Nov 7, 2006. Jordan's 22nd birthday. The first one we celebrated together.
A while ago, I began an email reply to a friend of mine that we had the privilege of getting to know while we were in Mexico. She and her husband fought the cancer battle ferociously for 4 long years. Earlier this year, her husband died. She has two little boys. In her e-mail update she talked about their would-have-been 8-year anniversary. Here's an excerpt: "Sometimes I wonder if this would be so much easier to bear if we had had a rotten marriage - then maybe this wouldn't hurt so bad. It's so hard for me to face the future without him and all alone." Please pray for her. Her name is Nicole.
The half-finished email got left for another day, but yesterday, I began again, and it turned into a revelation: A shout-out to my Savior, the Lover of my soul and Redeemer of the World. I wanted to share some of it with all of you.
As I'm sitting here crying and thinking about your e-mail and your anniversary and your breaking heart, please know that I'm bringing you to the Throne, where, like you said, we can come boldly to find grace to help in time of need. My heart hurts all the time and I think a lot about the awesome relationship with which Jordan and I were so blessed like you and Donny. I remember on several occasions having the enemy whisper over my shoulder to pull away, to resist growing closer to my husband and best friend because it would hurt more. My heart would be more entwined and therefore more shredded if something would happen to him. But I refused with my whole being, I fiercely fought that lie off and consciously made the effort to love him better and enjoy him more and bind my heart to his. Honestly, part of that was game-playing with God. I thought if He saw me resisting the devil and following him wholeheartedly, sacrificially loving my husband in the middle of trial He would spare me the loss and the hurt and the life-shattering. But I also knew it was the right thing to do and I did it with everything in me. Jesus in me chose to abandon my heart to the man I loved and who was dying of a terminal disease. And now, as I cling to the God that hurt me so deeply, I have been imparted a great thankfulness.
I'm so thankful our marriage was amazing. I know marriage is hard and flesh-denying, and takes great effort, and ours was all of that. But it was AMAZING! We were best friends and verbalized that to one another often. We anticipated greatly our just-us weekends and evenings together. We laughed and laughed and laughed, and cuddled all the time. Jordan would lay down on the couch or bed and yell "Family snuggle time!" So the girls and I would all pile on laughing and hugging and then just laying our heads on his chest. We hugged a lot! When he engulfed me in his arms, I'd look up at him and tell him, "This is my favorite spot in the whole world!" and I meant it. We'd fall asleep holding hands in the middle of the bed. We shared a lot of secret smiles and glances. Red lights were designed for kissing we had both concluded, so we'd kiss and then he'd put his arm around me, look over nodding his head all big and cocky, and shout to the person next to us: "Yeah, she's my wife!" I'd just laugh. He loved to make me laugh and was good at it. He was so proud of me and I just really, really liked him and believed in him. I never doubted that I was the love of his life and we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God brought us together. I remember leaning over to him at every wedding we went to and telling him, "I'm just so glad I'm not marrying THAT guy. I'm so glad I got you!" He'd always exclaim, "How did I land you!?" with surprise and triumph all at once. He claimed he reeled me in with his charm and good looks. It was true. He had charm, good looks, and a heart that sought God. I think he told all of his friends that he loved me way before our relationship went past friendship. He was always so vulnerable about where his heart was; it made me uncomfortable before we were married and then it challenged and amazed me after we were married. He was so okay with repenting in tears and baring his soul to me; all of his weaknesses, failures, desires, and dreams; he gave me all of him and entrusted his heart to me explicitly from the beginning. Some nights, we'd just talk forever, about everything. I was crazy about him. I completely melted and my head would spin when he'd stand right in front of me oozing manliness, and smirking down at me all mischievous and sexy, attracting every molecule in my body, completely aware of the fact that he was irresistible to me. He was; and I let him know it. We'd fake fight, and make huge deals out of little things because it was fun to yell and half-way insult the other while tempering it with a lot of humor. We'd get out the boxing gloves and go to town on each other; that may seem like an unfair advantage, but I'd get him giggling and then just whale on him, so it was pretty even. We claimed it was healthy for our marriage. He wanted me around for everything; so I learned and got a tiny bit better at basketball, fishing, hunting, baseball, golf, and watching sports. We loved having our girls along too; a lot of times, we'd have an opportunity to leave them or that would seem like the more logical thing to do, but we just wanted to enjoy them so we'd haul them out to eat or over to friends' houses and they'd just stay up all happy or go to sleep in a room somewhere. He sang songs to me. He'd put in a CD and perfectly imitate the country twang on all these cheesy love songs he liked and knew by heart, belting them with his amazing voice. He always tried to get me to harmonize with him and it never really worked, so we'd get a good laugh but he'd still encourage me with that gift of his; "One day, you'll be a worship leader!" he told me. He said things like that to the girls, too "You're going to be an awesome warrior for the Kingdom!" he'd tell Arawen, and to Jaycee, "You're going to love Jesus with your whole heart, because you have an amazing heart!" "You're both going to be incredible, godly, prophetic, Spirit-filled women of God. You're going to prophesy into people's lives and be used by Jesus to work miracles." He would say those things to them when they weren't even able to walk or talk. He saw God's fingerprints on them and was so visionary and vocal about his little world-changers. He took the responsibility of spiritual headship as a wonderful privilege and treated our Bible and prayer time as priority. He'd sing songs to Jaycee and Arawen when he put them in bed. Jaycee still won't let me sing "Jesus loves me" or "Trust and obey" because "only boys sing those songs." They're 'Daddy' songs to her. He loved us like crazy! He sacrificed for us; not only did he work so hard to provide, but he did tons of things around the house. He'd empty the dishwasher, put the groceries away, wash the dishes, sweep the carpet, make us breakfast, bathe the girls. He loved doing it too, and did it intentionally. He'd say, "That's because I love you!" He told me often that I blessed him, that I was an amazing wife and he never wanted to take me for granted. He also told me I was beautiful all the time and I felt beautiful around him. I told him he was "smokin' hot" and it became a catchphrase in our marriage because, according to him, I said 'smokin' with an 'l' sound in the middle. It just got exaggerated, and we'd call each other 'Smolkin!' It was awesome. He was the nickname master and we had a whole other language in our house. I don't know how many different nicknames we both went by and it became even more hilarious when the girls were born. His sense of humor was so prevalent in our everyday. I'd call him up and tell him all the funny things the girls did, knowing he was the only other one that would think it was that hysterical. We left each other love notes and Bible verses. On the kitchen table before he left for work and I got up. In his lunchbox. On the dashboard of the car. On the bathroom mirror. We text-messaged a lot and ended every phone conversation with "I love you" even if we were mad. Our marriage was a God thing! It was truly amazing!
Back to your inquiry about whether or not living would be easier if it hadn't been so wonderful; I don't think 'easy' is anywhere near our experience these days, and I am very aware that 'hard' is incredibly present. But I don't know how I could handle the guilt on top of the loss if I had been secretly hoping I could get out, if I had been harboring bitterness and resentment towards God for the husband He gave me, if I was distrusting Jordan's love for God and me. All of those things were beyond a shadow of a doubt in my mind. God was first and foremost. I was far and away his favorite woman on the planet and then our girls were next. I'm so humbled that I have an awesome legacy and story to tell Jaycee and Arawen. I'm so thankful I can talk so highly to them about the daddy of whom they are a piece. I'm so grateful we drank so deeply of the love with which God had so immensely blessed us and designed to be delightful, erotic, and soul-satisfying. I'm so so so very grateful!
There's a Sara Groves song I just heard that talks about getting to Heaven and asking Job how to be broken and faithful. It also talks about being broken and grateful and peaceful. That's what I am! I am horribly, painfully broken and yet grateful! I am broken and faithful. I am broken and still praising God! Not in spite of, but because of all the pain I'm in. I have hope and peace that passes understanding because God is so massively big in my life. You see that big, rambling paragraph up there that was so extremely bittersweet and tearful to remember and write all by myself? Do you know how many other things I could've put up there if Jordan would've been reading over my shoulder? I've only got me to remember now and only my perspective to think from and parent from and make decisions from. I'm half a person. The oneness that we had in Christ through the holiness of marriage just got severed. My heart got shredded. I lost all of ^ that ^ up there! I ran to my Daddy with a gaping wound and He didn't even put a bandaid on it. He watched me bleed all over that 7th floor hospital room, all over that hospital bed I shared with Jordan, all over that last year of cancer. He watched those cancer cells overtake those precious lungs. And now, beyond anything I can understand, He's holding me right here at the foot of the cross. I'm just camping out at the cross. Because at the cross, God shouts "I LOVE YOU!" And that's what I need to hear. Over and over. It's at the cross I realize it's not all about me. I'm not the only one. I know that He knows and understands this kind of pain. He knows what it's like to watch the one you love the most on earth suffer and then die. I know He knows, because what He endured for the blackness of my soul was worse than what I'm enduring because of the blackness of sin, suffering, disease, and a fallen world. I'm overcome with thankfulness when I think of Jordan's firm faith in the cross of Calvary. I'm this broken and I'm this sad, and yet I experience daily a joy unspeakable and a thankfulness indescribable. I still have hope! Miraculous joy and miraculous hope.
Today is Jordan's birthday. Twenty-six years ago, Rachel Sauder-Schroeder gave birth to Jordan Lee Schroeder. Duane and Rachel were blessed with their fourth child and second son on November 7, 1984. What a gift! What a miracle! I know; I've given birth twice and it's utterly life-changing. But do you know what birthday I'm unbelievably, far-and-away more grateful for? His real birthday.
March 28th, 2004. On THAT day, Jordan Lee Schroeder was truly born. Covered by the blood of Jesus, and delivered into the Kingdom of God, he became a new creature, dead to sin, ALIVE unto Christ. THAT day, Jesus overcame and satan lost, and a heavenly host rejoiced over a sinner's homecoming. Jordan got revived at the foot of the cross. He clung confidently to that new and supernatural life, being sanctified by the power of the Spirit and using His gifts to inspire faith and Bible hunger in so many people around him. He had real life to such a miraculous degree that not even death could quench it. So, on July 24, 2010 when that big heart stopped beating, he became even more alive than ever in the Presence of God!
Priceless! ABSOLUTELY PRICELESS! That gift of grace is unspeakably awe-inspiring to me right now. That knowledge I possess is beyond precious to me. It blesses me in the deepest depths of my soul! I'm speechless with how to express this gratitude. All I can say, is THANK YOU FOR THE CROSS JESUS!!! THANK YOU FOR THE CROSS!! THANK YOU JESUS! I am so in love with You and I'm humbled and overwhelmed by Your grace, Your mercy, Your provision, Your unsearchable love, Your unbelievable sacrifice, and Your miraculous, saving power! AMEN AND AMEN! AND HALLELUJAH! GOD,YOU ARE AWESOME!!
Today, I would love to be celebrating with Jordan and my brother Zachary. Zach turns 8 today. Jordan always told Zach they had the coolest birthday around. I can vividly imagine it; another joint party with home-made ice cream cake and the whole family gathered around my parents' big kitchen table. But today, I already got to celebrate with Jordan. Joining the Body of Christ at church and the heavenly throng at the Throne, I was privileged to raise my hands to the God of love, and sing "Glory to Your name" and "You rose and conquered the grave!" to The King. That praise reaches past the time-space continuum and my voice and Jordan's voice and countless others celebrated the only real thing worth celebrating: Jesus Christ.
Let's continue to praise Jesus. It's eternal.
Happy most-awesome-birthday ever, Baby!