Elijah once told me, “I see my dreams in my eyes, and Joel is in my dreams, and I cry.” Last week, he woke up and asked Caleb what he had dreamed and then he went on to tell Caleb that he dreamed he played with Joel and that he slept with Joel on the top bunk. I’m so glad Elijah remembers Joel and dreams about him. I’m so glad he tells me about his dreams because I never know how to talk to him about Joel in a way that won’t confuse or upset him.
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Since Elijah’s cool dream about Joel, Isaac prays every night that he will have a dream about Joel. I pray with him every night. Isaac says he has never had a dream about Joel and he really wants to. I’ll admit I’m starting to become frustrated because I see how much Isaac wants a dream with Joel in it, and I just don’t understand why God won’t give him a sweet dream about Joel. Would you pray for this with us?
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We visited Joel’s grave today. It is only my third visit to Joel’s grave (and the kid’s second.) Honestly I haven’t been sure how we should feel about visiting Joel’s grave. We have not purchased his headstone yet, but thankfully we have funds waiting for just this purpose because people were so generous with us when Joel died so we have money to get a marker. It just isn’t something we’ve felt ready to do yet. I’m guessing no matter how long we wait, I will cry through the whole process. It has felt funny to leave Joel’s grave unmarked, but then I don’t want us to be in a habit of leaving things for him, since we know that he isn’t in the ground there, he is in heaven with God.
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So, today we decided to pick up pizza and have a picnic at his grave. Isaac does not ever want to visit the grave so he was very unhappy with this idea. However, Isaac had planted a sunflower in a cup at a kids day today and I told him perhaps he could plant it at Joel’s grave, and this idea made him happy. I gathered some things we could leave at Joel’s grave, and decided to choose things that remind us of Joel, so they are memories for us, not items “for” him. I told the boys that I knew that anything that reminds us of Joel can make us sad, but that I hope with time we can learn to be happy about having a place where we put little memories of Joel.
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We got to the grave and it started raining, so our pizza picnic graveside was a bust, instead we just put up our little memory pieces and left quickly. Isaac actually enjoyed this and hung most of the items himself. I think the short trip was good for him. It was a happy trip, there wasn’t much time to get overly emotional, even thought there were still some tears.
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We left a glow necklace from the 4th of July, because we missed Joel on the 4th of July and have a great photo of him with a glow necklace from last year. We left a few little green army men that Joel liked playing with his last week with us. We left the “big brother” bracelet we got for him at the hospital when Zoe was born. We know he would have loved being Zoe’s big brother. We also left Zoe’s hospital hat, it wasn’t particularly fancy, and was a little piece of her we could leave there, along with a giant yellow sunflower and the little plastic cup that had Isaac’s real sun flower plant growing inside. We didn’t have time to plant it because the rain got stronger and we started to hear thunder and see lightning.
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The rain kept pouring and as we drove back to Loveland it got really dark. The only light was a tiny patch of sun, far in the west. Just as we came into Loveland the sun shone so bright I couldn’t even look to the west at all, suddenly the darkness was gone and the light was so intense, and we all looked to the east and saw a giant beautiful double rainbow, more vibrant than we’d ever seen, you could see the rainbow actually shimmering down onto the field, reflecting off the grass itself. The rainbow appeared to end directly in front of us. We pulled over and took a picture.
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And just in case you are wondering, Zoe is growing and doing great, and learning to smile. Here are a few photos of her and one photo of all of us at a Rockies game recently.
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I posted here a couple months ago about my post-partum anxiety. I never would have posted anything about it at all, except I was so desperate for some relief. The anxiety was miserable, but mostly, on top of the grief of losing Joel and all the emotions and work of having a baby, the anxiety was just too much. Posting here for prayer actually resulted in a good friend of mine who is a pharmacist recommending that I look into bio-identical hormone replacement. I talked about it with my midwife and ended up using an over-the counter progesterone cream that helped a lot. It wasn’t a cure-all, I still had a few bad anxiety days, and none of my days were free of anxiety, but it was an improvement that made the anxiety more tolerable.
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I had anxiety after Zoe was born for 8 weeks, eventually I started recording in a little log how “normal” I felt each day on a scale from 1-10, my worst days were 4s, my best days were 8s. After a fairly miserable day that was a 6, I realized that I was really tired of always assessing how I felt, and never feeling ok. I decided that if I needed to look into anti-depressants, or anti-anxiety medications that would be better than continuing to put forth so much effort into just getting through each day. That day was a Saturday.
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The next day, Sunday I went to church and went forward for prayer, my pastor’s wife and a wonderful friend both came and prayed for me, weeping over me, and continuing to pray and talk with me long after the service ended. My friend had just felt like God has asked her the day before to really believe her to invest in faith, even though for her that was a really hard thing to do. (I really related to her struggle because since Joel died I haven’t known how I could ever really be invested in faith for healing for anything or anyone.) I want to be a person of great faith still, I want to see miracles. I want to see people saved from terrible diseases. I want to see people raised from the dead. But, it’s hard. Because I wanted it so much for Joel, how can I ever be as invested again? It has been hard for me to pray for physical healing for my kids or myself since Joel died. I have wondered how I could be the person I want to be, and that I believe God wants me to be, when the idea of having faith for healing is so painful right now. So, when my friend described how hard it was for her to just have faith, I understood it, I even really respected it because I could see that it was weighty to her, it cost her something. Just like it will me, when the time comes.
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I felt great that day. No anxiety. I felt like I was healed, but I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. I wasn’t sure whether or not to keep taking the progesterone cream, and I prayed for wisdom. Immediately I realized, the cream was never enough to keep me from having anxiety anyway, so I could keep taking it, and I would still know if I was healed because I wouldn’t be having days that were 8s anymore. I decided I would take it until I had 10 days with no anxiety. 10 days came and went, and each day was well above and 8. I was healed. I quit taking the progesterone before the 4th of July. I am thankful every day that God healed me from my anxiety. I am especially thankful that when I was having my frustrating day of anxiety on that Saturday before church, my friend was being asked to really believe God, she chose to trust Him, even though it was hard. I believe that is why she was able to pray for me so effectively on Sunday. It has taught me that this is how I will be able to invest in faith again, for other people who are desperate, like I was. I will say yes when God asks me to have faith, not because it will be easy, or fun, but because it will make me ready and available for God to use me to set someone free. I can not even express how much better I feel. I’ve noticed I can grieve Joel more fully and naturally now that the anxiety is gone, too. It does mean more sad days, which is hard sometimes, but I’m glad I trust myself enough to grieve, now that I’m not afraid my emotions will spill into anxiousness.

For a few years now, I have spent time thinking about faith that persists, compared to strong faith for a “right now” move from God. Over and over again I see examples of the way God values faith that persists. Joshua and his army walked around Jericho for seven days, before the walls fell down. (I know seven days isn’t a terribly long time, but when God asks you to do something so preposterous I’m sure seven days feels like a pretty long battle of endurance.) Abraham believed God for 25 years before his son Isaac was born. Noah built the ark for decades before the flood came. I know that God values enduring faith.
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However, so often in the church we don’t value enduring faith the way God does. We value the kind of faith that can bring a miracle from God’s hands before our eyes some time between the alter call and the closing worship during a church service. I desire revival in my church and my community, but even while we were still believing Joel would be miraculously healed, even specifically believing that Joel’s healing might be one of the factors that set off revival, I would look around my church and see the face of the woman whose husband died from cancer, after a long battle of faith for both of them. I saw the man whose daughter and wife had both died, much too young, in the past decade. I looked at them; these people who had believed God and lost anyway, and I saw giants in the faith. I saw people who really knew what it meant to trust God, and then when they were disappointed, to trust Him anyway. I began to ponder, what does a revival look like that wouldn’t exclude the people who had cultivated enduring faith, a revival that honored and esteemed those who were still believing for a miracle after many years and who might leave each service believing still and not yet receiving. Could there be a revival that would draw upon the strength and faith of people who had lost their personal battles or were still in the middle of them, instead of pouring fresh hurt and disappointment on the heads of people who had pleased God with their enduring faith?
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I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what that kind of revival would look like, but I hope I see it one day. We’ve sat through many healing services, blessed and amazed by the miracles we witnessed, knowing that people’s lives were being changed, and that for some people their long prayed prayers were being answered. We left each of those services carrying a son with terminal cancer in our arms. It was hard not to wonder “Why not us, God?” That question still plagues me. Although we were tempted to plant bitterness in our hearts, it was easy enough to overcome that temptation, because I knew that I was persisting. I was waiting on God’s timing, and if Joel was not healed that specific day it did not mean he wouldn’t be healed. Still, even without being bitter, we definitely felt excluded. Our persevering faith excluded us from the amazing work of God that was happening in those services, and I knew we were not the only ones who left those meetings feeling unseen and dishonored.
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Still though, I loved healing. I loved listening to healing teachers. I had grown up on Kenneth Hagen and Kenneth Copeland and I believe with all my heart that we are called to live our lives with authority, receiving the promises of God for ourselves and helping others receive them as well. However, I suspect I would have felt out of place in one of their meetings. Kenneth Hagen said he had never even had a headache, and as much as I would love to experience that kind of abundant life, I can’t relate to it. It makes me suspect he could not have related to me. My husband and I have always really appreciated the teachings of Bill Johnson. His church Bethel in Redding, California sees incredible miracles. He travels most of the year because other churches want to have him at their healing services. He preaches about being able to hold and maintain revival. He also says that he leaves his healing services thinking about the people who didn’t get healed and begging God for more. His preaching does not exclude people who are persisting in faith through trials. I have always suspected that one of the reasons his preaching is so inclusive of those who have been disappointed or who are still enduring is because his son is deaf. I’ve never heard him preach about that (I’ve really listened to very few of his sermons so he probably does talk about it,) but I really respect that he is a man with a deaf son, a son whose deafness was never healed, and still he devotes his life to preaching about revival, healing and the presence of God, with great success.
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One night, talking to Ryan about my many questions, wondering why our son was not healed when we really believe he would be, I thought about Bill Johnson. I thought about the calling I felt and the new strength I have to encourage people to give up their personal passions and seek out the advancement of the kingdom of God. I asked Ryan, “What if God saw the revivalists of the past, and the hurt they had caused without meaning to, when they proclaimed victory and healing and miracles without empathy for people God loved who had endured and who had lost. What if God hated that pain so much, that He is doing a new thing? What if God is specifically giving power and authority to people who have experienced loss, people who have been disappointed, people who have suffered many headaches and so much worse than that? What if God values love more than power? What if Joel’s death means we can love people better? What if all of this was so we could preach the word of God with power, but also with love?” (I know these questions presume that God will use Ryan and I in a big way to reach people for the Kingdom of God, but truthfully I do presume that, I have my whole life.) The questions stopped there. God has given me very few answers, but He has spoken many, many questions to my spirit. Those questions have stirred up within me a willingness to trust Him more, because there are possibilities I hadn’t considered, there are answers that would be acceptable to me, even if they aren’t the specific answer for my situation.
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That was weeks ago, and I had been wanting to write this post about these questions ever since then, but not quite getting around to it. This morning I woke up with a stirring in my spirit, that grew into something almost like a shout in my spirit as I kept thinking about it, “The greatest is love!” It is so simple. A verse so many have memorized and known, 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest is love.” Of course this is a scripture I knew, but now it means something new to me, something bigger. It was the answer to my question from earlier, “Would God deny me the fruit of my faith, deny the fruit of all my hope, in order to cultivate a deeper love in me for people?” Of course He would, because he values love more than faith. He values love more than hope. He tells us what is greatest, He says it is love. My heart doesn’t always agree. I value the wrong things when I esteem the rewarding of faith as the greatest possible outcome. God is changing something in me, and perhaps He really is doing a new work, a work that resets the way so many of us value preachers, teachers, even the way we value the Holy Spirit? Perhaps that sounds extreme, but I think many of us value the Holy Spirit as the source of power, much more than we value the Holy Spirit as the source of comfort. God says Love is greater than faith. I want my life to say that too.
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That scripture in full context, heals something broken in me. It explains to me that prophesies do fail. Knowledge fails. The spiritual gifts we esteem so highly fail. I feel like I have felt personally ripped off because the things I knew to be true were not, the prophesies I had believed had failed, and here God shows me: Yes, that happens. Those things fail. Love does not.
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1 Corinthians 13: 8-13: 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

My husband writes me amazing cards. He always has. Not just cards, he also writes amazing poetry. I try to save them, and should have been more careful about it, because I am convinced that one day “The Poetry and Letters of Ryan Green” will make a great book. I can expect Ryan to write me something if it is my birthday, our anniversary, mother’s day, Valentine’s Day, or occasionally if we’ve gotten into an argument and he feels bad. He has written me beautiful things about our life together, many of them in the past few years about Joel, and so I’ve always wanted to share them here, but I never have. This time I will. What Ryan wrote me for Mother’s Day was beautiful, and somewhat prophetic, speaking to the questions I’ve had and the pain we’ve felt. Since he wrote me this card, things have shifted somewhat, almost as if, when Ryan takes the time to thoughtfully consider me, seeking God on my behalf and faithfully communicating what comes to his spirit for me, it allows God to pour out new life into my spirit. I bring this up just because it has made me wonder what kind of potential spouses have to bless each other spiritually, if we were all more intentional about taking the time to stop and reflect with God about our spouse and our circumstances.
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I’ll post a photo of the card here, and then type out the words, because Ryan always makes his “cards” on sketch book paper, a simple illustration surrounded by the words that break my heart wide open.
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“So here we are. The air is emptier without his laugh. Yet our hearts are still full, though with a different drink. And the ride we’ve been on for so long is silent, and so also the Lord. And so we sit here in this new silence. And long for the music to start again. And the disc to spin again even if it means going round and round for many more years, for at least we would be moving and Joel would be laughing here on Earth and not only in Heaven. But in this space I sense His silence is only because He is drawing His breath. And now we know love and longing: empty and full all in one moment. I am grateful that we loved him well. And that we miss him well. And I hope that in the Lord’s next breath He will whisper His love song to you, His beloved, and that you will know Him differently and more deeply. But now we grieve in silence, yet not without His presence.”
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Part of my specific grief over Joel’s death has been that I always thought I would have a ministry of sharing Joel’s testimony. I was ready to speak and teach and declare the goodness of God, by displaying His glory in Joel’s miraculous life. When Joel died I felt untethered. I had been leading the women’s ministry at our church. I stepped away from that when we went to San Francisco, and even though no one put any pressure on me, I kept wondering how I would proceed in this particular women’s ministry and in ministry in general. Suddenly I had nothing to say. The things I felt so sure of were not givens anymore. I had so many questions and so few answers.
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Caleb and Isaac are both involved in a really incredible Christian Dance program. They take hip-hop dance lessons. Their big performance was in early May, and the entire dance concert was about joy, and so many of the songs, and almost all the scriptures displayed on the screens were about healing. I wept subtly through a lot of the performances, realzing for the first time the magnitude of my brokenness. Joy and healing were like daggers in my wounded heart. One of the dances was to the song Exodus by Bethany Dillon, the song the boys and Ryan and I had danced to over and over again in our living room. Dancing around with my boys to that song was always play with a purpose, as we sang and danced and stomped we really were declaring “our enemies are at the bottom of the sea,” but there I sat without my son, his enemy, cancer, had not been defeated, he had been ripped from our family by a terrible disease. I openly cried through the whole song. I hate to acknowledge the extent of my woundedness, but I am convinced that we don’t allow ourselves to receive God’s grace for the wounds we don’t acknowledge. Just like we come to God for salvation, empty-handed admitting our sin and our need for a Saviour, I must approach the throne of grace now, admitting the brokenness of my heart, the fullness of my disappointment and my inability to understand or do anything to heal myself apart from the grace of God. I went home after the dance concert and laying in bed with Ryan, I talked with him about all the healing scriptures during the concert, so many of them specific promises I had held on to throughout Joel’s illness. I cried and told him “I wish that had all been true for us.” That night, I told Ryan I went from wondering how or when I would be able to step back into ministry to realizing that I really couldn’t lead a ministry. I couldn’t stand before people and declare those promises, I couldn’t urge people to live in victory and authority, the way I always assumed I would. I had nothing to say, nothing to lead people toward.
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Not long after that tear-filled night, Ryan gave me the Mother’s day card, and a few days after that I was talking to Ryan about how odd I think it is that the gospel is very clear that we are to sacrifice our lives for the kingdom of God, dying daily to ourselves, and yet we preach from our churches “life application” messages, designed to improve our lives and make things easier and better for ourselves. I went on a familiar rant about how we spend years ministering to people over their broken marriage or their rebellious kids or “fill in your brokenness here” trying so hard to help them fix their life, and that I think it would be more scriptually sound to urge them to sacrifice their life instead of fixing it. I told Ryan that I wondered if, when people saw their lives wrecked, they turned their whole life over to serving God instead of focusing on fixing themselves, if God would not repair the brokenness so much more efficiently. What if our pain motivated us to give up on this life of satisfying ourselves and living for our own leisure, because our lives no longer felt worth hanging on to. Ryan looked at me, and said, point blank, “Ok, then what would you say to yourself?” I laughed uncomfortably and said, “shut up, I hate you!” (This is how Ryan and I joke.)
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As much as I brushed off Ryan’s words, they stuck with me, and in the weeks that followed I continued to think about what he had said. I do like to encourage people to live victorious abundant lives, but I have known for a while that we only receive that fullness of life, that assurance of victory by sacrificing our lives. I realized that the message I want to share, that all of us need to be laying our lives down, is a message I am now uniquely qualified to share. Who was I to tell someone in the midst of the greatest pain of their life to stop trying to make their life more, but instead try to make their life less? Suddenly, I have permission to say to someone, “I’m sorry your life has been so crummy, give it away.” It’s a harsh message. I know that. It is too harsh of a message to be freely shared by someone who has not felt loss. Suddenly I saw that I do have a pathway to ministry, it’s just different from the path I wanted to walk. It takes a passion of my heart and allows me to share it in a different way, a more authentic way, and hopefully in a way that does not neglect hurt and broken people but gives them the ultimate hope that we were never meant to glorify our personal happiness anyway.
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I shared my heart at a women’s ministry meeting, and told them I still wasn’t sure “when” I would re-enter ministry in a significant way, but that I think I had a clue of “how” I would re-enter ministry and it was that I would re-enter ministry empowered to speak about learning how to use the tragedy in our lives as a powerful motivator to sacrifice our lives in service to God. I suspect I have a long season of living that out before I share much about it, but it’s nice to see that pathway, even if it is dim and far off.
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As I drove home from that meeting I sang in the car, the way I do, making up songs to God, (it’s kind of our thing. I always feel most intimate with God when I’m making up songs to him like a three-year-old,) and as I drove home I sang, again and again “Holy is the Lord who loves me.” I cried again (so much crying lately) and as I kept singing it, letting the meaning of the words soak deep into my spirit, I realized that as broken as I am, I know that God loves me and I know that He is holy, He is perfect, He is righteous, so even though I can’t, in my limited understanding, always reconcile those two things with Joel’s death, I know them to be true anyway. With that deep knowledge that “Holy is the Lord who loves me” I felt like God was beginning to speak to my heart again. As Ryan said, God was drawing his breath. He is not finished; He is just beginning, which is good, because there is a lot of work to be done in me.

There are so many different kinds of sad. I learn new ways to miss Joel every week. Tonight was a raw kind of sadness that made us all feel like no time had passed at all since Joel died. I was going through papers and came across a sweet card someone had written Joel for his third birthday. It was written to him, and I realized I didn’t know what to do with it. I had kept all the cards people had written to Joel when he was sick, because when he was old enough to understand, but not remember, his illness I was going to let him read all the cards people had written him. I always imagined what it would be like to explain to Joel how much his life had meant to so many people, and let him read the things people had written to him, the prayers people had prayed for him. I spent a lot of time praying that Joel would have a real and intimate relationship with God, so that the stories of his miracle did not become a burden to him, something he was told about but didn’t feel for himself, a legend he couldn’t quite live up to. So, I looked at that card and sobbed, and explained to Ryan that I didn’t know what to do with all those things now. So I kept it. For now, if I’m not sure, I keep it, and I can decide in the years to come if it is helpful to have these things to look at and remember.
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Keeping that card reminded me there were things I didn’t have to keep any more, medical statements, pump instructions, study disclosures, medication information forms, old prescriptions, old bills. I had kept so many papers that we didn’t need, and that had absolutely no emotional value to us, and yet, even as I went to throw them away, it sparked a new emotion in me. I thought about how satisfying it would have been to throw all those same papers away had Joel been healed or cured. Instead, I was filled with the pang of a future joy, stolen before we could know it.
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When I went back to the living room, Caleb and Ryan were on the floor. Ryan held Caleb in his arms, and I could tell they had been sitting this way for a while. Caleb had heard me cry about the birthday card, and so I joined them, and we sat on the couch, holding each other, talking and crying. I told Caleb how proud I was of how hard he has worked this year, he has had so much make-up work to do, from recent illnesses and his long absence in San Francisco, and he has worked many hours catching up on a lot of it. He was in the middle of school work tonight when he was interrupted by our shared emotions. I also told him that he was so special and that I loved him every bit as much as I loved Joel, and that I loved knowing him and what he thinks about, I love the questions he asks, and the things I get to see him be good at. I told him that even though I am sad I never got to know Joel the way I wanted to, that I wanted to appreciate even more that I do get to know Caleb, and Isaac and Elijah and Zoe. I reminded him that we get to love and appreciate each other in a way that most families never will, because we won’t take each other for granted. We’ll know it’s amazing to get to listen to each other, hold each other, cry together and learn more every day about our family.

Thank you everyone for your comments about anxiety, it has helped a lot. I actually started just some over-the-counter progesterone cream and more vitamins and fish oil and my anxiety has decreased a lot. Honestly, I think that now I am experiencing almost no anxiety but just a general fear of anxiety (fear that it will return, or get worse, fear that if I don’t get enough sleep or get too emotional about Joel my anxiety will return in a way that I can’t manage etc.) These concerns are more fleeting each day, and I’m not sure whether the cream and vitamins or just the passing of time since I had Zoe has more to do with things getting better, but I am glad.
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We have been living at the doctor’s office lately with normal checkups for Elijah and Zoe, strep throat appointments for Ryan, Caleb and Isaac, a major stomach bug for Caleb and Isaac and now Caleb has had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic he was taking for the strep throat. He has giant hives all over his body, they get worse each day now, he has swollen feet and joints that are painful, and this morning the itching has become unbearable for him. He just shivers and cries as the itching gets worse. It is terrible to watch. Pray for Caleb that his suffering would decrease. We pray for him to be healed, but that is still a tough prayer for us to pray.
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I have more to write in a “mommy questions” post soon, good things.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Zoe Grace Green was born on Saturday April 26th at 10 am. She weighed 8 pounds even and was 21 inches long. She is beautiful and wonderful and we love her very much. We have all enjoyed our time adoring her.
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Her arrival has made Ryan and I more emotional about Joel. Our family is so different now and it makes us miss Joel and wish he was here even more. He would have loved her!
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We have taken so many photos of her. I will post some this week.
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A quick prayer request for me. When I was pregnant with Joel and for almost a year after I had him I experienced anxiety for the first time in my life. It dwindled after a year and I pretty much only ever experienced anxiety after that when I took pain medication, (basically the drowsy/loopy feeling you get on pain medication makes me anxious.) So, I avoided major pain medications with my c-section so that I could avoid anxiety and just took ibuprofen. However, I have experienced some mild anxiety off and on anyway since I had Zoe, especially when I’m overly tired, and then feeling too tired makes me fight sleep and my anxiety grows. It is terrible. I’ve been trying to get enough sleep, but with a newborn that is a tough task. Would you please pray for me? I really don’t want to have any more anxiety. I’ve been hesitant to try medication for anxiety because most anxiety meds are sedatives that make you drowsy and so I worry that they would end up increasing my anxiety instead of stopping it. If anyone has a similar experience of becoming anxious specifically when you feel drowsy and took a medication that helped I would love to hear about it, but mostly I would love to be free from anxiety because Jesus’ death on the cross was enough to set me free. So please pray. Thank you.

I have wanted God to speak differently to me in my grief than He has the rest of my life, but God is consistent, He does not change. There is no shadow of turning with Him. I wanted God to shout to me. I wanted God to give me direct questions to direct answers. Instead, He whispers wisdom, He answers questions with more questions, none of them enough on their own, but each providing its own measure of salve on open wounds that still ache. He speaks to me the way I hear them, maybe just because I only know how to hear Him one way.
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Within a week of Joel’s death I told Ryan that if Joel was supposed to be raised from the dead, but he went to heaven and God gave him the choice, and he, in his own free-will chose to stay in heaven, I could be glad for him. I could live with Joel having changed the plan I thought was established. Of course, I don’t know. I feel like I can’t know if this is what happened, but I realized if there was even one answer I could live with, then the real answer, the one I probably won’t know this side of heaven, must also be an answer I can live with. It was a first step in trusting God that even if I don’t know “why” there is an answer that exists, and it is good.
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We have been re-reading C.S. Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain” and it has been good for us. No specific comfort, but lots of opportunities to remember again that God is God and I am not, and His perspective is infinitely beyond mine.
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I woke up two weeks after Joel died with the thought that “being uncomfortable with my only source of comfort is exhausting.” I didn’t know what to do with my grief because before Joel died, no matter how hard things got, I always eventually just rested in God’s love, knowing that He knew my heart, that I was seen and heard and fully understood. I didn’t know how to take my grief to the source of my grief. I know that God is not the author of pain, mine or anyone else’s, and yet, He was the only one who could have prevented my pain, and He did not. In my limited and selfish view there is not much difference. So, I did not pray. I did not worship. I did not rest. However, when I awoke with that thought I remembered that God really was my only comforter, and I could refuse to be comforted as long as I wanted, but I would be exhausted. I’ve never been very good at holding a grudge. The thought itself was enough for me to drop my defenses and try to learn to go to God with the hurts that I held Him responsible for, it was hard and it continues to be, but it is much easier than refusing to receive His love.
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Many people have shared things with me that have touched my heart in one way or another. I have begun to ask myself if faith produces a fruit beyond just the realization of the thing believed for. I know God lead me to have faith for Joel’s healing or resurrection. I assumed He would only ask me to have faith because He intended to honor my faith with the realization of my belief in Joel’s life. I have begun to wonder if God asked me to believe for other reasons, for the joy that hope brought in the years that we had to share with Joel, for the strength that we gained in learning that we could persist in faith, perhaps even for the deepening of relationship that will come as I renew trust in God despite the fact that He did not spare me the pain of great loss, that my faith did not result in the honoring of the promises in scripture for Joel’s healing. I don’t know if faith is designed to produce this kind of fruit, or if a righteous God can ask us to stand in faith just for these smaller purposes and not for the purpose of victory. I’m still thinking this through, but even having some thoughts to wrestle with is comforting in its own way, reminding me that there is a lot I don’t know.
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At church last week, our pastor began the sermon with this verse:
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Luke 19:41 and 42 “Now as He (Jesus) drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. ”
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It struck my heart in an odd way that was very comforting, I could just see Jesus looking at the state of my heart and weeping over me and saying “If you only knew the things that make for your peace!” I felt like God was speaking directly to me, saying, “You really are confused. You really don’t understand. It’s ok. You can’t understand this.” I don’t know why that was comforting to me but it really was, perhaps because it is deeply sad, and full of great compassion for my frustration.
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I’m not as angry as I was. Every day I am more willing to let go of my need to understand what happened. We miss Joel in a deep and beautiful way that washes over the most joyful days like the tide coming in. Today was especially hard. Ryan and I cried throughout the Easter service and barely managed to take our annual family Easter photo, but I wanted to do it anyway even though it made us sad. We took lilies to Joel’s grave. It was our first visit there with the children since Joel was buried, (Ryan and I went last week just the two of us.) Ryan is sleeping now, and I am writing this post, because I have waited to write until I knew what I wanted to say, and I realized that I don’t really know what to say, except that God continues to speak to me in his subtle, quiet way, making me think through deeper things than I would naturally, and finding that even though I don’t have the answers, I can conceive of answers that would be acceptable to even my hurting heart.
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I have written once or twice in the past about Ryan’s work developing a video game about Joel.  If you missed those posts, I’ll try to be brief in catching you up.

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When Joel was first terminal, four years ago, we weren’t sure how much to tell Caleb and Isaac about Joel and death and heaven and what the doctors had told us.  In a tear-filled phone conversation with my dad, as I walked around the hospital parking lot, he told me, “If Joel does die, it would be really great if your boys could know that Joel fought well and God said he earned his rest.” (Of course since it’s been four years I’m not sure those were his exact words, but it was something along those lines.)  Ryan and I talked about this and began to tell the boys a bedtime story about the warrior Joel who was fighting a fierce dragon named cancer.   We told the story a little at a time, but we always left the ending hanging.  If Joel wins so much the better, if Joel loses, the stage was set for a conversation about a valiant, courageous fight that ended in God saying “well done, you fought hard, welcome to paradise.”

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Of course, Joel lived four more beautiful years, and in that time, our boys outgrew our bedtime story and were able to digest more of the reality we were all facing together, but the fairy tale we had begun had a place in our hearts and we talked about wanting to create something out of it.  We talked about a film, or a book, but in the end Ryan’s friend Josh agreed it would make a great video game, and told us he was willing to take six months and work on it with Ryan, unpaid.

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In November of 2012 Ryan and Josh began working on “That Dragon, Cancer” a video game about Joel, our family, and an epic fight with cancer.  It was always more art-piece than game.  A way to express the hope we felt in the face of death.  I had planned on Ryan working on the game for about two months, but after that I knew he would need to find more freelance programming work.  It would be irresponsible for us to let our savings dip too low, while Joel was still fighting cancer and we had insurance premiums and a mortgage to keep up.  Two months came and went, and I realized I really believed in what Ryan and Josh were doing.  I could see Ryan stepping into his calling, using all his gifts and talents to craft a story that could show people the grace of God in a tangible way.  I couldn’t imagine him going back to work for other people on projects that didn’t mean anything to us.  In a giant step of faith, we decided he could just keep working on “That Dragon, Cancer.”  We would live on our savings and trust God to provide for us before we ran out of money.

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Ryan and Josh took a demo scene from the game to a conference in California in March of 2013.  (At this point we had gone from about six months of savings to around two months of savings, making our finances stretch a little through contest winnings, very small side-projects, and generous financial gifts.)  The scene was a portrayal of Ryan and Joel in the hospital, based on a night when Joel was very dehydrated, but vomited anything we gave him.  That specific night always stuck with Ryan because he felt so desperate and helpless, but ultimately God met him in that hospital room, giving Joel peace and Ryan grace.  When members of the media played this demo scene they fell in love with the game. Ryan and Josh had succeeded in capturing the emotion of that night and letting gamers step into Ryan’s shoes for a few minutes. Much of the success of the demo was due to the help of a local composer, Jon, who volunteered his time beginning one week before the conference and in that short time elevated the demo to new heights; he has been an essential part of the development team ever since. We were shocked by the attention that simple demo scene received, and  within four months Ryan and Josh had funding for the game for a year for a team of four developers (which has now turned into five developers.) Our two months of savings had stretched that four months because of even more generous gifts of friends, family and even strangers who believed in what we were doing.

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Since July of 2013, Ryan has been able to work on “That Dragon, Cancer” as his full-time, paid job.  We always believed as they crafted the game they were building a stage for an incredible testimony that was still unfolding.  It was exciting to believe that God could use the medium of video games, and the instrument of personal testimony to change people’s hearts.  The development team took the game to more conferences and shared it with video game enthusiasts who frequently cried and hugged them and talked about people they had loved and lost.  It was an amazing experience for the entire team to be able to connect with strangers in such an intimate way, all because of a video game.

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Now I’m not sure what “That Dragon, Cancer” will be.  God has opened so many doors, and provided so much unmerited favor as the project continues to be in development.  I know His heart is behind this game, but I also know now that it will not be the stage for a testimony of an unbelievable healing.   However, the new identity it has taken on in the last three weeks is a way for Ryan to memorialize his son, to mourn and create and remember.  He wants to capture what it was like to love Joel, and introduce Joel to the world.  Ryan gets to be paid to mourn our son.  It is a grace I can not appreciate enough.  He gets to make his work a tribute to Joel.  I don’t know how Ryan would have been able to go back to any other job.  At this point, even if the game were a total flop that no one ever played and that never moved anyone’s heart closer to God, it would still be one of the biggest miracles of my life that Ryan was able to spend this year and a half creating something that reflected his love for Joel and his love of God.  I can’t imagine what this season of our life would be like if he were doing anything else right now.

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A small film crew has followed the development of the game and our family since June of 2013.  They spent the last three days of Joel’s life with us.  They are dedicated to telling the story of this game’s creation.  They have just released a very short teaser of the documentary.  We wanted to share it with you.  They are hoping to release the documentary to coincide with the release of the game.  You can be praying for both the game and the documentary, that their productions would go well and that God would use them very specifically to draw people closer to Him, even though now, it is obvious that they will reflect our sorrow.

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The website for the documentary is:  http://www.thankyouforplayingfilm.com/

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The website for the video game is: http://www.thatdragoncancer.com

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Here is the teaser for the documentary:

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Thank You For Playing – Teaser from Thank You For Playing on Vimeo.