Thursday, December 20, 2012

AVERYday: Paint it White - Part 16

A friend of mine sent me an article titled No, Everything Doesn't Happen for a Reason by Adam Hamilton with the note I'd like to hear your opinion on this one....

Immediately I felt defensive. As if my personal peace surrounding Avery's death was being called into question. I logically knew it had to be an article written in response to the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy where 20 six and seven year old children were killed in their classroom. But emotionally - well, I felt that just the title was calling my faith and beliefs into question. And so I responded before I had even read the article. Here is my response:

Without reading it [the article] yet, I will say this has crossed my mind. Absolutely.

Do I believe Avery's death was known by God? Yes. Do I believe that God took Avery in the best way he could have? Actually, yes. (Initially, no - but then I thought about it more.) Avery had a faith that could move mountains and He couldn't allow that message to be silenced. Do I believe that Avery's death is part of a greater plan? Absolutely.

But then Newtown, Connecticut happened and I thought: What the hell? I thought I had it figured out!

That's when my sister and I were talking about the fact that there is heaven and there is hell and there is earth. And on earth there exists slices of heaven.... as well as slices of hell. And we are given Free Will to decide whether or not we will be Warriors for God on this earth, Warriors for Satan on this earth, or warriors for no one.

The Warriors for God pick up paintbrushes of white and spread goodness all over the world. They paint light.

The Warriors for Satan pick up paintbrushes of black and spread evil all over the world. They paint dark.

And those who are warriors for no one dare not pick up a paintbrush at all.

Sometimes, as humans, we drop our paintbrush. Sometimes our arms are too tired to paint. Sometimes we get a flurry of energy and paint excited, broad stripes of white goodness everywhere our eyes settle! (This would be what I am doing right now.) And sometimes, God help us... sometimes we pick up those paintbrushes dripping in black, and - full of anger and rage and fury - we throw evil on whatever is standing in our way.

The soul who purposefully and deliberately shot twenty innocent 6- and 7-year olds was NOT the work of God. At least not MY God. That was the work of evil. That was the work of a soul that would only be comforted when everything around him was dark as night.

But my God was there. He was there holding His hand out to take each and every one of those precious children into his arms. He was there to comfort those who were scared and who cried out for help. He was there to calm the fears of the teachers who did not ever expect this sort of thing to happen in their school.

And He is still there. He is there in the community. In the homes. At the funerals. And at the graves of twenty tiny children. And my God will not leave.

My God is allowing discussions of faith to take place: on the street, in homes, at work, in the newspapers and on the Internet. My God is challenging people to think about the world we live in and encouraging us to be the change we want to see.

My God is asking us to choose to paint the world light again.


The night after Avery died, my house filled with people whose eyes were red and puffy from far too much crying, I answered a knock at my door. I welcomed in the officer who had placed his hand on my shoulder the evening before; a man whose task it was to tell a young mother that her 11-year old child had died. He walked in with several other officers who had responded to the accident that irrevocably changed the lives of three beautiful girls, as well as all the people who knew and loved them.

Somber they stood as My Officer (as I have come to affectionately and somewhat protectively refer to him) spoke. He introduced me to each and every man now standing in my living room as the rest of my house stood silent. Then he described how after each shift the team comes together to debrief and discuss the events that had occurred that night.

It was at this debriefing that my words would come back: You don't know her, but if you did you'd know that she loved Jesus. You see, while I was sitting in my living room telling strangers how much my daughter loved God, Jadrian was alone in the ambulance and again in the emergency room being tormented by the images of her sister and her friend and the fear of not knowing what was going on. No one would answer the question are they okay? To work through that fear she spoke of her sister's love for Christ to whoever would listen... and this was heard by the ears of another officer. It became clear at this debriefing that Avery was indeed a God Girl.

My officer explained how he remembered me saying that Avery had just given me her Christmas List... and that all she asked for was a new Bible and horseback riding lessons. "It isn't much," he said humbly. "But we wanted to do something."

And on behalf of the 2nd Shift Team that had been working at the Sheriff's Department that night, they presented me with a bible for Avery. "This way she has her Bible for Christmas," he smiled softly.

I don't know if this is normal protocol for a police department... to come back with a bible for a grieving family. But I know this: these men - these men God holds tightly in His hands. They did  the work of angels the night of October 24, 2012. And they chose to humbly stand before me the next night to let me know they heard.

As a grieving mother, the moment they stood before me and handed me a bible with a front cover inscribed for my daughter would be absolutely critical to my healing and I can never, ever thank them enough.

They could have nodded at each other, filed the paperwork and gone home to their families, chalking it up to a bad thing that happens on the job...

 Instead, they chose to paint with light.

A couple days later our local newspaper would print a beautiful article about Avery on the front page of the newspaper:

The woman who wrote the article?
She chose to paint with light.

As a family we had agreed (well, relented) to get a "real Christmas tree" for the first time ever. Avery wanted one so badly. After she died I told Matt that we needed to get a real one, but that it made me sad because Avery wouldn't be here to enjoy it. That's when Geneva Trees, LLC, a local Christmas Tree business, stepped in and donated a special tree for Avery that we could put at her graveside.

They chose to paint with light!

Do you see all those ornaments on that tree? Those have been placed by friends and family and, yes, even strangers - people whose heart is tugging to do a little something to make a heavenly angel's Christmas a little sweeter... and to bring a small amount of comfort to an earthly family who is having a really hard time  this time of year. These people.... they chose to paint with light!

I'm not so naive to believe that everyone will proudly pick up a white paintbrush and lighten the world around me... already I've seen people with paintbrushes dripping in black come to my door. It's a disappointing part of life here on earth. It makes me sad. Nervous. Anxious. Upset. Scared to death over our future.

But I have no control over the paintbrushes they choose to place in their hands... it just makes me more determined than ever to paint my world white! 

Give a Little Love

Her is the link to No, Everything Doesn’t Happen for a Reason by Adam Hamilton (just in case you haven't read it yet). You should.... "If we follow God’s lead, our work is to push back the darkness."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

AVERYday: Trust Me - Part 15

The first time I realized my daughter was completely disappointed in me was at the doctor's office when she was about 6-months old. I sat Avery up on my lap and she cooed as the nurse measured the circumference of her head. She giggled and laughed as her belly was pressed and her legs were manipulated to make sure everything was working right. The nurse spoke in a sweet melody that worked its magic like the pied piper. Even I smiled.

In the next second Avery's little arms and legs were held down by expert arms and syringes pierced the skin in both of her thighs. Her eyes widened in shock and stared right at me for a terrifying full second before she erupted in screams and tears.

How could you, mommy? I heard through her wails. I trusted you and you just sat there while they hurt me! How could you allow this to happen to me? Don't you love me?!

As soon as the band-aids were on I picked her up and rocked her. Shhh! Shhh! Shhh! I whispered. Oh, baby, I'm so sorry... but it was for your own good. Trust me.  

Just like many mommies, I felt absolutely horrible. Avery was just a baby; she didn't have the means to comprehend why that pain was necessary. Her understanding was so immature. There was no way I could explain the reasons why a vaccination was needed to keep her healthier in the long run. All she knew was that one minute her mommy was holding her, smiling and laughing, and the next minute she was hurting. And her mommy allowed this hurt to happen.

When my son, Brody, was born several years later, he would require physical therapy. It wasn't fun for him or us. It broke my heart to have to twist and stretch his body... but he needed it if he was to stand any chance of normal development. Ignoring the issue would result in greater physical issues that might require surgeries to fix. Or, if left too long, might not ever be fixed.

He was so little. We couldn't explain to him what was going on. We couldn't explain that the pains and discomforts he felt by our hands were actually to heal him. He had to trust us, which he didn't do.

Instead, he chose to flinch when someone picked him up. He saw mommy and daddy coming and he knew there would be pain involved. Sometimes I wonder if the reason he's not a cuddler is because there is a small part of him that, while he knows we love him, he just doesn't totally trust us.

Avery, however, would come to be the best little patient ever and trust whatever needed to be done. There was a period in her life when she required countless blood draws to determine what was causing her white blood cells to drop so dangerously low. She still hated needles, but she was older, had more understanding of the world. We were able to explain that our blood is like a recipe that had to be measured just right in order for it to work properly. By taking the blood, doctors could look inside and see if there was too much salt or not enough sugar and what was making her so sick. When they found what ingredient had been measured wrong they would then be able to fix it.

She was such a trooper going through those battery of tests. At one point a nurse asked her if she didn't feel anything when the needles were poking her because she never cried, never whined, never complained. Avery answered, "It actually hurts a lot, but I trust my mom."

I was thinking about all this the other day: how parenting includes not just simply loving our children - that would be so easy; but also allowing hurt for their own good. How we are capable of seeing the Big Picture, even though they can't. And how we ask them to trust us over and over again. How often do we find ourselves saying, "you're too young to understand, but some day you'll thank me."

I think that's what our relationship with God is like. Our brains are so immature to the ways of eternity and heaven. Even when God speaks we don't always understand. And sometimes He takes us through something where all we feel is pain and we're so confused as to why He allowed that pain to happen in our lives, and we aren't capable of seeing how that hurt is needed for the greater good of our souls.

I sometimes hate how much sorrow fills my heart. I sometimes get frustrated and angry that there are moments when it is utterly impossible for me to take a breath because my grief is too huge. I want Avery back with me and I want her back now. And, yes, yes, there are moments when I cry out to God, how could you do this to me? Don't you love me?! 

And you know what? After every single time I ask, I feel His arms wrap around me in the form of compassionate family and friends and even strangers I have never met ... Shhh! Shhh! Shhh, child. Trust me. I feel His love, yet I do not understand His reasoning.

I have a choice: to respond like Brody did and distance myself. Run away. Flinch when I hear His name.

Or, I can choose to respond like Avery: acknowledge that this hurts more than anything I've ever felt in this world, but continue to trust my God. Know that somehow, beyond my earthly comprehension, there is a plan so great that this pain is needed for the greater good of my soul. And the souls of so many others.