Tuesday, October 30

::Equal Parts Beautiful & Brutal::

Equal parts beautiful and brutal...that is how my mom recently described this time of year to me...and it is just that.  I look around me and see natural beauty that is hard to reconcile with the painful reminder of our tragedy that it brings.  My favorite time of year is now also my most dreaded time of year.  I want her back so badly - I want to see and know her as an almost three-year-old little girl.  I want to dress her up as a princess for Halloween and take her to our church trunk-or-treat again.  That is the last big event we attended together and I remember that day so clearly.  She was all dolled up in her smocked Halloween dress and her personality was sparkling.  She was waving to everyone, smiling and taking it all in and fascinated with her CC's flashing candy corn necklace.  I loved carrying her around and patting the "boo" monogrammed bloomers on her little bottom.  Each year when I see that event announced in the church bulletin my heart drops.  I haven't been able to go back since.  Amazing how the once happiest times now co-mingle with the saddest times.

A good friend of ours lost his dad last week.  I didn't know his dad, but I did know of his 5 year fight with brain cancer because we had given him a prayer pager in the midst of it.  I remember our friends telling us that he got tears in his eyes when they gave it to him and told him of Olivia's story.  Last week that friend went to see the burial plot his parents had chosen before his dad passed away and it stopped him in his tracks...because as he walked up he saw the garden flag with Olivia's picture on it that we have at her gravesite.  His dad would be buried right next to our sweet girl.  When I heard this my heart tore open.  This news was the very definition of beauty and brutality.  A beautiful message from God that says to us...he's here in heaven with Livy now, but a brutal reminder of that awful time and our still unbelievable loss.  What are the chances that of all the choices in that cemetery our friend's dad would be laid to rest right next to our baby girl?  It is a "God thing" that our friend's parents chose that spot.

My brother left for a 9-month deployment in Afghanistan on Sunday.  Yet another reason to be sad during this otherwise beautiful time of year.  But it is a beautiful thing he is doing...to give his time and his talents to serve his country, but it is also a brutal thing...to put himself in harms way to do so.  His departure and time there weighs heavily on our hearts.  Please pray with us that his time there will pass swiftly and uneventfully....that he will be safe from harm and return to us the same easy-going Hunter we all know and love.

We were able to go and see Hunter in North Carolina before he left and it was a sweet time together with family.  Parrish absolutely adores and looks up to his "army man" uncle Hunter and had a blast flying kites on the dunes of kitty hawk and playing tic-tac-toe with him in the sand.  When we had to say good-bye Parrish said, "I wish he could just stay here with us."  My sentiments exactly.

But God doesn't call us to play it safe.  God calls us to live this life in confident TRUST in Him.  Not only with the little things, but with our whole lives. He asks us not to worry, but to present everything to him and leave it at his feet.  This is hard when we are laying our vary lives and that of our family and loved ones there in faith and in hope.  Strangely, this trust comes easier to me now than it did before Livy went to heaven.  You would think that enduring the worst would harden my heart, but it has done the opposite. I believe more fervently than ever that this life is not all there is.  That is why trusting Him daily with our lives comes more easily than anticipated.  Without that trust I could not get through each day...I seek His face daily and that is what He asks of us.  For us to realize that we can't go it alone...no matter how capable, talented, or independent we are.  We NEED Him, because when we are walking with him we are walking in light and none of the darkness or evil forces of this world can separate us from His love.

At the service celebrating the life of our friend's dad I was reminded of this verse:
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12

Only by the grace of God being poured out on us do we survive but also continue to life our lives to the fullest, even in the face of the worst kind of pain there is.  When I was having a particularly bad day over the weekend Cannon sat down on the bed with me and said, "I know, I miss her too.  It's like walking around with a heavy brick in your pocket."  That IS what it is like.  Weighed down by grief at times and at others wanting to talk about and think about anything BUT the grief you are trying to avoid.  There is no rhyme or reason to when or why we feel this way...we just do.  But Cannon also told me something else...Knox is a DIRECT GIFT from Olivia and Jesus.  When I look into Knox's eyes I really do feel as if that is the closest we can get to Olivia while here on earth.  His eyes have seen and known Olivia.  She sent him to us.  He is the answer to so many prayers.  He is a such a special baby.  Parrish in all his 5-year-old wisdom walked in the room when I was upset and said, "Mommy, I don't cry about Olivia because she lives in my heart."  Sometimes we all benefit from the simple, untainted truths from the mouths of babes...

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."  James 1:17

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiral forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  Ephesians 6:12

"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22

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