Thursday, January 31, 2013

St. Andrews Winter Ball -

Last Saturday, the 26th, Darby (and friends) put on a Winter Ball at St. Andrews. Darby called all the English Country Dances, and led a teaching lesson prior, and managed us all just beautifully.

Mom, Dad and I went together, and Lauren (my much beloved Lauren) lent me one of her dresses to wear, since I was way overwhelmed from shopping. I found a cute shrug on Thursday, and tried on dresses at her house and then went and made an epic 4 points out of 4 hours of volleyball. ** Note the sarcasm.....I tell myself to hit the ball. Hit it hard. Dive for it. And then I look up and it is hurtling towards my head at an alarming speed, and I forget everything and catch the ball. And then I get yelled at. Call it instinct from baseball. Call it stupidity. (I don't care what you call it as long as you still love me. hahahah.) So that was Thursday... and the other kind of ball story.

And then it was Saturday, the day for the ball. I twisted my hair up, zipped into my dress, and out we went for an evening of dancing and fellowship. :) It was such a laughter-filled and beautiful time.

Thank you so much, Darby and everyone who put it on!! 

This was my first time shooting in RAW, so if it looks slightly different....that's why. ;)

Gorgeous Delaney. 

and in B&W. She deserves extra time on the blog anyways. Love her. 

I love hearing the fountain and the water. 

It is so beautiful there. 

Hannah's beautiful dress and hair. (Funny story: when I first met her, it was at the beach and it was loud....and when Delaney introduced her, I thought she said "Laura". So I called her Laura ALL DAY. And then later Delaney was like "who?", and I said "Laura! from today!", and she said "Oh my goodness, Jean. It's HANNAH." hahahahahha. Nice. 

Daddy confiscated my camera to get a few of me all dressed up. :) 

When I put my hair up at home, I realized why I stopped doing that hairstyle. It is time consuming. It took me about 40 minutes to twist it all up. :) But it stayed while dancing, and that is the important part.


I took a few portraits of Mom and Dad. It's rare I get to do that! 

I love them so much. 

So sweet. Happily married for 27. 5 years. 

The roses around St. A's are so delicate and lovely. 

Hahah. Caught with a plate full of pink desserts. :) 


Hannah's hair. 

Little lads in coats ... 

... heading to the water.

Watching the sun set on Avery's birthday

That's how Kirsten rolls. hahahaha. 

So many beautiful dresses! 

Erin Claire's hair....she looked exactly like Lucy from Narnia. Not kidding. :) 

Lauren looking serious....hahaha. Which cracks us up, because she wasn't. 

Darby calling the Virginia Reel. 

Little girlies. 

This little guy was practicing his bowing. :) 

Sweet and hilarious Maili. 

Darby's mike. hahaha. Josiah and I were saying "She's the number 1 Fellow! So important!" HAHA.

I loved Kaylee's dress (on the left), and the sweet dress in pink on the right! 

My favorite shot of the night. :) 

Daddy took one of us. I love us. Lauren and I have gotten to talk a lot more in the past few weeks, which has been just the best thing ever. I love being closer to her in that way. 

I think the little girls were more excited about dancing and dresses than anyone! What a riot to watch. ;) 

How adorable is he?!! 

Josiah took one of Darby and I. It's pretty much requested every time we see each other to have a picture together. Gotta' stock up on how big our smiles are every time. She's so dear to my heart. 

Lauren took these last end up with photos of yourself when someone else has the camera! haha.

It was so much fun. We all had a great time, and ate delicious food - stuffed mushrooms and mini quiches and mini eclairs and laughed so hard we could barely do the dances correctly.

St. A's has truly because a second church family home for me. I love so many people there!!
Until next time.....with much love,
~ Jean Marie ~

Goodbye January, and hello February!! 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 26th, 2013 -

~ Psalm 139:11-12 ~ 
"If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; 
the darkness and the light are both alike to You." 

(taken Jan. 26, 2011)

Two years ago, it was a Wednesday evening, and I took my camera outside to take pictures of the fading dusk as I prayed with all my heart for the safe delivery of little man Avery John Notgrass. I prayed with all that was in me, tears filling my eyes, feeling fear that I hadn't heard if he was here or not. I prayed over John and Audra and for JOY and the Holy Spirit to be so incredibly present.

A little while later, I got a call from Elle, and a picture texted too. Avery was born into the Tennessee night, from his Mama's womb to be held in his Mama and Daddy's arms of love.

I jumped on Facebook to see the picture in the hugest format I could put it in. Tears slipped down my face, that caused sniffles, that caused my Daddy to make sure I was okay behind my computer. I just pointed at the screen, and said "Avery is here.". I sat there and burst into tears and wept for a long time. 

The relief was overwhelming. He was here. Beautiful, safe, sound, perfect, a wondrous baby boy. 

3 days later, I would walk onto the beach and draw his name in the sand, and know that God had given   John and Audra a precious gift in Avery. I was overwhelmed again, with tears and with joy. I was honorary "Auntie Jemmie". :) And I loved him more than I could say. It would be 4 months until I held him in my arms for the first time; but he was here. Perfect and whole and healthy. God was so good.

(taken Jan. 29, 2011)

From when Avery was in the womb and all his days here, these words have had new meaning for me:
"My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret,
and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in your book they all were written,
the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! 
How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You."
~ Psalm 139:15-18 ~

I don't know how God counts time in Heaven, but I know that God knew and planned all Avery's days on this earth. He fashioned them beautifully just for Avery when not a single one of them was yet. And as John and Audra say "Avery is FOREVER.". He is already in the Forever. The Forever Heaven before the Forever Land of the Redeemed. We live in the Shadowlands, we are not yet forever.  But soon we shall be, and nothing shall ever separate any of us again.

I love this quote by Dwight L. Moody:
"Someday you will read in the papers, 'D. L. Moody of East Northfield is dead.'
 Don't you believe a word of it!
At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, 
out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal - 
a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint;
 a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.
I was born of the flesh in 1837. I was born of the Spirit in 1856. 
That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit will live forever." 

(taken Jan. 26, 2011)

And that is how I remember and love to think of Avery. He is more fully alive than he ever was here!
He is fully ALIVE. Gone from this short life of love to the next life of Forever Joy, with the promise that we will all be with him soon. Some of us sooner than others, but reunited just the same.

John and Audra will one day cross over Jordan and walk through those gates, and there Avery will be.
More fully alive than we can even dream. More fully Avery than we ever knew. Shining in the glory of the radiance of being God's own beautiful adopted and beloved son. Fashioned before the beginning of the world to be called to Eternal Life, to Eternal Joy, to the Forever days in the land of the Redeemed!!!

2 years ago I wept that Avery had come safely. These early morning hours of his second birthday, I weep for the great loss of him here, I weep for John and I weep for Audra, and I weep for Henry, for grandparents and family. I weep for all who loved him and for all who miss him. I weep that he is gone from here so soon. I weep that I can't send him a birthday gift from his Auntie Jemmie.

And then I look to Jesus, and I weep thankful tears that Avery is fully ALIVE and he is FOREVER.

Loving Avery was one of the sweetest and best things my heart has ever known.
Please join me in praying for John and Audra as they miss him today, and for the Holy Spirit to once again, be so incredibly present with them. Avery was born at 4:43pm (CST). I love you, John and Audra.

Happy 2nd birthday, Avery. I love and miss you so much.
~ Auntie Jemmie ~

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

This is my place -

I completely understand. I really do. Who knows what to say when you look into their eyes and they are so broken? Who knows how to relate? Who knows what will be right or wrong? 

the blog comments and e-mails lie silent. the church conversations cut short. phone calls go to voicemail. I can hear your inward sigh when you see my blog - "Such a roller coaster of joy and sad!". Yes. It is. People warn you not to let it take over your life, chasten you when you share your heart. Tell you not to love so much, grieve too deep. 

And yet I don't know how they can ask that when this is how God made me.

And I don't know how they can tell me how to grieve when if they have grieved they know that everyone holds onto some things differently. That you want that memory of him pressed against your heart, beating with you in precious life together, to stay in the front of your memory forever. 

And I don't want you to only see the sad side of me. Because I'm so much more than this. But the honest truth is that this is my place. Mine. Mine to write and grieve and BE. This is my place that I don't even write the deepest things on my heart. Those words go into my journal. 

And maybe you don't mean it when you write what you think are encouraging comments, or tell me God is good, but it stings. Because there aren't any answers and there isn't any phrase that will make it better. 

And maybe most of you don't know what it's like to want something more than your own life, but my guess is that some of you do. Some of you have begged God to take you to Heaven instead. 

And some of you were there in the hospital and I couldn't be. Some of you were there at the funeral home and I couldn't do it anymore. Some of you listened to me sobbing in the bathroom one too many times. Some of you watched the walls slam up in my eyes when my heart wouldn't take one more thing. Many of you sent me e-mails when Avery was sick. I would tell his parents of everyone who was praying. By names even.

 Many of you saw my brokenness and my shattered heart Sunday after Sunday. Read it here. Read it on Facebook many times. Heard it in my voice when I tried to explain how I am, and end up choking back emotions instead.

God gave me a heart that loves deeply, doesn't give up or let go, and when you love deeply and that person is torn away, you grieve deeply. Sympathy and compassion go hand in hand in a heart like mine. I'm the person weeping in the theater because I know just how grief feels. I'm the person who immediately wants to jump on a plane to hold the families of Newtown and cry with them. I'm the person that doesn't care about money but just wants to be close when life falls apart and your love goes away. 

It is how God made me, and this is where the heart that God gave me spills over into words. 

You probably won't ever see the pictures of the multiple ceremonies at the multiple cemeteries. You don't see the pictures that send me into tears every time I look at them. You don't hear my sobs at night. You don't see me bite my lip and hold back the tears at random things that remind me every day that they are gone from this life into the next. It is heartbreaking and hard and lonely to grieve.

I have loved much, and so I grieve much. This season of weeping will not always be, but those in Heaven will always be with me in my heart. There will be a season of when my mourning is no more. That is not tomorrow. That is not this year. That is when I will rise, cross over Jordan and behold my Lord in all His glory and splendor and SEE the One Whom my soul loves.

So before you tell me how to live, or judge how I am coping, realize that I won't ever move on. God doesn't ask me to move on, so neither should you. Moving on is not the same as living life. I am living life. I am pulling in as much life and sunlight and joy as I can. Getting up and living every day. 

Avery will always be such an important part of me. I loved him more than I can say. The memories I have of him aren't enough. Forgive my tears when I hold your baby and start to cry. It wasn't that long ago I was holding Avery for the first time. And when you hear me singing songs that break off, realize I still can't understand any of this. And when I can't answer your questions, know I don't have answers.

Forgive me many things. Forgive me even the feelings that might be hurt by this. It is a hard battle to think that this place of mine is something I need to hold back from and not be real with you. It's easier to think we are sitting together on a couch, having coffee, where you can read my face and how hard it is hold all of this in, and not be free to share it. And I don't think I should hold myself back anymore. 

Today I found a song, and it made everything fall to pieces. It was like EmilyBrower wrote me in an e-mail: "being hit by a train of sadness". That's exactly like it is. 

The lyrics are for a breakup but it doesn't matter. It perfectly describes all of this. 

"I heard it in your voice when your love died. 
On a telephone connection stretching miles and miles of wire.
You said it was over and then cried and cried. 
You were gone before I said "Goodbye".

Would you stay just a little, (my) love?"

The night that Avery was fighting for his life in a hospital in Tennessee, I was here in Florida. I spent that night in the most fervent prayer I could give. Begging God, on my knees, face down. Begging Him to take me instead. Begging God not to let it be. Begging God to let him stay. Begging God to wake him up. Begging God to touch him and call him to rise. Begging for strength for John and Audra and Henry.

Phone calls back and forth and back and forth to Elle in California (getting texts from the fam. in TN). Whispers and sobbing. Gasps and Facebook updates and researching medical issues/options and surgery. Realizing bad news over and over and over. We cried and cried. 

"It kills me as I lay awake at night ... is it impossible for me to win this fight? 
Keep you a little longer in my life. If you stay just a little, if you stay just a little, that's enough." 
"Stay Just a Little" by Kina Grannis

And God took him to Heaven. There are no words for that. No explanations. No reasons. 

I am the walking wounded, and my dearest Audra is the mourning, brokenhearted mama. John the same as a daddy. Henry the baby who is the youngest of 4, sweet and precious babies. I wish with all my heart that it wasn't true. That it wasn't real. That this was not their story. My story too.

Three words that make it able for me to breathe and live on. Six actually. 

He is God.  &  Jesus Changes Everything. 

So I completely understand that you don't have words. I don't either. I just have this place to write.

 It is here that you will hear what I cannot say. It is here that I feel God near.
And if you see me, a hug is good. Know that I'm thankful for prayers and hugs and for you.

With much love, and know that if you are grieving, I'm praying for you. You are not alone in this.
~ Jean Marie ~