Sunday, February 3, 2008

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Late Night Heartache

It's a little after midnight as I sit down to pour my thoughts out on this keyboard. The need to write usually hits me at times like this...when the rest of the world is resting. As you may have noticed, I have not shared much in this blog over the past few months. Sometimes life is saying so much to me that I find myself having little to say in return.

As a writer, you want to be able to convey your thoughts and emotions in a way that echoes the reality of the human a way that any and everyone who might read it can identify. The problem with that preconception is that there are invariably times in life that do not easily lend themselves to community expression. Whether it is the bliss of a lifelong love found or the misery of the most profound loss (both I have felt in the last 8 months), sometimes life defies encapsulation, denies articulation. Sometimes life is to be kept, not shared.

This time is different. This time I feel I have something to add to the fabric of us. Some thread of my own unique experience...thank you for taking the time to share in it.

On Thursday, Kelley and I received the devastating news that we had miscarried our first child together. I am tearing up as I type this because my heart aches so badly at the reality of life lost and life moving on. I have had friends who have had to journey through the path that I now find myself on...I had no idea of their heartache and to be honest, I wish severely I was still ignorant in that regard.

We discovered that Kelley was bleeding early that morning, which was the first indication that something was terribly wrong. My sweet wife has miscarried on 3 other occasions with her first husband Edward. I could see in her consternation that she new exactly what was happening. I could only move hurriedly through the house trying to contact her physician to have her examined immediately. I cannot express the frustration of trying to navigate an automated call dispatch while tripping over my own feet, trying to focus through tears and my sweet babe's mournful wails.

Kelley and I found ourselves sitting in a horribly normal lobby 30 minutes later...hoping against all hope that the bleeding was a result of something else. It was surreal listening to the laughter and conversation of patients and receptionists all the while watching my wife stare blankly ahead at a script that she had painfully lived 3 times before. As a man, you would like to be able to fix the situation, save the day, repair the broken...instead, I was relegated to running my fingers through her hair and placing the occasional, inadequate kiss to her temples. Finally, we heard the nurse call Kelley's name.

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity in the nurse's station, we were led into an ultrasound room where Kelley and I waited for the physician to attend to us. We talked very little and tried to brace ourselves for what we might find. The doc came in and introduced himself to us. What a horrible way to make an acquaintance.

He then examined Kelley with the ultrasound and we both waited anxiously for any sign of anything. As I stood beside Kelley holding her hand, I prayed, shouting to God for any sort of movement...any flicker that could be the beating of a tiny heart. We waited for a couple of minutes as the doctor examined. I don't remember breathing during the entire exam as if holding my breath would somehow change the end result. It didn't.

The tiny 8-week old baby came into focus. There was no flicker of a heartbeat. There was no movement. The womb seemed sadly dark and even cold as we watched. The doctor shared with us that our child was gone. Words fail here to describe what I felt at this point. I cannot even begin to fathom the pain and torment that washed over my wife's heart. I can only tell you with every fiber of my being that, despite what some would have you believe, a fetus is indeed a child...and losing one brings about a collapse that can only be described as excruciating.

At that moment, I felt I had to make sure to attend to my wife. I love her so deeply that I want to console and repair and restore her...but all I could do was hold her head and shoulders as they shook with sobbing. I felt I needed to be strong at that point to care for her. Strength is a lie. Strength is smoke and mirrors. Strength is, at times, a weakness in moments like this. I wish I had been weaker with her instead of "strong" for her.

We have cried a lot in that last few days. Kelley feels a depth of dysfunction with her body that is causing a great deal of distress. It kills me to watch her try and cope with feeling betrayed by her own body. I hate that she suffers the pangs of pregnancy without the hope its future promise, as she stills has morning sickness. The sickness used to comfort her, as it seemed to indicate a healthy progress. Now it just serves as a bitter reminder. I love my wife so exquisitely. She is strong and courageous in ways that I can only aspire to be someday. I wish I could be more for her right now. I know that there is only so much that a man can do, but that doesn't have much medicinal value for my heart right now.

I am deeply sad. I am sad for my beautiful wife who was made to love children so completely. I am sad for Aidan and Kya who were already practicing eagerly to be the big brother and sister. I am sad for me. But mostly, I am sad because the life that we were used by God to create is no longer with us. There is a subtle irony that my father and Kelley's late husband will know this life in eternity before we could even determine its sex here on earth. I'm sure it is beautiful in God's presence, already reveling in the glory of perfection in a way that I must wait to experience. Thank God for hope.

Last night I leaned down to Kelley's belly and kissed it. I had been talking to it over the last few weeks and just wanted a chance to say goodbye in a way that I never got to with my Dad. I said, "Bye baby...I love you." Kelley and I cried a little and I am sure that we have many more tears to shed ahead of us. For those of you that know our story, it seems that we have walked hand-in-hand through some very painful terrain. God is still writing His story in us and I am finding that faith is more important than seeking answers. Maybe it is the answer in and of itself.

I love my wife. She is my heart and I know that one day Jesus will bless us with a child. If not, we already have 2 of the most beautiful miracles anyone could hope for. I cannot escape the words of the Psalmist:

"1 O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. 5 You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

Psalm 139:1-16

Goodbye sweet baby.
Know that Daddy loves you.
You're home now.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Well...the curves just keep coming!!! Most of you know that I Kelley and I were wed on December 7th...well, life just keeps on happening and we just returned from Kelley's OBGYN yesterday and found out that we are expecting a BABY!!! Seriously! Kelley and I discussed waiting a year until trying to have a kid, but we found out yesterday that the due date is somewhere around September 7th!!! That's 9 months to the day of our wedding for those of you math majors out there!!! How is that for waiting?

I am so excited to welcome this child into our already amazing family...please keep us in your prayers as we continue to discover God's plan for our lives! He is rocking our faces off in the best way possible!

God amazes me with the newness of life that He has breathed into me and the depth of living that He has planted into me! In 8 months I have:

1. Met and married Kelley (via eHarmony no less!)
2. Become a father...3 times over (AWESOME)
3. Lost my own father and found myself
4. Gained a mortgage
5. Purchased a mini-van
6. Left vocational ministry
7. Moved to Michigan

There are so many other instances of change in my own life...and I am embracing it fully! I feel so fortunate to have the blessing of God so severely present in and around me. As I continue to discover my identity in Him, I lose the identity that I had bought into that confined me into a role that I determined...God has different plans and I cannot wait to share more of what He is doing.

It is freeing to come under His shelter when so much change happens so suddenly...I don't always trust myself in the midst...but I am learning to trust him...boldly!

So there you have it!!! Baby G is on the way and I can't wait to tell you all about it!


Monday, October 22, 2007

Everything I Own...

Everything I Own - Bread

You sheltered me from harm
Kept me warm, kept me warm
You gave my life to me
Set me free, set me free
The finest years I ever knew
Were all the years I had with you

I would give anything I own
Give up my life, my heart, my home
I would give ev'rything I own
Just to have you back again

You taught me how to love
What it's of, what it's of
You never said too much
But still you showed the way
And I knew from watching you
Nobody else could ever know
The part of me that can't let go

(Repeat chorus)

Is there someone you know
You're loving them so
But taking them all for granted?
You may lose them one day
Someone takes them away
And they don't hear
The words you long to say

(Repeat chorus)

Just to touch you once again

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

One Word...Leave.

In leaving my home here in Annapolis, I have recieved encouragement and comfort from a great many people. There have been so many that have spoke words of confirmation and exhortation. I am reminded of the words of one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller. He wrote the following passage in the preface to his book, Through Painted Deserts. He comments on the nature of leaving as a means of arrival. I relate to this intensely as I leave my current life in order to become the husband and father I was created to be.I hope this gives you comfort to leave something behind in order to arrive at who you are becoming.

"I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.

Only the good stories have the characters different at the end than they were at the beginning. And the closest thing I can liken life to is a book, the way it stretches out on paper, page after page, as if to trick the mind into thinking it isn't all happening at once.

Time has pressed you and me into a book, too, this tiny chapter we share together, this vapor of a scene, pulling our seconds into minutes and minutes into hours. Everything we were is no more, and what we will become, will become what was. This is from where story stems, the stuff of its construction lying at our feet like cut strips of philosophy. I sometimes look into the endless heavens, the cosmos of which we can't find the edge, and ask God what it means. Did You really do all of this to dazzle us? Do You really keep it shifting, rolling round the pinions to stave off boredom? God forbid Your glory would be our distraction. And God forbid we would ignore Your glory.

HERE IS SOMETHING I FOUND TO BE TRUE: YOU DON'T start processing death until you turn thirty. I live in visions, for instance, and they are cast out some fifty years, and just now, just last year I realized my visions were cast too far, they were out beyond my life span. It frightened me to think of it, that I passed up an early marriage or children to write these silly books, that I bought the lie that the academic life had to be separate from relational experience, as though God only wanted us to learn cognitive ideas, as if the heart of a man were only created to resonate with movies. No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath:

I'll tell you how the sun rose
A ribbon at a time...

It's a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings, cast with a billion beautiful characters, and it is almost over for you. It doesn't matter how old you are; it is coming to a close quickly, and soon the credits will roll and all your friends will fold out of your funeral and drive back to their homes in cold and still and silence. And they will make a fire and pour some wine and think about how you once were . . . and feel a kind of sickness at the idea you never again will be.

So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself slowly toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification.

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:


Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn't it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don't worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed."

Thanks are speaking my language.

- R

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Creating Kelley

As you may have heard, earlier this summer I met a woman named Kelley. Kelley is the most beautiful, charming and inspiring person I have ever met. She has come into my life as a gift from a God who always finds new ways to bless and amaze and essentially, show-off. I find myself way outside of my league with her and I now know beyond any doubt that Kelley and I were created to be man and wife. We were handcrafted for one another to walk side-by-side. She complements my every need and supplies the love and beauty that I have longed for most of m 29 years. Kelley is more than my dream. In fact, I could have never created her. I tried.

Ever since I was 16, I wrote a letter to my future wife on Valentines Day. That is 13 letters in 13 years for those of you who are keeping score. Initially I would just write trite things to her like what I thought her hair color would be or what her name was and how it looked with my last name. Over the years, I started to write my hopes for her…what I hoped she was doing…who I hoped she was. In the past few years, I have written about why she was worth waiting for. I told her that I had never given myself away…I had never kissed another woman intimately…I had never uttered the words, I love you, to another. 13 years. 13 letters. And then this year, a month before meeting Kelley I did something else. I threw them away. All 13 letters.

I stood over a Rubbermaid trashcan and realized that I was tired of waiting for her. I had spent the previous year in Maryland coming to terms with what seemed like my own perpetual bachelorhood, giving it much thought and much angst in the process. I decided that she wasn’t even out there and I just resigned myself to being married to the ministry. I left my predilections of my non-existent wife in that trashcan amongst the old pizza and soda cans that seemed to define the life that I was married to.

And then I met Kelley.

I realize now that I needed to divorce myself from my mental and emotional construct of my wife in order to be prepared for actually meeting her. I had tried to assume God's role of creating her and nurturing her and shaping her and in the process, I removed the joy of actually discovering her. Basically, I could have never created Kelley…God knows this and saved me for a time in my life when I surrendered the desire to. I have spent most of my life trying to create God’s Will for my life. Right down to the woman that God had for me since the foundations of the world were laid. I would rather presume to know what God has in store for me than assume that He is in charge and a far greater judge of what my life needs…and who for that matter.

I had created someone with a simple life that allowed me to join simply. I created someone with little life experience that could learn from my experience…offering little to teach me in return. I created someone who was beautiful, but not captivating. Inventing someone who had intelligence without independence. In short, I created someone who was never there. Someone that I thought I wanted, but no one that I really needed. Meanwhile, God created Kelley.

Kelley’s life is anything but simple. She is brave enough to have loved a person literally to death and even braver for choosing to continue to live a life of love in the wake of unspeakable loss. She is a mother to two brilliantly beautiful children. Two children who have walked in the path carefully navigated by her…through the most heart-wrenching episodes that life could deal. She is stunningly beautiful. I don’t know that I will ever understand how someone so completely, stunningly captivating could ever grows to love me with such abandon. But God’s design usually mocks our understanding and challenges our assumed value.

Kelley is so giving as to be self-less. She has taught me more in the 3½ months that I have known her than almost anyone else has in a lifetime of relationships. I find myself learning from her strength, from her vulnerability, from her heartache, from her trust, from her resolve, from her love…a love that truly seeks to give itself away. I discovered someone who can do life without me, but chooses me to come along side her and her children. You cannot imagine how humbling it is to know that in her independence she finds her yearning for partnership.

I had created a young debutant with the easy life and carefree situation. God created a 30 year-old mother of two that has the most life, most love, most Jesus of any person I could have hoped to meet. I had my thoughts…God had his perfect plan. I had my letters…God had His story that he has been weaving from the beginning. I hope to allow Him to write my letter to her as beautifully as God has written hers to me.

Jesus, thank for creating Kelley, disregarding my input...and loving me extravagantly.

- R

Monday, September 24, 2007

Last week I was over at a friends house having a cigar and a scotch (and no, I do not condone either) with he and his father. We had a great time just talking about God, life, love and we told a few funny stories. I was reminded again why people are the church. I wanted to stay out there all night, just chatting, encouraging, discussing and laughing. I think that church(community) can be like that. It can engage us in such a way that we want to spend all night enjoying the stories and experiences and thoughts of God and His Kids. We limit ourselves to such a vanilla interpretation of church that we miss out on all of the flavor and variety of what it means to engage a completely vast and limitless God. While most institutional church congregations may be dwindling in attendance or relevance, The Invisible Church is thriving in the coffeeshops, bars and backporches of people that desperately want to be more like Jesus. It is thriving where we connect with one another and engage each other's lives.

I have very few people that I engage with at a level of vulneralbility that allows for this communion. Those that I do entrust my heart to know my inner person and have chosen to accept that person with all that comes with him. What if the institutional church was like that? What if people could see a safe harbor in their time of dispair? What if we greeted the world with a towel and basin instead of a pointed finger and a Bible tract? What if people who followed Jesus cared more about the homeless, the widow, the outcast and the reject more than whether or not I had a cigar and a glass of scotch? What if the church is more about what happens out here than in there? What if...

- R