know that if we were the only person on earth Jesus would still have died for us. There is no greater love.  He paid for our sins.  He wiped the slate clean. The God of the universe loves us.

So I know I am wounded- I am left with Healer.  I know that when January 16 happened I felt like my life was stripped away and nothing else mattered.  Nothing else mattered but Jesus.  Jesus and the hurting world that is so, so, very wrong. a confused world that is selfish and fake, where no one really knows who they are and what they are doing here.  How can I heal when I am so broken? What can I do being one little tiny person in a great vast landscape of evil?  All I know, all I really need to know is I can be used.  Somewhere and somehow.  Instead of bitterness I choose joy.  I choose healing.

I Peter 2:24

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

Please, I beg of you to watch this Emerson Eggerichs “Wounded Healer” on adabible.org/women

rock

Since 5:30 am this song has played in my head.

“On Christ the Solid Rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand

All other ground is sinking sand

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”

Hope.  I still have hope right? Yes. Yes I do.  Somewhere in the swirling anxious shaking agony I have hope. I don’t think I can bear this.  It can’t be true.  It can’t be true.  I am drifting in a sea of agony and torture, wanting to submerge myself and feel nothing.

“On Christ the solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

I lay on the solid rock.  It is smooth and unyielding.  I am not drifting.  I have a rock.  It feels silky and yet impenetrable. The coolness feels good on my face. I cannot sink.

  1. When darkness veils His lovely face,
    I rest on His unchanging grace;
    In every high and stormy gale,
    My anchor holds within the veil.
  2. His oath, His covenant, His blood
    Support me in the whelming flood;
    When all around my soul gives way,
    He then is all my hope and stay.
  3. When He shall come with trumpet sound,
    Oh, may I then in Him be found;
    Dressed in His righteousness alone,
    Faultless to stand before the throne.

I think these are some of the most beautiful words ever written.  When I feel I cannot be comforted, when I feel I cannot endure this pain, I will lay on the rock.  When there is too much darkness I am grasping for Jesus I will rest on his grace.

Grace: the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in salvation of sinners and bestowal of blessings.  His grace is my anchor.

When all around my soul gives way, He is then all my hope and stay.

On Christ the solid rock I stand.  Or if I cannot stand.  I will lay on it and know that there is a foundation under me. I will not sink.

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infinity

In the early morning hours before I finally climb out of my cozy cocoon is when my mind really races.  Today it was in so many places, so many painful places, and yet glorious places as well.

I started thinking about the accident.  For the 40,000th time.  I feel nausea.  I wonder strange thoughts like “what did they write on his attendance record at school?”

I try to distract myself with thinking about how big God is.  My pain feels so big its crushing me.  I pray, “God in your infinite greatness take this pain away.”

How big is God? God cannot be measured.  He does not fit in a category.  There is no number or scale that can begin to quantify the God of the universe.  Yet he knows every hair on my head.  He knows every tear that falls from my face. As I ponder an infinite all creating God, I think of nature.

“I have lived pain and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on summer humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives.”  -Ann Roskamp

Lucas loved nature. To love nature is to love God. That is why Goodwillie was his happy place. This quote by John Ruskin could be his mantra:

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”

God is BIG. God is GREAT. God hand created the tiniest flowers to the mighty oak trees. My pain though very real and visceral to me pales in comparison to WHAT GOD IS.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

Isaiah 40:28

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tears

I wake up and my eyes are wet.  I have been dreaming of him, for the first time since the accident.  I don’t remember much about the dream except he was smiling.  Of course he was smiling.  This is the first time I have woken up crying.

Oh the sorrow, it envelopes me. The pain soaks into my bones.  That constant, constant, ache of something that will never be again.

I have been able to picture his face again with out the stabbing pain, just a gentle ache.  His beautiful face.  So strong.  I would touch his cheek sometimes.  I remember how his skin felt.  He had blonde hairs on his chin he would shave every once in awhile.  I would tease him about it, look how long your chin hairs are! We would laugh about it.  I would tell him how handsome he was and he would say “no way Mom”, he would laugh, “I’m a 5.” He always hated how his eyes weren’t perfect and he had a little acne and his hair was rarely how he wanted it.

He was gorgeous. Just gorgeous.

From his hard earned biceps to his quick running feet he was a masterpiece. His long fingers could pick up any instrument easily, shoot a bow and arrow like an expert, write an articulate essay.  They would rub my back and change his brothers diaper.  He would shoot his BB gun and hit a squirrel from like, a bajillion feet. Throw a baseball at over 80 mph.

This was two years ago. I swear he owns shirts.

shooting

This was him on December 30. Just before his 15th birthday.

lifting

His brain, oh his brain.  He was so brilliant.  He could beat the pants off anyone in trivia.  He had such perserverence after his infection left him with some little issues that became more and more apparent as the work got harder.  Some things came so easily to him.  Other things that should have come easily did not.  I would ask him about a grade and he would cry.  I studied so hard Mom, he would say.  He was that passionate about his grades.  His was going be a doctor.  He just couldn’t always keep it all together.

In my dream he was smiling. If I could only see that smile one more time.

Feel his face one more time. Feel his arms around me one more time.

I wish, for one minute that someone else could feel THIS inescapable pain. THIS ever present agony. THIS endless torture.

I know the answer before I ask it.

Isaiah 53:3 “He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Jesus weeps with me.  He knows my pain.  He will wipe every tear from my eyes.

tears