love

In the midst of tragedy

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord… 

I’m struggling, readers.  As you may have noticed, I’ve been absent from the blog for awhile, and it’s taken a tragedy to bring me back.  I sit here with endless thoughts and words running through my mind, but without the slightest clue how to go about organizing them in a coherent manner.  I have no plan.  But still, I must proceed, if for no other reason than to process these feelings of grief and confusion the only way I know how – through writing.  

Photo: Never EVER be mean Girls to your Friends. Even in the moment ❤️ please learn from this !!
Meet Hailey: a beautiful, kind, vibrant 21-year-old woman filled with passion.  Passion for the Lord, passion for the outdoors, passion for learning, passion for working with and educating children, passion for her adorable Beagle, Hank, passion for her family, her friends, and for the love of her life, Stephen.

Meet Stephen: a handsome, generous, kindhearted and fun loving Christian man whose heart has been dedicated to Hailey for over six years, and who (along with his parents and sister) has been extremely special to my family for my entire life.  


Hailey and Stephen set the bar incredibly high when it came to healthy, happy, loving and truly admirable relationships.  Their example is one I strive for daily in my own relationship.  It didn’t take much to see that they were absolutely crazy about each other – their happiness radiated wherever they went, and it never faded with time.  Not only did they share that rare, soul-mate kind of love that many yearn for, but they had an immense, visible respect for one another, along with unending mutual support, inherently positive attitudes and steadfast faith in their Lord.  And they had so much FUN together.  They were going to make it.       

And then, the unthinkable happened.  There was a tragic accident, which took sweet Hailey’s life.

And now – after traveling home to pay my respects to her family and to Stephen and his family; after seeing them utterly shattered, shocked and grief-stricken; after hugging them, and crying with them and not knowing what to say; after attending the emotional service celebrating her life and being astounded by the number of people gathered there whose lives she touched; after seeing her beautiful, peaceful face one last time – now, I’m here.  And I’m thinking and feeling and processing and taking it all in.  

And my heart is breaking for Stephen because he lost his true love.  
And my heart is rejoicing that Hailey was able to find her soul-mate in her 21 short years.
And my stomach is sick with grief for her family because no one can ever prepare for this.
And my faith is shaken.
And I’m simply dumbfounded that this could even happen.
And I’m angry because it isn’t fair.
And I can’t stop asking “Why?” 
And I’m reminded of how much I take for granted.
And I’m holding my husband tighter. 
And I’m praying harder.
And I’m thankful for today.
And I’m hopeful for tomorrow.
And I’m comforted by thoughts of Hailey as a gorgeous angel smiling down from Heaven.
And I feel privileged to have known her and grateful for her kindness to my family. 

And all I want is for God to wrap His arms tightly around the Bordeaux and Stafford families, and everyone who is hurting during this impossibly difficult time, and for Him to never let go.

Because as much as I’m feeling right now, I cannot even begin to imagine what they are going through.  They’ve lost a daughter, a sister, a one-day wife, a dear friend, and a genuinely wonderful person.  And it’s just so sad.  But, based on my experiences with her and all the stories and memories I’ve heard and read from her family and friends, her life, though cut short, was full – full of purpose, full of love, full of energy, full of happiness, and full of faith.  

And I know that faith is important at a time like this, so, through the confusion, anger, and doubt, I’m praying.  And if you happen to be reading this and are a person of faith, please send up a prayer for Hailey and her loved ones.  She was a truly beautiful soul, and she will continue to be loved and missed by many.               

(Pictures taken from Facebook.) 

An open letter from Jesus

Dear Christians,

It’s me, Jesus.  You know, the Son of God, the Savior of mankind, Emmanuel and all that.  So…We need to talk.  I know it’s rude of me to just show up out of the blue like this, but you’ve got me a little bummed out, and, frankly, I just had to speak up.

See, when I left you guys, things were going pretty well.  I mean, it wasn’t perfect, but most of you really seemed to get me and what I was all about.  We’d spend time together, just shooting the breeze.  We’d talk about the world, life, love, and, before we knew it, I was introducing you to my Dad.  We were pretty close.

Remember when we’d travel together, frequenting all the local joints, starting up conversations with the regulars?  Man, we met some interesting people.  We’d listen to their stories, and sometimes I’d throw in a parable of my own.  So many teachable moments.  Those were the days.

I really miss hanging out with you.  Lately, it seems the only time I see you is on the occasional Sunday at church.  You’ll run up to me and give me a giant hug or a high five, and we’ll sit down and have a friendly chat – you know, catch up like old pals.  But, then, if our paths cross later on in public, you act super weird – like I’m some A-list celebrity and you’re one of the privileged few allowed in my inner circle.  It’s as if any outsiders – those who haven’t met me or who just don’t find me all that interesting – simply don’t make the cut in your book.

What’s up with that?  I mean, don’t get me wrong – it means a lot that you think I’m a cool dude and all, but you know I’m all about inclusion.  I have no inner circle.  No matter your creed, gender, race, background, economic status, whatever…let’s hang out!  I can’t stand that elitist “members only” nonsense.  Have you forgotten how awesome people can be if you just take the time to get to know them?  So what if they’re different from you – that’s even better!  Different is good.

Dad wanted to remind you that, no matter how different (or wrong) you feel someone is, you all have something in common: He created you in His image, and He loves you equally.  Just as you are.  No matter what.  Like any good Dad, he doesn’t pick favorites, and neither should you.  Remember the conversation we had awhile back about loving one another?  Maybe I wasn’t clear.  I meant love everyone, not just the popular kids.  I’m not feeling the love, guys.

I hope you’re not taking this the wrong way.  I’m just asking you to open your minds a little, embrace the diversity this world has to offer.  Let yourselves be challenged.  Experience other cultures.  Listen to a different point of view.  Spend less time judging and more time loving.  I promise, if you put yourselves out there, you’ll find that most people are pretty neat.  And, you know what?  I’d bet they’d think you were pretty neat, too!

Anyway, glad I got that off my chest.  I hope we’ve all learned something here.  Just remember, when in doubt, it’s simple – do whatever I would do.  And spread the LOVE.  I’ve got faith in you, Christians.  Do me proud.

Oh, and Dad sends His love.

Peace,

Jesus

Photo courtesy of: http://www.ibelieve.com

On crying in a bathtub on my wedding day

No, trusting blogosphere, my headline was not intended as a hyperbolic ploy to lure you in and win your readership (though I can’t say the thought didn’t cross my mind…)  It’s true.  I did in fact cry.  In a bathtub.  On my wedding day.  Now I’m sure you’re cringing as images of Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride come to mind, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  No need to flood my inbox with referrals for your best friend’s cousin’s hairdresser’s marriage counselor.  And please no phone calls to my mother about your concern for her daughter’s well being.  Let me explain.

You see, this weekend I had the privilege of attending the nuptials of one of my dear, dear friends.  And, make no mistake, it was beautiful.  An exquisite, magical and overwhelmingly joyous occasion for all.  As I watched the happy couple dance the night away, gazing lovingly into one another’s eyes with that familiar “newlywed glow,” I couldn’t help but reminisce about my own wedding day.

I remember waking up in my hotel room, my sister curled up next to me in our comfy king sized bed and my bridesmaids sleeping quietly nearby.  We’d been very fortunate at check-in the day before as the front desk staff, upon discovering that the honeymoon suite was unoccupied for the night, graciously upgraded us at no extra charge.  I felt like royalty awaking to a spectacular view of the Charleston Harbor, the historic peninsula not far off in the distance.  The plans had been finalized to the very last detail.  The ceremony had been rehearsed.  There would be no more fittings or tastings or meltdowns over budget crises and last minute changes.  For the first time in months I awoke to a sense of calm.  This was it.  I could breathe.

So while the bridal party serenely indulged in a last half hour of sleep, I tiptoed into the larger-than-life bathroom and treated myself to a wedding day bubble bath.  My favorite Pandora station quietly serenading me, I rested my head on the edge of the tub, allowing the warm water to rise up to my chin.  Eyes closed, I took a series of deep breaths, and as I exhaled I felt my mind clearing, a weight lifting from my chest.  I allowed myself to be fully present in the moment – to soak up the significance of the day.

And as I banned all checklists, timelines, menus and floral arrangements from my thoughts, I found myself processing the very reason for my presence in this particular place at this particular time.  The reason for all the excitement and stress and planning (not to mention the obscene amount of money donated by my generous parents for “the cause”).  On this day, in a few short hours, I would stand in front of my soul mate, professing to him my eternal love and promising him the rest of my days, in front of God and everyone.

And that, oh blogosphere, as I lay chin-deep in fragrant bubbles, is when the tears came.  What began as a minor sniffle quickly escalated into uncontrollable sobbing.  In that moment I dismissed the strange episode as wedding jitters.  I simply needed to “get it all out” to avoid unleashing the flood during my walk down the aisle.  But looking back, I’m able to accept the tears for what they really were.

They were joy.  They were fear.  They were the nerves that often accompany the approach of a life-altering event.  They were the acceptance of an era’s end.  They were a step toward adulthood and responsibility, a step away from the safe arms of parental dependence.  They were an unwillingness to give up being “Daddy’s little girl.”  They were an irrational notion that this all may be a dream.  They were an image of my almost-husband standing at the front of the church, seeing me in my wedding dress for the very first time.  They were the simultaneous excitement and sheer terror of sharing a home with a messy stinky boy (Sorry, hubs).  They were thoughts of growing old together.  They were plans for puppies and hopes for children.  They were love.

(Cue affectionate sighs and sentimental music.)

So yes, blogosphere, I cried in a bathtub on my wedding day.  And, dare I say, it was the best cry I’ve ever had.

For you, just in case.

I had a moment today.  One of those moments where a memory invades your mind with such abruptness and intensity that you’re forced to pause and allow it to run its course.  Patiently you must wait as the past has its way with you, however inconsiderate and unexpected its visit may be.  The past is not known for its manners.

This particular memory introduced itself kindly enough, greeting me with a familiar smile.  The type of impossibly happy grin one doesn’t soon forget.  Just a face and a smile, this memory, attached to tall brown body, lean and lanky with just enough muscle to reveal athleticism.  No definite time or place in this moment, just an image.

But as my moment continued, the image became muddled, its presence fading, thus evoking a surge of emotion long suppressed.  The smile vanished, replaced by a look of something resembling fear, and then nothing.  Blank.  Once lively and welcoming, now empty, hollow.

I’m revisited by this image from time to time.  Compelled to entertain it until it grows tired of me and moves on, its weight lingering uncomfortably, like a heavy wool blanket.  The image, as you may have guessed, is of a friend.  A friend whose life, though short, was abundant and purposeful, so vibrant and significant it remains permanently and subconsciously ingrained in my soul.

Long after these moments pass, I am left burdened by an overwhelming sense of loss.  There is no feeling of regret, no longing for answers or closure, just the sting of grief accompanied by the precipitous reminder of how swiftly the ones we love can be taken from us.

Which brings me to you.  On days when moments like this one catch me off guard and knock the breath out of me, I cannot help but imagine what it would feel like to wake up in a world where, suddenly, you were no longer with me.  I don’t wish to delve into the details of how utterly and horribly sad it would be – of course it would be sad.  It would be devastating.  That said, I think the worst of it would be the missed opportunity to tell you what you mean to me, how incredibly important your existence is in this mad and chaotic world.

So often I’m reminded that you’re not simply a thing that I have found, labeled, defined and claimed as my own – something neatly packaged and one dimensional.  You are not, in fact, a thing at all.  You are a person, a unique individual.  A being with a heart that beat and a soul that thrived long before I was even a blip on your radar.  Every day I take advantage of your unwavering presence in my life.  I forget to appreciate your passion.  Your generosity.  Your love for me and for life and for cooking and traveling and nature and music and so many things that I’m probably yet to discover.

I’m taking this moment to let you know that I’m thankful for the little things that you do for no other reason than to make me happy.  I’m thankful that you never leave the house or hang up the phone without telling me you love me.  I’m thankful that you take the time to share your interests and emotions with me.  I’m thankful for all the support and advice you give me and for the times when you know I just need someone to listen.  And I’m thankful that you’ll read this post and tell me its wonderful (even if we both know it’s a bit sappy).  I am so thankful for you.

And I wanted you to know.  Because, even if this post was brought about by the memory of a tragic event from the past, you are my present and my future.  You make the tragic memories and the nightmares and the doubt and the disappointment – and all the little things that contribute to life’s obstacles – okay.  You help me find purpose and hope and constantly encourage me to keep on pushing through.  You make me better.  And I’m telling you all this not out of the fear of uncertainty, but because you deserve to be recognized just for doing a really awesome job at being you.

So this is me saying thank you and plastering my love for you across the blogosphere because, you know what, it’s about time.