Today, December 8, 2011 I celebrate Abigail Grace Henkel, my first born gift. Her school, Grace Christian Academy performs, “Dude, You hear what I hear?” and I continue to stand in broken awe of how God is working to make beauty for ashes.
Our 1st Christmas with Sophie in heaven
We returned home to Jacksonville from an extend vacation with friends and family in California; just in time for Abby to participate with her (Dance Theatre of Jacksonville) class in this adorable Christmas dance entitled “Chicken Pox for Christmas.”
The day of her Christmas recital December 13, 2009, had been a dark day. As we put up our tree and started hanging the ornaments. She would say, “I miss my baby sister.” Abby would see an ornament with Sophie’s picture or ornaments from the previous couple of years that were Sophie’s and her broken heart was evident. My heart joined in her pain.
In a moment of reflection I realized, I have been blessed with two extraordinary girls.
Abby; my first born, very shy on a regular day to day basis however, she LOVES to sing and dance. (Kind of a walking contradiction in my mind.) But, I had repeatedly witnessed her gift first hand. If Abby was given a song to sing or steps to do (from the age of 3) she would remember, participate and begin to beam.
Sophie; never shy within our family circle. She sang and danced from the moment she was able. These two sisters were synchronized in their love to sing and dance. It truly was their bond. They danced every second they were together on earth, it was their love language.
This is Abby’s first recital performance since Sophie went to heaven. (Abigail is the one in the middle of this video, big red bow, glitter skit and top.) I wasn’t sure if her love for dance would reappear, had the brokenness of her heart, shattered her love of dance, stolen that which gave her so much joy? Would the courage of the young boy David arise and cause the enemy to flee?? I was nervous for my Abigail.
And suddenly; the glory of God shown around her as the music began. Sophie was there as well, I know it.
I was so blessed to see her love every second of this performance. Something she’s been gifted at and truly loves to do!
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable!!
Not even our devastation, broken hearts or anguish can remove what God has deposited! His destiny and will for our lives can not be stolen!
Impossible: unable to exist or happen. Unable to be done performed. Incapable of being true. Hopelessly unsuitable; difficult.
So many new exciting opportunities coupled with so many difficult challenges have presented themselves to me in the past month; I have been feeling the intensity of the Potter’s hands.
Tis the season; right? A constant combination of “to do lists” with holiday festivities, which seems pretty usual with the onset of the Christmas season.
On top of which we continue to try to create our “new normal” ever since my girls went to heaven. The Christmas seasons thus far have proven to be difficult for my fragile heart to handle. Unearthing, our precious Christmas treasures is a gentle balance of excitement and reminding myself to breathe.
When I was a young girl my Grandmother started an ornament tradition with each member of our family. My Grandmother assigned us all to a specific type of ornament. I was assigned angels. She has given me many angels over my 40 yrs. I unpack and hang my beautiful winged collection every year. Their significance has changed dramatically. Angels constantly in the presence of God, surrounding the throne accompanied by my daughter Sophie and my sister Nancy; perspective changed, forever. My comprehension of the Truth and the reality of my girls living there, being swallowed up by life captivates my thoughts! They are not dead, gone, lost they are very much living and active. Sophie and Nancy are being about their Father’s business, as He wills and deploys them to achieve supernatural things to glorify Himself, comfort us on the earth and communicate through the heavenly veil to us….breathe, breathe.
Christmas 2011; so much to do and the impossibility of it all, a state of overwhelming was just around the corner.
And then He reminded me of just what He has done and can do.
Stones of Remembrance
Spring of 2010
My 6-year-old daughter Abby asked, “When we get to our new home how will Sophie know where we are?” My husband, Russ had just Retired a Master Sergeant after 21 years in the US Marine Corps. We had just sold the first home we ever bought, 3 1/2 years prior. The only home our 2 daughters had ever known. Our 2 ½ year old daughter, Sophie was now living in heaven, after open-heart surgery just 7mths before. The world was moving very fast.
Abby’s heart was now troubled. Abby was worried that if we left the only house Sophie ever lived in on earth how would she know where to find us? I wasn’t prepared for the depth of this question coming from my 5 yr old after a 2 day journey from N.C to TN. I was however, enthusiastic about her expectation that somehow Sophie would be in touch with us! And I was surprised at the confidence and assurance of my answer. With no hesitation and quite automatically I spoke, “Honey, I don’t know how we will know. But God will show Sophie where we are and we will know that she knows. I promise, you know? She smiled and agreed with a nod of her head.
We were just about to exit the freeway to see our new apartment in TN for the first time. We had no idea what miraculous events were about to occur. In our wildest imaginations we would not have expected such extraordinary events to occur.
What God did to confirm this divinely inspired promise to Abby is supernatural, miraculous, loving and extremely personal. Not one detail did He overlook, sheer perfection. To explain such detail requires traveling back in time just a bit, so bare with me.
Back in time
While Sophie was on the earth, she loved butterflies. I too shared a love of butterflies. I have always loved the symbolic picture of a “new creation” in Christ. The butterfly’s intense transformation; beginning as a caterpillar, challenged in their emergence from the cocoon and then being victorious as they are released into the wild as they take flight. They are completely transformed called into a whole new destiny. Once caterpillars, they crawled on the ground eating leaves and after being confined in their chrysalis stage they emerge something totally and completely exquisite with wings! Their destiny is to fly and to drink sweet nectar!
Sophie was captivated by butterflies. As Sophie began to recognize pictures, and her speech developed, she would point and say, “ohhh pretty buffff-fly Mama.” She also had a collection of butterflies hanging on fishing line above her bed. Every night, Russ would lift her up, in a horizontal laying position, as if she was flying herself, so that she could pet each one before bedtime.
2 Spring seasons Sophie was on the earth. During the last spring season she would constantly try to catch a butterfly. Her attempts were unsuccessful, but she never stopped trying. Russ acquired a butterfly net and spent quite a bit of time running around our backyard trying to catch a butterfly for Sophie to hold. He never caught one but never stopped trying. I really had never met anyone who had ever caught a butterfly. It was mission impossible, futile.
May 29, 2010
Abby and I finally arrived at our new apartment home. Russ has arrived a few days prior to sign leasing information and get ready for the movers to arrive. Everything was new to us, a location we had never been and our new residence. The apartment was void of all furniture Abby ran around, explored and giggled with delight. The movers were to arrive the following day so our first night we stayed in a hotel.
It was a beautiful sunny day. Abby was wearing one of her favorite tops. A purple tank top with a sparkle butterfly design on it. As her exploration of her new residence subsided, back out to our car we went. We stood outside for a moment, under a huge tree cherry blossom tree observing the neighborhood and then it happened….
A butterfly came and landed on Abby’s hand!!! She gasped and quietly whispered, “Look Mommy.” I thought for sure as quickly as it had landed it would fly away, one quick move, or loud sound and our beautiful visitor would take flight. Enormous smiles emerged from our faces as we looked at one another. I whispered, “hold still, sweet pea.” as I dug for my iPhone to memorialize the moment. Abby began to giggle because the butterfly began to walk around on the back of her hand and she said, “It tickles.” and it began to dawn on me that our beautiful visitor was in no hurry. So, I placed my hand next to Abby’s and this precious butterfly walked onto the back of my hand and began to “tickle” me too. Abby and I were totally awestruck! I looked at Abby with a huge smile and said, “Sophie knows where we are Abby. Do you know that in your heart?” Abby nodded with a grin through a well of tears. Russ came out of the garage and yelled across the parking lot (he’s a Marine), “Hey what are you two doing?” I thought his shouting across the parking lot would scare our divinely directed visitor away but the butterfly stayed firmly planted on me. Abby waived him over, as if to say, “come quickly” as he got near to us; Russ could not believe what he saw. Mission impossible had become a reality! He held out his hand and then this butterfly walked from my hand to his, the 3 of us standing there rejoicing and broken, knowing Sophie was interacting with us through the veil. Our exquisite friend stayed for quite some time visiting with us; under that tree. We all soaked in the extraordinary interaction. The butterfly would even flap her wings and hover over us but then land on us again. She was playing with us. The last place she attached herself was to Abby’s purple butterfly tank top. We literally had to peel her little sticky legs off of Abby to place her on the bush behind us, so we could go check-in to our hotel. This divine appointment was a confirmation of magnanimous proportions. It was supernatural, miraculous, loving and an intimate exchange with the Creator and Sophie, utilizing a significant and special part of His creation! We could have lived off of this moment in time forever but there’s more because He’s that good.
As we settled into our new home and location our first summer in TN; Russ, Abby and I had many supernatural encounters with many kinds of butterflies. We believe God allows Sophie to usher them to us, being busy about Her Father’s business while she’s living in His house.
Every visit has been unique and lengthy; not at all accidental. One day a butterfly ran errands with me in my car, sat in my lap, came into our home and spent the night. Miracle?! Absolutely! This precious creature drank from a mixture of water and a tiny bit of salt, (that a friend of mine googled) as I had no idea what to attempt to feed our delicate houseguest.
I have documented our visits through photographs and videos, as a stone of remembrance.
in my lap while driving….
having some dinner
God wants to move heaven and earth to comfort our grieving hearts. Our Abba Father knows how hard separation is during the sorrow of earthly loss. He was separated from His One and Only Son for the reconciliation for the World. He will orchestrate supernatural experiences to occur in order to encourage us, for sure! We have to be vigilant, keep watch and be ready! There’s some mind-blowing stuff being delegated from the heavenlies, all for the King, His Kingdom and His Royal Subjects in heaven and on earth.
I don’t think it’s too much of a leap of faith to say that God has given Sophie a job, ushering her favorite beauties with wings. One of the most exciting revelations that I have received in reading a book called, “Have Heart: Bringing the Gulf between Heaven and Earth,” in the Chapter entitled “They are active,” Steve and Sarah Berger explain how our loved ones are assigned work to do in heaven not boring, monotonous, mindless busy-ness, but Kingdom work, filled with excitement and purpose. Our loved ones in heaven continue to participate in God’s redemptive plan and purpose alongside us here on earth, together we are co-laboring! They are not far off. They are very near to us. Sophie has been relocated to heaven to begin her God-given purpose there. God can deploy Sophie to do whatever He wills and we are ready to receive any communications or interactions He wants to send!
Back to the present
So in addition to navigating through the Christmas season of 2011, fragile, longing and sometimes sad; God has been reminding me that His arm has not been shortened and never will be. Don’t give up hope! Expect, believe and look for miracles. The word impossible doesn’t exist for Him. The doors He’s opening no man can shut. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. (2 Cor 1:20)
With God all things are possible because unto us HIS child was born.
Without You I would be utterly lost in darkness and despair!