52 Weeks of Adventure: Week 4 Love Rocks

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Bentley, Ciera’s doggie.

I found myself on the drive to Maryville last Monday. Maryville, TN is a quaint little town of approximately 27,000 people, a suburb of Knoxville (source). Maryville is where I first came to settle in Tennessee at age 18, choosing the town for the small, liberal arts college that resides there on the hill. Maryville, Tennessee is one of my favorite places on earth and has a special place in my heart. Not only does it have a homey feeling to it and is easy to navigate, it has some of my favorite places which includes Vienna Coffeehouse and a crossfit gym with friendly people. It’s where I learned and struggled to be an adult and where I flew from my parents nest. It’s where I made friends that have lasted a lifetime and learned that some friendships don’t always last. I learned to run in that little town and learned each running trail and knew each distance like the back of my hand. Regardless if I wanted to run 2 miles or 7 miles, I knew exactly where to go. No GPS needed. Maryville is the source of so much joy, heartache, tears, and redemption for me. Maryville is also where Ciera lived with her parents. It is the place where Ciera and I found an anchor in our friendship and the place I prayed for her to come back to. Maryville has intense and deep-rooted significance for me.

DSCN0396For those of you who may not know, Ciera is my best friend who passed away October 26, 2015. If you want to read about the legacy she left when she passed, click here. 

I finally pulled up to Ciera’s parents, Mr. Mike and Mrs. Sherri’s house later on Monday night than I had planned. I hopped out the car and rushed to the front door, eager to begin our adventure. Excitement radiated through me as Mrs Sherri and Bentley, the overexcited young boxer, answered the door. They had all been kind enough to not only let me be a part of this activity we were doing, but also invite me to their house and cook dinner for me. Mr Mike and Mrs Sherri have the most beautiful hearts I’ve ever met. They open their doors and open their hands and open their hearts and say “thank you” even when you’re the one imposing. They invite you to intimate activities such as making Love Rocks for Ciera in her memory… which is what we planned to do that night. Mr Mike and Mrs Sherri have kept Ciera’s memory and legacy alive through their openhanded generosity to me and others. Every time I get a taste of their kindness, I think of her and when I get a moment to dwell on it, it overwhelms me.

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Mr Mike made the most delicious Salmon.

For those of you who don’t know what Love Rocks are, I really want to encourage you to go read their story and find them on Facebook.  Love Rocks is a foundation and a community of people created by one mama and daddy in Oregon who lost their two daughters named Anna and Abby in an unthinkable tragedy. The two girls were playing in front of their house in some leaves one fall morning and a motor vehicle did not see them and hit them on October 20, 2013. In honor of their Creator and the lives of their sweet girls, they chose to spread love and joy by creating Love Rocks in April of 2014. They began by cutting fabric in the shapes of hearts and using Mod Podge to glue them on rocks- creating love rocks. Love Rocks aren’t meant to be kept, but meant to be shared just as love and joy are. They have been left at doctor’s offices, hospitals, on hiking trails, near the Eiffel Tower.. and so many more places. You can read more about them on the website.

DSCN0392After learning about these, Mrs Sherri and Mr Mike decided to make some Love Rocks- in honor and memory of Ciera, so we can leave them in different places wherever  we go so that whoever needs love and joy will find the Love Rocks and get that courage they need…

The adventure this week wasn’t that I spent time in Maryville. The adventure was that Mrs Sherri and Mr Mike opened their home and hearts up to me and allowed me to be a part of something so special that I will forever cherish in my heart. We made several Love Rocks in Ciera’s honor and maybe one day i’ll get the courage and strength it takes open my hand in thankfulness and let them go…

Thank you Mr. Mike and Mrs. Sherri for this past Monday. Thank you for letting me take pictures and share this with others…Thank you for continuing to… be like C and leave a legacy!

All photographs belong to me and were taken with my L820 Nikon coolpix camera. I didn’t receive any compensation for advertisement for this post. This is just what my adventure was this week. Please feel free to make your own adventures and share them with me. Also, feel free to make your own love rocks- if you do i’d love to hear about it.

 

 

Emmanuel- He’s Present in Heartache

I lay awake in my bed, my mind full. Question after question. Tears fell, fears filled and I wondered. I started my prayers to Him:

My 23 year old best friend was buried. October 31, 2015. I think that warrants some questions. 

My voice wavered and tear after tear came. Earlier that day I made the mistake of picking up the journal I have used over the last 2 years and reading through it- Prayer by prayer. Line by line. All the prayers I prayed for her. I felt like with each new line with each new word my heart cracked.

Lord, Breathe Your life giving breath into her that You breathed to Eve.

Protect her heart, her lungs, her kidneys, her liver. Let your spirit flow through her body and become a shield of protection around her.

Become Emmanuel to Ciera today- Not the noun, but the verb! Lord, Emmanuel!

Emmanuel! Be with her! Be present! Be active! Let us Know you’re here!

Lord i’m on my face today, We need you.

Lord, help us, help her. help. help.

Page by page covered with prayers. With tear stains.

The journal ends with her date of death.

October 26, 2015 6:02 pm, Ciera ran into the arms of Jesus. 

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This is Ciera and me after our first 8k in November!

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And with the start of a new journal, new prayers have surfaced. Prayers turned to questions.. questions turned to heart ache.

Do You hear me? Are You even there? Do You care? Are You listening? Where are You? 

Question after question. Tear after tear. I clutch my pillow and watch the burning candle above my bed frame.

Right now we are in a season of Advent- a season of actively waiting. Waiting in worship, waiting in longing, waiting in the mess of life for Him to come back and Emmanuel- and take us home with Him and make all things new…

And in the midst of this waiting, In the midst of my questions that sound more like accusations to outsiders, but in my heart they aren’t accusatory- instead they’re filled with anguish and heartbreak and restlessness.

If I pray do You hear me? Do You really pay attention? Are You there when I need You? Are You present? Can I trust You? You took her Home and I don’t understand. My constant prayer throughout the last 2 years in that journal has been for Your name to be glorified. Was it? I don’t see it. Where is Your glory? Is it present- even in the midst of such raw grief and heartache? Help me see it. Help me know.

It’s moments like these when the story of Lazarus resonates with me. I deeply identify with Mary as she runs up to Jesus in John 11:32 and says “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died!” I feel the urgency and the pressure in her voice. My heart breaks with her and I turn to Jesus and echo her heartache.

And as I echo her heartache I hear His response. Still. Small. Whisper. You have to really listen and I hear Him saying.

I know. I know. I’ve been there. I hurt. I’ve lost. I see. I hear. Hang onto Me. Keep on praying. You have been given the marvelous gift of intercessory prayer… keep on. Don’t give up. It feels like I didn’t get glory but I did. I have. I am, my child…I AM.

I hear him echo out His heartache. I hear His encouragement. I hold onto it by my fingernails. Sometimes I hold on not truly believing but truly wanting to. I hear Him tell me that He knows. He has lost- He’s been broken. He’s suffered. I think of the cross. I hear Him weeping with me through the dark nights and singing over me in the early mornings. I feel like a child in His lap with heart break in my hands… “Abba, help!”

He’s here. Even if I can’t see Him. Even when I don’t understand. He is Emmanuel. He waits and wades through our questions and is there on the other side. He’s patient. He knows. He’s here. Always.

So my question and plea is the same as last year- Emmanuel, Lord! Emmanuel! Be with us! Come with Us! Be Active in our grief! Be active in being with us and giving Glory to Yourself. Help us see You and worship You… and be our comfort.

Emmanuel, Lord! Emmanuel!

 

 

A Tribute: Beauty, Thankfulness, and Open hands

For those of you who have been following my blog and have followed my friend Ciera’s journey through my blog… this is a painful post to write.

This is Ciera and me after our first 8k in November!

This is Ciera and me after our first 8k together, Thanksgiving Day 2013.

If you are curious about Ciera’s journey, you can read about our friendship… here, here, here, here, here, here, here.. and many,  many more posts…

On October 26, 2015 at 6:02 pm, Ciera went Home to be with the Lord.

The mere sentence steals my breath and makes my heart squeeze. I’ve only written it, or said it out loud a handful of times. It’s too painful. Ciera won her battle with cancer. She won an amazing life in the arms of Jesus…

And that knowledge doesn’t stop my breath from catching every time I think of her. Or when people ask me how I am. Sometimes I am just able to stare at them with wide eyes. I don’t know how I am today.

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From outside of myself looking in, I think this is interesting because I normally express my feelings outwards to everyone, but this feels too close and too sacred to share at times. Sometimes I think that grief is holy. Other times, I feel too fragile. It feels too fresh. She feels too young… But I know He has allotted all of our days before our first breath and no one is too young to fly into His arms… If you want to read about how I’m feeling right now, Jill Buteyn describes it perfectly in this blog.  She says what I cannot say.

Ciera’s family asked that I would speak her funeral. For days and nights…for  hours I wrestled and prayed that He would speak for me and that those that attend would see Jesus. My prayer was that God would be glorified so much so that people who did not know Him would come to know Him. Not because of my words or because of her life, but because of His presence. Several have asked me to share what they called “my tribute” on facebook, but I felt my blog was a more appropriate place for my speech.

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My speech is below:

Some of you may think i’m up here to talk about the friendship I had with Ciera, but I’m not. I’m here to tell you about what God has taught me through our friendship, so you might know Him through her death, like I came to know Him more through her life. 

Ciera’s beauty is too much to encapsulate. I’ve struggled for words, because to tell you she was beautiful isn’t enough. Her beauty radiated. Not just through her attitude and smile, but through her spirit.

Her spirit of beauty taught me so much. I hope you are paying attention so you can learn too. She taught me that beauty starts in the heart and almost always starts with the words “thank you”. Ciera said “Thank you” different than any person i’ve met. How she treated me said “thank you”, her smile said “thank you”. When she had no strength to visit, she found ways to say “thank you”.  It astounds me. She taught me that the character of God starts with thankfulness. That’s something i’ll never forget.

Ciera taught me what it means to love and laugh and embrace adventure. Whether that means we were snowboarding on the side of a mountain with a terrified me yelling at her to leave me- or we were bravely walking into a new small group at church. Her sense of courage and adventure taught me that it’s okay to love and laugh and see life lightly. She taught me to enjoy my time here and quit taking things so seriously.

Watching Ciera talk to and bond with children is another kind of beauty she possessed that always left me jealous. The way Ciera could talk to any kid and get them to open up about their adventures made me see the true spirit of care in her. She was never afraid to step into their space and expand it. She would make best friends out of strangers wherever we went- the beach, the hospital, the coffee house.

Ciera’s spirit of beauty taught me how to see people- really see them. See into them and step into their lives and do life with them, because i’ve learned if you’re not making a point to do life with people, you aren’t truly living.

Ciera taught me the art of openhanded living. To always keep my hands open regardless of who’s around and how much I want them to stay. Because I can’t give and receive with closed tight fists! Open handedness led me to Ciera and allowed us to receive such a beautiful friendship. Open handedness allowed us to give and receive what God offered us through our friendship. Open handedness allowed me to let the Lord work in us and through us.

So because of Ciera’s beauty and friendship, I am changed. I’ll never be the same again. Her relationship with Christ and the strength she got from Him is a testimony to me. The way she’s lived out her many “thank you’s” and the way she chose to see people and do life with them has changed me.

I hope her beauty changes you too. I hope you walk out of here giving glory to God that you will never the be same because of the way she lived.

Ciera, I will forever miss you and love you. Every time I say “thank you”, you flash through my mind. My prayer is God gets HIs glory through your life. Go run on streets of gold, my friend. I love you.

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