Monthly Archives: July 2008

Whew!

Life has been busy. My Google reader (love that thing!) shows I have 53 unread posts from the various blogs that I follow. That is a lot of reading that I haven’t been doing!

Not being at my computer that much has curtailed my good intentions of replying to some of your very sweet comments lately. It has also kept me from writing about Jenna’s birthday until now. And right now my brain is fuzzy and my bed is crying out to me, but I will try to see if I can capture at least a smidget of that wonderful day for you.

I stuffed all of your lovely, beyond-words-special cards in a big envelope and saved them for Jenna’s special day.  Jenna was blessed with beautiful words from friends she had never met here on earth as well as from people whom she knew well, she received handmade cards, cards from little girls her own age, cards with dum dum lollipops taped on it (if you ever saw Jenna begging lollipops from our pastor after a church service you’d know how much she loved them), a hand-drawn picture of Jenna, and even the print-out of a long lost forum topic where all my cyber friends welcomed Jenna on the day of her birth. (Thanks, Donna!) I opened the cards one by one at Jenna’s party and read it with my mom and my friends. They brought tears to my eyes. THANK YOU ALL!!! I couldn’t bear to tie them to the balloons and send them away so I am going to paste them in a scrapbook instead.

We had a lovely day and it was so effortless for me since my friends were such a help! A sweet friend from church offered the use of her gorgeous pool deck, another dear friend brought bunches of balloons and paper products, and chef friend Holland baked white and pink cupcakes with marshmallow daisies on them.

It was a sacrifice for my church friends to even be at the party since we have had so many church meetings this weekend and everyone was tired, but they came anyway and that really touched my heart.

Everyone was having so much fun in the pool I didn’t want to break it up but at one point I handed out the balloons, and those who wanted to wrote a message to Jenna on theirs. We sang her a happy birthday, with our faces turned heavenwards, and released the balloons, watching them drift out of sight. Sending up balloons will never fail to move me.

We managed to sneak into the cemetary with a full two minutes to go before gate-closing time. 🙂 I couldn’t fully enjoy being there knowing that we were going to be booted out at any second, but we left Jenna a special little keepsake and a cupcake. 😀 Her grave stone is in but it was full of sand splatters from the rainstorms. It doesn’t quite look like I envisioned it, but I will take a picture of it next time, when I have had a chance to clean it nicely.  

Thank you all again for the lovely support we received from you all in the form of blog comments, birthday cards and gifts, (Cindy, what can I say? ) and your prayers. The day would have been much less special and a whole lot more difficult if it weren’t for all of you!

I have a lot of ‘blog fodder’ at the moment, there is so much I want to write about, but I will call it a day for now.  I am ‘poegaai’, or for those of you who do not understand Afrikaans, I am pooped.

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Happy birthday, my little muffin!

Happy birthday Jenna!  May all the love we are sending your way today make you sing and dance for joy! Our little princess!!! We’ll love you for always…

Sweet sacrifice

We are having a church conference this weekend and after tonight’s meeting the youth was selling gourmet hot dogs as a fundraiser. I was starving, and ended up eating my hot dog next to a dear older lady from our church whose adult daughter died after a long battle with cancer a few years ago. I had been wanting to bounce some ideas around with someone who is a little further than me along this road and who has a real walk with God, so I jumped at the chance to ask her a few questions.

It was sooooo good to talk to her. As you all can glean from my latest posts, I have been getting advice from people lately that I have been trying to receive in the correct spirit. I have been trying to find the balance between following my own heart and conscience and yet allowing friends the freedom to speak into my life. Sometimes they don’t comprehend the grieving process and I get hurt. On the other hand I realise they may see blind spots that I can’t see and I want to have a teachable spirit. It can get so confusing for me sometimes…

As I drove home after our talk I felt encouraged. As far as grieving mommas go, I realise that I am really in a good place. I am truly at peace and I do not wrestle with why this had to happen. I am not angry, nor do I feel like I am lugging a heavy burden of grief with me wherever I go. There is pain, yes. How can there not be? I miss Jenna. Sometimes it is a searing pain that slices right through my heart. But I do not feel anguish or despair. For that, I am thankful.

I remembered the days immediately after Jenna left us. I cannot possibly find words to tell you all of the grace and peace that enveloped us at that time. But more than that, something sweet had happened in my own heart. Laying my most precious possession at the feet of Jesus with the firm determination that I would praise my God regardless of the outcome, had produced in my heart a tenderness I had never known before. Things that would normally irritate me or push my buttons were inconsequential. For just a few days my heart was so sweet and pure before the Lord that there were moments that I thought I would never sin again. Those are huge words and quite presumptuous, and of course it didn’t last long (sigh) but that is exactly what I felt.

As I drove home tonight thinking about the sweetness that sacrifice and suffering had produced in me, albeit for a short time, I realised that sacrifice always brings with it a fresh sense of God’s grace and favor surrounding us. I think that the God who sacrificed it all just so that he could have a relationship with you and me places a special value on the times we freely offer up something (no matter how big or small) that we would rather hold on to. When we do that we are mirroring Jesus’ own heart and I think something about that moves God’s heart. I can picture him looking down and saying: “That’s my girl, how can I bless her?” And his blessing comes, he wraps us with a tangible sense of his goodness and his favor. Sacrifice, like that grain of wheat that has to die, brings forth his life and much fruit in us.

I have to admit to you all that lately, I have been bothered with a sense of ‘dullness’ in my walk with God. I have lacked some of the passion and fire for him that I have experienced in times past. I realised, right there in my car this evening, that I have been praising God with my lips but not with my heart. I have been looking for the easy road and not the road that costs me something. And it has sullied me.

The bible talks about the ‘sacrifice of praise.’ Sometimes (and I just gave a big sigh as I typed that 🙂 ) praising God is a sacrifice. It means letting go of my desire to be in charge and it requires a ‘sweet and low’ spirit.

So tonight, I will offer the evening sacrifice to my Lord. I want to turn off this computer and turn my face to see his sweet face smiling down on me. I want to read his word and let it breathe life into these dry bones.

So what if it costs me a bit of sleep.

A picture and some news.

I just love this picture. It was taken a year and four days ago. Jenna picked Kiki out as her favorite kitten as soon as she was told that Kiki was the only girl in the litter. I think Kiki (I don’t know where Jenna got the name from) had many, many days where she secretly wished she had been born a boy. 😀 (Click on the picture if you want to see a bigger version.)

I was told today that Jenna’s grave marker is in. I am eager to see it! I will post a picture next time I go to the cemetery.

Other news: It seems like I will be teaching next year! I just LOVE the school where I will be teaching, and their approach to education. I’ve been given some subjects where I can be as hands-on as I like to be, so it is exciting! It has been a long time since I have stood in a classroom so there will be challenges and adjustments, but I think they can only help me grow as a person.

We had a huge rain storm yesterday which knocked the power out, and as the 3 boys and I snuggled and talked on my bed my middle boy told me: “Mom, I don’t know what I would do if you died. I feel like you are going to die soon”. Poor boy. 😦

I told him that it was just the devil lying to him. I explained that the devil’s voice brings fear but God’s voice gives us peace. Fear is the devil’s territory. This is how we know God is speaking: The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits… (James 3:7)

Anyhow, my own words got me thinking. As I considered all the challenges that lie before me this coming year I was reminded that there is no need for worry or fear in anything. In everything I can say like Joshua or Caleb did…surely God is with me, and because of that, I am well able to go in and possess this land.

Something tangible

I recently had a conversation with some precious, sweet friends who had the impression that giving Jenna a birthday party would be a difficult thing for me. They thought that it would open the door to feelings of grief and sadness on that day. They think I am tormenting myself unnecessarily and that it is understandable having a party now since my grief is so fresh, but that it probably isn’t advisable for me to continue celebrating Jenna like this in the future. I tried to explain to them, and I don’t know how successful I was, that simply doing nothing for Jenna on that day would be infinitely harder.
Not doing something tangible for Jenna would be more tormenting for me at this point.

I love my girlie girl. The fact that she has left us to go and be with Jesus does not take that love away. Love is a verb and it always seeks expression. God loved the world so much that he gave…

I love my muffin so much that I want to give something, DO something to show it. Since I can’t hug her and kiss her and shower her with presents I want to do the next best thing: surround myself with some of my best friends and have a fun day in her memory. I might be proved wrong, but I don’t envision many tears on that day at all. (In my experience, the tears will probably come a few days prior, as I anticipate Jenna’s first birthday without us. But on the actual day, the grace of God will carry me though.) We will have a cake and balloons for Jenna and we will send her some love in the form of birthday cards, but we will not mope around and entertain morbid thoughts about what could have been. We know she is with Jesus and that she is happy.

We are going to rejoice in the precious little princess that Jesus gave us, and we are going to express our love for her in a tangible way. We would do it if she were here, why not do it for her still?

My middle son made a comment to me the other day at the cemetery that I felt was very true. “I always feel so at peace here, mom,” he said. I feel that way too. Somehow I can sit there next to her grave and rest in the fact that she is with Jesus. I feel close to her, and to Him, there. Cutting the tall grass around Jenna’s grave and arranging her flowers and trinkets around it is therapy for me. It’s a mommy thing to want to do something for our children and making Jenna’s grave look pretty is one thing I can do for her. I think it makes her smile as she looks down from heaven and sees that her mommy has not forgotten her.

Perhaps the day will come when I will no longer need these tangible expressions of my love for Jenna.
Where I will just be able to love her quietly in my heart. I am not sure I want that day to come though. In the Christmasses to come I think we may find more joy in hanging a special ornament on the tree for her, or stuffing a stocking full of ‘love-notes’ than doing nothing at all. As a family, we will always know that one of us is missing on special occasions like these. I think filling that void with a special token of love might be akin to “putting on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness”.

Remembering Jenna fondly and with joy is something I hope I will be able to do for the rest of my life. I don’t want people to think I am holding onto my grief just because I choose to continue loving my little girl. Love comes from God himself and my love for Jenna cannot be severed, even though our earthly relationship was. I find much more healing in allowing my love for Jenna to flow out in tangible expressions as opposed to throwing up walls around my heart and keeping my thoughts and feelings inside.

Back home :-)

We arrived home a couple of hours ago from our missions trip to Alabama. I am glad we went, it was a learning experience as well as a wonderful time of fellowship with our pastor, his wife, and another couple who will most likely move to Alalbama to head up the new church and bible school there. The meetings went well, the people there were hungry for the things of God, and seeing hills/mountains again was a feast for the eyes.

I had some moments where I really missed Jenna, especially when the other couple talked fondly about the escapades of their little toddler, whose grandmother was taking care of him while we were gone. They kept on getting pictures emailed to their cell phone to show them what a good time he was having with the pastor’s kids, and hubby and I just exchanged a glance…wouldn’t it be so nice to be able to get a picture emailed from heaven to show us how much fun Jenna is having?

The boys had a wonderful time while we were away. Our friends Holland and Sarah had them over at their house and everyone had a blast. Holland is a kid at heart and he has just as much fun with my boys as one of their peers would. I half expected them to be waiting here for us at our house when we arrived but they are still at Holland and Sarah’s house carving things out of bamboo sticks. 🙂

I have a busy week ahead. My mom is flying over from South Africa at the end of the week. I am looking forward to seeing her. Then it will be Jenna’s birthday on Sunday. Our church is having a conference this weekend too which means extra meetings. And the following weekend we will be camping. Phew! I get tired just typing all of that out. 🙂

I don’t really have much to say at the moment. I am in a good place and just being with our church family this weekend has given me a fresh desire to press into everything God has for me. I am so aware of that call and yet I get so frustrated with my own lack of discipline at times. If I had just stuck to practising my guitar last year I would be a proficient player by now. I know I may need to lead worship one day and it would be so much easier to do it with a guitar as opposed to a piano.

Anyhow, we were all asked to get up and share at every meeting and hubby shared something that I enjoyed.  He talked about the parable about the laborers, where the farmer hired workers to work for him at the beginning of the day, and went and rounded up more workers as the day progressed. Those who were hired first expected more pay, but the farmer in his generosity paid all of the workers the same wage at the end.

Hubby and I are both easy going by nature and we are often so aware of the wasted time in our lives where we didn’t quite “number our days so that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”  It is always so easy to get distracted with other things and neglect the most important thing, which is spending time with God! If we had just spent more time studying the word, or practising our instruments,  who knows where we would be right now as far as ministry is concerned. Yet it is encouraging to realise that even for those of us who might take a little longer to get ourselves into gear, God in his mercy and generosity still gives the same reward that he gives to those who had worked and laboured for him all day. All God really wants is for us to be a willing vessel that he can pour all his goodness into so that we in turn can carry it to others. And if we only wake up and make ourselves fully available to him at the eleventh hour he will still use us as much as we will let him.

Anyhow, dear friends…I’m HONGRY. I had a bagel for breakfast and my tummy is rumbling. Time to get off this here computer and plug the hole in my stomach. 🙂

At the swimming pool.

WOW! I wanted to thank you all for the sweet comments and all the support you gave me in response to my last post. I appreciate it sooooo much! You are all stars.

I want to make it clear though that I am not upset with anybody.  I know that the people who inspired my post have only my best interests at heart. I wouldn’t want them to click on my blog and get the wrong impression. I realise that it is tough to understand this road if you haven’t walked it yourself. I didn’t ‘get it’ either until it happened to me.  I just do not want to feel like I have to tiptoe around my own grief, and I don’t want others to feel that way around me either.

Good news! Jenna’s birthday party is finally starting to come together in my brain. I took the boys to my pastor’s community pool yesterday. They had been asking to go but I had been putting it off because the last time we were there it was with Jenna, to celebrate her third birthday.  One of the few videos we have of Jenna was taken on that day, and in my mind’s eye I can still see her splashing in the pool with her daddy and her best friend Joseph.

Anyhow, I ambled about at the poolside, reminiscing and picturing that last birthday with Jenna, when it occurred to me that we can have her next birthday at that pool too! I have not been quite comfortable to have her birthday party at our house, simply because my house needs so much work and I cannot possibly manage to do everything I would like to do. A sweet friend offered her house but I felt it might impose too much – but a poolside party at the same pool where we celebrated her birthday last year sounds just perfect!  We have lovely memories of Jenna there, and it is a lovely venue, with lots of shade, a kiddie pool area, and lots of clear sky so we can see the balloons go up. (I am still deciding between balloons and butterflies, or both).

So, as far as I am concerned, we are set! I am excited that I at least have the venue settled in my mind. Now I can start thinking about other things…

 I didn’t swim yesterday because it was cool in the shade and I was nattering to a friend instead. I have been putting off going for a swim in my bathing suit though. That bathing suit hasn’t been in water since the day I swam in the pool that took Jenna’s life. I know that life goes on and that if I were hot enough yesterday I would have steeled myself and jumped in. But my bathing suit still has traces of  Jenna’s pool in it and to go swimming in it again would have been another ‘first’. Sigh. All these firsts…

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like when there are no more firsts, and when every possible unexpected Jenna-discovery has been exhausted. When everything is old hat and there is nothing new in the chapter of Jenna’s life except meeting her in heaven. I wonder if it would be a sad moment or whether it would be just another oh-well-such-is-life-moment.

Update: I went out today and bought myself a new bathing suit. 🙂 I realised when I put my old one on yesterday that it was all stretched out and not keeping its shape like it used to. I am getting older and I need a bathing suit that holds it all together! LOL I am going to put the old one away with Jenna’s things for now.  I will decide later whether I want ot keep it or toss it. For now it is the only bathing suit Jenna ever saw me wear so it will join the pile of things in Jenna’s closet that I will have to sort through one day when I am ready.

We will be out of town this weekend. Our pastor has been asked to start a church in Northern Alabama and we are going with him and another couple to ‘scout out the land’, so to speak. It will be our first ‘missions’ (y’all know that missions can be local and doesn’t have to be international, right?) trip with him so it should be interesting… It will be nice to see some mountains again too…or even some hills. Florida is so flat…

On a last note: I am so overwhelmed by the lovely response I got from you all regarding Jenna’s birthday cards. They are starting to trickle in and I am using all my will-power not to open them until the day. I think it will be special to keep them until the 27th, so that is what I have purposed to do, even if it goes totally against my character! 🙂

THANK YOU ALL!!!