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Friday, March 29, 2013

The Dedication Dress

It is a warm October day near the beach.  The little antique shops are hot and stuffy.  We are weaving in and out of the doors in search of treasure and a little ocean breeze.  Scanning the old down town I am beginning to doubt that we will find an ice cream shop around here.  Makiah is three.  I give her hand a gentle squeeze as we stroll.  She smiles at me and chatters on about the mermaid toy she has seen in the last gift shop.  One more store and we will head out. 

We step through the creaking door and peer around at the antiques.  I am about to slip back out when the bright white catches my eye.  It is a soft, white baby gown that is extra long and trimmed with delicate lace.  It would be perfect for a baby dedication... if only I were pregnant or had a baby to dedicate!  I glance at the price tag.  Only $10!  This would be really expensive new.  Makiah thinks it is "sooo pretty!"  I can't resist.  I tell myself maybe there will be someone I can give it to, but in truth I am secretly hoping to dedicate my next baby in this dress.  If only...

Three and a half years and a lifetime later.

Maddie Grace giggles at me all wrapped up in delicate white cotton and lace.  I can scarcely believe I am getting to use the dress.  It wouldn't work for the twins because there were two of them and only one dress.  But then God sent Madelyn Grace.  The little girl He knew would one day wear the dress Makiah had helped me pick out for her future sister.  The little girl He knew Makiah would never see wear it... at least not with her earthly eyes.

And we had asked my Daddy to lead us in dedicating Maddie Grace to the Lord.  With a chuckle he tells a story of how Makiah would catch him sitting with his elbows on the table, and then she would look at her big Pawpaw and say with no hesitation "Excuse me!" in her prissy way while pointing to the offending elbows.   He says he can almost see Makiah in the throne room saying, "Excuse me, God, my mama is supposed to have three girls down there."  And maybe God moved his elbows and got to work!  Even though I was medically unable to have children without intervention, He sent us a complete surprise, Maddie Grace!  And she is the most affectionate baby I have ever met.  She grabs my face and literally slobbers kisses on my cheeks every chance she gets.  Kisses from heaven.  And my heart feels His love again. 

And my Daddy says Satan thought his plan was working when he convinced Pontious Pilate to order the crucifixion of Jesus on Golgotha.  He thought he had won another victory when he convinced teens to use drugs and drive into the side of our car and wreck our family and our lives.  Out of crucifixion came resurrection.  Death conquered.  Out of this tragic story there will be resurrection.  And my Daddy tells us all that he believes Maddie Grace is a foreshadow of the resurrection.  She came as a gift, unexpected, and without the intervention of man's creative medicine.

And so does eternal life.  It is a gift.  Given without man's effort or earning.  Out of Jesus death, comes our life.  

So we dedicate her all in white. In a very special lace dress.  This little one sent from above to bring healing to our wounded hearts.  A tiny, giggly little life whose coming is but a shadow of the pure life and joy we will receive.  The most expensive, free gift ever purchased.  Our resurrection! 

Madelyn Grace

Shopping the day we bought the dress
weird antiques
thoughtful on the beach before we headed to shop

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

All Things New

I have mostly put away Makiah’s toys, but the doll house her daddy and I made her from a special, old cabinet that once belonged to her great grandmother still sits in Maddie Grace’s closet.  It has pretty glass doors that close across the front embracing the scene inside. I carefully tied the silver handles together with ribbon when she left us, and some things deep inside were tied up that day, too.  Every little piece of her tiny house sits just the way she left it the last time she cleaned up her room.  I don’t intend to keep it locked away forever.  But I just haven’t been ready to open it up.  It takes time to unlock a house.  And a heart. 

Today I accidentally left the closet door open.  The dainty glass doors don’t cover the attic of the little house.  Sometimes we forget to lock ourselves all away.  We leave a piece exposed and vulnerable.  Sometimes someone notices it like my Abby who never misses ANYTHING!  She emerged from the baby’s room carrying Makiah’s little plastic dog that lived in the attic.  She clutched it tight to her chest all day.  Didn’t put it down at all except to eat and even then she placed it carefully on the table of her high chair under her watchful eye. 

And sometimes we realize He is holding that part we forgot to lock away.  And He is clutching that part of our hearts close to His chest.  Never letting our treasured thoughts escape His watchful eye.

Tonight Abby is still holding Makiah’s dog close.  She and her sister are smelling sweet and baby fresh from a bubble bath.  The music in our living room is softly lulling little eyes to half mast.  The light from the dim lamp cascades into the darkness.   Of the room and the hearts.  Barely.   Alena is twirling around the shadows in pink fairy wings and declaring that she is “Tinka Bew.”  Makiah’s pink fairy wings.  We are singing with the worshipers on the TV.  You are making all things new.”  Their daddy is giving kisses like our Daddy gives breaths.  We come alive.  You are making all things new.” The girls land near their daddy on the floor and become one big pile of snuggles.  You make all things new.  We are free.  We are free.” 

And then I realize it.  This isn’t just a random song.  I am seeing it played out.  It is real.  It is true.  It is called M.I.R.A.C.L.E.  This life in this dim room.  This worship coming from lips that were once frozen.  These toys dug out of the closet where they were locked away from laughter and love.

And I feel that it’s true what Jesus said.  When He arrived at the man’s house, they told him it was too late.  The little girl was dead.  Jesus said she is not dead but sleeping.  They mocked him.  Until he raised the dead.   

I never understood why He said that.  Why did He say she was sleeping?  Because we who mourn can know that it is as if they are only sleeping.  They are not here with us.  But they are not gone forever.  They have not ceased to exist.  We are separated, but the barrier is thinner than we might think.  The time may seem to creep by with all the aching, but we will look back on it as the blinking of an eye.  And even in the slow, painful seconds, He is making all things new.  He is carefully holding the broken, hidden places to His chest.  And He is breathing out life like a daddy blows out kisses.  Because ultimately he has made us free from death.  And free from the chains.  And He is making all things new.  Until the day when He will raise the dead!

Makiah's surprise when she got the doll house for her 3rd birthday.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Hearing

Because some of you are wondering.  Because maybe you find yourself in a prison of one sort or another.  Because my breath prayer is that it will bring Him glory. Because I want to thank those of you who prayed!

The Hearing

The courtroom is small but it feels full.  The raspy voice of the judge reverberates through the tense air.  It all seems so surreal, as if I am not really the mother of the dead child waiting my turn to speak to the one who killed her.  My hands are clammy and there is a lump in my throat.  I am not at all sure I can do this.   Maybe I won’t.  God, help me to be brave!  It is time to stand up and move to the front.  Up in front of where the lawyers sit they lead us.  We stand and face him.  Not ten feet away.  The grandmothers speak first.  I am nauseous.  I hate to speak in front of people.   I hate confrontation.  I hate that this is my story!  I wish so desperately that I could trade it in.

They finish and I step to the center.  I decide to look him dead in the eyes.  I will cope with the crowd by pretending they are not there.  I am not addressing the court.  My words are for him alone.  They must be spoken.  This is my persecution.  This my chance to deny Jesus in front of men, or to acknowledge the work of His grace in me.  My chance to take up the cross and follow him.  God help me!  I have decided… it has nothing to do with how I feel.  I don’t trust my feelings.  I entrust them.  My voice is shaky and my husbands arm across my back must be holding me steady.  There are hot tears.  First mine and then his.  My face crumples but I press on with the words. 

“I sat wondering last night what I can possibly say that will make a difference today.  Some words are more important than others you know.  They weigh more.

I want to talk to you about prison.  You have spent some time in jail now.  You know what it is like to be locked away from the world and from freedom.  And now you are waiting to hear your sentence.

I, too, have received a sentence.  The day my little Makiah was ripped from my arms I received a lifetime sentence.  I will be separated from my sweet baby for the rest of my earthly life.  I cannot kiss her cheeks or hold her hand.  I can’t fix her hair or play dolls.  I cannot hear her voice or tell her how much I love her.  Not as long as I live on this earth.  I have a life sentence without parole.

Prison.  But there is another prison.  One of bitterness and unforgiveness.  Every time the pain of my loss grabs my heart, bitterness and unforgiveness are waiting for me.  But I know that not forgiving you would only put my heart in prison.  So over and over again for the rest of my life I will keep saying the words that make me free, “I forgive.”  I forgive you, his name, for robbing me of the most precious thing in my life, my daughter.  And I will keep forgiving you for all the pain her death will continue to cause me as long as I am alive.  It is not over for me.

Because there is another Prison.   One you carry with you wherever you go… even when you walk out of this jail.  A place where our hearts sit in darkness.   If we are still there when we die, it leads to a place of total separation from everything that is good and happy and love.  A place of total separation from God.  We have all made wrong choices and we are all guilty.  And there is only one way out of this prison.  Only one way to escape a sentence of being in darkness forever.   Jesus.  Even though he was totally perfect, he sat in the chair marked ‘guilty’ for us and took our place.  He served the sentence of death for us so that if we will thank him for it and give him our lives, we can be free.  And I want you to be free in your heart because I am free.  It is the only reason I can say “I forgive.”  Because I know that I have been forgiven. 

His name, I hope that you will realize that your heart is in a prison of darkness.  And I hope that you will choose to take the hand that Jesus is offering you, and walk out of that prison into a life lived for God and an eternity full of the joy of being with him.   Only you can decide to do that.  But please know that there is a day coming when God himself will hold you responsible for all you have done.  If you want to be found innocent, then you must ask Jesus to forgive you and thank him for taking your place by living the rest of your earthly life for God.  He loves you, his name.  And he wants you to make that choice.  And I think my little Makiah would want you to as well.”