Saturday, December 1, 2012

AVERYday: God is Wise - Part 12

I just wanted to see her. One more time. Just for a minute.

He advised against it.

"What about her hair? I just want to see her hair... or her shoulder. I'd be okay with her shoulder...I just want to touch it." I tried to stop the stream of tears flowing down my cheeks. I couldn't.

"Bridget, you have such a beautiful memory of your little girl. You don't need to..." I almost felt bad for him, this gentle Funeral Director, who was so kind, so full of compassion, trying so hard to protect me. He offered to show me her hand if I wanted.

Her hand.

I went home and thought about it. And I cried. And railed against God. I didn't want just her hand; I wanted to see HER. Her cheek. Her hair. Her chin. Her nose. Her forehead. I just wanted her.

I was angry and pissed off. I wanted my baby. I sobbed and sobbed, "I just want to see her!"

And then it came: an overwhelming sense of absolute peace with the immediate knowledge that God chose this for me. He chose to take Avery on that very day, in that very minute, in this very way... and it wasn't to punish me.

See, God knows me better than I know myself. He needed me to have that last memory of her; that last vision of her sweet smile as she told me, "You know, Mom, I really am a God Girl." He needed me to remember her last movements that I would ever register in my brain to be of a self-confident, beautiful, God-loving girl slinging her backpack over her shoulder, grabbing her gym back and walking proudly into her school.

And he needed me not to cloud that memory of her with any other vision. I chose not to see her hand. When I close my eyes now, as hard as it is without her, I clearly see the last time I saw her; and she is beautiful.

It pains me to the core of my soul that Jadrian's eyes close to a different, absolutely harrowing, vision.

I don't ever want to lose my last moments with Avery; Jadrian can't outrun hers.

God also knows that I can hold a grudge. He knows I struggle with it. He knows I have little patience for people who are purposefully hateful and cruel and that I struggle greatly with forgiveness; it is not something I hand out easily.

He knew that if Avery had been taken by cancer or some other disease, my message would not be Avery's love for God, but rather my hatred for cancer, my frustration with the medical system, my anger as to why more isn't being done when everyone knows it should be.

He knew that if a drunk driver had hit those beautiful girls on their way home my heart would harden with anger and hate. I doubt I would even be able to see God's love in something like that. God knew me enough to know what my heart could handle. And what it could not.

And so it is with much guilt that I say I believe God used these beautiful, innocent, full of life girls because He knew my first and only reaction would be to protect them, love them, pray for them. I have no room for blame or hate or anger in my heart for these sweet girls. Jadrian and C are so young; so precious. They're just babies themselves, with their whole lives ahead of them. 17 is such a precarious age to be even when everything is perfect... and now to deal with something of this magnitude? I feel guilty because if I were a better person, a more forgiving person, a person of stronger faith; then maybe God would have spared them the physical and emotional trauma this accident has produced for them. I don't know for certain why God has chosen these two girls to walk through this troubled path. I say it a lot - but know it's never enough - please continue to pray for them. To heal. To feel comfort. To find strength. And to feel peace. My heart breaks over and over for these girls.

God made Avery so incredibly special. He made her faith strong and sure. He made her with the ability to empathize to a degree I rarely see in others. He made her feelings of compassion result in action. He made her kind, and willing to make a difference. He made her work hard even though it didn't always come easy for her. He made her loving and gentle and funny and witty. He made her with this beautiful ability to read with expression that made her the all-time favorite story reader. He made her love ice cream and McDonald's fast food and He made her want to see the world improve.

Whether I wanted it or not, He put me in charge of telling her story. And whether I understand (or agree), He did what He needed to do in order for me to do just that. 

“God is too kind to do anything cruel;
too wise to make a mistake; 
too deep to explain Himself. 
When we know the Who 
we can stop asking, 'Why?’”


Avery had a special place in her heart for the people of Haiti:

Here... have a closer look:

My girl loved hard.

We have our work cut out for us.

Friday, November 30, 2012

AVERYday: What Really Matters - Part 11

I never fully realized how important knowing - really knowing - whether or not the people I loved accepted Christ was, until Avery passed. See, Avery was filled up, overflowing, oozing out love for Christ! She did not get that from me. Sure, I believed in God. And, yes, I brought her to Church and Sunday School like a good parent (mostly for the social coffee hour after). But I have always been what you would probably call a Holiday and a Half Christian.

You know Holiday Christians: they show up at Christmas, Easter, a few weddings and all the funerals.

Well, Holiday and a Half Christians show up at all the holidays, weddings and funerals, but they also go to church for at least half the year. They might sign up for a Bible Study (but only do half the lessons). They sign their Christmas cards with "blessings" and aren't afraid to tell people they'll pray for them. And they can quote a thing or two from the Bible: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" [Philippians 4:13] and the Lord's Prayer (which is also called the Our Father in Catholic lingo, which is kind of smart because that's the first words of the prayer so the title doubles as a prompt).

Anyway, I've always been a Holiday and a Half Christian. I still get confused whether we have debts or trespasses. While I've gone to the same church for the entire 39 years of my life, I have never taken communion because I don't know if it's against the law. (The law of the church. Are they laws? Rules? Policies? I don't know.) Since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease I can get by with saying gluten allergy, but really, I've never made Profession of Faith, which is what I think has to happen before you're allowed to take communion. In the Catholic Church you turn seven and wear a wedding dress. If you're Lutheran you wait until 8th grade Confirmation. In our church there is no set age. It's when you feel it... when you know. 

Another thing that might surprise you is that none of my children are baptized. Nope, not even Avery, my God Girl.

Want to know why? Because I didn't really know about it. I mean, I did. I knew it existed. But I saw it as this thing parents did to get more presents for their kids. All the baptisms I was ever invited to were by people I was, quite frankly, shocked that they even knew what a church was. They bought fancy clothes, took pictures, and then we went and ate an expensive catered meal and handed over obligatory stuffed lambs and cash. From my point of view I had already handed over a Baby Shower Gift, then a The Baby Was Born Gift, and I'll be required to contribute to the Baby Is One Year Old Gift... and now they were trying to get another gift?

Simply put, I didn't fully understand what baptism meant or why it was important other than to symbolically wash away sins (which is strange to me because I don't view most babies as being covered in sin. I do, however, have a list of really mean adults that could use a good cleansing.)

But - and this might anger a lot of religious zealots - I don't think it really mattered.

See, Avery LOVED HER GOD!! Loved God, understood God, lived God and respected God. She spoke God's Word, committed her life to Him, and wanted nothing less than for everyone on the planet to know who God was. She would tell me that if people just knew God they would know how much He loved them and they would never feel alone or afraid. She wanted everyone to be kind and respectful with each other because that's just how it's supposed to be. God said so. And she wanted everyone to learn about God in school (specifically, her school). 

She did all this never realizing she hadn't been baptized. Do I think God reached His hand out to her on the night of October 24, 2012, and then quickly snatched it back saying, "sorry, can't take you; you weren't baptised." No. Not at all. 

I think God loved that little girl with all His heart. And I believe that God specifically and perfectly picked her soul to be loaned to my mothering arms, into our family and into our community, to remind us what it's like to live for God. See, God knew every hair on that little girl's head. He knew her fears and her strengths. He knew how she would spend her days and what her trials would be. And he knew that she would be placed in a family that wouldn't have thought to have her baptized. He knew that she would embrace His love and loudly proclaim His blessings to the world. He knew that His earthly plan for her would only take eleven years, and He knew the when and how and WHY she would be brought Home to Heaven on October 24, 2012.  

Not being baptized, that was my decision (or lack thereof, since I really only remembered she wasn't baptised just today) - not Avery's. And God knows my heart, too, and actually understands better than I the things I do. 

I know that Avery's heart was right with the Lord. Without a doubt, without question. I keep thinking how much comfort that has brought me... immeasurable amounts. So many people have looked at me and have asked, "how can you be so strong?" I guess it's because I know without a question where she is. I know she is safe and in the best hands possible. Much like when parents are way more relaxed on vacation knowing kids at Grandma's house rather than with the lady that was recommended by the butcher at the local grocery.

I have thought about what would have happened if Jadrian hadn't survived the accident. (Morbid, I know, but trust me when I say I've never had much control over my thoughts, and right now it's a free for all.) I honestly don't think I'd be handling it as well. Jadrian is a Holiday Christian. I'd be on my hands and knees begging God to please, please just show me she was with Him. 

That got me thinking about my siblings. I know how my sister feels about God. Her heart is right. But my brothers? Do they believe? I'm pretty sure the one does. But the other? And to what extent? My Mom is faithful.... and my Dad believes in God, but struggles with man-run religion. 

And Matt? Matt never thought about God much. He grew up Catholic but couldn't tell me a thing he learned. He hadn't been to church since high school. With Avery in our home, religion has come up a lot in our relationship. I wanted someone who supported our family's religion. He figured not getting in our way while we were getting ready for church was being supportive enough. When Avery would get upset that Matt wasn't participating, he would explain that he was "covered" because he had baptised and confirmed. But was he really? 

And then, what about me? Is my heart considered right with the Lord? 

Here's what I do know: if I'm asking, then I have some work to do.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for 
and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

Monday, November 26, 2012

AVERYday: Avery Asks God a Question - Part 10

Avery knew things.

She would just declare things and they were always, always right. Sometimes they were little things:     

"Mom, we need to stop and get me a lunch for the field trip tomorrow." What field trip? I chalked it up to impressive organizational skills. She knew my schedule, her schedule, grandma's schedule, the schedule of all her friends - and their parents. We joked that the best job for her would be secretary to the President of the United States. The girl loved a schedule.

But then there were bigger things. Things I couldn't understand, but probably would be overlooked by someone who didn't really know her.

For example, a couple years ago she came to me and announced she would be auditioning for a summer theatre production. With people she didn't know. And I had to explain to her that not only would it be with people she didn't know, it would be performed for people she didn't know. And these strangers would sit and watch her. And she would actually have to speak. Out loud. And she just looked at me and said that I would need to drive her and that we could not be late. 

Now, at this point in Avery's life she did not do well with strangers. As in, could not function. I couldn't get her to look at my friends who I have had for years if they dared try to speak to her; how on earth did this kid think she was going to perform for strangers? It would crush her. She'll get terrified and scared and it'll be awful and she'll be traumatized. 

And yet, she did. She went and auditioned and got a part, and then learned several other parts (because it was a summer program where there were multiple performances) and then she performed in the park in full view of the faces of strangers. And you know what? I was so wrong.

I tried to talk her out of it. I tried to explain it was too much for her. I tried to protect her from what I feared might happen. And I was so very wrong.

Over and over she would do this: declare something with an indescribable conviction that I, personally, had little faith in. She was always confident that this IS what she should be doing. No questions, no explanation. She just knew it. Even if it didn't make any sense to me.

A couple weeks ago I needed to write something down and there was no paper anywhere. I searched and searched - nothing. I was frustrated. I just buried my daughter and I can't find a stupid piece of paper! I finally discovered an unused journal that had been carelessly tossed on top of the refrigerator. Standing on tip toe on top of a chair, I tried to rip out a single page. The journal fell to the floor, splayed apart. Annoyed I hopped off the chair and bent down to pick up the journal. In the middle of this otherwise empty journal was a page handwritten by my dear, sweet Avery, back on April 30, 2012:

"Dear God,"

(What? She wrote letters to God?)

"I really want to go Up North with Lila but I'm scared!" (Oh, her sweet friend Lila! They had invited her up north with them for the first time last summer and she got homesick. Bad. Matt and I drove 8 hours to go get her. And then 8 hours back. She loved it up there at their cabin; but she hated not being able to talk to me.)

"I would rather do the 5 day one. But I don't know if they are doing it." (Last summer they stayed longer than she had originally planned. They kept talking about adding on days and she got nervous and upset so we drove through the day and night to bring her home.)

"I keep on asking myself Should I tell them or should I not? What do you think?" (Oh, my heart!)

"I love my mom so much and I love my friend so much, I don't know what to choose! May you please help me make my decision?"  (Twice she has asked God for guidance.)

"Should I do the 5 day camp or the week or just stay home? PLEASE HELP ME!!" (Three times she turns to God.)

Now I get it. I get how she was able to come to me and declare something with absolute conviction that the decision she was making was the right one. She took her direction from God.

I remember when Avery walked up to me with her decision, obviously after this letter was written. "Mom, I'm not going to go up north with Lila this summer." I asked her if she wanted to talk about it. I asked her if she wanted to go for a couple days and then Matt and I would come up and get her, maybe stay at a hotel before driving home. But her mind was set. And happy. 

I can see now that she knew she had made the right decision because she had consulted God and she heard His answer. She put her absolute faith in God. He told her He would lead her, and she followed without questioning - or negotiating. 

How many of us (ME!) turn first to friends and family for advice? How many of us (ME!) unload all our concerns and worries to whomever will listen in the hopes that they will point out some magic answer? How many of us (ME!) forget to even ask God? How many of us (ME!) waste so much time trying to talk our fears out with people when what we should be doing is turning to God?

Oh, the things my God Girl is teaching me! (Trust me when I say she did not learn this from me.)

I need this now more than ever: when I don't know how I am going to put one foot in front of the other. When I have the devil knocking down my door, trying to suck me into a dark pit of depression and anger and fear -- lots and lots of fear. Fear about Jadrian's future. Fear about whether Brody will forget his sister... fear about whether I will...

Avery would tell me simply, "ask God; He will show you the way."