Friday, May 31, 2013

Shadow of the Almighty -

The honest truth is that I don't know how to write this. 
The honest truth is that I don't want to write this. 
The honest truth is that it is hard to believe it is even true
The honest truth is that it is really hard to believe it has been a year soon
The honest truth is that I feel completely unprepared to face memories and flashbacks. 
The honest truth is that I feel overwhelmed with how surreal it still is that Avery is gone

So this will be short. Because I don't know how to do this right now. 

Like a year ago, sometimes there really just are no words. No words tonight.

Photos taken: June 7th, 2012. Tennessee. 

I'm flying out early this morning to Colorado to spend the 1 year anniversary of Avery's Home-going (which is the afternoon of June 2nd), and the following week of memories at somewhere other than FL. I'm so very thankful to be able to spend it with one of the most special people to me, Mrs. Patterson. I look forward to conversations and lots of hugs and sitting on the back porch and listening to the wind move through the pines. I'm humbled at God's answer to my prayer (desired all year) to not be doing the same things I was during those days. It is far too painful to re-live similarly. 

It might sound overboard to go all the way to CO, and yes, my memories are with me wherever I go. But if I was here on the 2nd, I would be at my church, being a wreck. Being in CO, and pouring my days into being busy at someone else's house is way more fun than doing that at mine. I had SUCH a peace about it when I found the ticket to CO and bought it. I wanted to curl up and cry with relief. For the whole year, I had been dreading re-living those memories with the same contact to the same things on the same day. Don't ask me why it's so much worse, it just is. 

I have flashbacks all the time, even if I never share them, they still impact me deeply. Re-living these days in my mind, (whether I want to or not) will be really hard. All those moments that Friday (the 1st), the Saturday he went to Heaven (the 2nd), and the next day after (Sunday the 3rd) are seared into my mind. The grief was unreal. Like the kind of movie you want to shut off and go cry somewhere because the whole thing was too sad. Except so much worse because this is reality. 

I listened to the first Scripture CD, one hymn from Indelible Grace, one song from Red Mountain Music and one song that just seemed to be right .... and that's all over those days. Over and over and over and over. Just the first chords of the song, and I'm there in that moment. 

 You all prayed so much for Avery and his family last year, and I'm really asking for it again. Please be keeping John and Audra (Avery's Daddy and Mommy) and Henry (Avery's 10 month old little brother) in your prayers as they grieve and remember and rejoice. Please keep their extended families in your prayers, and for all who loved Avery and mourn the loss of him in our lives. This weekend will be so incredibly hard on them, as will the following days of remembering that week. Avery was buried 1 week after he died, on the 9th of June. Definitely one of the hardest days of my life by far. 

Avery had such weight in this world. In my world. Today I told my hair-dresser about Avery, and we were both quickly in tears. It is still so very surreal. 

It is hard not to panic a little when I think about all I want to remember about Avery's life, and am worried I will forget something. And yet I want some of these terribly heart-breaking flashbacks to that time to fade. They are interwoven in the weaving of memories like a blanket, you pull on one memory, and the whole blanket comes apart, and you come apart with it, and it seems like nothing will ever be right again. 

I miss Avery. I miss being his "Auntie Jemmie". I loved him more than I can say. I mourn the loss of him deeply, and can't wait to give hugs and bump noses with him again in Heaven. 

I am the least of the mourners in importance, but I too, crave your prayers. Thank you so much.

One thing as I go into these days, it just gives me so much peace. I know that Jesus has gone before me in all things. Because He knows my every sorrow, and has borne every grief and pain. I am not alone, even on the terrible and sleepless nights, the worst nightmares, the most traumatic recollections. 

I know that when I go into the valley of sorrow - I will find Him there. I will find Him waiting to love and comfort me. I will find Him listening to hear my cries and prayers. I will find Him with arms open to comfort me. I will find Him knowing, understanding. I will find Him sovereign and loving. 

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." ~ Psalm 91:1 

With much love, 
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

God is so good -

I'm writing that title because I believe it. I believe it today, and I know it is true. 

2 years ago this weekend, I spent 3 days with John and Audra and Avery, working their book booth at FPEA here in Orlando. It was an exhausting, hilarious, new, memory-filled, baby-adoring, picture proven, wonderful, blessed time. I have about 400 pictures of their visit, all sitting in iPhoto. They are the adored pictures. When Avery was just 4 months, and he adored the Mickey Mouse we bought him in Orlando. When Avery was laughing and giggling and full of the joy that made him so amazing. 

The photos sit untouched but much loved. They are treasured now. 

2 years ago, I was cradling him in my arms for the first time. Now he is in Heaven. 

This weekend, I'm going to a Bible conference by Sovereign Grace, here in Orlando. I'll be mere minutes from the place I was 2 years ago.  I'm so looking forward to it, and claiming the joy that the Son of God Who died for me is holding in His arms of love one of the sweetest little boys I've ever known. 

That is JOY. God is so good. 

I'm taking my memories of 2 years ago with me. I feel like I'm taking that whole weekend along with me. Those memories, those photos, those long hours where my arms ached, but I wouldn't give up holding him for anything. 

I'm taking all that with me. I'm asking for peace for John and Audra and Henry. 
I'm thanking God for the JOY of Avery, today and forever. 
And as always, I'm taking my love of him with me wherever I go. 

Much love,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Friday, May 17, 2013

A wedding by a glassy sea -

"This is the story of the Son of God, hanging on a cross for me...."

I have something to share with might shock you and it might not. If you know me well enough,  you will probably not be very shocked, if you don't know me at all, you might think it too dramatic. 

Here it is: I wouldn't be here if the Gospel wasn't real. 

You might not think that's shocking. Okay, that's alright. But listen - I really wouldn't. I would not come here, on this blog, and write words and try to touch your hearts if I didn't believe it is TRUE. 

Some days, just as it should be ... the Gospel hits me hard. Right in the place where you've told yourself that fear-driven repentance is okay as long as He forgives you the same. It's not. Joy-based repentance is what the Gospel gives you, because you didn't pay any of your own redemption. Jesus paid it all. 

When I was little, I was sure that life would be like childhood.....we grow up, we get married, we have children....we spend summers at the beach and we take them on vacations and we have 4th of July parties and Christmas drop-ins and our kids grow up with our best friend's kids and life is great. 

I never thought of cancer. I never thought of infections. I never thought of funerals or graves. 

But my life has been full of those, especially in the last 3 years. Friends all around me, suffering loss, me with my already breaking heart, just grieving right along with them. Weeping with those who weep. Last summer it seemed to me that was all I did. I went to funerals. For 4 months. 5 funerals. In 4 months. 

By the time my Grandmother's funeral rolled around, it was the 5th one, and I put on my makeup, and I braided up my hair and took up my shawl, and I stood right there where grass was torn away and the dirt heaved up to leave a deep hole for her shell to be lowered into, awaiting the day when her spirit will join with her body. I stood there, in knowing quiet. This was what I did now. I knew this. 

I think more than anything I was stunned that someone who grieved so much in the past few months could still be living. It all shocked me into a silence so deep I could hear my heart screaming for air. 

because How could this be? 

It will be 1 year soon. On June 2nd, it will be 1 year since my world shattered and dreams ended when I read Avery was gone.  Nothing could have ever prepared me for that moment. Not even much grief from a terrible previous year. Not even the night before's bad news over and over. Not even the slight chance he might not make it. 

Life slammed to a halt. And then the nightmare started, one split second as my heart stopped beating. Everything I thought could be/would be ..... would not be in this life. Such a heart-breaking moment!! One of the hardest things about grief for me is not that I think that God isn't powerful enough to heal, it is that I KNOW that He IS. I know He is fully God, fully Healer, fully holy, He IS all that He says He is. 

And His will was to not heal Avery here on this earth. In this short expanse of life. 
There are no reasons, no explanations given. There are no words, and there is no understanding it. 

It is here that Heaven makes all the difference. 
It is here that as RC Jr. says "Jesus changes everything.".
 It is here that lines come down to a very thin margin, and either it is all true, or it isn't
It is here that the gospel reminds us that this is the middle of the story. 
All behind us is the beginning, we are here in this short breath of life, and then - life forever. 

I remember standing on Tennessee ground on June 9th, 2012, the day we buried Avery, and telling myself over and over and over - "He is not here. He is not here. He is not here. He is not here. He is not here. He is not here.". 
Because I knew more than anything in that moment, that Avery was with God. He was not in that beautiful box his daddy made for him. He was not being lowered into the grave. He was not there. He was in the presence of the King of Kings. He was ALIVE, more fully alive than we ever have been!

The most beautiful thing in that moment as I swayed in the wind to keep from falling to my knees was knowing that this was not the end. This was not the end of Avery's life. This is not the end at all. 

As it draws nearer to the date, to that week....the memories flood in. Perhaps not let in so much as pure inability to keep so much at bay. I find myself easily in tears. I find myself easily in disbelief it is true.

It will not be an easy anniversary, and I covet your prayers for me, and for John and Audra, for their parents and their families and loved ones and for everyone who knew and loved the sunshiney little boy who almost never cried, who wore the name Avery with the sweetest smile of joy. 

The gospel is this: Christ died for His bride to make her His own, and paid her debt to make her holy. 
Christ made Avery whole in a way that we still long for. We are beautiful in a way that only He sees. 
It is the Gospel that tells us we are loved in a way we can only begin to dream of. 

"This is the story of the Son of God, hanging on a cross for me. 
But it ends with a bride and groom and a wedding by a glassy sea." 

I want to share this song with you. Every time I hear it, I melt into tears. It is my reminder - this is not all there is. There is a day when this life will be a glorious blur of the goodness of the Lord, and I will take my Savior's hand, and look into His glorious face, and know no greater joy. 

My first thought of a glassy sea was this river dam that Mom and I went to the day after Avery's funeral in TN. When I woke up that day, I knew I needed to be outside, being busy, so we headed off to find somewhere beautiful to be. And we ended up high on this mountain to see the dam for the Caney Fork River. The water was this black, deep river on one side, and then the lake for the dam was this stunning aqua/turquoise water that was unbelievable in color. It was surrounded by these vibrant green trees and a beautiful cool wind was blowing. And that is what I thought of when I thought "glassy sea". I barely edited these photos, that is really what the water looked like. Amazing. 

You can listen along to the song by The City Harmonic here....and read the lyrics with the photos. 

"This is the story of the Son of God, hanging on a cross for me. 
But it ends with a bride and groom and a wedding by a glassy sea."

Oh death, where is your sting? 'Cause I'll be there singing: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord!

This is the story of a bride in white, waiting on her wedding day. 
Anticipation welling up inside while her groom is crowned a King! 

Oh death, where is your sting? 'Cause I'll be there singing: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord!

Holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty! 
Holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, (Who was, and is and is to come) is the Lord Almighty! 

This is the story of the Son of God hanging on a cross for me! Holy, holy, holy, holy!
And it ends with a bride and groom and a wedding by a glassy sea! 
Holy, holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty! 

This is the story of a bride in white, singing on her wedding day! Holy, holy, holy, holy! 

Altogether all that was, and is, can stand before her God and sing: 
Holy, holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty!

Holy, holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty!" 

"Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.
Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down 
out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 
"Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." 

Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My Son." 
~ Revelation 21:1-7 ~ 

This story ... it hurts so incredibly much right now. But as I like to remind myself - We are not Home yet. This is the middle of the story, and the glorious reunion and wedding and feast are yet to come!

We hold on with hope, because this is a story of redemption, of glory, of love and ultimately, of LIFE.

May the Lord make this nearer and dearer to my heart every day I live,
With much love, and many tears,
~ Jean Marie ~

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Spring Frolic 2013 (Day 2) -

Hey, y'all! 

Hope you are doing well, having a lovely day, enjoying "the very very merry month of May". ;)

Ok, so as I was making this post, I realized that the other post on Barberville Spring Frolic 2013....I put the wrong date in the video. I said it was Saturday the 28th, but really it was the 27th. *slaps forehead* Oh well. Y'all either already knew, or didn't care. hah! So here is the 2nd day of the Spring Frolic - Sunday, the 28th of April.

I had church in the morning, and I teach Sunday School, so I didn't end up at Barberville until about 1:30, and then it was a short afternoon, which surprisingly, I was fine with because it was hot, and I just sat around listening to music and hugging people and dancing .... and because the day was sweetened with a lovely evening at Emily & Ben's house - a bonfire and after-party. :) So much fun!!

So here are pictures. :)

Loner's Junction in the Barn!


Obi on the banjo & his wifey, Emily, rockin' the upright bass. 

To be honest, Gabi's songs hit my heart in that great and sweet way. He has such a way for writing songs. 

Sweetest smiley girl ... at 7.5 months.


About time I got a picture of Tall Nathan. :) 

Bits and harnesses and equipment drape from the rafters.

Playing with her tongue. ;)

Proof I love her - she gets to drool all over my camera strap. haha. 

"This tastes like Auntie Jean Marie....hmm."

THIS is the face that I get 99% of the time when we are spending time together. HAHAHA. 
Aka: Uncontrollable laughter that we tried to hold in, but still caught the gaze of Gabi while he was singing.... and was shaking his head in good-natured scolding. Oh boy. 

"Billy Billy Bayou, watch where ya' go, if you're walkin' on quicksand, walk slow! 
Billy Billy Bayou, watch what you say, a pretty girl'll get you one of these days!" 

Looms and cotton and thread and every barn thing imaginable are in there. 

Heading out for our cars after saying goodbyes ...
and here we have the ridiculously good looking family called the Ben Brower Family.

Laughing at something Jamie said....yes, I said Jamie. She came!! We'd been waiting since G was in the womb to see each other again. Ridiculous. She 'bout hugged the freckles clean off me. ;) 

Yes, I agree. She looks pretty snazzy. 

"Awkward Model Turn!" hahaha! although....she looks fine. so .... FAIL.

Oh, don't worry 'bout it. We sure will be back!! :) 

Oh, you have to hear this... it was a heart-stopping moment thanks (or no-thanks) to Ben -
I was in my car, taking down my windshield heat shield, so I couldn't see out my window, right? I take down the shield, glance up, and Ben is speeding STRAIGHT at my car. My eyes widen, my jaw drops and I scramble to put my car into reverse, but before I get there, he has stopped right in front of my car.

Staring me down, like we are in some scene from a Pixar movie. My heart is pounding and I'm mad. Ben pulls up beside my car, and the minute my window goes down, I tell Emily "I am going to kill Ben.". Apparently, he was trying to get right in front of me before I took the shield down, instead, he freaked the living daylights out of me. If it would have been anyone else, I probably would have thrown something at his head. However, he was laughing, and soon I was too. While still thinking I would like my normal heart-rate back, thankyouverymuch. hah. Nice one, Ben. Nice. 

When we got to Ben & Emily's, and I had my heart-rate back, some of our gang started filtering in from Barberville. And Jamie and I laid down on the floor and didn't move. We both could have fallen asleep, easy. The AC felt SO good. haha. We just laid there and laughed at each other and were weenies for an hour. And then we played with the babies. :) There were 4! David, Wade, Ben, and Georgia. :)

G's hair. 

David playing 

Georgia's sunshiney amber necklace and her sweet blouse. 

David had a GREAT time going up and down the stairs ... Wade had no problem going up and down, but David had to learn multiple steps ... which turned all of us women into watching them like hawks.

So happy with lights/stairs/railings. :) 

Wade had SO much energy, that literally, this is THE only photo I have of him because he completely froze and smiled for the camera. :) I loooove it. How cute is he?!

And Ben!!! I was so glad I was able to meet Ben, I'd been wanting to see him since he was born! If y'all don't know..... Wade and Ben are Isaac & Lydiana's. They live over in St.Pete, about 3 hours west of me. :)

Seriously. What a little hunk of sweet handsome baby. 

Babies are addicting to photograph. So much fun. 

I can never get too much of baby smiles. :) 

laughing at something...

I spent most of my time cuddling all the babies. :) There is no better feeling. 

"The one ring to rule them all...." hahaha. ;)

He is such a sweet lad too. All smiles and gentleness and laid-back. :) 

Those adorable newlyweds. :) Obi & Emily. 

Those brown eyes!! I'm a sucker for brown eyes. 

Cody and Gabe's birthday cake!

Ok. Funny story...I'm sitting on the floor, eating cake, listening to conversation, and I was scraping green icing off the cake with my finger.... and I ask (like some sort of total idiot that didn't learn colors in kindergarten) what colors are in dark green. Aka: is there red dye in dark green? Everyone just stares at me, because this was NOT in the conversation ... and finally EmilyBrower is like "I doubt there is red in that, you are fine..." (I'm allergic to red dye) and GabeLynn cracks some joke about me smearing it on my face, so then I'm sitting there. Staring at the green icing on my finger in total silence.....then I look at Gabe....then back at the green icing....then back at Gabe....Gabe starts laughing because he can see the wheels turning in my head and KNOWS I want to.... I was so torn! I mean - green striped camo! In the end - I ate it (and was just fine). It didn't go on my cheeks and nose.

Jamie ... aka: the most adorable firefighter ever.... was dubbed the best candidate for cutting the cake, since she herself makes amazing cakes. :)

It was so special spending time at Ben & Emily's....hearing firefighter/EMT stories (there were 3 there, haha), catching up with Isaac & Jamie 100 hugs....eating marshmallows out by the fire and getting way too sticky from smores....seeing the incredible expanse of stars....having some girl time with all the women and laughing ourselves breathless.....just enjoying relaxing and sharing life together!

Thank you, Ben & Emily for having us!!

Here's a short little video of filmed moments from the day -

I love y'all!!! Can't wait to see everyone again!
Much love always,
~ Jean Marie ~