Gift of Hope

I didn’t think I would make it through Alec’s birthday weekend.  Alec had informed us sometime during the fall or winter of 2016 that he wanted to have his next birthday (May 21st, 2017) at the trampoline park in Kennewick.  Only Alec would have announced his birthday plans months in advance. 🙂  Wanting to honor him, I kept thinking about having a birthday party in his memory at the trampoline park.  I thought about it every day for at least a couple of months leading up May 21st.  And I kept thinking about it.  My brother David sweetly sent me a text asking me what plans we had for Alec’s birthday weekend.  I shared the idea of the trampoline park.  But grief held me in its paralyzing clutch, so much so that I found myself incapable of moving forward with actually making any plan.

Saturday morning, May 20th, I read a text message that my friend Jess had sent the day prior.  She had typed out a verse, Romans 15:13:  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  With hope being a theme that the Lord has been affirming over and over and over again in my life since the day Jesus took the boys safely home, I pondered the words in my heart and texted her back that I considered the verse a gift.  But the gifting wasn’t over.

Saturday afternoon, May 20th, I joined my parents and my aunt at Calloway Gardens – the care facility for Alzheimer’s patients in which my mom now resides.   She attends a Saturday afternoon church service that I had never been to before.  So at 3:00, in walks a tall, lanky pastor with a commanding presence who proceeds to sing in a booming voice, “My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.”  I choked up.  It was a kids’ song that Alec had once sung.  Not only that, but Alec had also mastered the hand motions and displays of great big muscles that go along with it!

Immediately after the song, the pastor announced in a slow, clear, and deliberate voice, “Ladies and gentlemen, today I’m going to talk to you about…hope.”  My heart began to beat ten times more quickly.  Hope – the theme God keeps affirming for me.  The pastor proceeded to read a verse from the Bible:  Romans 15:13. 

I do not consider that to be a coincidence.  It was, to me, a gift – a gift of hope from the Lord, a gift that God so graciously gave me on Alec’s birthday weekend.

That evening, I stopped at Fred Meyer to run an errand.  My husband, Arturo, and son, Andy, were driving to Kennewick from Quincy, so I was by myself.  I experienced a moment of despair, thinking that I should be looking for or picking out a gift for Alec.  But the Lord planted a thought in my mind and heart.

Look for a gift for Andy.

So I did.  I poured my energy and thought into my son, the one who continues to walk this earth.  It was enough to lift me out of that moment of despair.

I lovingly tease Andy that for the rest of his life (or mine), I will never just give him one kiss – he will always get three.  One for him, and one for each of his brothers.  To that end, he will probably continue to also get gifts on their birthdays.  🙂

The next day, May 21st, I showed up at the trampoline park along with Arturo, Andy, my nephew Saul, my mom and dad, my Aunt Margie, brother David & sister-in-law Hannah, nephews Zachary & Declan, and niece Imani.  I took an Indianapolis Colts-themed cake that I had managed to order at Albertsons the day before with my aunt standing by my side holding me up.  I hadn’t reserved a party room in advance because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  But one was available, so we took it on the spot.  I also brought the gift for Andy selected in honor and remembrance of Alec.  And the special gift of hope from the Lord, I carried in my heart on that difficult day.

He prepared me

I think God started to prepare my heart to face this tragedy before it happened.

There was no spooky foretelling, no dreams that made me shiver, no premonitions, nothing showy or grandiose.  I never had a strange feeling that led me to fear something horrific was going to happen in my future.  It’s more like this:  Before it happened, I think He started to graciously give me glimpses of what I would need to hold on to after everything unraveled.

I’ve always been a fan of the Christian singer Rich Mullins, and last year I began to experience a renewed interest in the testimony of his life and love for Jesus, even downloading a book written of his ministry:  An Arrow Pointing to Heaven.  His music has blessed me deeply.  In fact I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news of Mr. Mullins’s tragic passing in 1997 (also, like the event that sent my boys to Jesus, due to a car accident).  I cried when I heard about it.  It seemed odd to me that I would shed tears over the passing of someone I didn’t know personally.  Yet the news left me stunned.

Last spring, summer, and fall during my almost-daily walks around my neighborhood, I would listen to his songs on my iPhone playlist through my earbuds.  “Calling Out Your Name” was, and continues to be, a favorite.

I’m really not sure how this began.  But last year on my walks, I would play that song over and over and all of a sudden find myself

imagining that I was ice skating.  In heaven

I loved to dance growing up.  Loved to twirl, pirouette, float around the room or on a stage and feel grace flowing through my arms, hands, legs, and feet.  I’ve always loved to watch the Olympic ice skaters and have often thought how amazing it would have been to train to skate.

So last summer, while these thoughts of ice skating in heaven played out in my imagination, an even more specific thought came to me:  When I get to heaven, I want to learn to dance on ice.

Never before have I pondered something I want to learn to do in heaven.  But that thought came to me, so specifically, and in precisely the year that Alec and Adam departed for the home I know only from the promises of scripture and my runaway imagination.

I have been reflecting on last year’s walks, on the mental images of ice dancing that quite suddenly began to grace my thoughts as time wound down…as time propelled me forward into the last months, weeks, days, and minutes of everything moving like it was supposed to be.

And now that the world as I knew it is gone, I hold on to those thoughts.  I hold on to the glimpse of heaven that I think God planted in my imagination.  Dancing gracefully on heaven’s never-ending arena of ice to the glorious music of Rich Mullins.  Now, with Alec and Adam playing the hammered dulcimer alongside.