When the answer is no

He was described as smartly dressed, slumped over on the lawn Tuesday morning, November 6th.

Don’t look at him.

His body broken and lifeless.  Quick!  Grab the familiar couch blanket, wrap it around him, and carry him home.

Don’t look at him.

Hours before, he was locked in his office building.  Leaving his last earthly fingerprints, washing dozens of coffee  mugs and spelling out L-O-V-E with them in the break room.

And in an instance, that Monday night, his body slammed into the stone building, meeting the cold hard ground.   The grass grasped under his hands as he crawled while his heart poured out into his chest.  His injuries taking him quickly.  And his body lay broken on that grassy rooftop.

Don’t look at him.  Bring him home.  He is our brother.  He is their son.  Wanted and loved.  Adored and cherished.  Don’t look at his lifelessness.

On November 28th the father buried the son.  The mother planted beautiful flowers.  His name is on a plaque.  His name.  How can this be?

One more hug.  One more embrace.  One more chance to carry him home.  One more anything involving light in his eyes.  And the answer is no.

His kind face at the memorial service on December 15th, staring from a picture right into your eyes.  The smile lines, the warmth, the intentionality.  And the ache to hold his face and kiss his cheeks.  Feel his shoulders and see his eyes.

The ache is so painful.  To grasp and know, the answer is no.  No where in the world are those cheeks, those eyes.  Gone.  And the answer wells up like shards of glass.

We turn our eyes to the heavens, they have fresh meaning today.  He is there.  He is whole and complete now.  All he ever wanted to be and more.  And the weeping grows deeper.

Jesus, you knew.  You knew 32 years would be whole and complete.  You knew this father would bury this son.  You knew those moments when the grass was grasped under his hands.  You were there.  You saw.  You knew.

And yet You weep with us.  This affliction.  This fallen-ness.  This utter separation.  You know and You knew.

This earth holds a new dead-end.  He is no longer in Edinburgh.  The option for embrace cut short.  But not to you oh Lord.  And as my voice cracks to utter praises, the praises of my soul, he feels none of that.  The chains are broken.  He is free.  His praises to You flow out of reflex and desire.

My longing for that time of desire to praise you is cut open, exposed and bleeding on that grassy patch in Edinburgh.  In the answer of “no” you call home your beloved to an everlasting yes.  And we are taught to mourn as we struggle to emulate the creator.

We fall with him.  To our Jesus, to life.  Painfully searching for the beloved brother, we find him with his Lord.

Soon shall close thy earthly mission, soon shall pass thy pilgrim days, hope shall change to glad fruition, faith to sight and prayer to praise.

Timothy Warren Cunningham, littlest brother and cherished son, whole and complete in 32 years.  He finished well and we will see him again.

Praise be to God.  Tearfully, praise be to God.


Tee’s last night as a 5 year old

Well, yep, 5 was just as sweet as 4.  And I’m dazed and blinking with my mouth open at the computer, in disbelief another year has passed.  His last night as my 5 year old.



Catcher, how old will Tee be tomorrow?


Be still my heart; oh the morning comes too soon!


Happy first birthday Atticus!

It’s been a year, dear one! A year since we all laid eyes on you! That red hair, cheekbones, heart-shaped tongue tie…You had the biggest hands when you came out and a loud cry.

Your dad and I couldn’t get enough of you those first 24 hours. Trying to take it all in, your sweetness…it was like our eyes couldn’t see you enough!

Your brother’s adore you. They established that very first day of your life the drive by kiss. It was impossible for any of them to be in the room with you and not kiss you.

Life became sweeter just a year ago today because of you, cherished Atticus!

You made it!  We did it!  Happy first birthday!

Loving you is so easy…

A year ago tonight: the eve of Attie’s first birthday

I’m reflecting on the darkest night of my life, one year ago tonight.

Those hours with a predictable rhythm as wave after wave of contraction pushed Attie closer and closer to meeting his family. I didn’t know he was about to rip his placenta from my uterine wall. I didn’t know that type of stabbing pain yet. I didn’t know I was going to feel that silence, darkness and power of death.

Those moments before his head emerged, I believed he was dying. Little did I know my blood was pooling from the placenta ripping. I would have a placenta sized clot come out right after him. And the blood just kept coming.

But I pushed him out, ready to rip apart to make way if he needed it, knowing there was no more time.

I look back at these pictures at a woman I no longer am. Attie has changed me. That sort of despair at the feeling of death changed me. Feeling as if I’ve been cut off at my knees in a slow recovery changed me.

I don’t understand what the Lord’s plan was for the events of that night. But I do understand I need Him more today than a year ago today. There are new eyes to see my utter despair and His complete sustenance.

In all of the “little did I knows” of that night, He knew it all.

And there are eyes to see my thriving 11-month-and-30-day-old-red-headed-baby-boy and thank God for filling our arms with this bountiful gift. I understand a year ago tonight this wasn’t guaranteed the outcome. From the depths flow gratitude. Gratitude grown from pain goes deep and takes root, I’m finding.

Praise you, Lord, that in all the foreshadowing these pictures hold for me, the rawness, the pain, the fear of what was to come hours later, You were in control. I don’t have to look back on these images and run to warn of a scary road ahead. You were there. You did not forsake me. Praise You for this journey and praise You for the deep cry from Attie that filled the room with life one year ago tonight.

Blessed is the swim instructor of toddlers. And brave.

day one of swim lessons

It’s a fresh little crew starting out their 2012 swim lessons. The goggle clad Tee and Catch are somewhat self-sustained in the pool (they won’t sink like a rock). And those toddlers, Olivia, Reese, Brooks and Ollie, well, they will fearlessly and eagerly…sink like a rock.

We have a wonderful swim instructor and a beautiful setting to teach our Florida babies how to enjoy the water! We are hopeful for kicking legs, blowing bubbles and floating in about a week.

day one of swim lessons

day one of swim lessonsday one of swim lessonsday one of swim lessonsday one of swim lessonsday one of swim lessons

We did learn this today: take more pictures because the chaos of cuteness doesn’t stop. Must be captured. Furthermore, they all get really hungry. More food needed. Lots more food.

Attie and Truett were there. They are dragged all over the place and are super troopers. They should be in some of these pics with their hands raised as “PRESENT, I didn’t have a choice but present!”.

There is never enough time for all the turns on the big tree swing. Start earlier with the turns.

And last but not least, that grunt thing Ollie does towards me when he’s being a pill, yep, he’ll do it at his (patient) swim instructor too. Just drawing out the sin patterns…one swim lesson at a time.

On to day 2!

Ollie has the best bed head

Ollie and his bedhead

Ollie and his bedheadOllie and his bedheadOllie and his bedhead

I get the biggest kick out of this kid! He naps hard in the afternoon…then wanders, slowly, downstairs holding his blanket, thumb in mouth. He is warm and soft and squishy with a feathery mop on his head. It’s a treat to catch him at the bottom of the stairs still covered in nap…and quickly then my kisses!

Boys love dirt

They take one step into our backyard and come back looking like this. Head to toe. In between their toes. In their hair and under their nails. In every crack and fold, there is dirt.

They fill boxes with dirt and watch it flow down the slide. Digging holes they discover wiggly worms and build piles to blast their cars through. It’s transported in trunks, buckets, flower pots, shovels, pockets, hats and cupped hands. It fills the vessels of their limitless imaginations.

I’d love some grass in our backyard. But this dirt offers my boys joyful hours in their childhood.

Can you smell their warm hair? It’s the smell of soft dirt, all minerally and bright sun.

Dirt makes for long play hours, big appetites, drained water bottles, deep rest and snuggly little bookworms after baths. I’m starting to see I wouldn’t change this dirt for gold…or grass.

Tee and Catcher love dirt

Tee and Catcher love dirtTee and Catcher love dirtTee and Catcher love dirt

Tee and Catcher love dirtTee and Catcher love dirt

Easter food: resurrection rolls and rainbow cake

These rolls were a total blast. I used a quick rise dinner roll recipe and they were light and yeasty. The boys took marshmallows representing Jesus, dipped them in melted butter (oil to prepare His body for burial), then rolled them in cinnamon sugar (the burial clothes). We set these in the middle of a roll and pinched the edges well. Another quick rise and popped them in the oven.

It was so fun to open the rolls and find the empty tomb! The boys couldn’t get over it, the sheer excitement…they sure were tasty too.

resurrection rollsresurrection rollsresurrection rollseating resurrection rollsresurrection rolls cut

And then the rainbow cake. I think we’ll rename it “covenant cake”. I followed the directions exactly and everything came out just as planned. The swiss meringue icing was amazing. Definitely my new go to for frosting, so beautiful and smooth with good structure.  I much prefer the lemon extract to cut down on the cloying nature of frosting.

This cake tasted great, but I found it lacking. I think it was the brightly colored layers tricking you into expecting flavors from those layers. Instead, while vanilla cake is delish, it left my brain to mouth connection confused. I want to do this cake with vanilla/chocolate layers next. It makes a beautifully tall cake!  If I do the rainbow layers again, I’ll be experimenting with veggie based food coloring. Let’s just say nourishing was not top on the list for rainbow cake. Or resurrection rolls for that matter. But the visuals were just perfect!

rainbow cakecutting into rainbow cakerainbow cake cuteating rainbow cakeeating rainbow cakerainbow cake cut

Dear Amanda, it’s been 3 years

Dear Aman,

A loud airplane went by tonight while the boys were just down for bed.  The sound scared Ollie and, 2 hours later, he’s still struggling to get to sleep.  He was begging me to sleep with him, so I laid down and began to sing “when loud airplanes are in the sky and I’m scare, God takes care of me, God takes care of me“.  He then asked if lightning is scary.  So I sang the same song with lightning.  And dogs. And the dryer buzzer that he hates.  In his world, these things are huge.

And tonight I’m stung by the simple words I’m singing to him.  He’s comforted by the truth that God takes care of him.  But how badly I want to sing “God takes the loud noise away, God makes sure the lightening doesn’t strike, God will not let the dog hurt you“.  How much I want to make sense of God to fill all the scary places, to fill all the brokenness.

Today is awful.  Simply, deeply and complicated-ly awful.

Addie isn’t here.  It’s been 3 years of life lived without her.  The lightning did strike.  The dog did bite.  It’s soul deep, and yet the next breath comes. Another breath in the reality of this brokenness.  How can that be?  As if the breaths are flirting at the notion of life moving on without her.  As time has passed, it’s been painful to know life can go on without her here.

Our crazy loud dryer buzzer just went off.  Ollie had passed out minutes before and I flew down the stairs in a race to turn it off.  Tears came.  Tears of gratitude that I can meet his needs, grasp in a way to calm his fears.  To feel moments of that is divine, a gift.  But there is a dark side to the story.  My racing is simply a grasp.  God wants to be my God.  Your God.  He would be less of Himself if my grasps added anything.  And more tears in light of that reality.

The brokenness here was big enough for Jesus to die for.  And as you so beautifully articulated on the phone today, He died for Addie.  And because of His deep love for her, she’s with him today.

Only He can fill this brokenness.  Which makes the grief deeper because He asks us to wait for His voice. Waiting is broken.

We won’t always have to wait.

But in this waiting season, the distance between Atlanta and Orlando has felt farther this week.  And I just want to sit beside you and hug your neck and cry and listen to you talk about her and listen to you sit in silence because of her.

I want to see her through your mama eyes of 3 years.

You’ve always done that well and I can’t wait to meet her.

Love you,


Easter 2012