Dear Jaycee and Arawen,
You are amazing, extravagant, beautiful, and undeserved blessings from God! Do you know what a blessing is?
Jayce, remember the little drill that Papa-Boy always does with you?
“Jaycee, do you know what a blessing is?” he asks knowingly.
“A present from God!” you exclaim, grinning up at him.
He points decidedly right at you and declares, “YOU are a blessing!”
It’s true! You are our presents from God. God gave both of you to Mommy and Daddy and we could never be thankful enough. We loved you so much from the moment we found out you were in Mommy’s tummy. We were so proud of you and so, so excited and happy to be your parents. God gave you to Mommy and Daddy because He first brought us together. Your daddy wrote our whole wonderful, crazy love story down, and one day we’ll read it together. But right now, I want to tell you another story. Another crazy love story of God bringing two people together to glorify His name and bless them with two wonderful little girlies. Actually, I want to tell you two crazy love stories. One of them is the craziest of all.
Girls, remember when I told you that Daddy was in Heaven and he wasn’t coming back? Do you remember on that Sunday morning in July? We went outside to the backyard, walking towards the swing, and I knelt down, took you both in my arms, and with a trembling voice and a breaking heart, I unveiled your shattered little worlds. Jaycee, you cried and cried and Arawen, you looked from my face to Jaycee’s and whimpered and sucked your pacifier as you leaned into me. Jaycee, you wanted to know when we could see him again and if he was better. It was so amazing to tell you that Daddy was all better and his back and his leg didn’t hurt him anymore but it deeply wounded me to have to tell you that we wouldn’t see him until we were in Heaven too. You tried to argue that he was coming back and you were grasping for hope and reassurance and wanting Mommy to make it all right. But it wasn’t. And I couldn’t. And the pain intensified as I watched you tilt your head up in the middle of that big backyard and let out a long drawn-out wail. “I want my Daddy!” I remember a cry similar to that from when I was a little girl and I had lost my mommy in a store. It was a lost cry. My soul bled as I watched your soul express the lost-ness you were feeling. We cried and hugged. And then I pushed you both on the swing for a long time.
Jaycee and Arawen, the heartache I saw in you, the light seeping out of your eyes, and the way the devastation descended and surrounded you was nearly paralyzing to me. You know how I always tell you it makes me sad when you get hurt? Well, this was the most hurt you’ve endured and it made Momma really, really, really sad. Jaycee, a day later, exhausted and reeling from the trauma, you and I were lying down for a nap in A. KaraLea’s room. (Arawen, you were already sleeping in the pack ’n’ play.) You crawled in bed with me and asked me to read the Bible and tell you a story about your daddy. I pulled you into my chest and we read together and then you asked the inevitable heartbreaking questions: Why did Daddy die? Why is he in Heaven? Why can’t he come see us? When can we go to Heaven? I want my Daddy! I propped up on one elbow and searched your hurting face. I desperately wanted to impart some hope and felt called to try. I remember wrenching at the words that were coming out of my mouth, but knew I needed to give you a glimmer of light into your distress. So the words scraped off my tongue, “Jaycee, maybe one day God will give you a new daddy” I said softly. You searched my eyes and found only sorrow. “I don’t want a new daddy! I want MY daddy!” was your responding lament. So much for imparting hope; I let my head plop onto the pillow and just held you. But yet I knew that God would work and God would heal and God had not since, nor would He ever forsake us. Jesus was going to take care of us -Jaycee, Arawen, and Mommy.
Jaycee, one night, God used the preciousness of the present that you are and all the awe in me at being your mother, to capture my attention and tell me about a godly man named Ty. God told me it was okay to love him and placed a love for him in Mommy's heart. As the weeks crept by, you continued to be resistant to any mention of a new daddy. And, although Momma’s heart was tenderly being unfurled to love another, I was not discouraged by your persistent negative responses. I knew we still needed a lot of healing time and I was steeling myself for much patience with the whole impossible situation. I knew in my Spirit that when you started to become okay with my intermittent proddings towards praying for a new daddy, that would be an indication of God’s moving and timing. I remember the first time your resistance turned to reception. I was giving you girls a bath and it was the first time I decided to be intentional about bringing up the issue --all other times stemmed from your memories that turned into questions. This is what I wrote down from that night in your “Daddy moments” journal I keep:
9.13 While giving them a bath, I told them we were going to talk about getting a new daddy. I told them that he would play with them and wrestle them and throw them in the air. “Do you want that?” I asked. Jaycee said “Yeah” and Arawen said “Nope.” Jaycee then told me that Arawen didn’t want a new daddy so we asked her again. “Arawen, do you want a new daddy?” “Nope.” I talked to them about praying for a new daddy and that Jesus was going to give them a new daddy because our daddy is in Heaven and we don’t get to see him until our lives end and we go to Heaven too. She told me that there were two of her daddy, one was in Heaven, and she wanted the other one. I said there was only one and he’s so, so happy to be with Jesus and we’ll get to see him again. But for now, we’re going to pray for a new daddy.
That night, when Dad was talking about prayer and things that were good to pray for Jaycee said, “Pray for a new daddy.” Everyone laughed and Mom was like “Whoa….Katelyn, have you been talking to them?” I didn’t say anything but I definitely didn’t act embarrassed. It was true.
From then on, you’d ask to pray for a new daddy at bedtime. Arawen, you especially never forgot. I’d begin praying for you, and you’d unfailingly interrupt saying, “New daddy!” So I’d smile bitter-sweetly down at you in your crib and plead with our Father, “And God, give Arawen a new daddy who loves, loves, loves her and who loves, loves, loves You the most. Give my girls a love, love, love for their new daddy.” It was so cute the first time you looked up at me from your crib and said around your paci, “New daddy luh, luh, luh me!”
Girls, I want you to know that through this whole thing, Mommy was praying and praying and praying. I was praying for you and I was praying for Ty and praying for Mommy to keep looking to Jesus. It was a colossal thing looming over us -these were prayers about who was going to love you, who was going to protect you, provide for you, influence you, and show you Jesus for the rest of your lives and I was passionate about our story being undeniably a God thing. When you’re given amazing presents, you’re also given an amazing responsibility to steward those gifts. And remember, you are our presents! After I came home with Uncle Josh, Ty and I continued our unique, intermittent text-and-email interactions and it amazed me the way God had placed on him a burden to pray for you two and also used him to speak Bible into my life. He texted me Philippians 3:7-8 and whetted my appetite for the entire epistle. I read Philippians over and over and over, letting the Truth sink into me that everything but Jesus is garbage and that He loved us with a love so crazy that he obeyed His Daddy and died on the cross for us. When my friend-circles were going through major remodel as I limped along without my other half and my pain spilled over onto anyone that was close, it was incredibly humbling for Mommy to be given a friend that pointed me to Jesus during the hardest time of my life. God was surprising me with the unexpected again. He was whispering a challenge through the clouds of pain and confusion: You don’t think I can’t blow you out of the water again? You don’t think I don’t want to bless you out of your mind? Try me, and see what I can do with your ashes. I will make them beautiful! Girls, our Heavenly Father was taking care of us in the middle of all of our brokenness. He loves us so much!
Remember that wonderful vacation to Phoenix we took with Aunt Jill and Uncle Joshy at the end of October? ‘Uncle’ Ducky and ‘Aunt’ Christine opened their home and their hearts and showered us with love and a time of refreshing. We had such a great time, didn‘t we? It was then that Mommy talked to Ty. My prayer before we left was “God, I want to expect good and amazing things from You and I’m confident that You will bless this vacation, but I’m not going to say anything. The Holy Spirit is in Ty; if we’re supposed to talk, then he can start the conversation.” God blessed our time and Ty and Mommy had a couple of great talks. One in particular in which Jesus in Ty amazed me. He let me hear his passions and dreams, I got a glimpse of his heart for ministry and people and the Kingdom. My belief in Jesus in Ty was more cemented, and his vulnerability blessed me immensely. The next morning, I woke up with God gently tapping me on the shoulder again, convicting me, “He was vulnerable with you; you need to be vulnerable with him.” I called Grandma, and told her that I thought I was supposed to tell him, and she calmly talked me through everything and guaranteed her continued prayers. God changed my prayer to “God, if you give me the opportunity, I’ll share what you’ve been doing in my heart.” Three days later, Ty was spending the weekend at the Buam’s, Uncle Joshy decided he needed an all-day nap and an opportunity was dropped in front of me. It was so hard to obey, I was a millisecond from backing out, but with an extra burst of Holy Spirit courage, I asked Ty if we could talk. We still laugh at my extreme nervousness and the way I stumbled all over myself trying to prepare him for what I was going to say and finally blurting out: “I love you a lot... the end. I can leave now if you want me to." It was a little surreal- laying my soul that bare before someone I had known for merely three months. I couldn’t believe I was doing it while I was doing it and after I did it, I couldn’t believe I had done it. But it was an act of obedience. And as you girls well know, obeying isn’t always fun. I truly could not have imagined a more noble response from Ty. He wanted to clarify everything, forcing me to be deeply vulnerable, he was honest and clueless, revealing the fact that he had never considered pursuing more than a friendship with me despite how attractive of a person I was to him, which pointed to the great respect he had for Mommy and where God had us. He told me that he had had a dream a few years ago about being in the exact spot we were sitting in while two little girls were downstairs. (That was you, Jaycee and Arawen!) Jesus in Ty came shining forth, because as taken-aback and caught off guard as he was, to end our conversation, he grabbed both of my hands and prayed. He just gave it all to God right then and there on the side of the mountain we had walked up.
I don’t know about you girls, but this story kind of reminds me of a Bible story we read. Following our modern day Ruth and Boaz threshing floor incident, it was surprisingly not awkward. I had put my heart out there, but more than it breaking for Daddy and loving Ty, it still belonged to Jesus and it was safe with Him. I didn’t know what Ty was thinking but I didn’t feel like he was obligated to tell me. I had released all of it. The logistics, the timing, the knowing, the very impossible-looking everything. God continued to just blow me out of the water though because Ty was so vigilant about guarding our hearts. Both mine and his own. A couple weeks later, when Ty came home for Thanksgiving, he was still seeking everything out with a lot of caution. He knew it would be hard, he knew it wasn’t logical, and yet he was discovering Holy Spirit confirmations all over the place. God had gone before this whole thing in speaking to Grandpa and Grandma Kieser, Aunt Maria, Uncle Jesse and Aunt Jill, and to Grandma. Back in August, they all had felt a heart prick as God moved their spirit to have a “Ty and Katelyn” thought. It didn’t make sense to any of them either but they were praying for us fervently! It was especially wonderful for Mommy to have Aunt Jill as my Naomi to talk with about everything God was doing. She was the one that gently suggested I would maybe need to be the one to bring the subject of ’us’ up because Ty would never cross that line of respect for me. She let my verbal thrashing bounce off of her as the Holy Spirit inside of her absorbed my doubt and questioning and ranting while ministering so much peace to me. She was faithfully right there with Mommy through it all the whole time. God had given me open palms and surrender to a timeline that looked longer than I would like, but as our Boaz worked things out, I had to open my hands to a timeline that was faster and sooner than I had ever imagined. Girls, when I kept giving to God, and He continued to give it back, I had nothing left to do but delight in Him and rejoice in His outpouring of blessings. After all of the daily surrender, all I needed to do was gaze up at my Daddy with adoration, trust, and delight. That’s what girls do with their daddies. Ty was also surrendering and so fervent in seeking it out and wanting to know his Father’s heart. He gave it to God and when God gave him back a huge and unavoidable love for the three of us and an abandonment to His will, he obeyed. And he obeyed quickly. Just like Jesus, he laid down his life and did what God asked. Through all of the heartache and the grief we’re still expressing and all of the questions and all of the difficulty and all of the skepticism and all of the craziness, Ty obeyed God! Praise God for a new daddy that loves, loves, loves you and loves, loves, loves God the most!
It was December 6th the first time I told you girls about what God was doing and the new daddy that He was giving us and the love that he had grown between us. Ty called me and, after a vulnerable, somewhat halting conversation he told Mommy that he loved me. My spirit thrilled inside of me and it was like a loosening of my protective heart straps. The love that was being poured into me for him had a little more elbow room to bloom. I was overflowing with excitement at being able to tell you! You had been praying for a new daddy for months and you didn’t know yet how God was answering your prayers that whole time. Arawen, you were already asleep, but Jaycee, you were up watching a movie with Aunt Susie, so I pulled you onto my lap, and with a rejoicing heart said,
“Guess what….? I love Ty.” I said with a gentle excitement, not knowing how you would respond, yet wanting to convey my happiness.
“And tell me the rest” you said as you smiled in response to my beaming.
“And Ty loves Mommy” I replied.
“And tell me the rest” you said, knowing there was more.
“And Ty loves you” I said excitedly.
Then you said again, smiling more, “And tell me the rest.”
“And Ty loves Arawen.”
“And tell me the other rest” you said persistently but with a big grin on your face.
“I really really love Ty and Ty really really loves Mommy.” I affirmed with more hugs and smiles.
Then you questioned me, “Do you love Ty?”
“I really love Ty!” I said.
“Then I love Ty!” was your priceless conclusion.
Arawen, the next morning, I was elated to relay the news of all of your answered prayers. "Arawen," I began, "You know Ty?" You replied in the affirmative, probably all those memories of him playing with you on vacation flitting through your head. I then told you with sparkling eyes, "Ty loves, loves Mommy and I love Ty! And Ty loves, loves, loves you!" You looked at me innocently, "Mommy," you said politely, "can I eat?" Arawen Joy, you bring your mother so much joy and laughter!
Ty called Papa to ask for his blessing in pursuing an official relationship with Mommy, and on December 17th, when he came home for Christmas break, Mommy had a boyfriend for the very first time! You girls loved having him around to play with you and read you Bible stories before bed and carry you into the house from your carseats. In February, Ty was home again for spring break and that’s when he surprised us by coming earlier than planned. That’s also when he got down on his knee and with you two looking on, said, "Kate, I love you. And I want to spend the rest of my life with you; will you marry me?" Remember how Mommy shouted yes and raised my hands to praise Jesus, then gleefully hugged you two and declared how amazing our Jesus is? And remember what happened next? He then brought out two more ring boxes, got down in front of you and said, “Jaycee, can I be your new daddy?” Jaycee, you smiled so sweetly -almost shyly- let him put the ring on your finger and give you a ring pop and said, “yeah.” Then he knelt in front of you, Arawen, and asked, “Arawen, can I be your new daddy?” “Yes.” was your sweet reply as you reached eagerly for the candy. He knew the way into your heart!
Girls, when we see Ty and the answer to so many prayers that he is, we see someone willing to lay down his life for us. Girls, when we see Ty and his crazy love for us, beyond him and bigger than him, and through him, we see Jesus and his even crazier love for us. We see the craziest love story that God has ever written. We see something so big and world changing that only God could have dreamed up a love story and a rescue plan that awesome and creative. And we call it 'crazy.' Oftentimes, in God’s kingdom, 'crazy' is amazingly valuable. In fact, this certain kind of crazy love is life-saving. Jaycee, one day, God will make the craziest love story in the world your very own and save your life. You’ll look at Jesus who died on the cross for your sins, and you'll hear his voice: “I love you, my sweet, precious Jaycee-girl!” and by grace, you’ll respond in repentance and belief and say, “I love you too, Jesus!” Arawen, one day you’ll see Jesus hanging on the cross with his arms stretched wide, saying "I love you this much!" and His vast and unsearchable love for you will become your greatest reality. In repentance, you’ll accept His gift of love, become his bride, and you’ll have a super crazy love story all your own. The craziest love story of all! I am praying expectantly for that day for both of you, my precious children. Until then, as imperfect as we are, Mommy and Daddy are going to show you Jesus as we reflect His love to you and point your gaze towards the cross- where the most important person in the world says, “I love you like crazy!”
With all my overflowing and thankful heart-