One of those things was my birthday on the 17th - my 35th birthday! I sure don't feel as old as that sounds! It was particularly hard because of course Corey wasn't here to help me celebrate it. In addition to that, his 35th birthday last July was the last one we got to celebrate with him, just 10 days before his death. There were some small but very meaningful gifts from God in how we spent Corey's last birthday. One of them was the time he spent fishing with the girls. We've got some great video of that. I enjoyed watching the action from the shoreline while Corey and Abi casted their lines and Ali just wailed that she wanted Mommy. We ate dinner that night at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Northport, ME. The picture of the 4 of us on my home page was from that day. I knew Corey didn't want me to embarrass him by having the staff sing happy birthday to him, but I did it anyway :) Sombreros and all! It normally wouldn't have been my inclination to do this but this year felt different, and I'm glad I did it since it resulted in smiles on all of our faces. I pulled out all the stops and ordered a $10 dessert with 4 spoons for us to all enjoy together. I had a moment of hesitation as the waitress tried to convince me of how good their brownie sundae was. I didn't want to spend the extra money since we had a Reese's peanut butter ice cream cake waiting for us back at the camp in the freezer. God must have given me a nudge 'cause I said sure, why not? This kind of memory might sound silly, but it was one of the few times in my life where I undoubtedly was being taught the important lesson of how precious each moment of our lives is and to make them all count.
When you get married your husband kind of becomes responsible for making sure your birthday is not forgotten. Corey did a good job with this year after year. This year was probably the first in a long time (maybe since college?) that I did something with friends for my birthday which made it special. My family and friends went out of their way to make sure I felt very loved this year. Some of my friends took me out for a scrumptious brunch the day before my b-day at a place called the Crepery...YUM! They have probably more than 2 dozen different kinds of fillings for the crepes they make. We went to a movie after brunch. I haven't been to a movie since the last one I went to with Corey...which I think was Date Night with Steve Carell and Tina Fey. I remember when Corey and I had seen the preview for it before it came out...the couple in the movie was so 'us' in terms of the season of our life and marriage we were in. I'm pretty sure we went to see it for my birthday last year....man, a whole year without going to a movie...I'm sure I haven't missed much ;) So the girls and I went to see the movie Soul Surfer. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it is based on the true story of Britney Hamilton who was an up and coming professional surfer who had her arm bitten off by a shark when she was 13. The movie follows her story of triumph through adversity as she looks to her faith in God to carry her through. Learning to surf again was a challenge after losing an arm (balance issues and all) but she persevered and not only got back up on her board but went on to become a professional surfing champion. It was an inspiring story with parts that were an encouragement to me in my own trials. The very last frame of the movie shows the ocean with a rainbow in the sky above as the backdrop to the words, "The End." Those 2 words disappear and are followed by the words "is only the beginning." It kind of gave me goose bumps and made me tear up. This line feels so true for Corey and myself. For Corey, the end of his life here on this earth is only the beginning of a new and more glorious chapter of the rest of his life to be spent in Heaven for eternity. For me, the painful end to our earthly relationship marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life here without him. I wouldn't have chosen it but God's promise to work all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) is the truth that I stand on. I know he has a beautiful plan for the girls and me in the wake of Corey's departure and I'm waiting expectantly to see how this "chapter" unfolds. Most days lately it has been hard to stay focused on that promise, but the words of Pastor Bernie from his message shared at Corey's Memorial service comfort me. I was reminded of them as I sat in the dark theater reading those last words on the screen. Pastor Bernie said of my situation and Corey's death, "This story is yet to be finished. Do not despair. God is, as Jill says, still a good God and is at work even in the midst of this...to bring good out of the unthinkable."
And who do I have to thank for this hope, for the promise that God will give me beauty for ashes and turn my mourning to joy? for His amazing promise of eternal life with Him and a sweet reunion with Corey? Only Jesus - for his suffering and death on the cross for me, for Corey, for all of us. Easter this year, in contrast to previous years, left me filled with an extra measure of gratitude as I remembered Christ's death and resurrection - His sacrificial and torturous death on the cross so that I could have life everlasting. He claimed victory over death through his resurrection so that we too could conquer death and be raised to a new life lived for Him and for God's glory!
There is a song I have loved listening to this Easter season called, Christ is Risen, by Matt Maher. Here it is on youtube, since it's not on playlist :( Enjoy...more to come...