Sunday, April 26, 2009

Practice is Perfect!

Oh, my dear friends ~

I have some ABSOLUTLEY WONDERFUL news! Practice has asked to become Perfect . . . and I have answered with a resounding “YES!!!!!!”

Yes, friends, Practice and I are engaged! We will be married the end of this summer in a very small and intimate ceremony that will celebrate the glory of ALL that God has restored to us and our children.

This past Friday evening Jim and I had the evening to have a date (with six children, two careers, two houses, etc . . . finding alone time can be a job in itself.) Anyhow, it was a warm, lovely evening and we had planned to go to his favorite haunt for pizza, then head back to his house on the farm to sit on the front porch and watch the sunset. He was running a little late after work and by the time we could leave to get pizza the sun was already beginning to set.

Jim owns some property that has a lake on it that they call ‘the pit.’ I had not been out to the pit yet, so we decided to head up to the pit to watch the sunset and then head to get pizza from there. We had such a wonderful time walking around the banks of the water, just walking, talking, holding hands and enjoying quiet time together. It was absolutely beautiful! So quiet! When you have always lived in a city – the quiet of the country is pretty amazing! The sounds of nature are incredible and I absolutely love it out there. Anyhow, it was out there, in that beautiful setting, that Jim got down on one knee and asked if I will be his wife.

It will be an honor! I am so in awe of God for His sustaining power in each of our lives . . . we have both emerged from such deep, deep pain. I am so in awe of God for His promises that are so true . . . as Romans 8:28 promises us that, “all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” My friends – that is what Jim and I represent in each others’ lives . . . that is what our marriage and new family represent to these six babies who have walked through pain that no adult should have to walk through. I pray, THAT is what our marriage will represent to anyone watching from near or far . . . that God IS good and His promises ARE true and He truly DOES redeem our suffering!

I have had an idea that this was coming . . . and about a week ago I penned the following blog . . . but felt that it gave too much away, and therefore I waited to post it until I could officially announce our engagement. But I would like you to see the emotion of all that we are walking through . . . there is SO much good! SO much! But the pain of losing Chad will never, ever go away . . . and so . . . I give to you the mixed emotion of widowhood, remarriage, and starting over ~

The past few days I have been in a funk. Just a plain ol’ good ol’ FUNK! It bothers me when I am like this – as I am generally a very upbeat person. So, when the funk comes I tend to begin to analyze . . . ask questions and try to figure out the ‘why’ of the funk. A year ago there was no question . . . it was an unending, penetrating, inescapable ‘funk.’ Well . . . a never ending weeping is more like it. But now, these days, the smile has returned to my heart and to our life . . . and while there are still days and moments that I weep for my beloved Chad . . . those moments do not define my days . .. our days . . as they did one year ago.

So, it has really caused me to take notice and ask “why?” Why this funk. I have finally figured it out. I share this with you so that you can follow the continuation of this journey. I pray that none of you will ever have to endure the horrible grief, shock, and pain that we have. But, unfortunately, the reality is that some of you will. I pray that my journey will encourage you. And so, I share with you my heart.

The smile HAS returned deep within my heart. And while so much of it is nothing short of the glory and faithfulness of God . . . this smile has a name. Many of you know that the name on this smile is Practice. If, at this point, you are confused . . . then please read back to my Valentine’s Day blog and it will fill you in. Anyhow, Practice has put a smile deep in the parts of my heart that I thought might always remain dark and painful. And, while loving Practice takes NOTHING away from loving Chad, it most certainly has taken the sting out of a life of lost love.

As Practice and I journey further into a life together . .. and as discussions of a life together begin to turn to reality. . . reality itself begins to set in. You see . . . I truly long for nothing more right now than a life with this wonderful man that God has brought into my life. The reality is that if Practice and I had TRIED to make this happen . . . if we had gone looking for one another . . . we never would have found each other. Our relationship IS a picture of the grace and mercy and glory of God our Father.

But there is another reality in all of this . . . as we discuss what a life together may look like . . . a sweet, new beginning will mean a certain ending. It is the door closing on my life with Chad. Not of our love, or our memories of one of the most incredible men to ever live, or of one of the greatest gifts God ever gave me . . . no, it does not mean an ending to those. But, it does mean an ending to our life together.

It means selling my house – the house that I will never forget finding . . . it wasn’t even for sale. One thing led to another and we signed the papers to sell our first home (the one we had all three of our babies at) at seven O’clock on a Thursday evening, got a babysitter and at nine O’clock that evening Chad leaned against a ladder in the basement of this house and began to weep. He pulled me in to his arms and said, “THIS is our ‘forever home.’ “ Huh. . . our ‘forever home.’

It means leaving the canopy of this dear, dear city that embraced us and loved us and poured out love to us in such tangible and meaningful ways after Chad died. In a way, I look forward to the anonymity of a new town . . . and I will CERTAINLY be in Midland often . . . but the memories here are sweet and many. It will, to be honest, be nice to jog down a road that doesn’t have a memory of running there with Chad – those memories are just too painful. There is a relief in starting over . . . getting out from under being “Chad’s widow.” It is such an honor to have been his wife and to be his widow . . . but in time, it also becomes a label that we cannot escape. I hope and pray you can understand that and not judge me for my truthfulness to you.

You see, the reality of our lives is that we have HAD to create a new life. We have had NO choice. Our choice would have been for none of this to ever happen . . . but it did.

I have LONG believed that God redeems our suffering. The Word of God PROMISES that He will take the bad that happens in our lives and make good out of it. That is the love of God at work in our lives! That is God’s goodness to us.

Now, enter . . . Practice. My suffering redeemed. His suffering redeemed. That is what we are to one another. Never could I have imagined that God would restore to me . . . love. Deep love! Perhaps a deeper love than I have ever, ever experienced . . . why? Because I know what it is to lose that love and I plan to savor and capture EVERY moment of it! I have told Practice that I WILL memorize every contour of his body . . . and I will . . . because I know what it is to bury that body with whom you are one and to have to walk away and NEVER, EVER see or touch or feel again. And so, I WILL memorize every contour of his body. I will cherish every moment I have with him. I will know who it is to be ‘Sarah,’ and will be ‘Sarah’ very well. For, I have learned who I am as ‘me’ and how to be independent and how to take care of myself. But, I will be so happy to be cared for again, and cherished again, and I will be so happy to settle in to being half of one. I will be so humbled to be a wife again. And so, I do believe that I will love more deeply than ever before . . . because I know the sting of losing the very love of my life. I WILL cherish every moment I have to be Mrs. Practice! I will praise God for His restoration and I will be faithful with the calling of ‘wife.’

The Chris Tomlin/Louie Giglio song Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone), has a verse I just love! I used to sit at the grave and weep as I rewound the song to play this verse over and over and over . . . it says:

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

I would listen to that over and over and over and beg God to please let that be true in my life – as I sat there staring at my husband’s grave. The song goes on to say:

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

Unending love . . . that is what Chad and I had. Our love will NEVER end . . . and in many ways, it will shine brightly through Practice and I because I am who I am because of Chad and the love that we shared. But, while our love will never end . . . this chapter of our life WILL. And, as one chapter ends and a new one begins, there may be days of ‘funk.’ Days where the excitement and joy of ALL of the good that God has brought to my life right now is dimmed a bit by the fact that a very sweet and beautiful and wonderful and blessed chapter of my life is ending. I guess, my friends, this is what they call the circle of life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thank you!

Thank you to all of my readers! I am often amazed at your comments! You have truly blessed me by your comments from my last blog!

I want you all to know that God is so good and big and faithful and I am so happy that you can see that in my writings! Please hang in here with me for a couple more weeks . . . there is BIG news to come and I can't wait to share with you all!

I am having a small 'procedure' done on Friday (varicose veins) and will have some down time over the weekend - I hope to update you all about Micah and Mary . . perhaps a bit about Practice (are you all wondering?) . . . and more about the life in general. I have some ADORABLE pictures of Micah and Mary . . .but I have never put a picture on here . . . so, that might just take my entire weekend!!!!

Blessings to you all . . and THANK YOU so much for your sweet comments - I TRULY appreciate them!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Yachting . . . Times Two!

Well Friends! I would like to share with you a bit more about our journey through grief. This will be a look into both the ‘past’ of the grief and the ‘present.’

Last April we happened to be in Florida this exact week. A dear, dear friend of mine lived in the Keys during the winter and when she found out we were going to be in Florida, she asked if I would come down to Marathon Key and do a concert at their church. I took six months off after Chad died, and the concert in the Keys was my first concert ‘back.’ The concert was on April 6th, and it just so happened that April 7th marked the six month anniversary of Chad’s death.

At the concert that night, there was a very sweet man named Captain Jim who asked if we would all (there were eight of ‘us’ there) like to spend the next day out on his 52 foot yacht. Would we? My heavens! Those of us who live in Michigan RARELY (if ever) get the chance to spend a day out on the ocean in a yacht! Yes, yes, and again . . . yes!

You know . . . there are days along the way . . . on this journey I call grief . . . that are significant. Days that no matter how you look at them, or which direction you come at them, they are ‘big.’ The six month anniversary was one of those days. It represented a ‘half way’ point. Everyone would tell me that if we could just get through the first year . . . through all the firsts . . . that we would make it. Yet, there in that month, we were still facing such deep, deep grief. The pain was still SO relentless. It just felt like we would NEVER get to a year!

Now enter . . . the yacht! Monday morning, April 7th, 2008 . . . we all walked up the plank and onto our first taste of new . . . AND good! Oh, we had had a lot of new . . . but this day would be our first taste of new AND good mixed together. It would be a sign that someday we would be happy again. . . even without our beloved. It was our first look at laughing and making new memories . . . . GOOD memories. . . without our precious daddy. This day would be SUCH a blessing!

We spent most of the day out on the yacht. Captain Jim and his wife Jo were so gracious and hospitable. Others had joined us for the day, as well. But honestly – all I remember is me and my babies smiling and having the time of our lives!

I spent most of the day out on the bow of the boat (I hope that’s what it is called and how you spell it) with my sister, sister-in-law, best friend Hillary, and my Mime’s (the one who asked us to come down to sing.) We laid in the sun out there ALL day . . . and marveled at the unbelievable color of the water in the Keys. Captain Jim would anchor the boat along the way and we would jump in and swim around in the ocean. The kids all jumped off the boat from high atop the back deck (I think about a 15 foot jump.) We had a lovely lunch out on the water and spent some time driving through the canals and gawking at the mansions and the yachts.

We had to head back in according to the tide and if I recall correctly, we had to be in around 2:30 in the afternoon – or else we would have to stay out until evening. I will never forget as we were heading in . . . our trip about to end . . . someone spotted a family of dolphins off in the distance. Captain Jim whipped that boat around and off we went in the direction of the dolphins! It was two adults and a baby dolphin. Right there in the middle of all that water those dolphins danced around the yacht like they were putting on a show for us. It was absolutely thrilling! What a sight to see. Not the dolphins . . .the smiles on my children’s faces as their eyes danced with glee for the first time since their daddy died. What a precious gift from our Heavenly Father . . . and Chad!

Well, by the time Captain Jim headed back in through the channel – he was kickin’ up dirt in his prop the entire way. As we went through the channel we saw sting rays go flying through the water as the boat went by. We said our goodbyes and went on our way. Jim and Jo said that if we ever got back down their way to let them know and we would go back out on the yacht.

We went home to continue our journey through grief. You know, the ‘going home’ was always difficult. I will NEVER forget the first ‘going home.’ It was, may I be blunt? Hell! Going home knowing that Chad would never be there again was absolute Hell! I will never forget the second ‘going home.’ We had been in Nashville and when we got home it would be our first night in our house alone – just the kids and I. Again, Hell.

Well, this time was no different . . . except that we had had a taste . . . a small picture or glimpse into the fact that someday . . . eventually. . . we would laugh again and, yes, even be happy again. We had been given a window into someday. We had been given hope along our journey.

Now fast forward one whole year . . . When I got to thinking that we were going to be in Miami all this week it occurred to me that we wouldn’t be too far from Marathon and that maybe . . . just maybe we could see Captain Jim and Jo. I sent an e-mail and before I knew it the plans were all made. We drove down there (about 3 hours from where we are staying) Tuesday night . . . ironically . . . April 7th. The 18 month anniversary of Chad’s death. Yesterday, we spent the ENTIRE day out on the yacht. Once again . . . it was an absolutely delightful day. Fishing, swimming with the fish on a reef, snorkeling, and yes, once again . . . dolphins! This time not only did they dance for us – but they swam right with the boat! It was just wonderful.

It never ceases to amaze me how there are no strangers in the body of Christ. . . just family. Captain Jim and Jo are wonderful people (as well as the others who joined in for the day and are truly family, as well – we love you Gay Ann, Robin, and Kirsten!) who love the Lord and love people and will forever be near and dear friends of ours. We may only connect a couple times a year ~ but they are a highlight of our year and some of our favorite people in the world.

There was one major difference this year. While the day on the yacht was much the same as the year before . . . WE are not. You see ~ last year the family on that yacht was broken and wounded and limping along without the biggest part of their body . . . trying desperately to figure out how to walk on without that part. Last year ~ we had a small glimpse into the future . . . into happiness . . . into what life might someday be like.

This year . . . we are living ‘someday.’ We ARE happy. This year, we have learned how to stand on our own, NEW, two feet and what that looks like and what that feels like. This year we didn’t make a first memory . . . we continued along this journey called our healing process.

Oh, please don’t get me wrong . . . each and every day we miss Chad. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t think of him, talk about him, and dearly, dearly miss him. But the reality in our lives is that we HAD to heal. That broken, wounded family of April 7th, 2008 HAD to give way to the ‘living again’ family of April 8th, 2009. I am so thankful for our days on the yacht, for Captain Jim and Jo, and for time . . . which truly does take some of the sting out of grief.

If you are walking some sort of journey today that is long and painful – please rest in the fact that GOD IS FAITHFUL! He is so loving and kind and will give you ‘glimpses’ along your way. Please be looking for them! God is our healer . . . and while time really helps . . . God is the balm. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”

Thank you, Father, for being my refuge and strength . . . and for yachting . . . times two!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Still Here!!!!!

Hi All -

I am so sorry for the long absence from blogging! Life has been going full speed - and sometimes the blog just keeps getting put off.

I wanted to let you all know that tomorrow (Friday, April 3rd) is the official release date of the first 'single' from my new album ~ The Long October Road! The song is called "Wishin' Time Away," and is an awesome song that seems to be most people's favorite song off the album (those who have heard it.) The process of releasing a song is VERY long and is more like running a marathon - definitely not a sprint! It may take weeks for the programmers to actually decide that they will play the song - then even longer for the listeners to hear the song. IF you hear the song on your local radio, PLEASE call or e-mail your station and ask them to play it more. But, please don't call out of the blue to ask for it . . .the programmers DO NOT like that!

Also - will you please pray over this very special song - that it will have God's favor all over it. Please pray that as the programmers listen - that they will have a sense of God's presence and anointing and that they will KNOW that this is a song that will powerfully touch their listener's lives!!!!!!! Please join me in prayer for the success of "Wishin' Time Away."

Also - just so you all know . . . we are still busy working on a brand new website . . . the cover art and design of the CD cover/case . . . and working to schedule concerts.

The kids and I are in South Florida for the next 10 days! What a blessing. It is a working vacation for me. I was at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church yesterday - the church of the former D. James Kennedy. They have a radio station and a very dear lady named Leslie Hurst interviewed me. We then spent the afternoon together having lunch and getting to know one another. It was a very sweet time.

Tonight we drive to Fort Myers to introduce the song on a big station over there tomorrow morning! I am so excited to share this powerful song with listeners all over the country!!!!!!

I need to buy a new camera - ours is broken - and once I do I will work to put pictures on my blog. You can see my babies and keep up with our vacation.

Do any of you remember WAY back at the beginning of my blogging days when I told you that Micah and Mary are in love? Well - stay tuned for the continuation of that love story . . . and many, many pictures of the two of them down here on the beach!!!!!

Blessings to you all!