Thursday, May 20, 2010

Time Away...Hooray!

As you may have deduced from the pictures in the last post, we spent last week at the beach.  (I never feel comfortable announcing on the world wide web that we're out of town while we're actually gone.)  Thanks to a friend of a friend whom I have never met, we got to have a week with the family enjoying the beautiful ocean right outside our 25th floor condo.  It was wonderful and much needed and so well-timed.  We had just come out of a crazy stretch where Bryan had the end of a seminary class (which is always a hectic time) and North Point's DRIVE Conference; plus it was a rough Mother's Day, so a week away was a true blessing.  We needed some time together to just refocus and breathe a little, so THANK YOU, THANK YOU Sharon and family!

A couple of days before we left for Florida, I spent an evening rereading our blog from August.  It had been months since I'd gone back and revisited those posts and all the kind, amazing comments people left us.  I cried nonstop for three hours or more.  There are still days when I can't believe this is our life, and Samuel really lived and really died, and we really endured that month of joy and agony, fear and peace, intimacy and isolation.  I look back and wonder how we survived it, but then I read about God's amazing presence in those days, and I am in awe all over again of how abundantly He cared for us and carried us and provided for us.  And I read all the comments people left us, and I am humbled anew at how people loved and served us, how people carried our burden with us, and at how people allowed themselves to experience our suffering out of love and compassion.  It is a time in my life that will always challenge me to love others with such abandon and such tenacity.  Thank you for loving us and serving us in ways we would never have thought to ask for.  I get choked up just thinking about it.  And our time in Florida last week has left me a bit speechless because neither Bryan not I have met the family who gave it to us, and they don't even own it.  They graciously gave us the week they had bought and planned to use themselves.  That kind of selflessness astounds me.

While we were gone, Bryan and I spent one evening out on the balcony, listening to the sound of the waves 25 floors below us and talking about Samuel and how we're doing.  We both miss him terribly, and we both feel like August was so long ago and like it gets farther and farther away from us with each passing day.  Samuel feels far away from us, and the time we spent with him feels surreal in many ways.  Neither of us like that.

But we also talked about how God has grown us and deepened us and taught us so much about Him.  He continues to grow us as He asks us to surrender new hopes and new dreams in the present.  I feel like it's been a loooooong season of intense growth for me, and even though I learned to surrender Samuel, I am still struggling to surrender the things I cling to each day.  Surrender has been a painful process so far, and though I've seen its benefits and its joys, I find it immensely difficult to lay down my dearest hopes.  But because I love God far more than I love my dreams, I am continually trying to unpry my fingers and to open up my hands, lift my palms to Heaven, and say, "They're Yours, Lord.  I give them to You.  I trust them to You.  And if You want to take them from me and never grant me the things I long for in life, then that is ok with me.  I want You most of all.  And I want what You want.  Help me to surrender all that I hold dear."  I hope that God will give me back what I lay down, like He did with Abraham and Isaac, but I can't lay it down just because I think God will then give it back to me.  I have to really, truly put it on the altar before God and really, truly be willing to give it up.  I'm working on this...intensely.  I still have a long way to go.  And I know God is not searching for ways to take things away from me.  He's not unkind or selfish or vengeful.  But He does want my heart -- all of it -- and sometimes the things I most want in life keep me from giving myself fully to Him.  Like I said, I still have a long way to go.

When we got home from the beach, a gardenia plant someone gave us when Samuel was born had its first blossom.  The plant hasn't done so well in my care though I've tried to help it thrive, and I didn't think it would bloom.  Previously every bud it had grown would reach a certain size and then fall off, I assume because it got to be too heavy for the sickly branches to support.  But I walked in the door and almost immediately saw the fragile white blossom and smelled its amazing fragrance.  It made me think of Samuel right away.  During the stretch when Bryan and I slept at the hospital for 10 days straight, my mom brought us a ziplock baggy with 2 gardenia blossoms in it from the boys.  I think they were from a bush in our yard though I'm not sure.  I would open that bag and smell it over and over before I'd climb in the tiny cot for the abbreviated night's sleep next to Bryan.  The blossom made me think of how life is beautiful even when it's broken, of how life was going on at home even though we weren't there, of how smells could be lovely and full of life instead of sterile or foreshadowing death.  The blooms always broke my heart a little, but they also gave me a picture of life to come -- of beauty still ahead some day.  And so something in my spirit broke while something else soared when I saw our Samuel gardenia in bloom.

Ok, this is a disjointed entry, but here are some pictures of our time away.  Once again, thank you, friends, for loving us so well.


  1. Kathryn- beautiful, beautiful post. Your time away sounds wonderful. What a beautiful gift Sharon and her family gave you.

    I attended a gardening class recently and learned a lot of really great stuff...there is a product called Bayer 2 in 1 systemic rose and flower care that would be wonderful for your gardenia. It has made all of our shrubs flourish, and it will also protect it from insects (gardenias are notorious for little white aphids) Anyway, you can buy this at Walmart in the garden section...the directions about how to use etc are on the back of the bottle.

    and I know i haven't said it in awhile, but you amaze me. Your faith and the way you cling to God in such a close, intimate way challenges me to my core and makes me want to run straight towards him.

    love you friend.

    Jennifer and the rest of the Conley clan

  2. kathryn...thanks for sharing these tidbits...where you are & how you are doing. after reading your post, i peeked out the window @ my own gardenia bush (i hadn't gone into the side yard in several days) was full of beautiful blooms. i will always & forever look @ that bush in our yard & be reminded of your Samuel. of you & bryan, your boys. & how you have been an incredible & raw testimony to your faith & our Father. we love you guys & continue to pray for all that you go through. so glad to see these happy moments @ the beach, though. :-)