Wednesday, May 21, 2014

We Remember With Hearts of Thanks 1 Year Later

Yesterday was hard.

Okay, yesterday was really hard. Excruciating at times, but it was also rich and healing.

The night before as I got the kids bathed and ready for bed, I had Caleb in my bath tub. He was floating his Legos airplane and making the take-off sound effects, then letting it crash into the water. He kept giving me the sweetest, sideways grins. And I thought I could actually feel my heart break inside my chest. Because there were seven other parents who had done this same routine that night one year ago--get the kids bathed and ready for bed--yet they had no way of knowing it would be their last night of such a gift.

The morning began at 5:00 am for me. I lay in bed, staring at the piercing red numbers on the clock, wishing for more rest because I knew I would need it a few hours later. Once I pulled my weight out of bed and I straightened myself, I felt the heaviness settle in. It settled hard and fast, and things began to spiral in a persistent, downward motion all morning. I couldn't explain my emotions or even my thoughts. I had imagined the day would be spent with so much joy bursting from the seams because this was, after all, the day that God had chosen to preserve our lives. Gratitude was not lost on me.

Yet, I could not will my eyes to dry up. They poured, and when I thought for sure that I had exhausted every last tear, they poured some more. The heaviness on my chest was so thick, I literally labored to breathe. A number of times I just walked back to the bed and got in again. I was powerless to this indescribable sinking. I scolded myself because I had so much to be thankful for, yet there I was sobbing uncontrollably. I resolved to quit every ministry effort I had attempted since I clearly was not fit to handle the gospel. My phone buzzed with Facebook messages about the eBook and how strong I was, how faithful I have been. I wanted to yell, "No I'm not! You guys have no idea how weak and fickle I can be!" I blubbered through a shower and finally ended up on the floor of the closet, desperate for God to lift my heart.

Then my phone rang and through a sweet friend's voice, God began to gently whisper that He is near, and He cares. He saw me flailing in my own confusing sorrow, and He knew better than I why my heart trembled in my chest. After a sweet encouraging talk from my friend, I decided maybe God does still have a plan for me and that tomorrow will be better. So I retracted my "I'm quitting everything" declaration and resolved to live the rest of the day in an act of gratitude for all God did for us on this day one year ago.

The kids and I traveled to Moore to attend the Plaza Towers Remembrance ceremony. It was beautiful, excruciating, and healing all at once.

Keagan and Kate were thrilled to see their teachers from Plaza Towers. I could see the healing on their little faces as they hugged and caught up on the past few months with them. I am so blessed to have gained new friendships here. These women love their students so much and are among the bravest women I've ever met. I'm so honored to know them.


Kate was ecstatic to see her little buddy Lily and especially that Lily remembered her!

We released 7 white balloons in honor of the 7 sweet children lost at the school. It was beautiful.

I think the hardest moment was hearing the other kids sobbing, remembering their classmates. Like I said, excruciating, but beautiful.

The high school did some gorgeous sidewalk art in honor of each child. Sydney was our neighbor and I still think about her riding her skateboard in front of our house. I will never forget the afternoon we met her. We were walking home after school and she whizzed past us, heading to her own house. Keagan literally yelled at her, "Hi! I'm Keagan! What's your name?" And her sweet little voice squeaked, "Sydney." And she smiled while Keagan gawked over her cool skateboard and told her how talented she was on it. That is one of the reasons our family simply could not rebuild there. Memories like that are just too much for us.

The kids were given little Plaza Towers panthers from the principal and wanted a picture with her. This woman is phenomenal, truly. Her heart is so genuine, so authentic. Every time I see her on the news, I can tell she doesn't want to be there. She did not seek her platform; she was placed on it and stands to face the impossible with such bravery, grace, and reverence. Thank you, Mrs. Simpson, for still loving on my kids.

After our Plaza reunion, the kids and I decided slushies would cool us from the surprisingly hot day and maybe even ease our hurting hearts. They wanted to see the school that's being built in place of the one they knew, so we took our slushies and drove by. Then we went a few streets over to our lot for a look around. 

I still can't believe what God did there!

After taking the above photo on the curb at our number, Keagan asked if we could walk the land and remember. Not even one minute later, he bent down and said, "Mom, look at this!" There in his palm was a Lego piece caked with dirt. Not just a Lego piece--it was one of his Star Wars ship pieces. I know this because his ship was a very specific, rare color of brown that regular Legos are not. Before my heart could even process this miracle, I heard Kate from a few feet away yell literally the same thing: "Mom, look at this!" She held in her hand a bent up brown plastic cup. I grabbed it and turned it over, examining it with my heart pounding. It was her little Tupperware cup that her Grammy had given her a few years ago! She had found it sticking up slightly out of the ground and here it was in her hand...One year later. ONE YEAR LATER! You have to understand that this lot has been combed over, dug up, basically tilled, and yet...God somehow saved these two small treasures for my children? I still can hardly believe it even as I'm typing this! 

My skin warmed and goose bumps swam over my body. I felt His touch and His tender voice say, "See? I still care."

With hearts exploding in gratefulness, we snapped this picture of us just before we stopped and prayed to tell Jesus THANK YOU for what He did for us one year ago at that exact time of day. He rescued us, and there are no words to personify our thanks. We will do our best to personify this gratitude with the days He has granted us.

The evening was spent in pure celebration for all that God has done for us. We took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese (which we have done a whopping two times, ever)! We played, howled with laughter, and even got to see some friends there (I'll get to that in a minute)!

We spotted this beautiful flag at half mast and I just had to get a picture of it. It reminded me that the state mourns with us, but that our loss could have been the unimaginable. Please know that I get that. It's honestly why I spill so many tears over it. My heart can hardly take how blessed we are, how it so easily could have been our children that day. I feel incredibly unworthy and to be honest, I deal heavily with survivor's guilt.  

While at Chuck E. Cheese, some precious friends (the one who God used to rescue me off the closet floor that morning) showed up to snag our house key because they had a gift they wanted to leave there for us. When we got home, we found ice cream, hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream, and cherries waiting for us! Friendships like this are what keep us going on days when it hurts to remember.

And that's how God carried us through the first anniversary of the day that changed us forever. The newspaper certainly did get it right with their headline: "It Changes You." Yes, it does and it has. May we never go back to the way we were before, taking the very breath in our lungs for granted. After our ice cream, the kids ran around the house squealing and cackling with laughter--that deep, belly laugh. I couldn't stop smiling and whispering in my heart, "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, though I don't deserve this. Thank you."

And thank you to YOU for lifting us up in prayer, for texting or calling to let us know you were thinking of us. I have learned so many rich lessons along this sometimes treacherous road and one of them is how to respond to others who are grieving. Simply acknowledging someone's grief is tremendously loving. So many of you have done that well and I want to thank you. Thank you also for sharing the book and all the incredibly uplifting comments about it. I hope it blesses you and please continue to share it. You never know who else may need to hear the message of hope and healing. And if you donated to one of the adoption causes, THANK YOU. 
Peace of Christ to you,

1 comment:

  1. Cara, it is such a blessing to me to read your blogs and your book is amazing!