Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Take My Breath Away

Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver her.”  But You, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. 
I call out to the LORD, and He answers me from his holy mountain.
~Psalm 3:2-4

There are moments in life that take my breath away.  Beautiful moments. 

Like the day my nephew Israel was born, and the first time I held him close to me. 

Or the day my daddy walked me down the aisle at my wedding.  He was wearing his flip flops and I was wearing... nothing on my feet.  I had heels but they hurt so I left them in the back of the church.  I kept looking at my daddy's face.  He'd see me looking and his smile would get bigger still.  And then mine would.  And then his would. 

And then I looked up and I saw my husband.  Derek is absolutely, without a doubt, 100% in love with me.  Do you know how amazing that is?  To have someone so loyal, so committed, so passionate?  To not have any real fear of abandonment or even harm or neglect?  It will take your breath away, just for a minute, when you realize that there is someone who feels that way about you.

Other moments... walking along a path in the woods, crying privately about the recent death of my Gramma.  Knowing I would wait the rest of my life before I could be reunited with her.  Aching and broken and trying so hard to be strong.  And there, on a snow-covered branch, with big flakes floating all around me, was a flawless cardinal singing so sweetly.

Looking to my left and seeing my dad and my Kelly and my husband and my dad's friend Charlie, all beaming.  Looking in front of me and seeing my friends and instructors.  Raising my arms up so that a black belt could be tied around my waist... less than a month after getting out of the hospital with my hand, and 8 months earlier than it was predicted I'd be able to even START training with my leg again.

Trying to teach a very happy 10 year old how to do some ground-fighting.  Trying to be serious.  Starting to get annoyed with his unstoppable laughter and unyielding smile... and finding it suddenly pouring out of me, too.  Laying next to him on the mat, just laughing.  Looking into his black, almond-shaped eyes, at his tan skin and a smile so big it looks like it almost hurts... and realizing that the isolation and resignation and sadness have faded away.

Hearing my closest and dearest friend after Derek tell someone that I am a good, good friend.  That I would be a strong place for them, that I could hold them up during a hard time.

Those moments take my breath away.

Seeing lines of clouds in a deep blue sky, with fields of hay rolling in the breeze and birds singing. 

Watching the hillside behind our house blinking with so many fireflies it seems impossible.

Coming in softly late at night, and watching my husband sleep.  All the tension gone from his face.  Gently kissing him, pulling the covers up over his shoulders.  His mumbled "I love you" that is so deeply ingrained, he says it even in his sleep.

Sitting on the back of a horse for what would be her last full-speed run... ever.  And what was my first full-speed run with a horse, ever.  And feeling for just a moment that I was somehow joined together with this animal who CHOSE to obey me, and that the world rushing by could not touch me.

Tiny, sticky arms wrapping around my waist as two young boys dash across a restaurant to greet me.  Spaghetti stains left on my shirt from their faces, and warmth spreading through my heart with their "I love you" still fresh and new.

Feeling my pocket vibrate and hearing the strumming of a guitar, telling me that my daddy - my hero, my protector, my friend - is calling me.

Those moments, take my breath away.  Not for long, but briefly.  Just briefly, I am too full of so much good, and I don't have room for air.

And then there are other moments.

Watching a young father gently pick up a tiny, tiny white coffin that holds his newborn daughter.  Watching him walk, alone, down the aisle of the church while my heart exploded with grief and love for that child's family.  Watching that man slowly sink to his knees at the back of the sanctuary as tears poured and his shoulders slumped.  Watching him rise up again.

Driving too fast for too long in order to make a cross-country trip in time to attend a "brother's" funeral.  Feeling my heart explode with new grief as I notice one of the pictures by his coffin - it was him, holding his baby girl, before she went to heaven.  Dreaming so vividly of him stronger even than he was here, with his giggling daughter, dancing in heaven.  Seeing his bride comforting those who came to mourn this wonderful man, and vowing not to cause her any more grief or hurt... knowing I would bear all of her pain for her if I could.  Hugging her and suddenly feeling the crushing weight of what she was facing, and being so unprepared that I began to cry.  Forcing a smile as I said to her, "My heart is broken for you, for your kids, for all of us who will miss him.  He is in heaven, and we WILL meet him again." 

It took my breath away.  So intensely that I wouldn't have been surprised if I had physically turned blue.

Standing with a camera, as requested by my Grandfather.  Taking pictures silently, as he bent to kiss my Grandma goodnight.  Hearing him tell her she was beautiful.  That he loved her - that he'd always loved her, from the first time he met her.  Watching the back that had always been straight and the shoulders that had always been square slowly droop.  They've dropped further in the years since.  And when I look at him, it takes my breath away.  This man has known death, has known grief, has known financial hardship, has carried personal burdens that he is afraid to put down... and what did he choose for the inscription on the grave site he will someday share with his wife?  "But you MUST be born again."

I relived that moment when the film came back.  All you can see is the flowers around the coffin.  The middle of the pictures is completely white.  It takes my breath away.

Seeing a still, perfectly formed but not-beating heart on the ultrasound screen before the technician turned it away.  Falling to my knees in the bathroom of a convenience store on the way home, and crying out to God in sheer, broken anguish.  A month later, getting "lost" in the Black Hills with my husband.  Still waiting for my body to release its hold on our daughter.  And being filled with a gentle peace that did not remove the sadness, but made it easier to bear, as we sat beside a mountain stream surrounded by millions of tiny blue flowers, and tiny blue butterflies.  Anna's flowers. 

It took my breath away, to be so broken and so at peace and surrounded by both beautiful life and ugly death.

Watching my friend be blasted financially, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  And seeing no end in sight.  Knowing I cannot fight this battle for him, I cannot take it on his behalf.  And loving him so deeply that I would.  I would take every last bit of it, if it would take it from him.  Watching that friend give up over and over... and over and over, renew his fight, renew his vow to NEVER give up.  Knowing that I am so blessed... to have my husband, my daddy, my friend... men who treat me with respect and love and honor and gentleness, and who defend not just me, but everyone around them.

Walking into a nursing home and having tears start welling up and my throat clamp shut when I see a strong, intelligent man curled up like a baby in the bed, having shrunk drastically in such a short time.  Wondering if that day, he'll know who I am or if he'll once again thank me for being kind enough to "visit a stranger."  Kneeling down to hug him, and feeling his hands soft and warm gripping my hand and around my neck, holding on with every bit of strength left in his failing body.  Feeling his tears wet against my cheek, and hearing him whisper thank you.  Trying to stand strong, maintain composure on the way out the door.  But unable to stop the ache inside, and unable to stop myself from imagining that it will be my dad in that bed some day.  Breaking inside for him, and for his children, for his wife.  Knowing that the burden he carries, the aching and sorrow that come when a parent buries a child, aren't fading along with the rest of his memories.  Knowing that soon, he'll be with his son in heaven... and that his other son will be here on earth and will be more broken than he's ever been.  And knowing I'm powerless to do anything more than be present.

It takes my breath away.

Watching my husband walking the same difficult path I walked down myself just a few short months ago - the path of genuinely and fully grieving the fact that all of our children live in heaven, and not here.  Facing the very real probability that we will not raise any of our biological children here on earth.  And hearing his stifled sobs as he does what I've been doing... and reads a childrens' book about heaven.  As he gets the truth of eternity ingrained more deeply into his heart, giving him the strength and courage to feel the temporary loss here and now.

Seeing so vividly that it seems as if it's playing out in front of my eyes, an image of that daughter who went to heaven.  Seeing her holding my Gramma's hand and beaming as they wait for me at the Eastern Gate.  Remembering Gramma's soft promise, made each night that she tucked me in.  "Make sure you look for me in the Rapture, Jenn.  It will be beyond description.  But if I beat you to heaven, I promise, I will meet you at the Eastern Gate."  Aching for that day with every fiber of my being.

Knowing that in Heaven, there is so much.  And loving my life.  But wanting so much to just be done.  To go there, and be with my Jesus.  To see my Grandma smile, to hear my childrens' voices.  I wonder if my uncle Paul is a carpenter there?  I wonder if Gramma takes care of kids who get there before their parents?  I wonder what it's like to truly and eternally be free of oppression.

And it takes my breath away.

And when I have no breath, when life squeezes the air out and I am at the end of myself... I remember these words from Job, chapter 33.

"The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life."

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1 comment:

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