Why God sent a rainbow: Lessons from the Marysville school shooting

Some people have been wondering why I haven’t written about the shooting yet that occurred right in my backyard at Marysville Pilchuck High School. I’ve wondered that myself.

But something like that–well, it’s safe to say that it froze my hands on the keyboard.

What do you say about something like this?

The place I took swimming lessons for four years, the auditorium I danced in in two recitals, the bleachers I sat in during some away games, the place where handfuls of my friends passed through those halls over the years. Marysville. Right next door. Basically home.

I couldn’t write about it for some time because I didn’t know what needed to be written. The news stations were covering who was shot and where they were at. Twitter feeds and news feeds were doing their fair share of political commentary about guns. Bloggers were having a heyday as usual. And there I was, not knowing exactly what to say.

My fourth grade teacher’s daughter was one of the students who ran and cowered for shelter when the shots rang out in the cafeteria. The day after it happened she said that she saw a rainbow right over the school–this rainbow right here–and even a rainbow over the hospital where some of the victims were sent. Suddenly I knew what needed to be said that hasn’t been quite yet.

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(Both photos credited to KIRO TV, Seattle)

harborview

God is near.

It’s a gutsy thing to write when children are crying and war is across the sea and parents are struggling now to see their kids get on a school bus. It’s a gutsy thing to say in a world that cries out, “What God would allow this?!”

Because, let’s face it. We’ve all thought it. So did I.

Evil exists. Sickness exists. And the news will continue to tell us that it’s just getting worse.

But the rainbow. It reminds us.

writing on rock

It reminds us that in the midst of tragedy there is something to be found that brings light back into darkness. There are kids who suddenly learn early lessons about hate–and decide to do whatever it takes to show that instead they can love.

It reminds us that in our grief we aren’t alone. And that we won’t let others be alone in theirs.

It reminds us that we’re given a new day to rebuild, even if it’s the smallest of steps every day.

It reminds us we can forgive with time–and become all the better for it.

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(Tweets from hospitalized victim Nate Hatch)

It reminds us of so much–all of us something different I think, according to what we need.

The world isn’t getting better. And it won’t. That was never promised. And as much as people try we can never completely stop kids from killing kids or soldiers losing their limbs in war or villages in foreign countries going without water. We’ll try and we’ll cry for it and we’ll help as much as we can but in the end we’re going to face the brutality of mortality and we’re going to have to find joy and find love anyway.

We’re going to have to keep spotting the rainbows.

Students and community members attend a vigil at the Grove Church after a shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville

My heart hurts alongside those who heard the shots ring out and those who ran home to their children that day. My heart is in the ICU with those who still fight and with the family of the boy who decided there was no  other option. In one of the saddest scriptures of all time we hear the Lord speaking about tragedy such as this and how it even hurts his own heart.

“Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

“And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood” (Moses 7:32–33).

So where do we turn? What do we write about? Where do we go from here?

I fail to have the right words even though I wish I did. I fail to have a perfect outline to follow or some beautiful way of telling people we’ll get through even this. As a writer–that’s frustrating.

BUT when words fail we turn to the little things that remind us that there is still beauty. There is still good. There is still hope.

That’s why He sent the rainbow.

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He is not here: A reminder during a rescue mission

I had the strangest dream last night.

Now, I have some pretty off the wall dreams at times so for me to say it was the strangest is kind of a big deal for me.

In my dream I joined the search of the hundreds of people right now trudging through debris and mud and toppled cars and fences in the Oso area here in Washington, lifting piles of unrecognizable filth to find the victims of the horrific mudslide. This area is close to where I grew up in Arlington, barely a fifteen minute drive, so I had spent time in this place. I had spent summers along these now flooded riversides and jogs against the backdrop of these now crumbled hills. In my dream I vividly saw the stillness of the pastures and the emptiness of the flattened landscape–a grave now to all of those who walked here or drove or worked nearby when the mountains gave way just nine days ago. Oddly enough, even though in reality it’s not this close, I saw my old backyard in my dream as well–flattened. Overturning branches and muck and fighting through tears, I frantically searched and searched. Then suddenly, I heard someone calmly say to me, “He is not here.”

landslide

I woke up from the dream this morning knowing fully well why that voice in my dream had to tell me that. It was about my Dad. And that voice will soon be whispering it to the hearts of all of those still trudging through the remains of the landslide, clutching shoes and wallets and remnants of children and parents.

On the news last night a firefighter, with his hat drawn off his head and dirt surrounding his eyes, said mournfully, “We know this isn’t a rescue mission anymore–it’s a recovery mission. But in our hearts, for a long time, it’ll be a rescue mission.”

leveled house

Tears raced to my eyes when I heard the man say that–and the reality of what a rescue mission is followed me into last night’s dream. No matter who you’ve lost–or how you’ve lost them–your spirit goes through a period of time where you’re on a rescue mission. Not usually literally. You’re looking for ways to feel them or sense them close by to bring them into your “present”. You’re hunting through memories and retracing their face over and over as to not forget. You’re half-expecting them to come through the door again, only to be devastatingly disappointed when there are moments that you realize they won’t. Of course, they won’t, you’ll cry. And it’ll hurt all the same. You’ll also relive memories of the moment they died or the place they died or the last time you held their hand–and that moment seems to be where they forever lay.

But it’s not.

To minimize the devastating effects of the Oso and Arlington area landslide is not my intent. My heart breaks for the people who lived a stone’s throw away from me–people who lost children and parents and siblings and neighbors and pets. People who now sit and rest against what used to be a rooftop, looking out at a dismal landscape made up of mud and tears. The loss is indescribable.

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But at the same time I can draw a simple parallel to the words of that one firefighter. Maybe you can too. Maybe those words rang true for all of us who have gone through the sting of loss in one way or another.

The moment where you know for a fact your loved one is truly gone doesn’t always occur at the same time that your heart figures it out. And for a while it just remains a rescue mission. For a while you trudge through the debris of the unrecognizable world around you. For a while you’re looking for the dead in all the wrong places.

As for me, I know I have been. I’ve been angry at times for not feeling Dad as much as I’d like–and have been praying for him to be part of my life again in any way I can muster. I’ve been vividly remembering the day he left us, reliving the night painfully, stuck in that pocket of time as if Dad were stuck there too. But just as the angel told Mary as she leaned against a rolled-away stone and peered into any empty grave for the Savior, “He is not here; for he is risen, as he said.” (Matthew 28:6)

empty tomb

I pray for peace for all of those who still search and wander the debris near my hometown. I pray that their rescue mission can come to an end and that they too will remember that their loved ones aren’t there–but in a place that has risen far above shallow graves. I pray for your own rescue mission to end too. I pray that the angels will find us all at empty tombs, reminding us gently of where we should look instead.

The voice reminds me of it when I look for my Dad in painful memories of his last day in hospice. He is not buried or stuck in folds of memory or fenced into the past. He is not laying idle on a hospital bed. He is not sick. That echoed voice of an angel from the scriptures gently reminds me to leave the debris and remember the promise of eternal life.

That gentle voice reminds me to look up.

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When Fall comes to town: A reminder of why I should love change

I feel like I can officially say it’s Fall!

I know, I know, it’s been here for awhile now, but it feels like it just got here because FINALLY that crisp nip is in the air, the leaves are almost completely stained with color outside our apartment and up and down the streets, and it’s finally cool enough to break out the cute fall sweaters and boots and light all my apple pie and pumpkin candles to fill my apartment with the warm scent of holidays. It’s such a cozy, happy time of year. And just like a kid, I get into all the festivities and even asked my husband about three times if we can go to the pumpkin patch next weekend *He gave in*.

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But another thing that happens when fall comes around the corner is I get SUPER reminiscent. I start skimming over the past year, thinking of where we were last year and all that has changed and transformed–kinda like those changing leaves– to bring us to where we are now.

I’ve always been that kind of person–sometimes in my mind I walk down old roads, peer into past neighborhoods, and sit in old classrooms. This past week I’ve really been thinking about how just a year ago we were just moving to Washington from Rexburg, moving our boxes and suitcases into a room in my parents’ house. With my bachelor’s degree and a heaping dose of insanity we decided to come to Washington after we felt compelled to move here. I didn’t have a job yet–I had only been out of school about two months–and Matt didn’t even know if his credits for nursing would transfer. We had no money. A rabbit. And fear. Lots of fear.

But in faith we moved out here and we felt out lives rock on its very foundation.

Everything changed for us, and the world we were used to–a college town complete with parks and familiar burger joints and jobs and snow that comes to your knees in early November–that world seemed like a dream now that never happened.

For months we were faced with job hunting, food stamps, pleas to Heavenly Father, and lots of arguments between the two of us because of all of the stress. The green, vibrant leaves in our lives were dying. It was cold. Change hurt.

This is us last October.

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And little did we know that we hadn’t hit a brick wall. We had plenty of changes ahead.

Jobs came with time–and prayer, might I add. My prayer of, “Lord, show me why you brought us here” was answered. We got an apartment–small, but our own. Matt’s credits transferred and he got into the nursing program. And we even added onto our small family by adopting little Wilson–a spunky bunny who picks on his brother.

fall family pic

This vintage sign in the picture, Make Lemonade, is a sign my Aunt bought me in Idaho when I spotted it and I fell in love with it. I think I loved it right away because 1) Our last name is Lemmon, so kinda self-explanatory and 2) That’s just what we do. We make lemonade. With every change, we try to take it and make it into something beautiful. And with every change, no matter what, He faithful will remain. Heavenly Father always does, really. Even when you don’t exactly feel like it.

Wilson Matt and Mann

I’m grateful for beautiful memories–of college, of my old job I loved, and of faces of friends and images of places that stick out in my memory like lush evergreen trees that will always remain with me. But even more so–I’m grateful for the memories I’m creating RIGHT NOW.

When familiar parts of life start to wither and die and change and I tend to think everything is just getting worse–it’s actually just turning more beautiful. Like fall leaves. Colorful, vibrant, and the indication of newness.

I love it. I love Fall and I’m beginning to love change because it’s a constant.

A constant that just always serves up sweet lemonade, pretty leaves, extra ones to love–and more memories to keep.

Happy Fall!

OH and also–why do YOU love fall? I want to see your fall pictures that show why you love it too! You can post your pictures in a comment below 🙂

It’s hate that pulls the trigger: My answer to mass murders

It happened again. Another mass shooting.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I know every single thing about government affairs when it comes to the gun control debate or that I know every single angle to every single devastating story. Because I don’t.

But I do know enough to know how society reacts each time something like this happens and the way in which society can often egg it on or create it.

Right after the news spread of the 13 people who died at the hands of a gunman at the Navy Shipyard shooting in Washington D.C, fingers began to point toward the gun he used, just like all the shootings that have come before. That horrible weapon that’s taken the lives of schoolchildren, military personnel, innocent couples walking down the street. It’s blamed for countless murders that aren’t even heard about in the news: Gang members killed in the street, teenagers taking their own lives with a pull of the trigger in a dark closet. And the more we hear about it, the more we tend to rise up with the government and cry out for gun control. We cry out for guns to be taken from the hands of those who might just crack with insanity. We cry out for guns to be taken from the locked drawers of parents. And we sometimes cry out for guns to be outlawed completely unless it’s to be owned by the military, hunters, or law enforcement.

But let’s think for a second. Let’s push aside the heated emotions of these horrible shootings and get to the heart of the problem. That’s what I’ve been trying to do while sifting through the heaps of information here at work, neck-deep in case after case of mass murders. Why are there so many shootings lately? Why do so many people have to take a bullet for simply showing up at school, attending a football game, watching a late-night movie, or going to work? The answer isn’t, “Because of a gun”.

No, the answer is simply, “Hate”.

Hate is what pulls the trigger.

memorial

Hate doesn’t come by nature–and in no way am I labeling someone by saying this, or excusing someone for horrible actions. It’s just an honest fact. Hate is a learned trait.

Hate is built when a teenager endures day after day of being shoved against metal lockers or being called fat or dumb on the school bus. Hate is built when video games flash simulated bullets and carjacked cars across our television screens, causing young brains to perceive it as a real event. Hate is built when songs with catchy beats indoctrinate hearts with lyrics about meaningless sex, drug deals, and “bloody murder” (A Kanye West song). Hate is built when movies filled with rape and villains that are made out to be unlikely under-dog heroes with blood-stained fists lose their shock factor and become a normal–and expected–part of the media, and then society. Hate is built by generations being quietly trained that the heroes in life are the ones who misuse women, intimidate the weak, destroy those who first hated and bullied them, and go out with a bang of vengeance–literally. Those are fake heroes. But the fake heroes quickly create the real villains.

Hate produces hate. It’s an endless cycle that won’t be stifled by a signed bill outlawing guns. And it won’t be stopped by news headlines flashing the perpetrators face on our televisions, striking fear in our hearts or anger. It won’t end by bulletproof walls or amped up security at airport checkpoints.

It can only be stopped if we decide it should stop right where it starts. Gun control, knife control, bomb control–you name it–it won’t completely solve the real problem. And I’ve felt this since the beginning.

Now, I’m not sitting here blaming anyone for the horrific mass murders that have taken place. It’s heartbreaking to me that these murders have even happened, and I pray for the victims every time a story like that pops up on my news feed. I can’t even imagine what the families of those victims must feel.

And I’m not discounting that there are precautions we need to take with gun control and safety measures. Sure there should be background checks before the purchase of a gun, and sure, we need to stay safe and make sure we’re protected during travel and in the places we send our kids. And also, I definitely know that there are times when many of these tragedies stem from suspects with mental illnesses or reckless behavior. Or maybe even accidents. I won’t discount that.

But let’s not forget the other circumstances. Circumstances that arose from someone who felt unheard. Unloved. Angry. Bullied. Vengeful. Suffering from past pain. Let’s not forget circumstances that arose from learned hate. Circumstances that could have been prevented if someone along the way had heard them, saw them, or helped them.

The same day that the 22 children and six staff members in Sandy Hook Elementary were killed last year, 22 children were also stabbed to death in China in their classroom. Two senseless, despicable crimes carried out with two very different weapons. But murder is murder. It’s not about a gun. Or a knife. Or a bomb in a building. It’s about the framework of hate that builds itself around hearts often bruised from the unkindness, abuse, racism, or neglect of another. It is formed from hearts hardened by a society that we build–sometimes unknowingly.

I write this because it hurts me. I write this because I’m mad. I’m angry that the increase in mass murders directly correlates with an increase in volume of the world’s powerful, haunting voice that chants to the rhythm of selfishness, greed, and unkindness. I write this because it’s time to fight hate with the only weapon that can destroy it. Love.

There are so many factors that go into what creates hate and what drives people to want to hurt others in mass sweeps, and ultimately hurt themselves. And I know that being kind and being attentive to those in need of our touch in their lives isn’t going to change the whole world overnight.

But it’s a pretty good place to start.

Because– who knows? What if something simple that you do alters someone’s life forever and prevents a horrific future

event–even indirectly?

What if your kindness–your love–somehow changes everything?