Warning: Pretty Hard and Honest Blog Post...
I’ve been in major reflective mode these last couple of months and in particular, this month, the month of May. Let it be known that I hate the month of May. I feel it coming all year long. As soon as one May ends, the journey to the next begins. It’s daunting. Like going around a racetrack over and over again. As soon as I pass through May, I literally see the next one way out in the distance around a few curves and the journey starts all over again, fresh track to travel on, but the same journey. The journey toward the month of May is when everything went terribly wrong. Or did it? That is the question that my life journey asks every single day of every single minute. As I round the last corner of the track and head into May, that question, with every year that passes, brings some answers and a lot more questions. I’m just being honest, honest in the way that Mamas who have lost a child are honest. It sucks. I hate that word, but I’m here to tell you, that is a mild word to describe it.
I’ve been around the racetrack 10 times now. TEN TIMES! Ten years closer to SEEing our little Maria again. Ten years without the slobber and smell of maple syrup from the waffles eaten just about every day of her life. She also LOVED Rock n Roll and being taught little pieces here and there of 80’s rock…hence the video posted here…I miss the sound of singing that song! With scrunched up nose, she rocked it out!
Questions…there are still so many of the “what if” and “why” questions, but slowly they have turned into the “I wonder what” and the “would she” questions. I wonder with every school picture taken, what she would look like? Would she be shorter or taller than Stevey Joy? Would she cheer? Would she play ball? Would she sing? Would she be serious, funny, easy, or difficult? All of it rattles around in my head. Stevey Joy and Maria were just seven months apart in age. Every milestone that SJ travels through, I’m reminded, she’s reminded, we are all reminded of who is not here…I’m reminded of what and who was taken when the enemy came to steal, kill and destroy that terribly day in May. That stupid, ill-timed, life-altering day in May when everything changed. I hate May. I will never not hate May.
The Chapmans, ten years later, still live with the reality that someone is not here. It is in and on our minds with every breath we take. It is our reality, just like it is the reality for anyone who has lost someone that they love. It is a life altering, mood shifting, mind altering event that becomes the narrative for you. We are literally in the battle of our lives every day, taking crazy thoughts captive and trying with all the strength we have to offer it to the only One who can lead the way around the racetrack that never ends. You see, we can’t move to another track. May is always in our path and it is always either in our rearview mirror or it’s out in the distance on the horizon coming for us. It’s there, so what and how do we survive it? I’m still not really sure. I can say all the pat answers like:
- The anchor of our faith is hope
- We know we will SEE her again
- We are walking towards her not away from her
- Lean on your community
- Hold tight to Jesus
- Love the ones well that you still have here
- Good things have happened since
I’m guessing that those reading this who have lost loved ones, or are struggling with something hard in their life know what I’m talking about. It is still so dang (and trust me, dang is not the word I want to type) hard. Let me show you. Here is an example of some of the thoughts I battle…
The anchor of our faith is hope. (Yippee…thought sarcastically.)
We know we will SEE her again. (Great, but I’m not with her now.)
We are walking towards her not away from her. (I have a hard time not looking back and seeing the mess. I miss her.)
Lean on your community. (We ran most of them off because we are miserable humans to be around a lot of the time because of the journey we are on.)
Hold tight to Jesus. (Trying, but hard to do when you just can’t see or hear anything from Him, so it seems.)
Love the ones well that you still have here. (Trying, but yeah, we are all broken and moms try so hard, but it is just so broken a lot of the time and we make it worse somehow.)
Good things have happened since. (Great! Good for you, still sad for us.)
Those thoughts have at one moment or another entered my heart and my mind. In reality, more times than I’d care to admit. Still, I try somehow to take the thoughts captive and keep walking in what I know to be true.
Okay, so here is where I’m supposed to turn the corner and wrap this all up in a big pretty bow. Um…. Okay. Not as easy as it sounds, and all the good is tangled up with so many hard days. I’m just being honest, so here goes!
Good news! The Chapmans are still together and still a family. By God’s grace, this journey of losing Maria has without a doubt made us a family that knows what is important and knows that we are for each other and not against, and that we absolutely have each other’s backs.
We absolutely have so much to be grateful for. A brief update on the family:
Tanner and Emily
Three beautiful girls call them mom and dad (Eiley, Della and Verity). Tanner is all that Steven and I could ask for in a son-in-law. He loves his ladies very deeply. Emily is a great mom and hard at work on the leadership team at Show Hope and does a fantastic job. The girls are healthy and happy! They even have a new puppy, affectionately named Stanley Pup! (Go Preds!) They’ve been married almost ten years.
Caleb and Julia
Two beautiful kiddos call them mom and dad (Noble and Olive). Caleb is hard at work with his band Colony House - I’m telling you now, they are great! - and Julia does a fantastic job of being mom and helping in the finance department at Show Hope. They have a fish named “stop sign,” by the way. These high school sweethearts have been married nine years!
Will Franklin and Jillian
One beautiful little girl calls them mom and dad (Willow Faye). Will is this mom’s HERO! Will Franklin is a warrior and has inspired me as I’ve watched him steward his story for the glory of the One who made him! There is so much love in my heart for him. God binds up and heals, and he is a living example of brave. He is hard at work as well with the Colony House Band (again, did I tell you that they are great?) and he and his brother working together is just the best thing ever. Jillian is a beautiful mom to little Willow Faye, a fantastic songwriter, and an even more fantastic artist in her own right. But…she is a healing balm to my son, brought to him at just the right time, to walk his story, which became their story, out. She is truly a miracle and I am constantly looking for her wings. They have been married five years.
Shaoey is 18 years old and is graduating high school this year from Christ Presbyterian Academy (separate blog post coming later about this). She is on her way to Alabama to attend “The” University and start on her path toward becoming a Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon. Because of her giftedness in academics, she was selected to be a University Fellow – awarded to only 30 out of about 1600 applicants. We are so proud that she is starting a new journey in Tuscaloosa and wherever God leads her, it’s going to be a blessing to watch.
SJ is finishing up her freshman year at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville and is in love with cheerleading. Her dream is to cheer in college, and she is working hard toward that goal. Any coaches out there should be looking out for her. She is fierce but tiny at 4’ 9” and loves to tumble, stunt and cheer. She is a lover of people and a peacemaker. As feisty and competitive as they come. She wants to win, but she is full of personality and goodness. Watch out for our little SJ.
The energizer bunny! Still making music, still telling stories (he loves to talk), still impacting people’s lives by telling them about Jesus. He also loves to tell you about Show Hope and all that it is up to. He started a new company this past year with his business partner and good friend Mark Mattingly, and it has kept him busier than ever. So many new things and new life coming out of The Stable Collective! Yay Team!
With all of the honesty and all of the hard, I know that down in the core, that Jesus abides and is with us. I can’t sit here and tell you that I feel Him every single second of every single day. I suppose it is definitely a two-way street, and that if you could ask Jesus, he would say that I’ve been a little distant and hard to talk to as well. Maybe I’ve been screaming so many questions at Him that I haven’t taken the time to listen. Maybe I’ve listened and there really is silence.
I know that many times in scripture the question, probably with clenched fist, was “How long oh Lord?” I don’t know the answer to that, obviously. I’m going on ten years now and I feel like I’m still screaming “How Long…” Yet, when you slow down on the racetrack, maybe even pull over and stop occasionally, maybe just maybe there has been whispering all along. The small voice saying, “just keep taking steps because I am making all things new.” I would certainly like to hope so, and I certainly would like to surmise that while there may be silence, there is never lack of presence.
Again, I type these words with faith, not seeing it or hearing it on given tough days. Hoping in something that I cannot see, but I believe that Maria SEEs completely. Knowing it’s true in my heart comes and goes. It is what it is for me, and I’m being as honest as I can be. When I have moments of tasting and SEEing that the Lord is good, then I get a brief, though clouded, view of it. When I truly look at my children and know they are walking with a limp but doing great, when I see the impact that one little life has had on the work of Show Hope, and in particularly at a place called Maria’s Big House of Hope, I get a glimpse of goodness in the land of the living. Even though the view is dimly lit and clouded, I get a glimpse of a day that is coming. I choose one more day to believe it and I keep driving around the track. I still hate May…and I’m okay with it.
Be encouraged (I hope),