Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Spill-It Tuesday -

Hi!! :) 

First off, I realize the title is slightly crazy...but it came to me when I was buttering waffles, and that's what I'm sticking to. I just had a wave of wanting to blog and spill, so that's what I'm going with. :) I'll just number them as long as I have things to share, and then quit! Here goes - 

1. I am scared out of my mind of ..... moths. Yep. Moths. Few things incite panic like a moth flying around my head. I will scream and jerk around and try to hide behind other humans. They freak me out.  I'm fine with bats, spiders, snakes, most lizards, bugs, etc. Moths? Nope. I have this childhood fear of one getting in my mouth, and tell me that's not terrifying. GAH! 

2. I love most foods, but can't stand: eggplant, oysters, mussels, raw fish/meat, or tomato or cucumber seeds. Yes. If I'm at a friend's house, and they serve tomatoes on a sandwich, I just close my eyes and chew quickly and think about anything else, because I get sick just thinking about it. I can't eat huge pickles because the cucumber seeds are too squishy. (My nose is scrunched up just thinking about it). 

3. I'm allergic to bananas, red dye, and imitation cinnamon extract. I mean, I won't keel over and die instantly, but my mouth/throat gets really sore, my tongue swells and hurts and my lips the same. And bananas just make me sick, period. I used to be able to eat them a little, now - not even a bite. But I can eat plantains, and I looooove them, so all is good for the most part. :) 

4. One of my biggest pet peeves is when the car is quiet, so I turn on some music, and it also magically turns on the family's need to talk instantly. I can't drive with both conversation and also singing to country, so the music goes off. I know this is silly, but man, it drives me crazy! hahaha! 

5. I scream like a banshee when seaweed touches my legs. Why? Because it is SLIMY. I've been known to go into full-blown panic and even possible tears while treading dark waters because there was seaweed at the bottom. I freak out. I hate slimy stuff. 

6. I don't think I'm competitive until another sports car passes me. Then I think I'm from NASCAR or something and have to remind myself to obey the speed limits. hahaha. I can't stand it thinking that the other car thinks I couldn't catch up with them if I wanted to. Because I totally could. 

7. I've taught 3-5th grade Sunday School for almost 2 years now, and those kids crack me up on a weekly basis. Just when I think I possibly don't have enthusiasm for teaching, my kids pull me into the story and in the middle of shaking my head at how amazing they are, I've found my rhythm again. 

8. At night when I can't sleep, I write speeches in my head or find escapes out of situations.
(When I'm not listening to music on my ipod or praying, that is)

9. I can't stand eating Chinese food with anything but chopsticks. It feels so wrong. 

10. I feel most free when I'm sitting up in a tree or floating/body surfing in the ocean.

11. When I was little, I thought it was too much trouble to shell sunflower seeds, so I just put them in my mouth like all the baseball coaches did, but then I just crunched up the whole thing and swallowed it. 

12. I can't stand it when they put pop in my country music. It drives me crazy. Country is Old Alabama or anything that sounds them. Or at least try, for goodness sake! I love the weekends, when they play all the oldies that reminds me of being little, and hearing country on Saturdays and going to Lowe's with Dad. 

13. I love chocolate, but just because something is made with chocolate does not make it better in my book. Almost always if there is a choice between lemon something or chocolate something on a dessert menu, I'll want the lemon. I rarely choose a dessert or a food just because it has chocolate in it. :) My Mom is the exact opposite, haha. Cheesecake, however, is another story. 

14. I catch myself watching people with cameras. Ok, staring is more like it. My mind starts scrambling to find out what their camera is capable of, and usually if I catch their eye, I smile. I love seeing people capture life in photo form. It can get sticky though...if it's a dude and he realizes I'm staring. haha. 

15. I've always wanted to learn swing dancing. :) I love Contra', but swing is in its own category. :)

16. I love snakes, as long as they are non-venemous. I love swimming with sting rays, and I love squishing moon jellies because they make my hands so incredibly soft. 

17. I love sugar gliders, giraffes, otters, and ferrets. And pretty much every animal there is.

18My 5 favorite preachers to listen to are: 
 Steven Lawson, R.C. Sproul, CJ Mahaney, Josh Harris, and John Piper. 

19. I was in a car accident last October and didn't tell y'all. *wince* I was fine, as were the other two passengers in my car (my unable-to-drive-after-crash-car), and it was by the grace of God alone. Thankfully, repairs were made, payment was made by the city (it was the trash truck's fault) and my car is happy and whole and drives as beautiful as ever! 

20. My nose is broken in two places. Heh. The bridge is fractured from when I was a little kid, and the septum is deviated (the cartilage is broken from the bone) from a few New Years Eve's ago, when a dog's head smashed into mine. Thank God I was watching his eyes, and jerked back, because if I hadn't pulled my head back, his bite would have bit over my eyelids instead of over my nose. Stare at my face for long enough and you'll see how it is crooked. ;) 

21. I can handle pretty much everything from vomit to blood to needles to guts to burns. But broken bones I can't handle. I can't look at it, I can't touch it, I can't think about it. It makes me super queasy. 

22. I've always wanted to donate blood, and I'm going to find time in the next month to do that! 

Since I'm really spilling the beans about everything, I'll go ahead and tell you this too - 

23. I'm no longer taking Bible classes. I'm in Photography school. *bites lip* YES. It takes students 1-3 years to complete, and I just completed my first semester at the end of May. I LOVE IT. I can't even tell you. :) It has been my dream for over 5 years to attend NYIP, and I just love being a part of it. I'm so thankful to have the freedom to pursue photography, and my family's full support! I know it's where I'm supposed to be, and I feel so free. I'm constantly learning and love getting better at it! 

It is the world's oldest and largest photography school, founded in 1910, and their headquarters are located in Manhattan. When I listen to the audio lectures, sometimes I hear sirens running in the distance, since they are right there in the city. :) I love the professors' way of teaching, and it's so fun! I don't know what line of photography I will be going into, I just know I love taking pictures. :)
(I can't believe I kept that a secret for 8 months, hahahaha) 

24. I can read a list of ingredients on a menu, and by thinking about each one tastes like, and then putting them all together, instantly know if I would like it or not. That's how I order. (maybe everyone does this? I don't know) I don't like getting the same thing twice (unless I love it and have to have it), and I love seafood so much that it trumps almost any other thing on the menu. Including dessert. :)

25I'm turning a quarter of a century in 3 days. :D 
(My Sunday School kids think that's almost 80 - so helpful)

And that's it! That was a lot of spilling. Hahahaha. :) Just the kind of sharing I love.
Hope you all have a wonderful week, and leave a comment about something fun about YOU! :)

With much love,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Daddy Playing -

Momma and Kimberly and I had just gotten home from shopping, and Daddy arrived home soon after...I was putting things away in my room...lost in thought, and a faint melody reached my ears. I walked into the hallway, following the music...and realized it came from my parents bedroom. With a smile, I went back to putting things away, and then took my camera in there to listen for a little bit.

Many of you might not know this, but in Daddy's younger days, he was a musician. From my earliest days of babyhood and childhood, I've heard melodies that have sent me into dreamy sleep, or gently calming me in beautiful songs...Daddy playing guitar has always been one of my favorite sounds. There are few things more beautiful to listen to. Whether or not he plays the whole song, or mixes five songs together, I love listening to him play! It is no wonder that guitar music remains one of my favorite types of music to listen to. It is amazing how much I can feel like a child again, with just a few chords.

Music in Daddy's guitar case. 

I can even remember playing with Daddy's guitar case, trying to drag it around like a suitcase! 

Daddy playing. 

He responds and reflects and moves and is moved. I love watching him. That's how I feel when I play piano. I love knowing that my love of music came from his love of music. 

So grateful for him. I love you, Dad! 

Hearing him play just sent me back to years ago ... and how much I love to hear it.
It reminds me of how blessed I am to be in this family and in this home, and have these memories.
And I wanted to share that thankfulness with you!! :)

With much love,
~ Jean Marie ~

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Happy Birthday, Shannon! -

Today is my dear friend Shannon's birthday!! Happy 18th Birthday, Shannon!! :D :D 

(I started writing this as a huge thunderstorm moved in, but then we lost power for 9 hours, so now I'm finally getting it finished and written up. haha.)

So Shannon. In 7 words, I can describe her:
Small. Fierce. Sweet. Lively. Endearing. Encouraging. Lovely.

Small - She is tiny, y'all. She stands around 5' tall (correct me if I'm wrong!), and yet there is so much life packed into her. I've heard her say multiple times that she hopes gators and sharks don't like small Irish girls, because she is one. This speaks to her fierceness, considering we are usually treading dark waters while going between kayaks or salty waters in a wave. Yikes!

Fierce - She is amazing at volleyball. I can't even tell you. She serves the ball almost 100% perfectly every time. She hits it and it goes THWACK and wherever she wants. If you have Shannon on your team, there is a good chance you will be winning. She is one of the best players we have. She goes for the ball if it is anywhere near her, and gives it her all. She makes us all look like weenies.And kayaking - she is so good at that, and frisbee, she is so good at that too. Need I go on? Kayaking - she reminds me "Jean, you are okay. You really are okay.", when I'm hyperventilating about the thing that just touched my foot while I'm treading water. She can spot and stop panic quickly. ;) She is fearless, and goes for it, and it isn't hard to be caught up in that fearlessness with her. :) She is competitive and hard to win against, or stay mad at, if you are playing, say....Catan. haha.

February '13 Catan Night at the Hopes

Sweet - It is ridiculous. She makes the rest of us look bad. I'm not even kidding. She is just that NICE. I mean, I'm usually nice....but she is just unbelievably caring, thoughtful, special, kind .... sweet. I've never heard her speak badly of anyone. Ever. Ask anyone, and they will immediately proclaim how sweet Shannon is....how much they feel so important and loved...so listened to and special. She pours out grace and love like she's got unlimited lifetime supplies of it.

And I'm not exaggerating. I find myself constantly wanting to be more like that. More sweet. More of a listener. More gracious. More nice. I think there are few people that impact you to desire better of yourself, and Shannon is one of those people to me. Forget age - she is amazing at 18!!

Lively - Shannon is lively. She has that Irish mischief somewhere in her heart that pops out when you very least expect it. I've choked on food, fallen into the sand, fallen off chairs, run into things .... from laughing so hard. Jokes and teasing come easy with her, and it keeps us all laughing!!

Smiles come very easily, and her whole face radiates joy instantly, and then you wonder how on earth so much joy and cuteness and adorable and beautiful can be stuffed into one tiny girl. ;) For proof of this, look at her senior photoshoot that Lauren did of her. Wow. Sheesh. Stunning.

She doesn't take life for granted, and really appreciates the little things. I'm a little-thing-lover, so reading her blog and hearing about life from her point of view has often blessed me. I've seen so much maturity in her in the past year, especially. It has knocked my boots off. (hypothetically speaking)

Volleyball Night March 2013

Endearing - It is something to be said that I've never been excited to part company with Shannon. I love to be with her, around her. It is always fun to be around people who bring joy, and enjoy life, and Shannon is like that. She is endearing. She is charming and laid back and gentle. It is no wonder she is a favorite among the little children whenever there is a park day. She is our favorite too. ;) It is easy to love being friends with Shannon. She makes it easy to love her. 

Encouraging - This is one of the top things I love about Shannon. I can't tell you how many e-mails I've gotten from Shannon, just encouraging me in something we had talked about, or her many sweet comments she has left on my blog over the years. I know she prays when she says she will, and I know that her heart is true when she writes me and tells me she loves me. She constantly helps me learn how to play volleyball better (believe me, it takes lots of patience, haha), and is quick to help out in any way.  She is so encouraging to younger friends, to older friends, to pretty much anyone. I always come away blessed from conversations with Shannon. Blessed, encouraged, uplifted. Thank you, Shannon!

Barberville Spring Frolic April 2013 (yeah, ignore my face, please) 

Lovely - So I mentioned she is cute and adorable, right? I really have no idea if she likes being called that, but if there is any doubt between the curly hair, the blue eyes or ready smiles, let me set the record straight. She is such a lovely, pretty girl. I'll tell you what makes it all even better though -

the Lord shines in her. Shannon is so full of light.

She desires the Lord's will for her life, and it shows. She desires the best for everyone, sees the best in everyone, loves giving her all for everyone. That is a Christ-like heart. She opens herself to life, and pours herself back into it, with such compassion and grace. She is ready to love, and to be loved in any way in return. We've attended funerals together. She is open to hugs and to tears.

It is not that she has not known sorrow. It is that she has known much light.
It is not that she never gets impatient with others or herself. It is that she understands grace.
It is not that she never feels lonely or worried or sad. It is that she knows she is beloved and redeemed.
It is that she knows, and loves with a deep love and reverence - her Lord and Savior, Jesus.

Because Jesus has chosen us to be His own, He has chosen us for light. Shannon shines gloriously.

(Emily Elizabeth's photo) Shannon, me, Rach, and Rebecca.

Shannon, in case you read this and think I'm bragging on you, I'm not. Truly. I wrote straight from the heart, like I always do. If I do brag on you, know that you deserve it. ;) I've been so blessed. We all have. Thank you for pouring yourself into our daily lives and for loving us all so well.

May you always shine so gloriously, and live so beautifully. He is glorified in you, His beloved.
Rest in that, live in that, rejoice in that! May you have a wonderful 18th year, and birthday!
I love you so much!!! 

I looked up "shine" in my Bible online resource, and found this. What a perfect ending to this letter to you. :) May this be an encouragement to you, whenever you think of it -

"But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day."
~ Proverbs 4:18 

With much love,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mom! -

Mom is 2nd from the left, on the front row. :) Surrounded by siblings and cousins.

Today is my Mom's birthday!! It was a fun day, all around, albeit busy. I was looking through photos, looking for something to catch my eye, and then I came across the ones I scanned a little bit ago, after Grandma Florence died. And I couldn't resist blogging this one. Because I think my Mother was so downright cute and adorable. hahaa. We just laugh at how adorable she was. :) Everything from her permed curls to her scrunched up frowns in the bright sun, to her petite self, to her little smiles.

We just can't help loving all of her when she was little, like we can't help it now when we know her.

So - Happy Birthday to one of the most sweet and special and Godly women I know - my Mother.
Our daily life is so incredibly blessed by your love, patience, sweetness and care for us.
Growing closer together as friends has been such a joy for me. You have taught me what family is, and what motherhood and wifehood look like in a Godly context. You've made me yearn for it too.
I love you so, soo much!! Happy Birthday to you! May this next year be a wonderful one!

With love from your youngest -
~ Jean Marie ~

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Stories and Catching Up -

Well, hello there! 
  Just a few updates and stories for you - 

Colorado. It was special and sweet and restful. It was just as I thought - the best place for me to be. I found a refuge and a haven at the Pattersons, with the Pattersons. I came away so blessed and refreshed. And with about 200 photos of just birds. I napped in the sun and fell asleep to the sound of the pines swishing in the wind. Nothing like it. We even got some work done on the curtains! Believe it or not, I am just now uploading the pictures from the trip - a whole 4 days after I arrived home. ;)

I spent lots of time with Mrs. Patterson, knowing I could share my heart freely, that she understands so much about grief, and is willing to just hear me talk, much like my own Mom! I am so thankful. Thank you, Patterson family, for having me!!! Love you all so much.

The Rocky Mountains. 

Oh, and I learned from Ian, Mrs. P's 10 year old grandson - how to pitch a baseball correctly. He was so patient with me, considering how completely awful I started out....I practiced for an hour and a half, and then we went and got some ice because my wrist and shoulder were killing me. hahaha. The next morning I got up and complained for about an hour before I realized this was what Mrs. P. feels every day. Way to shut down the complaining. I'm super glad to have learned how to pitch though! Now I just need about 10 more years of practice. hahaha. 

One morning I was making toast, and I remembered that if you tilt the toaster on its side, it is more gentle on softer breads, so I put banana bread in there. But it was early in the morning and I didn't quite think it through. A few minutes later - KAPWIIIIIINNNNG. Banana bread shoots out of the toaster, across the counter. I just stared at it and thought "Well I guess I didn't think THAT through." Hahaha.

On a more serious note about Colorado - 
Prayer Request - please keep Colorado Springs (and surrounding areas) in your prayers. They are battling 4 very bad fires, many homes have been lost, and it is a dangerous situation for the firefighters. Pray for comfort and rest and for the fires to turn away from homes, and turn back on itself. They need rain! These fires have sprung up in the last 2 days. When I left on Saturday, there weren't any fires at all.  

Life has been so busy here, you'd think the General was coming. 
The General - Well of course I WISH the General was coming. But he's not. I'll tell you who is, though. My Aunt (who came when I graduated from high school), my cousin Cheryl, her husband, Ivan, and their son Nathan. So that is 4 of them, and 4 of us. There will be LOTS of laughter. :) We've been begging them to come down for ages, Ivan and Cheryl came a little bit a year or so ago, and we went for a trail walk and they were eaten alive by skeeters. I hope they brought bug spray this time.... because Florida hasn't changed much since they've been gone. hahahaha. 

I feel like I should point out all these photos are from Colorado, so you don't think these lovely plants are what I've been planting and gardening. hahaha. All Photos taken in: CO, over my trip

So family is coming. Company family. Company. Whatever the case may be - the point is ....
Cleaning. Gardening. Sprucing up the place. That's all fine and dandy. When it's not in the blazes of a tropical summer, and you have the energy of a small (I had the strongest urge to say gherkin, but I won't) .... a small .... *brain freezes* ... just pick something .... a small dolly made of tissue in a sauna. 

be quiet. It's 12:19am, and I still have to shower because I'm covered in skeeter bites.

So I've been gardening like there's no tomorrow. My fingertips have gone from sore to numb and back to sore again. My middle finger on my right hand I smashed on my luggage on Sat night, and so I've been gardening and getting dirt in that cut all week. Yay. And I've been lugging mulch and slicing my arms up on aloe plants and rose bushes and weeding until I had anger problems with the Fall. (speaking of Genesis, not of Autumn. I love Autumn) And trimming with the electric trimmer (until I sliced the cord, Oh Lord, give me patience) and then had to do the entire East side with the clippers. And tomorrow I'm getting up when the sun don't shine to finish trimming so our house doesn't look like something off of Robinson Crusoe (although I'm sure his house looked perfectly charming)

I feel like I could write a whole article on how physically demanding it is to garden in FL in the summertime. Think - oven/sauna that saps you of energy in approximately 15 minutes. I'm 100% sure that no videographer or producer wanting to shoot a gardening commercial ever said - "Hey. Let's shoot in FL. It will look so lovely and cool there, with the lush grass and perfect weather." I can see it now - "And over here are some LOVELY roses. Oh, how nicely it fits into the ground! And look at how easily these weeds come up! Viola! Here I turn my spade and then 5 minutes later I'm done because gardening is so easy!"................ NO. I love FL, but sometimes I hate the weather.

Even if you try to get out there in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, it is 90 degrees and 100% humidity, which means you could swing a bucket around your head and end up with half a bucket of water, and in the evening, half a bucket of water and half a bucket of skeeters. hahahaha! 

Today (Wednesday) Daddy and I went to the Convention Center for InfoComm2013, which is basically when your brain overloads on cool toys and inventions and you are hit from every side with lights and tv's and displays and screens and music and sounds. It's like an engineer's dreamland. 

And my land for making friends with every single person, whether or not they speak English. Because let's face it, my Japanese, Chinese, German, Spanish, and 20 other languages could really use some work. I'm glad my credit card has a hold for how much I can spend, because I really wanted this insanely neat Canon Photo Printer. haha. The show is so huge that they only do it twice a year, once in Orlando, and once in Vegas. I walk in, and I am immediately made aware that I am surrounded by 10,000 engineers and geeks and that HTML regularly makes me hyperventilate and when people ask me what I do, I say Blogger/Photographer. NICE. 

Funny story as we are leaving and walking back to the parking garage....I'm walking behind Dad and Mr. Putnam, and we stop on the median sidewalk while crossing the street. 

Dude on bicycle taxi pulls up heading the other way and dramatically exclaims - "I REMEMBER YOU!!!!!". I just smile and keep walking and then he continues, "From the FUTURE I guess!!!!". I burst out laughing and say "NICE." and keep going. HAHAHAHA. I couldn't stop laughing for awhile. Oh, and I saw an orange Lamborghini!! My mouth definitely dropped open. Sheesh. 

The Anniversary - I can honestly say I felt y'all's prayers for me. That is an amazing feeling. So thank you so much. It was just as I hoped - I was busy, so I didn't have time to think about it a lot. Plus, because I was away from all the photos and music and flashbacks, I was able to really not over-think it. We had a mini half-birthday party for Desiree, and I can't tell you how perfect it was to celebrate LIFE the day before Avery went to Heaven. It seemed so fitting. I stuffed myself full of cake and steak. ;)

 I spent most of my mornings in CO listening to good music, reading, journaling and praying. There were tears, yes, and I missed Avery more than I can say. I missed John and Audra and being with them. They were, of course, heavy on my heart, and I spent my nights asking God for mercy and comfort for them as they grieved the loss of their precious son. I will always be sad that Avery is not here with us. But the Gospel has cast this glow on my life, and grief and loss is under that as well. It has seemed so more real and close in my grief. Jesus died so we shall not die that death ... Jesus rose so He shall raise us ... Jesus lived so we shall live forever.

I am overwhelmed by that and rightly so. Because of Christ - it all changes in the most glorious way.

I have so many photos to share, I'm sure they will go into several slideshows, because I have over 600. :) I'm looking forward to working on that later this month. This summer is going by so fast! I hope your summers are going well, and that you are growing closer to the Lord and know how deeply He loves you.

Tomorrow morning will come way too quickly, so I need to close here, with a song that I've grown to love. Sovereign Grace Music has so many great songs about the Gospel and Heaven.

"My Redeemer's Love" 
Written and composed by Mark Altrogge, Jordan Kauflin & Joel Sczebel. 2012 SGPraise

"My Redeemer's love is deeper than the depths of sin and hell.
He who was enthroned in glory came to bring us to Himself.
My Redeemer's love is wider than the breach my sins had made.
He reached down into my darkness; He alone has pow'r to save. 

Deeper than the rolling seas; Higher than the mountain peaks; Your love is all I need!

My Redeemer's love is stronger than my fiercest enemies.

He will hold me in the tempest, through the flood He carries me.
My Redeemer's love will lead me through the deepest valley here.
He will shepherd me and guide me; He will ever keep me near. 

Deeper than the rolling seas; Higher than the mountain peaks; Your love is all I need!

My Redeemer's love grows sweeter as eternity draws near.
I'll enjoy His love forever, at His throne for endless years.
My Redeemer's love will fill me on the day I see His face! 
I will love Him back forever, and forever sing His praise!

Deeper than the rolling seas; higher than the mountain peaks; Your love is all I need!
Stronger than the rushing wind; shattering the power of sin, Your love is all I need!"

With much love and hugs from me to you,
~ Jean Marie ~

Saturday, June 8, 2013

From the Father of Lights -

I'm flying home tonight, a night flight from Colorado to Florida. I chose the flight partly because it leaves in the early evening, which is good for the Pattersons, and not really caring that I get in at 10:45pm, with the 2hr. adjustment, and partly I chose it because I love to fly at night. From the sunset to watching the wingtips change colors in the sun rays to watching the lights come on over America, and thousands of winking yellow and white lights over dark land turn something that seems big into something so tiny. 

I love being reminded that God is big and I am small. He is fully capable, and I am fully reliant. 

Last night Mr.P and Mrs. P. and I had dinner together and watched a movie, then we went outside and toasted marshmallows by the fire and sat on the swing and watched the stars come out. Everything seems so much closer here in Colorado. It might be the altitude, and it might be the larger expanse of sky, or as Mr. P says, it might be because there is no sea haze. Whatever the case may be, it was stunning. We laid out on our backs on their deck and watched the Space Station soar overhead. There is nothing like that joy, except maybe what we saw next. Mrs. Patterson saw 5 shooting stars! I had to wait to see mine. 

And then I saw it. A large shooting star, bright and glowing, with a trail of glittering, sparkling dust in its wake. It shone brilliantly, and soared through the sky, before disappearing behind the pines. 

How like Avery's life, I thought. A glorious light of life, glowing and brilliant, and then soaring into the next World. How precious is God's heart for His people that He does not leave us where we are, but gives us glowing gifts of Grace and Life, and then promises a far better Home than this one!! 

From one world to the next world, we are beloved by the Father of Lights, the Giver of Every Good Gift.
Tomorrow is the day we buried Avery's shell, while awaiting the day we too would enter our new Home. It is a day of painful memories, heartbreaking cries, shattered looks and stunning loss. It was a very hard day. Yet it was proclaimed over and over by Avery's Daddy and Grandaddies that the Gospel changes everything, and the Gospel gives us hope. We are not left alone, neither are we left to wonder, for God loves Avery, and God loves us. It was proclaimed from the pulpit, it was proclaimed by the graveside, it was proclaimed with every song we sang, our desperate hearts holding onto God's Truth .... We are His. He never lets go. He brings us to GLORY.

I always think of Heaven when I see shooting stars, and I always think of glory. And there are few more glorious things than looking at Avery, daily wondering in awe, the design of God's hands of glory in a child. I am glad I knew him. I am even more glad that I loved him so deeply, and I am most glad of all that Jesus loves Avery so highly, and cares for him so deeply. One day we shall also rise to our Heavenly Home. 

Our Redeemer is faithful and true, and will fulfill all He has promised!

For - 
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights, 
with Whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." ~ James 1:17

Today I am thankful. 
For grace, for life, for love ... for shooting stars that remind me how brilliantly our Savior must shine. 
How His beloved also all must shine in His presence, with His name on their foreheads, and their faces radiant.
How Avery will always be in my memories marked with bright joy and glory. 
How glorious my Lord is and always shall be! How because of Christ, the grave and death will one day be no more.

"Oh, death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where thy victory?"

Please continue to keep Audra and John in your prayers,
and thank you for all the prayers you have lifted up to the Father on their behalf over this year.

With much love always,
~ Jean Marie ~

Saturday, June 1, 2013

In honor of Avery -

Tomorrow will be one year to the day that Avery left this world for Home in Heaven. 

"It was the day the world went wrong. 
I screamed 'till my voice was gone, and watched through the tears as everything came crashing down. 
Slowly panic turns to pain, as we awake to what remains, and sift through the ashes that are left behind. 
But buried deep beneath all our broken dreams we have this hope - 
Out of these ashes, beauty will rise! And we will dance among the ruins, we will see it with our own eyes! 
Out of these ashes, beauty will rise, for we know joy is coming in the morning. 
In the morning, beauty will rise!" by Steven Curtis Chapman

I remember every moment of that day. That horrible, heart-wrenching, dreams-breaking day. I remember the shock. The hysteria. The grief. My stunned mind slamming to a halt, my voice hoarse from weeping. My sweet family trying to hold me up, to encourage me, to pray for me, to mourn with me.

Everything falling away in the realization that he was gone. Gone from here with no answer from the Savior and Healer Who we'd begged a miracle from for days. In the dawn of that morning, I'd believed without a doubt that God would heal Avery, in the afternoon of that day, Avery was gone. 

So unbelievably hard to wrap my mind around. 

Over the course of those days, God gave me a song to get me through. It was a song Laurie had shared with me....and it blessed me so much. Now I can barely listen to it. It's like I am there in that moment, praying with all my heart for Avery. When I listen to that song, something in my heart thinks he is yet alive in TN. And then the bubble shatters and he is not here. He is yes, more fully ALIVE than we've ever been here, nonetheless, GONE from our world into a world we can only dream of. 

When I came home from the conference on Tuesday night, I was sorting through Sovereign Grace music, and found this song. I was just thinking this morning, that the faithfulness and love of my Father God to me was shown so richly. Because one year later, God led me to that song, which is my song for this year. For this anniversary. I could not have been blessed in a better way by my Heavenly Father. 

When I think of how much it touches last year's verse that I clung to, it gives me chills. I am amazed. I will share it with you in a moment. 

But first I want to share something else. I have grieved and mourned for Avery so deeply for one reason - because I loved him so deeply. He was a symbol of God's gift of LIFE and grace to John and Audra after the loss of Melody. He was everything I prayed for for them. And everything they prayed for too. My memory of seeing him and holding him for the first time - it still stuns me. It was like I was holding a living, breathing, smiling piece of answered prayer in my arms. So precious. 

Because I loved Avery so deeply, his memory means so much to me. I find myself eager to talk about him, unwilling for his loss to be .... a loss of sharing him in my world. He is remembered in smiles and photos and here on my blog. He is talked about to total strangers and to my friends. I wanted to do something really special for his Home-going anniversary, so months ago when I decided to cut my hair, I decided to sell it instead of donating it. And I decided to donate some of the money to a charity that really means so much to me. 

So today I sent in my donation to Show Hope in memory of one little boy who changed my life -  
Avery John Notgrass. 
Avery at 4 months old

Avery had such weight in my world and still does. The money will be used for a life-saving surgery for a little Chinese boy or girl. It was a sweetly sad moment. And it feels so right to bring honor to the memory of him in this way.

He really was 16 months of wonder and awe of the Lord's goodness. One of the things I miss the most is praying for him. I prayed for him often, and thanked God for him every single time. He was a much loved little boy. I don't think I've known many better parents than John and Audra. They literally pour all their love and patience and joy into their children. They have inspired me and many others in what love looks like. And in the death of Avery, they have inspired me in how trust and HOPE looks like too. The Lord did great things in Avery, and through Avery, and my prayer is that through Avery's name, the Lord's name will be glorified.

One of the verses I used to pray over Avery and be comforted by when Avery was in Audra's womb was -
"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." ~ Psalm 139:16 

Which is why it hit me like a train and the lights went on this morning when I realized that this song the Lord led me to this week that has been so impacting for this anniversary had that verse in it. You have permission to be stunned. I was. I was blown away that the verse that so comforted me years ago, and last year was in this song that the Lord had given me this week. Maybe I shouldn't be so surprised by the Lord's love for me.

One of my favorite parts in the song is where it says this -
"And though we grieve for those we love who fall asleep in Christ,
we know they'll see the Savior's face, and gaze into His eyes.
So now we grieve, yet we don't grieve as those who have no hope.
For just as Jesus rose again, He'll raise His own."

Your prayers for John and Audra and Henry are much coveted. Just as we mourned with them last year, so also we mourn and rejoice with them this year. Avery is forever, as they love to say. We one day will be too. I could not long for anything more. All praise and glory to the One Who brings us to life, now and forever. Amen.

With much love from my heart,
~ Jemmie ~