As a child, I visited a zoo where you could hand feed giraffes from a bridge. As high as the bridge arched across their habitat, they were higher still and had to stoop down to eat. Giraffes are huge like dinosaurs. If you want to see more than just their ankles, you have to look up.
There’s a wonder that has captivated me from my childhood; the wonder of looking up. Giraffes, grizzly bears, mountains, towering trees, sunrises and sunsets all fill me with wonder. They dwarf my frame and elevate my eyes in wonder of One who created them.
Another wonder that causes me to worship is how a small, yet complete person is knit together in their mother’s womb then birthed into this world. Holding a newborn child, gazing into their eyes, watching them stretch and take in deep breaths of air fills me with wonder. Birthday celebrations are full of delight. I love making my family members their favorite foods, letting them know how special they are and how thankful I am that they are here. The wonder of them causes me to look up in wonder at our awesome Creator.
One year, when our kids were small, I was reminiscing the day that Judi gave her heart to Jesus and thought how wonderful that was, and how “Re-birthdays” should be celebrated, too. So we created our own rebirthday traditions. We made a special paper crown for the rebirthday child, read verses about the precious gift of eternal life that Jesus died to give us, talked about our eternal, heavenly home and, of course, had a special dinner with desert to celebrate. It was great fun and I wish we had celebrated more of them.
Now that we have a child living in Heaven, we have another day of remembrance. We call it Joel’s “Heaven Day” because although it was the worst day of our lives, it was the first best day of his. It was the day he met Jesus face to face. A day filled with wonder beyond what we can imagine.
Heaven Days and birthdays (and every day) spent missing someone you love are hard. For our family, it’s too sad to cook Joel’s favorite food (ever) or to eat desert or to celebrate his days, so we honor him and our Creator by turning our hearts with thanksgiving and in wonder of “things above.”
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1
We bought a special candle.. well, actually a decorative chess sculpture that reminds us of Joel’s love for life and fun and of the crown he now wears in Heaven. I put a candle in it and named it Joel’s candle.
On the first anniversary of Joel’s Heaven Day, the kids were out doing their own things, and I was at a loss as to what to do to honor him. At the last minute, I remembered our rebirthday celebrations and gathered together some verses on Heaven and Jesus’ return. Mike and I lit Joel’s candle and prayed together. We thanked God for the light that Joel’s life has been to us and for his joyful way of being excited about everything (he never lost his boyish wonder) and asked God to help us to be joyful like him. We closed our prayer by asking Him to reveal the height, depth, width and breath of His love to us and to help us love each other as we look toward the day of His return; that wonderful day when we will hold Joel in our arms again. After our prayer, we read aloud from the verses and wondered at our heavenly hope. Looking up with thanksgiving and in wonder helped us on what had been a very difficult day.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
The following year I took all my favorite “things above” verses and had them printed in a scrapbook along with some photographs my parents and I had taken in the Smokey Mountains. I spent part of Joel’s Heaven Day putting up Christmas decorations much like I had the day we lost him. That evening everyone’s schedule allowed us to gather after dinner and take turns declaring Jesus’ names as we added our ornaments to the tree. (More about our ornaments here.) Afterward, we moved into the living room, lit Joel’s candle and thanked God for the light that Joel’s life has been to us. We ended our time together by taking turns reading aloud the verses in the “Things Above” book I’d created.
This turning of our hearts with thanksgiving and in wonder of “things above” has been very healing in our journey. Whenever I am feeling low, my husband encourages me to have an eternal perspective; to look up, and remember that we have a loving, heavenly Father who is working all things together for our good. Visiting the mountains, giraffes and grizzly bears at the zoo, making time to wonder at far-reaching trees, sunrises and sunsets and their Creator… all of this looking up in wonder has helped us.