Love Is…

13567114_10209888148748510_52781305637643714_nThe above painting is one that Grace, Evie and Jim did a few years ago. They each put their thumbprint on the bottom corner. Below is a poem that Grace wrote. It was among the writings of hers that we found after the accident.

Love
By: Grace Achatz 
What is love?
Is it a racing pulse?
Or complete stillness?
Is it being held by the one you care about most?
Or watching from a distance?
Is it wanting to be with the one you love?
Or simply smiling?
Is it writing love notes to your closest friend?
Or being afraid to tell them how you feel?
Is it like watching a newborn pup and its mother?
Or watching an older married couple?
Love is all of those
It’s keeping by the one you love
A racing heartbeat
It’s sharing hopes and dreams for the future
Watching from a distance, or up close
It’s not being afraid to come to them with anything you need
Complete trust and faith in one another
It’s smiling just for the sake of smiling
A high-pitched voice
It’s simply saying
I love you

I just wanted to add a few more thoughts on love…

Love is…a husband who wakes up at night when I am crying and can’t sleep

Love is…having family who randomly send funny pins and pictures to me, just to make me smile

Love is…getting texts from friends with songs that they know I will love

Love is…having best friends who will hold my hand when I’m fighting a battle or will hug me until I’m ready to let go

Love is…a school family who supports and grieves along with us

Love is…having joy mixed with sorrow upon the daily reminders that my baby is with Jesus

Love is…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us

Once when Grace was around 10, she came downstairs from her room and told us that God had just spoken to her. What He told her was that love was the key that unlocked heaven’s door.

She lived that word from the Lord. She loved, and she loved fiercely and without shame. I wonder how many unlocked doors stand wide open around heaven because of the love that Gracie freely extended.

Show someone love today, hug a little tighter, look in your friends faces, see what they are hiding. Be Jesus to those around you. Seriously, it is the greatest commandment.

Love Is…

Auto Focus

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It’s hard not to think about what is coming up at the end of this week. Friday night, the night New Life parents and friends will gather around to celebrate the graduation of Grace’s 2016 class. For us, it should have been a night filled with the perfect white dress (that we already had picked out in early January), the perfect blond hair (which she had already planned on having Faith do), the perfect nails (which she had begun to grow out, just for the French manicure), and the perfect evening, filled with family, friends and future plans.

I began to think about what we would be missing out on. What we no longer get to enjoy, what we don’t have. And all those feelings and emotions are normal and fine to feel, but this time, as I started to dwell on what I didn’t have, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a few things that I did have.

I did have the pleasure of raising one of the most amazing people I have ever known. I spent 17 years, side by side, with a girl who loved Jesus, her parents, her sister, her aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and almost everyone else she came into contact with.

I did have the joy of nurturing a child who was not without her faults, who struggled with some difficult things, but saw the beauty in the struggle, the beauty in the battle for holiness.

I did have the chance to walk alongside an amazing beauty, who would bend down to lift a child up and cuddle with them, but also, had fight in her, that would only well up on the basketball court.

And above all else, I did have the chance to watch my 17-year-old walk the Christian walk, unwavering and unmoved by outside pressure. I saw a girl who finished the race set before her, all the while, glorifying the One who set up the course.

I could spend this whole week focusing on what I don’t have or what I’m missing, or I could auto-focus on what I did have, the knowledge and memories of one amazing Grace. 

Sometimes reality will wake you up in the morning, screaming. And when you lay your head down to sleep, reality will replay the bad over and over, like a movie reel. Sometimes reality is less reality and more the enemy of our souls, who wants to keep us trapped by only what we can see with our human eyes.

Romans 4:17 is talking about the reality of Abraham being too old to have children. The end of verse 17 says, though, that the God that we serve, calls things that are not as though they are.

Am I missing something terribly? yes…But is God still on the throne? yes

Am I sad and often overcome with grief? yes…But does God say He will turn ashes into beauty? yes

Is this going to be a hard week? yes…But is God bigger than any hardship? yes

What I choose to focus on will change my outlook. This week, as hard and sad as it may be, my auto-focus will be set to the things the Lord has told me, not the pain the enemy wants to keep me bound to. This might be a constant refocusing, it may take several times in the course of an hour, but how else do you get the perfect picture, the one that God will hang in the gallery of battle-worn soldiers, who fought the good fight, and finished the race, only to hear ‘well done.’

 

 

Auto Focus

Mayday

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Tomorrow begins the month of May. May used to be my favorite month. I love spring. I love the new leaves on the trees, plants emerging from their winter sleep and my flowering pear trees, that bloom white and make me smile whenever I see them. I also enjoyed the fact that May ends with Memorial Day (one of my favorite holidays) and my birthday.

After my dad died, something I wasn’t prepared for, was the drastic change I felt for holidays, special events and my birthday. I didn’t want to celebrate them anymore, especially my birthday. My dad would race the family to be the first Happy Birthday any of us would receive on our day. It kept getting earlier each year (mainly because my dad and sister were competitive) which kept us laughing. But on May 31, 2010, there was no early morning phone call, and I realized that there never would be again.

And now another loss, a greater loss….and so I am preparing myself for this month. A school play, she won’t be acting in, a spring concert, she won’t be singing in, a Mother’s Day that will be missing half of what makes me a mother, a graduation ceremony, she won’t walk in and a birthday that will be another “Happy” short.

Below is an entry from my journal a week after the accident:

“I have told a few people that I lived in a self-built city. It was a beautiful city. If you looked around you would see a house for each of my daughters, one for my husband and I, a work house, a church house and so on, in my lovely city. There were problems, where aren’t there problems, but at least I knew what they were, I could see them coming, I could deal with them. Then last Monday night, in a crippling blink, my city was attacked, my oldest daughters house fell, and as it toppled, it brought with it my entire city. I now stand in the ruins of what was a beautiful city. I stand, staring at my husband and remaining daughter, and I wonder, how am I going to ever rebuild.”

I realized this morning, while reading Psalm 31, (my 2016 chapter), that my city is still under siege. And May is going to be a month full of attacks. When I picture this in my mind, I see a “Lord of the Rings” type castle, with enemies all around the wall. In verse 22 though, David says “In my alarm or panic, I said ‘I am cut off from Your sight, Lord!’ Yet You heard my cry for mercy when I called to You for help.”

Every time something comes my way this month, every time another special event or holiday approaches, I have the choice to tell myself one of two things…I am cut off from God’s sight, He doesn’t see, He doesn’t care, I am alone, or I can tell myself…He hears my cry for mercy, He shows me His wonderful love daily, and in His dwelling I am safe (not free from sadness, but safe).

The very last verse of chapter 31 says, “Be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” My sweet friend reminded me this morning that our job is to have the courage and hope, but it’s God’s job to provide the strength, which He will faithfully do.

Then Jim reminded me that God is still God in May, and because He is, I will be safe in my city, even when it’s under attack, because in His shelter, I will take refuge.

Mayday

Dangerous Prayers

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I have prayed a few prayers in my lifetime that I won’t pray again unless I’m really prepared for an answer. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23. I was diligent about praying this scripture years ago…and when God began to answer it, I underwent a few solid years of intense awareness of my own thoughts and how “what a man eats does not make him unclean, but what proceeds from the heart (Matt. 15:18) and that “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9). It was a time in my life when I would battle internally for days, weeks, months, with unwanted thoughts, and I would ask, beg, plead with the Lord to deliver me from them, but I learned so much through those difficult days. I learned that God was, in fact, strongest when I was weakest, that His grace was and is sufficient for me and that my thought-life, although hidden from the outside world, was not hidden from my Heavenly Father, and it was something that He desired to be Lord of too.

Another prayer that should be carefully considered is the one that asks God to teach patience. Now I don’t know why some prayers get answered quicker than others, but if you pray for added patience, please be prepared for ample opportunities to practice this fruit in every area of your life. In your home, with your family, at the grocery store and especially on the road, when your running late. You have been warned.

So I am going to post below one of the prayers Grace wrote out a few months before the accident. I have read and reread it and wondered if I would have the courage to pray the same prayer. Grace’s life brought honor and glory to the Lord, but her legacy does also. Am I willing to allow the Lord to do anything with my life, as long as it’s what glorifies Him the most? Am I willing to allow this grief stage of my life to point others to Him? Or will I get stuck in what I wanted my life to look like, instead of what God is prompting me to accept?

 

My Purpose                       8-2-15

Lord,

I can’t seem to find my true God-given purpose in life. What do you want me to do to bring the most glory and honor to You? I know You have planned something great for me, but I have no idea what that is! My life lacks excitement, not knowing what comes next, spontaneity. Show me Your plan Lord, help me to bring glory and honor to You.

Love, Grace

Dangerous Prayers

Renovations

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My best friend and I have often joked about how different our ideas of a clean house are. She is a deep cleaner. She enjoys the floors scrubbed, the sinks spotless and the rugs washed. Often times, a stack of magazines will need to be moved in order to scrub the floors, or a pile of clothes might need to relocate for the rugs to get soaked, but the deep cleaning is important to her. Now in my house, deep cleaning is something that happens only when my sweet sister-in-law comes over to help. But I hate clutter. When I clean, I don’t get the floor wax out (I honestly don’t even know how to use that stuff, sorry mom). I get boxes and garbage bags out, so I can throw stuff away. I don’t like piles of dishes, piles of clothes or piles of anything visible to my eye. I like the kitchen counter cleared off (even if the dirty dishes are in the sink), the living room floor has to be free of stuff, and my room…well even if the clothes are not hung up, they are off the floor and on a chair. She and I have often laughed at how we, combined, would make the perfect housekeeper.

My mind works best with order. Everything has its place. I will survey a room and see what still needs to be kept and what can go to the curb to make my life simpler.

Before the accident, I had most of my life clutter free. I knew where things belonged, everything had its place and if something seemed to be taking too much space, I would remove it. I didn’t take on tasks that I couldn’t complete with excellence, I didn’t say yes to requests, unless I knew I could carry them out. Now, living in a post-accident, state of mind, my answer to most everything is “I don’t know.”

I don’t know what a good day looks like.

I don’t know how I’m living without my Grace.

I don’t know why I’m not angrier.

I don’t know who is to blame.

I just don’t know.

Right now we are in the middle of a minor renovation. A small office area outside of Evie’s room is being transformed into a lounge area. She wanted somewhere to watch movies with her friends, hang out, and she also wanted a bench that could be made into a bed, so that her friends could have a place to sleep.

Because of that renovation, my house is cluttered. There are boxes filled with DVDs in the living room, piles of papers on the desk, and everything that doesn’t have a spot to go, is sitting on Evie’s bedroom floor.

But my house resembles my heart right now. Nothing has a specific place, everything is out of order and I desperately want to declutter, but I can’t. I’m learning, even though it hurts, that there is no order in a house of grief, there is no cleaning up piles of tears, I can’t throw away memory’s, even the tiniest ones, because memory’s are all I have now.

These are the moments that God reminds me that He has a perfect plan. He will clean things up, in His time, and He will teach me lessons in the midst of the clutter, if I will listen. Even though I want to fix this, I can’t, but He can. Daily I hand my clutter back to Him because I just don’t know what else to do with it, but He does.

God is good, in my best friend’s house, where the floors are clean; and God is good, in my messy, cluttered, house. My house is in the middle of a renovation, but so is my heart, and nothing is where it should be, but God is still good.

 

Renovations

The Little Comforts

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Our Grace was saved at a very young age. It was never something she questioned much. Jesus died for her sins and that was it. No doubts about Him ever really weighed on her. It actually bothered her that people didn’t see the simplicity of salvation. We taught her that the Bible is the inherent Word of God. We might not understand all that it says, but all the it says, is true. Because of her faith, questions about where she went to be that moment in January, are non-existent. Grace is where she knew her true home was, with her Savior.

God has given us comforts, tiny buds of life on this winter tree of grief. No one can ever hurt her where she is at, a tiny bud. We have no more worries about her future, a tiny bud. We have seen how many lives she had touched, how many people she reached out to in her 17 years, a whole branch of buds. God deposits these comforts periodically, I think it helps in the “binding the brokenhearted” process He talks about.

Repairing anything broken is never easy. Binding something takes a lot of work. Right now, I think He is gathering the right utensils, prepping the area and getting us ready for the long process of healing. A process that could take years and years. And once He is done, a scar will still be there, hopefully visible to the world, a reminder of what we came through, a reminder of His goodness and faithfulness and love.

A scar that will become a testimony…

The Little Comforts

How Could You?

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Right before the accident, the girls and I began a really annoying, but funny to us, habit of answering every question with a question. It really only worked between the three of us, because other people would quickly find no humor in what we considered hilarious. One of those things you do as a family, that only works with your family, because they are your family.

We all have them. When I was young it was family Bible reading time. My sister Lisa is slow, but every time we sat down to read our Bibles (usually in Ezekiel, my dad’s favorite book), Lisa would finish her reading in less than 3 minutes. She would close her Bible, zip it up, and then begin to watch each of our faces until one of us (usually me) got annoyed. I remember, on more than one occasion, getting mad at her because there was no way she read her chapter faster than the rest of us, and “seriously Mom, why is she staring at me again!”

Be it family meetings that are supposed to be serious, but end in laughter, family game nights, that you all find absurdly entertaining, but outsiders seem confused, or the nighttime Conga line to your bedroom (another family tradition in the Pochodaj home). We, our families, our personal, small units of tied together yarn, balled up in the same home, share secrets, joys, failures, fun and jokes that other people maybe don’t understand or maybe just don’t care about. It’s what makes each of our families distinctive.

So answering a question with a question goes something like this…

“How was your day today?”

“How do you think my day was?”

 “Can’t imagine it was better than my day. Want to hear about it?

“If I wanted to hear about your day, don’t you think I would have asked?

You can see how this could irritate people, right? But we had fun with it.

I mention all of this because, the most common question that I have heard in the past month, can really only be answered with a question.

“How can you endure a hardship like this?

“How can I not?”

As believers in Jesus, our ever present help in time of need, what other option do we have but to endure. And not only endure, but eventually thrive again. John 16:33, which I have clung to this past month, has been a scripture of healing to me for years. I have quoted it countless times. I have a beautiful plaque of it hanging above a doorpost in my home (like the Israelites were instructed to do). I have broken it down, memorized it, digested it and lived in its promise for as far back as I can remember. I actually think that my friend and I made a song to go with it when we were just kids.

“These things, I have spoken unto you, that you might have peace, in this world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome this world.”

What this verse does not say is that life will be easy, free of harm, disease, chaos, fear or worry. It won’t be void of tragedy, war, anger or injustice. Tribulation, according to Webster, can be defined in a sand storm of awful ways…suffering, distress, trouble, misery, heartache, woe, anxiety, agony and even grief.

But so often, when Jesus spoke, it was a bad news first, good news is coming, approach.

“Be of good cheer,” (or take heart, or like the Amplified Bible says, be courageous, confident, undaunted and filled with joy). “I have overcome the world.”

What is here, what is now, is suffering, no doubt, for my family, for other families, and for countless people, in countless situations, around the world. We need to remind ourselves daily (sometimes hourly or minute by minute) that Jesus overcame death, and in turn, overcame this world. The job began at the cross, but was completed with an empty tomb.

Our hope can not be in our prayers. Our hope can not be in our worship. Our hope can not be in how good we are or who we help. Our hope can only be in the finished work of Jesus Christ, who challenges us daily to live victoriously in what seems like defeat, to live joy-filled lives, in our saddest and darkest moments and to live courageous in the face of tribulation.

How can you endure this kind of hardship?

With Jesus, how can I not?

How Could You?

Senior Will

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At Grace’s school, in the final week of being a senior, the kids do something called Senior Will. I don’t know how familiar this tradition is to people, and I don’t know if it’s a normal thing that other schools do, but it doesn’t matter, we do it.

What the seniors do, if they want to, is dedicate or pass something on to the underclassmen. It can be anything from a sports survival kit (which Grace got one year) to a favorite pair of basketball shoes (which she also received from a good friend).

Grace had been working on her senior will stuff since she was a sophomore. It was so important to her that some of her young friends knew what they meant to her and had something to remember her by. I recall asking her, on more than one occasion, why it was so important, why she was preparing so far in advance, but she would just reply that she wanted to leave a legacy that wouldn’t soon be forgotten.

One of the items that she had been working on was a notebook for a friend of hers in the 8th grade. A young lady that she really loved, and really wanted to impart some wisdom to. We only found this notebook after the accident, but it is filled with one-page, one-paragraph, snippets of wisdom concerning life topics like peer pressure, love, boys, God, trials and growing up.

Because today is an important day in basketball and because basketball was one of the most important things to Grace, I thought I would share one of her entry’s.

Entry #11 – Passion   9/27/15

Having a passion is the most amazing thing in the world. One of my passions is basketball. When I go out on the court I feel unstoppable. That is how a passion should feel. Like no matter what, nothing could dull your love for what you are doing. I write sometimes, purely for myself. I know that I would never get published, but that doesn’t stop me from trying! I would never stop something because someone said it wasn’t “cool.” Who are they to say what’s cool or not?! Don’t quit on something you love. Pursue it.

Love, Gracie

(-let passion be your drive)


I found her list of senior will items, tucked under her bed, just the other day. I am going to try fulfilling each of them, because she worked so long and hard on them. She wrote a saying on her notebooks, her chalkboard and pretty much anywhere else she could

“Dream Without Fear, Love Without Limits”

This was her life motto, and she lived it, to its fullest.

Senior Will

Prayers That Cease

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I have a Tupperware container neatly tucked away in the garage. In it are all sorts of memories, my memories. My first rose from a boy, pressed in the pages of one of my many teenage, angst-filled, journals. Ticket stubs from countless movies covered with the names of who I went with and Birthday/Christmas/Thank You cards from years of important people. I know most people don’t save cards, most people don’t write more than their name in a card, but I have every card that anyone has ever given me. A fact that became extremely important to me months after my dad passed away and I began a frantic search for his handwritten words. I’m happy to say that I have at least 10 cards that my dad wrote directly to me. His handwritten words (so important to see after a person is gone) special just to me, with his love written at the bottom. I look at them whenever I need a reminder of how much my daddy loved me.

Tucked under all the cards, the countless diaries, the carnival stuffed animals and the notebooks filled with poetry, lies a red folder. A folder filled with pages and pages of a book written by me, to Grace.

When I found out I was pregnant, I knew two things for sure, it was a girl and her name was Grace. I also knew that I had 19 years of life that I wanted her to know about, so I began writing. I wrote often, about her dad and how we met, about his family, my parents, sisters, grandparents (what I remembered of them), my eventful childhood stories. I wrote and I prayed. My intention was to give it to her on her wedding day. Not sure now why I waited. Hindsight.

So a book called Grace, filled with stories and random facts, will sit in that memory box now, forever. I am going to pull it out at some point to let Evie read it, but I don’t think it will hold the same sentiment, considering the title is not Evelyn.

If a parent were able to fill Tupperware containers with the prayers they have prayed for their children, what would that garage look like? How many containers would line the cement floor? Boxes with words etched on the outside like, desperate prayers, joyous prayers, pleas for mercy. Prayers for safety, health and salvation. Prayers for future spouses and children.

We are to pray without ceasing, and believe me, I am, but my prayers have changed. More often than not, they are filled with tears, sometimes anger, often both. I pray for Jim’s heart, his ministry and his desire to accomplish more for the Lord. I pray for Evelyn and her future, as she carries with her a heart that will never be without deep, visible scars. I pray that God would use her to reach the masses, other people with scars. I pray for friends and family, big issues and little situations. I bend the ears of God for so many things, but my prayer list is missing a bullet point now. Thousands of Tupperware containers that will never be filled. My prayers for Grace have ceased, they have abruptly come to an end. It takes the mind a little time to adjust to that. It’s like what amputees feel when they have lost a limb. The phantom sensation that what they had is still there.

I woke up early the other morning realizing that I no longer needed to pray for Grace’s future husband either, something that I actually prayed for often, but then I decided to pray for him anyway, at least one more time. I prayed that his life would be filled with joy and peace. That he would still meet a woman perfectly suited for him, and that he would be the leader God charged him to be. Although he will never marry, who for the last 18 years, I have been praying would fit him perfectly, he will never realize what he is missing out on. He won’t get to read the letters she wrote about him, that she was saving for her wedding day (sound familiar)? But he won’t know. God is good like that, revealing just what we need to know and not the whole story.

So my prayers for Grace have ceased, my prayers for her future husband are no longer needed. January 25, 2016, I closed the lid on my last Tupperware container for her and I scribbled on the outside “beauty for ashes.”

Prayers That Cease

Sighs and Goodbyes

IMG_2023I feel like I sigh all the time. I guess maybe trying to catch my breath fully or fill my lungs up all the way, is a task I’m unable to accomplish right now. My mom says that God hears all our sighs and knows the unspoken words hidden in them. I suppose my unspoken words are goodbyes. Too many to count really. Goodbye to 2016 being a graduation year filled with a party of pink and gold. Goodbye to the college bound princess who still wouldn’t clean her room. Goodbye to the early morning snuggles or my crazy dance partner. Goodbye to the little forehead birthmark, that recently began to fade. Goodbye to our oldest child, who held all our first hopes, dreams, fears, worries and tears.

There’s another big sigh, and now the heaviness in my chest reappears, a building up of so many more sighs.

Sighs and Goodbyes