Bethany and I decided to play hooky from work and school. She was our driver for the day.
Our first stop...the Wal-Mart in Jessieville to buy roses. Bethany just had to take this picture out of her window in the parking lot. If this woman only knew that she was providing us some much-needed comic relief!
We finally arrived at our destination.
Our rose petals...
Spreading the petals...
After spending some time letting the tears flow, we decided to snap a few pictures...
She figured out how to set the timer on the camera, so we got some pictures together. In case you're wondering...Our shirts say, "I wear gray for my daughter" and "I wear gray for my sister". Gray is the color for brain cancer awareness, just as pink is the color for breast cancer awareness.
...And she took some pictures of me. I've shared on this blog before about my extremely strained relationship with Hannah's grave. As a matter of fact, yesterday was the first time I've stood beside her grave since her last birthday. I still am not comfortable there...I still don't like being there...but yesterday, I believe I took the first step toward making peace with her grave.
We finally started home, but made a couple of stops on the way. Given our affinity for taking pictures in the middle of roads, we just had to stop and take a couple of pictures here...
We considered all the possible reasons why these lines look like this...Did the line painting truck driver have a little too much caffeine that morning? Did he let his kid drive the truck for a little while? Is this section of road sitting on top of a fault line? We don't know the answer, but we had a lot of fun thinking about it! Our other stop was at the Sonic in Hot Springs Village.
Mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce...
...And two cherry vanilla Diet Cokes, please!
I really couldn't believe it...but we actually had fun on our trip to visit Hannah's grave! How can that be? Only by the grace of God...and by the knowledge that she is NOT THERE!
We weren't home for long, when it was time to head to the Casting Crowns concert. As we were getting ready to go, a wonderful young couple from our church called us. They had won backstage passes in a contest on Twitter, and wanted to give them to us. They knew Hannah's story, and how Mark Hall, the lead singer of Casting Crowns, had called to encourage us during Hannah's last few days at the hospice center in Little Rock. They also knew it was her birthday, and they wanted to bless us in this way.
Here's Bethany with Mark and some of the band:
And here are all of us...
These are some of the most down-to-earth, sincere people you'd ever want to meet. We spent several minutes visiting with them and sharing some more of Hannah's story with them. We also got to meet Lindsey McCaul, an up-and-coming Christian artist who opened for Casting Crowns last night.
You know, God really is good all the time. As we listened to Casting Crowns sing "Praise You in the Storm", we were reminded again of our commitment to praise the God who gives and takes away. And it is a commitment...One that needs to be made again and again. When I find myself feeling cheated because I'm buying rose petals instead of birthday presents, I need that reminder. When I find myself becoming angry that I'm sitting on the grass beside my daughter's grave instead of sitting beside her on her bed in her dorm room, I need that reminder. And when the tears roll down my cheeks, like they've done so often in the last couple of years, these are the lyrics I need to remember:
"And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm".
Pretty powerful stuff. And just what we needed to close out our daughter's 19th birthday. And even as I breathe a sigh of relief that October 22nd won't come around again for a whole year, my heart overflows with the many blessings of yesterday. Yes, God IS good all the time.