Still Here and Still His

Of Life, Love and Loss. Of Knowing and Being Known. On Being His.

Life, the Canvas

The following text is one of the last songs that Jeremy ever penned, the summer of 2011. On this day, the fifth anniversary of Jeremy’s home going, I thought I’d at least share the text.

I know the messiness and the hopeful beauty of the canvas of my life and the lives of my boys, as well as having known Jeremy’s life so intimately. We are sinners and saints. I’m both undone and upheld by the truth that there is a loving God who has promised good and life to us, and offers comfort for us in the midst of our brokenness. We cannot always see what He is doing or what He sees, but as Jeremy taught and modeled to us well, we can trust that He knows what He’s doing.

Life the Canvas
by Jeremy Erickson

Life, the canvas
Will, the paint
Come see a sinner
Come see a saint
Colors and outline
Our choices made
We cannot hide
The heart’s parade

Lines be drawn
By reaching out
Jagged angles
Jut about
Curves connect
And form is found,
But grace be gone
And goes the ground

We spill and splash
We make a mess
We sin a lot
Sometimes we confess
Life we imagined
In our minds
The canvas denies
The colors can’t find

So brushes be stiff
Palate be dry
Beauty be never
Beheld by the eye
What’s done is done
Behold the heart
So poorly displayed
In senseless art

Now see the hand
So unlike ours
Make lovely lives
Of all that mars
Our finished work
Undone until
The master’s stroke
The Master’s will

Reveals the lines
We could not see
With love, His brush
Makes beauty be
And sets within
A larger frame
Our lives, the art
That bears His name.

Life, the canvas
Will, the paint
Come see a sinner
Come see a saint.

Life in Color

We’ve come a long way.

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This past year was rather remarkable. Remarkable not so much by what happened, but by how things have come to be. 

Aedan (13) has grown taller (and, of course, wiser). We are equal in height, I expect for not much longer. He is most often pushing open the door to his independence while I’m on the other side holding it halfway shut with my foot. We try to meet in the middle, generally finding understanding (sometimes frustration), while aiming for delight and laughter.

Eli (11) has deepened his ability to intrigue and amaze me and others. If he could discover a magic trick or create a robot that could complete his schoolwork and eat his veggies for him, he’d be on cloud nine. He is always making something new, and enjoys the process more than the end result. Having the heart of an artist is not always (if ever) easy, but it is beautiful.

Jo Isaac (8) has become stronger–in heart, body and soul. He is my mix of cuddles and chaos (though my definition of “chaos” is likely much more mild than what that term defines). I appreciate how he engages with the world around him. He has almost outgrown my lap, which saddens me immensely.

It seems that now instead of tears and tantrums in our home, it’s more often words and conversations…perhaps heated discussions. We explain and reason with one another, we love and forgive. The boys ask many questions–questions that I would never think to ask. I answer them, sometimes. More often I recommend they go ask someone else more suited to answer (so if they ever show up on your doorstep asking some random yet “suited-for-you” question, I likely sent them).

I had always expected this would be Jeremy’s prime season of parenting. I could easily handle the babies and toddlers but I hoped he could oversee the kids once they could think for themselves. I wanted him around to help teach them how to know God, to help guide their view of the world, to aid them in understanding themselves. Yet in his absence, our family has been supported and our growth assisted in many ways, through various people. My goal as their mother is to hold them with loving yet open hands, lest I hold them too tightly and never let go. Not having Jeremy here has helped me do so because I’ve had no other option but to need others’ help.

As for me…

C.S. Lewis writes in A Grief Observed about the spiral of emotions that is experienced in a tragedy like the loss of a spouse–how you often feel that you are spiraling, yet never quite sure of the direction. From my experience, I found that even if I had been spiraling upward, one moment of stress or overwhelming request placed upon me, one familiar scent or the change of seasons, one thought of a past memory or glance at an image of the life we once had, would change the trajectory and stability of my heart. Those experiences for me, though not obsolete, are much less frequent.

The best I can describe is that something awoke in me this past summer. Life isn’t about recovery from tragedy anymore. There is a lot I could say about that—too much, really—but you’ll just have to take my word for it. Nothing in our life has changed all that much, but my heart seems positioned in a different way. Perhaps it’s just more full.

I say that because though this past year was filled with various circumstances in our family–some incredibly difficult, others surprisingly delightful—most days I’d go to bed and think, “I can’t believe I get to live this life”.  And to say that without Jeremy’s presence is significant. As I’ve written before, there were days past when I thought the best years of my life were over. Perhaps they are. But I can look back at the past few years and still say that they have been good and worth every day of living. Our days have been infiltrated with the constancy of the Lord’s presence (whether obvious and felt, or not) and the beauty, strength, and joy of faithful friends, neither of which I take for granted. He has never left me. I have never been alone.

600514_4969801436266_166949263_nFive years ago, Jeremy snapped this pic while celebrating our 10th anniversary. I glanced at it the other night and thought, “He’s dying. I can see it in his eyes”. I didn’t recognize it back then, but those eyes weren’t the eyes I had seen for the previous nine years of our marriage.  His eyes, though filled with hope, were saying goodbye to a world and life he so badly wanted to hold onto. And I noticed how I stood beside him with color that dressed up his gray.

Several months ago a woman at church kindly suggested that I needed to wear more color. Little did she know my closet has been filled with grays and navy blues for years now. This is in part because I’m a minimalist in the wardrobe department due to my distaste for shopping, but mostly because it’s how I’ve felt. So I chuckled and said, “Well, it’s kinda how I feel”…gray and navy suit me well.

But I get it now. The color is rising in me.”I will restore to you the years…” (Joel 2). The Lord promises to do so. And in certain ways, He already has.

Blessings to you, dear family and friends. May 2017 be a year that you are drawn closer to Him.

“Let in the Light, Shut Out the Dark” Part 1

I’ve often seen the morning light as an invitation for us to join in on a day that God has already begun, so I remind my boys that in the morning they are to ‘open the blinds and let in the light’. And in the evening, when the day is done and the night sky and its darkness has fallen upon us, they know they are to ‘close the blinds so as to shut out the dark’. These spoken words began as a simple preference of my own, but as I remind them, I remind myself as well.

My three boys share one bedroom in our home. They’re all packed in–tight and cozy. One of their morning responsibilities includes opening the blinds to their windows. Oftentimes, one of them forgets (though it’s never the same kid from day to day). It drives me a wee bit crazy to walk into their room after they’ve gone to school and find that the blinds are still closed and the sun’s rays are barely leaking in, forbidden from casting light into the already cramped, and often cluttered, space. Some days I climb up the bunk ladder and open the blinds. Other days I close the door to their bedroom and pretend the darkness and clutter doesn’t exist. The pretending, of course, is kids’ play; the reality is that I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t want to deal with the darkness, the clutter, or the ensuing chaos. The same is true for my heart. When life feels cramped, cluttered, or chaotic–whether internally or externally–it takes effort to let in the light. I am prone to shut the door, keep the blinds closed and pretend those places and that darkness doesn’t exist.

As mid-November rolls around there creeps up within me this awful feeling that I just want to curl up, take a quick nap, and wake up in February. For packed into those eight weeks are three birthdays, two holidays, and one anniversary. I’ve always felt somewhat lacking in the celebration department anyway, and carrying on those celebrations and preparations without Jeremy’s aide has proven difficult these past few years. Nevertheless, these boys of mine need to be celebrated whether I feel up for the task or not. Advent is to be remembered and Christ’s birth rejoiced in, because it’s a reality that has given us–and continues to give us– life. The moments of remembering and celebrating make and remake our hearts. I need that work done in me. I need to let in that light.

This season, then, is not what it once was for our family; nor is it what I imagined it would be. Yet rather than attempting to re-create what once was I’ve learned that it’s more fruitful to enjoy these present moments, however they may unfold. Christmas shopping is yet to be completed and the Christmas tree was only picked out this past weekend. But we’ve listened to Christmas music, read stories, lit fires in the fireplace. I’ve held and cuddled a sick boy on a gray day. We’ve spent time with friends and family and rejected the to-do list for just one more day. And I find that my heart is glad. I find myself grateful that God has provided enough for this moment. I find myself happy to be awake, to be given one more day to serve and love God the best I know how.

Traditions are wonderful, but the hope and peace of Advent and Christmas dwells much deeper than our ability to manage the chaos and create beautiful moments. We can — even in darkness and chaos and clutter — twist the wand and let in a little light. Jesus knows exactly how to enter in to such spaces. We find there is room and space during Advent for the dark — the weak, the tired, the wandering, the waiting, the wondering — as well as room and space for hope, joy and celebration. There is a place here for all of us.

Blessings to you and yours as you wait for the coming King.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

J Erickson

Some of our favorite porch steps in the world (they belong to the grandparents).

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