I recently read a description of grief. It illustrated grief in the beginning as a giant ball bouncing around in a very small square. Something we can’t get away from. Every time we move or even breathe, the grief hits us. I’ve also read grief described like furniture in the middle of a dark room, where you can’t see anything, but everywhere you move, you bump into it and you can’t get around it. In both scenarios, the grief changes. In the first, the ball eventually becomes very small, but it is always in the room. It still hurts deeply when it hits you, but it isn’t a constant. In the second scenario, the furniture eventually moves to where you can see it and get around it, finally settling as a painting on the wall- always there, but not something you are constantly bumping into.
I can relate with both of these descriptions. I know they aren’t meant to be that simple. Grief is complex. But, I think it can give others imagery to relate to and understand our grief. Grief is always there. In our case, as is the case for many, we don’t get over losing a child. It’s not that simple. But, we learn to move forward, and find a way to live while being in the room with the grief. We still bump into it all the time, but it’s not all consuming everything we do. But, it’s there, like that huge painting on the wall. And, maybe it’s beautiful now. Maybe, it’s like our Mary-Linda, bringing light and hope to others in their time of grief. Maybe, just maybe?
On August 16th, 2020, we marked 3 years since our Mary-Linda was with us. It feels so surreal. These last 3 years have been brutal and beautiful. I don’t know how to explain it any other way. So much heartache. But, again, I know that God was with us and is with us. So, we will keep on keeping on.
Below are photos from our celebration of Mary-Linda’s life, 3 years in. And, photos from the day we all got to hold her. We will all forever hold her in our hearts until we can hold her in our arms again.
I am feeling a little sad this morning. A mix of nostalgia, relief, stress, happiness, anticipation and anxiety.
I am nostalgic as I look upon my babies and think of all of the wonderful memories we have shared over the last 10+ years. So many firsts and this week we will have our first and only year all in the same school.
First day of school, 2014
I am relieved to be here. 5 years ago, when we were anticipating the arrival of our fourth baby and preparing to send our first born baby to kindergarten, I anticipated this time. The only time they will all be in school together. One drop off. One pick up. One school. Oh boy! What will I do with all of the (extra) time!? Ha!
Holding Trinity, expecting Leeland, summer 2010
I am stressed. We love summer. Sleeping in (sort of). Having no where to be (sometimes). Vacations (definitely!). School is exciting. It’s growing up and learning and making new friends. But, I worry. I worry about each of my kids. Will they be respectful? Will they say “yes, ma’am?” Will they adjust okay? How can I help? Will they make friends? Will they keep friends? Will they eat their lunches? Oh my goodness! Lunches. I’m back to making four lunches. Yes, they should help. Yes, I should teach them responsibility. But, at this point, four kids in the kitchen making lunches is a lot more stressful for me than 1 momma in the kitchen making four lunches. At least, that’s how we will start. I bought new lunch boxes in June. So, that’s a start. But, I am still stressed.
New lunch boxes for 2015-2016 school year
I’m happy. We have a wonderful school that is a great fit for all four of our children. We are excited about their teachers. And, we are just ending a magical summer. Work at Church of the Apostles has been so rewarding. We are growing in numbers and growing as a community in Christ. I am so blessed to be the worship pastor of this wonderful church. The Els have experienced wonderful camps: dance, baseball, fine arts, vacation bible schools and more. Vacations. We needed some breaks and we got them: Texas Hill Country, Carlsbad, CA, Disneyland California, Legoland California, San Diego beaches and Miramar Beach, Florida. We LOVE baseball and LOVE the Astros. Last night we were at the Astros Game (vs. the LA Dodgers) and we witnessed the first ever No-Hitter in Minute Maid Park. The Astros are having an amazing season and to be there to see this (by pitcher Mike Fiers) it was quite a treat!
#MikeFiers #NoNo #NoHitter2015 #Astros
As great as this summer has been, I have great anticipation for what is to come. Even with the hard times mixed in, there are always great rewards. We are going to keep moving. Keep saying “yes” when we mean “yes” and “no” when we mean “no.” I am going to keep committing to help at my children’s school. I am not going to overcommit, but I am going to commit. And, if I say “no” it is because I am saying “yes” to something else- my children, my family, my husband, work, my parents, my extended family, my friends, my children’s teachers, my church family, my neighborhood, etc.
6 days ago, we were on our way to Destin, Florida on I-10 in Alabama. It was around 9pm when we were forced to turn off the main interstate because of a huge fatal accident ahead. It was dark. All we knew at the time was fire trucks and officials were forcing all traffic to exit and turn. My “google map” app rerouted and we were about 2 hours from our hotel. Anticipating arrival around 11pm. My brother and his family and my parents had traveled ahead of us. We left later because we attended worship that morning at our home church (see above).
Soon after the turn off, we turned left heading toward Pensacola, but still in Alabama. Not long after that turn on what was a dark, two lane highway, our “overheated” warning light came on the dashboard. We pulled over immediately on a side road and turned the car around to face the street we had turned off of. We were to the right of a large stop sign. Almost immediately, a large pick up truck pulled up behind us and we waved them to go around. As they pulled up to the side of us, they rolled down the window. I saw a small, blonde young (probably in her 20s) female sitting in the passenger seat and I could see the driver was a male. They asked if everything was ok. We replied “no.” Moustapha then told them what had happened. They pulled over and got out of the truck. They all looked at the engine under the hood and after a few minutes the couple drove away.
Moustapha returned to our car and asked me to send our location to my brother so he would know where we were…”somewhere in Alabama.” We were terrified. Our children seemed fine then. But, it would be a trying couple of hours. About 10-15 minutes passed and the man returned with his brother in law. They brought water and oil and came to help cool the car down, hoping we could make it up the road to a station. They helped us so much and told us there was a Tom Thumb just up the road (toward Florida) about 8miles. The car had cooled down and they believed we could make it that far. We headed off praying, praying and praying. The temperature began to rise and we kept driving. We were still in a safe zone when we had passed 10 miles, never seeing a gas station of any kind. After traveling just over 13 miles, the car overheated and the warning light came on. At that moment, we arrived to a convenient store (not Tom Thumb and not a gas station) parking lot on our left. We pulled in. Thanking the Lord. It was now some time after 10pm. The convenient store was still open. Thank God. But, what next?
We sat in the parking lot as the rain began to fall. Our children were hot and crying. We kept waiting and some of the children fell asleep. My phone wouldn’t work. Thanks, T-Mobile. There was internet access, but the convenient store employee couldn’t remember the exact password. We tried them all. Then, a cab driver pulled up next to us. He offered to call a cab for us. He did. He was on his way to the airport with a passenger. After 20 minutes or so, I called him and let him know that no one had arrived. We continued to wait and soon it was 11pm. The convenience store closed and turned off their lights. Another man that worked there offered to drive in front of us to lead us to a safe area of Pensacola, Florida where we could rent a room to stay the night. We followed him and ended up in a McDonald’s parking lot next to another cab. This cab driver offered to lead us to a Fairfield Inn. He did that and we were treated so kindly by the woman working there. She gave us a great rate for a room that slept all 6 of us comfortably and included breakfast. We checked in, some time after midnight and went right to sleep. They next morning, we started early with picking up a rental car and dropping off our car at a mechanic nearby. Let me just say, there was another angel at the rental car place in Pensacola. I won’t say the company name here, but I will say that they upgraded us from an SUV to a minivan to accommodate all of us safely. We were extremely blessed. (**I don’t think we chose the right mechanic. In the future, I would go with the mechanic with the best yelp reviews. Because, I think it shows that they care about customers and care about positive PR.) We did finally make it to Destin (safely). And, we did have a wonderful time, relaxing. But, the truth is, this experience shook me to the core. I feel changed and anxious because of it. I need prayers. And, to spend time praying over this. I feel the tears welling up, just writing this. It’s terrifying to be in a situation like this (especially with your children).
Life is not at all what it looks like in pictures. If it was, you would have seen us stranded on a dark highway somewhere in a place far from home recently. Scared. With our four children. Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us in the dark, desolate place. He uses others. Grace. His kingdom and lifts us up out of that place and leads us to the light. Thankful to be in the light today. Life is a lot better in the light. #elmomma#thankful
So, I’ll move forward in “momma-like” form, (because as a momma, moving forward is the only option) with my mix of nostalgia, relief, stress, happiness, anticipation and anxiety.
I’ll close with this.
THIS IS MY PRAYER FOR YOU (AND FOR US):
Dear God, I thank you for your protection. I thank you for watching over me and my family. I thank you for loving me enough that you sent your son to die for me. Thank you for sending your holy spirit to dwell among us. I praise you for your faithfulness, your kindness, your loving ways and for never leaving us or forsaking us in our time of need. I pray for this new school year. I pray for all of the children starting new classes I pray that the nostalgia, relief, happiness and anticipation will overcome the stress and anxiety. That your peace will rule. That your grace will cover us all. Be with us. Guide us. Walk with us. We love you. Amen.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Texas was hit hard with storms. There were families literally swept away inside river homes in Wimberley. Precious lives lost. Many Houston families’ homes were flooded with inches to 2 feet of water. Neighbors and friends of ours were awakened to rising waters inside their homes and they are still out of their houses. Only five days later we were hit with another storm with less rainfall, but more lightning and a funnel cloud. We lost shingles on our roof and our ceiling leaked in our bedroom. We had trees on our street ripped up. The transformer in our backyard went crazy, sparking and sounding like it was blowing. It was minor compared to all that others were going through and are still going through. But, nonetheless, it was traumatic for our kids. I saw that last night. Huddled up on the kitchen floor during yesterday’s thunder and lightning storm and flash flood warning. We prayed. And prayed. And we made butterflies with our legs and pretended to fly while singing a newly made up song: “fly little butterfly fly fly little butterfly fly with your wings up and down up and down up and down fly little butterfly fly” We sang. And we giggled. But, something has changed. I know that my kids are anxious. I don’t believe that they are naturally anxious beings. I believe these particular circumstances all within a short period of time have made them anxious. My job as a parent is to not leave them in that anxious place. That place that will shape them into someone who is anxious with every lightning strike, every thunder roar, every rain storm or flood watch. It is okay to be cautious. To be aware. To know where there are dangers and to avoid them. But, in Philippians 4:4-9 God’s Word tells us: “<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29430G" data-link="(G)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29431H" data-link="(H)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>The Lord is at hand;do not be anxious about anything, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29432J" data-link="(J)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>but in everything by prayer and supplication <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29432K" data-link="(K)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29433L" data-link="(L)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>the peace of God, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29433M" data-link="(M)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.What you have learned and <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29435N" data-link="(N)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>received and heard and seen <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29435O" data-link="(O)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>in me—practice these things, and <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29435P" data-link="(P)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>the God of peace will be with you.”
I believe this to be true. So, as we were praying and flapping our butterfly leg-wings and making up silly songs, we were living out Philippians 4. Focusing on loveliness, goodness, truth…and God gave us His peace.