It’s been a year since the world turned upside down.
It’s funny how little details become concrete on days like that day.
I remember standing in the church lobby on the morning of April 27, 2014 talking to someone about something that seemed important at the time. My eyes landed on April. She was across the room, signing animatedly in conversation with someone. And I remember the fleeting thought, Cute jeans.
That night, when Jeremiah called me and told me her boys were gone and that he wasn’t sure if she and Daniel would live to the morning, that flippant thought about jeans kept popping in my mind.
The next day, I heard she might never walk again, and that mental image of her standing, ministering, began to set into concrete. It became permanent in my memory. When I visited her in the hospital, she began to recount the storm. “My jeans got sucked off of me,” she said. She wasn’t even horrified by it. And that image came back. Cute jeans.
365 days ago I woke up with a temporary view on things. Loss was unimaginable. Serving God was the side dish to the main course of regular life. 364 days ago, I woke up and the whole world was flipped, as destroyed as the houses on Cody Lane.
When life comes crashing down, everything changes. Normal always reemerges, but she looks different. She has scars on her face and a ferocity for God that she didn’t have before.
One year ago today, my focus got reset from now to eternity. In the days that followed, I became intimately acquainted with the goodness of God. I was so mad at Him that night. I was like a child, throwing a kicking fit in the arms of my Father, holding my breath until I became light headed. But He held me through it. And He held April too. He’s still holding us.
April walked again. Sooner than they thought she would. Daniel was dead on arrival to the hospital but today he is alive, cracking jokes through a heaviness, pushing through. Learning the new normal, sitting in a pew with a proud and pained smile, pulling his phone out to record April as she shares their story.
This has been the most ugly and beautiful year I’ve ever lived. It has been a year of feverish prayers, of bravely standing in front of crowds and sharing a story that breaks their hearts and shows the faithfulness of God and a woman who leans on Him. It has been a year of worshipping Him with abandon. Of throwing ourselves headlong into His plan.
People ask me all the time, “How’s she doing?”
It’s hard to answer in a few words. I usually settle for something simple, something people can wrap their head around. “She’s better than you could imagine”, “She’s inspiring”, “She’s still the cheerleader.”
The truth is she’s a mom that wakes up every morning without her kids. And just like every mother who has buried a child, who has buried TWO children, ALL of her children, she probably doesn’t even want to get out of bed a lot of mornings.
But she does. Because the 50 years she has left on this earth seem short when focused on the eternity she will have with Jesus and with Cameron and Tyler. So she runs the race with the intention of winning it.
When she sits in the nail salon and they ask how her feet got so scarred, she tells them about that concrete day one year ago and about how her boys went home to God. When women approach her with their own heartbreak and loss, she prays with them and imparts her peace and her heart genuinely hurts for them as if it doesn’t already hurt enough for her own sons. Every single day, April wakes up and hangs her flesh on the cross with Jesus. She gives up the desire to give up because it wouldn’t serve anyone, it wouldn’t honor the lives of her sons. She puts on the armor of God, and she says “What do you have for me today, Lord?”
I would never have chosen this. The pain that bubbles out of my boys when they remember their best friends, the memories that sneak up on Jeremiah from the horrors he saw that night, and my own guilt of having all of these living sons while she has none are things that have come with the new normal. But I just look at April. I always tell her she is my perspective on what matters. And what matters is…nothing really, except for God, telling people about His love and goodness. Loving people like He said to, giving generously, following fearlessly. Sharing the gospel. Sharing hope. Submitting to a plan you don’t understand because you trust that He is sovereign.
I hate the cost of it. I hate what it took to set us running. To make us fierce.
I hate that normal hurts so much, especially for them.
If I’m being honest, given the chance I’d go back in a heartbeat. Call her, invite them over for hot dogs and Mario Kart. And we could have just held their hand through rebuilding a house and there wouldn’t have been a funeral.
But I can’t. So we run. We burn. We spread fire.
And when I hear her talk about her pants getting sucked off my 200 mph winds, it doesn’t jar me anymore. I wistfully remember the thought, Cute jeans. And I thank God for the purpose we have now. I thank Him for the beauty He has traded for those ashes.
And I wake up on April 27 and push forward.
Whatever is next, God. I’m in. I’m following you. I’m holding on to nothing.
Where ever you lead, I know that You are good.