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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Two Rivers

You will notice I have changed the "About us" section of the blog to reflect both my and Ginger's stories. This is our first blog we wrote together. It is about my experiences while meeting the kids, Boston 10, Greyson 7, Isabella 4, Aspen and Annalise 2, for the first time. It grew into the first shared story of Ginger and I.

I wrote this blog as I traveled to Phoenix this past weekend. I finished this on the flight back to San Antonio. This was my first time to meet the kids and the incredible friends that supported Ginger over the past 14 months. It was an emotional weekend which began with a trip to the Troy Gilbert Memorial Bridge. Seeing his name written in brass was overwhelming to me. I saw a physical reminder of what it cost for me to be there. I entered the lives of the five wonderful children, each so very special, each a gift from God, conceived in love, once the center of Troy’s life. I watched as the twins celebrated their second birthday. Ginger and I took Boston to soccer practice and watched Greyson play basketball. I heard Bella call me daddy and seek out my affection. I tucked her into bed and tried to answer her question, “If God made everything, who made God?” I stood and held Ginger’s hand as we worshiped with the families that prayed over Troy before he deployed and never returned. I felt the pain they all experienced when they learned of Troy’s death.

I thought of Troy as this was his place. I thought of Andrea as this was her dream. I thought of Ginger and I as this is our life. I was humbled to be given such a gift and such a responsibility. Who am I to be showered with such blessings twice in my lifetime? I thought of my boys and my desire for all of us to be a family. I prayed Nic and Anthony would know I entered this new life believing God’s plan is for them as much as it is for Ginger and me. I pray they know Ginger has been called to love them as I know I am called to love Ginger’s children. I hope my boys know I do not run from them but desire to bring them along into our new family. What I seek is for us all to become a family, not two separate families but a continuum of a family. We understand the pain they have suffered in losing their mother and father and that Ginger and I offer all we have to help each of them understand the pain they face both now and in the future.

By the grace of God Ginger and I have been blessed with a relationship that is humanly impossible. This relationship that is as hard for us to explain as it is for our family and friends to comprehend. But through it we are now able to reach out to our children and lead them as parents should. To take the lessons we have learned and pass them onto your kids is that not the role of a parent? Our desire is that Ginger and I can take what we have learned and lead our kids out of this storm to a place where the assurance of life is restored. Where faith replaces fear and trust enables God to use us all, to a place where God replaces pain and confusion with joy and clarity. All of us have felt our share of pain. Our children, spanning from 2 to 22 yrs old, have had to experienced far too much of it at far too young of an age.

As I wrote on the flight back to San Antonio I also reflected back the flight out to Phoenix. Below are some my thoughts as I went to meet Ginger and the kids as well as Ginger's and my experience with grief.

I sit on a plane; flying to life, to a life still unknown to me yet a life soon to be mine. What is unknown will soon be known; what is uncommon will soon to be my everyday life. What is a question will soon be an answer. What is a mystery will soon be reveled.

Will I be the father they need? Do I possess the ability to teach them and lead them? Will they see Christ’s love in me? Are my faith and my knowledge sufficient? God, you are asking me to be a father to the fatherless, a husband to a wife, a friend to Your daughter, a spiritual leader in their home an anchor in their lives, a beacon to a relationship with You. I ask You supply my every need to fulfill these roles. I pray for the unity of our families and that the blessing of our relationship will cascade down to our children. I lay prostrate before You, knowing only You can make me ready for these roles and prepare the hearts of all those involved. Father, I lay my life down I submit to you my God, my King, my Savior, my Comfort, my Shield, my Deliverer. It is in You alone that I trust.

What joy awaits our new family? Will we laugh together? What memories will we forge together? What dreams will we make together? Will we embrace as we go through life’s challenges? What pain lurks in the darkness? Is there a loss or suffering? God forbid it. I know the risk of loss is the price we pay to love again. I know that unless Christ returns, one of us will suffer the grief of burying another spouse. Yet life cannot stop for fear of loss. What God has laid on our hearts is to serve Him with the life we have remaining. As long as there is breathe in our lungs we are asked to serve the One who created us.

We are at the confluence of our lives, like two rivers that flow into one. What was once separate, exclusive, private and personal, is now mixed. We are thankful to our friends and family who met a need, filled a void, carried the load, shouldered the burdens, partook in the suffering, felt the pain and offered us comfort. To them we are forever grateful, and indebted. We survived because of their faithfulness. A friendship expressed in selfless love, self sacrifice and a commitment to someone suffering. They were God’s provision when life offered no hope. They were the hands and feet of God.

It is a dark and scary place we went to grieve. Hopeless grief is the natural place to go when you lose a spouse and a young age. Hardly any effort is required to fall into that pit. Just a step and gravity takes over. Before you know, you’re falling into the darkness and that natural pit becomes your home. In a cruel twist you soon find that getting out of that pit takes far more effort then falling into it. You fall in effortlessly but you struggle to climb out.

At this time is when you feel God’s provision; when those around you who come to met you in the pit. Or even better when they drop a line and climb down to rescue you. They accept the risk that if you fall they fall with you. Life is no longer isolated. There is a hand on yours and a word of encouragement in your ear.

We thank you human angels of a faithful God, for your willingness to go into a dark place and be a volunteer in the battle. Yours is the most precious gift of all. Ones who do not need to suffer such pain yet do. That is a gift that can not be repaid. Each attempt we make to express our thankfulness will forever be lacking.

I think of our God who reminds us He is the faithful One. Though, at times, His words were drowned out by the grief and His promises hidden in the darkness. His voice was masked by the ripping sound as what was one is torn in two. Strands woven separately into a single cord now torn apart. A foundation once secure is now shaken. Certainties are now doubted. Life’s promises now in question. Children’s questions no longer answered with a simple promise, “It will all be okay.” A child’s simplistic view of life is taken and left with an incomprehensible void. Their minds ill-equipped to handle such truths as death. They are robbed of the gradual realization that life is hard and far crueler then fairy tales. To be a kid, and lose a parent is to be caught between two worlds. A world of total security and a world of scary uncertainty. A world their friends do not understand or even know exists.

As a grieving parent trying to reach out to a grieving child we find ourselves facing a task we are unprepared for. We try to explain to them things we are still confused by ourselves. We come to offer help, but we are often sinking in our own despair. We have little to offer at times as we only seek to take our next breath.

As a grieving spouse you find your life is spinning out of control. Your mind entertains thoughts you would have never allowed. Life seems not worth living, as life offers nothing of value. Satan torments you with a plausible solution to end your suffering. As life seems to offer no escape and only in our own death could we find relief. Ginger clearly remembers flying on airplanes wishing the plane would go down taking their lives. These are not suicidal thought but an expression of total hopelessness.

However, God tells us He never leaves us or forsakes us.

Joshua 1:5

No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

More then any other verse, these words come into question when life offers no light but only darkness. How can God be in this? How can such a feeling of hopelessness exist if He is with us? In the midst of this suffering there are no answers. The only solution is to take God at His Word. Though God may seem silent or his voice barley a whisper this is the place where God draws nearest to us.

Psalm 147:3
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

How will we ever know our capability if we are unwilling get in the game? Is talking about our faith the same as using our faith?

Is professing a belief in Christ the same as living it? Is saying I will go where You lead the same as taking steps on an unfamiliar path?

Isaiah 42:16

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Is a willingness to run the race the same as running it?

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Is the idea of following Christ and taking up your cross the same as exchanging your own dreams and desires for His?

Matthew 10:37-39
"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Is there a part of our life we fear God will ask us to give up? Is there a part of our life we hold in reserve? Do you know if God asks you to do something He will provide all you need to do it?

Philippians 4:19

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Do you know the only thing you will regret is the part of you that you do not give to God? That no matter how hard you hold on or how much effort you put into your own life it will never equal what God can do in you. He awaits your willingness to trust Him. He longs to take you into a relationship with Him that will exceed you wildest dreams.

The suffering and pain we have described is not what we wanted or ever thought we could endure. We did not enter into these trials feeling up to the task. But we leave it knowing God filled every void, every gap between our own abilities and our desperate needs. We stand on the verge of a new life knowing He never left us alone. We leave this season much more prepared for the inevitable challenge life will bring, knowing what we do not possess He will provide. It is that faith that allows us to love again. It is not because we now have all we need to face it, but because we have the knowledge that all we lack He possesses, and all we need He will provide.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

After talking about our journeys of pain Ginger and I discovered we had both written scriptures on 3x5 index cards to reference when we were hungry for words of hope. God’s Word supplied our needs when this world offered no relief from our pain.

Matthew 4:4

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

We threw ourselves at the foot of the cross because we could not solve the questions that exists between a mysterious yet loving God and our lives here on earth.

Isaiah 55:8-9
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts declares the LORD.

We accepted the gift of Christ’s shed blood and we entered into a relationship with our loving Father. Will not the same God who loved us before we were saved love us that much more as His children? Would He provide the answer for your salvation and leave us incapable to deal with life? Was His gift some cruel joke? We should not fear what you can not do, for God does not ask us to succeed by our own abilities. That would only point to us. May in our victories people only see Christ’s love and provision. But in a life laid down He sees the canvas of a surrendered heart where He begins to paint His masterpiece. And His promise is it will not be left incomplete.

Hebrews 12 :2
Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Philippians 1:3-6

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Ginger and I praise God as we stand in awe as we watch the Master at work in our lives, and we await the reveling of His masterpiece called our family.

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