Happy 23rd Birthday Katelyn!

Katelyn Marie Leavitt Perkins,
Today would have been your 23rd birthday. We still celebrate you. We still honor the beauty that you were….are. We still cry some days as we miss you but we quite often smile at funny memories.
Just this week I was laughing to myself about the time you were demonstrating to Dad and I how you would swim if you had no legs. You had just completed a bout of chemo and had no hair. We affectionately called you Q-ball because your head was so white. You were in a swimming pool demonstrating how you would swim with no legs but you were sinking. Your name suddenly became the “Sinking Q-ball”. We were doubled over with laughter. We have so many memories like that, filled with laughter.
We have begun to settle into life without you here but still imagine how you would react to certain things, such as the birth of your new nephew, Bryan. You would have gobbled him up! He has so many chubby little rolls and is well on his way to being the same size as his daddy. Your other nieces and nephew have grown so much. Paige and Arryanna had a particularly hard time with accepting that you won’t be around to hang out with them any longer. Josh did too but he was young enough to move on a bit easier.
Some things happened this week that made me think of the day you had your first surgery. You had only been out of surgery a few hours, enough time for the major anesthesia to start wearing off. You were in a lot of pain. A nurse came in and started turning you over. I thought she was kind of rough but kept silent, trying to be a good mom and allow you to find your own bold voice. As soon as she left you looked at me and started crying and said, “Mom, she hurt me so much. She was SO rough”. I said, “I thought she was pretty rough but I was waiting for you to say something.” I got up and made a b-line to the nurses station and made it clear that that nurse was to never touch you again. I quietly came back and sat by you while you were sleeping. You woke up later and said, “Mom, thank you for making the bad nurse go away.” You were 18 but it was as if you were 3 again and asking me to hold you during a thunder storm.

Thunderstorms use to terrify you. When you were around 12 or 13 years old we had one of the largest storms I had ever experienced. You were trembling because you were so afraid. We could feel the house rattling and creaking from the wind and the lightening. I retold the story of how I use to be terribly afraid of thunder storms but how I had learned to love them. They are beautiful.
I asked your permission to take you outside into the thunderstorm. You cowered at the thought and clung to me. I told you that I would wrap you in a blanket and you could sit on my lap in your dad’s truck. You agreed. You clung to me with every clap of thunder and would bury your face in my chest and under your blanket. I reminded you that I would hold you tight but encouraged you to look up and see the beautiful show before us. We were sitting in the middle of incredible flashes of lightening and loud crashes of thunder happening all around us. The light show was spectacular and massive. The lightening looked like a neon net in every direction. We tried to count seconds before we heard the thunder but we couldn’t count fast enough because we were literally in the middle of the storm.
As we sat together I encouraged you to lift your head and watch the splendor. You slowly loosened your clenched fists and started to relax, your head started peaking out from under the blanket. You started looking for the beauty in the storm instead of cowering from it’s affects. Before I knew it you were beside me in the truck seat instead of on me. Rain was pelting the roof of the truck so hard that it was hard to hear each other speak. I told you to close your eyes and listen to the beauty of it’s sound. It was incredible. That was the last time I recall you ever being afraid in a thunder storm. You learned to appreciate its beauty.

Your death has been like a tremendous storm to our family. We have run to The Father for comfort. He provides comfort like no other but you know this. You were very familiar with His comfort. There have been times that we have cowered under the blankets and clenched our fists in fear and some of the family those fists were clenched in anger but not for long. The storm has felt spectacular and massive. We have begun to look for the beauty in the storm instead of cowering from it’s affects.
Our heads are peaking out from under the blankets and viewing the beauty in the storm. All three of your brothers and your sister and sister-in-loves have amazed me with their strength. Vulnerability and humility are beautiful gifts that they share openly. I love that about them. Grandparents are healing and overcoming. Your sweet husband has remarried, just as you had hoped he would. I believe he is very happy. That makes my heart happy too.
We have learned that joy does not always displace grief but often parallels it. It’s like a beautiful melody that wouldn’t be as rich without the low and the high octaves being played at the same time. These are things learned in a storm. We have the freedom to cry because we miss you and because we are grateful for where you are while we are remembering how incredible you are. It is not unusual to feel all of these things in unison. That is when the comforting, faith-filled melodies resound and sway us back and forth in the arms of The Father. He lulls us with His peace.
No matter how large and loud the storm is the comfort of the Father always rings louder and larger. No matter the condition of our heart He is ready to receive us as we are and pour grace over us so we may walk away with much more than we invested in our own healing. We can come to Him as a vagabond, whipped and empty and walk away as a King. His mercy amazes me and makes me desire even more of Him. His generosity brings me to my knees in adoration of Him. He always exceeds my expectations and I had BIG expectations!
His word is true. Romans 5:3-4 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

A new hope has risen up in us. We are still wobbly kneed at times but walking in new fruit that wasn’t there before. More than ever we rely on His mercies and grace. More than ever we are learning to receive from Him instead of relying on those strong Leavitt tendencies that were simply not strong enough to endure this storm. The roots of our faith have grown deeper and wider simply by His grace. I know of no other god than is so merciful and generous. I know of no other god willing to take the sting out of death and replace it with such victories.
You would have loved sitting and listening to this story. Now, I imagine your sweet, contemplative and patient smile that use to melt my heart. It still does.
We love you and miss you. We celebrate you today! Happy 23rd birthday, Katelyn Marie Leavitt Perkins!

I Choose To Worship

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David was a worshipper. David is my favorite worshipper. David and I have been buds for years. I have learned to cry out to a merciful God by using his example. I have learned to praise by his example. I have learned to worship through hardship by his example. Deeper intimacy with The Father always follows. I have learned vulnerability and transparency by his example. Deeper intimacy has always followed. I GET David! We are tight!
In 2 Samuel 12 David’s son was dying. He fasted. He prayed. He contended for healing for his son. He was a mess. He wouldn’t eat or allow others to pick him up off of the floor. His son died. When he found out he got up off of the floor, washed his face, put on some clean clothes and went to worship.
I’ve meditated on that scripture many times over the years. I got a glimpse of a deeper worship experience by David’s response after his son died. I SOOO get David! Today I understand him even more.
I am a worshipper. By all visible definitions of the word worshipper I just don’t fit the bill. Yet, I am a worshipper.
My 21 year old daughter had cancer. I cried out for her to be healed. I fasted and prayed for her healing. There were times that others could not pick me up off of the floor. The last time was just days ago, the day that she died. I lay across the body that she left and wailed in agonizing grief at her departure. It’s possible that I am not as courageous or as good of a worshipper as David was but I don’t really think it’s up for comparison. I am still a worshipper. I’ll worship through this hardship and deeper intimacy will come. In the infancy of this habit of worship it was a faith filled discipline. Now it is simply a habit motivated by what is to come, simply knowing that He is worthy. I fully expect deeper intimacy to follow. I have no question.
Not one inkling of God’s sovereignty shifted when David’s son died or when my daughter died. His worthiness to be worshipped did not change one iota. He’s worthy of worship. He’s worthy of praise. He’s worthy of adoration. David had experienced His sovereignty, His mercy, His deliverance, His love, His friendship on so many other occasions that he didn’t have to stop and ask himself if he should go worship. He simply went and worshipped. That is where I am at. David had his own experiences and reasons. I have mine. I will share some of them.
Just over a decade ago I was driving down the road. I was singing a worship song at the top of my lungs. Here is a snapshot of the worshipper that I am: I can’t hold a tune, I don’t remember words to songs…EVER, when I dance I break things because grace is not a part of any movement I make, except occasionally on the tennis or volleyball court, on a good day. I was singing very loudly in the car but, as usual, I got the words and syllables mixed up and what came out of my mouth was speaking how awesome I was and that I was worthy of praise. When I realized what I had said I quickly clasped one hand over my mouth and was horrified. I was in mid-repentance mode when, in my spirit, I heard The Father let out the biggest belly laugh and I saw Him throw his head back and grab His belly while it shook with laughter. After hearing several seconds of laughter he said, “You make me laugh! I love how quirky you are.” I burst into tears and had to pull the car over. Just the thought of provoking my Heavenly Father, the God of the universe, to a deep belly laugh moved me more than I can say. The thought of
Him enjoying me changed me….FOREVER! The thought that I could surprise Him with my goofiness, enough to cause Him to interact with me in this manner changed me FOREVER. Every interaction that I have with Him changes me FOREVER. I was so deeply touched to get a glimpse of The Father’s heart toward me… toward us. He adores us! It is much too easy to think that He is a harsh, mean, punishing God than it is to accept His unconditional love and be transformed by it. There I was, mid-repentance and He was simply delighted in who I am, including my clumsiness. He was celebrating and so delighted with my awkward, un-professional, un-Hill Song attempt at adoring Him. That would be similar to me leaning over to kiss my husband, tripping mid-kiss and bashing our faces together. (Don’t laugh – that happens to everyone… right?) It seemed as though I ruined a beautiful, intimate moment but it only increased when I was just me, in all of my blundering glory. I was forever changed because He loves me enough to show me, tell me, right in the midst of me being me… so very clumsy and un-practiced and raw in my moments of adoring Him. Worship only increased. Adoration erupted from me and I was immersed in His presence. We think He wants perfection when He just wants us, just as we are, to approach a throne room so filled with grace that all desire for anything else disappears, all depravity disintegrates. We think that we have to work and work and work to worship, to get rid of our sin but He already did that. It’s done! Sitting at His feet… That’s where the party’s at! (Quietly stepping off of soap box)
I could share dozens and dozens of similar experiences that I have had with my Abba but I have two other points to make.
Mike and I have prayed for every one of our children to develop and grow in their relationship with Our Lord and Savior. We have prayed that every one of them and our grandchildren would spend eternity with our Savior. We aren’t ones to pray for them to just step inside the gate for safe keeping. We don’t pray for their butts to be greased so when the door slams shut they will slide right in. I pray for Davidic hearts. I pray for passionate hearts running hard after Him, slaying giants along the way. I’ll be honest, more often than not I feel very inadequate in my prayer life but the God that I serve is so very generous. I am learning that it is much more about His generosity than my works. All of that to say; I have been giddy with joy that this prayer has been generously answered. Katelyn did not just slip in under the wire. She lived passionately for our Lord. She lived loving others and sharing what she knew of Him. This answered prayer presses me into a deeper intimacy with my Abba.
Secondly, I have prayed that my children would experience a greater intimacy with the Father than I have known. I am saturated with a childish joy that my daughter is witnessing so much more. My heart is full and overflowing. I don’t know what heaven will be like, other than gold so pure that it is clear and other descriptions given in Scripture. I have to say, as a woman that doesn’t place much value in jewelry, gems or precious metals, the whole gold thing just doesn’t speak to me. Sure, if I had some here on earth I could exchange it for some awesome things but in heaven I don’t think that is what I will have my eyes on. I will have my eyes set as flint on the most beautiful thing I have and will ever witness, the eyes of the one that loves me because I am quirky, the one that I make laugh, the one that I sing incomplete and politically and spiritually incorrect songs to and He just soaks them in because He loves my adoring voice. He loves me! I make Him belly laugh! If you ever heard me sing you would gain a whole new understanding of His unconditional love.
Katelyn is no longer gasping for air but she is breathing in the presence and aroma of The One Who Adores Her. There is no greater joy. She transitioned from misery to glory but this is so much less about the lack of suffering than it is about the presence of pure joy, being in the presence of the King of Kings. My greatest prayer has been answered, that my child may experience the presence of my loving God even more than I. I am overwhelmed with His goodness.
I have laughed more than I have cried since Katelyn died. That is going to make some people uncomfortable. I am okay with that. Sometimes discomfort is just what we need ! Katelyn would be ecstatic to know of this truth. She loved to laugh and make people laugh. She was one of the funniest people I have ever known. She had this purity about her, this amazing integrity that I considered pure gold. Even when she was young and was in trouble for something, I would ask her if she did “such and such”. She would proudly say, “Yes, I did” without shame. Quite often she was not sorry. Many, many times her response shifted my belief system, altering wrong beliefs that bound me for years. Her conviction swayed me. Her integrity softened me. Her purity wooed me. Her joy infused anyone near her. How can you raise a child to be integral then that child teaches you a new meaning of the word? She was a beautiful gift from my Abba.
Just after Katelyn released her last breath we could see glory on her face. That is the only way to describe what I saw. I actually looked up at the ceiling to see if someone had turned a spotlight on her face. There was no spot light. I have witnessed a new definition of peace. It was written on her face that day. She had to have been looking into His eyes. I cannot contain the joy that bubbles out of me since that day. She was beautiful. It was beautiful.
I have only had relationship with The Father for about 42 short years and my worshipping days are in their infancy of just over 32 years. I truly am just an amateur and look forward to greater revelation. I look forward to each opportunity I have to praise a God that knows me and still adores me.
I have yet to dance naked on my rooftop. Watch out neighbors!!!

Good Bye for Now! I Will See You Soon!

Good Bye for Now! I Will See You Soon!