We arrived home yesterday. We spent eight days with two different families, seven days with my parents and six days of traveling. Our new little car (Hidey Ho) does well in the bitter cold, snow and ice! We spent 2830 miles in Hidey Ho on this trip. If we ever travel that far again, I hope we are not so packed in as we were this time. My husband could barely see out the back window. We laid the back seats down and piled things up on either side! Needless to say we plan on staying home for awhile.
I thought of Amy every single day, but only a few times really cried.
As we were leaving, driving out of our driveway, I felt like I was abandoning Amy.... as if by staying here, I could somehow share Christmas with her, because her grave is so nearby. I also felt like I couldn't leave her here in the snow and cold. I had to keep telling myself that she isn't really here. Just her body is here and she is celebrating with Jesus. As I was excited about our trip and seeing my parents and friends after such a long time, it was not a feeling that I imagined I would have. I never know when grief will hit me with something new.
Our first Sunday, the Sunday before Christmas, we worshiped with some good friends at their church. It has contemporary worship which I enjoy so much. As we were singing a song, I glanced over at the Pastor, who was sitting in the first row of chairs. He had his hands outstretch with his palms up and I so envied his freedom to be able to worship like that. Having grown up in a Baptist church, where hardly an amen was whispered, and then living my married life in a fundamental Bible church, open worship doesn't come easy to me. I slowly unclasped my hands and just opened my palms at my side to the heavens and then I realized, MY HANDS ARE EMPTY.
I always held Amy's hand. I always sat to her right and held her right hand. This was the hand that she liked to chew on. (One of the symptoms of Rett Syndrome) So whenever we were somewhere, I would hold her hand. Now my hands are empty. Tears dropped silently as we continued singing and I felt empty. Very empty.
On the 24th I continued to read my devotional book that I was using for advent, The Greatest Gift, Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas, by Ann Voskamp. She writes. "Tonight there are only those who tramp to the manger with nothing; there are only the manger tramps. We who tramp in with all our poverty of spirit.....so there can be an abundance of God. What can all the manger tramps do but wrap the vulnerable God in strips of our bare, broken hearts so He can lodge in the intimacy of us?
The greatest Gift laid into our empty hands....
Grace is weightless."
It was like this was written just for me. I do not have empty hands, they are full of Jesus. I need to remember this....my hands are not empty. Jesus is with me every moment.
When we were visiting my parents, I spent some time walking around outside. Even though my parents are 83, they still live on the farm that I grew up on. They have lived there for almost 60 years. As I was walking from the mail box to my dad's wood shop, I remembered how it used to be. The apple orchard, the grain bins, the corn crib and other buildings are all gone. Only the old hog house, that housed hundreds of chicks when I was young, is now my dad's shop. The old barn is still there and the machine shed. They now house other farmers' machinery stored there for the winter. The trees are now so old and most of them are gone. A big windstorm went through a few years ago and took a whole grove of cottonwood trees down.
I remember everything being so much bigger. The farm seemed endless, back when I was young. I realized that this wasn't my home anymore. I have lived twice as long with my husband as I had with my parents. Where have all the years gone? Then I realized that even where I live with my husband is not my home. This whole world is not my home anymore. I have an eternal home in heaven with Amy, my older sister, Erin, my grandparents, and mother and father-in-law. All those who have gone before and those who will live there someday. That will be my home.
These past nine months will seem but a speck in the time of eternity.
There were tears on Christmas day, listening to my father read the passage from Luke 2. There were tears when we opened presents that reminded us of Amy. And there were tears five days later as we clasped hands in prayer and prayed, just the four of us, before we left. My 83 year old parents, my husband and I and we each prayed for the time left on this earth to be precious.
We journeyed on and visited some friends we have known since I was a teenager. Special times together, visiting with their children, holding grandchildren, reminiscing over times gone by, talking about Amy and more tears.
But joy, knowing that even though there are more than 1000 miles between us, we will all be together someday. We will see Amy as God sees her now. Happy, talking, walking, running, singing, free of pain and the confines of her earthly body.
JOY...... I feel it now and I feel content.