Kiss Your Miracle

motherhood after infertility

Tribute January 14, 2010

Filed under: Faith,Friendship — Linnea @ 9:08 am

On Monday afternoon, my cell phone rang. The caller ID said “Jilly” so I immediately answered it. But it wasn’t Jill. It was her husband James, and I could tell right away from the tone of his voice that he didn’t have good news. A minute later the words “Jill passed away last night” were pressing their way into my brain against my will.

Jill battled cancer for several years and had recently begun hospice care, but that doesn’t make saying goodbye to her any easier. She is leaving behind her husband and toddler son, her parents and sisters and their families, and countless friends. Even though we know the truth – that Jill is with Jesus in heaven, fully healed of her pain – it’s still sad to think we won’t get to make any more memories with her on earth.

All of us who knew Jill would probably agree that there is no one else like her. She loved God in a radical way that drew people to her. I met her in 1999 when I first went out to the Youth With a Mission (YWAM) base in Kona, Hawaii. She was my small group leader. I’d just graduated from a private Christian university and my life at that point was a confused mess of regret. I’d convinced myself during college that most Christians were hypocritical and judgmental, but I also knew that God was real. I hated that I felt so far from Him, but didn’t know how to find my way back. Then I got to know Jill, who loved God without a touch of cynicism. The way she talked about Him shocked me. Her faith was not about doing the right thing. She was motivated by an intimate, genuine love for Jesus, and that translated into a joyful life regardless of her circumstances. She helped me articulate the problems I had with God and work through them. She was in the water with me the day I was baptized in the Pacific Ocean, and I knew at that moment we’d be friends for life.

I know I can speak for many people when I say that our grief right now is overwhelming. At the same time, I don’t want all my attention to be on Jill’s death – not when she lived so fully for God each day. Thinking through my favorite Jill memories has been therapeutic for me this week, and I have to share some of them with you:

~ spilling my guts to her about all the stupid stuff I’d done, and the way she just sat there and listened for the longest time, and then prayed for me.

~ how excited she was for me when I joined the YWAM staff six months later.

~ watching her drive a stick-shift van on the left side of the road during rush hour in Auckland, New Zealand with no stress whatsoever.

~ making pancakes for breakfast on our “illegal” hot plate in Building 4.

~ our staff worship and prayer times together.

~ hanging out at the Kona Denny’s with Jess and Ad, hearing Jill explain that she wanted us to be her Assistant School Leaders (ASLs!) for the school she was about to lead.

~ sitting in a church in Thailand, listening to Jill tell the girls on my outreach team, “It’s good for you to go a long time without washing your hair. The grease is like conditioner.”

~ watching her completely flip out over James when they first got together. When he called to tell her he was coming to visit her in Kona, she actually leaped across the room and head-butted my leg.

~ her entire wedding week – getting to know her family (who treated me like another daughter from the day I met them), running around Missoula, and the way she had the reception set up outside even though the weatherman predicted thunderstorms. “I asked Jesus for clear skies,” she explained, and that’s exactly what she got. We all watched her dance to “butt-rock” that night beneath an orange sunset with the love of her life.

~ all the weekends Adam and I spent hanging out with her and James during our SBS in Montana, how we ate cereal from massive serving bowls, and the way she just smiled when I told her Adam and I would never be more than friends, and then smiled some more a few weeks later when I told her Adam and I were crazy in love with each other.

~ that she made my hair look incredible for my wedding, and liked her bridesmaid’s dress so much she actually wore it again.

~ how she and James couldn’t wait to move to Thailand to be missionaries.

~ walking around Miami with her when she had no hair from chemo, and the way she didn’t wear a wig. “I don’t really care if people stare at me,” she said.

~ the way we had one conversation about the things we didn’t like in the whole “Prayer of Jabez” phenomenon, and afterward sent a “Prayer of Jabez” coin back and forth to each other hidden inside birthday and Christmas gifts for years without ever talking about it.

~ when she and her friend Carla came to Ocala to see me at the end of my first pregnancy. I was overdue and miserable, but she made me laugh anyway, of course. We went out for Thai food and Jill had a full conversation in Thai with our server.

~ talking with her about our miracle babies.

~ sitting on the lawn outside her house this past summer, studying all the flowers in her garden that she was so proud of while William played nearby.

~ how she never waivered in her faith. During one of my last conversations with her, she said she’d never felt more strongly that God loved her.

I cried for a long time after I heard the news on Monday. Later that night after Sky was asleep, I was lying on the bed curled up next to Adam. My mega-sized belly was resting against his side and the baby was in high-energy mode, kicking and twisting and making us both laugh a little through our tears. “I can just picture him in there,” Adam said after a few minutes, “so comfortable all squished up in the dark, thinking he’s really living his life. But pretty soon he’ll be born. And that process will probably feel like death. But then he’ll open his eyes and he’ll know for the first time what it really means to be alive.”

It says in Revelation that when life on earth has ended, believers will be with Jesus in heaven, where there won’t be any pain or sadness or death, and where God will wipe away every tear in our eyes. My brain cannot fathom what that will be like. But I believe in that promise, that heaven is a real place, and that Jill is with her Savior right now. And I don’t think it’s possible to spend too much time dwelling on that fact today.


Comfort November 30, 2009

Filed under: Faith,Friendship — Linnea @ 8:54 pm

It could have been worse. A lot worse. Just thinking about driving 1200 miles in a little car with a very active sixteen month old is enough to make anyone anxious. But overall our trip home went well. It was a holiday weekend, but somehow we didn’t run into any traffic the entire way. Let me also say that whoever first thought to attach a playland to a fast food restaurant is a genius. Giving Sky a half hour to run out her energy every now and then made a big difference. Before we left my mom promised Sky would settle into “travel mode” and do better than we’d expected, and she did. She only had two full-on meltdowns and one of them was at the end of the drive when we were only an hour and half from home. (Nothing seems that bad when you’re that close.)

But the best part of the whole journey happened about fifteen minutes after we got home. My friend Amy from MOPS showed up with a carful of groceries for us. She’d called earlier to ask what kind of milk we like and said she was bringing over “a few things.” Then she showed up with enough food to stock our entire empty refrigerator. She’d collected money from our MOPS table to buy the groceries and she also coordinated meals for us for the next few weeks. After she’d gone I noticed there were flowers on the counter too, and a card from all the MOPS moms.

frig food

I stood in my kitchen and let myself cry for a few minutes. Though I’d really, REALLY been looking forward to the end of our road trip with Sky, I’d been dreading the moment when we’d arrive home in Florida, far away from my family in Michigan. Coming home means that life is moving forward even though my dad is not here anymore, and that just seems strange. It feels wrong. I don’t want to move forward into life without my dad, this life where my mom is a widow. Yesterday, November 29th, would have been my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary and I couldn’t think of anything else all day. In Michigan we talked about my dad a lot. His clothes still hang in the closet and his change and pens and index cards still sit on his dresser. But here in Florida, just a handful of people have even met my dad. How could I expect anyone to understand how different my life suddenly feels?

But Saturday night when we got home I realized that someone does understand – Amy. She lost her father just seven months ago herself, and because of the way she’s reached out to me, I don’t feel the loneliness I’d been expecting. Whenever I open the fridge, I’m reminded of Amy’s kindness and the sweetness of everyone else at MOPS, and somehow this dark, draining time is suddenly a little less difficult. Please God, help me be that kind of person too, the kind who goes out of my way to comfort my hurting friends.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4