Sunday, December 16, 2007


I told a friend recently that I'm sick of structure. I don't really know what this means, per se, but I've discovered that I am a very structured person with ideas about how things should go in life and, after this latest season, I've decided I'm ready to be done with it. Mostly this just means I don't feel like going to church much but really it translates into something deeper: I kind of want to test this 'grace' thing out.

I feel my faith is like a large, rambling house - something I inherited but something with a lot of sentimental value that I have no intentions of ever giving away. And in this house are lots of things - items that make the house home. These things, in my house of faith, represent ideas or concepts that make my faith what it is. Just as my real house is filled with trinkets and treasures that make it, well, home, so my faith-house is filled with notions that define my faith in its most individual sense. So metaphorically, a table could stand for the Resurrection and a picture frame, what the Bible says about homosexuality. A glass vase is the Trinity and the bookshelf, generational sin. What do I really believe about these things? If I take them out of the house, if I put them all out in the front yard and re-examine them, really try to determine if they're important and if I should keep them, does it make my house any less of a house? No. So this is what I've done. Everything went out on the lawn, so to speak, ready to be evaluated and taken back inside to return to its rightful place as a "fundamental truth". Some of it went back before it even hit the grass. Some of it has taken longer. Some of it still remains. This is what I mean when I say I'm sick of structure. The old, structure-loving me (which I confess I have to talk myself out of going back to about every thirty minutes or so) wouldn't have been able to stand having everything out in the front yard, even for a second. That old me wouldn't have even told you any of this. But the new me doesn't see things so structured. Things aren't always black and white. Faith isn't formulaic and neither, naturally, is God. We can't just "figure Him out." We have to dig.

Grace is one incredibly confusing and totally ridiculous concept. I started to consider it the other day. If there's really nothing - absolutely nothing - I can do to earn God's favor, then why in the heck do I do good stuff? Why make "right decisions" or choose not to make "wrong" ones? That's easy. Because ultimately, I care a whole lot about what other people think of my decisions. Not just God. Even if I didn't think God existed, I'd probably still be making "good", moral decisions. There've got to be some atheists out there who'd agree that "not killing" is far more often the best plan. We don't do good to earn anything, really, other than other people's approval and praise. And if we do good so God will see us - well, we're basically as screwed up as you can get, especially if we believe in the God of the Bible. Because the Bible says we don't have to earn God's love. In fact, it says we can't. Jesus took that burden away from us. And that brings me to the next confusing point about grace. If there's nothing we can do to earn God's favor - or His blessing - then why in the heck does He give it? Why do I have a perfectly healthy child sleeping upstairs? Why do I get to drink clean water and sleep in a warm house? If I believe in the God of the Bible, it's not because I did something right. And it's definitely not because I didn't do anything wrong. David gets pretty irritated with this in the Psalms. He talks a lot about how the wicked prosper. Job does, too. I have a feeling Daniel and Esther and Joseph all spent their fair share of time wondering why all their messed up neighbors seemed to walk through life footloose and fancy free. If the wicked prosper, and sometimes the righteous don't, then it makes sense that wickedness doesn't always merit pain and righteousness doesn't always merit gain. And nothing we can do or say will make us more worthy of the latter. God doesn't lavish blessing on those who "do the right thing." If He did, grace wouldn't matter. It wouldn't have any value. If Jesus's blood were simply an asterisk to doing the right thing, then doing the right thing would have at least a little value - and I'd get to take a little credit. And that's exactly what grace won't allow me to do. I don't get to claim any responsibility in my own salvation. And I don't get to claim any responsibility in my blessing

So why do I get them? Love. That's it. He loves me. Unlike me, He has nothing to prove to anyone. Jesus of Nazareth hanging on a cross, dripping in His own blood and sweat and tears, dying a common criminal's torturous death, is evidence enough of that. Jesus born in a barn with farm animals and their dung should have set the stage - our God is not a God concerned with keeping up appearances. No. My blessed life is simply a gift of love.

Someone the other day asked me if I looked back on the day Copeland died with anger. I don't really know why this is true, but it is: for some reason, when I look back on that day, even on all the agonizing days prior to and after her death, I can only see one thing. Love. I look at Copeland's birth and life and feel marked by Love. Marked because it hurt. But marked in remembrance. In the Old Testament, God says, "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands" (Isaiah 49:16). As He was marked for Love of us, we shall be marked for love of Him.

The day that Copeland died, the hour the funeral home came and took her body away, was Satanic. It was death-filled and dark and demonic and evil. I could almost hear the clang of swords around me; never in my life had I experienced spiritual warfare in quite the same way. When I look back now, I cannot imagine going through it again without kllling myself. I don't mean to dramatize. I'm being serious.

When I graduated from high school, I walked across a stage and received a diploma for the knowledge I had gained during those four years. If I had to do it again, based on the same standard, I could: the knowledge, once gained, was not lost. I have as much right to that diploma now as I did then. Maybe even moreso. I can tap into that knowledge at a moment's notice and probably pass most of the tests a teacher could hand me. It's no mystery as to why I graduated; it makes perfect sense. The same cannot be said of that night, the night I had to hand my baby daughter over to a total stranger knowing perfectly well I would never, never see her again. I have no idea how I did it. I cannot tap into the strength that I had then, now. I cannot because the strength given to me then was not for now. It was not might or power or even knowledge or wisdom. It was the Holy Spirit. I know this because it is a mystery - a breeze, a breath filling my lungs and causing me to gasp with life when all I wanted was to die. I cannot imagine why I made it through, even now having done so. This is how I know God was there. This is how I know He loved me. This is how I know that blessing doesn't always come in the form of happiness or even, well, what we'd call 'blessing.' My daughter died. She never came back. And I feel loved.

Conor came home tonight with a tattoo on his inner left wrist. Copeland. That's all it says. In small, black letters. Forever traced into his skin, forever a part of him. I told him that the last moment he spends connected to that tattoo will be the first moment he'll spend with Copeland. "I cried when they were putting it on," he told me. I understand. He was marking himself, remembering. "See, I have engraved you...." Paul said that we have [can] have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), if we are believers. Is it possible that part of the purpose in losing my daughter was to think more like Him? Is it possible that what Satan meant to be Satanic, what the world called death, was holy and life-giving? That Jesus just blew the cover off of 'structure'?

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

pray for joseph

Back in the spring of 1996, I had the great thrill of participating in the musical "West Side Story" as a high school sophomore. A lot of it - being almost twelve years ago - is a blur, but some of the seniors who also performed remain etched in my memory as somewhat a part of the character they played. One was a tall, lanky kid named Allen who seemed to embody with comedic perfection the role he'd been given - a member of the American gang, the Jets (I can still see him in his tightrolled jeans and white t-shirt). Allen was one of the brightest personalities I'd ever met: quiet and kind but witty and fun to be around at the same time. I haven't kept up with him since then, really, as he was so much older than me, but I've heard bits and pieces of his story since graduating. One such piece begs to be told today, and begs for your prayers and your outpouring of love and encouragement.

Allen and his wife, Gillian, have two children. Joseph is three. Shortly after Thanksgiving, he began having some trouble walking - stumbling - and Allen, someone who is pursuing a career in the medical world, felt it was imperative to take him to be examined. This was a week ago today. Since his admittance to the children's hospital, he has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and had a major surgery to remove as much of it as possible, as well as to perform pathology on it to determine what kind of tumor it is. This morning Allen and Gillian were given the heart-wrenching news that the tumor is called an anaplastic astrocytoma. (You can Google it for more information.) It is malignant, aggressive and obviously induces a great amount of fear as far as prognosis for Joseph. Please visit their blog,, and leave them words of encouragement if you can.

Someone asked me recently if I looked back on the season before Copeland was born and especially those first few hours after her death and wondered how in the world I got through it. My answer was a resounding "yes!" I have no idea how God equips people to get through such horrific times. But I do know He does. And the fact that I actually experienced one such time, and lived through it - am still living through it - without any scientific explanation as to how simply testifies: God was there. God is here. May He be near to Allen and Gillian as they walk this difficult road. May He comfort them as they struggle for answers and wonder what to do next. May He guide them as they make decisions about Joseph's life. May He give Joseph strength and many, many years of joy before him.

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

home at last...

I wanted to be sensitive to let Nathan and Angie post on their own blog - - about precious Poppy's life and the moment when Jesus took her home, and so I assume most of you have had the opportunity to see her pictures and read Nathan's awesome post regarding her time here on earth. What a beautiful girl!

When I spoke with Nathan this afternoon, shortly after Poppy had passed, my heart swelled with sorrow - and also a sort of odd joy, knowing that our girls were finally, finally together. We've known for so long that they would be. My heart also filled with joy knowing that Angie's dear grandfather is holding Poppy, the darling baby he was probably waiting on from the moment they got word of her diagnosis. My hope is that perhaps he's cradling Copeland, too.

Thank you for praying, for posting, for encouraging them. The Luces are amazing, godly people and yet I know it is refreshing and needed to hear not only from family and friends but from total strangers, people who have simply been touched by their story. Thank you for loving them because in doing so, you remind me of how you loved Conor and I in those, our darkest hours.

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

welcome poppy joy luce!

I so wish I could be there with Nathan and Angie as I type, but I did get to speak with Nathan's sister and learned that Poppy made it through delivery - a major accomplishment for any trisomy-18 baby - and is currently spending time with her parents and extended family in the recovery room. Praise be to God for her safe arrival into this world. Apparently she weighs over 5 pounds - another major accomplishment! - and is breathing on her own or with very little assistance. All of these are huge answers to the prayers I know so many of us have lifted up for the Luces.

Having walked through this same situation myself, and remembering clearly the emotions I experienced that day, I would ask you to pray specifically for:

-time with Poppy, and time that is free from anxiety or fear
-that Poppy will continue to breathe on her own and will be able to feed from a bottle
-that the medication Angie is on will equip her to function as normally as possible after such an intense surgery
-that Marianna will be able to process just enough to enjoy her new little sister and that her parents will know how to protect her through something that will inevitably have some sort of impact on her little heart

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pray for poppy

I wanted to post as quickly as possible to let you all know that my dear friends - and by now, probably another family that many of you have prayed for - are going in as I type to deliver their own trisomy-18 baby, Poppy Joy. Angie and Nathan are absolutely precious to Conor and I and as they prepare to welcome their second daughter, I have to confess I am just sitting on pins and needles wondering how they are doing, if the procedure is going well, what emotions they are coping with. I wonder. And yet I'm so aware. Knowing what they are walking through is somewhat surreal in the sense that it takes me back. They are going to be led through a wilderness of joy and hope and sadness and sorrow. There will be moments they are unsure of and moments where they've never felt more sure of anything in their lives. So pray for them. Conor and I are planning on driving there tomorrow morning. My heart longs to be with them during this time.

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