Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Soft Heart

   Ian often uses the same expression when his heart is hurting.  "Mom, the stone is back."  It is usually whispered into my ear.  "It feels like it is getting bigger, and it will squash my heart."  A heavy stone is on his heart.  He told me that is how he felt the morning after Jeff passed.  He whispered it then with worried eyes.  He physically hurt.  My eyes filled and spilled as I explained that I have that same heavy stone.  It is sitting on my heart also.  He was shocked and then saddened.  "Does everyone have one?  Because I don't think I had this stone before."  I thought about all of the people that loved Jeff so much.  I remembered all the notes, hugs, and words of love and hurt and confusion.  I answered carefully; "yes everyone who loved daddy has a heavy stone on their heart also."  He looked at me long and hard, "but their stone is not as heavy as mine."  Sweet Ian, I wondered how heavy this stone must feel to a five year old heart.
     Ian doesn't know how to push grief aside.  He doesn't know how to push down the lump in the throat and try to have a normal conversation.  He doesn't know how to not include "My daddy is in heaven now" in his introductions or goodbyes on playgrounds.  Luke, Levi, and I are learning from this little lion heart.  This week when Ian said the stone was back, and heavier.  He spoke loudly and with confidence.  And these past two weeks have emptied me.  Joy and hope seemed to become hidden in sorrow.  Good news, old
memories, and photographs pierced and hurt instead of comforting.  I am told all this is normal terrain for the boys and I.  To not be surprised.  But as much as I was surprised by joy the weeks before, I am caught off guard by these hard days.  So, when Ian spoke of a heavy stone with a louder voice, demanding I take it more seriously than offering that I have it also I ached for a better answer.
     Earlier that morning I had gone down to the cedar grove to pray.  In a full house, and when God and grief are so intermingled, it is best to find a quiet spot outside to spill out my heart.  I had been praying of how I needed Jeff.  How I wasn't sure I could mold and lead the boys without him.  How I am a bit lost at sea without my sweet Jeff.  I prayed out my concerns and asked for help to a God who comes near.  I pleaded for a crack of hope, a glimmer of joy to creep back in.  I asked for God to keep my heart soft and I picked up a heavy stone and carried backup the hill to the house.

     When Ian spoke of the stone again I knew it was time to share a truth I was still learning.  We climbed the wooden steps hand in hand and I sat him at my small bedroom desk.  The desk that faces the drive and side woods.  I handed him a bright red mound of clay.  "Can you make me your heart?"  He smiled and nodded, rolling the clay between his small
hands until a perfect Ian sized heart had been formed.  "How does it feel?"  I asked.  "Small and soft and smooth."  He answered, adding that technically it didn't really look like that.  I lifted the heavy stone from beside my desk where I had set it earlier.  "Is this how heavy the stone on your heart feels?"  His small hands received the heavy stone and lowered it to his lap.  "Definitely, mom, definitely."  I asked him to place the heavy stone on his clay heart.  He lifted it again and set it on the heart.  We lifted the stone together and set it aside.  "That is why it hurts so much, see?  My heart is so squashed."  I understood, and begin to explain why a squashed heart isn't the end of the story.  It was squashed indeed.  The shape, texture had changed.  It would not look the same now.  But, something else had happened.  "What else changed Ian?"  He looked harder.  "It is bigger!"  We both smiled now.  The clay heart was bigger.  We spoke about how soft hearts get squashed and misshaped.  How heavy stones come that we cannot lift off that change us forever.  But we also spoke of how hardened hearts break.  They don't stretch bigger when heavy stones fall.  They shatter into a million angry pieces.  We spoke through the last months and how we knew our hearts were bigger.  How much love was poured into our small family.  We remembered Christmas and being surprised by packages and trips.  We remembered how the stars seem so much brighter, and the sky bluer.  Our gray was starting to fade back and the colors fill in again.  Babies made us cry, and kind words from strangers made us cry harder.  We are squashed, but not shattered.  And in this squashing we are trusting that our hearts will be stretched wider.  That the capacity to love and be loved will become greater.  And that we will stay soft as the heavy stones come.  Tears wiped, hugs, heavy stone still there.
     Ian ran to Levi and then Luke's room explaining why squashed hearts are blessed hearts.  I even saw him whispering to Zoe outside.  Explaining the reason we need to keep our hearts soft even though they hurt.  On my hardest days, I have the gift of my boys.  Speaking truth, in turn, helps me to remember.  It helps me to see the good and not just the hard.  But most of all, it keeps this mama's heart soft.
   I will be going to Scotland at the end of this month.  Saying I was surprised by joy is an understatement.  I can barely think of it without dissolving into a puddle of grateful tears.  I will get to see leaders, friends, and YL staff from the UK.  All are dear to my heart and proper good byes were never said.  I will be in Scotland for a very small part of the five day trip.  The rest will be spent learning, worshiping, and praying with staff and leaders at a Young Life UK weekend conference in England.  The boys are thrilled for me and will stay here with grandmas and cousins.  We will all four return this summer to allow them to see friends, and camp.  But this trip needs to be just me as I reconcile more of my heart to the God I love.
 I have started my two classes online and am trying to be a good student as I continue to teach the boys.  We will stay at this place of wait a little longer.  Once housing is found and we are more settled I will place them back in public school.  For now I am
grateful to have my fingers on their pulse throughout the days.  Conversations and tears still spring up in hidden parts of the day and I want to make sure they are not hiding from those very things.  I am continuing to be paid by Young Life and our health insurance is covered.  There is much to be grateful for.  Thank you for all the continued prayers and love.  You all have had a part in filling up these stretched out hearts.

 Much love, Becca and the boys

"The Lord is close to the broken hearted; He rescues those who spirits are crushed."  -Psalm 34:18


  1. Becca, I love how you helped Ian to visualize and embrace what was happening inside of him. His clay heart squashed beneath that stone, growing bigger with love and compassion. To know that something good is happening under all the pain...what a gift for him and for all of us. I just shared your beautiful image with John.
    The verse you cite is perfect. The Lord does promise to rescue those whose spirits are crushed and in this case he used the spirit filled mind of Ian's very loving mother. That you, Becca, for this most meaningful post.

  2. You continue in our prayers and thoughts. Thank you for sharing this visual reminder of what it means to have a soft heart which gets squashed.

  3. Becca, I eagerly await your blog posts! I don't know you and only met Jeff on several occassions a long time ago at MVCC. I've prayed for your sweet family over and over and will continue. I don't know if you've ever considered it or not, but you really are an exceptional writer. God has given you with a talent and perhaps some day we will all be blessed with a published book from you. May God continue to bless your family and give you peace and healing in the days to come.

  4. Absolutely love this post...what an awesome God we serve to give your family such a simple yet profound illustration of real life lived out with Him. I'm typing teary but SO thankful you get the chance to say proper goodbyes in Scotland (so huge) & an upcoming visit this summer...whatta blessing & good for your souls. As I read your post I was trying to remember the verse's reference below & typed in a search "stone & broken." The verse you wrote came up in the search & this one! Luke 20:18 "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” Even though the rock of circumstances is quite heavy for you guys...keep falling on The Rock in your brokenness as you have been will see healing. We will be praying for this for you guys as well as to continue to be surprised by joy :) With much love & gratitude for your friendship, E for the guys too

  5. Thank you for your vulnerability...courage...honest wrestlings with your life circumstances and God Himself. What a privilege it is to witness your journey through a life marked by unfathomable grief but also unfathomable grace. I am sure your days feel messy and exhausting most of the time, but from the outside looking in, all I see is BEAUTY. Thank you for allowing us to glimpse into this heavy, prolonged process, and to see the most feared of all emotions done well. Your story is giving me a new sense of what it means to trust God in our heartache and loss.

  6. Once again, your writing is an amazing gift for all of us. I took your message and shared it at our Praise and Worship service Sunday night. It allowed me to once again bring Jeff into our Church. I brought clay and stones with me and handed them out for everyone to create their own soft heart to shape and squash. This illustration is wonderful. God gave your children to you, AND he gave you to your children. He knew you would be the right one to teach them such messages. And for that matter to teach all of us!!

  7. Wow, thank you for sharing your heart and your life with so many. You are a living testimony and walking out your faith in action. I see this verse in your story, Ezekiel 36:26 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. May God continue to be your strength, Nehemiah 8:10, the Joy of the Lord is my strengh. Love and prayers with you, He is close the brokenhearted.

  8. TeamStables,

    Below I attached a copy of Jeff's Email he sent to my son Christian. I want all to know what encouragement, joy and HOPE he brought to Christian and to me with this one email. I want Ian, Levi and Luke to know that there Dad is a great servant to Jesus. I pray that this will give them and Mom some Joy. May GOD bless TeamStables!

    Subject: For Christian
    Hi Christian just wanted to send you an email and thank your for your wonderful note to Levi and myself, and for your generous donation to the ministry.

    Levi says Hi! There is a dominos pizza in my town in Scotland, and my teenage friend Paul was surprised by joy tues!

    Let me explain.

    You see when I got word of your donation I prayed about what to do with the money. When money is given to Jesus it is very sacred and must be used with great purpose.

    My purpose in Scotland is to help all kinds of different teenagers understand that God is absolutely nuts about them! I go hang out at the high school most days and get to know them, and encourage them. You can't really share important things with people you aren't true friends with!
    So one of my teenager friends is Paul. Paul doesn't have many friends and some things in his life are hard. I bet you know some people like that too. But He is always happy to see me- I think because he knows I really care about him.

    When life is hard, sometimes there are surprises that are bad surprises. Bad news seems to come from nowhere and hit you over the head. But Gods love for you and for me, and for Paul is the opposite. He surprises us with joy! Imagine if you woke up one random Morning in August and it was a surprise Christmas! Gods love for us is like that kind of ridiculous joy. That's why he sent Jesus.

    So I prayed about what to do with your donation and remembered that on Tuesdays you can get a great deal on dominos pizzas! I also remembered that Paul loves pizza.

    So when I showed up at the school for lunch on tues I had a piping hot pepperoni passion pizza for Paul! I used your money to surprise Paul with joy. He couldn't believe it. It was a little awkward even because he couldnt understand why I would do that.

    I'm praying for Paul to one day accept Jesus in his heart. I think when he does he will remember being surprised with a pizza.

    Christian thanks for helping me in my ministry. It means so much

    And I will do my best to survive!

    In Christ,