Saturday, September 21, 2013

Giving Thanks In

The other day I posted this on Facebook attempting to be encouraging, inspirational and faith-filled:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18] It's hard to give thanks in ALL circumstances, yet this is what God calls us to do. Sometimes, it's easier to give thanks in all the GOOD circumstances - and to complain about the yucky ones. But God tells us to give thanks ALWAYS. No matter what we're going through.

Some nights, getting a three-year old to bed leaves me feeling anything BUT thankful. I'm frustrated with his excuses, exhausted from my busy day and ready to fall into bed. It's hard to feel thankful when battling for bedtime.

Yet, there is so much to be thankful for! I have a spirited child who is healthy and strong! I have a home that keeps us warm and thick blankets to keep us warm. And I am able to use this time to practice something God always seems to remind me I need to work on - Patience!

Yes, God calls us to give thanks in ALL circumstances. It might take us a few minutes to figure out what that thanks actually is, but it IS there!

As with many things interwebby, I was asked for clarification. Specifically, the part about giving thanks in all circumstances. Because how could I give thanks to God for Avery dying? What kind of mother is thankful that her child is dead?

*Allow me to digress for a second and offer a piece of advice:
if you feel compelled to use any variation of the words 
"I just feel I need to tell you this"
before or after anything you plan to say -
don't actually say it.
Trust me.*

Once the sting subsided, I realized it actually was a legitimate question.

Let me be clear, I do not rise each morning and say, hey, God, just want to thank you that Avery died unexpectedly and I carry a lot of guilt about not letting her lay in my bed the night before she died, even though she came in my room three separate times.

I do not say, hey! Just wanted to thank you for the feelings of incredible pain and anguish and the way I have to stop myself from sobbing multiple times a day.

I do not say, hey! I just want to say thanks because now I'm saving a lot of money on Christmas presents.

I mean, really. Come on. I do not give thanks for this tragic circumstance I find myself in.

But I do believe that God calls us to give thanks in all circumstances. IN all circumstances; not FOR all circumstances. Think about that. There's a difference. In, not for.

As much as this is undeniably the worst possible thing I have ever been in, I give thanks for all the beautiful, wonderful, soul-healing blessings that have found me.

I give thanks that in this incredible darkness, I have the best friends a girl could ever ask for. Friends that dropped everything to run to my side on that terrible, tragic night - not knowing what to say or how to help, and fighting every urge to stay locked in their home sheltering their own from harm - who stayed late and hugged tight and made decisions and talked out loud and listened and mourned and captured photos and tackled projects that were dreamed of better I never thought would ever actually happen until they did it. And they never left my side. They haven't even yet.

I give thanks that in this unbearable pain, I have been able to hear with an indescribable clearness exactly what God wants me to do: create AVERYday Ministries, develop #the19days, encourage kids through Youth ACT! What an incredible way to remember Avery, change lives, honor God and heal my heart. Of course I am thankful!

I have so much to be thankful for in all of this: the afternoon my doorbell rang and before me stood a classmate I hadn't seen in over twenty years, holding out the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp - pages and pages of truth-words that would find their way to every sliver of my shattered heart and slowly bring me back together. How can I not be thankful that in my most broken hour there stood before me the very person I needed to see at that very second, bringing me the very thing I needed in order to heal?

How can I not be thankful that seven days after the death of my precious daughter, seas of costumed children swarmed the streets outside my house, laughing, holding sticky hands and hungry mouths out for candy, and I, in the midst of bitter grief, knew I could not possibly take another breath, sobbing out my pain - and I pulled out the most beautiful handwritten words from my daughter: "I will never forget about you. I will keep you in my heart forever." Tell me, how can I not be thankful for that?

And this? This is not even the beginning of all the amazing, wonderful, beautiful things I have to be thankful for. There is a huge difference between giving thanks FOR a situation and giving thanks IN a situation. I am giving thanks IN.

I don't expect anyone to understand, and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to explain it - I just know with every fiber of my being that joy can coexist with sorrow; that goodness can be found sprinkled over anguish. That there is light amongst the darkness - and sometimes it is really hard to see those things - sometimes I find myself frantically searching for the goodness, for the light - but I know it's there and I will not rest until I have found it.

I will continue, all my days, from here until the day God calls me home, to rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A TROAST TO AVERY: The Most Epic Birthday Party Ever

Sorry, kids, I don't do birthday parties.

Once upon a time, I had imagined I would. I pictured coordinated decorations and pleasant conversation and smiles and laughter and everyone getting along... and then I hosted a birthday party for Jadrian when she turned 5. Or 6. I don't know - I blocked it out.

That was it. First birthday party hosted. Last birthday party hosted. End of story.

Avery never had a birthday party.

Avery always wanted a birthday party.

And so here I sit, wondering why I never gave her a birthday party. Avery deserved a birthday party. Avery deserved the biggest, bestest, most awesomest birthday party ever! Avery deserved epic.

Instead, Avery had to settle with a mom who just didn't want to deal with the complex characters of small children. And so, I protected my sanity and decided I would not do birthday parties. End of story.

Oh, but how she asked.

Instead, I tried really hard to make up for the lack of party. Each birthday she received a handmade birthday t-shirt and a set of Sharpies (so friends could aforementioned birthday t-shirt), and a basket of tiny wrapped packages. Each package held a piece of paper on which a clue was printed... and we would spend the day together, just Mom and Daughter, going on adventures, a scavenger hunt of nothing but fun -- to breakfast, the movies, horseback riding, shopping, pedicures and manicures -- the possibilities were endless, and always meaningful. But it still wasn't the birthday party with all her friends that she had asked for.

So, really, I only have one choice this October 5th: the first birthday that will come and go without the Guest of Honor. I need to have a birthday party for Avery.

The bestest, most awesomest birthday party ever! And with your help, it can totally be epic.

Consider this your invitation, all you who loved and adored Avery in life; all you who never met Avery but have been forever changed by the story of her faith and love and goodness; all you who can't quite put into words why you were touched by the death of a little girl gone too soon --- I cordially invite you all to A TROAST TO AVERY!


Where singer/songwriter Jon Troast will be headlining!

Get this: JON TROAST WENT TO AVERY'S SCHOOL!! Yeah. I didn't know that either. God works in amazing ways, people! Amazing. 


Where local singer Riely Rae Mikrut will be opening!

Get this: AVERY DID THEATRE WITH RIELY!! Here, I have photographic proof:

Avery surrounded by INCREDIBLE TALENT!
JaNelle Powers, Jay Hawk, Riely Rae Mikrut, and Janet Palmer


Where we'll be gathering at the DELAVAN CHRISTIAN SCHOOL!

Get this: this is Avery's school. The halls she walked. The rooms she laughed and learned in. The walls that held me up in her death. Oh, how I love this school!

Where you can sit back and enjoy some incredible music and help support AVERYday Ministries with some great coffee from Geneva Lake Coffee and lots of baked goods and some really awesome merchandise that I have to remember to shop first for, because I've seen this stuff and it is going to go fast!

Where my Mama Heart will be showered with the light of all of you who come together to enjoy an otherwise really sad day for me. And I won't feel so deep in the dark.

So, please come.

Please come to Avery's Birthday Party. I invite you all.
*****          *****          *****

Tickets can be purchased by mail for $12 each, but must be received no later than September 28, 2013. After which, tickets can be purchased for $15 each at the door the night of the event.

If ordering tickets by mail, please include your NAME, total NUMBER OF TICKETS, provide a PHONE NUMBER and an EMAIL. Confirmation cannot be given without this information.

Please make checks payable to: AVERYDAY MINISTRIES
                                               PO BOX 214
                                               DELAVAN, WI 53115