Learning a new language…

christmas1christmas6Opening Christmas cards with pictures of children who have grown so much and I wonder how tall he would be now.

Buying gifts and I wonder what he would have wanted for Christmas this year.

Baking treats and I wonder which treat would be his favorite.

Going through the motions in this season of celebration and joy and all my eyes can seem to fixate on is the barrage of disappointments splattered across my life.

Across me.

Lord, help me see through the disappointments.

To see YOU.

YOU came to this world so that I might live.

Not just exist.

Really live.

Live like Paul?

I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. (Phillipians 4:11-12)

Gratitude.

Contentment.

In the midst of grief I cannot seem to escape?

Can I learn to speak that language?

The language of losing my child and still loving to live this life fully…

Teach me Lord.zack ornament1christmas5christmas3christmas2001

Happy Birthday Zack

Was it really fourteen years ago?

That rainy Thursday.

We would name him Zackery  “the Lord remembers.” And he was perfect in an imperfect world.

Newborn Zack with proud Daddy

That day. That birth. It wasn’t just about me having our first baby or giving life.

That birth was about making me a mother. A mother who would come to learn to trust herself and know the inner strength she really possessed.

And for 12 1/2 wonderful years, he was with me here in this life with me. I am thankful for every moment. I am thankful God chose me to be his mommy.

And if I think too much, it becomes too much.

But I remember…

When the sun rises and when it sets… I remember.

When a flower blooms and a wind blows through my hair…I remember.

Zack’s first birthday

When I experience a joy moment and wish I could share it with him…I remember.

When my littlest one hugs me tight and says I love you Mommy… I remember.

When my husband squeezes my hand and I hear him though he does not speak… I remember.

When I hear a mother complain about her child….I remember.

So long as I breathe. I will remember.

Zack changed our lives the day he was born. He showed us new ways to love, new things to find joy in and new ways to look at the world.

And a part of his legacy is the change he has brought to our family in his death. He will always be a part of us.

And I will never be who I was before for I am, we are, forever changed.

May those who sow in tears…~Psalm 126:5-6

Even in the midst of the tears we are still planting. And we must press on for the crop. For the harvest.

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.~ Ecclesiastes 7:2

And just then, perhaps, your life and what really matters will become a fire burning within your heart. And perhaps you will be changed too.

Happy Birthday Zackery Ernest Mayo.

We love and miss you every minute of every hour of every day and remember you as we continue to live and find joy in the moment without you….A Moment at a Time.

A little brother picks wildflowers for a big brother’s grave…

“You ain’t scared are ya?”

The Schwan family made the two hour drive from Wilmington to Oriental yesterday to join us in catching shrimp. Oriental is located along the “Inner Banks” of North Carolina and it has been said that it is where “everyone lives at the end of the road, and every road ends at the water”.  I grew up just down the road on Dawsons Creek where my parents still live today.

Our friends boarded my daddy’s old skiff just after 4 o’clock. Winds from distant approaching storms made for rough waters.

Schwan Family – first time shrimping!

They were quick learners and we had a “good mess” of shrimp in our first tow.

Our second tow, however, was shortened by the beautiful streaks of lighting in the darkened sky.

Back at the dock, my daddy’s old farm truck was a safe, although close-quartered, refuge for all of us.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty” ~Psalm 91:1

We monitored the weather radar on the phone. Two men drove up in a truck towing a small jon boat equipped for catching shrimp.  They got out and stared up at the sky.

The younger man hesistated – climbing in and out of the truck with each flash of lightning.

We heard the older guy yell out to him with a southern accent similar to my own ,“You aint’s scared are ya?”

That challenged the younger man just enough to get out and help launch the boat in the pouring rain.

Into the storm. Into the rough waves of the river. In a tiny boat. With no shelter to protect them…

We wondered out loud about their decision.

Could rough seas easily toss them over in that little boat?

Will lightning strike them?

How cold is the rain?

Miserable?

Dangerous?

Would it be worth it?

“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” Proverbs 22:3

We sat in the truck. Sheltered from the storm. Rain poured down on the windshield. We continued to take comfort in our shelter…filling ourselves with snacks and fellowship.

My mind drifted to thoughts of the raging storm that started in our lives just over two years ago. The winds have calmed a little but the rain continues to fall.

Sheltered in our storm?

The men with the little boat returned quickly to the dock.

Did the storm seem less intense before they left shore?

Did getting into the very midst of the storm finally convince them to seek shelter?

Does it take a storm for us to seek HIS shelter?

Do we, like the stubborn fishermen who “ain’t scared,” refuse to take the shelter that can easily be obtained?

“It will be a shelter from daytime heat and a hiding place from storms and rain.” ~ isaih 4:6

Did I seek shelter before my storm?

And if not for the storm, would I have sought rest in HIS arms?

You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.. ~ Psalm 32:7

The storm finally passed enough for us to go back out and catch more shrimp.

And the waters were calm….

YOUR TURN:I would love to hear from you. We all have storms in our lives – some much more intense than others – but storms just the same. As you reflect on storms you have come through – What did you learn? Are you stronger now than you were then? What encouragement do you have for someone in the middle of a storm?

Schwan family culling shrimp

Joy to the World?

The secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.  ~ Ann Voskamp

Seeking joy in a world that tears dreams apart.

Seeking joy in a pediatric oncology unit where my child received his death sentence…

Seeking joy in a world that moans and heaves and believes all is lost.

Seeking joy in my grief…

And finding it?

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”~ Psalm 28:7

HE is at work in me, when I cannot do it on my own.

And I have learned to take joy in His mighty presence…

Joy is counting my blessings. Big and small.

And sometimes I have to count twice.

Joy overwhelms when my eight-year-old smiles.

Miley tubing with Nick and Eric on Dawson’s Creek

Joy overwhelms with his laughter.

Joy overwhelms early in the morning when I find my husband on his knees praying.

Zack tubing with his Daddy in Dawson’s Creek…

Joy overwhelms when I remember my sweet Zack.

Seeing the world through grace-coated glasses…

Joy is an attitude of the heart.

Joy winds its way around scars that will never unknot within me.

We cannot impart to our children what we do not have.

Joy overwhelms when we teach them to appreciate an extraordinary God in ordinary places.

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word” (Psalm 119:114).

Joy.

Unexplainable Joy.

His presence. His touch. The very hugs from my Father have satisfied my desire to know He’s listening. And my appetite is for more of HIM and not just His blessings.

“The joy of the Lord is my strength.” ~ Nehemiah 8:10

It has been, and it will continue to be.

I am praying the same for you as you join us in seeking and finding joy in this world….A Moment at a Time.

Zack and Haley tubing on Dawson’s Creek

Falling Forward…

Our Zack playing ice hockey...

Found rollerblades generate big smiles.

A little brother is excited to find them.

Hidden under piles of a big brother’s hockey gear.

Memories of an older brother playing hard. Vivid pictures fill my mind…

Nick’s happy heart makes me smile.

It feels good to smile.

A little brother pulls out protective hockey gear. Armor…

“Put on the whole armor of God…”

Each item is touched with excitement and enthusiasm as he rushes to try it on.  

Protective gear.

To protect a brother from hurt. To keep him safe from falling.

Can we ever be safe from hurting when we fall?

A little boy is eager to learn something new. A little boy who doesn’t worry about falling.

A Daddy encourages.  “Lean forward so when you fall you will fall forward!”

A Mommy worries. About falling.

Falling in a driveway where an older brother fell and ruptured a cancerous tumor.

A driveway where our lives fell apart…

A driveway where life bound us tightly together…

A driveway where we discovered tenderness, beauty and grace.

 

A Daddy sees the plan. He sees a little boy learning to rollerblade. A Daddy watches a little boy falling and catches him.

Sometimes he lets him fall…He says “you need to learn how to fall so you can learn how to get back up.”

Learning from falling?

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. ~ Nelson Mandela

 

A little boy feels safe. In his armor. In his Daddy’s arms.

 A Daddy cheers for a little boy determined.

A Mommy watches and learns from her little boy.

A little boy who motivates a Mommy to do the things she thinks she cannot do.

A little boy who misses his brother.

A little boy who asks lots of questions.

A little boy who trusts when there are no answers.

A little boy who prays daily for his older brother…prays that Zack is having a good time in heaven playing with his friend Wright.

A little boy who puts on his armor fearlessly.

A little boy who trusts that his Daddy will be there when he falls.

A little boy who gets back up when he falls….no matter how many times.

A little boy who enjoys the moment.

Day by day, moment by moment, I am learning how to get back up from my fall.

From our fall.

And daily, I put on the armor of God.

My protective gear.

 And though sometimes I still fall back down, I’m forever falling forward.

Into the grace of HIS arms…

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace. – Jerry Bridges

Zack (age 10) and Nick (age 4)...Zack had dressed Nick in his protective hockey gear...

A Headstone Delivered…

The sun shines brightly against the blue sky.  Puffy white clouds.

My throat tightens. I whisper a prayer for help.

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. ~ Isaiah 26:3

Where is my mind today?

I step out of the truck and my heart spills on the ground.

The ground where my son’s body rests.

Everything is alive with Spring. The grass so vividly green. Flowers bloom. Birds sing. Life is all around me. But death looks me straight in the eyes. Death of my first born. My Zack. Our son. It pierces my soul.

Grace. Amazing Grace. Grace greater than my sins. HIS grace enables me, enables us, to make it no matter what…

And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

I walk through the cemetery.

A headstone delivered.

A headstone for our son’s grave. Our 12 year old son’s grave.

A headstone placed carefully at his burial site. A place I do not visit often.

We put if off for so long. “You need to get one” – my momma would gently encourage.

A headstone finally ordered. What words are sufficient? To tell of a life lived. To tell of a life loved. To tell of all that is missed. Impossible.

A headstone finally delivered.

Back of his headstone. Dirt bike racer Zack Mayo Number 25

I run my fingers carefully over the letters of his name. I breathe. The sun warms the cold stone.

I notice grass has started growing over the sandy dirt on his grave.

A grandmother. My mother, “Ebie” to my boys, tenderly cares for his resting place near her home. Flowers lovingly switched out regularly. A new vase waits to dry so she can add more flowers.

The 2+ hour drive back to Wilmington, back to our 7 year old Nick, is quiet.

My husband’s hand in mine requires no words.

And this morning, the sun still came up. A new day.

And today people will complain.

About nothing.

About something.

About everything.

Instead of being thankful…
“I had no shoes and complained, until I met a man who had no feet.”  ~Indian Proverb

Parents will complain about their children.

Instead of being thankful…

And while they complain, today forty-six parents will learn their child has cancer.

And seven parents will kiss their cancer stricken child for the last time. Hold their hand and smell them for the last time. Look into their eyes for the last time. Listen to them breathe. Watch them struggle to live. And watch them leave this world.

And the way they look at this world and the people in it will be forever changed.

And they will wonder why anyone complains…

Instead of complaining that the rosebush is full of thorns, be happy that the thorn bush has roses.  ~German Proverb

Sidenote: Seeing a headstone, my son’s headstone, may make you uncomfortable. I am quite certain that I will get at least one message asking how could I post it? No messages surprise me anymore.  There will be others who won’t message me about it, they will just talk with their neighbor about it.(gossip?) That’s just a part of life. Headstones are also very much a part of life. Death is very much a part of life. You can push it out of your mind. You can ignore it but for sure it will still come. For you. And for your children. The ultimate question for you is what will you do for the eternal glory of God, not yourself, that will make your life count when it comes time for your headstone? Will HE be pleased with your words, your actions? Are they reflective of HIM in your life? If you don’t like the answers you have, it’s never too late to change. Let God be the change in you. If you already like your answers, get over yourself, there’s always room to do more. And the next time you feel a complaint rising up in you – take time to count your blessings instead. This life is but a vapor and then it is gone…make every moment count.

Hand-me-downs….saved and surrendered


Nick needs summer clothes. I realize this as I pack for our trip to Florida.

Hand-me-downs. A link to yesterday.

What our heart has once known, it will never forget…

I open the plastic tub marked size 8. Saved clothes for a little brother. An older brother always hesitant to surrender his outgrown clothes.

Are we willing to surrender?

In a few short years, Nick will be out of hand-me-down clothes. He will have passed the last size his brother would ever wear.

Jeans and shoes were never saved…only worn out. Surrendered only out of necessity. Zack put them always to maximum use. Playing and living every moment to the fullest.

I gently unfold the shorts. Shirts.Pajamas. Bathing suits. I close my eyes and remember. I almost forget to breathe. So far away – yet always with me.

These clothes. These hand-me-downs. These saved and surrendered clothes. They touch me because they touched him. So alive with him. His things that only tell part of his story. These things that we can hold in our hands.

“The past is not a package one can lay away” ~ Emily Dickinson

These saved clothes bring joy to Nick. He loves hand-me-downs from Zack. They are “cool” clothes. His brother’s saved and surrendered clothes.

These saved and surrendered clothes bring no tears today. They bring smiles to me. And to Nick.

A shirt takes me back to a place and a time. A memory.

A shirt brings Nick to the present and to the future. He will wear the fabric that touched his brother. A fabric worn with love…woven by the fine thread of a memory.

The past, the present and the future all becoming one. All becoming today.

This moment.

Living in the moment of a memory. Making a new one.

Does love of our past give us faith in the future?

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” ~ Romans 15:4

Our past brings us to where we are but we must be present in the moment. Right where we are. In the middle of these saved and surrendered clothes….where our hands and our hearts touch a piece of the past and hope for the joy in today.   

This life is but for a moment, a vapor. And then it is gone.

Saved and surrendered?

How else can we live fully in the present moment?  Saved. Surrendered.

Willing to surrender. To do the will of God. Willing to love even when we don’t want to love. Willing to serve even when we do not  feel like it. Willing to be kind, gentle and patient when we feel tired, cranky and impatient. 

Setting aside self. Making choices consistent with His word. Searching for ways to honor and glory Him in the midst of our trials….in the midst of life when we are scared and don’t feel like it.

We must surrender to live fully in the present moment.

Saved by HIM. Surrendered to HIM.  

Saving grace

My connection to God is my saving grace…

My quiet time with Him gives me strength to make it through another day. God wants to be a priority in our lives. How often do we say “I will have my quiet time later”…I know I have said it and I know when I ‘put it off’ by the way I feel.  I find myself looking to friends or family for comfort and support and still feel empty because only God can give me the support that fills the deep void in my life. If we don’t take the time, we will all find ourselves missing the blessing of His presence.

My friend Melanie and I had a nice chat yesterday. We were talking about how when people ask “how are you?” the typical response is “fine” mostly because most people don’t really want to know or have time to hear how you are really doing. It is so comforting to know that God really wants you to tell Him how you’re feeling. He already knows so you may as well pour out your heart. He is never too busy to listen. He is never distracted by texting on His iphone. He is always interested. Always present. “God is our refuge and strength…” ~Psalm 46:1.

Thanksgiving is approaching. I find myself thinking of holidays and all they represent and all that will be missing this year for our famly. Nevertheless, we are so very blessed and thankful we had our sweet Zack here on this Earth for over 12 years. How blessed we are that God chose us as his parents! We cherish every moment we had with Zack here and try hard to focus on that instead of the pit of despair – which by the way is very easy to fall into some days. The good news is that I have been to the bottom of that pit and discovered that the bottom is solid and God can pull me out.

I took a walk on the beach yesterday and found a beautiful heart shaped rock. It made me think of my sweet boy and how much better he made my life and how his death has changed me forever.  God has a plan for all of us. We have to trust that His plan is better than ours.

Nick is doing very well – thank you to all who message and email me to ask about him. He still grieves as a 7 year old – one minute sad, the next minute playing and laughing with his friends. We continue to pray for restful sleep for him as night time still is the most difficult time for him.  He loves going to Parsley Elementary (“Bubbies school”) and loves his teacher, Lisa Traflet! Yesterday they made a cool turkey in class. Last night he insisted on duplicating it because Zack needed one too. They are both proudly displayed now – see pic – with wings touching because they had to be “holding wings”….love that sweet boy!

Thank you for always praying and believing with us as we take each day a moment at a time…

missing Zack

I miss you so much Zack. It is hard to imagine how I am able to go on without you.

Sometimes I think that happiness is over for me. I look at photos of the past and immediately comes the thought; that’s when we were still happy. But I can still laugh, so I guess that isn’t quite it. Perhaps what’s over is happiness as the fundamental tone of my existence. Now sorrow is that. Sorrow is no longer the islands but the sea.” ~ Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son.

Praying and believing every day…

Loneliness…

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.” ~ Psalm 68:5-6

A variety of emotions have overwhelmed me being back in our house in Wilmington this weekend. Nick is so excited to be home in the only house he has ever known as home. He loves being in his room, swimming in his pool, and playing with his and Zack’s friends. He is loving introducing his puppy “Miley” to all of his friends. Seeing Nick this happy (the happiest we have seen him in weeks) makes my heart happy.

But, being back in our house is bittersweet. I see Zack everywhere….at the top of the stairs yelling down Mommy where are my clean socks?, at the door of the pantry and the fridge seeing what we have to eat, in the pool playing, in the front yard running with friends, in my bathroom (which he always chose over his own), and in his empty bedroom – which is just the way he left it. And while I cherish all my memories of Zack in this house, it is a painful reminder all of that will never be again.

Tears still flow easily and I ache with loneliness in this new world I have come to know but still do not understand. Some days are tougher than others. God sends relatives, friends and even strangers to help lift the loneliness from me and bring me into the company and companionship of others. I never really understood what it was like to feel lonely in a crowd until now. Even though many people may surround me, I realize that not one of them truly understands what I am going through. But I do believe God understands my pain – all of our pains – and yearns for us to let Him fill that pain with His presence and the fullness of His compassion and care…if only we will let Him.

(God said) “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” ~ Hebrews 13:5

Today is another new day. I will face the day with hope and embrace the smiles, the tears and everything in between.

Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” – Walter Elliott

Still praying and believing….learning to live life without Zack. A moment at a time…