The anniversary of Lily’s choking accident, which led to her brain injury, is February 24, but I always dread the entire month of February anyway. The combination of the cold temperatures, gray skies, and lack of sunshine are already enough to do me in. Add to that the impending anniversary and sometimes it’s nearly impossible for me to want to leave my house. It’s just a crappy time in general, so if you see me eating a cupcake or just looking a bit sad, you’ll know why.
I always have so many emotions and thoughts swirling around at this time. I think about my sweet Lily and how full of life, love, joy, and spunk she was. She loved Taylor Swift. She wanted to play piano and take gymnastics lessons (she was quite a daredevil). She was kind and loving and adored her friends. She loved Jesus BIG. I think about how she’s turning 16 in a few months and how we should celebrate that. Should we have a big party? If so, who would even come to it? Should we just do something for us and not make it a big deal?
I think, if we had just made different choices, this would never have happened, and Lily would be doing all of those normal things. I think about the friendships we had that have gone by the wayside and the crushing loneliness we experience at times. Sometimes these thoughts are absolutely overwhelming. It is even difficult for me to write this, but this is what is beneath the surface for me. I struggle with anxiety so little things (in all areas of my life) can be magnified by a thousand. It does not consume me all the time as it used to, but it is always there, and bubbles up while I am doing the most mundane things.
Curt Seaburg, the lead pastor of our church (Victory Church), just preached a series called Choose Joy. I found myself nodding in agreement with so much of what he said during this series. Todd and I know what it is like to have to CHOOSE to have joy in your life. We had to choose to dwell in the most positive place we could as often as we could. We had to do that for Bryce, so he could have as normal of a life as possible (and he is now doing exceptionally well in college and is an incredible young man). We know that real joy in the face of overwhelming grief and exhaustion is only found through relying on Jesus and His peace and hope.
It is NOT always easy to choose joy, however. There are many times when we are tired, angry, and grieving. We do not stay there. We know we have to pull ourselves out of that and choose joy again. We do have so much to be grateful for. We are always reminded of the kindness and generosity that has been shown to us over the years, especially very early in this journey. We would not have made it through those long days and nights of uncertainty and fear without God’s provision of family, friends, and complete strangers helping us out in countless ways. So, if you are one of those people, we want to say “thank you” again for everything!
We still have things to look forward to this month. We took Lily to the Night to Shine and it was so much fun. Lily looked AMAZING. I am also serving on the worship team at Victory Church a lot and that just gives me LIFE. I know it is hard for some people to understand how it’s possible for me to do that, but as our pastor says, “There are two times to worship: when you feel like it and when you don’t.” Leading worship is just one way for me to CHOOSE JOY. God is still good in the middle of all of this. We still have so much to be grateful for every single day. God has shown His faithfulness over these last nine years in ways we can’t even explain. Even on the bad days, even when the healing we were hoping for hasn’t come, HE IS IN IT. He is there walking us through everything. THIS is how and why I worship. I would be lost without the hope and trust that only God can provide.
This is a song I just lead at church yesterday. I wasn’t even thinking of the date when I chose this song, but I think it’s a fitting song that illustrates this journey that we have been on for nine years:
Highlands (Song of Ascent) by Hillsong
O how high would I climb mountains
If the mountains were where you hide
O how far I’d scale the valleys
If you graced the other side
O how long have I chased rivers
From lowly seas to where they rise
Against the rush of grace descending
From the source of its supple
In the highlands and the heartache
You’re neither more or less inclined
I would search and stop at nothing
You’re just not that hard to find
So I will praise you on the mountain
And I will praise you when the mountain’s in my way
You’re the summit where my feet are
So I will praise you in the valleys all the same
No less God within the shadows
No less faithful when the night leads me astray
You’re the heaven where my heart is
In the highlands and the heartache all the same
O how far beneath your glory
Does your kindness extend the path
From where your feet rest on the sunrise
To where you sweep the sinner’s past
O how fast would you come running
If just to shadow my through the night
Trace my steps though all my failure
And walk me out the other side
For who could dare ascend that mountain
That valleyed hill called Calvary
But for the one I call call Good Shepherd
Who like a lamb was slain for me
Whatever I walk through
Wherever I am
Your name can move mountains
Wherever I stand
If ever I walk through the valley of death
I’ll sing in the shadows
My song of ascent
From the gravest of all valleys
Come the pastures we call grace
A mighty river flowing upwards
From a deep but empty grave
Thank you again to everyone who has supported us and loved and cared for Lily over these past nine years. We love you.